Wednesday 30 September 2009

The Sun ditches Labour

The Sun newspaper announced today that it will no longer be supporting the Labour government and will be supporting the Tories at the next election. Despite the publicity this is hardly a major shock. The Sun doesn't want to be be associated with losers, and can see which way the wind is blowing which explains its switch to the Conservatives.

Does it really matter who the Sun supports? A little bit, but not as much as the Sun would have us believe.

I brought the Sun today, something which I rarely do, as when it comes to the 'Red Tops' I've always been a Mirror man, it's the paper my dad always read. Seeing as they'd made this announcement, conveniently timed to overshadow Gordon Brown's Labour conference speech, I thought I'd have a look and see what they had to say.

They started off by saying:

"Twelve years ago, Britain was crying out for change from a divided exhausted Government. Today we are there again"

I wouldn't disagree with this. Every government has a natural shelf life, and it's clear that after 3 terms in office, Labour and the New Labour project is just running out of steam. There are probably many Labour supporters who agree with this, but the Sun would have us believe that by switching its allegiance it's somehow shaping the course of British politics. It isn't really.

Besides from what I've previously read, Rupert Murdoch hasn't been totally convinced by David Cameron, and like the rest of the country doesn't have the same level of enthusiasm for him that many people had for Tony Blair in 1997.

On page 2 of today's edition they went on to say that after 12 years of this government:

'Britain feels broken...and the Government is out of excuses'

They've clearly picked up on David Cameron's 'Broken Britain' statement. Is Britain really broken? I'm sure that if you look back over the last 50 years, there are plenty of things about British society you could pick out to highlight fundamental problems with the country at that time.

Growing up in the 80's I remember riots in Britain's inner cities, in places like Handsworth and Brixton, 3 million unemployed, civil unrest with the Miners Strike. Is Britain anymore broken today then it was 25 years ago?

When New Labour was emerging in the mid 1990's they actively courted the support of newspapers like the Sun and its owner Rupert Murdoch. This only helped to increase the paper's own sense of self importance.

The paper's decision is a blow for Labour, but I don't think the Sun has quite the level of influence it likes to think it has. It might still be the biggest selling paper in the country, but in terms of influence, I think it's now the Daily Mail; and if you look the Mail's sales it isn't really that far behind the Sun.

Secondly, most of the time when I see the front page of the Sun along with the Mirror, it's usually some celebrity gossip they're going on about, which makes me question whether British politics is really that important to many of its readers!

Reading the blog by Channel 4 New's Jon Snow, the reporter Gary Gibbon explained that the famous

'It’s the Sun Wot Won It'

headline from the 1992 election only lasted one edition with Rupert Murdoch telling the then editor to rip the headline up. I never knew this, apparently Murdoch didn't see the paper's role as being one to advertise its influence, but that doesn't seem to be the case with today's front page. I suppose after that headline everyone began to believe the myth of the Sun's influence on the British electorate.

I fully expect the Conservatives to win next year's election, and really it's for them to lose rather then Labour's to win. What will be interesting to see, is what kind of majority they'll get. It's easily forgotten just how many seats they actually need to win just to get a small working majority in parliament.

The Sun went onto say in today's edition:

'The Sun believes - and prays - that the Conservative leadership can put the great back into Great Britain'

(Yawn), what a cliche, boring rhetoric! The Sun has picked the odds on favourite to win so that it can be seen as being in tune with the public, but they're following public opinion, not leading it!

Saturday 26 September 2009

Give Strictly’s Alesha a chance!

It’s Saturday night and I’m at home watching BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. It’s amazing how one dance show can generate so much controversy every year. Last year it was John Sergeant, defying the judges and winning the public’s sympathy vote. Now this year after just one show, we’ve had this huge public backlash against Alesha Dixon's performance as a judge!

A lot of it has been totally over the top and quite mean spirited! Last week was her first show as a judge, yet people were already calling for her to be replaced. She’s totally new to the role, yet some people don’t even want to give her a chance!

This backlash stems from the fact the Dixon replaced the previous judge Arlene Phillips, a decision made by the BBC who were then quickly accused of ageism by replacing a 66 year old with the 30 year old Dixon.

The BBC’s decision could very well be interpreted as ageism, but it’s totally unfair for the viewing public to take issue with that decision and heap all the blame on Alesha Dixon’s shoulders.

Most of the criticisms levelled at her, claim that she's out of her depth, unqualified, and doesn’t possess the technical knowledge to accurately critique the contestants on the show. Other comments just sound like childish bullying!

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s clear that she doesn’t have the same expertise and knowledge of the other judges, but I don’t understand why she should have?

Clearly it's important that she can give critical analysis of each contestant's performance as nobody wants to hear bland, banal comments, but surely if the BBC are responsible for anything, it's that they should provide her with the necessary support and training in order that she can provide proper analysis on each dance and performance.

I’ve read that on a number of Internet message boards people have highlighted Arlene Phillips’ knowledge and experience in dance choreography, in direct contrast to Alesha Dixon; but It’s funny how so many people are now commenting on how great Phillips was on the show along with the other judges. But yet, she and the rest of them were heavily criticised during last year's show by viewers for being unfairly cruel and harsh with their comments against the former BBC One journalist and political reporter John Sergeant.

The public actively voted to keep Sergeant in, despite the fact that he was clearly out of his depth and had no dancing ability whatsoever. People complain when the judges are too harsh, then they complain when the judges aren’t harsh or critical enough, as in this case with Dixon. It sounds like hypocrisy from people!

I don’t see that Dixon’s role is to have the same expertise as the other judges. She’s somebody who the contestants can identify with, as she’s been on the show and lets not forget actually won it in 2007.

Not only did she win, but personally she was probably the most naturally talented and gifted contestant that the show has ever had! She’s not completely ignorant of the dances that the contestants are performing, she's had to tackle all of them herself, and for the most part mastered them.

Check out her performance of the tango below:

When anyone takes up a new activity whether it’s a new job, sport, any type of hobby, you need a mixture of proper critique from people who have the knowledge and expertise to point out your faults and failings, but you also need encouragement, and for people to point out the things you’re doing well and areas you’re improving in. It's important to have people who can empathise with you.

That’s what I see Alesha Dixon’s role as being. She’s the judge who knows what all the contestants have been through, and can relate to the feelings, emotions and pressures that their under.

She can be the voice of encouragement, mixed in with the technical knowledge that if given the chance she can develop. The BBC seem to echo some of my views as a spokesperson was quoted as saying:

Having won the contest in 2007 Alesha understands exactly what it takes to excel as a dancer as well as knowing just what the celebrity contestants are going through in the competition. Her knowledge and direct experience adds a different perspective to the panel which complements the whole judging lineup."

The BBC have said that they fully intend to stick with Dixon which I’m glad to hear, it would be ridiculous to replace her now. If it’s decided after a whole series that things aren’t really working out, then fair enough maybe she should be replaced, but at least give her a chance to grow into the role.

I thought one of the great attractions of Strictly Come Dancing was about seeing contestants who have no history or experience of professional dancing, and seeing them learn and develop and evolve into proper dancers. I can’t see why this same principle can’t be applied to Alesha Dixon in regards to her judging.

I shall naturally be watching the whole of Strictly this year, and I will be rooting for Alesha to do well and hopefully she can prove the ‘haters’ out there that they're wrong.

Monday 21 September 2009

Obama can’t escape the issue of race

When Obama was elected US president last year, it seemed as if America had entered a new era. An era where finally a person of colour could make it to the White House. People were saying that Obama’s victory meant America was now a post racial society, where the issues of race no longer mattered in the way they once did.

It looks like some people may have got carried away a bit too soon. Following the growing opposition to Obama’s policies, particularly his healthcare reforms, the former US president Jimmy Carter claimed last week that much of this opposition was based on underlying racism.

I have to admit that I never truly fell for this post racial society. The issue of race is so much more prominent in the US then anything we can imagine in this country. It’s going to be a very very long time before race doesn’t matter in America!

Jimmy Carter made his comments in response to the abuse Obama received from the Republican back bench congressman Joe Wilson who shouted ‘You Lie’ at Obama following a speech he made at a joint session of Congress last week.

It's pretty extreme stuff to have someone come out and directly accuse the President of lying! Nobody said a similar thing to George Bush when he was stating his case for the invasion of Iraq, but for some US politicians it seems perfectly acceptable to say this to Obama. Is it because he’s black?

Personally this is the last thing I would want to admit. You have to accept that in political debate people are going to be against Obama purely for his policies, but I do think there is a growing movement particularly amongst right wing Republicans who are mobilising against the President. Motivated in part because of who he is and what he represents, which includes his race. Taking this into consideration part of this growing opposition is race based and by association is racist.

I touched upon this subject a few weeks back in my post entitled: ‘Obama may be president, but some Americans refuse to believe’
There is a large percentage of Republican voters who don’t believe that Obama is a true American citizen and shouldn’t be president. There’s the ‘birther movement’. which claims that Obama wasn’t born in America but Kenya and is therefore an illegitimate president.

Even before he was elected, Republicans were trying to portray him as being an outsider and un-American. He was supposedly a Muslim, a dangerous Communist, he had links to black radical preachers such as Jeremiah Wright .

Essentially these smears are all part of a strategy by Republicans to portray the President as being somehow ‘other’ not truly American or ‘legitimate’ The fact that he's black is the clearest demonstration that he's unlike any other President that America has had.

I stumbled across a great article written by an American journalist called Maureen Dowd who writes for the New York Times, in which she wrote about this issue and touched upon similar points.

The over top efforts of trying to portray Obama as an outsider, dangerous Communist, Socialist, Fascist (Do Americans actually know the meaning of these political ideologies?) are due to the fact that many in America just cannot except a black president.

More interestingly though she explained that the politician who accused Obama of lying, Joe Wilson is a right wing southern Republican from South Carolina.

I know it’s easy to take the view that all white, southern Republicans, hold some form of racial prejudice about them, but when you read that this Joe Wilson belongs to a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans and led a campaign to fly the Confederate flag above the State Capital building you can’t help but think the opposition to Obama is all about race.

For those of you not familiar with the Confederate Flag, it’s the flag that represents the states of the old Deep South, and has connotations of racism and White Supremacy.

We’re entering a really interesting period in American politics. Many Democrat presidents from the past have had to endure huge amounts of criticism and opposition from Republicans, but what we have now with Obama is different.

America is changing both socially, culturally and demographically, and all of this is to the disadvantage of the Republican Party and its core base of voters. Obama represents this change, which they are struggling to deal with and in many cases actively hate!

If anything it’s to the advantage of these conservatives to focus on the issue of race. By doing so they can portray Obama as a ‘black’ President rather then a president who happens to be black. It says to their core vote, this President isn’t one of us, he isn’t here to represent you. He’s different.

One of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard was from Fox News presenter Glen Beck who has argued that Obama is a racist and hates white people! Unbelievable. Obama’s mother and grandparents where white and he was brought up in a white household.

Returning back to Jimmy Carter’s original point of racism being at the heart of much of the hostility that Obama is facing. There is some truth in this, but it’s not the whole picture. It’s all part of a bigger narrative of trying to de-legitimise the President, to show that he’s somehow alien. Thankfully for Obama he’s keeping quiet on the race issue and trying to show that he’s a President for all Americans.

This issue is going to be one of the biggest tests of his Presidency, and it seems that race will never be far from the political agenda during his time in office.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Jordan takes celebrity culture to a new low!

If the most depressing aspect of this year's summer has been the rubbish weather and the heatwave that never quite happened, then the second has to be the relentless never ending media coverage of Jordan and Peter Andre's break up.

I know there's been days when there hasn't really been much news to cover, but this has been a joke! The whole sorry episode sank to a new low this week, following Jordan's revelations that she'd previously been raped by a well known celebrity!

What I find slightly distasteful is the way that she's almost trivialising the serious crime of rape to such an extent that it becomes just another opportunity for generating more publicity and selling newspapers! I can't see that it sends out any sort of positive message to anyone.

You can't come out and claim you've been raped by some 'celebrity' and then not reveal who it is. What if this person, if they really did commit this crime is capable of doing the same thing again? They're free to possibly do something similar, but this fact doesn't seem to have occurred to Jordan at any point!

Celebrity culture seems to be evolving to such an extent that people like her are quite happy to play out every little detail of their lives in the public arena. It doesn't matter what events have happened in a person's life, no matter how good, bad or unsavory, it's all just potential material for more media coverage and column inches in newspapers and magazines.

It's almost as if their lives are just a vehicle for generating more publicity. Without this attention, their life has no meaning! Someone should mention this to Kerry Katona! Possibly the most pointless celebrity around at the moment!

I like following a bit of celebrity gossip, I'm quite happy to admit that, I find out a lot of stuff from the celeb website Popbitch. For anyone who isn't familiar with Popbitch I would definitely recommend it. They know their stuff, and it's always very funny and entertaining!

This week they were talking about Jordan, and mentioned that it's a bit of a coincidence that this rape claim was made in the same week that Andre's new album entered the charts at the surprisingly high position of No.2! Therefore overshadowing his attempts at getting his pop career back on track?

As one of my best friends likes to constantly remind me; everything is PR.

There was a time when I didn't really mind Jordan, I can't say I had anything against her, but she's going down in my estimations. From what I can tell, she's the one coming out worst in the media war against Peter Andre.

In today's News of the World magazine there was another PR fightback feature in which she was being interviewed. In it she mentions how Andre is always being pictured in the papers with the kids, which implies he's the one being made out to look like the good guy. Apparently this is a game she claims she doesn't want to play! I thought to myself 'Whatever!'

Instead, she'll claim that she was raped but doesn't report it, then refuses to reveal who it is to the media and more importantly to the police despite their requests.

She might not be playing her ex-husband's game, but she's still playing a PR game in which her actions are becoming more depressing to follow.

Sunday 13 September 2009

We're on our way!

After England's stunning 5 - 1 destruction of Croatia this week we're now clearly going to win the World Cup in South Africa next year! You can just see and feel the hype steadily growing already, following England's impressive qualification campaign.

Despite this I refuse to be fooled by England ever again, or believe any of the usual hype. In saying that, there's a part of me that thinks this England side is a very different proposition under Fabio Capello's management.

I've had this discussion with friends and a few people I work with, and I've basically said that after over 20 years of of constant disappointment, frustration, and underachievement from England I'm not going to be disappointed again.

There comes a stage where there's only so much you can take. For me I'm at that point where my attitude towards England is one of where I'm almost sitting back with my arms folded saying 'Go on then, impress me, surprise me. Do something that shows me why I shouldn't be so cynical!

I'm not interested in supporting England blindly. It's great we're going to the World Cup, but that's the absolute minimum that should be expected!

In the last few years I've decided to adopt a slightly more French attitude to football. What I mean by this is that the French aren't as passionate about football or their national team as we are in England. But they'll get behind the national team when it looks like they might win something!

That's how I now feel. Don't talk to me about England winning anything unless we're in a Semi-final or Final of a major tournament. If not, I'm not interested in listening to all the hype that goes with following England.

I've lost count of the amount of times we've gone into major tournaments thinking that we had a realistic chance of winning, yet going out in our usual glorious failure of penalty shoot-outs after having played a significant part of the game reduced to 10 men.

The thing is if you take away 1966, and Italia 90, we have no history or tradition of seriously looking like we could win a World Cup! Yet based on our mediocre record we still keep expecting to win it.

Despite my refusal to get carried away with our results so far, there's a part of me that's been quite impressed by England's performances under Fabio Capello.

His record is second to none, and when he took over I thought to myself: 'if he can't do anything with England, then nobody can!' There's just a no frills, no nonsense approach to him that I really like.

With the players he picks, it doesn't matter who they are or what reputations they have, he picks players based purely on form and what they can offer the team.

There's also less of the celebrity nonsense that surrounded England previously, particularly during the World Cup in 2006 and the rubbish surrounding the 'Wags'!

If I was looking at England as a neutral, I'd see them as being a solid, functional and difficult team to beat with a little bit of flair, who were in with a shout of winning the World Cup.

But this is what I hate so much about being an England fan. There's this little part of me that thinks we're in with a real chance!

I look at Brazil and Spain as being the favourites, but there's nobody exceptional after that. I look at the tournament being played in South Africa's winter time which will suit us. And then the fact that so many major footballing powers are struggling to qualify, ie Argentina, Portugal, and France, and you can't help but feel that England are in with a serious shout!

I can't ignore this, but every time I think about it I have to remind myself that I can't be fooled, I won't be fooled again!

It's going to be like this until next summer and until at least a potential quarter final match against whoever! Once we get to that point and hopefully past it, I will gladly put away all my cynicism and disappointment built up over the years and begin to truly believe that the World Cup is coming home.

Monday 7 September 2009

Let the BNP appear on Question Time!

I read in yesterday's Sunday Times that the BBC is considering inviting the BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time later this year. The BBC have come to the decision that the BNP deserve a platform based on the level of electoral support they have received at national level in recent months.

Not surprisingly this has caused outrage amongst many politicians, but I think it's a perfect opportunity for the BNP's policies to be scrutinised and put under the microscope. Hopefully people will see that their policies are completely inadequate to deal with the big political issues facing the country.

I fully understand why the BBC are considering having the BNP on Question Time. Whether we like it or not, the BNP now have 2 democratically elected MEPs and in recent years have picked up a number of council seats. It's important that politicians and the public directly address the reasons as to why some people are turning to this extremist party. I think one way of doing this is by directly questioning and challenging the views and beliefs held by the party.

What I'd ideally like to see is other politicians and members of the audience avoiding the usual debates on immigration, but instead asking the BNP what exactly their policies and views are on the economy, dealing with the recession, public sector investment, the NHS, education, crime, social mobility. All the types of issues that directly affect the lives of people on a daily basis.

I would hope that when people can see that they do not have any sensible or realistic policies to address such issues it will be clear that they are not a serious political party that people can vote for and expect to bring about any positive change.

The Tories and the Lib Dems seem to be agreeing with me, as they are prepared to share a platform with the BNP, arguing that their policies need to be addressed. Labour are still considering its position.

The critics of this move will argue that by allowing the BNP onto Question Time we are somehow legitimising them and making them appear respectable. The Sunday Times quoted the Labour chairman of the all-party group on anti-semitism, John Mann as saying:

'It's absurd to give the BNP any space. This is how Hitler came to power and these people have the same objectives..'

The UK may be a lot of things, but it's certainly not similar to the situation that Germany was in during the early 1930s when Hitler came to power.

I do understand such views but this is part of the democratic process. Nobody said that democracy was perfect it isn't, but we should have confidence in this process. Confidence that it will allow people to see what the BNP is really all about, and that in reality they have nothing to offer the electorate in this country.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Music Industry calls for racist Form 696 to be scrapped!

Earlier this week I was reading about the Metropolitan Police force's controversial Form 696. For those who don't know, 696 is a risk assessment form which asks club promoters and licence holders to provide the names, addresses, and contact details of those artists performing at club nights and music events.

The reason for the controversy is that the form asks for a description of the types of music to be played at each venue*. Critics have argued that the form is potentially racist and will prevent promoters putting on music events which are likely to attract audiences from ethnic minorities.

The Metropolitan Police say that one of the reasons the form was introduced was to combat rising gun crime that would take place at certain music events in the Capital. The Met argue that since the introduction of the form violent crime has actually dropped.

I read a quote from the chief executive of UK Music, Fergal Sharkey in which he said:

“The form is clearly targeting styles of music that are popular with people from ethnic minority communities and that seems extraordinary in today’s modern, diverse multicultural London.”

The form is meant to be voluntary but apparently many events have had applications for licences turned down after refusing to fill the form in.

The main styles of music that are at issue here are those genres placed under the umbrella term of 'Urban' music. That means stuff like, Garage, Grime, Bashment, and RnB. Styles of music that will generally attract a young black audience.

Now I've thought about this and if you asked me, if I would personally go to a Grime or Garage night? The answer is no.

Why? Because I'm not into that sort of thing; but also it's because I believe those type of events attract a certain audience where the atmosphere and vibe isn't going to be one that I would particularly enjoy, and if I'm being honest I think the likelihood of a violent incident taking place would be greater at one of these events!

Now the police could argue the same point, in that they're carrying out a risk assessment based on the music being played and deciding that there is a a greater risk of trouble occurring at one particular music night more than another.

Am I discriminating against such nights? I suppose I am, but part of my decision is based on my own experience. Many years ago back in the 90s I used to listen to Garage. Garage back then was not part of the 'urban' music scene but was a style of House music associated with dance music culture.

The music began to evolve and change though when many people who had previously listened 'urban' styles like RnB, Hip Hop, and Jungle started getting into Garage. The music and atmosphere at club nights changed in quite a drastic way and people started associating the term Garage with trouble and violence, something that was unheard of a few years earlier.

A more aggressive attitude and culture had come into the music and scene which I didn't like and so I stopped listening and moved on. Since then Garage/UK Garage whatever you want to call it has never truly escaped that image problem!

Now although it's totally wrong to stop an event from taking place based purely on the ethnicity of the people attending, I think some of the critics of Form 696 and members of the UK Urban music scene need to be a little more honest with themselves and admit that some styles of music do attract certain violent criminal elements.

Reading about this topic on the Guardian online, a journalist by the name of Rahul Verma who specialises in urban music said whole genres were under threat from Form 696:

"It is very difficult to find a grime night in London now because of the use of this form. This is because it has been used to stereotype certain urban music events which are being unfairly associated with violence and trouble."

I don't think there is anything unfair about this association at all. There's a large element of truth in this!

There are lots of musical genres that have never had any association with violence and that includes many other Black forms of music. Genres like Grime and Garage have acquired a reputation for violence based on the fact that serious violent incidents have taken place at these events more so than at other music events.

Last week I wrote about the football violence between West Ham and Millwall fans. This is a fixture that is associated with violence and trouble, and there are many other fixtures in football like it. Most football fans wouldn't say violence and trouble is unfairly associated with West Ham and Millwall, it's just a fact!

The club promoters, artists, and fans of these musical styles need to take some responsibility and ownership over their own music scene, and not bury their heads in the sand and pretend there isn't any problem with violence when the evidence is there saying it is.

The Met police have said that the form is currently under review. Whether it will continue in its present form we'll have to wait and see. It may well need to be scrapped altogether, but I think the police are surely doing their job in identifying where potential risks are at certain musical events.

When violent crime escalates or affects certain groups disproportionately, people always want to know what the police are doing to prevent things. They start complaining if it's felt the police aren't doing enough or taking things seriously. The police need to be pro-active in ensuring that violence doesn't take place at particular music events.

Nobody wants to see people deprived of hearing their favourite music and artists and this is where club promoters and venues need to work closely with the police as well, to ensure that all of London's music fans are catered for regardless of their ethnicity and musical tastes.

*The Met. Police on Monday 7 September 2009 announced that the form will no longer ask for details of the music style to be played.

The Williams Sisters have the right idea!

I haven't managed to watch much of this year's US Open tennis tournament yet, but I've been following reports everyday in the papers. Naturally there's a lot of focus on Andy Murray. He made some comments this week which I found slightly annoying, about the Williams sisters.

It was in relation to the women's ranking system. He argued that the sisters had made the system pointless by playing in so few tournaments and only turning up for the big Grand Slams!

I'm not quite sure why Murray was being asked to comment on the women's ranking system, or why he's so concerned about how many tournaments the Williams sisters play. What has it got to do with him?

The main issue about the rankings concerns the fact that the world No1 Dinara Safina is ranked No1 despite never winning a Grand Slam. Serena Williams has won 3 out of the last 4 Grand Slams but is only ranked No2 in the world.

The point Murray was trying to make is that the Williams sisters don't turn up for those tournaments that give low ranking points for participating in, unlike the Grand Slams. Murray's argument is that there should be a reward for a player's consistency over a season, which is something that can be said of Safina despite her failure in the Grand Slams.

It's not the Williams sisters fault that so many tournaments don't provide enough ranking points. At the end of the day as with all sports; teams and individuals are judged and remembered on how they perform in the major championships and events.

The Williams sisters are two of the all time greats of women's tennis, and that greatness has been established by winning the Majors on a regular basis.

Safina may well be the current No1 but she will never be remembered as a great champion unless she starts winning the majors. She was knocked out of the US Open today, and her performance in this year's Wimbledon Semi-final against Venus was so shocking it made a mockery of her No1 status.

Another point that I think should be raised about the women's game is the amount of tournaments that women play and the length of many players careers.

At the moment the women's game is essentially the Williams sisters verse a number of faceless forgettable Eastern Europeans. Players who are here today gone tomorrow.

The Williams sisters have been around for well over ten years consistantly winning major tournaments. Maybe they have the right idea of limiting the amount of games that they play in a season, making sure they're fit for the four Grand Slams and also keeping themselves fresh and not burning themselves out.

You have players like Maria Sharapova who although still in her early 20s has suffered so many injury problems in recent years, it seems she's already past her peak! Other top women players like Justine Henin end up having to retire at the ridiculously young age of 25!

Andy Murray might by making a valid point about how the women's ranking system is organised but there's no reason to have a go at the Williams sisters. He should concentrate on his own game and try winning a Grand Slam, a true measure on how good any tennis player is thought to be.

Friday 4 September 2009

New X Factor Auditions

I watched a bit of the new series of The X Factor last weekend. I'm not sure if I like the new format of having people audition in front of a studio audience. Part of me thinks it just provides a greater opportunity to humiliate people further.

I don't usually watch X Factor at this early audition stage, but I managed to catch some of the show when they were auditioning in Birmingham.

The X factor certainly seemed to be missing from many of the people auditioning in my home town.

As usual you have those people completely deluded about their own singing ability who you end up laughing at because they're so bad. The fact they're now performing in front of a studio audience means their humiliation is made even greater, but I can live with this.

My main problem is when the show starts parading what appear to be vulnerable people who are left open to ridicule. This was my thought last week, when one bloke by the name of Alan Walton appeared.

Alan a 50 year old Brummie had developed his singing voice in Karaoke, and dreamed of winning X Factor and touring the world as a rock star. Ok, so far so good.

I knew things were going to go down hill when Simon Cowell asked Alan where he was from. Instead of just saying Birmingham, he gave the name of the district he lived in before giving Simon a detailed guide of how to get there. All said in a thick Brummie accent that had me cringing!

If you watch the video, you can see that when the music begins for the Boyzone song he's chosen, he completely fails to come in on time, constantly looking at his watch before finally beginning to sing!

I say sing, it's more of a mumble to be honest. I later found out that he had the words written down on his arm so that he wouldn't forget them!

I have to admit I was laughing, but I thought what the hell is this bloke doing auditioning in front of thousands of people!

It's people like this that I would question whether they should really be appearing on such shows. At times he didn't seem to be quite 'with it'.

Secondly I'd like to know where his family and friends were? Why would they allow him to go on stage and be humiliated in that way?

The people at the pub or club where he 'sings' must have known what he was setting himself up for? You could ask this question of so many people who allow family and friends to audition for such programmes.

I think you have to draw a line somewhere, and not put people up for humiliation and ridicule where it is clear they don't have the emotional skills to deal with such a situation. I was reading this week that ITV presenters Ant and Dec said that children and vulnerable adults should not be barred from appearing on reality TV programmes.

Their argument was that if people want to appear on these shows then they should be able to. That's all very well but it doesn't mean to say that the appearance will be any good for them!

I know earlier in the year there was the issue of Susan Boyle and her appearance in Britain's Got Talent. Of course nobody knew how she would deal with the attention, but at least she had some singing talent.

The likes of Alan Walton have no singing talent. People like him represent the darker side of reality TV, you end up laughing but with a slight sense of guilt as you know you're laughing at the more vulnerable and less intelligent members of society.

I know part of the appeal of watching the X Factor auditions is seeing all those people who clearly can't sing, but you have to get the balance right. There's a fine line between laughing at people because of a lack of talent and laughing at people because they're being set up to look like complete idiots.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Is this really the end of Oasis?

After years of constant fighting, squabbling and falling out, Noel Gallagher announced at the weekend that he is leaving Oasis. He was quoted as saying he was leaving because of:
"intolerable violent, and verbal intimidation towards me, my family, friends, and comrades"
It sounds like he's been bullied out of his own band. Noel Gallagher is the creative driving force in the band, in fact the only creative force in the band. If he's no longer in Oasis then surely that's the end of them?

Even though we've grown used to Noel and Liam constantly fighting and falling out, this does seem to be quite final, but what I want to know is where do both of them go from here if this really is the end of their band?

First and foremost I might as well make my position known on Oasis. I'm not going to pretend to be a huge fan as I'm not. They've done nothing that's interested me since 1997. Not that that's a problem.

The first two albums they released, Definitely Maybe and What's the Story...defined and continue to define Oasis. They set up the template of the Oasis sound. Sometimes though I think these albums became a musical straight jacket for them.

They've never deviated from that template, but then they've never needed to as they have such a huge and loyal fan base who are happy for them to stick rigidly to this template. I get the impression that going to an Oasis concert is never about hearing any of the new material but all about hearing the classics.

Without both Noel and Liam there is no Oasis. Liam's songwriting skills have never matched his brother's so I can't really see him carrying on unless he continues the band as some kind of 'heritage' act happy to play all the old anthems. There's nothing wrong with this. The Rolling Stones have done it for years!

As for Noel this might be a whole new opportunity for him. He could try a completely new project, free from his brother and all the baggage that comes with being in Oasis. It could be an exciting new chapter in his song writing career.

Whatever the brothers decide to do next I just wonder whether their fans would allow or except them doing something different and going down another musical route?

Although their split seems permanent in wouldn't surprise me if at some point in the future they do get back together. There's such a big demand for hearing them play live and hearing their classic sing along anthems like Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger.

There's too big a market for old bands these days to resist the temptation of not getting back together. Earlier this year The Specials reformed to begin touring live despite the fact that many of them had barely spoken to each other for the last 20 years; but the public demand is there. There will always be a demand for Oasis so don't be surprised when they announce a reunion tour sometime in the near future.