Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taking a short break from blogging

I thought for a while before picking that title to this post, but in the end, I decided to simply tell it like it is. The blog has been fairly quiet this month and has been even quieter over the past week. Meantime, the Twitter feed has occasional moments of life at best. As you might expect, there are reasons behind all this, and I shall explain as much as I can here.

August this year has turned out to be possibly one of the worst months of my entire life. To make matters worse, pretty much all of the reasons for this month's difficulties are self-inflicted, and caused by my own actions. Without going into full details about the circumstances, I am now paying the price of being less than entirely honest and straight with a lot of people who are close to me. A lot has come out in the past few weeks, and this has turned into an almighty mess which has hurt many innocent people. It's going to take a long time to repair the damage that has been caused, and I do have moments when I worry the damage is beyond repair. It just goes to show that trust can take years to build up, but only a few minutes to knock down again.

This has been a difficult year for a number of reasons. For a decent chunk of the year, I have been unemployed, a state of affairs which is proving highly destructive. Were it not for this blog, I would probably have gone insane with boredom. I've also turned into this person who I simply don't like at all. Instead of being the person I know I am, I've morphed into this horrible man who seems to only care about himself and has little regard for the feelings of others. I've not always been entirely honest with everyone else about my private life either, which has caused a lot of problems this year.

Quite simply, I've hated what I'm turning into and I've got to do something about it immediately to turn things back around. I know I'm not a bad person, but I sure as hell have been behaving like one lately. There are two things which I think are central to getting through this time, but they're two things that I need to get on with doing urgently. The first is I need some work. And not just any work, but stable and permanent work. The reality is that a wedding cannot be funded solely by one wage, and I need more structure in life. Even if
it's just a part-time job to start with, it'll do for the time being. A reason to get out of bed in the morning, even on your days off. I'll take pretty much any kind of work that I'm offered, I'm that desperate for something to do.

The second is I need help personally. Something from my past is holding me back, and it's preventing me from moving forward properly. I've never liked the idea of letting people in and letting them trust me. I'm not sure where it comes from - perhaps it's from being bullied at school over the years. Maybe I preferred to think automatically that people wouldn't like me, and that it simply wasn't worth trying as a result. I'm going to contact my local health centre to book an appointment and I shall see what comes of it. My fiance's granny also gave me the name of someone who she thinks I would benefit from talking to.

I'm now in a situation where there simply isn't an alternative but to see things through and to fight. The alternative isn't worth thinking about. I'm engaged to be married, and I'm absolutely certain that is what I want for the future, but there is a hell of a lot that needs sorting out, and fast. This isn't just for my own sake, but for everyone else's around me. After a difficult episode around a fortnight ago, I had to listen to quite a tearful answer phone message from my mum. She said she couldn't sleep all night and was worried sick about me. There's several people affected here, and it simply isn't fair to put them through this forever more. I have got to sort things out.

I have no choice but to make everything work. Backing out now, in a sense, would be an easy thing to do, but also by far the most cowardly. It would also break the hearts of a lot of people and leave me even lonelier than I've ever felt, and I feel pretty alone as it is. I don't expect sympathy for that, as it's definitely not something that I deserve. Although the next few weeks will probably be some of the most difficult ones that I'll ever have emotionally, it's something that I simply have to do. To put it simply, it's time to step up to the plate and move onto the next chapter of my life.

I've therefore made my mind up that I'm going to take a break from blogging. Now, this isn't the end of this blog. It's not a goodbye post. I love writing material for the blog, and I would simply miss it too much if I were to ditch it altogether. However, it's a question of priorities. Right now, I have to devote all of my energies to sorting my own life out. As much as I enjoy the blog, it does take a fair amount of time each week to maintain, and it's something that I just won't be able to do for a little while. I've got to do things that will pay the bills and will win back the trust that has been severely dented over the past few weeks.

My Twitter account will still be active every now and then. That takes very little time and I don't think I could shut up entirely about politics or current affairs. I'll also still be checking and replying to emails related to the blog, and you'll still be able to contact me in the normal methods. For the next few weeks though, no new material will be going up. The sooner that I get my personal life sorted out, the sooner I'll be back and publishing my thoughts here. It's at least one thing that I can look forward to once I'm through this very dark tunnel.

I shall hopefully see you all at the other end of the tunnel. Farewell for now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My sense of apathy over Andy Coulson payments

The BBC and Robert Peston certainly seem to think there's still legs on the phone-hacking scandal, although they still don't consider it might be an idea to check whether it happened at any other newspapers than the News of the World. Hence why they failed dismally to report on the admission by David Leigh at The Guardian that he himself had hacked into voice mails. The Grim Reaper covered it, along with the likes of Guido Fawkes and Autonomous Mind - whereas most Leftie bloggers and media didn't. Interesting.

Which is why I simply cannot get worked up over the news of a man receiving severance payments, as he was entitled to under the terms of his contract with his former employers, whilst he worked in another job. Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor was paid a severance package worth several hundred thousand pounds when he was the Tory communications director. Yeah. And? What exactly has anyone done wrong here?

News International had to pay him these payments, as that was what their contract with Coulson said. If they had refused to cough up, they would have been in breach of an agreement and been highly likely to be subject to legal action. Coulson had already signed a contract, meaning he was entitled to that money. In other words, payments that were legally justified were made by a company to a former employee who was legally entitled to them. And if you believe Robert Peston and the BBC, this is a scandal.

Fucking hell. This has to be the weakest news story that Peston has come out with for quite some time. Instead of exposing wrongdoing, he's simply reminded us just how close he really is to the Murdoch empire, which really isn't going to do anything to dispel notions that someone is feeding him stories - News International is a vindictive beast, to put it mildly - or that he's nothing more than a Murdoch lackey.

Well done, Pesto. You now look even more of an idiot than you did before you broke the "story". Quite an achievement - and I look forward to discovering if you were paid any severance packages by any previous employers...

Monday, August 22, 2011

What of the Vicky Haigh apologists now?

Many of my regular readers will probably have stumbled across this post that your Reaper wrote about the Vicky Haigh case in early July. I was quite some time behind everyone else blogging about this one, for the simple reason that I had a lot of doubts about many of the facts being put forward.

Whilst researching this one, I came across several websites from people who were determined to flout court injunctions, and who shamefully used the case in order to make often nakedly political points about the justice system. I had the original post on draft mode for about a fortnight before publication, in order to make sure I didn't inadvertently break any court orders.
At the time of originally writing about it, Doncaster Council discovered that the media were about to report on this case, including serious allegations that David Tune, Haigh's ex-partner, was accused of paedophilia. I heard about claims that a tape exists where the daughter points out what Tune supposedly did, and I also stumbled across astonishing claims that a relative of David Tune was responsible for ensuring these "allegations" were never investigated properly. To say that I am angry now is an understatement, for I have discovered that I've been fed a pack of lies.

It can officially be said now that David Tune is not a paedophile. The High Court heard today that Haigh manufactured sex abuse allegations and encouraged her daughter to repeat them. They also heard that Vicky Haigh personally contacted a number of websites about this case and fed them the rumours she wanted to spread - most of whom reported them sycophantically and without a single note of caution. All of this raises serious questions about Vicky Haigh herself. What kind of mother not only uses her child as a pawn in a battle for custody against her ex-partner, but encourages that child to say that their own father is a paedophile?

I had heard allegations that the Garda in the Republic of Ireland were giving Haigh a hard time recently following the birth of her daughter from another relationship. I couldn't quite work out why they would be doing this. Suddenly, everything's a lot clearer. One can only hope that the High Court ensures that the way forward in this case takes into account what is best for the child that Haigh and Tune had together, and also the newborn child - though if it was up to me, if I was her, I'd be rather ashamed to call myself a mother at this particular moment in time.

What, however, is now going to happen to all those people who blindly repeated the accusations against Tune, without bothering to even check first if there was even any truth in them? Are they going to have the decency to own up and admit that they were baseless? Are they going to apologise to the man whose life they have helped destroy? Right now, if I was behind one of those websites, I'd be an extremely worried man.

Are these "threats" all they seem, Mrs Mensch?

Pardon me for not being utterly fawning and full of puffed-up outraged, but I simply can't get myself worked up over the claims being made by Tory MP and shameless attention-seeker Louise Mensch. Apparently, she's received some threats via emails recently from hacking groups Anonymous and LulzSec. These emails supposedly say that they're going to harm her three children, all of which came from her previous marriage to property speculator Anthony LoCicero.

Hmm... your Reaper hates to be the voice of cynicism, but something doesn't quite sound right about this story. Now, I'm not saying for one moment that these emails don't exist, or that Mensch is a fantasist. Unlike certain female Tory MPs - yes, I am thinking of you, Nadine Dorries - she does at least still have some grip on reality. That said, I can't help but think that Mensch is taking these emails too seriously, and that there would be far better uses for police time - the Metropolitan Police say that officers are examining an email at the moment.

This doesn't sound like something that LulzSec would do, in my opinion. Sending an email to an MP doesn't appear to be an attempt to expose poor security under any stretch of the imagination. Nor does it sound like the modus operandi of Anonymous - whilst Louise Mensch, she who believes that the police should be allowed to close down Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger at their own whim, is a threat to freedom of speech, I'm just not convinced that a group of this kind would respond by making threats against the children of MPs.

To me, this sounds more like the work of some demented individual who is attempting to pretend they're more important than they actually are. I'll hold my hands up and gladly admit it if I've got this one wrong, but at the time of writing this, I get the feeling that Mensch is making a lot more of these threats than she actually should be, and possibly discrediting two groups under false pretences whilst at it.

Do I really want a stag party?

Those of you who keep an eye on your Reaper's blog will know that I'm engaged. Some of you have passed on congratulations, others decided to hand me their commiserations instead. Both are accepted, although not necessarily in the same manner by both parties. Preparations are fairly advanced, with a list of guests already drawn up, a rather swanky venue already confirmed, and a budget drawn up which we will not be exceeding.

However, one issue of contention has come up, and it always results in heated debate whenever we bring it up. I'm talking about the issue of my stag party. Now, the problem isn't that Miss Reaper doesn't want me to have one - far from it. She's extremely keen for me to have a stag party, and is even more keen to see me enjoy it. The problem is that I don't particularly fancy having one, for reasons I shall outline here.

When I think of stag parties, pictures that are conjured up in my head include that of men getting horrendously drunk and getting up to all sorts of no good. I have no problem with getting drunk, nor do I specifically object to finding a man who's due to get married a few hours later trying to work out where the hell he is after a particularly messy stag night. Unfortunately, I do have two problems here that very much counts against me. The first is that I am a notoriously anti-social git. The second is that I have hardly any friends.

This may be strange coming from a man, and it feels even stranger to type, but I absolutely loathe pubs. Far from being places of socialising, I just view them as a bloody nuisance. I much prefer getting drunk in my own company, or with the company of close friends whom I know well in a private place where we won't be disturbed by some lager-swilling fucker who can't hold his drink. Where others see fun times, I just hear a lot of noise. It's not just the fact it's almost impossible to have a decent conversation in a pub over all that blasted noise, it's the fact that a lot of pubs seem to reek to high heaven of stale beer.

There might also be the fact that I will always prefer a delicious glass of red wine over a pint of beer or lager any day of the week. When I was at a wedding last year and I kept declining a gentleman's offer to buy me a pint, he gave me the sort of look which could only have implied he was wondering if I was a homosexual.

Am I right to wonder if stag parties are worth bothering with? Or should I follow Miss Reaper's advice by enjoying myself and not being a miserable old cunt for once? You tell me.

Just why does The X Factor format still work?

Like around ten million or so other people in the UK on Saturday night, your Reaper was amongst those who was watching the first edition of the new series of The X Factor. Anyone who's been watching any of the ITV channels in the last fortnight will be well aware that this show was returning - indeed, the promotion was so heavy in the final days that you'd be half-forgiven for thinking that there was nothing else actually going to be shown on ITV1 over the weekend. You can't help but feel that the overkill of promotion was a sign of desperation on the part of the producers, who may be worried that this particular cash cow is starting to run dry.

Ever since these talent shows made their return in the late 1990s, gradually evolving into The X Factor of today, I have never been especially keen on them. It wasn't the fact that most of the judges who were criticising the people in front of them knew next to nothing about music that bothered me. It wasn't the fact that people who are rather stupid were being exploited for the sake of gathering as many viewers as possible for these kinds of shows. It wasn't even the fact that most of the people who appeared on these shows were never seen again not long afterwards. I can't quite pin down exactly what I had against these shows, but I just didn't like them. Even now, I'm still wary of them.

That said, I am full of praise for Simon Cowell for producing such a successful show and he deserves to reap the award of that success. Part of the reasons that shows like Pop Idol and The X Factor did so well was because Cowell was central to the brand. He didn't take any prisoners - if you were crap, he'd tell you that you were crap. But he'd also be prepared to defend you if he thought you were any good. It was a reputation he successfully crafted into a worldwide brand. The big problem is, if you take Cowell out of the equation, does the show still work? That was a question which remained to be answered on Saturday night.

This year, Cowell won't be appearing on the show as a judge, though we are told he'll turn up sooner or later. Chances are that he'll make a few appearances during the live shows in London. In a sense, he was a victim of his own success. He was in such heavy demand that he couldn't physically do everything that was needed, so he has had to take a back seat. Hence why this year's panel is completely different - Cheryl Cole, for whatever reason, isn't appearing on the show this year, meaning that there's room for three new judges.

Tulisa Contostavlos (pictured above), Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow are all new, meaning that the most irritating judge of the lot, Louis Walsh, is the only original one left. And boy does he like to remind us of that fact. He's already annoying the hell out of me, and there has only been one edition of the show. God knows how high my blood pressure is going to be as Christmas approaches. I can only hope that Barlow remains as dry as he is, and that he doesn't try and mimick Cowell's style too much, becoming nothing more than a parody of himself.

So why does this show actually work? I find the format dull and horrendously predictable. When trying to work out whether a certain act has got through or not, you can tell that the footage has almost had the life edited out of it. Some of the editing on Saturday's show was truly atrocious, making me wonder if quality is being sacrificed without Cowell keeping such a close eye on proceedings. The use of background music is excessive to the point of ridiculous. Whenever there's a gap of about two or three seconds between one judge finishing talking and another starting, they can't just leave a silent gap. Oh no. There has to be another song which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to proceedings playing in the background. Frankly, I just find it all very tiresome.

I think it's the exhibitionism that works well in the early stages of the show. Being the kind of programme that it is, it attracts its inevitable share of morons. Take Goldie Cheung, who did an utterly bizarre rendition of a "song" called "Copper Bell". Or the rendition by George Gerasimou, a man who had supposedly changed since his appearance two years ago, when he threw the microphone on the floor after telling Simon Cowell to shut up. How did he improve his audition this year? By calling Tulisa Contostavlos a silly bitch. Yeah, real positive change, that.

Thankfully, these were interspersed with moments of real talent, such as the 16-year old Janet Devlin, living in a village in County Tyrone which is probably around an hour away from me. It's these moments, and probably only these sorts of moments, that are the only reason why I bother watching the show at all. If only it gave us more moments like this, and less time for the exhibitionists and airheads.

And a lot less time for Louis Walsh. A lot, lot less.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Things that The Grim Reaper WON'T do for you

Occasionally, your Reaper gets contacted by people wishing to ask him what he thinks about certain stories, or wondering if I'd like to cover something which isn't getting much coverage elsewhere, for whatever reason. I sometimes choose to follow up the stuff that's sent to me, I sometimes choose not to.

Reasons for doing so or not doing so often include time constraints. As prolific a blogger as I can be, the reality is that I only have a certain amount of time in the day for blogging and I do have other things I need to do - stuff that, you know, pays the bills.

Other reasons for doing so or not doing so include interest. If it's something that I'm personally interested in, it'll almost certainly get followed up in one way or another. However, there does seem to be an increasing trend in some of the emails that I receive, and it's one that I'd like to nip in the bud before it gets any worse. Regular readers will know that I often write about material that's subject to an injunction, or a series of injunctions. I do all that I can to make sure that those posts comply with all reporting restrictions, and I keep a very close eye on the comments in those as well. What I really don't appreciate are receiving emails which are effectively asking me to break a series of court injunctions.

These people really don't get it. They're not prepared to do the dirty work themselves, yet expect a blogger like myself to cover their own arses if things go wrong. That's not going to happen, so stop wasting my time. I'm referring here specifically to a case which I first saw in Private Eye, and then wrote about it here. It concerned allegations that had been made against Paul Flynn, an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Over 100 female cancer patients have been operated on by this man - and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board obtained an injunction to ban the allegations from being mentioned. They had all been investigated and found to be "totally baseless".

Since then, I have received a few emails from persons involved in the case. Many of them are pretty much inviting me to break a series of injunctions. I have also been sent a copy of what is supposedly a publicly-available judgement about the case, details of alleged bullying on the part of Morgan Cole Solicitors and serious allegations about impropriety between several people involved in the administration of this matter. Suffice it to say, I don't have the resources to dig into these allegations to find if there's any truth in any of them, but if anyone seriously thinks that I am going to cover their arses, you must be fucking joking.

The Grim Reaper only watches out for one person at the end of the day, and that person is The Grim Reaper. You want to break court injunctions, don't expect me to help you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Compare The Market: a right of reply

Your Reaper wrote on Wednesday about the free meerkats currently being given to people who buy an insurance policy through Compare The Market, one of which is shown here. Since then, I have been contacted by Compare The Market themselves who wish to reply to what was written. Here's what they have to say:
My name is Adrian and I work in the comparethemarket.com press office. We read your recent blog post, which asked us to reach out to you, so I wanted to get in touch to clarify the details about toy delivery.

In short, once a customer has claimed their reward toy, toys are dispatched as soon as we receive confirmation from the insurer that the customer purchased car, van, home or pet insurance via comparethemarket.com. The timescale for this varies from insurer to insurer, but when validated customers will receive a confirmation email to say that their toy reward is on its way. It is then dispatched for delivery.

People who have any specific queries about the toys can reach comparethemarket.com's customer support team via this link. This page also has a full FAQ about the toys and rewards scheme, including delivery.

If you have any additional questions then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kindest regards,

In accordance with blog policy, the reply is published in full and without editing for reasons of transparency.

Is BDSM a belief system or just a sexual proclivity?

This is a question which your Reaper can see is being discussed at one online haunt at the moment. It's an interesting debate, provoked by an article in The Guardian, and one which is certainly helping to whip a number of people into arguing for and against it. Your Reaper's view is that this argument is quite a difficult one to tie down, but in fairness, it's quite difficult hearing a number of the voices in the debate.

After all, it is quite tricky understanding what people say when they have got ball gags in their mouths. The gimp masks don't help either, and nor do the constant beating up of the people who are attempting to comment. The master isn't allowing the so-called consensual slave to do so, you see. One can't help but wonder why the people who are into BDSM can't keep their own sexual proclivities to themselves - like the actor who wants us to believe he's married when he isn't, who ran off to the courts when his activities were about to be exposed in the press.

Rest assured that continuing to type more stuff about this subject could prove painful for the readers, so I shall stop here...

Advertising and The Grim Reaper's dilemma

Your Reaper makes little secret of the fact that he enjoys blogging, yet cannot see himself doing it forever without any method of making money out of it. This is something that occasionally gets people's feathers ruffled up, which is quite mysterious to me. For some reason, many people believe that it's wrong to want to earn something out of blogging.

I don't see any problem with this myself. Writing is one of few things in life that I'm actually good at. I have failed dismally in most things that I've attempted over the years, but blogging is an area where I am doing quite well. Without meaning to act like a blog stats whore, the number of people who come and read this blog continues to impress me. I've had some posts getting nearly 50,000 pageviews since I started, and a fair number of the readers I picked up around the time of the injunctions controversy have stuck around - to those of you that did, I say thank you.

Incidentally, before anyone asks how much I actually earn out of the blog, the answer is next to nothing. I earn what could be considered pin money from Google's assorted adverts that appear below each post and on the right-hand sidebar, and I also received a free meal recently because of what I had previously written here. That's it, though.

It's with interest, therefore, that I see that MessageSpace are starting a fightback against the Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington expects her bloggers to write for nothing, as do most online haunts. In some ways, there's nothing wrong with that. A blog with a name that is so well-known as the Huffington Post undoubtedly helps get attention for a struggling writer, but a financial reward for blogging is something that I've always fancied. People get paid for writing in the media, so I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to earn a crust or two from what I write. I do this for fun, but fun just doesn't pay the bills, unfortunately.

They are planning to expand the MessageSpace network from the 30 or so blogs that are currently on the network to around 300. I emphasise that I've got no current plans to take on more advertising on the blog, but judging by the criteria which is outlined here, I think I would stand a chance of being accepted. I currently receive about 1200 page views per day, depending on which counting method is used, and I've had about 300,000 pageviews since the blog started on September 20th last year. The blog's also due to get a brand spanking new template soon, which is currently getting some final tweaks.

My only reservation about accepting advertising from the likes of MessageSpace would be that I worry my independence could be questioned. Like it or not, the reality is that MessageSpace is sometimes seen - unfairly, in my opinion - as nothing more than a personal plaything of Guido Fawkes, and many of my readers have strong opinions on the man. By taking more advertising, I would be concerned that the blog would become more like a political machine and less my personal outlet. Sure, I cover a fair amount of politics here, but I wouldn't want to be confined just because the advertisers said so.
I don't think readers would especially mind if more advertising appeared, although feel free to tell me if you think I am wrong on that one. I'd certainly mull over the idea of applying to join the network, as there aren't a great deal of other ways currently at my disposal for monetising The Grim Reaper Writes, but right now, I remain to be convinced that it would be a good thing for my readers as well as myself.

Mothers with prams, please take note

A mother expecting the world to stop because she has a baby yesterday.

Whilst your Reaper was out on the town yesterday with Miss Reaper, I couldn't help but notice something particularly annoying in a number of shops, such as Clinton Cards and Asda, to name but two. As most people are aware, it is currently the school holidays. This means, in layman's terms, that there are a lot more kids hanging around than normal, and a lot more kids being reluctantly dragged around shops whilst bored rigid by their parents than normal.

This is nothing unusual, but there are two things this somewhat summery phenomenon brings along which annoys the hell out of me. The first one is children that run around the place, or stand around supermarket aisles, blocking the way for everyone else. It's bad enough trying to navigate your way around a supermarket in the best of circumstances - if you're not driven to distraction by the grotesquely fat woman who goes around the place thinking she's the only one in the building and leaves her trolley practically anywhere where it's inconvenient for everyone else, you certainly will be driven to distraction by the sight of an elderly couple spending around ten minutes chatting away about what chicken to buy that particular week.

Which just so happens to be the very same chicken that you've already made your mind up about wanting to buy. Meaning you can't get past them to get at the chicken in order to carry on with your shopping. Don't pretend that you've never come across couples like this. I'm just not convinced that there is anyone in the history of supermarket shopping who hasn't.

Children run around the place on the grounds that they're bored rigid and simply don't want to be in that place. Parents bringing their kids to the supermarket is a bad idea in almost all circumstances. It annoys the kids, because they don't want to be there. It annoys the parents, as they know the kids don't want to be there. It annoys everyone else in there, because the aforementioned kids get in the way and just stand around the sweets aisle which you enter simply because the sugar is on the same aisle.

However, there is one phenomenon which is even more annoying than this. In the case of kids, you can sometimes argue that they just don't know how to behave in the supermarket. This is sometimes okay, as kids do need to learn things, and learning can take a bit of time. No, what's much more irritating is so-called yummy mummies who insist on bringing their babies to the supermarket. With a few noble exceptions, these are almost universally annoying as hell. It's not just the fact they know they're yummy mummies and spend a lot of time telling the world about that fact and pointing out how popular they are and how great it is to have a baby - even if that baby is usually a screaming, uncontrollable little brat.

It's the fact that they often leave the pram that is holding their baby in the middle of an aisle, with no regard whatsoever for anyone else who is trying to navigate that aisle, whilst they go and look for some particular item that they've decided for some random reason they want to buy. Now, I have no problem with people bringing their babies to the supermarket - that's fine by me. But frankly, having a child does not give you the excuse to be an anti-social bastard. You're not the first person to have a child, nor will you be the last. To put it mildly, get the hell over it and stop being so bloody inconsiderate when you're out and about.

Leave that to the morons who seem physically incapable of navigating a trolley in a straight line, the ones who seem to inhabit practically every supermarket known to man. I've always been of the view that if you can't control a trolley, you shouldn't be allowed to drive. Judging by the state of some trolley-wheeling that I've seen today, there's an awful lot of people out there who should be taken off the roads. Mothers who wield prams, don't bracket yourself in with this lot. It's for your own good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Adolf Hitler responds to latest Livingstone comments

The Grim Reaper Writes notes the latest comments by the attention-seeking Ken Livingstone, comparing Boris Johnson to Adolf Hitler and himself to Winston Churchill. Your Reaper, a being who speaks to the living and the dead, went deep into the bowels of hell and informed Hitler of the comments made about him.

He said, in an exclusive quote to this blog "Fucking hell, is there anything that I haven't been compared to ever since my death? People keep making videos which show me getting upset because I wasn't able to get the pizza I wanted. They keep making videos about my supposed views on current events and news - though I've got to admit that one about Gordon Brown and that by-election in 2009 was great, I had a real laugh at that.

"I don't mind all that, but frankly, this is one step too far. Why would anyone compare me to that bouffant-haired buffoon? I can only say that I'm looking forward to the day I get the meet Mr Livingstone himself - I hear that he is quite anti-Semitic. Perhaps we may yet get along..."

He also agreed to be photographed mid-rant. Hell certainly hasn't changed his looks, has it?

Blogging and the high steaks involved

As a blogger, one of the problems your Reaper occasionally gets is when to blog about something and when not to. Last week, I encountered one such dilemma. I had seen a story in the local paper which I thought was hilarious, and wondered whether I should blog it. Eventually, I decided against for a number of reasons.

The news story around at the moment about the cow who got its head stuck in a ladder has made me conclude that last week, I made the wrong decision. It was udderly the wrong decision. Okay, okay, I promise not to make any more mildly amusing puns like that for the rest of this article. Except to say that some of these puns would be a-moo-sing for a brief period of time, such as three of four seconds.

The story which I saw happened in Enniskillen, a town in County Fermanagh which I visit regularly and don't live that far away from. It happened just off the Sligo Road, which is in the north-west of the town. There were scenes last Monday, if I remember correctly, when a bull had somehow managed to escape from where it was being held, and was going around the town. It wasn't terrorising the residents of the sleepy town, although one particular person might have had good cause for concern. The article, which appeared in The Impartial Reporter, featured a picture of the bull standing at someone's front door. It is not made clear in the report whether anyone did answer the door.

In the end, the bull was quickly recaptured and life went on for Enniskillen's population, many of whom were heading home from work for the day. Given however, that we are currently in the middle of silly season, The Grim Reaper is kicking himself that he didn't bother to write up this story at the time. If a story about a cow with its head stuck in the ladder can make it onto the BBC News website, that would almost certainly have made it as well.

I promise therefore that, in future, if I see any interesting news stories about our bovine friends, I won't be as dismissive before making a decision on whether to feature it here.

Now, anyone for a fillet of beef?

* This post was updated with links and the picture in question on Thursday 18th August.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't dismiss the man out of hand

From time to time, a public figure will speak out and your Reaper can predict even before they've said anything what the reaction will be. In the particular case that I'm talking about here, it's all too fashionable and popular to dismiss almost anything that the man says, usually on grounds that have next to no connection with his actual words. Damned if he says anything, damned if he says nothing. He just can't win.

This is a predicament which Prince Charles finds himself in yet again this evening. Earlier today, he was being asked a number of questions about the recent rioting, and about youth in general. Probably the comment he made which has caused the most controversy is his claim that a lot of people are becoming part of what he calls "gang culture" because he says it's "a cry for help". Naturally enough, his comments haven't gone down well with certain quarters, and even some of the Prince's traditional supporters are deserting him over this one - showing just how shallow their support really is in the process.

Although his line of thinking is, in my opinion, confusing two issues which are by and large better dealt with when kept seperate, the man is entitled to express an opinion on the matter. This is a man who does enormous amounts of work for charity and for young people everywhere, such as his work with the Prince's Trust. Whether you like the man or not - and I certainly don't - the reality is that failure to acknowledge as much about him is nothing less than churlish and petty behaviour.

Yes, he's a man who was raised with enormous amounts of wealth around him, and a man born into huge privilege. So what? Just because someone is born into those circumstances does not automatically mean that they will have no idea about gang culture and the like. Admittedly, it does make it less likely, but that is not a given - and especially not so in the case of Prince Charles. For he has helped raise more money for charity than most of us will ever manage in a lifetime, and these aren't fake, government-funded charities. These are real ones, that depend on the public to keep going and do vital work helping people who could otherwise end up in a life of crime.

He may not necessarily be right, although I think he certainly makes a valid point here. Some of the young men who join gangs will be doing so as a cry for help. Others will be doing it because the one male role model that should be present in their lives - their own father - is not there. That, surely, is something vitally important for our society to discuss?

Clearly not, when there's self-defeating and vindicated, class-based bashing of a member of the Royal Family to be done. Grow up, you lot...

Let them have their meerkats, Compare The Market

There are a number of important things going on in the world right now. In typical fashion, your Reaper is going to discuss none of them, and mention something else which makes him look like he has an extremely disproportionate view on reality. I have received a few emails on this subject lately from people obviously wondering if I'm interested in it. Dunno, you tell me.

If you've watched a television anytime in the past week or so, you will almost certainly have noticed the latest advert for Compare The Market, featuring those lovable meerkats. They've been on there for quite some time now and have become something of a cultural icon. Only in Britain would you be able to use a Russian meerkat to flog car insurance. The latest offer is when you use the website and proceed to buy an insurance policy after doing a search, you will receive a free meerkat toy. Yes, you can have a fluffy meerkat toy for yourself. If that won't entice you to buy hideously over-priced car insurance, nothing will.

Unfortunately, all does not seem to be well. I have heard a few people complaining that they have not received their toys. Whilst you could well argue that these are obviously sad individuals who have no lives, they do harbour a legitimate grievance. If they were promised a free toy, should they not be receiving a free toy?

One of the people I have heard from has now been waiting over two weeks for her meerkat to arrive and is getting rather annoyed with the delay. I know that comparison websites read blogs - I heard from Money Supermarket a few months ago after I wrote about that John Prescott advert - so on behalf of these pathetic individuals whose lives depend on receiving a toy, I ask this question.

What gives? Get on with it and send these people their toys. Then they can move on with their lives. Not that they had anything to do with their lives in the first place, mind you...

UPDATE 18th AUGUST: It appears that it can take as long as three months for your meerkat toy to arrive. That doesn't seem to be getting made clear, from what I have seen...

Money? You pays your money, you takes your choice

At the time of writing this, your Reaper is watching a show on in the background called Cherry's Cash Dilemmas, hosted by a journalist called Cherry Healey. Like so many BBC Three shows, it makes no attempt at making any effort to be pragmatic or balanced. The gist of the programme is that they show different ways that people have of making money.

The first instance is from a rather deluded and pathetic woman who thinks the best way to get millions of pounds is to marry a footballer, the second instance is a woman who is rather pathetic for a different reason - she has her millions and owns no less than six houses.

Both of these examples are ludicrous in the extreme, and simply not lifestyles that I can relate to at all. I'm pretty careful with my money - I'm pleased to say that I was once called a tight bastard, for instance - and both women make me want to vomit, to be honest. The first one spends most of her income from an office job trying to make herself look beautiful before descending on various clubs for the simple purpose of finding a footballer, banker or another rich (and ideally eligible) male. Not only does she fail to make herself beautiful in any regard, but she completely fails at it and seems to have no ambitions in life whatsoever. How incredibly pathetic.

The second is a rather sad case for slightly different reasons. She's a woman who has basically made her money from making toilet-training equipment for babies. Nothing wrong with that, you understand - I think that anyone who makes a successful product deserves to reap the awards of that success. However, the way that she chooses to spend her money simply makes me balk. Just WHY does anyone need to own six houses, for instance? One, yes. Two even makes sense, if you're a person who does a lot of travelling as part of their job or because of their way in life. But six? I simply see no reason why anyone could realistically need to have that many houses, and as far as I can tell,  she has six of them simply because... well, she can buy six of them.

She also spends vast amounts of her time shopping at ridiculously expensive stores, where it would not be unusual to present the products you wish to buy at the checkout and be presented with a bill for around £10k, more than some people earn in an entire year. Am I alone in finding that slightly repulsive? Now, as I say, this isn't a matter of envy or jealousy. Anyone who reads this blog will know that I don't do class envy, and I've already mentioned that she is entitled to her success. However, I can't help but think that her way of life seems completely devoid from reality, and just a little bit crass.

My view is fairly simple when it comes to money. If you want something, go out and earn it. For example, as much as I moan about BMW drivers and have done on the blog in the past, there's few things I'd love more than to own one myself. However, I can't afford to do that at the moment, so I shall have to make do with my Ford Fiesta. It's not great, but it's better than having no car at all, isn't it? There's also a wedding that needs to be paid for, and with the average wedding now coming in at over £20,000, it's not cheap.

Ours is likely to cost half of that in the end - perhaps I should have a word with that millionairess. She could certainly afford to spare the money, after all.

Justice? Access all too sadly denied

The law, pictured yesterday >>

Old Holborn wrote last night on his blog about the horrific experience that his daughter has been through in the past few months. It's quite a personal piece on many levels. Do go and read the whole thing, but here's a quick summary for now.

His daughter was on a train when she was confronted by a gang of young black men who seemingly like to go around getting white women to give them blowjobs in public places. She understandably refused, and was then assaulted by one individual on the grounds she had "disrespected" these hateful cunts.

The case has now come before the court and he has been found guilty, after what we are told was a case where the evidence against him was truly overwhelming. Holbers thinks that they will probably get a community sentence "which he will not bother to do and a fine which he will not bother to pay", and do you know what? He's almost certainly right. I think this case demonstrates clearly just what is wrong with our legal system.

As regular readers will probably know, your Reaper has more liberal views on the justice system than many libertarians are comfortable with. I'm of the view that our prisons are commonly used as social dustbins and that there are many people in prison who should not be there. However, we also have a legal system where persons who truly deserve to be sent to jail - such as this disgusting individual - are not getting there for a mixture of reasons. Some say that our prisons are too full, which is true. Some say the ridiculous line that people do these things because of poverty or whatever. Which is contemptible bollocks.

This man did what he did simply because he could, and that nobody would dare try and stop him. Old Holborn's daughter wouldn't let him do what he wanted and she suffered because of it, but she stood firm. He can be extremely proud of his daughter today, but we certainly can't be proud of a justice system which seems determined to deny her the justice which she so sorely deserves.

How on earth we even begin to start addressing this kind of culture, which is particularly prevalent amongst certain sections of society, is something that needs answering more urgently than ever,

Hitch-hikers and this befuddled blogger's mystery

There are some mysteries which your Reaper has never been able to resolve. Who was it that used to steal my bar of chocolate every day when I worked on a turkey farm briefly last year? Why is it that you can never find any member of the public willing to admit that they vote Conservative? And above any other mystery - who is it that actually picks up hitch-hikers?

Think about this for a moment. If you drive, chances are that you'll come across hitch-hikers every now and then. You know the sort. You're driving along and you see someone standing at the side of the road with their arm out, sometimes wielding a sign stating where they wish to be taken. Some of them position themselves quite intelligently, standing next to areas where people are able to pull in. Others don't seem to manage it so successfully. I remember one time a few years ago that I was driving along the A55 in North Wales and I saw someone standing at the side of the road holding a sign with the word "Chester" on it.

Just one problem. The speed limit on that particular section of the road was 70mph and there was absolutely nowhere that anyone would be able to stop for at least a mile or two. I imagine that he would have been standing at the side of that road for quite some time. Thankfully however, most of them stand somewhere a little bit more sensible.

However, not once have I seen someone stop and pick up a hitch-hiker. Nor have I ever met someone who says they have done so, or would do so. Every single time I ask anyone this question, the answer is no, and the main reason given is that the person in question could turn out to be a grade-A lunatic. Perhaps this is a legitimate fear, but it does say a lot about the distrusting society that we live in, wouldn't you say? Mind you, would I pick up a hitch-hiker? I can't say I'd be especially likely to and whilst Miss Reaper is in the car with me, there wouldn't be a cat in hell's chance of her letting me to do it. Miss Reaper's wrath is not pleasant, I can assure you.

Yet picking up hitch-hikers is clearly something that someone out there must be doing. They wouldn't exist otherwise, would they? So if anyone out there has picked up a hitch-hiker in the past, please take a moment to tell your Reaper about the experience and why you did it. This is a mystery that I'm genuinely curious to resolve.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

AC/DC and the middle class rock music conundrum

Rock music used to be about rebellion. It used to be about the music, and the lifestyle associated with the music. It was about sticking two fingers up to the norms and conventions of society and doing things your own way. Above all, it used to be about having a bloody good time.

Which is why your Reaper was bemused to discover that legendary rock band AC/DC have decided to cash in on their brand - nowt wrong with that, you understand - by releasing a range of wine. Now, I've heard of people releasing posters or other merchandise of themselves in order to make some money, but this has to be a first for a rock band, surely? Apparently, wine is a favourite drink of the band members. The product will only be available in Australia to start with, but a roll-out if successful with the Aussies is practically inevitable.

Let me declare that I have no problem with this, though I do think that it will have to be a bloody good range of wines in order to be successful. I don't know what the wine market is like in Australia, but here in the UK, we are absolutely spoilt for choice. It takes a lot in order to stand out, and everyone who likes their wine has their favourites - I know I do. I love trying out new ranges of wine, but it would have to be distinctive in order for me to want to keep drinking it. Nothing beats a great red wine, and there's nothing worse than horrid red wine for your Reaper.

That said, isn't there something awfully middle-class about all this? It doesn't seem your typical rocker's fare, after all...

Actor who's married isn't actually married? (Part 5)

The actor and comedian who is the subject of this series continues to fascinate your Reaper for all the wrong reasons. In previous editions of the series, we have discovered that the man is keen for the public to believe he is married when he is not, that he has an injunction in place to prevent press reporting of the fact he likes to engage in BDSM, that he uses pseudonyms on a variety of social networking websites in order to find women to whip and have unprotected sex with, that it's entirely possible he may have caught an STD in the process and that his fantasies are not dissimilar to those enacted in the film Night Porter.

Oh yes, and that despite his activities nearly having been outed in the newspapers a few months ago, it hasn't made him re-think things. Far from it. I revealed last Friday that he STILL frequents internet forums and message boards under pseudonyms looking for young women to beat up and act out questionable fantasies which involve unprotected sexual intercourse. The latest part in the series relates to this. It appears that the actor has noticed that there is talk about him on the internet - perhaps he's even spotted this series, I don't know - and he wants to take steps to further protect his anonymity.

A few months ago, a profile appeared on a website which belonged to this man. Naturally, it was not under his real name - it was under one of his several pseudonyms. The profile had not been logged into for quite some time, although that does not necessarily mean he did not frequent the website. The profile in question, which I regrettably cannot link to for legal reasons, was deleted recently.

Which means one of two possible things happened. Either the site administrators noticed there was rather a lot of interest being brought in by this particular profile, and deleted it under the impression that something dodgy was going on, or the not-actually-married actor has removed it himself. It soon became clear what had happened. The man showed his spectacular ignorance of the internet by simply creating a new profile for himself and telling his friends on the site about his new name.

Unfortunately, two things conspired against him. The first was that he had been too lazy to come up with a new pseudonym, so he simply resorted to using one of his other internet identities. The second was that one of his "friends" has been less than discreet about the matter. The result? His "new" disguise was uncovered less than 24 hours after the new account had been created.

In my previous post, I claimed that the actor in question isn't stupid. Judging by this spectacular instance of internet fail, I may have spoken too soon...

A week your Reaper would rather forget (Part 2)

Oh my. Barely after the ink has dried on my previous entry come more reasons to feel bloody miserable. Frankly, this is one of those weeks where it's best just to stay in bed.

The claim that the benefits system is being tightened up is simply that. Nonsense. What, you didn't seriously think Tory lies that they were actually serious about reforming it, did you? Think again. The case of unemployed Somali refugee Saeed Khaliif and his family demonstrates that this is a system which shows no sign of changing. They were offered a house in Coventry, with a rent of £1000 per month that would have been paid for by the taxpayer. They refused it. Instead, they're going to be housed in London, at a cost of £8000 per month that will be paid for by the taxpayer. A reformed system would have told them to either take the house that was offered, or get some work and pay for a London pad yourselves, would it not?

Prices on the railways aren't getting any cheaper, with the news that average rail fares are going up by 8% from next year. Your Reaper doesn't use the trains himself, and hasn't boarded one for nearly two years now. Although driving is expensive, I find it cheaper than depending on the railways. That said, I know a lot of people do rely on them and this will doubtless come as another kick in the teeth, amidst rising prices pretty much everywhere. Isn't it strange that prices only ever seem to go up and never down in this regard?

The bad news for the Eurozone economy area just keeps on piling up. The German economy, previously thought to be one of the most resilient, has slowed down drastically, and is only just about growing. The economy increased in size by just 0.1% in the last three months, as talk of having to bail out yet more countries continues unabated. Although on the plus side, it means that the UK's economy is currently growing at a faster rate than it is for the Germans. I wonder how Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are going to get themselves out of this particular conundrum?

Elsewhere, the phone hacking scandal is back. Rumours are that at the time of writing that Colin Myler and Tom Crone are due to be recalled to the Commons media select committee in September after new questions were raised. Seriously, does anyone care about what happened at the News of the World anymore? The paper shut down several weeks ago, and pretty much anyone involved in phone-hacking has left the company.

Oh, and to make life even worse, I see that Stephen Nolan has blocked me on Twitter. Whilst reminiscing the other day about things that didn't happen during the year 2011, I mentioned in a tweet that he didn't bother discussing the injunctions issue on his show when the issue was at its height. This is something that I've always found quite bizarre. For a man who normally has opinions on everything, he seemed shockingly quiet over this issue.

About two or three minutes later, I tried to follow him. I discovered I had been blocked. After just three minutes. Whatever must I have said that upset Nolan so much? Truly, I am baffled at how sensitive he is to criticism. I do hope I didn't make the fat little dear cry into his next licence-fee funded pie...

A week your Reaper would rather forget

God, what a depressing week this is turning out to be, and it's only Tuesday.

The Tories are being reactionary cunts who don't seem to have a clue what the hell they're doing. Instead of putting forward serious answers to social problems, they're jumping on the bandwagon and using the riots last week in order to propose draconian measures such as turfing people out of their own houses or taking away their benefits. And useful idiots everywhere are supporting them as they masturbate themselves into a knee-jerking fury.

Exam results are coming up on Thursday, where there will inevitably be the usual sterile arguments about how examinations are getting easier and how they're not worth the paper they're printed on. The usual claims will go around that it's insulting to hard-working students to say any of the above, whilst the views of the actual students concerned will go ignored. As usual.

Big Brother is also starting back on Thursday. The show, which was meant to die last year, has been brought back to life by Dirty Dick Desmond and Channel 5, who are hoping that it will be a big success. According to publicity material, the show is going to contain lots of sex and a padded cell. Which inevitably means that it won't contain any of that. What it will contain is Z-list celebrities vying for attention, such as the completely pointless Amy Childs, pictured here. I'd like to say for certain I won't be watching, but I'm probably lying. I'll probably end up taking a sneaky peek.

The X Factor returns on Saturday, as anyone who has watched any of the ITV channels in the past week will be able to tell you. You'd be half-forgiven for thinking that, from this weekend, there will be no other programmes on ITV1 apart from The X Factor, which looks like it's going to be exactly the same as every other fucking series of the show. The format will continue to be dated and utterly predictable, the presenters will continue to be wooden and boring, and Louis Walsh will continue to be an utterly insufferable cunt.

How wonderful it is to be alive...

Can we strip Iain Dunderhead Smith of his salary yet?

Here's another one of those posts which will probably upset a fair few people who read this blog. Frankly, it's not something I wish to get into the habit of doing it, but nor am I going to post something which I simply don't believe in. I see that the Work and Pensions Secretary has jumped into the fray and proposed an ugly, simplistic and vindictive suggestion that won't work and is simply an excuse to do something he wants to do anyway.

Apparently, he wants to see people who are convicted for rioting, but NOT jailed for it, stripped of their benefits. Which is a bizarre suggestion. Firstly, what about the rioters who aren't on any benefits? A fair few of those who would have been out on the streets as mayhem descended could well have been people who had a job and been paying taxes. That doesn't make it right - there's certainly no suggestion of that being made here - but are they going to be stripped of their salaries? A number of people on benefits are already in a pretty fragile place in their lives and making bully-boy threats like this just makes Dunkers look a cunt. Which is unfair, because it denies Gideon his natural role in government.

It's a shame, because Duncan-Smith is normally a man who speaks a lot of sense. On this occasion though, his intervention is badly-timed, insensitive and hopelessly impractical. If you're trying to incentivise someone to get back into work, removing all their benefits immediately probably isn't the way to go around doing it. It could well be used as a tool if nothing else has worked, but if someone is doing a community sentence, I see no reason why they should lose all of it. Reduce it, maybe. Taking it away completely is a step too far for my liking.

I have noticed that I do appear to be far closer to the Liberal Democrats than to the Conservatives on this one, and that is something that definitely disturbs me, given that Liberal Democrats are nearly always wrong on just about every issue of the day. However, the Tory line on this is, quite frankly, ugly. And I'm amazed that Ed Miliband isn't taking more advantage of that, and putting forward more reasonable solutions to the social problems which do exist, but which the riots weren't entirely a part of.

I would suggest removing Iain Dunderhead Smith's salary with immediate effect until he starts being sensible again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Riot tenants and going for the jugular

Earlier on today, your Reaper wrote a post about why he believes it's wrong to evict tenants from their houses because they were involved in the recent rioting in various UK cities. I've had a few replies to the comments I made, most of which have admittedly been negative. Perhaps readers were surprised to see that I hold this view, I don't know. All I can say in response to that is I simply write what I think. Occasionally, I surprise myself with what I end up writing. I would, however, like to respond specifically to certain criticisms made of me, particularly by one person.

I don't normally do this, but on this occasion, I'm prepared to make an exception. Shortly after I posted that piece, I got some tweets from Sue, better known on Twitter as @EU_Dictatorship. As much as I don't like to pigeon-hole anyone, I do find it rather ironic that in her profile, she tells us "I was born English, I will die English, I am English in my soul" whilst also letting us know she "will never be an EU citizen". Which is a little bit odd, for two reasons. First, that she doesn't live in the UK in the first place, and secondly, despite her professed loathing of the European Union, she lives in Malaga in Spain, one of the countries which is in trouble at the moment. Must be sunnier out there...

Anyway, she sent a tweet to me which went "You're saying sod the neighbours who didn't do anything but they have to live with a criminal in their midst.". Which isn't what I was saying at all, but let's deal with this. Now, if someone has been found guilty of a criminal offence and their landlord then says they don't want them living there, fair enough. If part of your tenancy agreement is to avoid behaviour which causes offence or harm to others and you then lose your home, you've got no one but yourselves to blame. However, this is where things start to become more difficult.

What if it's the kids of a single mother who's committed a crime? Does that mean that the single mother, who may well have other children to support, should be thrown out onto the streets? I would consider the concept of chucking out children onto the streets pretty inhuman myself, even if certain other quarters are showing that they think otherwise in this argument.

This idea that people shouldn't have to live with a criminal in their midst does not hold much water, either. Those who have committed criminal activity must be punished, in my view. I would suggest long community sentences would suffice for the majority of the offenders, where they help to repair and re-build everything that they helped destroy. I think that would be a far more worthwhile solution in the end, which shows people clearly they've done wrong and must help put it right. If there are indeed problems between different sections of society in our cities, what better way of helping repair that damage, in both a social and more physical context?

Call me a deluded liberal if you must - and you'll be doing so despite all the evidence pointing to the contary - but I honestly believe that people deserve a second chance. I have no time for so-called career criminals, who definitely should be jailed. Many of the people looting last week did so for one simple reason - simply because they could. I don't believe that necessarily makes them inhuman or that they should be locked up for the rest of their lives because they did do. What I do believe is that the people who fall into this group should pay for the damage they have caused and return the goods they have stolen. Locking people up for the rest of their lives and then giving them no chance whatsoever to mend their ways is simply no way for a civil society to function.

A lot of damage and a lot of harm was done during the riots. Of that I have no doubt. But what we now need to be careful is to make sure that we don't make the damage even worse by over-reacting or worse, by over reacting. The knee-jerk solution of kicking people out of their homes may well please some Right-wingers, who then wonder why they come across as heartless bastards, but frankly, it's not an answer that we should even be contemplating. It's time for some calm on this debate, and for the justice system to make sure those who have done wrong are dealt with sufficiently.

Why evicting the so-called "riot tenants" is wrong

A lot of people who supposedly know a lot have shown over the past week or so that they know absolutely nothing, especially about the recent riots which besieged various cities around the UK. Some of them have been downright stupid to the point of insulting, such as claims that people going out and stealing other people's property is acceptable because of so-called poverty. Others have been more unfortunate, like Channel 4 inadvertently suggesting on Twitter that the Prime Minister should try and masturbate councils to ensure the eviction of tenants who were involved in rioting.

However, one of the ideas that has come around is that it was only an underclass of people who were involved, and that no supposedly respectable person would have taken part. This is nonsense, quite simply. A fair few of the looters were middle-class kids, media coverage has shown lately, yet it's something which is being conveniently shunted to the side in order for some class bashing. An idea is going around that tenants who were involved in rioting should lose their home as a result.

How can I put this? This idea is, to borrow a term much loved by Obnoxio The Clown, risible cuntwaftery. So the answer to thievery is to make a person homeless and therefore force them resort to a life which is far more associated with crime than any other? Words cannot even begin to define how dumb this idea is. Persons who stole property and goods during the recent riots should be punished, and if necessary, should be locked up for a long time. However, the state has no right to take away someone's house - that is a matter between the landlord and the tenant. It's not only a stupidly illogical idea, it's one that also bands together several issues that simply can't be lumped together properly.

I'm not convinced by the line that poverty caused the riots, but nor do I buy the line that putting people into poverty as punishment for something they have done will somehow change them for the better. And who's selling this latest idea that is completely devoid of logic, sensibility and humanity?

The very same right-wing hysterics who rail against state power, yet two weeks ago were arguing that the state should have the ultimate power of life or death over us. No wonder they think the state should now have the power to make people homeless. These so-called right-wingers are really letting their side down this summer, aren't they?

What's the point of the padded bra? A male perspective

Pictured: A real man not wearing any padding yesterday. Along with women who may or may not be wearing padding. But probably are. How very dare they.

Yes, your Reaper knows that this seems a rather unusual post to publish on a Monday morning, but such is the way of the world. I really have to state my objections to these truly vile modern day items that seem to be increasingly popular nowadays. I hear that it's quite difficult to find non-padded varieties of the bra these days, apparently. Not that I spend my days in lingerie departments of shops. What kind of weirdo do you seriously think The Grim Reaper is?

Now that the economy is in the crapper, men seem to prefer the more traditional female form - namely of having curves and bumps in the right places. Women, whilst still claiming they pay no attention whatsoever to what men think of their bodies, therefore have got the idea from the likes of Gok Wan that they need to buy these things in order to boost their boobs.

From a male perspective, I can't help but think that women who use these things should be charged under the Trades Descriptions Act. Just think about this for a minute. You're a young man who is dating an attractive woman whom you believe has got a rather impressive set of lungs on her. You spend many months trying to win her trust and seducing her. Then that moment arrives when she's taking her clothes off. You're looking forward to seeing what she's been packing away for all those months. And then...

...is that it? They've been unveiled, and it turns out they're nowhere near the size advertised by the woman. A feeling of disappointment comes along from a man who feels like he's been cheated. Okay, so I have to admit that this view does seem rather prehistoric, but let's face it, women would feel exactly the same way if it happened the other way round. Let's turn the previous scenario around and make one or two necessary changes. Because men tend not to have breasts. Though an increasing number seem to think, in the age of equality, that it's okay for us blokes to have them as well.

Either that, or there's a lot of fat guys around these days. Anyway, pretend for a moment that you are a dashing young woman who has been dating a man for some time who you think has got a six pack. The woman is going to spend... ooh, all of a few minutes trying to seduce the bloke. Because blokes tend not to refuse sex when it's offered when single and at a certain age, I would suggest. That moment later arrives when he's taking his clothes off. As a woman, you're finally going to get your hands on that muscly, manly chest of his. And suddenly...

There's nothing there. How disappointed would you be, ladies? Exactly. Yet it's okay for women to use padding. Someone explain the equality in this one to me...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The birds and the bees conversation that never happened

This is supposedly a conversation that every father ends up having with his own son, yet despite the fact it is allegedly a commonplace event, it remains one that is shrouded in mystery and embarrassing blushes. Your Reaper is thinking of the future at this point. I'm well aware that Miss Reaper wants to have children, and the feeling is entirely mutual. If I have a son, am I going to have to have this conversation with my own offspring?

To be entirely honest, I'm absolutely fucked if I do need to. I can't say that I ever had this conversation from my dad, and the only words that my mum would say on the topic of sex to me were "if you're gonna have sex, use a condom". You're a stupid fucker if you don't, she would say, and that is a message which has stuck with me ever since I first heard it.

When I was a teenager who was starting to notice changes to his body - hair growing where there was no hair before, things like that - my sex education consisted of coming home one afternoon to see a selection of books that had come from the local library filled with information on the subject.

I picked up on the hint pretty much immediately. A few days later, I went off to school - as you do - and when I returned home that afternoon, the then well-thumbed books (not sticky, I might add, before any cheeky sod starts making jokes) were no longer there. Presumably they had been taken back to the library by my mum. Put it this way - I'd learnt everything that I'd needed to know on the subject, and nobody had been embarrassed in the process.

Everybody wins.