Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

Sucess consists either of making the world a lot better for a few people or of making the world a little bit worse for a lot of people.


Get those proles out of my shopping street

Apparently the mayor of Paris is upset that the Champs-Elysees is turning into something downmarket like Oxford Street, and that he has taken steps to stop this happening by keeping shops like H&M out. On the other hand, the fool is even more upset that French citizens are no longer using the Champs-Elysees and it is being taken over by tourists. So he is desperately trying to keep cinemas open in a piece of real estate that cinemas can't afford.

Nobody has to worry about Londoners deserting Oxford Street. Oxford Street is full of shops like H&M and TopShop that Londoners can afford to shop at. But shops that ordinary Parisians can afford to shop at are too declasse for a man like Bertrand Delanoe, the thouroughly upscale mayor of the city so upscale that even the dustmen look down on you with a supercilious sneer.

There is a reason why the businesses able to pay the highest rents for the prime sites on the Champs-Elysees (or Oxford Street) are chains that ordinary people shop at. That is because the middle class collectively have far more money than the kind of people who shop at Louis Vuitton, because there are not very many people who can afford to shop at Louis Vuitton. Shopping streets that real people can shop on are a crucial part of a great, living city. Paris should embrace them.

If Parisians can't afford to shop on Paris's main shopping street and just walk along it to gawk at the designer stores on their way to the cinema, they aren't really doing anything that a tourist couldn't.

Of course, if Bertrand Delanoe wants Paris to be a museum to the French "art of living" rather than somewhere French people live, then he is right to throw the middle class off the Champs Elysees. But then why is he sneering at the tourists?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What's in a name...

Article in the Grauniad about 'women keeping their name after marriage'. I remarked upon this yesterday when addressing a thank you letter to my aunt as Mrs [husband's initial] [husband's surname]. Since when did she become 'Ramon' anyway, poor soul?

This is as much generational as being ' statement about who you are and how you regard yourself within a marriage'. I have a seriously dubious surname and my mother took on more than a guy when she married. She would have loved to register me on my birth certificate with her maiden name. But in those days (sometime during the Late Jurassic) this would have looked bad both for her AND my dad, suggesting that I was a b*****d in the literal sense. I would have had as many problems from my perceived illegitimacy as my surname. So addressing to 'Mr and Mrs Smith' is as much about traditional morality norms as it is about Mrs Moorhead being chained to a sink, since these norms applied to both genders.

One issue she doesn't mention is the 'Miss' and 'Mrs' issue, which I've always regarded as more of a biggie than the whole naming thing. I've always hated being 'Miss' since it suggests I either have a short skirt and bunches or I'm a 70-year old spinster with all related connotations. At senior school, I made the decision to call myself 'Ms' after a female history teacher. She started using 'Ms' after a somewhat messy divorce and loathed men as a result. I still remember studying the execution of Anne Boleyn and her remarking 'typical man'. I've been a 'Ms' (or a 'mess' as my mum mispronounces it) ever since.

But after passing my doctorate, I'm completely 'degendered'. A nice side-effect of doing a PhD. I'm doctor 'X' - the perfect synthesis of sounding like an expert and having no apparent gender. I associate myself by nomensclature with such greats as Dr No and Dr Evil. The only problem is that people now think I know how to treat pustulescent boils or contagious illness. Or when a group of well-oiled guys decided to sit around me on the train back from my PhD viva:

'So where have you been then? Shopping?'

'No, I've been attending my PhD viva'

'What's that then?'

'I've done my doctorate. It means I've learnt something original about a subject for several years and then wrote about it'

'So what can you do with that now then?'

'Well, I can become a university lecturer and I get to call myself 'doctor''

'Oh, you're a doctor. My friend needs a doctor to examine him. I think he's an alcoholic'

'I'd love to help, but only if you buried him in snow first'

Labels: ,

Monday, December 25, 2006

Some Christmas treats...

... All the fuuunnn (well, maybe), games and baubles of the festive season from F&M...

... And if you really want some entertainment then you can enjoy this wonderful letter written in response to an article by Richard Littlejohn about the Ipswich murders or can choose to savour this somewhat more hearty response to the same article. I can only close with what has to be quote of the week:

"Please don't tell my mother I'm a columnist with the Daily Mail - she thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse".

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 24, 2006

10 things I will never do...

Paul Linford tagged me ages ago with this... Bit of a hard one since never say never... but... in no particular order:

1. Conform
2. Vote BNP
3. Mark Oaten, 'acts of unspeakable degradation'... Do I need to say any more?
4. Buy a Mills & Boon novel (do those things still exist?)
5. Eat octopus (or pulpo in Spanish)... or eel...
6. Grow a beard
7. Read "That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between"
8. Take a vow of silence
9. Knit bootees
10. A PhD (again)


The best Christmas present...

Is the good ship ID cards sinking below the waves? The headline in the online edition of the Telegraph this morning describes the costs and fines the government is suggesting for the ID cards scheme.

These are £30 to:
  • Replace lost or stolen cards
  • Change the name on an ID card after marriage
A fine up to £1,000 for:
  • Failing to update the card with a new address or details
  • Failing to return the card of a dead relative

John Reid (probably with acute embarrassment) admitted that this would adversely affect students since all ID card holders would be asked for "all current alternative addresses". Students typically change their term-time address at least once a year. Recent graduates would also be affected - also a group who frequently relocate.

Maybe I'm engaged in a bit of wistful thinking here, but since this scheme has more floors/flaws than Taipei 101 in both aims and implementation, then Gordon Brown (or whoever - wouldn't wish to speculate) may eventually be tempted to use the FT's suggestion for an escape route:

John Reid, the home secretary, axed plans to build a huge new computer system to hold the biometric data, such as fingerprint records, that will underpin the new cards. The government will instead use existing systems for national insurance, asylum and passport databases...

...the change of approach could also offer Gordon Brown an escape route, should he become prime minister and opt to scrap or scale back ID cards. “It doesn’t close off an ID card scheme,” ... “But it lets the government proceed with two things it really cares about – e-border controls and an identity management system that will let citizens do e-business more easily with government – while allowing a successor to Tony Blair to drop or significantly amend the ID cards project if that’s what they want to do.”

Perhaps ID cards in their current incarnation will eventually generate far more light than heat. Surely everyone's best Christmas present... [except the government's]

Labels: ,

Friday, December 22, 2006

I always knew he was a homocidal nutter... he had a moustache

An interesting article in the Grauniad about the media frenzy surrounding suspects in the 'Suffolk Strangler' case.

I had been thinking along the same lines after seeing Channel 4 news coverage of the arrest of the first suspect, Tom Stephens. A neighbour at his old residence was dug out from under a log and chivved in front of a microphone where he remarked (to paraphrase) that he always knew Mr Stephens was a bit odd because he cycled to work wearing shorts in winter... this evidently being a reliable indication that someone was about to murder several prostitutes...

... a little care required in the stampede for a good story, me thinks.