Wednesday, May 30, 2007

the epitome of efficiency

If you're a long established reader of this blog, you may remember me having a rant about my local council. Specifically, I complained about the fact that my recycling box 'would arrive within four weeks'.

I am now pleased to report, ladies and gentlemen, that I arrived home today, a mere 10 weeks on, to find my recycling box. It seems that our council has developed the knack of stretching time-scales as well as the truth. I'd honestly assumed that we'd been forgotten about and was preparing to endure the council switchboard after my exams. I'm quite thankful that I don't have to call them now, and even more so that I don't pay tax. If it takes so long just to deal with a simple, and routine, request for a recycling box imagine how much is wasted on faffing around* elsewhere.

*and believe me, I know about faffing around.

Monday, May 28, 2007

hypocrisy down under

I apologise for perhaps re-opening a can of worms, but this article reminded me of the recent fuss about the legislation to prevent gay people from being turned away from hotels and other public places. It was, if I remember correctly, generally seen as outrageous that someone could ban someone from such an institution based on their sexual orientation.

Down-Under, things are evidently a little bit different.

"The Victorian state civil and administrative tribunal ruled the Peel Hotel could ban patrons based on their sexual orientation."

So, where are the Human Rights and Civil Liberties folk, who should be decrying such an outrageous ruling? Not out protesting, because they "welcome the decision".

Now if you read the whole article, it is apparent that there has evidently been some trouble and this should be prevented. But to attempt to solve the problem by banning heterosexuals just defies belief. It's 'bigoted' and 'intolerant', you might say and as a heterosexual man I feel that there is a grossly unfair stereotype being upheld. We've all heard the arguments which begin "being gay doesn't mean that..." and so in the same vein I should point out that being straight doesn't mean that I will behave abusively (towards anyone) in a pub.

The issue of whether or not it is right to ban someone based on sexual orientation is (or should be the same) whether that orientation is straight or otherwise. The fact that Civil Liberties groups (and others) are not opposing, but even supporting this ruling screams hypocrisy and as ever makes a mockery of the supposed 'liberty' and 'tolerance' they like to think they stand for.

I think I will end by considering this:

"Civil liberties groups said homosexuals should be allowed to relax in places without fear of bullying or intimidation."

Fine. And Catholics should be allowed to make choices about adoption which fit in with their beliefs and religious conscience without fear of bullying or intimidation.

Fair's fair.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday morning with the paper

It's nice to have the chance to kick back with a newspaper on a Sunday morning, and even nicer when you're in Christchurch College hall. I'm enjoying a weekend back in Oxford, visiting old haunts and spending time with friends. Unfortunately I had to give my gown back at the end of the Chamber Choir's year so I can't ponce around later in the manner I would like; however, there's still much in the way of quirky tradition to experience, and next time I watch a Harry Potter film I can get all excited when they show the hall and say "ooh, that's where I wrote my blog".

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Friday, May 25, 2007

feeling positive

It is often said that 'God is a God of surprises' and that 'God's timing is perfect', and today - in a small way - I have found both to be true.

drivel*

"In descending order of vehemence, my objections to the Tory species stem from a) everything they do, b) everything they say, c) everything they stand for, d) how they look, e) their stupid names and f) the noises I imagine they make in bed."

(Attributed to Charlie Brooker, in The Guardian).

Here is one of many reasons why I am not a fan of the Guardian. It likes to portray an air of intelligence, but in all honesty you could probably find more reasoned and mature debate than the above in the Daily Sport. And the Daily Sport would be more entertaining to read.

I'm sure that Mr Brooker believes that he is open-minded and tolerant (and far more so than those nasty Tories could ever be), and so it's quite ironic that the above quotation is anything but. Now, whereas I can understand that the article was probably slightly tongue-in-cheek I don't like the underlying sentiment. Especially given that if 'Tory Species' were replaced by anything else, Mr Brooker and his contemparies would be the first to be outraged, whether the sentiment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and humorous or not.

I really don't like the feeling of (misguided) superiority which is often apparent in The Guardian. It's the same misguided superiority demonstrated by those who think that the answers to the world's problems are simple and beligerently wave placards until the rest of us have seen the light. It's the same misguided superiority demonstrated by those who feel the need to take responsibility for what we might hear and what opinions we might form by restricting freedom of speech.

I've ranted before about how the popular 'tolerance' and open-mindedness in today's society often follows the Henry Ford model of "you can have any view you like, so long as it's mine" and I long for the day when people see enough sense to get over their predjudices** and are open minded enough to consider properly other views. I'm not perfect, but - for example - I do tend to actually read much of the pre-election material from every party before I make a decision.***

*Your call as to whether I'm referring to the esteemed Mr Brooker, or just lacking confidence in my writing today.

**Again, if it wasn't the Tories, to be so predjudiced would be unacceptable and outrageous. Also, such predjudices are based on images of the party almost 20 years ago. Move on, people!

***Oooh, big deal! OK, so it's a small point, but it is one way in which I do try and make sure I know the facts before I judge others on their views.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

who lives in a house like this?


housename
Originally uploaded by JP1984.

Call me juvenile, but I couldn't resist obtaining a photograph of this house-name. Can you imagine living there and having to verify your address over the phone to an insurance salesman or the like?

introducing (by popular demand)...

...JP's Whitelist. After all, it's good to be positive, and here you will find a list of people or companies who have done something exceptional or impressed me a lot. As you would expect from something defined as 'the opposite of a Blacklist'.

I am also pleased to have been able to cull my Blacklist. Whereas HSBC's Customer Services Department only served to entrench them further on the dreaded list, their staff in the Bath branch could not have been more helpful, and the erroneous charges were refunded. TfL have also been taken off; despite some faffing around they did offer to refund my Oyster card after the overcharging incident.

Finally I have also introduced a new 'JP Recommends...' section, which will hopefully develop in to a concise list of places I have enjoyed or maybe good books I have read and that sort of thing. After an excellent Mixed Grill (washed down with a pint of Brains*) I feel that the 'Ship Aground' in Dinas Cross is a deserving first entry, and I look forward to expanding this section in due course.

*For those of you (singular) who were criticising my choice of drinking lager the other night, I can assure you (officer)** that Brains is an ale.

**Competition Time: Which film does the line I have attempted to play on come from?

Friday, May 11, 2007

adhering to the stereotype

I was amused to find that the Guardian was being promoted on campus last week with the enticing offer of a 'free cereal bar'.

I don't feel that further comment needs to be made...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

the post formerly known as observation (it's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife)

I thought 'observation' was a rather dull and unoriginal title for a post, especially as a lot of what I write is 'observational' in nature. I'll be titling things 'post' next.

Anyway, now that I've had some sleep I've been able to come up with something a little better. It's a song lyric I'm particularly fond of, and although my first reaction to reading that Prince is doing a gig in 'the venue formerly known as the Millenium Dome' was not "it's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife" I do feel that it fits well with the actual title of the song.

disappointing

Due to a large amount of public opposition from the Students Union here on campus it came to my attention that Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP) was due to be speaking on campus next Monday.

In their own nanny-state way the SU decided to hold an emergency general meeting (EGM) to propose a no-platform policy aimed at preventing Mr Griffin, and others like him, from speaking at the University. I do not feel that this was the right approach, and such a denial of Freedom of Speech is typical of the "tolerant" attitude which is currently so trendy.

I responded to an email from the SU President, and my views on the matter can be summarised as follows:

"Whereas I have no problem with the SU being obviously anti-BNP, I struggle with the proposed motion to pass a no-platform policy.

Like most, I am not a BNP-Supporter, but I do not feel that the SU should impinge on anybody's freedom of speech. University is a time when students really learn to think and develop ideas for themselves, and censorship of any kind denies the right to do that properly. Although it is very kind of the SU to take responsibility for ensuring that we are not exposed to the BNP, I feel that such a stance is belittling to say the least. I am perfectly capable of coming to my own conclusions, and I am perfectly capable of dealing with extreme ideas.

Furthermore, any publicity is good publicity, and the recent flurry of activity and EGM organised by the SU will ultimately only serve to generate interest and curiosity as far as the BNP are concerned. As I mentioned above, I have no problem with the SU being obviously anti-BNP, but the moment active steps are taken to prevent Nick Griffin from speaking at all he will become an object of curiosity as people seek to find out what the controversy is about. It would be far better simply to quietly make it known that the SU does not wish to be associated with the BNP and let events proceed as planned without further interference or publicity."

Unfortunately, I have just found out that the University has decided not to allow Mr Griffin to speak, and a press statement can be found here.

Now don't get me wrong, I can see that there are some perfectly good practical reasons for the University not wanting to allow such a controversial figure to come and speak. I can also understand that if the nature of his talk was advertised to be racist or otherwise offensive then that provides a basis on which to disallow it.

However, simply to deny someone the right to speak based on who they are is, I believe, wrong. It is certainly not befitting of an institution whose nature should allow its members to be open minded and have the opportunity to come to decisions on their own.

It seems strange that in this country people are so keen to halt freedom of speech in this way, and yet when Mr Griffin, and others such as Abu Hamza have actually got as far as stirring up racial hatred very little has ever been done about it.

EDIT: I am aware that my last paragraph is inaccurate, especially given that Abu Hamza was recently jailed for seven years. However it still took time for this verdict to be reached, and my point is that I'd rather that there was a better reaction to what someone actually says rather than simply introducing a ban based on what it is presumed that they might say.

thank-you!

I think that the first thing I should do whilst catching up on things I wish to say in the Blogosphere is to say a belated thank-you to all of you who in some way marked my birthday last week. I really appreciated the cards, the texts, the Facebook messages, the generous gifts and the fact that I ended the day laughing as I came back from the pub.

It was strange not being in Oxford for my birthday this year. I didn't get up at the crack of dawn, the streets were not lined with tens of thousands of people and I did not go punting. Nevertheless I enjoyed the amazing weather, which I made the most of by spending much of my day outside in The Parade, and I made sure that despite it being a very busy week I still relaxed and enjoyed myself.

guess who's back, back again...

If you thought that the title might be referring to some sort of competition then I am sorry to disappoint you, as the answer is too obvious to warrant any sort of prize. And no, it's not Slim Shady.

Anyway, it's been a very intense few weeks but having handed in my final piece of coursework this morning I have found myself with a quiet hour to kill on campus and thought that it would be an opportune time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and splurge some of the thoughts and observations which I have collected in recent days. Whether I will be compos mentis enough in my sleep-deprived state to grapple in depth with important events such as the recent election or Tony Blair's departure remains to be seen but I hope that you will stick with me nonetheless.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

breaking the silence

If you're wondering why this corner of the blogosphere has been so quiet recently (especially given that it's election time) then perhaps the fact that for the second Thursday running there is still a hive of activity in the office at 11pm might offer some sort of answer. 'Intense' is a very understated description of my course but at least I've enjoyed what I've been doing this week.

Back to it - and normal service will hopefully resume soon...

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