Archive for the ‘UK news’ category

BBC’s GCS-ease

In a brilliant piece of headline–photo juxtaposition, the BBC have not only managed to create a caricature of the cliché of photogenic young ladies brandishing exam results…

…they’ve also made it look rather like the nation’s A* teenage totty are celebrating the first drop in results in a quarter-century: ‘GCSE results are worse! YAY!’

As for analysis, there are only two possible explanations:

  • Exams have been getting easier, and the students have got even stupider than exam simplification could alleviate; or
  • Man-made climate change is a myth.

Either way, Tory success! We finally made the kids look stupid! YAY!

Written by Statto and Tom

August 23, 2012 at 13:34

Posted in BBC, UK news

No re-Morse

Oxford astrophysicist Professor Steve Rawlings was found dead on Wednesday. He was by all accounts an excellent academic, and I can vouch for the quality of his undergraduate lectures. Most importantly, my thoughts go out to his family, friends and the Oxford Physics community.

The tabloids’ thoughts, however, are nowhere to be seen (do they even have any?). I hate the prurient, half-baked insinuation flying around after a possibly-suspicious death, but sadly this one is close enough to home (I’m a physicist at Oxford University) that I have read some of it. I took the Telegraph’s hot-off-the-press reporting with an appropriate pinch of salt, revulsion and intrigue (the Beeb and Guardian being far too measured at this stage in proceedings to allow me to accrue any goss), but it’s The Sun which really took the biscuit, and pissed all over it like a US Marine. Murdoch’s red-top opens its sombre tribute to the great prof with

An Oxford University don has been found dead at a rival lecturer’s home after a suspected academic row.

A ‘rival’ lecturer? What does that even mean? Last time I checked, Oxford’s admittedly-unusual teaching system was not adversarial, and academics are notoriously benign. But, for those of us thickies for whom decoding nonsensical innuendo is too complicated, The Sun still delivers. Later in the article, it explains:

Prof Rawlings was based at St Peter’s College…in Oxford—setting of the Inspector Morse TV murders.

Oh, thanks The Sun, that’s really put this tragedy in a context I can relate to: it’s like a trite televised murder mystery! Now I understand. I guess a world of easy caricatures, cheap cultural shorthand and ‘rival academics’ who might kill one-another over differing interpretations of Bayes’ theorem is easier to write about than waiting for a police investigation to pan out in order to report actual facts.

Fuck you, The Sun.

And fuck you, The Daily Mail: they couldn’t even confine their self-satisfaction at having spotted the Morse connection to the article, and blurted it out in the headline:

Oxford don quizzed over the death of professor who was his best friend (with all the hallmarks of a Morse mystery)

Oh, so he’s his best friend now? I guess that does make some sense, given that they tell us

Professor Rawlings and Dr Sivia co-wrote a book titled Foundations of Science Mathematics…available for £13.99.

Sorry, what? Not content with merely ‘sickening’ and keen to rack up ‘bizarre’ to boot, The Mail’s remorseless search for not-even-circumstantial or just plain irrelevant non-evidence extended to seeking out some Amazon reviews for their co-written tome on maths. ‘It covers everything I need and will be useful to look back at maths I have done in the past, for future reference,’ explained a witness. I mean, student. Who read a book they wrote in 1999 and posted a review on the Internet. If that isn’t admissible evidence in our so-called justice system, I think we should probably abandon it right now and initiate universal Trial by Media in the Court of Public Opinion.

Every time a newspaper comes near something I know anything about, bullshit, inaccuracy and innuendo are thrown about as though salacious copy sells copies or something. The self-parodying, stereotype-laden stories in The Sun and The Mail lend the world a warm, simplistic familiarity, rather more like an episode of Inspector Morse than the diverse, messy world they claim to relate. Real life is far more interesting, and the real people in it far more complex than the column-filling caricatures in the tabloids. And one of those real people is now dead, and many whose lives he touched are now grieving. Have some fucking sympathy.

Rest in peace, Professor Rawlings.

Written by Statto

January 13, 2012 at 10:10

Posted in Daily Mail, The Sun, UK news

‘Fed’ up to here with ‘protestors’

And so it was, with the police shooting Mark ‘Archduke Franz Ferdinand’ Duggan, that a flashpoint well and truly flashed and burned. A peaceful protest descended into a panda-car-toasting riot, and anger shifted within hours from cops to shops, whose temerity to stand around untorched was dealt with in short order. The dizzying fickleness of the geographically-disparate mob then saw the selfish smashing into shoe stores and supermarkets to steal shiny stuff, shedding any semblance of scrupled social score-settling. This continued for four days in a similarly sibilant style.

According to lazy journalists, looters felt ‘brazen’ and ‘fearless’ enough to leave their faces uncovered, in one of the most camera-saturated periods ever seen in a city full of cameras (some freshly looted). As if any more evidence of their bravado were needed, some even had the bare-faced cheek to brag about their hauls online, only to be hauled into line by the police, whom it seems have Internet access too.

The slew from peaceful protest to thoughtless theft left some in the dust, with the BBC referring to rioters as ‘protesters’ for a while after they had obviously ceased to be, as though Tottenham were Tahrir Square, and the local independent florist were one of Hosni Mubarak’s least merciful henchmen. On the other hand, it’s an easy enough mistake for a 24-hour pundit to make, given how rapidly the screens flick from the top story of UK-based naked-faced idiots with footwear envy, to the life-or-death struggle for basic democratic rights in Syria.

Even when they were saying the right words, some commentators were getting them in the wrong order. Sadly, the government did not pledge rubber bullets to cut short all utterances beginning ‘this is all about’, leaving the country’s liberals, hipsters and three eloquent rioters to blame leaderless, political-aim-less looting on everything from structural inequality to cuts that haven’t happened yet. Meanwhile, the right were free to pontificate more than the Pope about pathetic parenting and the lack of good gallows, because EU elf and safety is worried the condemned might get a splinter.

Lexical paucity has also proved to be a problem for the rioters, who seem to be referring to the police as ‘the feds’. This is irksome on three levels: firstly, its blatant rap-tastic Americanism; secondly, the fact that there is no legitimate reason to refer to any aspect of this utterly un-federated state as federal; and thirdly that, even in the US where there are feds to fight, they would certainly not be involved in the street-level quelling of civil unrest. The anti-establishment establishment already have access to some brilliant disparaging terms for the pigs…or, alternatively, ‘the Met’—replete with overtones of corruption, self-interest and shootings on the street—is surely insulting enough?

Sadly, the only people who come out of this well seem to be the families of those killed. Duggan’s brother, Shaun Hall, disowned the violence immediately on Monday: ‘What is going on is not a reflection of what happened to my brother…please don’t make this about my brother’s life. My brother was a good man.’

Similarly, Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon, a 21-year-old victim of a hit-and-run in Birmingham, called for cool heads from all sides: ‘Why are we doing this? I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home.’

Although the riots are self-evidently selfish, and not in the name of socioeconomic and political problems, they are unquestionably a manifestation of them. Whether and where it will take lefty carrots or righty sticks to solve the underlying issues is and probably always will be unclear. But that is a dull ideological debate for us to ignore later. Because this week it is, as they say, kicking off. And it’s kicking off in new trainers.

Written by Statto

August 11, 2011 at 11:03

Posted in UK news