Sunday, 23 February 2014

Butt ugly

Yesterday, necessity brought us to the heart of the Manx third world, i.e. Strand Street, Douglas.
On principle, usually only two things cause me to venture to Douglas these days. One is paid work, the other is meetings related to what you might term good works. Those apart, I really see no reason to dwell in the heart of darkness any more. Almost everything colourful, unique or interesting has been closed or knocked down in a redevelopment blitzkreig that began in the late 1980's.
The latest excuse for the dead-eyed air of the place is a supposed move away from local shops (or even just real world retail outlets staffed by real people) and on to the internet, but this is a lie and the problem is much older.
It began 25 or so years ago, when urban planners decided the area needed regenerating to stop it looking like every other Northern seaside town at the peak of Thatcherism. Inevitably, the “solution” was also Thatcherite and involved winkling every small family business out of their property or tenancy, then replacing them with soul-less shopping centres whose “key tenants” would be major UK retailers, working on the theory that once these were in (rent free for years if necessary) smaller retailers and new local businesses would follow.
We now know how well that worked. With proper planning and a little research into the theory and practice of the socio-economic model they were using, the planners could have too. Or perhaps they always have known, and also know, like career Thatcherites, that the real beauty of free market urban redevelopment is that it is a job for life. The scam works, very simply, on the basis that most businesses simply fail while even the successful and well planned ones have a predetermined shelf life, but that regional governments must always be seen to understand and be managing such change, rather than being as frightened and confused by all the strange noises and flashing lights as their most ignorant ratepayers.
But, returning to yesterday.... all three of us had outstanding gift vouchers which could only be cashed in at Douglas-based major retailers, so we held our noses and dived in for an hour or two.
In the past, we usually take a break halfway through, grab a sandwich from one of the genuine local businesses and munch it on a bench in Regent Street before continuing. But yesterday we discovered, to our horror, that even the newish tramp-unfriendly Regent Street benches had been removed in favour of.....
I still shudder now at the brutalism of the replacement grey slabs of undulating concrete - nominally intended as seating. The latest monstrosities are of a kind seen only in 1930's fascist public art, regional British 1960's shopping centres and Manx millennialist kitsch. Off-island readers who need a reference point could try the current Jonathan Meades TV series in which, in his usual straight-faced style, he deconstructs such horrors and all the screwed up venal, totalitarian scheming which caused them while, nominally, reclaiming them as “good architecture”.
The sheer ugliness (disguised as “function over form”) and impracticality of the new seating area had me idly wondering if T. Dan Smith has distant relatives (or at least admirers) amongst the Manx “redevelopment” fraternity. I also wonder if Douglas Degeneracy Parsnips have shares in Amazon. If not, why else are they so set on making Douglas town centre – 25 years ago a decent if unadventurous example of a typical Northern seaside main drag – so ugly that nobody but the blind can bear to be in it in broad daylight, or while not so legless that they never notice or care what it looks, smells and sounds like?
Answers on a seaside postcard to...well, frankly anybody but me. I neither care nor want to know about a centre of excrement I need not even pass close by unless somebody pays me to do so.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Smoke, mirrors and dog-whistles

Now this (see ) is one debate in the Wedding Cake madhouse I might actually follow next week.
It will be a litmus test, firstly of who in the House actually bothers to research health issues and secondly whether the Liberal Vannin project is finally dead in the water – or should at least have the decency to drop the world 'liberal' from their name.
If your only references to this smoking in cars issue are the BBC and some of what are laughingly described as 'serious' newspapers you won't have a clue. So try reading Chris Snowdon at and Dick Puddlecote at to get the real back story.
Also, you need to know that when the BMA first peddled this atrocious bit of 'research' to the press and TV three years ago the BBC had to take down the original piece within hours and every newspaper which used it printed a retraction in the next issue. This was because the BMA spokesman 'forgot' to mention that the research was a computer model (not a physical experiment) based on a stationary vehicle with the engine and air conditioning off and all the windows closed. In other words, a hypothetical situation which was not physically possible in the real world.
Despite those numerous, often badly placed, retractions after the original story, the only 'results' from the 'experiment' that have since been quoted by the BMA , various state-funded 'public health' bodies and tub-thumping populist MPs are the sensational (and physically impossible) ones. While I am a lifelong non-smoker I think it important to point this out.
For one thing because the demonisation of any subculture without objective proof of harm or wrongdoing is simply not on.
For another because it is a worrying sign that a self-interested pressure group is persuading politicians to introduce measures which weaken the family and interfere with the ability of responsible parents to raise children in a decent, life-affirming way (not to mention giving police and other government agencies increasing power to barge into people's houses on the off-chance of catching them doing something that Stepford stiffs don't like).
A pressure group of Stepforders, by the way, which is often dishonest, increasingly even worse educated than their predecessors, but who gain jobs for life and fat final salary pensions when their complaints are taken at face value.
Having once briefly been at the same workplace as Zac Hall, back when he was earning money for flying lessons, I have serious doubts about him. He was a bit of an automaton even then, and nothing in his political 'career' has caused me to think he has loosened up since.
The tests will be (1) if Hall wants the statement in order to see fair, open and informed debate or if this is just another dog-whistle issue he thinks will get him elected again and (2) if his fellow MHKs (and especially Liberal Vannin) will cluck like headless chickens until the state grants itself yet more powers to kick in doors and pester grown adults doing things they have (unlike Manx politicians)made informed choices to do, responsibly and without bothering anyone else.
If the answers are 'No' and 'Yes' respectively then the only honourable thing for Liberal Vannin to do is disband or rename, and the only sensible thing the public can do is to happily and relentlessly disobey and mock such a cretinous piece of legislation until the police find something more useful to do.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Criminal classes

If we were to take this (see ) at face value the local prison service has sharpened up its act with the help of some concerned and altruistic citizenry.
No, I thought that too.
So, no surprise then to find that Prison Works Isle of Man is based at The Alpha Centre, Broadway, Douglas, and according to the entry for number 1120 on the Manx charity register exists:
“to serve the spiritual, emotional, social and physical needs of offenders, ex-offenders, victims and the families of all three as well as those at risk of offending and other members of the Island Community as well as persons or groups off-island as are identified and approved on a case by case basis. Objectives include advancement of education, victim awareness, restorative justice, employment both paid and voluntary and resettlement and after-care.”
Oh joy of joys, another bogus charity run by Broadway Batwits (who, historically, tend to be rather better at hiding criminals than reforming them, by the way).
Personally, I would have thought that any contact with the type of intellectually-challenged religionistas who run this scheme could be classed as cruel and unusual punishment, and that if the future of any ex-cons might depend on them it would be nothing short of a national disgrace.
Surely the recidivism often attributed to the criminal class must be far exceeded by that of the average evangelical. And for the benefit of those who can't hold their noses long enough to look, I (who have) can also reveal that they fall into two clear subdivisions.
On the one hand, there are the 'rightists' (those who believe themselves so right about everything they never stop shouting long enough to listen to another view - and certainly not hard fact).
These are otherwise known as pastors or preachers. They tell everyone what to do and live off dumber people's money. Failing that, they invent reasons why the state should pay them to tell others what to do, on the pretence that such victims need their witless “help”.
On the other hand, we find self-pitying losers who refuse to take responsibility for themselves or anything else, who think everything in the world is somebody else's fault and that that is enough of an excuse to skive, live off family, charity and the state, and generally to sit about with a digit up the backside spouting the most banal racist, homophobic and sexist twaddle.
These make up the congregation, the preached to..... or as we smart-arse atheists have dubbed them, the sheeple.
No wonder, then, that serving convicts who have dropped out of any other education, work or rehabilitation scheme the prison can offer, ex-cons who have worn out the patience of anyone they used to call family or friends (too dumb to stack supermarket shelves and not even house-trained enough to clean toilets) or just failed criminals in general find religion so attractive. For them it is (lack of) business as usual.
Well, I am sure these misfits will be very happy together. And if they kept themselves to themselves (and more importantly funded themselves) it would be nobody else's business.
Problem is, they never will, though constantly poking their noses into ours; all the while having the bare-faced cheek to keep asking for our money to do it.