9 Jun

So there we go. The Jubilee came to London, and we all got an extended bank holiday, mused a bit about the pageantry and the meaning of a monarchy in a modern democracy, and tried to keep out of the rain while enjoying the sights. In was in short a thoroughly British weekend.

There was the sight of a flotilla of boats coming up the Thames, which would have put the fear of god into most of her royal predecessors. A concert on the Mall featuring any number of inoffensively bland national treasures. Then a service of thanks at St Paul’s Cathedral, where we were reminded, not only is the Queen an unelected head of state, but an also a seemingly un religious head of a church.

The Queen Liz is undeniably popular at the moment. Riding the crest of a pro monarchy wave blown over from last years wedding, an Oscar win for her dad’s story, and the actually rather impressive record of having not offended anyone for 60 years.

This is no mean feat. Only this year the King of Spain got himself in some hot water for shooting an elephant while on holiday. Compounding his mistake, apart from the century we are in, the crippling austerity currently weighing heavy on his country and his presidency (the irony not lost on this author) of the Spanish WWF. Oops.

No such nonsense from our Queen.

She did her duty, gave us some time off, and boosted sales of anything red, white or blue. And for that I salute her.

Moon landing a hip.hop.copter

24 May

One way to get people to back the climate change agenda is to harness star power. No, I’m not talking about some newfangled technology seeking to harness the stars, but celebrity endorsements bringing the message to a wider audience and giving it a bit of star-dust.

However, the advantages of having a global star fight your corner may be slightly undone if that say star turns up to discuss climate change in a helicopter.

Will.i.am rapper with the Black-Eyed Peas and judge on TV talent show The Voice, flew into Oxford to speak to climate scientists about “weatherathome” project which seeks to borrow your computer power while your away from the keyboard. His copper based round trip from London (which also involved a trip to Taunton to carry the Olympic flame), release 3/4 of a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere. Roughly a months worth of emissions for your average non-helicopter-based citizen.

Speaking to the Guardian the rapper spoke of his frustration over the lack of progress on climate change;

“It should be the thing that we all should be worrying about as humans on this planet … so it’s confusing that it’s not. And it’s confusing that if you ask a random person on the street about climate change, then they’ve been given five different versions of why it’s not even an issue. That’s confusing. So who is causing the confusion and why isn’t it even a priority?”

He then got back in his helicopter and flew away. They do say Americans don’t really get irony.

In other flight based news famous one stepper, a notorious recluse Neil Armstrong, has given a rare interview to, of all people, Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia. Apparently because his dad used to be an auditor. Not sure I quite see the link but CPA used it to leverage an interview Parkinson would kill for. In it he says the landing only had about a 50% chance of success, and only a 90% chance they would return home.

You can see the whole thing on the CPA website here.

Flipper Flopping

11 May

Apologies for my extended absence there was the slight issue of a university course that needed finishing. But I am back now, and will be bringing you the weird and wonderful of the political world from now until the system collapses.

Given that we’ve missed so much I though I would provide a few gems that I wish we had been unable to cover in greater detail but I hope you sill still enjoy.

Firstly the Lib Dems.

Not just them in general, but their most recent electoral embarrassment. Not content with losing councilors to the left, right and centre, they’ve now started losing them to animals, and fake animals come to that. In the recent local elections here in the UK, a Liberal Democrat councilor lost their Edinburgh seat. If this wasn’t bad enough, they we’re out polled by…a man in a penguin suit. I love penguins as much as the next voter, but for enough people to decide they would rather give their vote to Professor Pongoo rather than a Lib Dem must have made the loss just that little harder to stomach.

Also in the UK the weather is still happening. But happening in a way that is bizarre, even for Britain. Last month saw parts of Southern England simultaneously in drought and flooded. Yes, really. After two successive years of low rainfall our reservoirs are running low and a hose pipe ban is on the way. Then the April showers hit, and boy did they hit. The result was a BBC news reporter standing in a dry river bed trying to produce an on location piece to the camera about lack of water, while the heavens opened on top of him. Only in the UK. But its ok, because the Prince of Wales can present the weather.

Elsewhere Greece can’t form a government and France has taken a massive lurch to the left threatening to take the rest of the EU with it. All this leaves Angela Merkel’s most natural remaining ally as…er…David Cameron. Oh well, I’m sure the gradual sink into the abyss will be good for newspaper sales.

US news! And the Republicans have finally decided who they…want seems a strong word, but who they will put up to fight Barack Obama in this autumns election. It’s Mitt Romney. The man who was beaten by John McCain last time round, who was in tern beaten the time before that by George Bush. Scrapping the barrel springs to mind. Maybe Romney should dress a man in a penguin suit. After all who doesn’t love penguins (apart from the Lib Dems).

Falk You! No, Falk You!!

12 Mar

As the 30th anniversary of Britain’s war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands looms large next month the posturing has been ratcheted up.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had political heavy weights such as Morrissey, Sean Penn and Roger Walters no less coming out and saying Britain, and the inhabitants of  the islands are all wrong, and the land should belong to Argentina.

The local newspaper on the islands “The Penguin” recently received a storm of abuse after it labeled a photo of Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchener ‘bitch’. The label was quickly removed, and according to Lisa Watson (the newspaper’s editor) it was a mistake best put down to a “dry sense of humour among the paper’s staff”.

Argentina symbolically places Las Malvinas in a little box on all maps of the country, and recently declared it intended to do so on all official clothing at the London Olympics this summer (or winter if your Argentinean, or Falklandish). But now the islanders have hit back with this photo outside a supermarket in Port Stanley removing Argentina from the map of South America.

Whatever the wrongs and rights of Britain claiming the Falklands in the first place, or the timing of sending Flight Lieutenant Wales (or Prince William Duke of Cambridge husband to Kate and heir to the British throne as he is more commonly know), self-determination – the UN trump card – puts the islands firmly in Britain’s court.

No doubt we haven’t heard the last of this, but hopefully from here on in we can steer clear of diplomacy by celebrity.

Maybe Democracy Doesn’t Work

1 Mar

“People of Slovakia! We will build a new bridge! One to united us and Austria in geographical union. We (the generic authorities) humbly leave the decision to name this new landmark to you, the people. Now, what say you?”

“Chuck Norris.”

The grandiose speech may not have taken place (we’ve added this for comic effect…hopefully), but the result is all fact. A new bridge, for cyclists and pedestrians will run over the Morava river into Austria. The naming has been opened up to public vote. Other leading candidates such as “Maria Theresa” after the Austro-Hungarian Empress, and the “Devinska Cycling Bridge” after a nearby town have been left trailing in the wake of public opinion to name the bridge after martial-arts expert and 80s film actor Chuck Norris.

The final decision will be made by “officials” but they have promised to follow the lead of the public. And it is some lead. Currently Chuck Norris has 74% of the vote, leading Maria Theresa trailing in second place with 8%.

As in many other parts of the world Mr Norris has become a bit of a cult figure, spawning numerous jokes about invincibility and machoness. “Death once had a near Chuck Norris experience.” “Ghosts sit round campfires telling Chuck Norris stories.” “Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter.”etc etc

I’m not sure this necessarily puts him in the same category as other people who have had roads and monuments named after them, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and JFK are currently top of the leader-board. However last year a bridge in Aberdeen, Washington USA was nearly named after Kurt Cobain after a public vote. So maybe he’s exactly the type of person you name a bridge after.

You Call that a Bromance?! This is a Bromance!!

23 Feb

So half the strangerthansatire team has been away interning at the Surname Post this week, and scanning the work I saw his piece on political bromances following on from David Cameron’s fist pumping support of Andrew Lansley this week.

This took my mind back to my youth, well last year when I was in Chile and I came face to face with one of the world’s stranger political siblings.

Once half of the pair is the countries current president – Sebastian Pinera. A billionaire businessman, he’s been after the presidency for a while, has finally got it and is making a bit of a hash of it. But that’s beside the point, he is clean-cut, good Catholic man, who rumour has it has had a little work done around his eyes.

His brother on the other hand…well he’s an aging rocker who owns a string of night clubs, is famous for his life of excess, has models in his wifely rotation, and last year was on Argentina’s version of dancing with the stars. Miguel “Negro” Pinera is not the type of brother who wheel out on stage to promote your campaign.

Except in this case it was the other way around. When Sebastian was trying to build his profile for a run on the presidency he would take to the stage to bask in his brother already established fame.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here are the bothers either side of Miguel’s wife. No prizes are on offer who guessing which is which.

So maybe having a tear away brother doesn’t do your political career any harm after all, maybe its even a positive. I wonder if D. Miliband wishes Ed owned a nightclub? Now there’s an image for your mind to wrestle with.

The Light Blue Town of Calcutta

17 Feb

The city of Calcutta in eastern India is to set to undergo a major transformation over the next few years as, in a fit of urban renewal, the city’s public buildings, overpasses and taxis will be painted light blue.

The cities 14 million inhabitants will also be encouraged to follow suit, but the mayor admits this will have to be out of their own pockets.

The reason for this move? Because it ties in with the local government’s catchphrase “the sky’s the limit”

“Blue is a beautiful colour and is soothing for the eyes,” according to Mayor Sobhan Chatterjee.

While the opposition has claimed the government is “preoccupied with non-essential issues” the media has no such qualms, and in fact is trumpeting the decision saying it will turn Calcutta into heaven on earth…or words to that effect.

“It could…sort out core problems – chaotic health care, inability to implement pollution control norms, arsenic in the water, archaic sewers and garbage disposal, bad roads, killer buses or public transport, an airport falling apart and beyond dismal, priceless paintings rotting away in public art galleries, to name but a few.”

Calcutta is clearly a town with a lot of problems and the colour blue is apparently the answer to all.

They may have to be careful tho, in 2006 Aurangabad – a city described by the BBC as “crime infested” painted itself pink to boost morale. They didn’t experience the hoped for result.

Who knows maybe its the secret answer, we’ll keep an eye out for Calcutta’s fortunes and if it words we will eat humble pie, and change the sites colour scheme to something a little more Calcuttaish.