Archive for April, 2013

Questionable Time #60


questionable time 60 david dimbleby crop circle

Good morning Lemmings and let us not beat about the bush: I really wasn’t feeling last night’s show. The primary cause for this is that the news which – through a combination of sustained Thatchering and high drama on the other side of the Pond – has gone and knackered itself out, leaving precious little of interest for our weekly political cage fight. Should you require some hard evidence of this then look no further than the inclusion of an Abu Qatada question (the QT equivalent of a blinking fuel light) and the now regular ritual of trying to get fired up by sub-percentage movements in the GDP figures. Still, at least there wasn’t a question on the legalisation of cannabis. That’s when you know the tank’s completely dry.

Right, let’s see what we can salvage from these charred remains.

Sajid Javid is not fannying about.

I like a good n00b on QT. I like watching those little beads of sweat and hearing those garbled words as they struggle to get their bearings so I was delighted to see that we had two last night, Sajid Javid and Luciana Berger. As far as the sweaty-garbling stakes go, I’m pleased to say that despite a strong opening, Berger soon got rattled and managed to mangle all manner of straightforward sentences into semantically impossible contortions (Qatada is “Europe’s right hand man in Al Qaeda”, a ‘construction centre’ became a “contruction centre” and something-or-other was “appropriately fine”), all of which is entirely forgivable considering that this was the first time she’d been exposed to the horrors of Question Time, but that’s her Get Out Of Jail Free card gone. Next time it’s Big School Rules.

The same cannot be said for Javid however. No, instead of running on pure adrenaline like most first-timers he just sat there like an angry brick and stared all danger into submission with those terrifying eyes of his. Fancy having a go about the economy? How about I have a go at you instead. Think you can trap me in a Qatada bind? Please Nigel, feel free to bleat on about how absurd the situation is but don’t for a second think that I’m copping the flak for some rather irksome circumstances. Reckon that my background might make me a soft touch on immigration? Let me categorically disabuse you of such folly with my uncompromising stance on… well… everything really.

Ok, so the content (helping after helping of Tory red meat) was a little protein heavy and flavour light but the delivery was so utterly unshakable that he made for some pretty compelling viewing. So keep an eye on this guy. He may well be a n00b on paper but an hour of trying to duck his laser beam stare tells me that he’s a pre-baked QT hardnut who we’ll be seeing a lot more of.

I wish we got the Farage I saw earlier in the week…

If you didn’t see Channel 4 News’ wonderful ‘Farage in Bulgaria’ piece then stop reading this and watch it right the hell now for it was a thing of much loveliness. For the uninitiated the premise was very simple: Channel 4 sent Farage to Bulgaria with a camera crew, hopefully to discover that the whole nation is hellbent on upping sticks and bringing our welfare state to its knees, except that they aren’t. Nope, despite the cockeyed wailings of unhinged Kippers it appears that the Bulgarians have got this country’s number (damp and grumpy) and would much rather send Nigel on a series of back-to-back drinking sessions instead. For the terminally lazy or those at work, I’ve handily condensed the whole affair into .gif form (see. Fig. 1) but please, do check it out.

farage-bulgaria-gif

Fig. 1

Anyway, it was telly gold (not least because it achieves that impossible comedic dream: The unholy fusion of Partridge and Borat) and in many ways Farage came out of it looking rather good. Ok, so on paper the entire thing was a failure as it rendered UKIP’s latest stick to beat public opinion with rather twig-like but on a personal level it was a triumph because it illustrated the rather more endearing side of Farage: The goofiness, the ‘I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!’ look in his eyes and the fact that he’s probably very entertaining company to keep.

Alas, the Nigel we saw in that film was nowhere to be seen last night and instead it was business as usual for Question Time’s perennial squatter-turned-resident: Shrill on rhetoric (Crime Epidemic!), shifty on policy (Flat tax! Maybe!) and very, very much blissed out on nostalgia (GRAMMAR SCHOOOOOOOOOOOLS!). Still, should his political ambitions come to nowt, at least he’s got a decent shot at the BAFTA for Best Male Comedy Performance.

Fair do’s to Bennett…

So this is Bennett’s second outing in a little more than a month but I can’t find much to gripe about. Naturally, there’re a few tweaks to be made here and there and a little enthusiasm that needs curbing but considering how well she stood up to Sajid’s Terminator act, I’d say she’s got the basics down pat.

*Tenuously related note of unsubstantiated gossip.*

I was speaking with someone who walks in Green circles and was informed of growing consternation in the party’s ranks about the following: Natalie Bennett has a habit of wearing green all the time and it’s starting to look a little… odd. You heard it here first.

Handwringing or angry? HANDWRINGING OR ANGRY?!

That’s the question that Simon Hughes asks himself upon awaking each morning and yesterday he plumped for ANGRY. Luciana’s having a pop about the economy? “Don’t you lecture me!” Javid reckons the ECHR is negotiable? FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS! You get the picture.

Anyway, that was Hughes and I do find his ‘angry’ act rather charming because you can tell he’s trying so hard to pull it off…. Like straining every fibre in his body to let you know that he’s really, really ticked off. Does it work? Sort of. Is it better than the handwringing? Infinitely.

Tl;dr

Javid: 6/10

(Man of) Steel

Hughes: 5/10

(Made a) Meal (of his angriness)

Berger: 5/10

We’ll (see)…

Farage: 5/10

(Sur)Real

Bennett: 6/10

(Likes to wear shades close to) Teal

The Crowd: 5/10

(Idolise Ian) Beale?

Hmmm… Not QT’s finest hour but I guess it will do. In a brief aside, I’m playing a gig next Thursday night so apologies in advance but you’ll just have to get thoroughly Starkied without me. Ooh, you lucky little buggers!

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

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Questionable Time #59


questionable time 59 david dimbleby a clockwork orange

Good morning Lemmings and what’s that I can see out of my window? A thin and clingy drizzle? A non-specific yet probably unsatisfactory ambient temperature? A sky the colour of dishwater? Hurrah, Spring must finally be here! In other good news, I am also delighted to say that after 12 days of full spectrum Thatcher saturation, this will probably be the last dose of collective fawning/damning-to-hell-and-back of the late-PM’s memory that you will have to endure for the foreseeable future – barring of course the remote but not entirely implausible scenario where she rises from the grave and returns to visit great terror upon this realm. I can’t rule it, but I think we’re safe for the moment. Right, off we go to Aldershot.

 

Sarah Teather appears to be trapped in a hellish netherworld…

It was never going to be easy for the more socially democratic members of the Yellow Team to sit comfortably in the passenger seat of power while the Blue Team were running all the red lights but some have coped with it better than others. Take for example Vince Cable: So far as I can tell he’s adapted to this new reality by flipping a coin every morning and letting the outcome decide whether he’s going to be anti or pro-coalition on that particular day. It’s not the most elegant solution but it appears to work for him. Then of course there’s Tim Farron, a man who just flat-out decided that the 2010 election never happened and decided to carry on being an opposition MP just for the hell of it. Again, it’s a rather unconventional approach but it’s one that’s enabled him to live with himself nevertheless. But what of Sarah? Well there’s a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.

 

Unceremoniously reshuffled out of government when it became clear that her heart really wasn’t in this whole coalition business, she’s since been fidgeting uncomfortably on the backbenches, occasionally breaking cover to pop off a few rounds of Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern but mostly just looking really ill at ease. Last night’s question on the benefit cap is instructive on this front: Here she made some really valid points about how this measure will probably cost more than it saves and rightly called it out as a cheap political trick, yet it was delivered with such a pained expression of nebulous concern that it got steamrolled by the Flint/Platell Queen Bee-off and all we were left with was a chewed lip and furrowed brow. Similarly, when asked by Dimbers about whether she really was a supporter of the coalition, the answer was so ‘maybe, kinda, possibly’ that it just sort of petered out and gave the impression that she genuinely doesn’t know one way or the other.

 

This is problematic because as bone-headed as it may be, we have trouble with uncertainty and despite our frequent howls for a more nuanced and thoughtful version of politics, deep down all we really want is a good punch-up. Right now, Teather’s just too conflicted for a proper ruck and until she makes her mind up about which side (if any) she’s on, she will continue to be drowned out by louder voices. So Sarah, you have a very simple choice to make: Either get in that tent and start pissing out or make for the exit and be ready to piss in. What you can’t do though is hover around the fly screen with your legs crossed because eventually you’ll wet yourself.

 

Hello Strange Stranger…

Imagined being tucked into bed by Michael Howard. There you are with your jimmy jams on and teeth all brushed but something is bothering you.

 

Uncle Mike,” you say “is it right that people who are on benefits can earn more than those in work? I just asked Auntie Sarah about it and it made her terribly sad”

 

Weeeeeeell,” says Uncle Mike with his kindly-if-a-little-unsettling smile and rigourously eee-nun-ceee-ated sill-eee-buls “your Auntie Sally is riiiight. No-one waaaaants to cuuuut ben-eee-fiiiiiits. That’s the last thing in the wuuuuuuuurld we want to happen.”

‘Oh good’ you think as your eyelids grow heavy with every stretched vowel ‘Uncle Mike thinks everything’s going to be alright’

 

Buuuuuut, we’re in HOCK and everyone must paaaaay or the wuuuuuurld will end! Sleep well Tiny Ribs!”

 

See what I’m getting at here? When it comes to Michael Howard it always starts with ‘there’s nothing to worry about’ and ends up with a bloody great monster under the bed. Having said that, I’d probably take Michael Howard tucking me into bed over him being my dentist any day of the week (see Fig. 1).

 

michael-howard-marathon-man-gif

Fig. 1

Of Flint and Rhys-Jones…

Not much to say really. Flint, as ever, went into it all guns blazing and seemed to come out on top but as always it was by the skin of her teeth thing as she was in regular danger of tumbling over her own words. As for Griff, well he made good use of talking very loudly and playing the Hey, I’m Just A Comedian card when things got tricky, a winning yet slightly unfair tactic employed by every fifth panelist since the dawn of time. On the whole though there’s nothing to get too steamed about so let’s leave it at that. Move along now, nothing to see here.

 

And the award for Most Ludicrous Statement of the Series goes to…

 

I’m proud that the Daily Mail takes this very seriously… To report the facts”

Amanda Platell, 2013

So yes, Amanda Platell made the above statement to a hearty chorus of hysterical laughter and then proceeded to double down on this strategy by calling everyone ‘darlin” and picking a fight with a doctor. Well done Amanda, you’ve got this QT thing down pat.

 

Tl;dr

 

Howard: 5/10

Eerie

 

Flint: 6/10

Sneery

 

Teather: 5/10

Weary

 

Platell: 4/10

Bleary

 

Rhys-Jones: 5/10

Cheery

 

The Crowd: 5/10

(Live within the constraints of General Relativity) Theory?

 

And that’s that: A generally watchable affair spiced up by a brief division into the absurd courtesy of Ms. Platell. Right, I’m off to Sheffield to watch Propagandhi and get dangerously stoked.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #58


questionable time 58 david dimbleby margaret thatcher

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from an Easter break that looked suspiciously like a rebranding of ‘Winter’. Given this grim state of affairs you’d be forgiven for assuming that Question Time would be half-heartedly dragging its way out of hibernation for another round of Yah-Boo-Sucksery but in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred and what we got last night was probably one of the best QT’s I’ve seen in a good long while. Say what you will about the late-PM, even in death she still has the capacity to wind up the citizens of this nation like no-one else. Alright, let’s get cracking.

Well… Someone’s firing on all four cylinders again…

Watching Ken Clarke over the last few years has been an unsettling experience and one that often felt like an exercise in concussion management. Let’s start with the initial blow to the head – the failure of the Tories to secure a majority and the formation of the coalition. For a man who was used to striding around a highly polarised political landscape with the weight of certainty behind him this must have come as a bit of a shock but credit where credit’s due, he weathered it well and showed few outward signs of lasting damage. However – as is often the case with head injuries – the symptoms of such a trauma were simply masked by the excitement of the initial incident and as time went on, I started to become increasingly concerned: Sidelined and stymied, the old boy seemed to be zoning out and if there was one thing that the doctors at A&E were emphatic about it was ‘Don’t let Ken nod off otherwise he may never wake up again!’.

Yet it seems that my worries were misplaced as the Ken we got last night was a million miles away from the vision of resigned defeat that we’ve seen of late. Suddenly taken out of the present and transported back to a time when he actually had shots to call the former Chancellor looked like a different man and one that I’ve still very much got a soft spot for. Lets start with his physical symptoms: Those heavy eyelids, those sloped shoulders and stifled yawns that had so long kept my fingers hovering over the number for NHS Direct had gone, replaced now by wide eyes, jutting jaw and animated limbs. As for his mental health, well that appeared to have been similarly transformed and where we once saw a man who knew he was on his way out, now stood a vision of boisterous vim.

Naturally, this return to form was of course accompanied by the re-emergence of old pathologies such as his endearingly crap attempts to bluster his way out of tight spots by talkingveryveryfast and ber-ber-ber-blurting things out (I’ve always loved the way his face visibly reddens with each ‘ber’) but in many ways this is a good thing: It’s proof of life, an affirmation that there’s still some fire in him and I for one have missed that. Whether he can keep this new-found vigour is a very different matter (I suspect that in a few weeks he’ll revert to his slow decline) but for the time being I’m just happy to see the return of someone who while far from perfect, did at least make politics a genuinely interesting place to be.

And it wasn’t just Ken…

Poor Polly. She really does have a thankless job, even if it’s one of her own making. In a nutshell, Toynbee’s place in the scheme of things is to try and alert us to the boring stuff that no-one really wants to know about but ultimately has a huge bearing on life – the mundane looking yet hugely consequential sub-clause, the penny on this, the percentage off that, these are the thing she has to make sense of and for the most part, she does it very well. The problem is that a life spent poring through the mundane in search of the malicious is a wearying business and quite often it can make her look a little – well – miserable. With this in mind, it came as a rather nice surprise to see her really fired up and making damn sure that the Tories rather starry-eyed version of the Maggie Narrative didn’t go unchallenged whilst also being the only member of the panel to try and root the discussion in the context of the future. So fair play Polly, for once it’s nice to see that frown turned upside down – or at least slightly modified with the Liquify Tool (see Fig. 1)

polly-toynbee-thatcher-gif

Fig. 1

In a similar vein, Ming Campbell – another long-tooth in danger of losing his purpose – also appeared reinvigorated and made himself a nice little niche as The Level Headed One who wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few Yellow Team feathers with his willingness to raise the vexing matter of ‘if she was so bad, why did we keep voting for her?’. The bollocking he gave Charles Moore at the back-end of the show was also rather good fun and wholly judicious to boot.

All three of the above – Ken, Polly and Ming – did well last night because they were finally back on ground they understood, a terrain composed of opposing ideas rather than the swamp of platitudes and managerialism that we’ve spent the last decade or so wallowing in. You saw it in the crowd as well: Not once did we hear the weekly refrain of They’re All As Bad As Each Other. Instead, there was a sense of people knowing which side they were on and making damn sure that their side clapped louder than the other. Seeing how it jazzed up the show so much, I propose that we start offing ex-PM’s at regular intervals, just to keep the mood alive.

What of the other two?

Yeah, not so great. In Blunkett’s case it all goes back to his metamorphosis from Rough Hewn Man of the People to New Labour Uber-Bastard who managed to assimilate all the wrong lessons from both the Old Labour and Thatcher years. It just makes him look compromised beyond credibility as illustrated by his inability to face up to quite how Thatcherite New Labour became, not to mention a rather scary moment when he looked like he was about to end up in deep trouble with feminists. He pulled it back, but is was touch and go.

As for Moore, well he’s an entirely different kettle of fish and quite a mad one at that. Some of this is forgivable – after all, he’s a very sympathetic biographer of Thatcher who’s had to spend every last second of the past week eulogising his idol. Sooner or later, that’s going to skew your sense of reality and towards the end of the show the wheels really started to come off. It started with an alarmist rant about a BBC conspiracy to send Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead to the top of the charts and ended with a truly weird spiel about how she couldn’t be the Wicked Witch of the East as she single-handedly defeated communism. I bet this sort of thing doesn’t happen to John Major’s biographer.

Anything else?

Yes! Special mention to the man who referred to himself as ‘one’ at least three times in the same sentence and then claimed he wasn’t a Tory, the gentleman with the thick German accent who kept his arm raised at a historically provocative angle throughout his answer and the lad who looked like the long-lost twin of That Guy From The Inbetweeners (see Fig. 2). Well done all of you.

inbetweeners question time

Fig. 2

Tl;dr

Clarke: 7.5/10

(Had a) Spring (in his step)

Blunkett: 5/10

(Is the) King (of nothing)

Campbell: 7/10

(Is often referred to as) ‘Ming’

Toynbee: 7/10

(Did her bit for the left) Wing

Moore: 5/10

Cling(s to Thatcher’s memory in an unhealthy sort of way)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Are all avid fans of) Sting?

Well, that was exciting wasn’t it? In all seriousness I found this episode fascinating because while I was never a fan of Thatcher, I do miss the sense that at least people knew what they believed in when she was at large.

Now, before I disappear, a little bit of housekeeping. The Indy and I have gone our separate ways so from now on this will be the only place to get Questionable Time. It is also likely to lead to the following:

Tardier deadlines!

Longerness!

Increasingly absurd photoshops!

More oblique references to mid-90’s Southern Californian punk acts!

A body clock that doesn’t hate me!

Oh you lucky things!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Shameless Plug Time #1


LEEDS SIGN

Good morning and ha! I’ve totally blagged you! There’s no Questionable Time or vaguely topical photoshops to be had here– no, all you’re going to get is the joyous prospect of a hard sell. Lucky, lucky you.

 

Anyway, this all started a week back when I made a minorly chuckleworthy comment on a reddit thread and then thought “Hmmm…. There’s a wonky pshop in that”. Half an hour later (a half hour in which I was simultaneously frying sausages, hence the rather slap-dash text alignment) the above was born and off it went to Twitter where it received some minor lulz before quietly petering out… Or so I thought. As it turns out, Radio Aire had picked it up and a few days later, a friend of mine tells me to check their Facebook page. Lo-and-behold, it had gone totally bonkers.

 

Being one who never looks a weird gift horse in the mouth I then boiled down the pshop into a T-shirt design, made contact with the magnificent people at Leeds’ Culture Vulture and a satanic bargain was struck. Behold Lemmings, the unholy product of our diabolical union (see Fig. 1).

 

Welcome to Leeds T-Shirt

Fig. 1

 

So yes, it’s now a t-shirt and should you be a fervent Yorkshire Nationalist who wears their politics on their chest, feel more than free to purchase one here. Alternatively, if you are an Anti-Yorkshire zealot with an axe to grind, I hear that they will smolder satisfyingly if thrown on a pyre of Alan Bennett and Emily Brontë books. Either way, you’d make me a very happy boy.

 

Right, that’s the wallet-lifting over with. Go back to being-bummed-out/feeling-weirdly-conflicted/whooping-maniacally about the passing of the late-PM…

 

Thursday Lemmings, Thursday…

UPDATE: Culture Vulture’s t-shirt printer is currently on the blink so if you would like a t-shirt, you can get one here.


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