Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fancy Another One, Warren?

One can only presume that Warren Bradley has had, let us say, a rather good festive break in order to contend that Liverpool is "outperforming" the rest of the country ( ).
Marc Waddington is the hapless hack on Oldham Hall Street who puts his name to little more than a statement of self-congratulation by Cllr Bradley. He even claims credit for the "superb" GCSE results in the city [the Oldham Echo refers to them as GSCE - sic].
Most of the comments on the article see Bradley's feel-good rhetoric for what it is.
His mentor Mike Storey chips in with his own novel take on the local economy:
"We are living in an unprecedented economic period but Liverpool has always shown a sturdy resilience to recession and I'm sure this will continue."
Seems the Christmas spirit has been flowing copiously in the Storey household, too.

Rancour Amidst The Revelries

Spare a thought for those who have to work this evening (& tomorrow morning), grimly tolerating the idiots who believe tonight allows them carte blanche to abdicate their senses. In particular, consider the job facing paramedics over the next 24 hours. Two years ago I highlighted the blog written by London paramedic Tom Reynolds ( ). Tom's still blogging ( ). All the best, mate.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Denial & Delusion Over Oldham Echo Arena

This is the time of year when the post-Christmas topor sets in, Grosvenor-pool reveals its true state of desperation at unsold stock, the sales notwithstanding, & slow news days predominate in the media. But, hey, don't let that deter the Oldham Echo; taking as its cue the amount of hogwash that's spoken at this time about New Year resolutions, the Echo decides to augment the mountainous edifice of bilge, self-congratulation & self-delusion ( ).
Gary Stewart really must have drawn the short straw at the Christmas party to find himself penning this turkey. It opens disingenuously:
"Two years on, we reflect on the stunning success story of the ECHO arena".
Yes, you read that correctly, he did write the words "stunning success story".
Warming to his themes of self-delusion & parallel universes, Stewart describes the last 12 months as "another fantastic year to celebrate."
Ah yes, the memories come flooding back, just as the booze often threatened to flood the arena itself with predictable regularity.
However, let's not interrupt the, erm, flow of Stewart's novel contention that the arena is synonymous with successful events. Do continue, Gary:
"July was its most musical month this year with 18 gigs, including the legendary Leonard Cohen, Jools Holland and the Pet Shop Boys.
"Bob Prattey, chief executive of the arena, said: '2008 was an incredible opening year and in 2009 we raised the bar even higher....
" 'Our aim is to make sure Liverpool is the best host city for any event or concert and people come back in the future.' "
Stewart glosses over the scenes of drunken punch-ups that disfigured the Leonard Cohen concert. He also, of course, makes no mention of the Morrissey debacle at the venue. Additionally, if Prattey thinks that such antics "raised the bar" in 2009, I can only surmise that it wasn't raised high enough to deter at least some of the drunken idiots who have made 2009 such a "stunning success story" for the venue. Dealing with a persistent public order problem by indulging in self-delusion & denial will ensure that increasing numbers of people do not "come back in the future."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

It's the season to see the best in those we often berate, the time to discern the goodness of the ones we lampoon, the period when we raise a glass in friendly yuletide bonhomie with some whose virtues are overlooked at any other time.
It's also time to have a chuckle at Paddy Shennan's expense (hello, Paddy!).
Merseyside's answer to Jonathan Swift pens an, erm, witty take on round robin letters from the upper middle classes in his Oldham Echo column today ( ), using names so cliched & well-used that you wonder if he spends his time watching DVDs of Terry & June, Till Death Do Us Part, etc.; how about Jocasta & Julius, anyone? No? Oh, come on, Julius, named after that emperor, him, yes.
A commenter on Paddy's piece, ewanmac, spaketh thus:
"Dear Mr Shennan,
you are boring us readers rigid with your 'humorous' take on round robin letters, which were done to death by genuinely funny columnists many moons ago. Can it be that difficult, in a city like Liverpool which has produced so many terrific comedians and has a reputation for witty characters, to find a columnist who can be funny?
Please stop trying to do comedy, it's grimly obvious that you can't."
Merry Christmas, Paddy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But I Thought The Working Class Couldn't Write

Recommended reading: .
Today's Guardian had some warm words for the postie's blog, to which yours truly contributed a comment in a somewhat spirited online discussion ( ).
The blog has been published as a book & is currently being serialised on Radio 4 ( .
Naturally, it's also recommended listening.

Recriminations But No Regrets

No, just as I suspected, it was too much to hope that sanity would finally prevail over the Liverpool cruise terminal. Both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo were at it again this morning. David Bartlett scratched around forlornly, half-heartedly sniffing at a scrap here, a bone there( ):
"One option may be to repay the £9m of public money which helped build the terminal and which has been judged an unfair advantage over competitors like Southampton.
"A private partner, such as a cruise company, could be sought to salvage the bid.
"It is understood the council may also seek clarification from European authorities about whether if the terminal were classed as a vital piece of transport infrastructure it could bypass competition rules."
Yes, I know, talk about clutching at straws. However, it's a theme on Oldham Hall Street, it appears, to talk up a scenario so improbable that you wonder if it had its genesis at the Christmas party after a few bevvies.
Bartlett's article quotes Joe Anderson, leader of the city's Labour group, declaring that the decision by government minister Paul Clark shows he's "living in 'cloud-cuckoo-land' ". Joe, I appreciate you want to displace a corrupt administration but siding with said characters, their friends in local commerce & Oldham Hall Street does you no credit whatsoever.
Bartlett's piece also contains this gem which only feeds into the self-pitying Scouse stereotype:
"Tourism leader Cllr Gary Millar said: 'My own view from a political point of view is that once again the Labour Government has snubbed Liverpool.'
"He said it was too early to start talking about a legal challenge to the Government's decision."
In other words, there are no grounds for a legal challenge & Cllr Millar's use of the "too early" to say argument unsuccessfully tries to disguise it. Then again, let us not forget that Cllr Millar has form when it comes to bombast, spin & chutzpah; some of us recall his worried, pespiring presence at the PR fiasco for One Parked Here Without Our Say-So( ).
The editorialising on Oldham Hall Street was in full cry, too, with the Oldham Echo leading the charge like a tired & emotional scally on Dale Street at 2am( ), vowing to anyone who wanted to know that the decision "should not be regarded as the end of the matter.
"We have been defeated, but we should remain defiant and keep afloat our long-term plans to further develop our much-envied, world-class waterfront."
Ah yes, "our much-envied, world-class waterfront" which has been hideously disfigured by the arrival of the eyesores, a development applauded at every stage by those on Oldham Hall Street whose parrot-like cries that more buildings, any buildings, no matter how they look, on the waterfront, equate "progress", making a mockery of the port's World Heritage Status; Big Al Machray & Bill Gleeson, both much loved & respected by their colleagues, I'm told, bear a fair deal of culpability for this act of civic vandalism.
Nowhere in the Echo's swaggering & defiant yell of resistance to reality is there even the hint of an acknowledgement that allowing £9m of European money to be used for an upgraded terminal would have been tantamount to an illegal subsidy.
The Daily Ghost's editorial, written by William Leece, strikes a less populist tone than that of its strident sibling. However, it's still in denial about the inherent flaws in the terminal plans. It concludes ( ):
"Even if the worst comes to the worst, perhaps it may be still be best to repay the £9m in Euro-support and have done with it."
However, let's not end on such a dispirited note. Let's hear it from the Oldham Echo to bellow one last cry of parochial protest:
"No one can deny us our proud maritime history, and no one should underestimate our determination to bring back the glory days."
All together now, "In my Liverpool home, in my Liverpool home...."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Reality That Retail Therapy Conceals

Just got in, have you? What's that, you say, Christmas shopping? Really? Oh good. Where did you go? Liverpool One, eh? Nice to know. Oh, erm, didn't stop to take any pictures while you were there, did you? No, it's just that after that business with the Guardian reporter in London last week ( ), you can't be too careful.
Sorry, didn't quite catch that, insulting to be suspected of terrorism, did you say? Well, yes, absolutely. It's just that, well, there can be all sorts of misunderstandings, can't there? I mean, take this piece by Anna Minton on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages last night ( ).
Mmm, yes, she mentions that incident involving Guardian journalist Paul Lewis. In fact, she links it to the place where you've just bought that Beatle Rock Star game (waste of money, btw, learn to play a real guitar):
"This monitoring and surveillance of innocent activities, which does not necessarily require anti-terror-laws, is taking place all around Britain as a result of the growing private ownership and private control of cities. Liverpool One, which spans 34 streets in the heart of Liverpool, is effectively owned by the Duke of Westminster's property company, Grosvenor, which leased the entire site, including streets and public places, from the council for 250 years. Cabot Circus in Bristol, Highcross in Leicester and what promises to be the biggest of all, Stratford City in London, are all owned and run by property companies."
Yes, I know you couldn't give a flying, erm, thingy who owns the place, as long as you get what you want. What's that? Oh certainly, especially at this time of year, Christmas spirit, eh?
What's that you're reading, btw? Oh, you've picked up Minton's article haven't you? Hey, she's got a point in this bit, look, just here:
"In their defence, politicians and developers point out that people like these places and flock to shop in them. But they also raise a challenge to the kind of public life, culture and democracy that has been taken for granted in British cities for the last 150 years. A host of seemingly innocuous activities --skateboarding, rollerblading, even eating in some places-- are routinely banned, along with filming and, of course, taking photographs. So is begging, homelessness, selling the Big Issue, handing out political leaflets, and holding political demonstrations. It's a very different and far less democratic idea of the city and citizenship. In place of the diversity of high streets we are creating sterile, high-security enclaves, policed by private security and CCTV. And rather than making us feel safer, the emphasis on security is a reminder of ever-present dange, fuelling fear of crime."
You've gone pensive, all of a sudden, cat got your tongue? Hey, I heard there's a free sausage roll with tonight's Oldham Echo as part of their Healthy Eating For Kids campaign. Did you get one? No? Shame, it was mentioned in last week's paper, next to that article about the OAP being mugged & how it shows that Liverpool's not safe anymore.
Oh well. Oh look, there's a comment on Minton's article by someone calling themselves Adorno:
"Liverpool City Centre is now partly owned by a private company. You drive in from the north or south of the city, through the likes of Toxteth, Walton or Anfield, and the social deprivation is shocking. Street after street, derelict and empty of life, schools surrounded by barbed wire, half-empty police stations, and the retail outlets that are vey quickly emptying.
"Then you reach the city centre with its 'Urban Outfitters' and other stores, with flat screen televisions on the wall, neon lights on the floors.
"The marginalisation of the poor is now a deliberate local and national government policy. It promotes the right conditions for neo-liberal economics, by driving a social and economic wedge between those who have and those who have not, whilst depriving people of any academic or cultural purpose, and thus leaving only materialistic masturbation."
Hmmph, probably one of those potty-mouthed, smart-arsed, sarky local bloggers, eh?
Anyway, never mind, get the Beatle game out & plug it in, will you? I love that song they covered, what's it called? Ah yes, Money. A One, Two, Three, Four...

Oldham Echo: Fight Arranger, Licence Revoked

Finally, after an inordinately lengthy period of denial, the penny has finally dropped with those on Oldham Hall Street about the cruise terminal affair & their eagerness to arrange some sort of manufactured feud with Southampton ( ).
It's worth noting, however, that David Bartlett still can't resist using the "cruise war" phrase in his headline. Indeed, such is the inconsistency so characteristic of those on Oldham Hall Street that Bartlett goes on to refer to the "so-called 'cruise war' ", conveniently forgetting to mention that both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo picked up the phrase & ran with it eagerly at the time.
These characters & the business interests they so assiduously support either display a staggering level of ignorance about European law, or consciously attempt to dupe a dwindling readership into believing that "they've all got it in for Liverpool" again.
Fact: the application to use European money for the purposes of upgrading Liverpool's ferry terminal was always a non-starter because it contravened the criteria for the use of such funds. It would have been PUBLIC money to fund a PRIVATE concern which would have competed against other PRIVATE & PRIVATELY-FUNDED concerns. Got that, guys?
Wayne spelt it out at the time: ( ).
Did Peel Holdings, the MDHC or their lackeys on Oldham Hall Street not stop to think about the implausability of the scheme? Nope, they carried on regardless ( ).
Even then common sense didn't dawn on the ranks of the befuddled, bewildered & bereft of original thought ( ).
It would be nice to think that sanity's finally prevailed. Don't hold your breath, though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Candid Camera

In all the media retrospectives about the last decade recently one particularly toxic legacy of the so-called War on Terror has been largely overlooked, namely, the burgeoning of the surveillance State. Coupled with it has been an erosion of civil liberties via rushed & ill-thought legislation. A spate of incidents involving amateur & professional photographers in the last week or so has thrown the issue into, if you'll pardon the pun, sharp focus. The Guardian's Paul Lewis was filming outside the Gherkhin building in the City of London yesterday morning when a security guard took exception to his presence. The police were called & cited Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in their insistence on viewing the images Lewis had filmed. What followed was a cross between the farcical & the Kafkaesque: .
Anyone involved in a local Flickr group should waste no time in highlighting this disturbing threat to the very civil liberties which apologists for this ridiculously hamfisted legislation claim are under attack from Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

They've Let Him Out Again

Nick Peet, remember him? Yep, he's the Oldham Echo's towering intellectual paragon who opined that it's OK to act like an imbecile at concerts ( ). Well, it's nice to see that Nick has been let loose with pen & paper again. The result? Well, as it was once said of dodgy tailors, never mind the quality, feel the width ( ).
Nick happily describes himself as "a fight fan" when recounting his visit to a martial arts show at the Olympia on West Derby Road, which would certainly go some way to explaining his Morrissey piece.
Nice, also, to see the Oldham Echo respect the basic rules of grammar (Nick refers to "brother-in-laws" -sic).

Family Fortunes

Taxing times of late for Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP for Walton. His attacks on the cronyism of New Labour & Cameron's Notting Hill set have been somewhat undermined by the revelation that a report he recently commissioned, calling for a "super mayor" for the entire region, was produced by his daughter's firm. Right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes made hay with the story & last week bumped into the MP. The Independent's Pandora column was happy to provide a ringside commentary on the encounter ( ):
"The Liverpool Walton MP took exception when he was informed that Paul Staines, the man behind the high-profile website, was in the Commons' Strangers Bar on Monday night. Staines, whose notable scalps have included John Prescott and Gordon Brown's ex-henchman, Damian 'Smeargate' McBride, was drinking with two of Kilfoyle's Labour colleagues when the furore erupted. 'I was with the MPs Tom Harris and Greg Pope and I was getting a round in,' Staines tells me. 'Suddenly he's ranting at the barmaid, "It's Guido Fawkes! Get him out!" I didn't want to embarrass the Labour MPs I was with, but I told him I was entitled to be there. It was all a bit childish.'
"Kilfoyle has come in for flack from Staines of late after the latter reported a survey commissioned by the politician was carried out by his daughter's firm. The MP has dismissed the criticism. He now says: 'If I'd had the energy I'd have chucked him out myself.
" 'I don't think people like him should come into this place, listening in on conversations and writing rubbish.' "
You'll notice that the Honourable Member for Walton sees no conflict of interest in having his daughter produce a commissioned report (i.e., paid for) & apparently makes no apology for enabling her to profit from one of his pet Parliamentary causes. Furthermore, his objection to Staines' presence had no validity; as for his gripe that Staines was only there to listen in on conversations & write rubbish, some might well point out that many a lobby hack does just that on a daily basis around Westminster's watering holes.
At the time of the report's publication the response was somewhat favourable from...guess who. Go on, you must know, it's obvious. Oh, alright then, I'll spell it out for you, the Daily Ghost ( ).
Penned by William Leece, the opinion piece warmed to Kilfoyle's call for a "super mayor" for the "city region", not just Liverpool & neighbouring areas, but also spanning Warrington & North Wales. Offering qualified approval for the proposal, Leece wrote that Kilfoyle's "opinions count. And when he backs the idea of an elected mayor....he should at least be listened to.
"It is certainly a far more interesting idea than that simply of a mayor from Liverpool alone. The report he has commissioned refers to the 'in-fighting, factionalism and allegations of unprofessionalism and mismanagement' that bedevil Liverpool City Council, and we would suggest that a directly-elected mayor would simply encounter more of the same."
Nontheless, the editorial concluded by saying that "Mr Kilfoyle has come up with radical proposals, and they deserve serious debate."
The merits of a "super mayor" notwithstanding (I regard it as a dead duck), what also deserves "serious debate" is Kilfoyle's family connection & how his constituents, for whom he was at pains to profess his steadfast support & representation in an Observer piece last month ( ), will view matters.
Liverpool Confidential had already broached the subject before the Observer piece ( ).
[The Independent's Pandora colum also carried a snippet about the hopes of West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper for Ringo Starr to return to the city & pick up the Freedom of the City scroll he was nominated for back in the 80s. Cooper, Pandora noted, "was behind the idea" back then. Er, Rosie, that may not be such a popular move anymore.]

National Media Ignore Liverpool Again!

The Guardian has been trying to work up some enthusiasm for its retrospective of the last decade (it began with the Millenium Bug that never was & ends with another Establishment inquiry into WMD that never were). Its architecture critic Jonathan Glancey has been casting an eye over the architectural gems of the decade ( ).
For some unfathomable reason, the graceful adornments to Liverpool's skyline, be they Grosvenorpool's aesthetically pleasing contributions, or the delightful new neighbours for the Three Graces aren't included. Shame on you, Jonathan!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Free Message

Pulsating with every characteristic & odious trait of the Dickensian avaricious philistine who knows the price of everything & the value of nothing, Rupert Murdoch lectured a journalism conference in Washington, DC on Monday. The Dirty Digger sidled his way to the podium & sneered that online payment for news articles, something he wishes to persue for his titles via a paywall, is necessary & normal, declaring that there is no such thing as free news. Well, we all know that everything has to be paid for. However, it has been the cue for another tedious round of BBC-bashing from the Murdoch empire; his son & appointed heir James couldn't get it into his skull recently that we do pay for the BBC's news services via the licence fee.
It fell to Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post ( ), to put Murdoch's myths into the shredder of web reality ( ).
[The full text of Huffington's address can be found at: .]
Huffington observed that "playing nice has suddenly become a one-way street -- suddenly the air is filled with shrill, nonsensical, and misplaced verbal assaults on those in the new media."
What was striking, however, was that there were passages of her address which didn't just pertain to the world's most famous Australian-born US citizen. The speech could well have been considered germane to a certain operation on Oldham Hall Street:
"In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They'd rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content."
Another excerpt which rattles uncomfortably at the doors of the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo:
"It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20% or more, put cashflow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street -- not modernisation and pleasing their readers.
"They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail -- pick your metaphor -- and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being...well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it's all about thievery and parasites and intestines.
"Get real, you guys. The world has changed."
The reference to Wall Street notwithstanding, there's an observation which may induce a few sweaty collars in Big Al Machray's fiefdom.
But wait, there's more, oh yes, & it might just cause a fit of the vapours among what's left of the thinking elements on Oldham Hall Street:
"The same people who never question why consumers would sit on a couch and watch TV for eight hours straight can't understand why someone would find it rewarding to weigh in on the issues -- great and small -- that interest them. For free. They don't understand the people who contribute to Wikipedia for free, who maintain their own blogs for free, who Twitter for free, who constantly refresh and update their Facebook page for free, who want to help tell the stories of what is happening in their lives and in their communities...for free."
Alaistair, Mark, you just don't understand, do you? And I'm telling you that. For free.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Memories Are Made Of This

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Bill Shankly's arrival at Liverpool. He lost his first game 4-0, a result which would doubtless have had Hicks & Gillett phoning round for a successor & generally scheming behind his back. Here's a gem from the BBC archive featuring the man himself in conversation with Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley on the Anfield pitch in 1972:
I defy any Liverpool fan old enough to remember the old Kop not to have a lump in his or her throat as the camera pans away for a wide angle shot of the old terrace as You'll Never Walk Alone is sung.