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One of my International Relations courses is called Regions and Institutions: the International System Today (although sometimes, and seemingly without pattern, it’s The International System Today: Regions and Institutions) and since the beginning of term, we’ve learnt everything there is to know about the entire world.
Yes, that’s right. Between Monday 9 January and last week, we successfully covered the entire planet, region by region, culminating with a seminar on Sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday. (The seminar was on Wednesday. It wasn’t about Sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday.)
Our tutor showed us part of a BBC documentary, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, about the Rwandan genocide. It was very interesting, but suddenly the background music became very, very strange. Have a watch: the bizarre transition happens about half-way through the clip below.
And as the tutor remarked, “There’s nothing like jaunty music to take the sting out of genocide.”
And on the topic of racial tolerance…
I know that I’m always poking fun at the manifold delights of Sir George Campbell MP. But he does occasionally say something sensible. Here’s his view on interfaith connections between Christianity and Islam, and it actually is serious:
Boom and bus
The Brighton & Hove Bus Company may win a lot of awards, but they’re also complete pillocks. One day last week I was unfortunate enough to be standing at the front, and had nothing better to do than read a poster advertising “Days out available: book now. Adults £15; concessions £14.”
OK. But what exactly does this day out involve?
“Coach tour of the M25 orbital (as featured on BBC Radio) – enjoy a day out on the UK’s most talked-about road!” An interesting idea, but they seem not to realise that most people have already spent hours upon hours on the M25, albeit usually not voluntarily.
And as if they hadn’t already plunged to low enough depths: “Passengers are invited to guesstimate to the nearest mile the distance the coach will travel around the route, a bottle of Champagne is the prize for the closest.”
In other transport news, my good friends at Southern Rail have introduced a new ‘eyewitness’ scheme, which invites and encourages passengers to email firstname.lastname@example.org to snitch about anti-social behaviour on trains.
A spokesperson for Southern said, “The minority who can make rail journeys miserable for everyone else need to be dealt with.” Bearing that very much in mind, here’s the email I propose sending them:
And in other other transport news, Virgin Atlantic have hired a “whispering coach” to teach cabin-crew how to whisper, since this is supposed to calm the passengers. They will also be training staff in “how to read customers and be tactile” (God knows what that means…)
Anyway, I think that this whispering idea could have other uses. For instance, what if the captain had some information which he’d rather keep from the passengers?
I ♥ politicians
In a week that revealed the £30,000-per-year cost of renting the fig trees that decorate the Houses of Parliament, one might be excused for thinking that Westminster is a useless institution run by incompetent fools.
However, in actual fact (STOP PRESS: I’ve cut this paragraph discussing the benefits of Parliament because I realised it was spurious nonsense.)
Labour MP Eric Joyce has been suspended from the party and arrested after engaging in a fistfight with another MP (an opposition MP – giving a new meaning to the word ‘opposition’). Perhaps he’ll claim expenses by designating his prison cell as a second home.
Just so nobody could accuse me of criticising only one country’s politicians, just so I don’t receive another one of those letters from the MP Rights Campaign saying, “Dear Sir Gabriel Webber, how sad it is that you choose to criticise British politicians for being ignorant, corrupt, lazy and incompetent,” I would like to mention another two nations!
The other day, I was trying to describe a YouTube video to a friend, and suggested that if he were to search Finland President Princess cleavage it would almost certainly be the only result.
How right I was, and if anybody wants to watch the hysterical ‘nonchalant’ attitude put on by the Finnish President’s husband when Princess Mary of Denmark caught him openly leering down her top, you have only to click here and prepare to be amused.
Oh, and just to round things off, Ken Livingstone has yet again demonstrated his integrity and sound judgement with his latest scheme.
Load of bankers
On Saturday, there was a lone man protesting outside Barclays on Western Road, Brighton, trying to persuade people to cancel their accounts. (Presumably hence the expression, “Cancelled due to lack of interest.”)
“Blood on their hands! This bank [points into the entrance] is financing the arms trade!”
I found this quite hard to believe. The staff in there are really lovely. I’m sure they wouldn’t finance arms traders. Although I guess it’s possible the guy didn’t mean that particular branch?
When I called my bank on Friday, the recorded lady at the other end said, “Using our automated telephone service, you can only transfer up to £100,000.” And I must say I found that rather restricting.
A Life Under Ocean Wave
So-called experts in philosophy and conservation announced this week that dolphins “are people in a philosophical sense” and should therefore have their life and liberty protected by a legally-binding Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. Now, my initial instinct was to brush this suggestion off as stupid, time-wasting and beneath contempt (and beneath the water) but having weighed up the arguments before and against, I’m not so sure:
The world is facing very many problems:
Our greenhouse gases rising to new heights.
There’s famine, evil, massive deprivation:
But what we really need is dolphin human rights.
The scientists want rights for all cetaceans:
They think in the same way that humans do.
And if you think through all the implications,
We’ll need dolphin lawyers, juries, judges too.
(CHORUS) We let Great Whites become loan sharks, recognised their rights.
We’ve got dolphins begging for free OysterCards.
We are slaughtering their kind for no clear porpoise.
Don’t you think that we treat dolphins way too hard? (x2)
No pun intended.