Friday, April 18, 2008

This week's news round-up

The week's news reassessed by Johnny Taronja

Mackenzie Crook of The Office is the main character in the comedy film Three And Out on release this month. If the plot brings to mind the expression "scraping the barrel", it was its risqué theme that provided some much needed publicity. Crook is a tube driver who witnesses two accidental deaths. The rule is that -in the event of three deaths in one month- a driver would lose his job but net a massive payout. With a view to an idyllic retirement, Crook sets out to seek the 3rd person, someone willing to hurl themselves under a train.

As you can imagine, this didn’t go down well with the train drivers themselves. "The best thing about cinema is that you don’t have to go. This view has been reinforced at the news of the release [this month] of Three And Out", wrote Keith Norman, General Secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers' union. The distribution company came up with a customary "we took great care" to handle "heartfelt issues" sensitively. But, as Keith Norman replied, "how would these writers and producers react to a film that had a good laugh at a form of cancer they could pick up from keyboards? Or to a hilarious skit about acute spinal pain they can get for sitting too long at desks?"


It's not everyday that we agree with the Gallagher brothers. This week, however, we find ourselves completely on Noel's side. Asked his opinion about the crisis afflicting the Glastonbury festival, the Oasis guitarist pointed the blame at the rise of headlining acts like Jay-Z. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", he said, adding that it's Glastonbury's guitar tradition that made the festival what it is. The Eavis family replied that they have a "responsibility" to do "inclusiveness". Except that it's a music festival, not a Council scheme. But if the Eavises got it right soon you'll be able to book your tickets for Napalm Death at Ronnie Scott's or 50 Cent at the Proms.


"OutTory" the Tories; we said it at Hagley Road to Ladywood two months ago and there seems to be no end to it. In fact, no-one can accuse Gordon Brown of not being thorough. This week's controversy was punctuated by a new nail in the coffin: the "abolition of the 10p rate" issue. Read: if a higher mortgage or bills won't push you into official poverty just yet, then the Government will. Just in the off chance there were still any low income voters professing an allegiance to Labour, this should manage a clean wipeout.

It took centuries for the world to wake up to a government with more female ministers than men. This week, Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero announced his new cabinet, including the first female Defence Secretary in the Western (or possibly, entire) world, 37-year-old Carme Chacon. Like all historical changes, the decision required balls. And you don’t fight prejudice without balls. The European landscape seems to be going through a desolate right-wing swing of the pendulum. Just to give you an idea, in the wake of his election victory in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi promised 4 (four) female ministers out of a pool of 12. Because men don’t take orders from women. Zapatero signals that not all hope is lost.

The departure of Richard and Judy from Channel 4 to make their leap onto digital channel UKTV marks the end of an era. The pair of them were like a certainty. Along with the knowledge that your house was still there, your furniture still there, your cooking programmes still there, your local pub still round the corner, Richard and Judy were always on daytime telly while you were at work. I hardly ever watched them but I will always remember Judy's struggle to get a word in edgeways and Richard's remarkable capacity to interrupt. Wish them well.

A number of parents who watched Newsround on CBBC complained that announcing the death of children TV presenter Mark Speight was insensitive, "sick" and "appalling". It didn’t matter that Newsround did it in a sanitised way (without a single mention of his suicide and drug involvement), according to the whingeing parents, children shouldn't even know about death and only hear about "positive stuff". Let's ask them parents for advice shall we? If your kid catches you watching a programme about the Iraq war, you should make clear you're only playing a gamepad-free computer game called "snatch the oil". If the same kid catches tonsilitis you should simply say that he's nurturing two tennis balls in his throat and it's certainly worth the pain. And so forth.

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