Enjoy a bit of slap and tickle? Well, you’re not allowed the slap any more

Patellar reflex. Note that this image includes an interneuron in the pathway of the patellar reflex for purposes of illustration. The inhibitory component of the reflex involving the hamstring muscle is not shown.

At least, not if another ridiculous Labour government motion gets passed (which it likely will). As a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible news story five years ago, David Blunkett (then the home secretary) promised to ban anyone from owning “violent” sexual images. The story in case was that of a poor woman, Jane Longhurst, who was brutally raped and murdered by a mental case called Graham Coutts.

Coutts had been visiting some pretty hardcore sites, and obviously that made him go off and try it all for himself. The same way that every teenager who’s played Grand Theft Auto has gone on to steal cars, shoot police and shag prostitutes. Oh, wait. No. They haven’t. One respondent to the original post is a licensed, certified, qualified psychologist who’s taught in this exact field for 10 years. I’d say he knows more about the workings of the brain that most politicians. How come he knows that over 1000 studies have been done that provide no evidence that viewing something increases the subject’s likelihood to do it when the government – with all their resources – can’t find those same studies?

The motion was put forward due to an appeal from Jane’s mother to her MP who forwarded her concerns to Blunkett. Who, incidentally, has been blind since birth and at the risk of sounding terribly politically incorrect, wouldn’t know what it’s like to look at porn anyway.

The bill is stupidly worded, including horrendously vague descriptions of what is and isn’t allowed. An example of such is “an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life”. As one respondent on the BBC page says, that makes at least one scene with Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film Goldeneye illegal.

It also drags up another insane British habit of making it legal to do things, but illegal to view other people doing them. Within the new law, it’d still be fine to tie your partner up, spank them and even draw blood; to throttle them; to suspend them from chains; to pierce them; and so on. As long as they’re consenting and no permanent harm results. Some people get off on that (I know some of them) and fine. No harm done in the long term and it’s a private thing.

However, if those couples (or groups) were to take some photos of each other or look at pictures of some of their friends that they had taken, this couple is breaking the potential new law. This is in line with having an age of consent of 16, but not allowing people to legally look at porn until they’re 18. Madness. You can do it, but not look at other people doing the exact same thing.

I replied to the comments on the BBC post listed above, and I’m paraphrasing from that to save repeating myself now.

I’m scouting out Oz and NZ again later this year with a view to moving permanently. I’m not a lawbreaker, and I’m feeling more and more restricted by a government in my own country that thinks it knows better than I do or that experts do about everything.

The whole situation is a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible incident that – let’s face it – would never have prevented the crime in the first place. If Coutts was prepared to murder, then he’d have had no qualms about illegally acquiring those same images. In fact, making them illegal may even have increased the thrill for him making the matter worse.

Victoria (one of the respondents on the BBC post), please check out the description of the videos you’re saying show people being raped. They don’t. They show consenting adults acting. The same way that Sylvester Stallone didn’t really kill all those people in those Rambo films, and Alan Rickman didn’t – in real life – kill a Japanese businessman to steal money from the safe of his high-rise building.

It’s porn. Yes. It’s sex. Yes. It’s entertainment. Nobody is hurt (beyond their decision to be so) in its manufacture. The world has a seedy side. I’m not saying embrace it, but I’m saying deal with it.

Having said that, how on earth would this be policed anyway? The powers that be can’t even figure out how to trace illegal film and music downloads. How on earth would they trace every single house in the UK where a consenting adult had downloaded images which may or may not be classed as illegal under a hastily-written, poorly worded law?

I know I’ve gone off on one again, but this is very much one of my pet bugbears. We’re supposed to live in a free society, a free country. As long as you don’t hurt anyone else (in this case anyone who’s not consenting) then there shouldn’t be any issues. I’m very anti-religious. Not just non-religious, but pretty much an active non-agree’er in the whole thing. Yet I would fight anyone who tried to take away the right of someone to go to any church they chose if they lived in Britain. It’s their right. Just as it’s any private individual’s right to enjoy whatever kinky stuff they like behind closed doors as long as nobody else is affected, hurt, etc., etc.

Yet over the last few years, the country’s become more and more clamped down in what is allowed as if these things have never existed before.

I’d say it’s like going back to Victorian values, but they were filthier than most British folk these days.

Fed up of getting the horn?

A single reed bulb horn.

The BBC posted a story today about taxi drivers in Newcastle being told off by the local council. They’ve been *gasp* sounding their horns instead of walking up to doors and knocking when collecting a fare. Obviously taxi drivers rarely sound their horns at silly times of night, waking you or your children up when picking up booked passengers.

Then I wondered why the council were getting involved. It’s not technically a noise pollution issue. It’s a road safety or driver behaviour issue and therefore – I believe – more a matter for the police. After all, it’s in breach of conditions laid down by the Highway Code. I found the relevant section at direct.gov.uk:

The horn. Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn

  • while stationary on the road
  • when driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30 pm and 7.00 am

except when another road user poses a danger.

So it rules out late-night pickups, early-morning pickups and any driver who’s vehicle isn’t actually moving at the time he beeps. Oh, and the fact that it’s to warn other road users of your presence – not the people in number 23.

Raffles and The Match-Fixing Syndicate by Adam Corres

I know the guy who wrote this, and he gave me a free copy to review so it seems fair that I give it as much coverage as I can. The original review is up on Amazon and you can get the book there as well.

Let’s be honest about two things before I start this review:

1) I know the author. Not well, more through other people than first hand but I do know the chap.
2) I hate cricket. Which is a shame as that’s what the novel is focussed around. However, it does mean that I wasn’t expecting to like the book from the off.

Thing is, I did like the book. It almost makes cricket sound like an interesting sport until you get to the end realising that you still understand nothing about it and it’s all just terminology designed to confuse the layman. I’ll stick to rounders (that’s baseball to you lot in North Am) and football (that’s football to you lot in North Am – you’ve got the name wrong).

Corres starts off with what seems like a few short stories, which don’t seem linked until the book gets past the halfway point. Almost like anecdotes, but enough to introduce the two main characters. The tales themselves are just on the right side of ridiculous (or maybe incredulous), but like the great Frank Carson “it’s the way he tells them”.

The language can take a little to get your head around, but it’s just right given the subject matter. Our storyteller (and other side characters) are often twisted in mwental spirals by Raffles. Raffles, on the other hand, never seems to break linguistic sweat. Which is how it should be. For fans of old novels (or like me, old-ish TV series) imagine the likes of Jeeves and Wooster. “Bunny”, the narrator, is a far cry from the blustering and useless Wooster but Raffles is very close to Jeeves. Always knowing what to do and manipulating people into doing things that we’re not even aware need doing as yet. And when confronted, acting as if he was aware that everyone must have known what he was up to all along.

It just reads well. Despite the frivolous use of a thesaurus in it’s making, the story is never hard to follow. There are many genuine “laugh out loud” moments – a couple of people nearby when I was reading certain episodes will attest to that fact.

I like a book that makes good use of language – it’s why I love the likes of Adams and Pratchett. Raffles and the Match Fixing Syndicate certainly fits into that camp. The story isn’t on a par with either of those authors’ best, but this is only Corres’ second outing. In honesty, I found the very last chapter (the Postscript) didn’t fit well with the rest of the book. The story ends well, but this last tiny chapter just seemed tacked on.

It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the book, though. I’ll certainly try and dig out a copy of Corres’ previous novel and keep my eyes out for anything he does next.

I just hope it’s not about cricket.

What do we have to do?

View of the Sir John Hall Stand from the technical area at St James' Park

I’m in the process of downloading Match of the Day from a torrent site (well, if the BBC won’t let me watch something I’ve paid for via their online system, I’ve got to resort to something). I’ve just noticed the running order and – like back in the old days – the Newcastle United game’s tagged on at the end.

Now, I don’t know if we were any good or not, but I do know that we managed to come from 2-0 down to get a draw. So all the excitement may have come in the first half, but at least there was some. By all accounts the Wigan – Reading draw was incredibly dull with only one shot anywhere near goal in the 90 minutes. Yet it’s two games ahead of ours in the coverage.

There were some good games yesterday, so how come the boring 0-0 draw has a higher billing? Or is it the old anti-Newcastle thing again? Or is it just perceived on my part as I’m biased?

Seen Get Carter?

Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971).

The original Get Carter with Michael Caine, that is. Not the (apparently) awful Stallone remake? Or failing that, have you lived anywhere on Tyneside in the last thirty or so years? If you can answer “yes” to either, then you’re likely aware of the god-awful eyesore that is the Gateshead multi-storey car park.

Well, the good news is that it’s finally getting pulled down this year. The local council have put special lighting on it in an attempt to make it look better in it’s final few months, but as far as I can tell it’s just a huge lump of now-colourful concrete.

I do remember as a kid that we used to park there when we went to Tesco and Shopping City. I always wondered why the stairwell on the top two floors had iron railings to stop people falling or jumping out. As if you’d be fine propelling yourself off the ledge of the other ten-or-so storeys. It’s now Tesco who’re paying for the demolition so they can build a new hypermarket there, with a cinema and so on. Gateshead needs a brush up – it has since I was a kid. If I recall, one of the problems with demolishing the car park was the number of shops underneath it which would have to be relocated. I’m wondering if that’s happened, or if Tesco’s just bought them all out.

Either way, I hope the facelift the town gets is worth all this hassle. Sometimes history has to go – because it’s too damn ugly. Now, will someone kindly start working on getting rid of the similarly monstrous concrete car park on the other side of the Tyne Bridge?