Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

December 2012

1st December 2012

Compassionate Conservatism

A report in the Guardian which made me angry:-

Wayne Blackburn was born unlucky – his mother’s umbilical cord got wrapped around his neck, starving his brain of oxygen. Now his legs don’t work.

He’s no scrounger, he says. Until 2009, Blackburn, from Nelson, Lancashire, was in work. After marrying his girlfriend he wanted to provide for her so he took a job in retail that involved being on his feet.

“For a time I was quite successful at it,” he says. “[But] it made me a lot worse. I did that for just under two years.” Though he would like to return to a job, Blackburn says he is in the worst physical condition he has ever been and is permanently dosed on multiple painkillers.

Without any physical examination, Blackburn says, the Department for Work and Pensions put him on employment support allowance (ESA) and in the work-related activity group (WRAG), for those soon to be back in employment.

In just a few days, Blackburn may be forced to work without pay whether he likes it or not.

On Monday, the government will allow private back-to-work companies and jobcentre case managers to force Blackburn and more than 300,000 sick and disabled welfare claimants into unpaid work experience for an unspecified length of time.

Read the rest of the article to discover how the Government’s brave war on easy targets shows no signs of abating, it seems.

Happy Christmas everybody!

2nd December 2012

Good|Bad
Posted by at 10.37pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Good footballer:-

Former England international Gareth Southgate believes footballers are ready to accept gay players in the dressing room.

Southgate, who is the Football Association’s Head of Elite Development, was speaking after Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard urged gay players to come out of the closet because “gay people need a hero”.

Bad footballer:-

Liverpool footballer Suso, whose full name is Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre, has described his fellow teammate Jose Enrique as “gay” after he was pictured having his teeth whitened.

Fabulous name, though.

3rd December 2012

Not all it’s cracked up to be
Posted by at 8.18pm | In the News, Trains | 1 response

Plumbers around the world are jealous, as a five-inch crack is discovered on a Yorkshire railway line. The BBC’s oh-so-informative report goes like this:-

A gap in the railway line near York which was created by a cracked rail could have caused a “major tragedy”, the RMT union has claimed.

The RMT released a photograph of a 5in (13cm) gap on the East Coast Mainline at Colton Junction, and said it could have derailed a train.

But Network Rail said “as soon as a crack in the rail was reported, trains were stopped”.

The organisation said no staff or passengers were put at risk.

The RMT though said that was “total garbage”.

It goes on like this for several more paragraphs, with claims by the RMT each followed by a rebuttal from Network Rail. The RMT say its dodgy and unsafe, Network Rail say nobody was in danger. Obviously both sides have reasons to say what they say and want to persuade the public.

Is this a scandalous tale of a safety failure on the railway, or is it a union overreacting to a track defect? I have no idea. The article gives no information or analysis to help me understand whether I should be worried or not.

The BBC has a commendable commitment to impartial reporting. Unfortunately, all too often, their idea of “balance” is letting each side have a say and making no effort to analyse or filter their statements.

This results in a load of “he-said-she-said” articles like the one linked to, with no attempt at fact-checking or independent verification. As a reader, I am no more enlightened than I was when I started reading the article.

It’s slightly better than sensationalised and one-sided tabloid reporting, but not by much.

9th December 2012

Goals! You’re indestructible…
Posted by at 1.44pm | It's My Life | 4 responses

I just bought a new Apple iMac to replace my ageing PC. Before I can immerse myself in the Jobsian goodness, however, I have to carry out the tedious process of copying all my stuff off the old computer and onto the new. All 60 gigabytes of it.

The last few times I’ve bought a new computer, it has been a Windows-to-Windows upgrade, so I have just copied the My Documents folder over en masse. Since I’m switching platforms as well, I decided to go for a more methodical approach and organise my files more neatly. So I have been rummaging through various ancient folders which have not been clicked on for years – my Christmas list for 2008, anyone?

I found a file called Goal List.txt, dated May 2004. It appears to contain a list of things that I want to do with my life. I think this was an attempt by 21-year-old me to try and give myself some focus, with a set of achievable, realistic goals.

  1. Write something (a book, TV show etc) that makes people sit up and take notice
  2. Become an actor and perform in a fulfilling role.
  3. Make a difference to the world.
  4. Tour the UK’s rail network.
  5. Visit Canada.
  6. Appear on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
  7. Make a living doing something I enjoy.
  8. Above all, become a person who likes himself.
  9. Preserve a Merseyrail class 507 and 508 EMU for posterity.

Hmm…

15th December 2012

Barry and Harry should Marry
Posted by at 5.05pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

As Jonathan Freedland points out, the gay rights campaign has moved along at terrific speed over the past decade or so. In 2000 we had Section 28 and an unequal age of consent. Now, not only have these anti-gay laws been overturned but we have comprehensive equality legislation.

As part of that gay rights push, Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced civil partnerships. These “almost-but-not-quite marriage” arrangements allowed same-sex couples to have their relationships recognised by the state, while keeping the m-word reserved for “traditional” couples.

So far, so good. However, “separate but equal” is still unequal – not least because British civil partnerships are often not recognised overseas (even in jurisdictions which recognise same-sex marriages). I suspect most heterosexual couples would be upset if their union stopped existing every time they went on holiday abroad.

With all this in mind, the news that the coalition government is pushing forward with same-sex marriage legislation is welcome.

Read the rest of this post »

17th December 2012

Hillsborough Justice Single
Posted by at 1.11pm | Uncategorised | 1 response

CD coverThe new tribute single to the Hillsborough families is out today. It’s a cover of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother with contributions from Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson and Rebecca Ferguson, amongst others.

The aim is to get to number 1 in the charts and keep the Hillsborough campaign in the public consciousness. You know what you have to do. Some links to purchase a download of the single are provided below for your convenience.

22nd December 2012

Age and YouTube
Posted by at 7.50pm | It's My Life | 1 response

A new vlog! In which I survive the Mayan apocalypse, ponder whether I’m too old to mess about on YouTube, and put something in my mouth that makes me choke. All in the space of three minutes. Blimey.

24th December 2012

Bauballs
Posted by at 2.57pm | In the News | 1 response

Too late to get any for this Christmas, but how would you like some Bauballs adorning your Christmas tree?

Bauballs!

This is not a concerted effort to scandalise your Nan, or annoy the Daily Mail (although I daresay it would do both of those things). It’s a campaign by Orchid, the male cancer charity, to raise awareness of the scourge of testicular cancer. Check out their site for more.

25th December 2012

If you’re wondering why there’s no public transport today…
Posted by at 12.00pm | Fun, Trains | 1 response

…and a reduced service tomorrow, I can explain it. All the bus and train staff are hiding in shame after taking part in seasonal singalongs.

The above is from Network West Midlands, the Artist Formerly Known as Centro. For sheer musical wonderment, however, the video below – an unofficial effort from Greater Anglia’s finest – wins out. Do They Know It’s Christmas? Do they know the tune?

I shouldn’t be churlish, I suppose. Well done them for getting into the Christmas spirit. Season’s greetings to you all.

27th December 2012

Goodwill to all men (but not those who love other men)
Posted by at 3.40pm | Gay, In the News | 1 response

With all the crass commercialism, overeating and excessive drinking, it’s sad to see that people have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. I refer, of course, to some of Britain’s religious leaders, who chose Christmas Day, of all days, to attack their favourite target of the moment: teh gayz.

Exhibit A: Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales:

The head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales issued his strongest attack yet on the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage, lambasting them as “shambolic” and accusing the prime minister of “shallow thinking”.

In the most divisive of a host of Christmas Day comments from religious leaders, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, questioned the democratic credentials of the plans, which could see the first gay weddings take place in 2014.

Exhibit B: The Bishop of Shrewsbury:

Bishop Davies believes the government’s decision to introduce equal marriage rights in England and Wales in 2013 is similar to how Hitler and Stalin tried to undermine religious freedom.

The senior Catholic will say: “Past generations have gathered in this cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them.

“We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity.”

The Nazi allusion is particularly offensive, given the number of homosexuals slaughtered by Hitler’s henchmen.

With war, poverty and oppression still commonplace around the world, it’s amazing that church leaders are focusing so heavily on gay rights. Their obsession with the issue is troubling and out of step with public opinion, with the latest poll showing a clear majority (60%) of the public in favour.

In any case, if church leaders did feel the need to speak out, could they not have left it alone for just one day? A Christmas truce, maybe?

30th December 2012

Happy New Tube
Posted by at 8.55pm | It's My Life | No responses

A couple of people have asked if I have any New Year’s Resolutions, and I have answered “no”. I stopped making them, as history has shown that I am about as good at sticking to them as Nick Clegg is to a promise (POLITICAL SATIRE).

However, I’ve realised that there is one resolution which I do want to make and really hope I can keep: that is, stop wasting so much time on the internet.

You see, between the 502 Group, my Open University course and my oft-threatened but so far unimplemented desire to do some proper creative writing (not to mention my surprisingly existent social life), I have quite a few commitments that I’m… er, committed to. In theory, I have plenty of time to get it all done: I usually get home from work around 7pm; factor in an hour or so for mealtime and that gives me four hours or so of spare time every evening to get stuff done.

However, more often than not, that free time dwindles to zero very rapidly. And it’s all because of this:

YouTube Related Videos

Yes, there is no bigger devourer of time on this planet than YouTube’s “related videos” sidebar. I can click on a perfectly reasonable link on Facebook or Twitter (two more time-sucking web sites, but let’s leave them to one side for now) and watch a very informative and useful video for five minutes.

However, in that sidebar, there is usually at least one video with an intriguing title, or curiosity-provoking thumbnail. I click on it and it takes me to another video page, with its own tantalising sidebar of videos. And so on, until I disappear entirely into a vortex of streaming Flash video.

I’m serious. I have lost hours at a time to that sidebar. I’ll go as far as to venture that, if YouTube et al had been around when I was at school, I’d have come out of my GCSEs with a G grade at best (assuming I was able to spell my name correctly on the paper).

I know, I know – I should just turn off the internet for a couple of hours. However, I’ve come to realise that I don’t have the discipline to do this. Instead I’ll sit there, clicking away. A funny sketch from Whose Line is it Anyway? leads on to a railway video which leads on to a great music video. Each time I’ll say, “just one more, then I’ll do something useful.”

Basically I need some discipline (not in an S&M sense, but that could be fun too). Will 2013 be the year I finally acquire some self-control? Let’s hope so!

31st December 2012

Calendar Boy
Posted by at 7.18pm | Fun, Gay | No responses

It’s the last day of 2012, and time to say a fond farewell to the calendar which has given me many months of fine service, taking pride of place on the wall in my bedroom:

Game Over

But what to replace it with? Well, there is the 2013 Beautiful Men Wall Calendar which does what it says on the tin, and does it well – although, after buying it, I noticed that one of the photos shows a model with a ciggie in his mouth, which is just off-putting, frankly.

Beautiful Men

However, if you’re of a charitable bent, there are of course a whole host of organisations whose members are lining up to remove their clothes and pose with a slightly embarrassed expression. Forget the Women’s Institute and strategically placed cakes, these are highly artistic endeavours, and all for a good cause. Excellent stuff.

First there is the London Titans football club, who are donating funds to The Food Chain, a worthy charity which ensures that people in London with HIV have access to the nutrition they need. That’s got to be worth £10.99 of anyone’s money, surely? I was completely unaware of this calendar until my friend Andrew got me one for Christmas. He knows me so well.

London Titans

Finally, we have the Warwick University Rowers, whose “Brokeback Boathouse” calendar has generated a lot of interest around the Interwebs. Their chosen charity is the amazing Ben Cohen Standup Foundation, which will use the funds to help in its fight against bullying.

warwick-rowers

The calendars flew off the shelves and sold out before I was able to get my hands on one. However, the downloadable “Making Of” video which is also available comes highly recommended. The downloads can be purchased from the Warwick Rowing web site. There’s even a calendar featuring the women’s rowing team, for those who like that sort of thing (I’m not judging).

Whether you have an attractive man on your wall or not, I hope you all have a very happy new year!