Robert Hampton

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5th March 2015

Taking Debate
Posted by at 8.46pm | Uncategorised | No responses

Our beloved Prime Minister is accused of trying to dodge television debates. He said he will only do one debate with six other leaders, and he will not do it during the “short campaign” after Parliament is dissolved for the election. He said that this is a “final offer”, as if he and he alone has the final say in this.

Some people are claiming that Cameron would rather these debates didn’t take place at all, but that is so cynical. After all, back in 2008 he criticised Gordon Brown for being unwilling to take part in TV debates. To do a total about-face now would make him a massive dish-faced hypocrite.

Picture of Cameron, Clegg and Brown at BBC Election Debate

In my view, there are two debate formats which make sense. One is to have a debate with any party leaders that have a reasonable chance of being Prime Minister after the election. At the moment, that means only two: Ed Miliband or David Cameron. Sorry, UKIPpers, your man Nigel isn’t getting anywhere near number 10.

The other workable format is to include any party which has demonstrated a reasonable level of support at a UK-wide level, by some objective measure (number of seats in Parliament, performance at elections, opinion polling, that sort of thing). That probably means the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens get invited.

That’s almost what we got with the 7-way debate proposal, but I think it was a mistake for the broadcasters to muddy the waters by throwing in Scottish and Welsh nationalists as well. With seven people standing round podiums answering questions from a fierce inquisitor, people tuning in halfway through will think they’re watching The Weakest Link.

It’ll be interesting to see how the broadcasters react to Cameron’s ultimatum. The Guardian seems to think that Cameron will be empty-chaired. I predict that the empty chair will win the debate, and go on to take Wirral West from Esther McVey.

17th December 2014

An open letter to people who write open letters
Posted by at 7.54pm | Uncategorised | No responses

Dear people,

Please stop writing open letters.

Best wishes,

24th February 2014

MP3s in a Pod
Posted by at 11.28pm | Uncategorised | No responses

For years, my the only podcast I listened to regularly was Adam & Joe (their forensic dissection of R Kelly still makes me chuckle). However, they are seemingly never returning, so I’ve had to turn my attention elsewhere. Here, then, is my current podcast listening list.

International Waters

The UK is swamped with panel shows of any shape or form. American TV and radio networks have not embraced this phenomenon, perhaps because they fear the emergence of a US equivalent of Micky Flanagan. Probably the closest is this show, where two US comics are pitted against two British opponents in several rounds of trivia and pop culture questions. As is usual for these types of shows, the questions merely act as a catalyst for the humour, and sometimes the discussion can wander off on some delightful tangents.

One recent episode featured host Dave Holmes waxing lyrical with the UK’s Chris Neill over the joys of Coronation Street, bewildering all the other USians in the process.

Judge John Hodgman

A second entry for Maximum Fun, who also produce International Waters, mentioned above.

John Hodgman is perhaps best known for his appearances on The Daily Show as their “resident expert”. However he has also carved out a niche for himself online, as a dispenser of fake internet justice. Parties bring their petty disputes to Hodgman’s court for him to resolve.

So far, so All Rise For Julian Clary. But many of the disputes take decidedly offbeat turns. One brilliant example is Die Flederhaus, in which two brothers argue about how to deal with an infestation of bats in their run-down home. I won’t spoil the revelation of how one brother decided to deal with the bats in his bathroom.

Bonus points for the delightful pun-ridden titles each show has: “Father Knaws Beast”, “Lingua Fracas”, “Odor in the Court”, that sort of thing.

Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage is the sex and relationship advice columnist for the 21st century. He’s the guy who managed to redefine a US Presidential candidate’s last name as something you can’t safely Google in a public place. For years, his Savage Love column has been the go-to source of information and advice for open-minded people everywhere.

He also does this weekly podcast taking questions from callers. As well as offering advice, tips and advice in his typically frank style, he will talk to other experts and occasionally go off on a rant about far right-wing politicians, usually whenever they are trying to advance their anti-abortion, anti-gay agenda. It’s fun, informative, and definitely NSFW (one of the sponsors is a sex toy shop).

This Way Out

The only “serious” one on this list. This Way Out is a half-hour round up of LGBT news and features which is distributed to 200 radio stations around the world, and is now also available as a weekly download. The show is produced in Los Angeles, so perhaps inevitably there is an American slant to much of the coverage.

The opening 10-minute “newswrap” is usually followed by an in-depth report on the pressing issue of the week, and maybe an interview with a newsmaker or performer. Clips of music by LGBT artists and reviews of gay-interest films and TV shows also appear.

Back in 1988 when production first started, it was probably a lifeline for many gay people, especially those not fortunate enough to live in big cities. These days, the Internet allows easy access to a wider community. But this show is still a useful digest of what’s happening in the world.

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

Richard Herring hosts this chat sh. Guests are drawn from the great and the good of the comedy world, which usually leads to an excellent hour or more of hilarious discussion and general faffing about.

It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, which is perhaps why the guests often open up about their lives to a surprising extent. The show even made headlines nationwide, when Stephen Fry revealed his recent suicide attempt.

At other times, however, the guests are just wonderfully indiscreet – Rufus Hound’s account of his run-in with Aggie (from Kim and Aggie) on Celebrity Juice is one of the all time best celebrity anecdotes. You won’t get that on Wossy.

11th February 2014

Office Space
Posted by at 10.59pm | Uncategorised | No responses

Train in Euston Square Underground stationThe good news for Londoners is that the Tube strike, planned to start tonight, has been called off. The RMT and TSSA unions have got their wish for further consultation over London Underground’s plan to close London Underground ticket offices. A shame that London had to endure 48 hours of disruptive strike action, but when you elect someone like Boris Johnson, you can’t expect good results.

It’s true that technology is changing the way people pay for public transport. The Oyster card is almost magic compared to the scratch-off Saveaway tickets which Merseytravel are still using. We’re promised contactless credit card technology in the very near future as well. However, I don’t think that technology has reached the point where the humble ticket office can be done away with.

There’s a lot to be said for the human touch. BBC Two’s 2012 documentary series The Tube showed a dedicated workforce working hard to keep the often-creaking network running, in the face of often abusive passengers. I worry that, for all TfL’s protestations that all stations will retain a visible staff presence, somewhere down the line it will be decided that the network can do without them at all, and numbers will be cut to the absolute minimum required to comply with safety regulations.

My opinion on this is influenced by my experience of Berlin’s transport system when I visited in 2012. Very efficient and reliable, but run with minimal staffing. At Schönefeld Airport station, there were no staff visible at all to help visitors find their train or to help buy a ticket. Not a good first impression. I would hate for that to happen in London.

Hopefully, with the strikes called off for now, the process of ticket office closures can be managed with the co-operation of the unions, to achieve the best result for staff and passengers alike. If TfL want to save money, how about getting rid of expensive custom buses and the glorified funfair ride that almost nobody uses?

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.

31st March 2006

Posted by at 12.38pm | Uncategorised | No responses

So the other day I went into the Liverpool branch of well-known clothing provider Next, not really looking for anything in particular, but just browsing. My eyes fell upon an attractive pair of black jeans… with belt included! At the princely sum of £36.99, there was no need for any further hesitation. I was straight to the checkout with my Visa debit card at the ready.

I got home, feeling pleased with myself at making such a good purchase. I fling open my wardrobe to put them away. Inside the wardrobe there’s an attractive pair of black jeans… with belt included! Turns out I’d bought a pair a couple of months ago and forgotten about them.

Ho-hum. So it was back to the shop yesterday to return them, while at the same time considering the precariousness of my grip on reality. There’s probably some deep-seated psychological reason for this, but really I don’t want to think about such things right now.

30th March 2006

Damn you Paparazzo!
Posted by at 5.01pm | Uncategorised | No responses

This is hilarious — Joseph Gordon-Levitt (one of my favourite actors) turns the tables on some photographers who try and snap him in the street.

Memory lapse
Posted by at 12.22am | Uncategorised | No responses

Had what’s known as a heart-stopping moment earlier today, after installing a new memory module in my computer, which then proceeded to crash randomly every time I tried to use it. My attempts to rectify the problem resulted in the random crashes ending, however the crashes were now entirely predictable, occurring as soon as the computer booted into Windows.

So the memory module is out and I’m back to only-just-enough 256Mb for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless this whole experience has further pushed me towards junking the PC and getting a Mac. Of course, I’m not foolish enough to believe that a Mac would never suffer from a hardware problem, but at least with a Mac I wouldn’t have to worry about all the other crap that comes with a PC.

I’m not going to leap headfirst into getting the Mac, though. I’m going to do some research first. I saw The Mac Mini Guidebook, which has loads of info for PC users wanting to switch to the Mac Mini, in Waterstone’s. There’s also that rather nice Apple Centre in the Albert Dock.

There’s also the issue of money, which I don’t have a whole lot of at the moment. I might have to start selling some of my old stuff. I was in the loft yesterday and was amazed how much junk I’ve accumulated. I may even [insert dramatic music sting here] have to get rid of the Acorn stuff. 😮

This blog entry is a lot longer than I thought it would be. And I’ve just realised I’ve missed Desperate Housewives. Damn.

29th March 2006

First Church of James Street
Posted by at 10.57am | Uncategorised | No responses

So, massive strike yesterday, and the only ways to cross the River Mersey were by taking a 30-mile detour via Runcorn, or use Merseyrail. Massive disruption for a lot of people, but there may be at least one convert:-

Andrew Cornes, 42, a graphic designer who normally drives from New Brighton to Liverpool, said: “There were no problems catching the train and it has actually made me think twice about whether this might not be the best way for me to travel to work. The strike could be very good for Merseyrail as it will make people realise there’s a viable alternative to the tunnels, which a lot of people think are a bit of a rip-off.”

Testify! Welcome to the congregation, brother! The above article is from this morning’s Daily Post, who are certainly reporting this better than the Liverpool Echo, whose angle on yesterday’s strike was, unbelievably, “the trains are a bit crap”.

27th March 2006

Going bananas
Posted by at 7.40pm | Uncategorised | No responses

I’ve been hunting for this clip for ages, and now, thanks to the good people at YouTube, we can all sit back and watch Stephen Colbert reporting on Prince Charles, from a couple of years ago.