28 July 2011

A random thought on the Olympics.

Why isn't wheelchair racing in the Olympics? The actual Olympic Games. Why does it only take place under the auspices of the Paralympics?

If "foot cycling" is in the Olympics, why not hand cycling? If propelling yourself around a track or along a road by transferring power from your legs to wheels is one of the 39 disciplines, why isn't doing similar with your arms?

Spot the difference.

Look at it this way: if a world-class cyclist were to lose, say, a lower arm, but, with a prothesis, could still operate the handlebars, would they nonetheless have to start competing as a Paralympian? And if so, then why?

13 July 2011

The Laurie Penny Drinking Game

Younger readers may find this hard to believe but, not so long ago, the New Statesman was a source of serious news and commentary, widely read and admired; and interesting and brave in what it published. Two years off its centenary, it is barely recognisable from the magazine which, 13 years ago this week, and in the face of a wider media frenzy over an appalling child murder, made the right call on an innocent man (scroll to bottom of page).

Traditional news media have suffered depleted advertising revenues and leaky digital versions. The responses have varied. The Daily Mail gave up all pretence of being a newspaper a long time ago. The Times is now best known for its paywall. The Independent has had some (ahem) innovative journalistic practices. Similarly, certain tabloids. The Guardian is now defined by its Comment Is Free platform. 

Many outlets have turned to multi-contributor blogging as a means of driving traffic to their sites and recouping some of that lost advertising cash. The Spectator's success in this regard has not been without its problems but you can understand the New Statesman's attempts to emulate it over the last 14 months or so.

There are some impressively knowledgeable, genuinely witty and refreshingly insightful bloggers such as Dan Hodges, David Allen Green, Steven Baxter and Olly Grender

There's also Laurie Penny. Who writes beautifully. Do feel free to make your own judgment on whether such beautiful writing is employed in the service of good or bad ideas. But whatever your overall view of a journalist's skills and opinions, there should surely be times, in the face of rushed or lazy submissions, when an editor intervenes and helpfully suggests that one of his or her writers simply abandons a piece or re-writes it. At the very least, they could refuse to publish it in the hard copy version of their organ. Jason Cowley is apparently not such an editor. Which appears to be how something like "The Question Time drinking game" gets to not only sully our screens but our newstands, too.

Let's start with the sub-heading.
"A new drinking game based on the ubiquitous programme..." 
"New"? "Based on"? OK. This may have been the first time that such a bingo-type drinking format has been applied to Question Time but it's hardly an innovation. Games like this have been fixtures of TV-watching and spectator sports for years. Penny's "it happened like this" revelatory tone makes her sound like an aged judge reeling at the explanation of a hitherto unknown element of popular culture.

And while we're here: "ubiquitous" means existing or being everywhere at the same time. Question Time is on for an hour a week for a few months of the year.
"...gives much away about the robustness of political debate in Westimster (sic)."
Yes. If only debate in Westminster or on current affairs programmes could be as robust as the polemics of Brighton's finest. So just to test this out, I proudly present The Laurie Penny Drinking Game:

1. Point browser to Penny's blogposts at the New Statesman website.

2. Pick one of the many fine posts.

3. Open a bottle of perfectably drinkable wine/whisky/beer. Preferably purchased from that lovely new Tesco in Stokes Croft.

4. Click on the grid below to drink as directed:

Loose Red would like to remind you to read the New Statesman in moderation.

11 July 2011

My contribution to Pragmatic Radicalism

The whirl of ideas and activity that is the great John Slinger will be launching Pragmatic Radicalism alongside Lord Wood and Luciana Berger MP tomorrow night.

My contribution to the pamphlet looks at how "in a globalised, highly-networked world, crises are becoming more everyday and more impactful." And why
"reacting to, and exploiting and exploring, such vulnerabilities requires a greater understanding and embedding of resilience. The second half of the equation – exploitation and exploration – is too often forgotten. As a policy theme, resilience should not simply be about bounce-back from a crisis to the status quo ante. It is about recovery being superceded by transformation and renewal; innovating and thriving on change."
 Read and comment on the full version here.