Branches everywhere

I hear that back in the Motherland, the good people of Bristol are so incensed at being offered more consumer choice, through the planned arrival of a branch of supermarket chain Tesco, that a 24-hour riot ensued and several police officers were hospitalised.

I’m just thankful that the plan isn’t for a 24-hour branch of Seven Eleven; the locals might have spontaneously combusted.

Which does, really, raise a fundamental question; what’s in a name?

The Seven Eleven (or 7-11 if you prefer) chain was founded, obv, on the virtue of their opening hours – 7am to 11pm.

But if such a thing as a 24-hour 7-11 exists, is it actually a 7-11 any longer? Come on people, this a fundamental question here. Give it a degree of importance, please!

I’m asking because there is a 24-hour 7-11 opposite the club we’re staying in, and I’m beginning to think the place might be a cover for an alien takeover.

Speaking of branches everywhere in general, and alien takeovers in particular, yesterday, as previously threatened, we ‘did’ Hollywood.

On almost every block there is either a building labelled as ‘Church of Scientology’ or another with a sign that declares itself to be a ‘Scientology Test Centre’, or even the slightly peculiar ‘Scientology Celebrity Centre’!

I was wondering why these things only exist on the richest piece of Real Estate in the entire state of California.

Why aren’t there, for example, branches of this cult in the slums? Why don’t the Scientology cult members help the many hundreds of homeless people hereabouts?

The answers to these questions can’t surely be something as craven as the latter’s abject poverty, can it?

My keen ear has detected that, in downtown LA at least, the predominant language is Spanish.

By a margin of at least 60/40, Spanish is more widely spoken on the streets, in the shops and in the Metro, than English. Or American.

The signs on the Metro and in the buses are all dual-language. The recorded public transport announcements are all bilingual too.

And, as we walked about the Jewellery Quarter on our first day in town, two teenagers riding bikes shouted at me to get out of their way in Spanish, not English.

Yesterday’s travels were highly entertaining.

We went on an open air minibus tour during which, I have no doubt, we were pathologically lied to as to who lived there and who did what at that place. But it didn’t distract, rather it added to, the entertainment experience.

We also met up with some locals; it was enjoyable to talk to Americans who aren’t native Angelinos, to get their views on the place.

The Metro is an example of what the London Underground can never be.

Scrupulously clean and tidy and treated with respect by all of its passengers and staff.

London’s transport infrastructure is constrained by the past – and somewhat hidebound – imaginations of Edwardian and Victorian designers and engineers.

In LA, if something needs to be bigger, wider or straighter to cope with an increase in demand, they just dig it up and make it so.

In London the politicians wring their hands and just shove an extra 40 passengers per carriage on to the already overflowing system.

Which method really delivers a public service?

The architecture, in the downtown area, is stunning, particularly when the other-worldness of the palm trees are thrown in.

This is Pershing Square, half a block from our hotel. Our car is parked two stories below the surface.

But some of the most stunning design is beneath the surface.

Film reels on the ceiling and a white-tile mock-up of a projection screen in the distance give this Metro station a peculiar feel.

The level of detail in this theatre foyer is amazing.

And that’s it, for today.

We shot miles of video but that needs editing and sequencing and those are things we don’t have time to do right now.

But we will get around to it.


Tomorrow we begin the coastal journey; we’re going to drive westwards and do spots like Venice Beach and Malibu, before we pick up the coast and head northwards to the Big Sur and San Francisco.

I think we might come back to LA and spend longer here, at the end of the loop.

Soph wants to go drinking in some bar that Jim Morrison used to hang out in and I wouldn’t mind going to a stand-up comedy club.

Not in my name. Not in my daughter’s name

This is nasty.

There are people out there, operating under the guise of one organisation (let’s call it ‘Mediamarch’ who are – and I quote – “a peaceful protest group seeking stronger obscenity laws and restoration of basic decency to all media”), who have seeded the idea that the entire internet should submit to censorship.

And – now here’s the clever thing – the same people are then popping up under the guise of a different organisation (let’s call it ‘Safer Media’ which – and I quote again – “campaigns to make media safe for children”), who are making supportive statements for the first organisation’s campaign. And actively promoting the first organisation’s values which, unsurprisingly, dovetail neatly with their own organisation’s values.

So, to people who don’t dig deeply beneath such things, it all begins to sound as if there are a couple of different organisations out there, each putting forward similar views, and each with – probably – a combined, but substantial, membership behind them.

Erm, no.

Because behind both of these organisations which, and I’m still having trouble getting my head around this, want to impose their hardline, right-wing, pseudo-social, quasi-religious values on everyone else in the UK, behind *both* of these organisations is one person:

Miranda Suit.

Miranda Suit

Miranda was born in Sidcup and raised in Chislehurst in Kent. She is a member of an organisation called the Christian Peoples (sic) Alliance.

Miranda is a committed Christian.

Unfortunately this puts Miranda in the minority, because, as recent census figures have clearly shown, those who consider themselves to be practising Christians are significantly outweighed by those of us who don’t.


Miranda says that society needs to tackle some of the causes of social breakdown.

Yet Miranda feels, for some peculiarly obscure reason, that the best way for society to meet her objective is not for society to change or improve itself, but to have change inflicted upon everyone in society.

So that’s ‘change from the outside’, not ‘change from within’. Which I find odd, because ‘change from within’ is at the heart of all Christian doctrine, isn’t it?


Miranda goes on to echo Kim Jong Il when she says that her objective is ‘best met by censoring the media’. She is also quoted as saying that her ‘… campaign is based on research linking violent entertainment and pornography with violent and sexual crime. Inspired by her Christian faith, she is particularly concerned about people who become addicted to harmful media material, especially children.’

The focus of Miranda’s censorship is ‘media’ in most of its forms. She specifically cites: television, films, music and pornography. Strangely not radio, but perhaps she doesn’t listen to the radio.

Miranda also believes that ‘pornography must be outlawed so that it cannot undermine marriage and the dignity of women and encourage sex crime (sic). All schools should teach Christian values.’

Whenever people throw the words ‘Christian values’ at me, I want to remind them that at the time of the Virgin Birth, Mary was 14 years old.

I also want to remind them that according to ‘Christian values’, homosexuals should be put to death.

And let’s not forget other ‘Christian values’, such as it being acceptable for me to sell my daughter in to slavery.

Or that people who work on the Sabbath should be stoned to death.

And that any farmer who plants the wrong kind of crops next to each other should also be put to death.

These preachings can be found in the Old Testament and, let’s face it, if the Old Testament isn’t ‘Christian value’ enough for you, what more do you want, blood out of a stone?

On to my point.

There are three fundamental problems with the position being taken by Miranda Suit (or ‘Safer Media’, or ‘The Christian Peoples (sic) Alliance’, or ‘Mediamarch’) and these are so painfully obvious that it almost hurts to spell them out but…

  1. Censorship is wrong. It is as wrong for the Government of the Peoples Republic of China to censor what the inhabitants of that country can see, listen to or read, as it as wrong for anyone to dictate to me what I may or may not see, read or listen to. There are enough free pieces of ‘parental control’ software out there. Get some, learn how to use it, inflict your parental rules on your offspring. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. You’ll just make me angry and believe me, you don’t want me to be angry.
  2. Don’t ask the state to do your job. This is a no-brainer for most of us but perhaps, for some people, it needs spelling out. If you don’t want your children to interact with certain types of information, be a parent and lay down the law. The media is not the all-pervading peddler of pornography you believe it to be. You need to man up. Own the role of being a parent. Lay down the law and enforce it, that’s your job. That’s what being a parent is all about. If your children do as you ask, you are obviously a good parent. If, however, your children ignore you, you are a failure. But even being a parental failure is no excuse to seek to censor what other people in this country can, and can’t do.
  3. Mainstream religions lack foresight and imagination. If you choose to believe in witches, demons, dragons, Harry Potter, or that some African guy got nailed to a tree, had his body placed in a cave, miraculously came back to life but – get this – wasn’t such a miracle worker after all because he had to roll back the stone at the mouth of the cave to get out, that’s up to you. I really don’t care. But if you even attempt to inflict anything that has been fermented in your narrow-minded brain upon me, I will fight you tooth and nail every single step of the way. And sometimes I fight dirty. All of the Abrahamic religions have sought to control people and contain and restrain us. I will fight against religious control in the same way that I would fight against any other form of fascism, whether it is rooted in an idealogical or social framework.

Have I made my point here?

Have I been eloquent enough?

Is my defence against this person who wishes to inflict her archaic religious fundamentalist values on the whole of the UK sufficiently robust?

If your answer to these questions is ‘yes’, would you like to do everyone in the UK a favour?

Go on, just imagine how warm and fluffy it will make you feel!

Would you like to hit the email address below and drop Ed Vaizey an email? Mr Vaizey is the Conservative MP for Wantage (Oxfordshire).

He is also (currently) the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

So if you agree with me, please hit the link below and send Mr Vaizey a quick email – even if you just give him the address of this post ( and say ‘I agree with what he said’!

Why should you ping Mr Vaizey an email? Because Ed Vaizey seems to be getting dangerously close to Miranda Suit. And I think that MPs, even Conservative MPs, need reminding, now and then, that they work for *all* of us.


Email Ed Vaizey here:

Flats and Sharps

Surprisingly, this evening I have found the time to restring/retune my faithful SG. Unsurprisingly, it still sounds as though it is being played by a tone-deaf, rhythmically-challenged, geriatric, arthritic left-handed camel. From Gravesend. Actually, I’m not that surprised. Just disappointed that I continue to sound like Bonnie and Clyde. Instead of Bonnie Raitt. Still, you want to see it?

Looking better than I make it sound

Tonight has been ‘a boy’s night in’. Apart from restringing the SG – and getting very tempted to get my acoustic out for a tune-up – I have had a film-fest. The Bourne Identity. What an awesome film. There are cinematographic sequences in The Bourne Identity that could have been shot by Luc Besson. That’s high praise. I view Luc Besson as one of the finest producers of high-speed action sequences we’ve ever been blessed with. But what I love about The Bourne Identity is the attention to detail. There are flashes of authentic spook tradecraft, and it’s a pleasure to see such things being used correctly.

Saturday afternoon I’m going to a rehearsal studio to shoot film. If you’re in the OX area and you’d like to join me, let me know – I could use another photographer! I aim to be there for an hour from 1pm, and will be photographing and videoing just about non-stop. Ideally I’d like to come away with 150 shots as well as video footage, so another lense on the job would be more than welcome. I’m looking for a mix of aspects; close-ups, ultra-close-ups, groupwork, action portraits. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done it before, just come along and snap away.

Professor Steven Hawking and Professor Leonard Mlodinow will, no doubt, both be criticised for their lack of religious understanding, once the precise detail behind their published thinking – that God did not create the universe – has sunk in. It takes a man of extraordinary moral backbone to make this declaration, but for two such eminent scientists to haul themselves in to the God-botherers’ firing line is stunning. We know that the Roman Catholic branch of this superstition have gone as far as to employ scientists, to enable greater understanding of academic study. But the other branches of this flat-earth organisation that studiously refuse to believe empirical evidence will continue to shove their ostrich-like heads in the sand. Which makes me wonder why so many people follow these irrational beliefs?

Balance, Crime and Punishment and Rocking

This post is going to start off seriously and become lighter as it meanders. I don’t know why. It just will…

1. Balance
On the way in to London village this morning(*) I noticed a shop-front with the sign ‘Hillingdon Women’s Centre’.

I stared at the sign and my hackles began to rise.

If, I thought, the Hillingdon Women’s Centre is privately funded I really couldn’t care less. But if it receives just £1 of public money, where, I want to know, is the Hillingdon Men’s Centre?

Never mind whether or not there’s a need for one. There’s no equality in need.

A situation is either subject to equality or it is not.

As you might be able to tell, I do believe in equality. But I don’t believe in positive discrimination. I do believe in putting in place a legislative structure to ensure balance. But I don’t believe in quotas or check-box apportionment. I do believe in the best person for the job. I don’t believe in ‘the most appropriate’ person for the job.

I also believe that positive discrimination creates inequality at worst, and at best has enormous potential to breed dissatisfaction or even engender contempt.

And I’m not focussing on the Hillingdon Women’s Centre vs Hillingdon Men’s Centre as an example, but I’ll acknowledge that I am using this as a principle – a principle which I would apply to any gender or religiously orientated discriminatory-related bias.

In fact any kind of positive discrimination on the grounds of religion is fundamentally flawed before the ink is even dry on the paper – and I say this as an atheist.

How, asks my head, can any degree of balance be established between a religious organisation and atheism where there is no governing body? But it would be stupid to use the argument ‘people who belong to religious organisations need some kind of positive discriminatory mechanism but everyone who has no religious affiliation does not’; it lacks balance.

I also believe in crime and punishment.

2. Crime and punishment:
Those little bastards out there, those teenaged children standing at the roadside of the A40 throwing snowballs at the traffic as it drives past. They should be caught, handcuffed to the railings at the side of the road with their parents and every passing driver should be actively encouraged (if not paid) to throw snowballs at the little darlings.

For two or three days. At least.

3. Rocking:
I have finally fixed something that’s been annoying the hell out of me since, ooooh, well, since, ummm, since I installed this theme.

I have finally fixed the clock display on the toolbar. Down there, bottom right.


It now has a 24-hour display.

Yes I know I got all of the other time displays to readout in the 24-hour clock ages ago, but the appropriate fix for the toolbar time has evaded me for weeks.

Until today.


I rock. Sometimes.

Oh yeah… And I put an author archive tag on Soph’s name in the blogroll. Try it! It’s lovely! 🙂

(*) Yes, I made it in to work. By 08.35 I was sitting at my desk feeling ever so lonely. By 09.00 three of us were in – all long-distance travellers; one from Manchester, one from Nottingham and me. The locals were conspicuous by their absence.  🙂

Child abuse?

The documentary ‘Baby Bible Bashers’ on C4 is deeply disturbing. It shows scenes that at best could be called child abuse, and at worst could be demonstrated as such.

But leaving aside the issue of whether conditioning is brainwashing is cruelty for a moment, the wider question is that of understanding.

How can a child – self styled ‘preacher’ – of seven years stand outside health clinics shouting that this place is where people kill their babies?

How can a seven year old child understand the concepts involved?

Can a seven year old child understand rape, and understand the consequences of rape, the place where the female who was raped puts herself when she finds she’s pregnant?

OK, that’s largely rhetorical because plainly, a seven year old child (of either gender) can’t.

And how can a child explain Exodus 35.2 to anyone?

These are just a few of my questions, my head is full of them.

This post at The Humanist gives one view of the child and his parents.

This post at youtube gives another:


Why religion should be banned (part 94b)

It’s a good job that the late and very, very dear Warren Zeevon is no longer with us.

Because otherwise there would undoubtedly be a bunch of nutcases out there who would want him stoned to death for giving us the brilliant track Mohamed’s Radio.

Would someone like to explain to the Muslims in Sudan that in taking this course of action they aren’t winning their faith any new friends?