Saturday, 26 December 2009

Copenhagen: World leaders dish out toothless climate change deal

©Twiggs Bakery and Coffeehouse

THE Copenhagen climate change conference was a bit like a stale Danish pastry served at a fancy coffee shop - dry, unfulfilling and failing to live up to expectation.

The two week COP15 which reached its anticlimax on Saturday of last week was a chance for politicians to save the world's bacon - preferably unsmoked - and forge a roadmap for cutting global CO2 emissions.

But despite hours of wrangling and bickering, world leaders failed to agree on a binding treaty to replace the 1997 Koyoto Agreement - instead launching the flimsy, hastily put together Copenhagen Accord.

The new deal, thrashed out by the USA, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, like a bunch of countries teaming up in the Eurovision Song Contest aside from the 193 other nations is merely an acknowledgement and fails to enforce laws to slash carbon emissions by
50% by 2050, as set out in earlier drafts.

Although there is a recognition to limit global warming to 2
°C above pre-industrialised temperatures, and a promise to donate $30bn (£18.5bn) for developing countries in the next three years, rising to £100bn a year by 2020, this is a drop in the ocean and far too long and drawn out.

Meanwhile, despite unveiling methods to measure emissions in developing countries there is nothing to measure targets in the Third World (due to outrage from China) so how can we reliably keep tabs on progress?

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jinatoa. © Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

But the conference was dead in the water before the first delegates even arrived. Leaked emails from theUniversity of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit from unsrupulous scientists did the "trick" in dangling a red herring in front of climate change sceptics eager to discredit the theory, and the slimey attempt by Danish Premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen to select a core group of "important" countries was as slippery as a smoked eel.

The conference left me with a bad taste in my mouth - science aside, we have reached a period where people realise their actions are having an affect on the environment of the planet we come home. This was a chance for world leaders to pull together to promote renewable energy sources and globally sustainability and they failed. If politicians cannot agree then how do they expect the every day man in the street to embrace a greener life?

Meanwhile developing countries need extra investment to help to cut their emissions, espcially in the case of China, where pollution pouring out of their factories to manufacture goods and materials for our overbloated, commercialised Western lifestyles.

Like a stale Danish pastry served in a fancy coffee shop we should protest, stand firm and demand the waiter bring us something more satisfactory.

Banksy artwork near Oval bridge, Camden, London. © Zac Hussein/PA

Friday, 25 December 2009

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

Prospect Park, Reading (24.12.09) © Aries the Dreamer

THE parting words of a tweed-clad pensioner before he trudged away from an out-of-town supermarket's petrol station yesterday (Christmas Eve) failed to ring with festive cheer.

Slipping his wallet into his jacket pocket and zipping up his dull green anorak, he turned back to the cashier and said: "I wish this bloody snow would go away. I've had enough of it."

But the bespectacled moaner, far from being
a 21st Century Scrooge, seemed to sum up the thoughts of an entire town collectively recovering from a battering from the elements.

Arctic conditions gripped Reading on Monday soon after 1.30pm, with more than four inches of snow blanketing the town within 12 hours,
causing mass panic transport chaos.

As I frantically broke the news on the Reading Chronicle website the entire bus network ground to a halt at 3.55pm, lorries jackknifed on slippery motorway interchanges and Royal Berkshire Hospital nurses and doctors were stranded at work. Abandoned cars littered dual carriageways and hillsides as motorists fled, ambulances struggled to reach pregnant women trapped in their homes and the sheer weight of snow snapped electricity cables causing black-outs in outlying villages.

With all major roads gridlocked, motorists trapped for up to 14 hours in their vehicles, finally threw in the towel and bedded down in churches, service stations and even supermarkets.

My housemate's text sent through to our BT landline summed it up: "It's - like - the - Day Aft-er - To-morr-ow - out - here," the robotic voice proclaimed appocolyptically. "I'm - ditch-ing - the car - and walk-ing - home."

Recycling bottles, West Reading (18.12.09) © Aries the Dreamer

So after years of Dreaming of a White Christmas, it was finally here. Yet the heaviest snowfall in the area for 26 years seemed to resemble hell on earth rather than a seasonal blessing.

So why the misery? Politicians instantly slammed Reading Borough Council for failing to forsee the disaster, with Reading East Conservative MP Rob Wilson accusing the authority of being "woefully underprepared".

Council chiefs argued they had previously gritted the roads but blamed large businesses for letting staff leave work early - clogging up the roads already bursting with Christmas shoppers - before gritting crews could get to work again.

Arguments aside, there are so many reasons why the Victorian postcard image of snow-swept festive season doesn't wash well in the 21st Century as our lives have changed so much in the past
120 years.

Christmas is, of course, a religious festival but it's traditionally a time of family and friends re-uniting to spend quality time together. In 1889 this would mean a short walk across blizzard swept fields in a pair of galoshes. But in today's mobile society, people are more spread out, meaning an over reliance on the motor car, the railways, and even air travel - transport networks which struggle to cope with adverse weather because they have been developed in a relatively snow-free climate.

Meanwhile, the dominance of car travel means major shops and supermarkets are further away from our homes making them treacherous to reach in poor weather. While I abhor the commercialisation of the festive season - Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without food and presents.

So as I raced down the M4, A34 and A303 I was glad to see the white stuff melting and thinning out until all I saw were miserable rain swept fields - at least I was on the move.

Sure Scandinavia, Canada, USA and Eastern Europe do a better job preparing themselves for heavy snowfall - but they are used to it. Britain could spend money bolstering their infrastructure but it would be millions down the drain if the snow storms failed to return for another two decades.

The recession is hardly the right time to stock-pile tonnes of salt in newly built warehouses when there are more pressing needs. Consider the weather an act of nature - one that is thankfully over.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Channel 4 Dinosaurs?

THIS looks like the kind of movie which would have kids grinning at the prospect of guts and gore or screaming in fright and ducking behind the sofa.

The 1993 "Official Video of Dinosaurs" features 3D computer graphics and live action of the most fearsome creatures ever to walk the earth.

The Revelation Film Production, which I plucked from the vaults yesterday, was released in partnership with the Natural History Museum and billed as "the finest Dinosaur video for 65 million years."

Viewers could step back in time to walk alongside T-Rex and co by popping on a pair of futuristic shades with cardboard frames and red and blue filters.

So imagine my surprise to discover Channel 4 3D Week - a series of shows offering mind blowing footage never seen on TV thanks to - yep, you guessed it - a pair of 'futuristic' shades with cardboard frames and red and blue filters - available free from Sainsbury's.

But as I settled down to watch (minus the specs because my local store had run out) de ja vu struck as I remembered BBC1 had shot a 3D episode of EastEnders for Children in Need, also in 1993.

Furthermore, as the night wore on "The Queen In 3D" programme revealed the first ever film of this kind was "The Royal Review" shot at the 1953 Coronation and intended for cinema viewing.

Yet despite a 56 year history, techno dweebs are drooling at the prospect of Sky's high definition 3D system, previewed at August's Edinburgh Festival 2009, which hits customers' screens next year - if they own an HD box or compatible TV.

So why, after more than half a century and the invention of the cassette tape, compact disk, internet and, er - the Tamagotchi - is 3D vision being hailed as a brave new world of entertainment? If it was that groundbreaking the first time, surely it should be part of everyday life by now - or like a couple of examples listed above - old fashioned and rendered obsolete?

Admittedly I didn't have the specs, but I've heard from friends the Channel 4 shows were disorientating and nauseating - tacky at best. 3D TV sounds like a good idea, but really, the only thing it has going for it is novelty, which wears off, until everyone forgets and you can bring it back again in a roaring fanfare.

"The Royal Review" was never seen and left to gather dust in a British Film Institute stock room, despite showing colour footage of one the 20th Century's most magnificent celebrations.

The flagship EastEnders episode attracted 13 million viewers, but despite 16 years of punch-ups in the Queen Vic, no fan has ever recalled cowering behind a cushion as a projected pint glass flies out of the screen and across their living room - unless someone has spiked their TV dinner.

Meanwhile "The Official Video of Dinosaurs"? Sure it sounds cool - but if I can't remember watching it and the glasses are lost it can't have been that hard hitting. But of course, I'm running out of time to find out as VHS is almost obsolete - just like T-Rex.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Short Circuit

IT has been a while - 2009 has been a lean year for Aries the Dreamer - but with a flick of the switch it's back to business.

This is the first post in 11 months - a poor show - but there's been cutbacks. Less time for sleeping, eating, socialising, and writing. An erosion of creativity, inspiration, focus and sanity.

An accelerating cycle of work, work and more work, as the big hand sweeps across the clock's spinning circular surface like a ticking time bomb or a gilt edged guillotine.

There's been sleepless nights, scant leftovers, microwaves and takeaways, plus flaky friendships, frayed edges and time at the bar. The days, weeks and months have flown by.

But, as if submerging from a heavy hibernation, battling swollen lids, pounding temples, tired muscles and stuffy sinuses - I am back on back on track.

Leaner is meaner, and in these challenging times Aries is breaking it down, mixing it up and packaging it into byte-sized pieces - short, sharp and to the point.

With a striking new look less is more and more is less.

So let's get to dreaming...

Monday, 12 January 2009

A Brave New World

SOMETHING spooky is happening in TV world, as news channels churn out credit crunching headlines, drama shows depict social breakdown and the end of the world as we know it.

Spurred on by dystopian movies such as Children of Men and 28 Days Later, apocalyptic programme makers have jumped on the bandwagon to offer a glimpse of humanity’s bleak future.

If the story-lines of two recent television series are anything to go by, it won’t be pretty, and judging at these poor attempts at recreating hard hitting films as budget drama series – you might want to end it now to avoid the day after tomorrow.

Surviors - BBC1 - (The Drama Strain)

Britain’s population perishes after a mystery virus ravages the globe, leaving only a group of amateur actors and a wine drinking naturist.

The group, featuring Abby Grant, a middle-aged mother in search of her son Peter, and strong silent type Greg Preston aka: Jonson from Peepshow, face a world without electricity, clean running water or law and order.

The pair, who form an unlikely extended family, hole up in a country cottage and battle for food and supplies with a bunch of grotty pikies led by ‘dangerous’ Dexter a snarling pantomime villain slinging a shotgun.

Meanwhile, a Government minister, with the charisma of Alistair Darling on Valium, has set up an isolated bunker community, acting as a kibbutz where everyone has a part to play and trespassers will be prosecuted.

Likely Outcome: Faced in the nightmare situation of a never ending sitcom - the virus turns on itself.

Dead Set – Channel 4 - (Dawn of the Dunces)

Reality television contestants leave the Big Brother house to discover a terrible wasteland patrolled by bloodthirsty zombies.

“Does this mean we aren’t on TV anymore?” asks a dumb blonde as she watches mindless creatures chomping on the carcasses of their compatriots.

Whilst several house mates argue with a cross dressing Asian pretty-boy about whether or not to move an overweight woman who is “in shock”, three others leg it to a supermarket where they are confronted by two police men with the mental age of a couple of four year old boys.

Meanwhile, the show’s producer, who is trapped in an office, gobbles finger food, guzzles champagne and pisses in the corner, before collapsing on the floor in drunken stupor.

Likely Outcome: The zombies couldn’t possibly last 28 days because they’d run out of brains to feed on.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

"Hallelujah" for Saturday night TV?

FORGET the G&T, make a cup of tea, swap your Carlsberg for a cardigan, party choons make party goons, don't be a Red Bull glutton, just push that red button.

Yes, staying in is the new going out and with temperatures plummeting and the credit crunch tightening its jaws Saturday night television is booming.

A few months ago I would have rather walked over hot coles (I mean coals) but due to lack of money, lack of energy and general winter blues I popped over to a friend's house to settle down with a stack of blankets,a glass of red wine and a mammoth cheese platter to watch ITV's X-Factor final.

The show, which was avidly watched by more than 13.2m viewers, climaxed in an epic duel between London-based boy-band JLS and 20-year-old crooner Alexandra Burke from Islingston.

Both acts performed covers of the Leonard Cohen's single "Hallelujah", a classic, heart rending tune, also imortalised by the revered folk singer Jeff Buckley. Alexandra was victorious.

But although I got home relatively sober without having to pay through the nose for over priced drinks, costly cabs and crap Chinese takeaways, I still felt as if I'd been ripped off...

Ripped off! Well imagine how poor old Leonard felt? I'm sure the American idol (no pun intended) would have felt shocked that he spent hours slaving over tear jerking chords and deep religious lyrics, only to hear his work belted out by an emotionally incontinent R'n'B diva all these years later.

To be fair, Burke has a great voice, and judging on the success of the Buckley version, covers aren't always a no-no. But if the judges and programmers knew anything remotely about music they would have steered clear of using such an iconic track to round off a tacky talent show.

Here's a couple of comparisons:

- If Alexandra Burke's cover of "Hallelujah was a film, it would never have been released in the UK.

- If Alexandra Burke's cover of "Hallelujah" was a video game, middle class parents would be lobbying for it to be banned - screaming that it would ruin the lives of their already retarded children.

- If "Hallelujah" was a third-world country and Alexandra Burke was a crack-pot dictator, the free world would be calling for pre-emptive air-strikes and mobilising tanks on the borders at dawn.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Lay off 'Ebooe'

FOOTBALL fans are becoming as misguided as the over-paid players they idolise - or not in the case of Emmanuel Eboue.

Arsenal FC supporters unsportingly heckled and booed the defender after he made a catalogue of errors in their 1-0 win against Wigan Athletic last Saturday.

In the game’s final frantic minutes, the 25-year-old, who had come on as a substitute for injured winger Samir Nasri, foolishly blocked his own player, gifting his northern opponents a glorious chance to equalise.

As a barrage of abuse rang out from the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, manager Arsene Wenger hauled Eboue off the field to be replaced by Michael Silvestre.

Those fans should hang their heads in shame although Arsenal have been crap this season, booing your team is disgraceful –especially when they are leading (for a change).

Yet it seems to be coming all too common these days, as the spiralling costs of tickets, wages and transfers leads to a clamour for success. In the 1980s, footie fanatics were notorious for sinking pints of lager, bellowing abuse, and punching people in the face. But at least they backed their own teams.

Ok, players who are paid sky high wages and fail to perform should expect stick, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game, and games are all about sportsmanship and camaraderie.

After the match, Wenger had said of the right-back (yes right-back Arsene), who had just returned from a six week injury: “He has to come off as he had lost a lot of confidence - he would have been even more unhappy had he stayed on, given the ball away and cost us a goal."

Well, let’s talk about “confidence” shall we? Eboue came out of nowhere in 2006, a flying wing-back renown for speed, stamina and tough tackling.

True, he’s a fine athlete but his passing is not great, he can’t cross for shit and his shooting is erratic - hence he's only scored one measly Premiership goal.

Why then does Wenger insist on playing him on the wing, or in the centre of the park?
How “confident” is anyone going to be if they are placed in a position which exposes their weaknesses rather than their strengths?

Eboue is an unfair scapegoat. The team need an effective midfielder. Maybe his boss should think about hiring reinforcements, before he himself is booed from the stands – although I would find that deplorable.