24 November 2010

The war on motorists

As Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn would no doubt tell you, speed cameras are part of the war on motorists, a cynical money-making scheme completely unrelated to road safety. So any reports saying the opposite must come from some tree-hugging, sandal-wearing cyclists, yes?

I'm not sure what the RAC Foundation does, but it's just published a report saying in effect that speed cameras save around 800 lives a year, and don't raise a lot of revenue for central or local government. But what do they know? And why should we take the word of an emeritus professor of transport studies?

Fellow loonies the AA have said much the same thing.

With supposed friends ganging up like this, who's going to support the beleaguered motorists? The Daily Mail, of course. I've done the research so you don't have to. It has quite rightly completely ignored these two reports, once again refusing to cloud the pure waters of prejudice with the bile of information.

23 November 2010

Charl'n 1 Brizzle Rovers 1

I hate it when I do consecutive posts about Charlton. Although I'm grateful for the fact that my Charlton posts attract other addicks to the other posts, this isn't a football blog. It's just that I don't do many other interesting things to blog about. If I had an Old Vic season ticket, this blog would be full of play reviews. Actually, that'd probably alienate more people, especially if the reviews were about Brecht. But during the non-summer months Charlton is a regular feature in my life and so it turns up here with dull regularity.

An odd game tonight. Bristol Rovers were really poor, lacking skill, enterprise or industry. So why did they manage to take the lead? We could blame their brilliant goalkeeper, but goalkeepers' raison d'etre is to be brilliant. Rob Elliot's done the same job for Charlton often enough. The referee? Useless, naturally, but I'd have to say he was even-handed in his uselessness. The usual suspect is Charlton's defence, and they're about as innocent as  O J Simpson.

But also tiredness, I think. In the second half Charlton looked lacklustre. They just weren't trying. Some of the ennui that we saw against Barnet was there, but couldn't be blamed on the flat atmosphere. Rovers' goal (and maybe Akpo Sodje's arrival as a substitute) reinvigorated the team. A messy goal gave a result that was fair.

In the third division, and in two cup competitions, there are a lot of games. Even as a fan, I feel tired after three games in ten days. I hope the team has the day off tomorrow. That's what I'll be doing.

20 November 2010

Charlton 3 Yeovil 2

This, on the other hand, was a thoroughly enjoyable match, in spite of almost everything. Main problem was that Charlton weren't very good, while Yeovil were much better than anyone expected. Another appalling refereeing display could have ruined the match, with numerous dodgy decisions and a generally obstructive approach to any football, but in the end it probably turned the game in Charlton's favour.

Yeovil chose to attack the south end in the first half, and it soon was clear that they intended to press for an early goal. They were lively and fast, and didn't deserve to be behind after 10 minutes, when Johnnie Jackson scored. They weren't behind for long, scoring a horribly easy goal through a stationary Charlton defence. Therry Racon restored the lead with a well-taken shot before half time.

In the second half they again exerted more pressure. One of the ref's dodgy decisions gave Yeovil a free kick just outside the penalty area. It shouldn't have caused any trouble but Gary Doherty managed to score an own-goal.

Yeovil then were clearly in the ascendant until Christian Dailly was sent off. A hotly contested decision. Apparently the ref thought he had raised his elbow. I didn't see it, but it was on the far side of the pitch.

Reduced to 10, Charlton actually started playing with new enthusiasm, and on one of the attacks, Paul Huntington pulled down Akpo Sodje who was clear on goal. It was a clear red card and penalty, which Johnnie Jackson converted, making him the top-scorer. Although Yeovil never gave up, they had by now lost most of their early threat and Charlton saw the game out for a win that was all the more enjoyable for being so unexpected.

18 November 2010

The curse of a literal mind (2)

Our dear mayor, doing something sensible for once and not giving even more subsidy to riverbus services, has apparently said
There is a limit to the amount of taxpayers money that you can pour into the River Thames.
Only if you use coins, though.  Notes and cheques would surely wash away eventually.

16 November 2010

Charlton 1 Unlucky Barnet 0

Really didn't enjoy this game. With the North Stand closed and a less than 5000 crowd, there was a terrible atmosphere, and the small but noisy bunch of Barnet supporters won the battle of song.

And their team should have won the match. But for some wonderful saves from Rob Elliot, they would have.  A super goal from Kyel Reid turned out to be enough, but the second half was painful. This wasn't the same team that triumphed at Peterborough, and that's my comfort: they didn't fit together well, that's all, and Saturday's team against Yeovil will be the team that was the team.

Meanwhile tonight, the headline on BBC Football is "Scotland overpower Faroe Islands". Is that really the extent of Scotland's ambitions these days?

13 November 2010

The curse of a literal mind

It's probably a very mild form of autism, but I have a very literal mind. This picture, from an Aldi mail-out, causes me almost physical pain. I suppose this is what people with perfect pitch feel when they hear a note played slightly flat, or what everyone feels when they watch the Xfactor.

So when the Guardian says today that "Lionel Blue started life as a bitter, angry, Marxist atheist" I can't help thinking he was a very precocious baby.

And in another story, about a Hindu dairy farm, a photo caption says the farm's cows "retire from milk-making at 15 to concentrate on fertiliser production." I think I know what that means.

09 November 2010

Early morning evangelism

Every morning from 5 on Premier Christian Radio you can, if you're insomniac like I sometimes am, hear two hours of four of America's finest evangelical protestant preachers. You can learn some amazing things. Just this morning one of the preachers made the clear point that "there is no evidence that humans evolve into angels". He was arguing against "angelmania" - a growing body of belief in USA that angels are everywhere, acting on our behalf. It was good to know that there are some beliefs that are too crazy for him to believe. Of course, he means something special by "evidence" - he means there is no biblical authority for this view. All these guys generally believe that the bible is the word of God, to be understood literally.

Or do they? Another of the preachers, Pastor Chuck, fielded a listener's enquiry. In Ecclesiastes it says the earth will endure forever, whereas somewhere in the New Testament it's clearly stated that God will create a new earth and heaven. Which one is true? Pastor Chuck audibly wriggled, and said that Ecclesiastes must be understood figuratively. Uh-oh. I foresee he might have trouble renewing his fundamentalist library ticket.

One unexpected effect of my early morning listening has been to conclude that Catholicism is prettier than Protestantism. Protestantism relies on two basic tenets: sola scriptura and sola fide. The first means that only scripture gives God's word (so any later prophets are false), and the second means that only faith can bring salvation. The first tenet runs into trouble when you find contradictions like Pastor Chuck's example. I don't deny that one of the statements might be meant to be understood figuratively, but who decides?

But it's the second tenet that's more problematic, and makes protestantism seem ugly. Catholicism, by contrast, stresses the value of good works, and so addresses people's relations with each other. These dawn-chorus preachers only address people's relations with God. So it's wrong to be gay, not because you're corrupting someone else but because you're betraying God's intention for you. Salvation depends just on your faith. Everyone is a sinner, no-one deserves grace, but a sincere faith wipes away the sin. Belief, for these protestants, is quite plainly a means to be saved, which actually comes to sound quite selfish. It's never suggested that belief should change your behaviour towards other people. There is no mention, ever, of charity, for example.

I can't see the point of a religion that doesn't attempt to make people act better towards each other. For all its faults, Catholicism seems much more concerned with this than the kind of Protestantism I hear these early mornings.