The Secret Life of Students – a review of the first episode

The Secret Life of Students follows a whole host of reality shows watching teenagers get pissed and get with each other. The twist of this show is that the audience can see what the protagonists are tweeting, texting and putting on Facebook. On the surface this looks rather gimmicky. However, this new tool does serve a purpose.  We used to think of social media as separate from ‘real’ life, but now it is hard to see the distinction between our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ social life, because social media is so integrated into things we do. People use Facebook, Twitter and so to discuss the ‘real’, non-virtual world, yet increasing we also talk about the virtual world in the real world, i.e. “Did you see that photo she uploaded?” “Did you get his snapchat?” This show reflects that. Continue reading


Champions League: Barcelona and Bayern Munich are already champions

Form is temporary, class is permanent. It’s one of the most popular football clichés, used to distinguish between short-term fluctuations in performance and underlying skill which affects long-term output. It’s a term normally applied to individual players, but it also applies to clubs, especially in cup competitions where dreams are made and destroyed (apologies, clichés are so entrenched in football once you start speaking about the subject it’s hard to avoid them) over 90 minutes.

With this in mind, I’d like to propose a way to measure the success of top European teams, based simply upon performance in the Champions League over five year periods (already explained here and here). Here’s how it works: Continue reading


the Premiership falls behind

Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid against Gare...

La Liga has overtaken the Premiership (Photo credit: Wikipedia) CC Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license

I have explained a simple method of comparing the success of top European teams: points are given to clubs that reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League, with the number of points depending on which round of the Champions League they reach. This can also be applied to leagues to work out which European leagues are the strongest (or at least have the strongest top sides) by adding up the amount of points all the clubs from a particular league get. Continue reading


Mercurial reactions as ever to the Vague Prize

English: The Arctic Monkeys.

The Arctic Monkeys (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (CC Attribution 2.0 license)











This year, as normal, the make-up of the Mercury Prize shortlist has been scrutinised and criticised by music fans. The biggest name on the list is undoubtedly the Arctic Monkeys with new album AM, released just two days before the announcement of the shortlist. It’s a strong, coherent new direction for the Sheffield boys. The band won in 2006 with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and were shortlisted the following year for Favourite Worst Nightmare. Laura Marling is also a Mercury old hand, nominated for the third time this year, and hoping for third time lucky, with Once I Was an EagleContinue reading


Syrian intervention

As yesterday’s parliamentary intrigue developed, I became more and more convinced that the eventual outcome of the vote was the right one. On this issue, the split in not right-left, and not entirely internationalist-isloationalist. I found myself closer, bizarrely, to some of those who favoured military invention to many of those vehemently opposed. Continue reading


pardon my French

Aurélie Filippetti

Aurélie Filippetti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was published on Shifting Grounds here

The other day French Minister for Culture, Aurélie Filippetti, faced embarrassment after a misspelt tweet on her official account. A corrected tweet was posted and Filippetti blamed an aide. Fairly unremarkable news: evidence perhaps of the silly season in France. Except in France language is a sensitive topic and Filippetti’s position means she is in charge of language policy. Her mistake is symbolic of perceived wider threats to le français. Continue reading


The 1% may be worth it, but we deserve some of it back

Fraser Nelson is one of the best right-wing commentators in this country, because what he says is often non-conventional and even in his most objectionable pieces is often hard not to concede he has a point. He recently penned something for the Telegraph claiming the top 1%, an expression that has entered mainstream political discourse via the Occupy movement, deserve their wealth. Talking about the widening gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest, he says:

“If this were just an issue of plunder and greed, then it could easily have been stopped… But the shareholder revolution failed because it ran up against a simple and depressing fact: by and large, the much-maligned 1 per cent are, actually, worth it. We may hate the fact, but they do – on the whole – seem to generate even more money than they’re paid.”

Continue reading


The importance of London 2012

Mo Farah

Did Mo Farah change our attitudes? (Photo credit: King….) (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/)

One of the least satisfying things can be listening to people describe national identities. People come up with stereotypes and vague statements that could be applied to any country. However, the process of national soul-searching is not always fruitless when done properly. What I think is under-appreciated is the extent to which the Olympic and Paralympic Games reflected and perhaps defined Britishness. Or at least Britishness in the 21st Century, post-9/11, post-recession, post-New Labour, post-everything-that-has-happened-before. It brought together at least a sizable chunk of the population in a ‘shared experience’ of watching and supporting during the Games, and a far larger chunk in a ‘shared experience’ of simply being aware of and being affected by the Games taking place in their home country. Furthermore, it was simultaneously a show by us for us, and by us for the rest of the world. Continue reading


The Falklands: a perennial debate

1982 Argentine minefield at Port William, Falk...

1982 Argentine minefield at Port William, Falkland Islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote this for the Palatinate back in January (link is here) but never published it on here. 

Last year I spent a month in Argentina. As a Briton, I was a bit anxious about going into a country where tensions over The Falkland Islands are running high, particularly after seeing warnings about protests on the Foreign Office website. Continue reading


Thatcher and the enemy without

'Kidnapping' - a reference to the military dictatorship in Córdoba

‘Kidnapping’ – a reference to the military dictatorship in Córdoba

This article was for Shifting Grounds. The link is here.

“One shouldn’t be happy about the death of anyone, but this woman [Margaret Thatcher] did a lot of harm to us… Therefore I imagine she should be burning in the greatest hell”

These weren’t the words of an ex-miner or Irish republican, but of Carlos Alberto López, an Argentine army corporal seriously injured during the Falklands war. Since 1979 when she came into office, few leaders have had as much of a global impact as Margaret Thatcher. She is remembered in America for her relationship with Reagan; in ex-Soviet countries for her help in the fall of communism; in Western European countries for her rocky relationship with the European Community; in South Africa for opposing sanctions on the apartheid regime; and in Chile for supporting Pinochet. The reason your average Argentinean will know about the greengrocerer’s daughter from Grantham is the Falklands conflict. It is safe to say la Dama de Hierro is not remembered too fondly: as columnist Federico Pinedo in La Nación put it “No-one can love her less than us.” Continue reading


Venezuela’s inescapable past and predictable future

Português: Brasília - O chanceler da Venezuela...

The probable next President of Venezuela (Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (CC Attribution 2.5 license)

This article appeared on Shifting Grounds (here) and the Palatinate website (here)

Venezuelan presidential elections will take place on April 14, the first in almost 20 years not to feature Hugo Chávez. Such is what the Economist calls Latin Americans’ “necrophiliac streak”, the next leader will be seen in the context of Chávez, just as Chávez can usefully be seen in the context of those before him. Venezuela’s political past is one of recurrent themes, and there is little to suggest these themes will disappear.

Continue reading


Hugo Chávez: an evaluation

Hugo Chávez, President since 1999.

Hugo Chávez, President 1999-2013. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) CC Attribution 2.5 license

Hugo Chávez was one of the most polarising leaders of modern times, both nationally and internationally. He was a man of apparent contradictions: a democratically elected caudillo and a militaristic, patriotic socialist. The truth about who Chávez was and what he did lies in the grey area.

Continue reading


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