Scottish Independence: turning away from the world

In under a month, our country could disappear. In some senses anyway. If Scotland votes on September 18th for independence, a big chunk of the United Kingdom is gone. While obviously it is a more important decision north of the border, the lack of interest here in the rest of the United Kingdom seems striking. Although we (rightly) don’t have a vote, the earthquake caused by Scottish independence would immediately ripple through every aspect of national life. There would be months spent debating: issues such as currency, border control, the national debt, the army, membership of international agreements and organisations would need to be sorted out. Continue reading

Scottish Independence Referendum and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This weekend I went to my first and possibly Britain’s last Fringe Festival. With the independence referendum (or #indyref in the latest of the events to be titled ‘the first ___ on Twitter’) next month and Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games just finishing as the Fringe kicked off, nationalist fervour was all around in Scotland’s most prominent city. Of course a few days after there was the televised between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond. Continue reading

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

This article appeared in the Palatinate here.

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)

A version of this article appeared on The Bubble, here

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 Eagle.

Continue 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