The Loneliest Jukebox

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Russian Royals

For a disturbing 20 per cent of my working life I have been passing the Royals Business Park on the way to work, and for most of that time it has been empty. "That's obscene", as an ex-girlfriend used to say. Why is the Royals like an astronomy student at Imperial College? Because it's taking up space in London.

In keeping with this spirit, the news page on the Royals' website does not appear to have been updated since 2004, and Ken Livingstone is still mayor there.

In fairness to this glass tomb of regeneration, it has seen a bit of activity in the last few months. Last night the Spooks season finale aired, and I finally got to see what the Royals Business Park has been used for. The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) houses its UK death squad there.

Another mystery solved then.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

When junk food + social science = junk social science

Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. Despite the geographical proximity, union-busting Epping Forest College is NOT a good neighbour.

Across the way, the war on fried chicken continues. No casualty figures yet, but the latest wheeze is a blatant piece of advocacy research (of the sort carried out by Barnardos that my colleague Brendan O'Neill exposed recently). The "hot food takeaways in Waltham Forest" questionnaire has two neutral questions about the role of the council in planning applications. Then come three kickers: Do you agree or disagree that planning applications for hot food takeaway shops in Waltham Forest should be managed to:

  • resist proposals that would cause an unacceptable risk of crime and antisocial behaviour?

  • ensure that they don't have an unacceptable impact on road safety?

  • ensure that they have good systems in place to deal with smells and waste?

In other words, three out of five questions invite respondents to side with the council in expanding its planning permission powers around a dietary social policy objective. Who is going to answer in ways that encourage more crime, traffic collisions and filth in the streets? Setting up the questionnaire this way means that the "research" can be used to rubber stamp an existing decision -- expressed in council leader Clyde Loakes' "war on fried chicken" that was declared well before the December closing date for survey returns.

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Update from Torbay Magistrates' Court

Back in the day, happy slapping involved filming common assaults with cameraphones. Now it seems a common assault qualifies as a happy slap, not the other way around. Thus a "happy-slapping pensioner was told yesterday to 'count to ten' before lashing out again" (Metro, 4 December 2008, p.17). He didn't film his antics.

If we can't dump the happy slapping label, at least let's use it accurately.

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