Thursday, April 26, 2007

I am a plastic bag

I am a plastic bag

No doubt a comment on the greed displayed by some ebayers profiting on the back of the non-profit "I'm not a carrier bag", an ingenious satirist is selling a "GENUINE 100% AUTHENTIC SAINSBURY'S CARRIER" on ebay.

Before I get the morally bankrupt 'profit at any cost' bunch on my back I'd just like to let them know - this kind of cashing in makes Baby Jesus cry.

So there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Try something new today, or perhaps not

not plastic
Sainsbury's, in an attempt to impress on us that they've come over all green and responsible, attached itself to the collaboration between and designer Anya Hindmarch which created the reusable "I'm not a plastic bag". The project was based on the premise that it can be stylish and fashionable to reuse bags and avoid using plastic carrier bags.

Normally, Anya Hindmarch bags can fetch hundreds of pounds, so when the "I'm not a plastic bag" was originally released for £5.00 a bag it sold out from in minutes, the massive web traffic generated also crashing their servers. Many of the £5.00 bags sold ended up on ebay changing hands for hundreds of pounds.

A second release of bags today at 8.00am at large Sainsbury's stores saw queueing outside stores up and down the country. Outside their Washington Galleries store, one couple had been waiting since 1.00am to be the first for two of the store's allocation of thirty bags. By about 7.30am fifty or so people had queued outside the Washington store, when tickets were given out to the first thirty people in the queue (I was number 14) to avoid jostling when tne store opened at 8.00am.

So when the store opened the lucky thirty ticket holders queued at the service desk to hand over their £5.00 notes for their reusable bags. In retail terms, the operation was very slick and professional. In terms of the "I'm not a plastic bag" project it was a lesson in idiocy. At the service desk, Sainsbury's management had set up one member of staff taking the money, and another packing the "I'm not a plastic bag" inside - yes, you guessed - a plastic carrier bag!

I was truly astounded. All these hours later I still feel the outrage. Despite their connection with the project, Sainsbury's didn't have a fucking clue what it was all about. When I loudly pointed out the rare irony to the store manager, who was so far smugly enjoying the whole episode, he looked at me like I was talking Martian, then he quickly disappeared from the scene.

Try something new? Why don't the witless bastards at Sainsbury's try thinking? That would be new.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Lies, damn lies and educational resources

South Tyneside Council leader Councillor Paul Waggott has decided to play the legacy card for the second Tyne Tunnel (thanks for the nod Curly) stating magniloquently that "a new generation now stands to benefit from the second Tyne Tunnel" in his support for new internet-based 'teaching materials' prepared by the North Tyneside Education Business Partnership.

This isn't the first time the North Tyneside Education Business Partnership and the Tyne Tunnel bods have got together to provide pro tunnel educational materials. Their previous stunt pretending to be an educational resource was known as 'Xingthetyne', which had a pro tunnel 2 bias of the like which would normally be considered unacceptable outside schools teaching Creationism as a science.

It's not surprising given that a lot of political reputation rests on the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority's pet project. Even the Lib Dem council in Newcastle turned two faced and gave the tunnel it's full support, despite what Lib Dem leaders said about road building not working. You could argue that such propaganda stinks of totalitarian control of our childrens' minds to meet political ends.

Of course road builders like the TWPTA would say we 'need' the tunnel, and would do their most to support their position. Further, the education departments in North and South Tyneside belong to councils which are both members of the TWPTA and support the second Tyne Tunnel so any lack of balance in the materials may not be so rigorously examined.

I haven't seen the new Key Stage 3 and 4 resources (you've got to register to access them) but with the travesty that was Xingthetyne you could ask why would any school want anything to do with the new Key Stage 3 and 4 materials from North Tyneside Education Business Partnership? It's a bit like fast food giants or tobacco manufacturers being allowed to distribute to schools 'educational resources' which mention their products.

I'm looking forward to the first bright student asking why we are building more road space when it's proven that building more roads doesn't reduce traffic? Or why we are encouraging more traffic when we are supposed to be reducing CO2 emissions?

Coun Waggott also tells us that "It is timely that young people in both boroughs understand why a second tunnel needs to be built". Why indeed? Let's see what the tunnel inquiry inspector said.

The Inspector who nodded the tunnel through was also bit vague on the benefits issue and despite his decision to favour the project go ahead (from made the following observations:

"the NTC (New Tyne Crossing) would substantially increase the number of journeys taken by private car"

"the NTC would not reduce journey lengths, but would increase them significantly"

"there's very little chance of better bus services"

"I see little to prevent the spare capacity realised being utilised by additional cars"

"a linear or corridor development of this sort can only deflect from the creation of sustainable communities"

"such locations [of employment opportunities opened up by the NTC] are less sustainable and unlikely to further the reality of sustainable communities"

I'll bet you'll not see these comments from the Inspector in the learning materials.

A borough near Newcastle

I've come to the conclusion that our borough has a really crappy name. South Tyneside. A boring mid Seventies bureaucratic name born out of a post socialist miasma designating more of a geographical position than an identity. Just saying it, South Tyneside, and you're stifling a yawn. I can see why our folk in the council have a hard time selling the area. The name is little more than a soulless pin on a map instead of an icon to fire the imagination. South Tyneside doesn't say 'winner', it says 'well, whatever'.

It's so boring it often gets downgraded to an abbreviation. ST - even that conjures up a soporific image of a settee.

So perhaps here in South Tyneside we need a new name. Something that encompasses the three main towns of South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn. A proper name that sticks in people's minds. A name you'd be comfortable saying, 'I come from xxx', without having to add on the end almost apologetically, 'near Newcastle'.

I haven't thought of something that doesn't sound like a wanky car name, so a referendum is probably the way to go, but avoiding the likes of the ironic 'Spirit of the Tyne', where a black joke became the name of the Tyne ferry which was built in Portsmouth.

Better not tell the council though. If they get in on the game they'll be signing cheques to branding consultants before you can say 'Comedia'.

Edinburgh rocks

I love Edinburgh and really feel at home there. Like every other major city it has it's dark underbelly and fair share of nutters but there's also a canny optimism and confidence. Also there's a real concentration of great places to eat and drink. My favourite pub is probably the Halfway House in Fleshmarket Close and it's an example of one of those gems you find by accident. There's also places to find food you can take home, and not just the famous ones like Jenners and Valvona & Crolla.

If you're in the Edinburgh area, make your way to Portobello to visit butchers Findlay's of Portobello. Take along a cool bag as I can guarantee if you're a foodie you'll be impressed by their range of meats, along with their award-winning haggis. I've yet to taste a better haggis. They do a wide range of haggises and even a vegetarian version. Once you're meated out, cross the road to the small deli and café Kitchener's. Their coffees are great and are an excellent accompaniment to their cakes, which are made on the premises. Add to this a massive range of organic foods packed into the tiny shop area.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Taking the high road

I've returned from a few glorious days in Edinburgh and what struck me while I was there (apart from the great food and drink) was the huge amount of public debate there is about the May 3rd elections. Not just on the telly, but in the pubs and cafés. Even the graffiti shows a spirit of engagement in the elections that we haven't got here in South Tyneside. I know the Scottish are voting in both Scottish Parliament and local council elections, but there's a real anticipation of change in Scotland, not just for the SNP, but also for the Scottish Green Party. Viewing the visit of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to Scotland from the Scottish perspective, it was clear that Labour are on the defence, with the Lib Dems and Conservatives definitely sidelined by the media.

Back in South Shields, I reviewed the past few days' papers and came crashing back to the reality of politics on planet South Tyneside. I found more of the same old bollocks we've become accustomed to here - councillor photo ops or election leaflets telling us how bad the other lot are. I know councillors need to tell us how great they are so folk know they're doing something sometimes, but how do we inject life back into politics (is it principle that's missing?) and get the Scottish electoral spirit here?