Nov 142013
 

By Bob Smith.

Union Bridge & Terrace 1900 flat

In een o Scotia’s bonniest cities
Live fowk fae fair git on yer titties
Wintin the toon tae chynge it’s wyes
Wi ugly biggins tae be the prize
.
Leuk at oor glorious granite face
Fou o character an fou o grace
Fin the sun shines on the steen
Ye ken yer bidin in Aiberdeen
.
Union Street biggins they jist micht
Be in great need o a gweed dicht
Tae reveal the silvery granite glint
Aat generations o fowk hiv kent
.
Bonnie parks an gairdens are aa aroon
There’s een in the cinter o the toon
Bit a local mannie fa his lots o cash
Wid Union Terrace Gairdens like tae trash
The toon it staans twixt Don an Dee
Twa rivers fa flow tae the sea
Throwe kwintraside they pass first
Syne feed the grey north sea’s thirst
.
A toon full o majestic spires
A city aat his some deniers
An wint the toon mair tae be
Like Houston or New York maybe
.
Bit Aiberdeen needs tae be Aiberdeen
Wi the couthiest fowk ye’ve ivver seen
Faa in their toonie tak great pride
An winna be takken fer a ride
.
So Widdie, Muse an Stewartie Milne
Tho’ fowk micht nae wish ye ill
Jist bugger aff an leave things be
In the bonnie toon twixt Don an Dee

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Aug 232013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

I had a break last week, and spent a great deal of time on GISHWHESH (greatest international scavenger hunt the world has ever seen).  This is the annual international scavenger hunt / charity / random acts of kindness event.

There will be a television programme eventually, after judges and show host Misha Collins pour through thousands of homemade videos and photographs, created by people all over the world.
Thanks very much to everyone on my team and who helped me here in Aberdeen. Pensioners and veterans were helped by thousands of GISHWHESH participants, who also had fun engaging in crazy (harmless) stunts.

If you saw a giant asparagus spear being thrown as if it were a caber, then that would have been down to us.

Many thanks to Under the Hammer, North Silver Street, for having me and Neale Bothwell hang some of our recent paintings; and thanks to Mrs B for some amazing canapés.  The show is up for another fortnight in case you’re interested.

After GISHWESH I went to BrewDog this Monday, expecting a quiet drink and to do some writing.  However, brewers from  Oskar’s in Denver, Colorado were being celebrated and the place was packed.  It was nice to meet the brewers; BrewDog often have guest beers, and invite the brewers over to visit.

Oskar’s have a particularly nice, varied range on offer in BrewDog; I recommend their port-barrel brew.  Nice people, great beers, wonderful conversations.  And all the best to Kenny in your studies.

Anyway, I was astonished to see an Evening Express headline on the 19th “Crime Doesn’t Pay – NE Crook Still to cough up £1 million.” 

Naturally my first thought was that the Evening Express had turned coat on its friend Stewart Milne.  It turns out they were referring to some  crook that owes the council less money.

It seems a collection of dodgy master criminals from fraudsters to illegal fishermen owe lots of money, and we may try and collect it.  Hopefully it will take less time and taxpayer money to get money from them than it will from Stewart Milne.

It’s quite a coincidence that this recent pro granite web puffery that’s blown Syria, Egypt and other issues off the P&J’s lead pages has also stopped the AJL press from saying much about Stewart Milne.  I guess, “millionaire builder and ACSEF member finally forced to pay City back for dodgy land deal”, is not as important as, “billionaire still wants granite web and is throwing a tantrum yet again”.

Since the P&J don’t have enough space to devote to Stew, I’ll be happy to step in to support them, and tell you all about it.

Time for some definitions.

Master Thief: (compound English noun) someone with plans to steal item(s) of value, often through fraud, confidence trickery, smooth talking, persuasion

He might not have been much good as a joiner, but our very own Stewart Milne nearly made the Master Thief Hall of Fame.  If you’ve forgotten, the old city council regime decided it would be wonderful to sell him land in Westhill for a fraction of the value, then sit back and get a share of the sale proceeds when the land was either developed or sold on for a vast profit.

What were they thinking?’”, an unkind soul might wonder.

I’m sure it made perfectly good sense not to sell the land on the open market, getting a profit from a fair sale price.  Instead, our canny then government decided to sell this land to Stew when he and his companies were winning bids for work from the city, by putting in lower bids than any other competitor could match.

The city for some reason fought very hard to reveal the property deals

What Stew did next was brilliant.  He sold the land all right – for a loss – from one arm of his empire to the other. Despite his dragging the city (and thus the happy taxpayer) through to the highest court in the land, he’s still a lovable rogue, and we continue to give  him money for houses, and pay to go see AFC play.

If you wish to refresh your mind on the details, this may help  http://aberdeenvoice.com/2011/12/foi-prevails-the-quest-for-milne-property-deals/.  The city for some reason fought very hard to reveal the property deals; I can’t think why.

It’s almost as if he were being handed a profitable land deal with no one else being considered for it when at the same time that profit could provide a handy offset for the low bid work.  It would be interesting to go back and look at the cost over-runs if any for the work he had been awarded.  When I get a moment, I just might do that.

By the way, around this time, Audit Scotland couldn’t figure out whether Aberdeen City Council was incompetent – or something worse.  It seems to be true that if you steal something small you go to jail; if you steal something big you get away with it.

Some heartless people are saying he should be thrown out of ACSEF.  Surely though, being conniving, money-hungry, duplicitous and having no respect for taxpayer money are prerequisites for ACSEF membership, not reasons to be expelled from this respected quango.  Stew doesn’t have to cough up until the end of this year; doubtless he will want to pay sooner.

Master Plan: (Compound English Noun) An overriding scheme.

When not stealing money from us, Stewart Milne has devoted his time to ACSEF, and to going to the press last week to tell Aberdeen City it needs a masterplan.  He wasn’t trying to deflect attention away from his financial activities, I’m sure.

Here’s to seeing the details of the Milne Masterplan

Presumably Milne’s master plan will involve renovating existing buildings, bringing brownfield sites back into use, and regenerating empty, urban spaces.  His most recent contribution to a master plan looks to some like urban sprawl.  His homes near the Cove Roundabout are the most perfect family dwellings you can imagine.

The air quality at rush hour may play havoc with junior’s asthma, but that’s just a small price to pay to live in the lap of luxury.  Just don’t let the cat out of the front yard, don’t let junior fly his kite close to the electricity substation or the dual carriage way, and for heaven’s sake don’t come home in the dark or tipsy.  For all the houses look eerily similar, and you could wind up in the wrong one.

Ah, it all made so much more sense when he thought he’d pave over Loirston Loch.

Here’s to seeing the details of the Milne Masterplan.  I can hardly wait.

Mastermind: (noun) A gifted person who supplies the strategy for a project or job.

Step forward Mr S McGee, recently arrested here in the Deen.  During the course of his discussion with the police, he decided it would be a great idea to spit blood at them.  Strangely, this plan didn’t endear the police to him.  Oh well, I guess you can’t always guess what’s the right way to behave.

Masterpiece: (noun) An outstanding work of art of great skill and quality.

You will be as glad as I am that all the renaissance of interest the P&J has for the Granite Web means we can see some artwork which is truly iconic, vibrant, dynamic, connected, etc. etc. fit for a smart successful Scotland.  Yes, those beloved drawings of the Granite Web in its acid tones are back.

The giant floating boy hovering over the outsized flowers; the woman reclining at a 45 degree angle on the wedge of grass-topped concrete floating over the outdoor stage; the bosque; the whole lot is back.  £5 says there will be another picture or two in tomorrow’s P&J.

I am sure the granite web would have looked exactly like the lovely drawings.  No graffiti, no litter, no drunks (which apparently come from the park and fill the high street in the hundreds when it’s Saturday night; where else would these people come from?), no one throwing  things from the apex of the daring web.

Then again, the drawings don’t show us the minor details.

No means of ventilating the underground car park, no explanation as to how trees will grow in shallow soil over the underground car park, no hint of any safety features over the web or protecting the outdoor stage (my favourite; I was so hoping to hear a Beautiful South cover band in February while I sat in the seats, surrounded by hundreds of Aberdonians and high-spending tourists ).

No – that’s what’s best about these masterworks – they leave the little details like those to the imagination.

And there we leave it for now; I have just a little bit of work to do regarding that nice Mr Trump and his course.  I wonder – do you think he’d consider putting a granite web over his MacLeod course?  I’m sure it would look as elegantly classic as anything else built there so far.

Next week – more definitions, and if the P&J print more pro-web news, I’ll happily stay on the bandwagon as long as they do.

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Jul 122013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

With the warmer weather, all sorts of undesirables are on the move in our area.  Recently these dodgy types somehow infiltrated the otherwise inaccessible Union Terrace Gardens, and havoc reigns.  Some of these people are so out of their heads on Ribena and Cola (‘coke’ to give it its slang term), that they have taken to lying down on blankets for hours, enjoying what they call ‘grass’ and ‘sun’.

Some of them are barely dressed, wearing shorts and sleeveless tops.  The sooner we get a web under construction, the sooner these miscreants will leave.

Thankfully, just as King Arthur will return to the people one day, Kate Dean has resurfaced.  Her triumphant return to the public eye surely presages her return to public life. 

The Press & Journal gave her a cover photo, and several pages to admonish us for not having the web of granite.  She is quite right in saying we will remember where we were on the day the web died.

As to me, I was in the city council chambers, listening to the likes of Jennifer Craw baying like wounded banshees when the web was kicked into the long grass.  Then I accompanied several other granite web refusnik  nimby-types, and celebrated with a few beers.  Where were you when Kennedy, Elvis and the City Gardens Project died?  If it’s not too emotionally distressing to share your Web memories, please do write in.

There was also a striking photo of Kate petting a cat, which in no way put me in mind of Ian Fleming’s Blofeld character.  Kate tells us she is now working for/with Remploy.  Many Remploy factories are set to close across the country; perhaps this is the time for her to campaign to help those with special needs and abilities to fight for their support services…

After months of research and interviews covering all sides of the Menie Estate saga, the BBC’s Panorama aired on Monday this week.  I joined a dozen or so people in a local pub to watch the programme’s first airing together.

Personally, I was very disappointed.  I’ve spent most of the past 5 months waiting for this programme, wondering what Sarah Malone Bates would be wearing on camera, and how her rapier-like wit would deal with reporter John Sweeney’s questions.  Alas!  I don’t think we got to see her at all!

What’s the point of being the Vice President if you don’t get to be on telly?  I wonder if the catch phrase ‘You’re Fired!’ ever enter her mind when she thinks of her TV star boss?

We can all learn a few public relations tips from his Panorama performance

First, it was awfully good of The Donald and his Mini Me to find time to talk to the Beeb, in between trips to Africa to kill leopards and dangerous elephants, hacking bits off  the carcases for lovely trophies.  I’m not the only girl to have swooned at the footage of the Trump clan braving the jungle to kill critters.  A woman sitting next to me turned very pale at the images of the dead things and severed tails in the Panorama clip; it must have been because the guys were so macho.

We can all learn a few public relations tips from his Panorama performance.  In case you missed it on Monday, here’s a handy link for future viewing:-  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b036yklf/Panorama_The_Trouble_with_Trump/  Inevitably, this week’s definitions are connected to the show.

Bromance: (modern English) Term used to describe a close friendship between two men.

Alex and Donald; Donald and Alex.  They met, they started a transatlantic bromance over lobster, oysters, champagne and planning permission.

North East Scotland was going to get 7,000 jobs (Trump says in the interview with John Sweeney) and a billion pound golf and housing complex.  In exchange Salmond was going to over-ride environmental protection and protocol.  Hand in hand they romped over The Great Dunes of Scotland (aka the Menie coastline).

It was all too good to last.  They broke up, and the dirty linen hit the headlines.

The bromance between Don and Alex has died; and no love is lost between Local Hero and Top Scot Michael Forbes and the Donald, either.  in the recent past Trump has called Forbes ‘a porker’ – heaven knows what precisely that means.  Let’s assume it means Forbes is not as physically pleasing as Trump – but then again, who is?  When John Sweeney asked Michael Forbes how he felt at being called a porker, Forbes responded:

 “that was pretty good coming from a clown.”

Sadly, I see no bromance brewing there, either.

Don’t look for a budding romance between Anthony Baxter and Donald Jr either.  Baxter was accused of being a criminal by Junior, quite understandably.  Film maker Baxter went (as directed) to Trump’s site office to discuss the loss of water to the properties; the Trump people accidentally broke a crucial water pipe and accidentally left the residents without water for 7 days.

Junior says Baxter went into a house uninvited with a camera over his shoulder.  That house was the site office, and Baxter was told to go there by Trump staff, all captured on film.

Quite rightly the police then busted Baxter and his pal on the Trump site manager’s say-so.  Now Junior says Baxter is a criminal; Baxter for some reason seems to think Don Jun is a liar. ( No valentines this year then).

To Read: (English – infinitive verb) to look at printed words and digest their contents.

The arguments between Salmond and Trump were at the height of acrimony on two topics:-

Did Salmond ask Trump’s support over the release of the Lockerbie bomber?  Did Salmond promise there would be no offshore wind farms?  The answers seem to be yes and no respectively.

Donald seems to have proof that Alex wanted a letter of support from Trump.  Trump tells us this would have hurt his popularity (as if such a thing were possible).

But what of Trump’s continued cries of foul over the offshore wind farm?

Trump states in his unabridged copy of the Panorama interview that George Sorial was present when Salmond promised not to allow offshore wind farms.  As unbiased a witness as one could wish for, it is a pity Sorial or someone in his office didn’t read the part of the 2008 Scottish Government Reporters’ planning report that referred to the wind farms.  For alas!  If our First Minister did make such a promise, it didn’t register with the government reporters; their report which gave approval for the golf complex reads in part:-

“21.106 “No particular concerns are raised about the coastal path network, landscape impact, links to the airport or the proposed offshore wind development. It was agreed that the only particular issue for the city council was whether the proposed housing would have an effect on the traffic in the city,  such as at the Bridge of Don…”  
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/212607/0067709.pd

Colour me over-cautious, but if a government report on my multi-million pound project came out, I’d have one of my legal guys read it.

If such a report made reference to ‘the proposed offshore wind development’ when I thought my pal had promised there was not going to be an offshore wind development, I’d probably look into it before building bunds, bulldozing the place and locking the gates shut.

I’m no lawyer, I’m no town planner, I’m no Donald Trump – but to me a report referring to a proposed offshore wind development would make me wonder if there were a proposed offshore wind development.

Easy mistake.  Perhaps the Trump people should hire some experts going forward to look at documents and legalities.  But clearly Team Trump wasn’t going to make any further mistakes, and so he decided to film the film makers.

Media Bias: (modern English) a condition of television/print media/radio to have a particular stance on issue or issues, demonstrated in the contents of its publications/broadcasts favouring one side of an issue. (Aberdeen residents won’t know much about media bias, but thankfully that left-wing, biased, socialist bastion which is the BBC provides one).

The Trump Organisation had a brilliant idea – Trump made his own video tape of John Sweeney interviewing him, and posted the ‘uncut’ interview footage on YouTube.  This would let the world see how biased the BBC is.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZlHvVbHqVI

It may be a hard concept for Press & Journal / Evening Express readers to grasp – but sometimes news reports can be slightly skewed to play up or play down particular stories at the whims of owners, or even editors of media companies.  The Donald wanted, per usual, to make sure he captured the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Trump videotape begins by explaining that John Sweeney has a ‘lousy reputation’.  I’m sure the BBC are really sweating it now.  I’m sure if someone posted on a public website that Trump had a lousy reputation, Donald would just forgive and forget, and not launch any nasty lawsuits.  I guess we’ll see if Sweeney is as magnanimous as Trump.

No doubt the BBC created a wholly one-sided Panorama programme.  This is evidenced by the extensive interviews Panorama held with father and son.  Obviously, the only reason these gun-toting, slightly aggressive gentlemen look bad is because of how the BBC edited them.

So what does this video show?  What devious  Machiavellian twists of the BBC are laid bare?

The tape begins with Donald explaining how his mom / grand mom loved Scotland (aww), and how the only logical tribute to this love was to put up a few hundred homes and a golf course or two on The Great Dunes Of Scotland.  The interview was going swimmingly; I was starting to warm towards Trump myself, then bang!  The aggressive interviewer had the temerity to ask about a massive lawsuit and possible mafia entanglement.  Oh dear.

Unfortunately the Trump team’s camera failed to record this mafia/Ft Lauderdale section of the interview; the screen went black.  Mr Trump then had to leave immediately to go see a group of people, quite understandably.  The Trump-recorded tape ends with a black screen with text inviting the viewer to ‘notice the reaction of the producer in the back ground who expressed her disgust with Mr Sweeney’s unfair and biased interview.  Quite right.

As if Mr Trump having leased his name to a now-failed Ft Lauderdale development with over 40 people now filing lawsuits has any bearing on his ability to create a development here.  You’d almost think the poor man has a bad track record.

Some spoilsports who objected to granting permission for the development at Menie had expressed concerns with the Trump organisation’s track record and reputation.  But this wasn’t going to get in the way of his company being deemed suitable to have its way with The Great Dunes of Scotland.

Back in the day, the government reporters’ report referred to some of these objections:-

“We were passed some letters of objection from the public that contain offensive remarks about the applicant and his business; inappropriate comments directed at others; defamatory and personal comments about councillors involved in decision making in Aberdeenshire; and political statements favouring one party over another.

“None of these matters has any bearing on the planning merits of the case and such comments have been discounted from our consideration which is concentrated on those issues that are relevant to deciding an outline planning application.”

 We should all thank those unbiased government decision makers, not least the Aberdeenshire planning officers who brushed away these petty concerns.  Trump may not have brought the 7,000 jobs or the houses or the hotel yet, but that’s surely nothing to do with his track record.  It’s only the wind farms stopping us from having the world’s greatest golf course.

Next week’s definitions:  unaccountable, back-tracking, deceitful, scheming, exaggeration, manipulation – and other planning-related technical terms.

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Mar 212013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! Apologies for the late running of this column.

For one thing I’ve been a bit tied up with issues at the Menie Estate.  I’ve compiled a report covering some of the little issues people have with the galaxy’s greatest golf course and Mr Trump. Leaving aside boring issues such as the quality of life for residents, visitors and wildlife, it was a huge honour to be one of the first people to see the brand new plaque by the course’s temporary (?) clubhouse.

This plaque tells you the course has been ‘weaved’ through the ‘largest dunes in the world’.

Of course it has.  I wonder whether The Donald wrote this brilliant prose himself, or if one of our BiG local PR agencies devised it for him.  It is very inspirational – I just won’t tell you what I felt inspired to do.

While at the course I had hoped to interview some of the thousands of new employees working in the promised golf jobs, and ask what was going on with the millions of pounds of income generated.  I couldn’t find these new employees – perhaps they were all out counting their money.  However, I was lucky enough to see one of the rarest forms of wildlife, the lesser-spotted Sarah Malone-Bates.

It was wearing a bright pink blouse (which was interesting, as the rest of us needed coats, hats and gloves).  She must have been cold, but a little suffering is the price of beauty.  (I note that there are a few beauty contests coming up in our area; isn’t it great to know how important looks are, and what humanitarian ends beauty contest winners can get up to.

Some say beauty is skin deep; others that beauty is as beauty does.  I wonder what Mrs Maloney-Baloney thinks.  They also say you get the face you deserve by the time you’re 40.  I wonder what Mr Trump thinks on that score).

Other than that, there has been so much activity of late that it’s hard to know where to start.

First, a thank you to the nice people at Lunan Farm Shop & Cafe, who helped me when my mobile phone got lost.  I was quite put out, worried I might miss a call asking me to join ACSEF, or offering me a vice-presidency job at Trump International.  I have my phone back now, and am awaiting those calls which should come any day now.

What Lunan and the Farm Shop/Cafe lack in connectivity and vibrancy, they make up for in other ways and then some.  Like being nice and serving real food.

As per usual an amazing visit to BrewDog; their man Fisher has painted an amazing black and white mural there, and starting 25/3, the walls will feature artwork from up and coming area residents.

What’s clean air and wildlife compared to someone somewhere making money?

When I go jogging around Nigg Bay, there are more and more other joggers to be seen, as well as walkers, cyclists, golfers and wildlife spotters.  We’re all thrilled to think the Harbour Board wants to ruin the last stretch of coastline with potential harbour expansion.  Money before environment has worked really well in Aberdeenshire.

We’ve got a great situation at Menie, with compromised SSSIs, we’ve got some of the top ten most polluted roads (funny that includes roads near the harbour), and a sewage plant.  Let’s just finish the job, deal nature a final blow, and turn Nigg Bay into a money-maker, too.  What’s clean air and wildlife compared to someone somewhere making money?

Before getting to some definitions,  there is some sad news.  A gentle giant, humble, meek and softly-spoken has left Aberdeen City Council (no, not Pete Leonard.  Yet).  Perhaps you’d best sit down (if you’re not already):  Gerry Brough has left – resigned.

Without Gerry, we couldn’t have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the City Garden Project, which brought so much harmony to our city.  His timid, mild behaviour at meetings might have made him easy to overlook, but let’s look at some of his many accomplishments.

Without Gerry, we might have had a chance to vote ‘No’ to building in UTG when presented with the shortlist of ‘designs’ for turning UTG into shops and parking.  Where would we have been then?

He selflessly ‘donated’ about 11 hours per week of his own time to sit on various City Garden Project committees, with no thought of eventual reward, disregarding EU work-time directives.  I’m sure his family felt deprived of his sunny disposition.

Some might say this free work done by Brough Trade was a smokescreen to make it look as if the project didn’t cost anything to the taxpayer and to help him get in with the ACSEF mob or the odd billionaire.  But I knew he had a good heart.  A heart of granite.

For some strange reason, several of the shops have folded, and one became an internet business

Who else will represent Aberdeen in Houston and Grenoble? We flew him there for very important meetings and conventions last year.  If those important meetings coincided with cuts to services for the elderly and school facilities, it was worth it.  Then there was the way he was fair to both sides of the garden referendum debate.

His involvement in how the referendum question was worded was sadly not appreciated by the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens.  Gerry said at the time the FOUTG were trying to ‘undermine’ the process.

If by undermining it he meant not accepting 11th hour wording changes or being railroaded into a lamely-worded question, Gerry was right. (see also http://aberdeenvoice.com/2011/12/utg-referendum-question-already-soured/ ).

He also helped give us ’Retail Rocks!’ in Torry.  On the one hand, it brought shops back into use.  Well, for a few months anyway.  Even if this rocking scheme created unfair advantage for the new shopkeepers over existing businesses, and took tens of thousands of taxpayer pounds in the process, it’s what Gerry wanted. I think this was really just his way of helping to stimulate the economy (for consultants and shopfitters).

For some strange reason, several of the shops have folded, and one became an internet business.  It is almost as if having a shop premise selling goods isn’t as profitable as selling goods on the intranet.  Still, this kind of forward-thinking scheme won an award of some kind.

Some people would say that service industries are a better way to go to get empty shops filled, lower rates for all ‘ma and pa’ businesses would also help, and using empty shops for artwork displays, events, charity fundraisers and so on would stimulate high street growth.  But Gerry knew best, and now, <sob>  he’s gone.

Rumours of Independent, Labour, Conservative politicians joining 99% of the ACC staff in dancing on tables and celebrating with BrewDogs are unconfirmed.  Adios Ger.

This week there are many interesting developments concerning freedom of the press:  i.e. – there might not be much of it going forward.  Here are a few definitions to try and make sense of what happened to the media, and what might happen.

Monopoly: (Eng. noun) – situation in which one person or company owns all or nearly all of a given resource or market sector putting them in a completely dominant position.

Aside from Private Eye magazine and a few quirky politicians, the UK government bent over backward to allow Rupert Murdoch to get as near a monopoly over the UK’s media, print and broadcast as was possible.  Quite right too.  It was June 2010, Rupe had the Sun, the Times, and he wanted BSB too.

What could possibly be wrong with one person controlling the majority of the media?  Why nothing.  As one professor put it:-

“It is vital to guard against just having a knee-jerk, ideological objection to Mr Murdoch – his companies produce an exceptionally large amount of very high quality content” – Tim Luckhurst, Professor of journalism at the University of Kent
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10317856

I guess I should define ‘high quality content’ sometime.

Murdoch’s empire dwarfed the BBC, and outbid them on major sports programmes which Rupert then put on satellite television, where everyone could watch for a small fee.  Or for a giant fee if you wanted to play a game in your pub or bar.  Everyone was happy.  Well, Rupert was.

The funny thing about having a monopoly and being allowed by government and the police to do whatever you want is that you might start thinking you can do whatever you want.  With the government giving Murdoch the green light for media dominance, and a few scattered police men and women having cosy meetings with News  Corporation operative, things started getting a wee bit dodgy.

The Sun started to get a little adventurous and creative when landing important stories.  Its intrepid investigative reporters devoted their time to finding sex scandals, up skirt shots, hiring private detectives to do a spot of wire-tapping, and paying the paparazzi to take all-important intrusive photos of celebrities and their children.

I’m sure those involved in these activities were free to pursue any journalistic directions they wanted, free from any controlling editors or a right-wing proprietor.  Ah, the golden days of press.  Or was that yellow journalism.

Whatever it was, we bought it.  Profits weren’t that great on the print side, but this was offset by the satellite arm of the empire.  And so it went.  Perhaps the print media also made one or two subtle political hints echoing whichever politician Murdoch favoured.  If so, it was far too subtle for Old Susannah to pick up on.

Leveson Inquiry: (Compound proper English noun).  An inquiry into a variety of press scandals, leading to recommendations for press regulation.

Believe it or not, over the years, there have been one or two scandals in British establishments.  In fact there were one or two minor issues in the banking sector not all that long ago.  These resulted in economic meltdown, loss of the UK’s AAA rating, and austerity measures (unless you worked for a bank or were in government of course).

The government acted swiftly to give the banks a stern talking to, and a few billion pounds to tide them over.  Then followed one or two other minor scandals involving sub-prime mortgages and manipulation of the  LIBOR rates.

These were swiftly followed by more slaps on bankers’ wrists, and lots more subsidies.  That showed them.  Some people point to close links between the ConDems and banking executives, but I’m sure our elected officials would never allow favouritism to cloud their judgment.

Banks weren’t alone in behaving badly for profit.  Newspapers have been involved in one or two unsavoury activities recently, too.  Don’t worry though, the police were on the case.  Or should I say the police were on the take.

Police officials and hacks met for expensive meals in nice London restaurants  Blind eyes were turned; Police and MoD officials pocketed cash from the Sun, and police detectives helped the papers with stories in exchange for money. All the while paparazzi photographers took long-lens shots at celebrities and children of same, to go with stories often obtained illegally.

News was getting replaced by celebrity gossip trash.  The public protested by buying more and more copies of ‘OK!’  ‘Hello!’ ‘I Have No Life Of My Own!’ and so on.

Things went too far; even the police and government couldn’t continue to pretend they weren’t in bed with the tabloids.

You would think that the existing laws could have been enforced at the time

Something must be done, or something had to be seen to be done. It was time for another long, expensive inquiry.  No doubt there would be some outcomes from Leveson criticising how the police were both complicit and enabling to all this phone tapping and story selling.

You could be forgiven for thinking the way forward would be to ensure that paparazzi and reporters are stopped from illegal intrusions and entrapment, and are ordered to respect privacy, especially the privacy of innocent people and children.  You would be wrong.

You would think that the existing laws could have been enforced at the time by a switched-on, honest police force.  But think again.

For the bankers, stern words and subsidies were the answer.  After all, they’ve only cost the taxpayer a few billion in bail-outs.  For the fifth estate, which is historically meant to be a check on politicians, the remedy is different.

Instead of enforcing the laws we already have, the politicians have a great idea:  the press will be held accountable to politicians.  No one is accountable for allowing the monopoly to be created, no code of conduct will be created for the police to ensure they obey and enforce laws, and stop taking hospitality from the press.

No, the entire media sector is solely at fault, not just the tabloids.  Or so they would have you think, and that’s good enough for me.

Of course the details of how regulation will work are sketchy; there are more questions than answers concerning  proposed press regulatory bodies and mandatory sign-up to a government code on the press.

There goes some 400 years of freedom, just to punish the antics of the monopoly press which got away with Murdoch for years.  It’s almost as if government wanted to get control over the entire media sector, and weren’t happy with its history of exposing crooked politicians, out-of-control MOD budgets, NHS management failures, sexed-up dossiers getting us into the Iraq war, and so on.

I for one will find the new government-controlled news much easier to digest

What will this mean to bloggers, small publishers, satire writers?  Possibly ‘exemplary’ fines, lawsuits galore, and lots of rich lawyers.  We just don’t’ know yet.  What will this mean to investigative journalism?

For years we’ve been fed a populist diet of magazines filled with celebrities who are considered too fat one day and too thin the next.  There are shots of stars who get drunk, who have ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ who go out with other stars and then break up.  It’s just as well we’ve taken these important issues to heart – going forward this might be the only kind of news we get.

I for one will find the new government-controlled news much easier to digest.  From now on instead of investigating council waste, issues at the Menie Estate and abuses of office, I can start writing about who’s wearing what, what new beauty queens have been crowned, and how thin or fat they are.

Still, there is one ground-breaking development Old Susannah is happy to share…

Augmented Reality: (modern compound noun)

New technology coming soon to an Aberdeen Journal publication near you!

There I was, wondering about the future of newspapers.  And then I saw this:-

“Make your Evening Express come to life

“App lets readers see videos and images

“Published: 06/03/2013

“Bookmark with:

Share on linkedinShare on facebookShare on twitterShare on emailShare on gmailShare on stumbleuponShare on favoritesMore Sharing Services

“THE Evening Express today unveiled a revolutionary new way of allowing our readers to interact with the paper.

“Video and 3D images can pop up from the printed page thanks to the innovative new scheme.

“Dubbed augmented reality (AR), the application involves the reader holding their phone over a “trigger” advert, resulting in a series of 3D images and videos displayed through the user’s phone.”

Can we really use our phones to augment my reality?  Yes we can!  I can see it now:  3D Stewart Milne homes, 3D views of Trump golf courses.  Then again, the photos of the Trump course in the recent P&J Golf Supplement look just a bit greener and neater than any photos I’ve managed to take to date.  Could someone be augmenting the reality of the greens?

Maybe we could have augmented reality photos of our councillors as well.  They say this technology can make people seem life-like.  For some of our elected reps, this will be quite an improvement.

Time to go find a copy of ‘OK!’ and see what’s going on in the world.  If I’m not thrown in jail, we’ll see what’s up next week.

PS – For some odd reason Labour are not happy with P&J coverage of a recent event. 

This is very surprising.  Most of us aren’t happy with their coverage of any events.  While they rammed a granite web down our throats and perpetuated the myth it was cost-free, they accidentally forgot to mention  Trump’s VP marrying their editor and skirted the slight bias this might mean.

They seem to have implied a man up in court for drug-dealing was a Labour member/activist; he wasn’t.

The P&J printed the full-page Trump anti-wind farm ad referring to Lockerbie, but refused to take an ad, pre-referendum, from the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens for being ‘too political’.  Its sister paper called those who voted against Trump ‘neeps’ and ‘traitors’.

It said that two deer had died in advance of the Tullos Hill deer slaughter (the deer died two full years earlier, of unknown causes – as wild animals are known to do on occasion).  Other than that, what’s not to like?

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Jan 242013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Another busy week in Aberdeen passed in a flurry of activity, culminating in the excellent BrewDog party celebrating the new factory opening. Live band Little Kicks were great, and so were the BrewDog crew.
A team assigned to the outdoor barbeque were positively heroic; hundreds were fed delicious food irrespective of the raging snow. A good time was had by all.

In the news this week are several stories involving common sense. Firstly, the elegant, ladylike, cerebral polymath Helen Flanagan, celebrated Coronation Street actress and model, told the press she is unhappy at being thought of as being a brainless, big-breasted airhead.

She has illustrated her intelligence and sensitivity with acts such as posing with a gun to her head days after a US gun spree left dozens dead. 

Also supporting the view of her as an intellectual, the article in which she claims to be a misunderstood genius is accompanied by a photo of her half-dressed. Brains, and talent, too.

Like most of us, I’ve been watching the ACSEF website with great anticipation for the the latest meeting minutes just as eagerly as I wait for the next episode of Coronation Street. I’m sure that when I last looked about a fortnight ago, there were only the June 2012 minutes out. But to my great joy and excitement, I see that the September AND October Minutes are out! Result!

These minutes, recently added to the hallowed ACSEF website, serve as a reminder to our elected officials to not step out of line. It is important they understand power structures and their place in the system.

ACSEF is, quite rightly, calling Barney Crocket to in effect ‘explain to the class’ how it will be possible to renew our city centre if we don’t turn our only green space into a concrete – sorry granite-clad concrete – web. He and Gordon McIntosh must do so at the December ACSEF board meeting.

Just to clarify, Barney is the leader of the duly-elected majority in local government, and ACSEF are quango hangers-on, some from self-promoting business backgrounds and others from yet more quangos, paid for by city and shire taxpayers.   I guess Barney better learn his place. This is what the minutes said (but no doubt you’ll rush off to read them, too):

“Councillor Crockett… confirmed Aberdeen City Council’s alignment with the ACSEF Action Plan and vision [what is that?], but highlighted the need for the ACSEF Board to take account of the City Garden Project decision.

“The Board questioned how the desired outcome of regenerating and improving the attractiveness of the city centre, which the City Garden Project had sought to deliver, might be achieved without this and other key linked projects.

“The critical importance of anchoring the oil and gas supply chain in the area for the long term and role city centre regeneration could play to support this was stressed.   It was suggested and agreed that a presentation and paper be provided to the December Board meeting outlining how the City Council planned to address the aim of city centre regeneration.”

I am very pleased our elected representative has to explain to ACSEF, including Stewart Milne, why Milne won’t be getting the web he relies on to make his beautiful glass box Triple Kirks offices a huge success (with parking). I might not be clever enough to be able to see how a granite web will anchor the oil business here (where it needs to be logistically anyway) – perhaps I should ask Helen Flanagan to explain?

Elsewhere the minutes show that ACSEF plans to dictate policy to the city and shire councils whether on housing or education. We can all sleep easily.

By the way, I’d actually love to stop writing about the web, or The Thing That Wouldn’t Die as it is more affectionately known.

Trouble is, the Press and Journal, and the other ugly sister, the Evening Express, won’t let me. They are going to try to print an article every other day forever on why the web will fix the problem of the changing face of retail. And all it will cost us is our Common Good land, fresh air, environment and our only city centre free recreation ground.

Yes, people around the world will stop going to visit Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal and the Louvre and come instead to Aberdeen’s web, where they can shop in brand new, multinational shops. It is always a joy to see those acid-pastel coloured fantasy web sketches showing floating giant children over flowerbeds in a landscape free from any litter, graffiti or crime.

Makes my day. Keep running those beautiful photos and comments from leading businessmen, and I’ll keep praising them as they deserve. Today, it’s Mr Koot’s turn to be singled out for my admiration).

Multi-tasking: (modern English gerund) ability to competently do several things simultaneously.

You really have to hand it to Mr Koot, Taqa company’s supremo in Aberdeen. He’s found the time to tell the P&J this week how embarrassed he is by our city centre, and how the granite web is the answer to all our prayers. He told us this a few times now, but somehow it’s still newsworthy.

I conclude he must be a socio-economic whizz able to predict future marketing trends, concluding that internet retail is not the way to go, and shop-building is where it will be at. I am grateful, as we all are, for his relevant input into the web debate (even if some of us wish it would finally just go away).

He even generously wrote to his employees at the time of the referendum, telling them in a nice paternal way to vote for the web. Some people might equate getting an email telling them how to vote as taking serious liberties, coercion, intimidation, and using employment as a platform for propaganda.

I’m certain, however, he had nothing but the employee’s democratic rights and best interests at heart. This is what he wrote to staff in February before the vote:

“From a business point of view, this project is very important to economic and employment prospects in Aberdeen. It will help attract new energy industries and new companies to the City, and will provide a new city heart with significant garden, recreation and cultural amenities, with no additional cost to the Council Tax payer.”

Wow – you get something worth £140 million for free!  Why didn’t we do that again? Not only does he have the time to analyse what’s wrong with Aberdeen and tell people who depend on him for their livelihoods how to vote, he successfully runs Taqa, the Abu Dhabi oil firm.

Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my Press and Journal?

I guess anyone can drop the ball. As you might have noted in the news, Taqa had a wee problem this week when hydrocarbons escaping from one of its platforms in the North Sea caused an evacuation and a shut-down of the North Sea Brent pipelines. This was rather large in the news from 13-15 January.

Still, this talented master of multi-tasking found time to run the oil firm and campaign strenuously for the granite web since at least 2010. In fact, less than one week after the financially disastrous Taqa North Sea incident, Koot still found time to get into the P&J to say how embarrassed he was by our city centre, and the web was the answer. I guess you have to decide where your priorities lie – a huge North Sea oil problem and its aftermath, or the web.

Taqa is sending Koot to Iraq.

Just one more thing: you could ask yourself: “Why do promotional web articles keep appearing with giant photos in my P&J?” Is there perhaps a public relations agency, toiling away with no thought of monetary reward but interested in getting a web built?

Is there a PR agency writing these releases getting paid from somewhere, perhaps the unelected group Vote for the City Gardens Project (aka Stewart Milne and mates)?

I personally hope we find out that ACSEF is paying for all this, using our taxpayer money where it will do the most good. Perhaps we should ask our elected officials to look into this? We could ask ACSEF, of course. I’m sure they’ll be happy to clarify.

Gross misconduct: (Eng. compound noun, legal) severe negligence in the course of one’s given duties.

We have seen in our area nurses struck off for drug offences, abusing patients, stealing, even having inappropriate relationships with psychiatric patients. Two stories of nurses were in this week’s local papers.  One was a nurse who found a child wandering around, presumably after being left alone in a car.

Details are unclear; she should have called the police and stayed with the child it seems. She did, however, ensure the child’s safety.

Elsewhere, a convicted wife killer, suspected of also killing his first wife is fighting for his nursing license (should he ever get out of jail). Proven to be a mercenary, cold-blooded killer and pathological liar, he thinks he should be allowed to continue in the caring profession.

One of these has been struck off permanently; one will have some form of hearing from the Royal College of Nursing.

The Nursing body wants to remind everyone how seriously it takes striking a nurse off like it has done in this case, and told the press such action is never taken lightly. Can you guess which nurse’s career is over?  That’s right, the murderer may remain, for now, a nurse; the other person has been struck off. Great system we’re running here.

Time for me to get back to the ACSEF website! More next week, perhaps a look at the serious mistake Glasgow’s made by rejecting designs for George Square. Have they ever considered the benefits of a granite web, I wonder?

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Dec 202012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been a very busy week in Aberdeen and the wider world. Donald Trump had a full page ad in the Press & Journal mixing wind farms and the Lockerbie bomber.

Of all the ways Trump could have used his revelation that Salmond wanted The Donald to back the releasing of the convicted Lockerbie Bombing, no one could have predicted such a crass, unsuitable, insensitive ad as this – unless they worked for Trump.

Funnily enough, the Press & Journal which carried this ad refused to carry an ad opposing the City Gardens Project, or so I’m told.

This refusal was interesting, as Aberdeen Journals did manage to carry a pro-web advertisement (the so-called ‘Holiday Inn’ ad, featuring the Holiday Inn logo, yet the ad was placed without the blessing of the Holiday Inn head office, as my enquiries determined). Trump couldn’t have put in his objectionable full-page ad if the P&J had not accepted it.

Rumours fly that Trump’s right hand woman Sarah Malone may have some romantic interest with a P&J supremo. Surely not! While all this carry-on was being carried out, one Mr Bates of the P&J was praising his organ for its unflagging support of the views of ‘the little man‘.

As long as the little man in question is a billionaire, then I guess that’s true.

There are several things I was tempted to satirise this week, not least of all the environmentally catastrophic notion of extending the industrial harbour into Nigg Bay. Thankfully the Marine Protection Act is coming into force soon; this should stop such a destructive plan.

I also doubt the people of Torry will want to surrender their last remaining stretch of coastline in exchange for yet more heavy good vehicles on Torry’s streets.

Some coastal land was sold years ago, allegedly to help the council with its finances. In return, the people of Torry were going to get … toilets. This toilet scheme was seemingly flushed down the pan by the Harbour Board (which now wants more Torry property). Kate Dean was also instrumental in putting a sewage plant next to Nigg Bay; the air and water pollution aspects are well known to area residents.

The impact of more trucks and more industry in this part of the city will be bad for health, and what remaining wildlife, sea, land and air we have left. We have a bird population which is down 50% in a decade according to the latest surveys – and we’re talking about birds not found in other parts of the world.

But money and empire-building seem set to win the day again. It seems that like Menie, the SSSI at Nigg Bay has very little importance to those in power if there is money about.

However, I can’t think of much aside from guns at the moment.

I don’t feel like making any jokes or satirical remarks. It’s time for another look at what guns have done to the US, and what we can do about air rifles and BB guns here – and why we definitely need to license air-guns in Scotland at the least.

The Michael Moore documentary film Bowling for Columbine came out 10 years ago. It is a brilliant assault on those who worship assault rifles. Sadly, the NRA – National Rifle Association – is about the most powerful lobbying force in Washington, and they will not let the US tighten up gun legislation. President Obama may now have something to say about that, as this latest tragedy is causing considerable public anger.

If you didn’t know, yet another damaged soul has been able to get their hands on automatic weaponry, and has murdered in cold blood 20 children and 6 women in the US state of Connecticut. If he hadn’t been able to easily obtain automatic weapons, these children and women would still be here. That is the fact.

Some people would tell you the American Constitution clearly states people should be able to have guns. It actually says this in its second amendment:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Where do we start on this? Firstly, this was written 200 years ago – people had muskets and similar types of guns. These were not as accurate as today’s guns, and they certainly were not automatic. A lone shooter would not have been able to take out 26 people in a short span of time.

Secondly, times have changed just a little bit. The Constitution and its Amendments were written following a war of independence, in which the British sought to control the revolutionaries’ weapons. It’s no longer relevant, just as passages in the Old Testament are no longer relevant (except to the odd fanatic).

At this point many people would point out, correctly, that American and British weaponry is being used all over the world. Make no mistake, I hate that as well. The exportation of weapons to corrupt and violent regimes is unacceptable of course. But that is a different story. This is about a nation gone mad, a nation which won’t allow Cuban cigars or unpasteurised milk products.

there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age

This is about a re-imagining of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, while at the same time the main thrust of the revolution was to guarantee that all men (and women) are created equal, and shall not be deprived unreasonably of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet these rights have been trampled into the dust.

People are not free in most states to marry as they choose. People are in some places not free to teach evolutionary theory, and creationism is given pride of place in science classes. And of course, the evil, horrible plant that is marijuana is totally illegal in most places – a bit of a blow (if you will) to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ for a small minority of people who’d like to use it for recreation, pain control, nausea control, glaucoma treatment and so on.

But while the US forgets or re-writes the basics, the NRA is free to insist that the Second Amendment means everyone everywhere is entitled to have a gun. In fact, there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age.

We recently saw the reports of a girl shot by her cousin on Halloween. She’d been dressed up in black and white, and the cousin apparently thought she was a skunk.

It wasn’t the first time or the last time someone trying to ‘defend their home’ with a gun shoots relatives instead. Teens that’ve snuck home late at night have been shot dead by paranoid parents assuming burglars were about. People have also had their own weapons used against them.

The inimitable Morgan Freeman has also weighed into the debate, reminding us that the media has to take a new look at how it reports these mass killers. The killer gets tons of news coverage, and sees their picture, life and crime scene spread across TV, internet, print and radio. An old and easily disproved adage goes ‘there is no bad publicity’.

To some of these people, like the gunman in Colorado who shot movie-goers, fame indeed seems to play some twisted part in their murders. Let’s not give them any publicity by name; let’s remember instead the victims.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget

America also seems to have a twisted love affair with imagery of girls in bikinis firing automatic weapons. This is adding sex appeal to weaponry designed to take out lots of life quickly. No one needs to prove they are a good shot if they have an AK-47 – you just shoot until you obliterate the target. Anyone but me see anything wrong with this picture?

What’s the answer? I’ve no idea. But would it be so bad to start with a gun amnesty?

These have been done in New York in the past, twenty years ago in fact, by New York entrepreneur Fernando Mateo. This was an admirable move. If so much as one life was saved by this initiative, it was worth doing. With the number of illegal guns handed in at the time, it is easy to conclude that many lives were saved. Couple a gun amnesty with mandatory licensing, yearly license renewals and yearly gun checks, and you could save a few more lives.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget. They’re still not able to adequately feed and clothe all of its citizens, but according to the Huffington Post and other sources, it spent some $695 BILLION on defence in 2011. It’s hard to see how present and especially future generations are going to forgive the world’s military for all of its spending on military hardware.

So – gun amnesty, tighten up licensing, make it more difficult to get and keep guns, and finally increase penalties for anyone with illegal guns, and anyone who commits a crime with a gun. Would it solve the problem?

The NRA are masters of spin and lobbying; their famous slogans include:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and

“If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.”

Students of propaganda will recognise these kinds of reflexive slogans are catchy. Catchy they are, but do they stand up to any scrutiny? Of course not.

To the former slogan, obviously, (sadly) people can kill each other in many ways. But having a gun makes it a much simpler, surer and simpler matter. Having an automatic weapon makes it certain you can kill lots of people, quickly, and from a distance. I’d prefer ‘guns make it easy for people to kill people, and the NRA makes it easy to get guns’ as a replacement slogan. Not as catchy, but it is considerably more accurate.

To the second phrase – this is an attempt, also a tried and tested propaganda method, to instil fear. ‘If I don’t have a gun, an outlaw can get me!’ is the underlying message. Here are a few words from The Survivors’ Club which should make people think twice:

“In 2008 there were 680 accidental shooting deaths in the United States, with more than 15,500 shooting injuries. Most disturbing, perhaps, is the number of children involved in accidental shootings. Every day approximately five children are injured or killed on a nationwide basis as a result of handguns. The primary cause of youth-involved shooting rests with the fact that children find loaded handguns in the home – and natural curiosity leads them down the road to disaster.

“Each year approximately 100 people are injured or killed while cleaning a firearm and failing to exercise proper caution… Many accidental shootings occur because someone believes a gun is unloaded, points it at someone and pulls the trigger as a “joke”.”
See:  
http://www.thesurvivorsclub.org/extreme/surviving-accidents/accidental-shooting

Japan has managed to outlaw guns totally – and now has c. 2 gun deaths per year. Isn’t that an accomplishment to at least try to emulate?
See:  http://www.theatlantic.com-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths

By all means have an armed and well-regulated militia (but hopefully one that needn’t cost over 600 billion dollars a year). These killers clearly are not well-regulated, and they are not in a militia. It’s time to think again.

It’s also time for me to move closer to home, for we have some air gun issues to deal with. If you live in the area, you will know that some people have been targeting animals for some time with air guns, blinding and wounding pets. Most lately, we have a field of horses in the Bridge of Don area being used for target practice so that idiots can get their kicks from wounding innocent horses.

Do I think things will get worse? Yes. Why do I think that? Because a newish discount/pound shop is selling BB-type guns for £6, and lots of ammo. Did I ask them to please not stock these items? Yes. They refused, saying they only sell to those over 18. Do we know any people over 18 who are less than mature? I do. Please feel free to share your thoughts with the manager; this shop is a few doors down from Molton Brown.

We now have a chance to regulate these kinds of weapons in Scotland. There is no way responsible owners of such guns can logically oppose tighter registration in the face of the violence against animals and people that has taken place.

You might recall a toddler was killed by such a weapon in Glasgow, one of the main reasons this legislation is coming about. We’re not talking about something that causes a small discomfort, we’re talking about speeding projectiles that destroy tissue and can even damage bone.

Here are a few words from Animal Concern Advice Line:

”Proposals for Licensing Air Weapons in Scotland

“[there is a] very important consultation which could be used to greatly reduce the number of air weapons in Scotland. As you know air-guns are the tools of vandals and sadists who take pot shots at pet, farm and wild animals and birds.

If you have had personal experience of air-gun misuse or if you run an animal sanctuary and have had to deal with animals shot by people using air-guns please mention that in your submission… If you have a pet why not forward this message to your vet? Most vets know just how much pain, suffering and death is caused by air weapons.”

“The pro-gun lobby will be doing all they can to reduce the impact of this initiative. Please take the time to comment – it will make a difference.”

Clearly not all air-gun owners are sadists – but since we have quite a few who are clearly are, then let’s get some control in place.

Please visit http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/ to see how you can help and to read the Government’s document

Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Chanukah – can everyone please stop shooting now?

Next week – a return to normal service.

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Sep 262012
 

By Bob Smith. 

A bodie’s view wis on Facebook
Misca’in some fowk in the “deen”
Fer haen a certain opinion
Aboot fit’s best fer Aiberdeen

If yer roots they are nae local
An inabootcomer ye wis ca’d
Anti views aboot the Granite Web
Iss blogger thinks affa bad

A’ve biden here in Aiberdeen
Roon aboot fifty eer or so
Bein born jist oot the toon
A’d be classed iss blogger’s foe

A cwidna believe fit wis posted
By a numptie a class as a gowk
Twis similar tae a 1930’s rant
Sayin ye maun be o certain stock

Wull the pro Granite Web camp
Distance themsels fae iss crap?
An protest ti the Facebook fowk
So iss bugger’s “blog” they drap

A maesel are agin the “Web”
An connachin the oasis o green
A view geen wi richt honesty
Tho nae born in Aiberdeen

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 212012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah  takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and further beyond ( including the murky depths of ‘local’ cyberspace ). By Suzanne Kelly.

Across Aberdeen this past week most of us have enjoyed the last warm(ish) days of summer, and the sunny days and early evenings. Others have been glued to their computers waging a curious battle over a protest planned for tomorrow (Saturday 22nd September).

In the quest to win new friends and influence people, the ‘Protest Against Aberdeen City Council’ Facebook pages have entertained a wide variety of opinions, and a wide spectrum of humour (I am using the term ‘humour’ loosely).

Somewhere between 12 and 500 people will appear at 1pm tomorrow in front of the Marischal College  building (which will be deserted, as it’s Saturday), to protest against Aberdeen City Council, Labour, and the death of the granite web.

An interesting report is to go before the Audit Committee soon; it is by an independent reporter who finds that both the councillors and the officers of Aberdeen City Council need to think about how they interact.

Anyone who read about this report in the Press & Journal would have been shedding tears, assuming this bullying was 100% by mean councillors against poor but honest officers.   Indeed. More on that later.

But the real talk of the whole country is around the most fundamental question of all, which is dividing the Scottish nation, setting brother against brother, and causing an affa bother:  is the deep-fried Mars bar a national treasure or not?  Earlier on, the Mars company reportedly disowned the creation;  other sources later claimed the Mars business had embraced the calorific snack.

This crucial question will no doubt be the subject of several independent consultations, a referendum, Holyrood debate, health & safety analysis, a PR campaign by the BiG partnership featuring Morris the Monkey, and more than a few bar room fights.

Some people claim that the original, unadorned Mars bar was good enough as it was, and should be retained.  Others claimed it wasn’t 21st century enough unless it was covered with a web of deep fried flour and grease.  Not since Culloden has such bickering been seen in this part of the world.  Old Susannah hopes resolution is possible.

There have been a few amusing news stories across the UK as well.

  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind

Seems some of those nice people at Scottish Enterprise have been very enterprising indeed.  Old Susannah never realised what a generous employer SE was, but it is kindly allowing staff to take SE credit cards and take out nice big, fat juicy cash advances (in a variety of currencies), and paying the amounts back as and when.

As a taxpayer, I’m so pleased we can help out the less fortunate SE employee with the odd £10K loan or two.  It’s alright though, as the employees always intended to pay the money back.  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind.

It’s almost as if proper financial controls were not working 100% at SE – which is a bit unfortunate in such a tiny organisation; they still operate on a mere £750,000,000 or so per annum (much of which is salary – which Old Susannah finds difficult to reconcile with the cash advances the cash-strapped staff seem to need).

And in England, a woman has been sentenced for hijacking a ferry boat, telling her pursuers ‘I’m Jack Sparrow!’ and sailing away until finally caught.

Readers will find it hard to believe, but she was high on drink and belladonna (deadly nightshade to you and me, which is quite poisonous).  I prefer the odd BrewDog and crisps, myself.  After two days of drink and hallucinogens, she felt ill for some reason or other, and called the paramedics.

When they arrived she was, naturally enough, on a moored ferry boat, as you do.  She ‘didn’t mean to untie the craft, but the ropes kept getting under her feet’.  Fair enough – could have been any of us really.  The ferry boat’s owner told the BBC this incident was a:-

“total one-off bizarre incident which we have never experienced before”.

Old Susannah should hope so, too.

I’m afraid the definitions this week do involve the web; don’t worry – this too shall pass.

Carrot or the Stick: (English saying) to offer an inducement – reward and/or sanction to gain support or agreement.

Any movement needs to recruit new members.  Those nice Scientology people give out free books on  Oxford Street, and tell you how clever you are.  Next thing you know, you’re married to Tom Cruise and waiting for the mothership.  The Moonies used to give out flowers; various missionaries would trade a square meal in exchange for preaching at you.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and Common Good Aberdeen – two forces with the same ultimate goal of saving UTG from development have web presences, hold meetings, and hold the odd demo or two.  New members and the curious are welcome.

Speaking of odd demos, there is a group called ‘Protest against Aberdeen City Council’ holding the demonstration I mentioned before, taking place tomorrow.  They too have a web page and embrace open debate.  And what a debate it has been.

The finest minds in all of Scotland’s past pale into insignificance against the rhetoric, logic, self-restraint and persuasive skills of a small number of the posters on this page.  I’m surprised we’ve not all been convinced the web’s the way to go by this bunch.

The page’s administrator, who apparently lives in the United States, has allowed a wide raft of comments to go unmoderated, which I’m sure doesn’t mean they are encouraging trolls at all.

Usually when you want someone to come around to your way of thinking, you offer them some reason to do so – the proverbial  carrot and the stick.  The Big Partnership, recently rendered silent on the topic of the web, used both the carrot and the stick to get us to join the granite web fanclub.

  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence

The carrots were ‘build the web and 6,500 new jobs appear’, ‘two hundred million pounds will magically flow into the city annually until the year 2023 (not 2022 or 2024 – 2023) AND the added incentive that Morris the Monkey and Jake the Ghost want the web convinced us in the thousands.

The sticks used to try and beat us into submission?

‘No one will come to Aberdeen’, ‘we’ll look silly if we don’t take Ian’s £50 million and do what he says with it’ and ‘people will think Aberdeen is ‘closed for business.’

I always liked this last ‘closed for business’ argument.  It was supposed to make me think of a vibrant and dynamic shopping mall, doing lots of business.  Instead, it made me think of an indiscriminate callgirl who would do anything with anyone if the price was right.

How are the ‘Protest against Aberdeen’s’ members and posters winning hearts and minds?  Reasoned argument?  Supplying facts and figures?  Welcoming newcomers?  Parrying dissent with rapier-like wit and friendly banter?  Absolutely!

Please do go and visit this page yourself – it has all the relevant facts you need to know to make an informed decision to support the web.  These include colourful postings such as the following:-

*  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence;

*  there is a woman being insulted because of her looks;

*  there is a man who says he’s no longer onside with the protest because of the abusive comments made by protest supporters – so he’s attacked as being a ‘plant’;

*  a man who was abused as a child is asked if he was ‘a little sh*t who deserved a clip ‘round the ears’;

*  there is a woman who ‘has it on good authority’ that all the bills the taxpayer has already picked up for the web were really somehow not paid by the city council (who the invoices were made out to), but Sir Ian really picked them up; and

*  a hilarious joke about building a mosque on UTG (alas; Old Susannah is unable to appreciate the witticism or the point being made)

People against the web have in several instances risen to the bait and argued back.  But whatever side of this issue you are on, have a look at the comments made by people like Sandy M, George S and others.  They’ll have won you over with their carrots and sticks before you know it.

Readers of a sensitive disposition may, however, wish to stay well clear.  https://www.facebook.com/events/456202784419418/

Cautionary Tale: (compound noun; English) A story intended to impart advice by showing someone else’s error.

This new Information Commissioner is taking no prisoners – well, actually she might be, as the police have been called in to enforce the law.

This kind of development in Aberdeenshire is extremely worrying!  The local authority seems to have accidentally denied it had information and accidentally deleted the information it denied having.  It was almost as if there was something to hide, and as if the law came second to what the local government mandarins wanted.

This story, covered in this past week’s Press & Journal (really) implies that Freedom of Information requests have to be answered with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Old Susannah is reassured that there won’t be any such issues here in our city.

Even if the Information Commissioner’s office is reportedly auditing the work our FOI office does, it’s not as if information has ever been withheld from me, or anyone else, is it?  (Unless of course you count requests about Mr S Milne, the deer cull, cost of Marischal college…)

Pre-emptive strike: (compound noun; English) a form of defence or deflecting attention  by attacking one’s opponent first.

Well, a report going to the Audit Committee next week seems to imply that councillors had in the recent past not been treating officers courteously and had asked difficult questions.  Naughty!

No real naming and shaming was done.  I hope no councillors asked awkward questions of Pete Leonard for instance.  Mean councillors in the past may have asked him why he kept representing that the deer-culling, tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral, even though he knew for months that phase one failed, and ACC had to repay £43,800 for the dead trees.

He recently tried to deflect this irritating fact by reportedly saying £43,800 referred to something in the 1990s.  Just because the money was paid in March 2011, when he was saying the great scheme was cost neutral to the Housing Committee, is no reason to think he wasn’t accurate or completely open, is it?

A cynic could think this report’s suggestions that councillors should show more deference to officers like Leonard is a pre-emptive strike.  Did the report authors know about all the assorted little machinations of Leonard and his ilk?  I’d love to know.  At least one person must have come out of this untarnished:  the softly-spoken, always calm and rational Gerry Brough, kindly volunteer to the City Gardens Project.

Now that this report has come out, I hope city councillors will be warned by this pre-emptive strike not to ask any tough questions!  Hope that’s settled then.

And there we leave it for now.

Next week:  I will attempt again to escape from the granite web – unless Zoe finally writes back about those CGP radio ads, promising us the web for free.  Will keep you posted.

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Sep 132012
 

By Bob Smith. 

Baith sides claim they are richt
Fowk snarlin’s nae a bonnie sicht
The jaw aboot UTG nivver eyns
Aneuch tae fair blaw fowk’s myns

Some cooncillors rail aboot democracy
Ithers say we’re nae gyaan tae dee
Fit business billies they did ask
The TIF scheme wis teen tae task

Politics played oot in cooncil chambers
As the local papers stoke the embers
Scottish Parlimint stick in the knife
Tae cause Labour a wee bit strife

Fit’s happenin noo is tit fer tat
Labour an SNP are haein a spat
Fowk staun aroon fair bemused
Lots o them are nae amused

Tam Smith o Acsef is diggin in
“We’ll nae gie up till we win
Tae the suit brigade jist aa kowtow
An the CGP  ye maun allow”

Awa Tam ging an bile yer heid
The Granite Web we dinna need
Tae restore city cinter tae former glory
Needs common sense nae some fairy story

Oor toon cinter wis left tae rot
Fin aa the shoppin malls we got
Raisin the gairdens winna help ae bit
City planners hiv left us in the shit

Tae bring back pride in oor city
Disna need ideas fae a Walter Mitty
Restore the fabric o oor bonnie toon
Dinna aye bliddy teer things doon

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 072012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah looks at events over yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the ‘Deen. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I hope everyone’s had another exciting week in  Aberdeen.

The Science Festival has kicked off, attracting visitors, scientists and lecturers from around the world.
It is most kind of them to visit Aberdeen– we have a garden that’s not at street level and we don’t have a web – we should be most grateful to them.

We should be grateful to BP as well, which is investing £100 million in the area.

Old Susannah discovered beer cocktails at BrewDog this past week.  They are gorgeous, and very enjoyable in these trying times.

I am amazed BrewDog chose to open its brilliant bar and factory in our area when we didn’t go for the granite web.  It’s almost as if the gardens were not a factor in their plans.

The more cynical among us wonder:  Would businesses really prefer operating here if we were £92 million in debt and had a giant city centre construction zone for at least a year?  If you listen to the SNP, some LibDems (funny, HoMalone doesn’t seem to be the charismatic leader we all thought she was) and ACSEF, then the answer is yes.

The petition to ask Sir Ian to spend his wealth to Africa instead of the web is now one week old.  Please do visit, read, and hopefully sign at www.gopetition.com/sir-ian-send-your-£50M-to-africa-as-promised   No doubt the mainstream press will take the story of this petition up any day now.  After all, our local papers wrote about the MASS demonstration planned by pro CGP activists when the figure was around 200.  Guess the Wood petition is about to be massive, too.

And massive and genuine thanks to Lush shops throughout Scotland; last weekend they raised hundreds of pounds to benefit Willows Animal Sanctuary.

Finally, Morris the Monkey has a new pal in Si the Seagull, new mascot for AFC.  Word has it that the fans are not necessarily impressed by this development, but I’ll wait and hear what Si himself has to say when he starts working for BiG and promoting the web.

On with a few definitions.

Union Terrace Effect: (modern English phrase, attributed to F. Wilkinson) – scheme in which powers that be allow a building, park or structure to decay deliberately, until such time as there is an outcry for a new replacement to be built- which is what the desired outcome was to begin with. 

Old Susannah heard this term recently, but can’t think of a single historic building, museum, school, terrace gardens or Tullos Hill that would fit this definition of something left to rot so it could be sold off / developed.  If I think of anything, I will let you know.

The Itemiser: (mod Eng noun) a portable particle scanner which can detect microscopic traces of a variety of substances.

We will all be safer soon!  Result!

traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note

First, we are considering building a giant ‘state of the art’  prison soon – yet another construction job coming our way!  Secondly, the police now have a portable scanner which can find particles on a microscopic level of things like cannabis (!) and hard drugs.

They plan to go from bar to bar and search people here and there, for traces of drugs.  Anyone who’s been in contact with these substances (except for politicians, the wealthy, successful creative types, celebrities, etc) will be thrown in jail – where tons more drugs and interesting career training opportunities will freely available.

There is just one flaw in this cunning plan of searching citizens for microscopic evidence of crime, and that is this little fact:  90%+ of all paper money in circulation in the United Kingdom has traces of cocaine and/or heroin on it.

Old Susannah can’t begin to imagine how or why that should be – but next time you buy something in a bar, use coins rather than folding money – or it might just be off to jail with you.

The Daily Mail was one of the many news media that reported the presence of drugs on currency; it wrote:-

“A senior analyst at the FSS, the largest provider of forensic services in the UK on behalf of police forces, says traces of the drug (cocaine) can be found on any bank note regardless of its geographical location.

It takes just two weeks for a new note to pick up the drug… “

Read more: http://www.dailymail/Every-British-bank-note-contaminated

So to sum up, anyone with traces of drugs on them is either:  a)  a drug fiend who should be locked up, and/or b)  someone who has £5, £10, £20 or £50 pound notes on them.  We will all be safer if these types are all locked up.

If anyone’s worried about any bothersome civil rights issues over this type of presumed guilt / mandatory search, infringement of freedom, they could always organise a protest.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.

Except that Gordon McIntosh is proposing to the Council that we get rid of such things as protests, or at best only allow them in the Castlegate, where any crowds can easily be kettled.  Thanks, Gordon.

Anyone suggesting his latest report (which also recommends charging groups for holding events in parks as well as banning protests) is over-stepping his remit will be locked up.

King Midas: (ancient Greek mythological figure).  Midas was magically transformed so that everything he touched turned to gold.

Witty Kevin Stewart is making a stir once again.  Back in the day, he told the people in care homes, schools, Choices, etc. that we all had to be ‘reasonable’.  Then he cut their services off and closed their schools.

ACSEF was of course allowed to flourish, city real estate was sold at bargain basement prices, and we wrote off millions of pounds in bad debts.  Reasonable indeed.

Kevin had a wonderfully clever sound bite this week, aimed at Aberdeen City Council’s web-rejecters.  For the benefit of those who have stopped reading it, the P&J wrote:

“MSP Kevin Stewart claimed the administration had an “inverse Midas touch” hindering future private investment in the city.”

As mentioned before, I guess someone forgot to tell BrewDog, BP and a host of other businesses about the hindering future private investment in the city.  But as painful as it is to correct him, I feel I must remind Kev the moral of the Midas story.

King Midas was not a bad man per se; but he loved wealth and lived for gold.  So far, so good – if you’re an ACSEF member.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment

As a reward for his kindness to a Satyr, he was granted a wish – he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold.  At first very happy to be surrounded by his new wealth, Midas soon learnt that he could not eat, as his food turned to gold.  Then he touched his daughter, and she turned to gold as well.

Kevin Stewart forgot part of the legend when making his brilliant comment.  Midas realised his folly in thinking gold and wealth was more important than the environment, living creatures and of course his own daughter.

Midas was cured of his lust for gold, and once cured of the Midas Touch too, he retired to the countryside to enjoy nature. It was almost as if something in life was more important than wealth creation.  Ultimately, the moral of the Midas tale is that the environment and people are more important than gold.  How backward-looking is that?

I’m sure that this ending of the story would horrify our average Chamber of Commerce member, who would gladly have brought their golden daughter to a pawn shop to flog as scrap metal.

In an uncharacteristic slip, neither Kevin nor our local press found time to mention that Kev was on the City Gardens Project Management Board when writing about Labour having the Midas touch in reverse.

Some people might think his connection to the project is relevant to his attack on Labour, but that would just be jumping to the conclusion that a person on a board of a project would want the project to go ahead.   (And that would be as silly as assuming someone in a football supporter’s club might be biased towards the football team).

You might expect this service-axing champion of the people to advise fiscal restraint now until we truly got on our feet again.  You might even think he’d advise restoring some services ahead of web weaving.

No, Kev would prefer us to borrow £92 million on this real estate speculation which he supported as a board member.  (Note – I suppose I should just call it ‘TIF Funding’ like the professional reporters do; if you call it ‘funding’ rather than a ‘loan’, it sounds better and safer, doesn’t it?)

Amnesia: (noun; medical term) forgetfulness; loss of memory.

Isolated pockets of amnesia have hit our business community, press and government.

these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

Kevin forgot to flag up his direct involvement in the CGP project when he criticised Labour for cutting the web.  We’re told by ACSEF, pro CGP politicians, the Evening Express and the Press & Journal that the future is all gloom and doom, and no businesses will come here without the web.

They say we’re ‘closed for business’, we’re ‘frightened’, we’re ‘embarrassing’.  (It’s not that we’re being environmentally-friendly, economically prudent or aesthetically intelligent – no, we’re in the wrong if we don’t want the golden web).

And yet as recently as February of this year things looked so much better.  This is what the Press & Journal had to say back then:-

“Aberdeen is in prime position to help drag the UK economy out of recession, experts revealed today.

“The city has more start-up businesses than anywhere else in Scotland and will suffer fewer public sector job losses than anywhere else in Britain, says a new report.

“Aberdeen was named as one of five cities which Cities Outlook 2012 said was well-placed to aid recovery from the current economic gloom.

“Last night industry chiefs said the Granite City was an ideal location for new firms to flourish.”

I guess that is only true if we have a web though.  Either that or these ‘industry chiefs’ and our press forgot how rosy things looked earlier this year in a moment of mass forgetfulness.

We’re also being told by the guardians of accuracy, PriceWaterhouse Cooper that we need to attract 122,000 people to work in Aberdeen’s energy sector in the next ten years.  Funny, the £71,000+  they earned from web-related consultancy doesn’t get much of a press mention either – yet more amnesia, I think.

So amnesia-wise – Kevin and the press forgot to mention his involvement with the CGP when he attacked Labour; PwC forgot to mention in the press the money it made over the web so far when supporting it, and the media forgot its reports earlier this year as to what a great future Aberdeen has.

Do I think these people and institutions are possibly dishonest, scheming, colluding, corrupt or greedy?  Certainly not – I just think they have selective amnesia.

Additionally, BrewDog and BP forgot that the city cannot survive without the Granite Web when they committed to the area.  Yes, amnesia is at epidemic proportions.

And there we shall leave it until next week.

PS  very best wishes to Declan Michael Laird for his film premier; have a great time tomorrow night and a good trip back to LA. 

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