Run with Eric + World

Apocalypse When?

News has been singularly... singular this week, focusing on very little more than the fact we're all going to die. Sorry, I meant in relation to the credit crunch. Money isn't everything, people will tell you, but you can guarantee those people don't have investments in Iceland. People are justifiably terrified. And so it is that everyone equates losing their money with ultimate doom, on a personal as well as a global scale.

And no more so than the media, which has used this financial meltdown to give a masterclass in epic reporting – epic not just in the apparently apocalyptic situation, but in the sheer amount of space devoted to reporting it ("Read our coverage on pages 1-9!"). It's impressive, it's arguably necessary and it's definitely an opportunity worth taking if you're an editor, but the dramatic approaches taken by tabloids and broadsheets alike have made the mayor of New Orleans, clearly auditioning for a role in a disaster movie, look positively small-town.

I mean, I'd expect it from The Independent: if the Indy's front page isn't telling us we're all going to die it's because it's telling us to stop killing all the other species first. But The Guardian leading with the headline 'Staring into the abyss' was unexpected, especially when it came after a potentially encouraging bail-out proposal from the Government. They could have presented that very, very differently. Still, as much as people want to hear good news it's bad news that sells papers and at the moment, bad news is one of the few currencies in good stock. Even in the crunch, newspaper sales are booming. As far as the media's concerned, this is the Golden Age.

Banks not waving but drowning
Mugabe in 'Bastard' shocker
To Boo or Not To Boo
Square Pegg Round Hollywood
Banjo surgery

Banks not waving but drowning

Due to the nature of this once-a-week blog, it's actually incredibly difficult to comment on the current economic crisis because it develops far too quickly. Even during the course of a Government meeting people were losing money. There's not a lot I can add that will remain new by the time this goes live – but I do find it interesting that as I write, four major British banks have just asked the Government for up to £50 billion of taxpayers' money. With what I said above in mind, I look forward to Monday's headlines.

With an announcement being planned before the markets open on Monday, I won't attempt to predict nor evaluate the Government's response. The request itself intrigues me. It's highly unlikely RBS, HBOS, Lloyds TSB and Barclays would try to pull a fast one and capitalise on capitalism's crisis because the risk is just too great if the public ever finds out these banks were being charlatans with their hard-earned money. So they must actually need this money urgently. Nevertheless, you do wonder what they were expecting to have to do in return. Money doesn't grow on trees, even for the biggest branches.

Dear God, that was awful.

The Government is expecting to demand something back from these banks such as a curb on executive pay, although the terms will be decided individually. This is likely to have been predicted by the banks; either that or someone has made a monumental cock-up in the ideas department on the 17th floor. "Look, the Government's giving out freebies – let's get it in on this." "We heard back, and they said they'll give us the money, but you have to give up your bonuses." "Ah. Bugger."

It's more likely, though, that the banks saw this coming and still asked for the money, suggesting that they are, indeed, in trouble, or at least in need of a little shoring up (not that that is any more comforting to their customers). Such is the danger of getting loans from American banks in questionable financial situations. As a great Allied Dunbar ad once said, there may be trouble ahead for customers of RBS, Lloyds TSB, HBOS and Barclays. Not that it mentioned those banks specifically, 'cos, y'know, that's libellous.

There's also a danger that the Lloyds TSB-HBOS acronymic nightmare of a takeover might fall through, because Lloyds TSB wants to pay less now that HBOS managed to raise £12bn for the buy-out (more here). Sorry, guys. Read The Small Print. Try Before You Buy. Don't Save A Drowning Man If He'll Make You Drown Too. Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Road. Maybe not the last one. But yes, if they want to pay less money now because circumstances have changed then they should be told 'bad luck but that's life'. You'd think they'd know that right now.

Still, the Government might swing their way – and the ways of Barclays, and HBOS, and RBS. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Disclaimer: I may or may not know anything about economics. And if you're wondering if I'm personally concerned about what's going on, don't worry – I'm fine. My money's with IceSave.

Mugabe in 'Bastard' shocker

A few weeks ago I expressed my concern over Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, admitting he would just "have to trust" co-leader President Robert Mugabe. Obviously Tsvangirai's not an idiot, and knew of what was in store when he agreed to share power with one of the most evil men to walk this earth (excuse the bias). Just a month later, however, the man Zimbabwe is relying upon has threatened to pull out of. It's all very well to mutter the words 'can't', 'stand', 'heat' and 'kitchen', but Mugabe's not just pulling funny faces – he wants to choose what government ministries his Zanu-PF party can control.

Were it a lesser offence you could claim, probably inaccurately, that Tsvangirai is just throwing his toys out the pram, but this negotiation over the division of ministries is one of the most important, and deadly serious, parts of the power-sharing deal. Mugabe is demanding that Zanu-PF is responsible for 14 of the 30 ministries, the main MDC 13 seats and the splinter faction of MDC, led by Arthur Mutambara, 3. Not so bad, you might think, but what ministries does Mugabe want? Defence, the media (i.e. Zanu-PF propaganda), foreign affairs (including aid) and, most terrifyingly of all, 'justice'. It would be funny were it not so tragic.

Tsvangirai, whose jurisdiction as leader of the MDC would include sport, the arts and the largely redundant ministry of constitutional affairs (the power!), has, thankfully, opposed this, but sadly he is not in a position to do much more than threaten resignation. This would effectively make governing Zimbabwe impossible, throwing quite a large spanner in the works, but it is worrying that he has to resort to this: threats to leave government himself, rather than threats to force Mugabe out. He is still very weak in this supposedly equal power-share, and although this is clearly a better situation than it was, it's not going to be enough for Tsvangirai to threaten a walk-out every time Mugabe tries his usual tricks, because he'll just keep doing it.

In short, if it's going to be a case of two steps forward, three steps back, then some sort of intervention is still needed.

(As a side note, has anyone noticed that Tsvangirai looks a bit like Guy Goma, the bloke mistakenly interviewed live by the BBC when they got the wrong man? Just me then.)

To Boo or Not To Boo

As much as I hate to sound like someone writing into Newsround, I think it's very sad that Ashley Cole was booed after his mistake led to a Kazakhstani goal in England's 5-1 victory at Wembley. I don't like the guy either – he cheated on Sheryl Crow! – but this was just one of those things. Everyone makes mistakes, and ultimately, it didn't matter. Picking out an individual player to harass because of one error when the entire team has spent the first half playing like lemons is a bit harsh, even if he is crap.

Square Pegg Round Hollywood

Since Americans supposedly love nerdy British charm, it's no real surprise that übergeek Simon Pegg has been welcomed into Hollywood. His new film How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, based on the memoirs of journalist Toby Young, has been a hit despite being, well, rubbish, and he's playing Scotty in the next Star Trek film. And now he has himself a book deal.

A three-book, seven-figure book deal, no less. The first will be an autobiography on his career, and the second and third will be non-fiction also.

Fair play to him, I suppose. But none of this seems right somehow. I know he's got to move on from Spaced and the like, but I've not been impressed by some of his recent career decisions.

There is definitely going to be a final part of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Nira Park film trilogy, which is fantastic news, but I wasn't impressed that he apparently turned down the role of Rorschach in the new Watchmen adaptation – a nihilistic straight role in which he could potentially brilliant – then he appeared in a woeful romcom version of a true story about someone that nobody likes. Maybe he liked the challenge of trying to make Toby Young popular, but I don't think it's his responsibility to do that. He also alienated his good friend and co-worker Jessica Hynes somewhat when he took the departure into films; according to an interview she gave a couple of months ago, she felt she lost a friend. The book deal just seems to confirm that he's becoming less interested in making exciting new films, which is a shame.

Still, who am I, his mother? I'm sure he'll come good. The man's a hero for squares everywhere.

Banjo surgery

Finally, this is interesting.

I've always said banjos have a great purpose in life.

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