Thursday, 18 October 2012

King of Popcorn

Early this year, for better or worse, the noble people of Bradford West elected one of the UK's biggest political characters back to Parliament. Like him or loathe him, George Galloway is without a doubt a strong voice for the causes he represents, so the film industry should now be quaking in its money that Galloway has set his sights on them and their overpriced snacks

Apparently one of the most pressing concerns to Galloway's constituents is not...ok, I admit I was going to find some more important local Bradford news stories at this point, but after a trawl through Bradford's local newspaper, I see that the price of cinema snacks may actually be quite high up their agenda.

In this interview with the Daily Politics, which Dead Ringers once described as "CBeebies for pensioners", Galloway explains why he's table an Early Day Motion against cinema confectionary prices. The precise wording of the motion is as follows

"That this House deplores the profiteering by cinema chains in the provision of catering to their customers where the prices of sweets, drinks and ice creams in the foyers are many times those on the high street; notes that this particularly affects families with young children at whom much of the merchandising is aimed; calls on cinemas to stop exploiting their customers by insisting that the stalls and franchises inside their buildings reduce their prices to a level commensurate with local shops and restaurants; and congratulates the cinema goers who are campaigning for fair prices."

Not only is Gorgeous George, and by gorgeous I mean borderline insane, making a complete fool out of himself by using parliamentary time on something so petty, he's also demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the subject in hand.

His appearance on the Daily Politics begins with him being asked why he is suddenly interested in popcorn and he replies "I had to buy it". That's a lie, isn't it George? You didn't have to buy it. I go to the cinema on a regular basis and I never buy popcorn. If you were at a cinema with an enforced popcorn buying policy, you should take your business elsewhere. That's the beauty of competition.

He blames having to buy popcorn on his kids. "You can't drag your kids, saying 'I want popcorn, I want have to buy it". Again, not true. What you're essentially admitting is that you're tabling an Early Day Motion attacking cinemas because of your own parental failings. Telling your children they can't have everything they want is a crucial part of being a parent. Sure, they might cry this time, but next time they will know that when you say they can't have something you mean it and that they can't have everything they want all the time. Otherwise you'll have greedy, materialistic, spoilt children, which will probably mean you have to disown them George.

The problem is that if Galloway had researched this for, I don't know, eight seconds, he would know that cinemas hardly make any money off ticket sales. Hollywood charge up to 90% of the ticket price for distribution. Either Galloway expects them to run at a loss, or they have to make their money back elsewhere, i.e. on snacks and drinks which people purchase voluntarily. His suggestion that people sell popcorn out side the cinema for customers to take inside shows his complete lack of knowledge on the subject. If this happened, cinema ticket prices would shoot up, making the cinema less accessible for everyone.

The way I see cinema snacks is a bit like lottery tickets. When something's funded by the lottery it's great because it probably means money is going somewhere it wouldn't if left to the market, but it's also money people have given voluntarily. If people want to spend large amounts on cinema snacks and subsidize my cinema ticket as a result, great! It's a system that works for everyone.

Part of Galloway's problem may be that he thinks "they throw you out if you bring your own [food]". Not at any cinema I've ever been to. Some of them have policies against your own food, but they never enforce it. You know why? Because people will take their business elsewhere. Probably when Galloway tried to take his own food in he did it while shouting about food prices and claiming to be fighting against the fascistic confectionery purveyors. Plus they were probably looking for any excuse to get rid of him. "George Galloway's here? Shit. How do we get rid of him? Is he carrying drugs? Does he have recording equipment? Shit! I know, get him for the bourbons!" 

What I do when i go to the cinema is put my previously bought food in a non see through bag. Clever, right? Once you're in the cinema it's too dark for the gestapo to see what you're eating when they do their mid-film inspeation.  Galloway appears to think they search you on the way in like that annoying Orange ad. Just replace "phone" with "food" and you get the picture.

I don't like the price of cinema snacks, but there's a reason for it, and if George Galloway was actually serious about doing something about it he would be fighting the distribution costs of Hollywood studios, not the price of snacks. He needs to do some research, not table EDMs to make up for his parental failings.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Yet another thing on religion.

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, I'll do quite a lot in the name of politeness. If I go into a food shop and they don't have what I want, I'll still buy something to be polite. I don't like using toilets in restaurants or pubs where I haven't bought anything. Except Little Chefs. I don't think anyone expects you to eat that stuff. But even I won't renegotiate my metaphysical or theological beliefs in the name of politeness.

It's a strange thing, to try and change someone's religious beliefs in the street. I wonder how many people it actually works on.

I know that for most British people religion isn't a big deal. They don't think about it. If pushed they'll tick Christian, because, you know, they have a Christmas tree and sort of think there might be something there. But are these people going to be persuaded to join a religion by a leaflet and a slightly disgruntled stranger who looks like they gave up washing for lent in 1983 and haven't got back in the habit?

I make these generalizations based on the religious groups I frequently see on the streets of Sheffield. On a normal Saturday there will be a Muslim group and a couple of Christian ones. A regular Christian group included a collection of angry hard line nutcases with a "We must all come before the throne of judgement" sign who believe "drunkeness" is a hell-worthy sin that no amount of good deeds can make up for. So I could discover a cure for AIDS, but go to hell for my celebratory magnum of champagne. Although I admit this is unlikely to happen. I'm not even looking for a cure for AIDS.

I also wonder what benefit it is to a religion to sign up people who are swayed so easily, by a couple of people shouting at them in the street. Sure, you've got them on your mailing list and they might come along to a free coffee morning, but as soon as the Mormons come knocking they'll up sticks to Utah, and coffee will be a thing of the past. And I hear the Mormons don't let their prey go so easily so they won't be coming back any time soon.

This doesn't really have a point to it. I guess I just don't think trying to nag people to join your religion in the street is a good use of time. There's not really much chance of changing anyone's mind now is there? So why do it when you could be doing something more worthwhile, like good deeds, masturbation or collecting stamps?

The reason is simple. People like to say "I told you so". As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, I like a good "I told you so". So much I actually keep a recording of everything I say so I can reference it back at a later date. But I have no intention of doing it on Judgement Day.

The religious who clog up the already busy streets with their meager attempts at conversion do it because they think that when we all die and are faced with their deity, and he sends everyone except them to an eternity of torment they can say "ha! Told you so!". Which is the worst thing about being an atheist. You never get to say "I told you so". Your only reward is not wasting half of the only life you have on worshiping iron age imaginary characters.

But even if these people's religions are true, you would have thought saying "I told you so" would be unnecessarily adding insult to injury. When I've been told I'm about to be tortured for ever, someone saying "well, we did warn you" is just gonna piss me off. And if this isn't their intention, they should make a decent effort to convert people rather than their half arsed, angry, misspelled leaflets. You should put your whole arse in. I'm sure that's in Leviticus somewhere.

For now I'll put my faith in the idea that if there's such a thing as a god who in whose company I'd like to spend eternity, he wouldn't send messengers who look like an amoeba's embarrassing cousin with a message as incoherent as the Star Wars prequels in Welsh.