Friday, December 19, 2008

Photos

There's lots of Photography of 2008 sections on news sites at the moment, but these from The Boston Globe, are some of the best I've seen. Some really stunning stuff.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All I want for Christmas

There's a growing trend on Amazon for people to write ridiculously glowing reviews of the most inane and asinine objects and the ones on this photo of Paul Ross are absolutely brilliant.

But one thing I want to know is why on earth is there the opportunity, even in our highly capitalist world, to buy a photograph of Paul Ross for 50 quid?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hallelujah!

I just saw the proclaiming of the second messiah. No, wait, it was the winner of a singing talent contest. My mistake.

Within a minute of the winner being announced and crying her eyes out they're advertising for the next series. Alexandra who?

This is better.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What are the chances

So 2008 was the International Year of the Potato and then right at the end of the year....this happens. Amazing.

Counting down

Today is the last time Carol Voderman will host Countdown. When I saw Tim Vine a few years ago he did a joke that went as follows: "Tonight is the last time Carol Voderman will be on TV, so it means that it's..." - from the PA system came the rocktastic chorus of- "The final countdown..." from European rockers, er, Europe.

Now that's what's happening in real life. Enjoy it here! Rock!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

She has the X-factor

On a cold winter's night, having returned from playing 5-a-side in the biting wind and then be rained on walking home I, and my two housemates, slumped on the sofa to watch some tele. Somehow The Cheryl Cole Factor was our televisual treat of the evening.*

The show set out to underline why Cole has become the 'nations' princess' through a series of events culminating in her 'wise-beyond-her-years' appearances as a judge on the X-Factor.

Basically, you see, Cole has been in a successful (and admittedly good) girl-band after winning 1/5th of a talent contest, married one of the most odious football players ever, had a fight with someone in a nightclub, stood by aforementioned footballer after an affair, and is now a really good judge on the talent show she was once on. And it's this latest role that has really cemented her role as the new 'people's princess'.

Unlike normal humans, Cole can empathise with people who come on to sing: crying when they cry or tell a sad story, or laugh at the bad acts who can't really sing. She's so unique. If only us mere mortals could hope for the same, to laugh and cry at things that are sad or funny.

Really horrible television that left a nasty taste in the mouth.

* It happened because we'd watched the ever-brilliant Outnumbered on the iPlayer and when it ended it reverted back to the channel we had left to access the Virgin OnDemand database - in case you're really, really, interested.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Article

Very interesting article here on the Shannon Matthews case. Worth the read.

Friday, December 05, 2008

On the road

Today is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first motorway in Britain. Interesting no? Why do we call them traffic jams? What has jam got to do with it?

In Cornwall no motorway has dared come within almost 50 miles of its borders, the closest one being the trusty, almost cosy, M5 in Exeter, that leads on to the more workmanlike M4 towards London or Swansea, or upwards to the M6 and beyond...

Motorway service stations are one of the most horrific places you can go to; overpriced, sanitised, drab and soul destrorying. Yet I once knew someone who said they were his favourite places and loved visiting them to have dinner there. He was 20. Yeah I never got that either.

Despite 50 years of motorways in Britain and the roads stretching the length of breadth of the country (though not in Cornwall as noted, or almost the entirety of Wales - too hilly) there is no real 'road trip culture' that is so idealised in the US and to a lesser extent in Europe. Perhaps there is no comparison between saying "I'm driving from New York to Route 66 and on to Las Vegas" to "I'm leaving Reading on the M4 and heading for Taunton."

Anyone got any good motorway stories / thoughts to share?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A novel idea

I took part in this year's National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo to give it its Japenese sounding name, and am pleased to report I scraped in with 50,300 words by the 29th of November - around 220 pages.

The ethos is very much to write quantity, not worry about the quality, but then to go back and edit, re-edit, draft, re-write and polish the chunk of text you have to work on (you can't edit a blank page), rather than merely saying you're going to write a book but never actually do. Needless to say I do not feel my book is anywhere near close to anything resembling publishable, however, maybe after much editing and drafting it will be, who knows.

It was a fun challenge though, and the positive message of the website through which it is run - essentially, just write and write but don't stop and don't worry about quality or anything like that - does really help you stop being self-critical and just keep getting the words down on the page - 1,666 a day to be precise.

I'd recommened it to anyone who has also wondered about / wanted to write a novel, but perhaps the only problem is now you'll have to wait a whole year to do it...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Merry Christmas

This story about the rubbish Lapland is quite sad, but it's nice to see the normally stocial British getting jolly irate having wasted money on a trip to a fake lapland in Dorset. However, it's the comments from the events organiser Henry Mears that are most bizarre.

"Mr Mears, who organises the park's marketing and advertising, told the BBC he was "bemused" by the complaints. He blamed "a few groups of professional troublemakers" for the allegations over the attraction."

You can imagine it can't you: 'here guys, I've had an idea of how we can cause some more professional trouble - there's the Lapland thing on in Dorset, why don't we pay £25 quid to go and then come back and claim it was rubbish.

But the best line is this: "Like all people they like to get into queues and just generate a bit of aggravation."

Oh yeah, all people love doing this. Us Brits are known world-over for our love getting in queues and causing a bit of argy-bargy. Some would say it's our defining trait.

The sky at night

Can you imagine what someone in the 11th Century or in the Roman era would have thought if they'd have seen this in the night sky?

Photo by Felicia Sutantyo in Melbourne, Australia taken from BBC photo set here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Me 'ansome

New jungle found in Cornwall. Hooray! But there's no need to write the gardeners comments up in the perceived local accent of the place:

He said: "I was cutting back some bushes when I saw the most amazing jungle scene. It was like nothing I had ever scene before. I've been head gardener here for the last 18 years and didn't know a thing about it."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If only they'd listened



I'd not claim to know any of the ins and outs of the 'Credit Crunch', but this video is very illuminating. It's 10 minutes long but it's worth watching. It would be nice to know what those who laugh at Peter Schiff do now, and what they are suggesting now. If I was taking advice from them and saw this, I'd tell them to sling it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Honestly

I won this last year.

Dancing in the dark

Every blogger under the sun will be writing about this but what the hell so will I.

So, John Sergeant has quit Strictly Come Dancing because he doesn't want 'the joke to go on' and potentially win the competition despite it being obvious he is not the most technically proficient dancer on display. What does it all mean? There are several points that spring to mind.

1) The judges' annoyance with Sergeant's continual survival, despite the low scores they awarded him, shows they don't understand about the show's success. If the show was about the quality of the dancing they wouldn't need celebrities to get involved. They could have pairs of professional couples and still have the voting format. However, people only watch the show to see celebrities (like animals at the zoo) and how they improve through the coming weeks (or in his case, don't improve).

2) The show is merely mindless entertainment. If the public has chosen to keep on the most entertaining dancer (because he's bad) then that is their right. If they are charged for the privilege of keeping him on, and they still choose to do so, then they have even more right to feel ignored when it seems clear the minority of voices from inside the show have caused Sergeant to quit, despite the public clearly wanting him to win - or at least remain.

3) Personally I feel somewhat disappointed that a man who is involved with political reporting and all that jazz has decided to ignore the wishes and whims of the public and drop out anyway. He's been democratically asked to stay through a paid medium and has ignored those wishes. Of course, he does have the right to stop whenever he wants but for him to do so purely because he doesn't want 'the joke' to go on is unfair. Still, did he jump or was he pushed?

The final point is that now the BBC has to reimburse all the people who paid to keep Sergeant in. How on earth will they do that and what will it cost? Will they send cheques back to people for 25p? Or can they uncharge them from their mobile phones? However they do it you can be sure it's a lengthy, time-consuming and expensive process.

And of course what does this all mean in the long-run? Well nothing. The show must go on as they say and undoubtedly it will while there are the audiences and a healthy revenue being generated. But let's not pretend that Strictly Come Dancing is anything more than another celebrity show. If it wasn't they wouldn't need to get celebrities on in the first place to get people watching. It would be nice to think the public would make a stand and boycott the show, or at least not vote at all, but somehow I don't think it will happen.

---

Good article on this subject on the BBC site.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Told You So

As I mentioned a few posts previous I recently took part in Someone Once Told Me, and now my image has been updated. You can click here to see it on the site, or just look a few millimeters to the right. There's even a little audio description of what my 'SOTM' is about.

The owner of the site is always happy for people to take their own and send it to him so why not? What inspirational (or comedic) words would you choose?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The past as the present

If you want to you can read Samuel Pepy's diary and George Orwell's diary updated daily, in the form of blogs complete with links to subjects they mention so that additional information is added. An interesting modernisation of information from the past. You can also comment on them too, thus building a community of people interacting through the writings of eminent writers, even if they are only telling us they only got one egg today. But of course they weren't writing it for us, it was for themselves, in a private diary. All of which is great isn't it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Under the sea

The BBC’s new series Ocean is billed as “a series of underwater scientific expeditions to build a global picture of our seas” which sounds good. But like many BBC shows of this nature it featured two elements that seem to be recurring more frequently.

Mild Peril. In the first episode we were forced to watch a scene in which the boat lost contact with the diver below the surface. Those on the boat were extremely worried about this and there were audible sighs of relief all round when the connection was remade. There’s no reason to doubt this happened – although maybe there is – but whether it did happen or not is irrelevant. The show should not be about this, it should be about the fish, the sharks they were there to try and capture on film and, obviously, the ocean. Not presenters in fake danger. As everyone knows shows like this go through endless health and safety checks so there is probably very little real danger beyond what would occur on any dive in ocean waters infested by sharks. Secondly if something really had gone wrong there is no way it would be on TV. It would most likely have resulted in some BBC Trust being called in to examine the ‘serious breaches of editorial policy’ that had occurred.

Forced Social History Lesson. There must be something in the BBC charter that now means more must be done to focus on the social history of areas that shows cover. In Ocean we had a segment in which Dr Lucy Blue, a maritime archaeologist, swam around the wreck of a boat in which Chinese immigrants had attempted to enter the US. Okay, but what’s that got to do with oceans? They came by a boat that travelled on the ocean? Is that it? And there’s not some tragic tale of the ships sinking either. It was only explained at the end of this section that the boat had been deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef. Surely that’s the most relevant angle to be covered in Ocean’s remit? It felt like a snatched footnote of information that should have been at the core of the show.

The BBC though is a victim of its own success. After decades of making some of the best nature documentaries ever made – Trials of Life, Blue Planet, Planet Earth – with David Attenborough, winner of the Culture Show’s Greatest Living Icon award, at the helm, they appear to have reached a crossroads and can’t decide where to go next. Should they be serious or fun? Educational, entertaining or edutainment? They need to make up their mind soon though before they risk undermining a legacy of shows on the natural world that, even now, still justify the license fee.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A lesson from history

The old ideas, really are the best.

Ship's blog

Pete Goss is currently sailing, with three other crewmen, from Newlyn in north Cornwall, to Melbourne in Australia, via Cape Town in South Africa. It's being done in honour of the same journey taken by seven Cornishmen 154 years ago. They are sailing in a 37ft boat built from scratch named the 'Spirit of Mystery' in honour of the original boat called 'Mystery'. An interview with Pete Goss here goes into far more detail on all this.

This is all well and good. The interesting point, for this blog at least, is that Pete and his crew are keeping a thorough, interesting and amusing blog of their trip as they go. It's a great example of the power of blogging, that four men alone at sea, miles from land and travelling half way around the world can keep friends, family and strangers entertained by using the internet and specifically a blog, to upload entries of their latest sights and sounds and adventures that people can read almost instantly from where they are based - which you can also follow via a satellite tracker. Entries which in the past would have been confined to a ship's log are now in the ship's blog. Har har.

Furthermore there are many references throughout the blog of the crew asking questions about certain things - 'What do Turtles eat?' - and the readers of the blog emailing back with answers to inform them. They could Google it of course but where would be the fun in that?

Music

'I went to see Micah P. Hinson at La Scala last Thursday.'
'Really what was that like?'
'I could tell you, or you could read my review and find out.'
'Okay I will.'

Monday, November 10, 2008

Only if the result is right

So people want X-factor singer Laura White reinstated because they think it's a fix she was voted off?

This is ludicrous. The show involves people ringing up to vote for their favourite and then the bottom two being put before the judges and one being saved. It's that simple. People know that's how it works and if they don't like it shouldn't watch, or at best certainly shouldn't vote. And surely if this singer was as popular as everyone says she would have got the votes in the first place? If, however, it was a fix, then where is the surprise in that?

Have people learnt nothing from the TV phone in debacles of the last 18 months? If you still insist on phoning these shows to vote for people in overhyped talent contests and the result doesn't go your way either accept it for the transient waste of time it is, or don't bother at all and learn from the past in which TV execs and so on were found guilty as charged for rigging phone contests, competitions, and even the naming of TV cats. You can read the extensive list here.

A glorious quotation from the story on the BBC: "In the petition, some of White's supporters also accused X Factor judge Louis Walsh - who had the casting vote - of getting rid of the singer so that his group, JLS, would have a better chance of winning. One fan, Donna Clarkson, said the result was an "absolute joke" and suggested Walsh should have "let it go to deadlock"."

So people are upset one judge chose his own act over a rivals? Do they not understand it's a (mock) competition in which the judges endlessly crow on about their 'rivalry' with one another?

It should be noted X-Factor have strongly denied all these various, wild and spurious, accusations. It doesn't matter though, the point remains the same, who cares?

This isn't spam

Don't you always wonder who the people (morons) are who actually click through on spam emails and buy whatever the hell it is that's being offered? I for one can never really understand why spammers do it. But a very interesting study, just reported on the BBC, underlines there is significant money to be made by simply sending out countless millions of emails, and knowing 0.00001% of people will be dumb enough to buy.

If the internet didn't exist - try and imagine it, hard though it is - what would these people do for a living? And what would the people wasting money through spam emails be doing with that money instead? Buying more junk from shops? Saving it? Or perhaps donating it to charity, like my marathon sponsorship page? One would hope so.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Plan ahead

On Demand from Virgin is a fantastic television service. It's basically a big database of TV shows, music videos and films (these you pay for) you can access through your remote control. It contains all series of Peep Shows, entire seasons of shows like The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to name but a few. It also has Band of Brothers...well, kind of.

You see it has seven episodes. Which is fine. Except there are 10 episodes in the show. So this means having watched and been utterly engrossed by seven episodes of one of the best, if not the best television war drama ever made, you suddenly reach a dead end. Why would they negotiate a deal for seven out of 10 episodes? What could be the logic for that? Or do they have the final three but haven't got around to making them available?

I emailed the 'help' section on the website but was unhelpfully redirected to the basic television page of their website, which I had already checked, and then, to top it all, berated for not giving my unique customer number! They don't need that, they just need to inform me why they aren't putting up, or don't have the right to put up, the final three episodes of Band of Brothers.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Words of wisdom

The internet is great for many reasons. Chief among these is the way it brings people together through the most random of routes and for such interesting reasons.

On Saturday I took part in photo-wisdom website 'Someone Once Told Me' because the owner of the site had used his Google Analytics to track the link I had given him on this blog. He asked if I would like to take part and so I accepted and myself, and my housemate, went along to meet him.

We wrote our words and had our photos taken, chatted about the site, his future plans for it, why it's such an enjoyable site to peruse and so on, and it was all very pleasant. And really we had the internet to thank for bringing us all together on a cold and rainy day in North London when otherwise we would have probably just sat around doing nowt.

If you want to take part in the project you can contact Mario (for it is he) at the bottom of this page. Alternatively he says he is more than happy for people to send in their photos for submission.

I'll upload my picture once it's live.

How do you feel right now? Er...

Well done Lewis Hamilton. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, having been close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, after having previously been leisurely gathering victory from a supermarket on the other side of town from defeat.

But why do the broadcasters have to shove cameras, microphones and dictaphones into the face of the poor chap the moment he finishes the most climatic and exhausting race of his life? Are we that desperate for people's immediate reactions to events? He'd barely exited the car before people wanted to know how he felt. His bewildered and exhausted face gave the answer: he didn't know. It was sinking in.

I'd rather let him enjoy the moment and be with his friends and family and then gather his thoughts and give a press conference than have to fight off quote-hungry journalists desperate for a snatched "yeah...it feels great...it hasn't sunk in yet."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sing along

While some radio presenters have been in the news for making phone calls, others have been making very clever football player / song lyric changes. Just click here to see what I mean. Also you can 'sign' along with the BBC if you want, if you look at the bottom.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Media darrhhliinggs

Peaches Geldof – who should form a salad with Apple Martin when she grows up (both of them grow up) - has done a Max Gogarty, and written one of the worst blogs in the world. And there are 112 million out there so that’s saying something.

Marina Hyde wrote a withering and quite brilliant rant (in the best possible sense) on Friday attacking the piece that is better to read first, before reading the blog itself afterwards.

Among the many comments, many of which are signed off with 'funny' user names, is one from someone called 'A A Gill' (about 10-15 comments down) and it does read as if it’s by A A Gill, so perhaps it really as him, which is an interesting thing if so. Either way, the comment from this person is also a very savage and incisive cutting down of such a vacuous, hollow and needless piece of writing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Working through lunch

The BBC's Working Lunch had a little bit on blogging yesterday (video), and even had on blogger Annie Mole from London-Underground blog, one of my Netvibes favourites, so maybe you want to watch it? Who knows.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the buses

The poor old bendy bus has had it rough in recent months. Indeed Boris Johnson based a lot of his campaigning on his desire to rid the city of London of this lumbering beast.

Now it finds itself once again caught in the cross-fire of a debate it probably didn’t ask to be in – the existence, or not, of God. Just a small one then. It all stems from the fact the British Humanist Association (BHA)are to run a series of ads on the buses rejecting the idea of God and telling people,"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Which is fair enough.

But, of course religion will argue back, and Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice said: "Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.” Which is a great comparison: a bus whose merits are disputed and the unbelieving of a mythical sky creature who controls our lives and whose system of practice has caused millions of needless deaths and numerous wars throughout history.

He continued, “People don't like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don't like it." Which is less great seeing as Mr Green is a rather odious man who is fond of preaching and telling people what to do.

It's the bus I feel for.

Did I mention?

I went to Felix Dennis’ ‘Did I mention the free wine?’ tour on Friday night, in which publishing magnate, and all-round raconteur, Felix Dennis read a selection of poetry from his new book and some from his old ones, and lured people to the reading by offering free wine and canapés. Good wine too, no cheap plonk here.

It was an interesting evening and Dennis is certainly an entertaining host, with his poetry very much performance poetry as he accentuates voices, and hops about the stage when the subject riles him – mainly politics – but always sticking to his meters – a point on which his hatred of Ezra Pound was clear to all.

He even made a sly reference to the infamous ‘I killed a man’ interview (worth a read) but no more than that. Unsurprisingly with free wine on offer the crowd was utterly raucous, shouting, talking, answering back – in some way it was like being in a physics lesson when you’re 16, all the morons sniggering, ‘oh right sir, how’d you figure that then?’ then sitting back to take in their acclaim. Except here the people were in the mid 40s, the ones near me at least, and it was all a bit pathetic really.

All in all though, it was a very interesting evening, and nice to see such a charismatic figure from the world of publishing and magazines.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Overstatement?

Football always gets too much coverage, or at least, too much serious coverage, and this is surely one of the best over-the-top examples, comparing Rio Ferdinand to Abraham Lincoln:

"The shock of the new, wise Rio comes across best in his new, wise face. Gone is the air of a man in a perpetual struggle to remember his own pin number. In its place is a mask of piercingly elemental forensic intelligence. It's tempting to compare wise Rio with a young Abraham Lincoln. This doesn't go far enough. What we've got here is the old Abraham Lincoln: furrowed, long-suffering, a vision of parched and forbidding integrity."

Quite.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Iran makes huge ostrich sandwich


Even The Onion couldn't top this.

The fucking hypocrisy of it all

Quentin Letts' recent, hateful, piece in the Daily Mail 'The 50 people who wrecked Britain' - or ruined on the third day (why they changed it who knows) - took exception with Stephen Marks at number 11, the owner of French Connection UK, or FCUK.

Letts riles, 'One of the most miserable, shaming, dog-dirt-nasty things about Britain today is the coarseness of language in public...children were confronted by the letters and presumed it must be all right to be suggestive and brassy and foul-mouthed.

Is bad language not often a precursor of other forms of anti-social and violent behaviour? If we do not protest about bad language, what hope have we of stopping thuggery and vandalism?

Thank God King Cnut never thought of going into the rag trade.'

Letts choosing there to shoehorn in a particularly bad and incredibly ‘foul-mouthed' and 'suggestive' pun, even though this is the very behaviour he claims has created the 'dog-dirt-nasty' Britain.

But wait! There's more!

As Private Eye have noted, the book of this utterly pointlessly endeavor, is entitled '50 people who buggered up Britain'. What's wrong with wrecked? Or ruined? I thought Letts was against such things, after all Marks' FCUK logo meant 'children [...] presumed it must be all right to be suggestive and brassy and foul-mouthed.'

I only raise these points because, as Letts himself says, 'If we do not protest about bad language, what hope have we of stopping thuggery and vandalism?' Too right, you won't catch me using coarse language.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It gets worse


So turns out DFS were actually just following the trend. Yes I know writing "oh isn't Christmas early this year!" isn't exactly original, but this is ludicrious. It's still British Summer Time and will be for another 10 days. Oh well, Merry Christmas one and all!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's here

October 12, 10.48pm, DFS Sofa advert, and a Christmas song. Definitely a record.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

News stories

Following up on the story below - pursuit of wealth leds Polish priest to protest against frugal nature of parisheners. Never mind that there's a global credit crunch on.

But if this negativity is getting you down how about this story from my university city of Cardiff. Neighbours find love online. It's a cracking story, and the final line is just such a bad/good pun.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pass the collection plate

The Pope has criticised the pursuit of wealth, again. As you can see from the picture on the BBC site, added here, he still likes carrying round that big gold cross, and wearing a rather ornate hat and all those robes, and living in the Vatican City. Ah, such piety.

Next they'll be criticising short-selling before admitting they use it in their accumulation of wealth, or pursuit of wealth, if you will.

Oh, wait, what?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Art underground

Poems on the Underground is a great idea but I've often felt the poems chosen were a bit random and too often don't have any connection with London, or travelling, or things relating to the context in which they are placed.

This one though that I saw last night on't Northern Line is fantastic.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Car Crash

A bad, bad interview that you can listen to embedded on my site. Fancy eh?



More information on this here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Crunch

This is the first feature I have read that has really hit home just how hard average people are being affected by the credit crunch.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh, so close

Taken from this: 'Alonso clocked one minute 45.654 seconds to edge Hamilton by just 0.098secs, despite the Englishman leading for most of the session. The day's first session saw Hamilton narrowly beat title rival Felipe Massa by just 0.080secs.'


Are the words, 'just' and 'edge' and 'narrowly' really necessary? All F1 seems to come down to impossibly small margins in time so it seems pointless to continually emphasis the differences as if they are somehow significant. Yes it's literally true he narrowly beat him, but it's always narrow, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tasteless

The ad tagline here is tasteless anyway, but the placing it here in Stockwell is particularly poor.

Credit to thelondonunderground blog for publishing this first - a very interesting blog for anyone based in the Londoninium area, or Londo, if Boris gets his way, apparently.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clowns

Blooming 'elf and safety. Huh, wass the world comin' to eh? Can't even let some f-ing clowns blow their friggen trumpets. It's political correctness gone mad. New Labour? These circus clowns will never outdo their counterparts in Whitehall. They're the real clowns!

Oh sorry don't know what came over me. Although it is a bit of a rum do when clowns can't blow some trumpets because it's classed a live musical performance and therefore requires a different licence.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tie game

In the words of Homer Simpson: 'Democracy doesn't work'. Very intriguing article about the potential political mess that could result from a 269-269 tie in the presedential elections.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The case for...

Interesting article here on why books will never die out, even with the invention of fancy book readers, that has a lot of similarities with some of the arguments used to claim why newspapers and magazines will never die out. Probably.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Facelift

So Facebook is enforcing the new style / layout on everyone regardless of feedback. Interesting development but one that is perhaps not that unsurprising.

The BBC's new layout and design is a massive improvement on their old one - whenever you click on an old story the lack of white space and 'squashed' feel is immediate - yet on its release I remember lots of people complaining it was rubbish and so on. It's just change. Facebook's new layout is actually much better, or at least, not any worse. It only takes a few hours on the site to get used to it, and it's not like people don't spend that kind of time on the site.

All these people setting up 'protest' groups against the new Facebook design are never going to stop the evolution of a site where, as the news story says, 30 million people from around 40 million users have switched to the new style without any fuss.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Last on the subject

As you can tell from my last two posts I am quite fascinated by the Cern stuff. So much so I've written another Guardian Blog on the topic. You can read it here.

Topical


A great Google variation.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fast

Tomorrow the world may end, probably not, but it might. CERN will be sending the first ‘beam’ through the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). You can find out more about what this actually means elsewhere. The interesting point is that the particles will be sent at such a speed around the ring, which is 27km (17M) in length, they will complete that distance in 90 microseconds. It could do 11,000 revolutions of that distance in one second. Put another way it will be traveling at 187,000 miles per second.

It’s amazing that humans have developed to such a degree we can achieve such feats of engineering, in an incredibly short space of time. The technological revolution started in the 1950s, perhaps sporadically since the 1900s, and while we’ve always been inventing and evolving to improve our lives (mostly) – stone age to iron age, agricultural to industrial – this specific advancement in technology is probably the fastest yet known and is increasing at a speed that is almost exponential. Where will it lead?


Image: the location of the 'tunnel' through which the particles are sent.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Just browsing

Google launched its brand new web browser today, called Chrome. On the main page to 'sign up' it demonstrates one of its shiny features, the saving of your favourite web pages in mini-window tabs. What's odd is that, as you can make out (just), their favourite 'example windows' are Google maps, Blogger (owned by Google), Google, iGoogle, Google Mail, Welcome to Google front page, Youtube (owned by Google), Orkut (social networking site run by, you've guessed it, Google) and the top middle one is called 'Sally's Recipes'. Which just seems a little out of context compared with the others.

Melttiinnngggg

The new BBC 'Breaking News' image is a bit odd. It seems as if it's rising up out of the mists of news, a mythical beast of some great importance.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Practice what you preach

Straying into the American presidential elections is hardly necessary, it’s been covered to oblivion since February but the news that Sarah Palin’s, McCain's running mate (how nice he has someone to go jogging with), daughter is pregnant has that classic smack of political hypocrisy, on many levels.

McCain’s campaign has said, according to the BBC story, "Senator McCain's view is this is a private family matter” – spokesman for John McCain, Steve Schmidt. Barack Obama said, "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits.”

But apparently Sarah Palin has been bringing her children on stage at election rallies – no doubt to promote a ‘healthy, American family’ to the voters. So if she can use them for positives, why can’t they be criticised? It’s not the children’s fault of course – they may well have no wish to go on stage, but it’s naïve and hypocritical for the politicians to urge the media away from focusing on the children when a negative story comes along concerning them, which obviously reflects on the parents in some way, if at the same time they are being used to promote a certain image of positivity.

The second problem is the pregnancy itself. Palin is a well known, or ‘rabid’ as some have been terming it, anti-abortionist. This means her daughter will be having the baby, at 17 – but this is okay because the Palins are a loving family you see. "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realise very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family."

I doubt the daughter and ‘the young man’ want to get married, but are merely doing so to make the pregnancy a little bit less embarrasing. If Palin were such a great mother perhaps she would have explained to her daughter the dangers of getting pregnant at 17 to a 'young man'. You’d expect that as a matter of course from any ‘normal’ parent but for the governor of Alaska, who is now involved in the presidential elections – where much preaching about morals will be handed out – to be in this predicament doesn’t come across very well.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

What, in the name of sanity, has Kate Moss done to deserve having £1.5m spent on making a gold statue of her? As far as I am aware she doesn’t have a discernable talent apart from ‘looking pretty’. Essentially she’s done all check-list of pointless celebrity things – clothing range, music video, some charity fundraising – although PETA have criticised her for continually wearing fur – and she’s dated some other famous people.

If Moss is a charitable soul then surely she would want the £1.5m to be given to charity, rather than wasted, on this irrelevant statue, that is nothing more than another hollow example of the all pervasive cult of celebrity. One suspects though she probably isn’t and what work she has done was a case of ‘good PR’.

It’s not to misunderstand art and what it tries to achieve to simply and openly criticise such pointless endeavors as these, and if Marc Quinn comes out with any quotations along the lines of ‘it challenges people's perceptions…’ then we really are entering the world of the mundane – a gold statue of a ‘beauty’ passing for a meaningful piece of art?

She’s, according to Quinn, ‘the ideal beauty of the moment’, which is an incredibly asinine thing to say. That it’s being said of a well-known cocaine abuser who has done nothing of note that will live on beyond her demise is more than a little depressing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shome mishtake shurely

A 'world' game of Monopoly is to be played - see here - and London secured a 'red' position. What about the blues, I hear you cry? Riga and Montreal. Honestly - see here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Minis anyone?

What can we learn from the 1948 Olympics? I like the comment from Dorothy Tyler MBE, 88 – who competed at the 1948 games, who says, ‘a great big no to any pop groups, it should not be made into a pop occasion. This is a serious thing.’

I couldn’t agree more. You fear it will be so that we just wheel out a load of crap pop stars and singing a load of rubbish songs. However, they had the imagination to have Jimmy Page play at our eight minutes (even if it was with Leona Lewis – although she did conquer American so in terms of global awareness she’s probably a good choice), which suggests they might look beyond the obvious.

It’s pretty clear you can’t compete with Beijing in terms of scale and size of show, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. I think something involving minis driving around, doing stunts, almost crashing, but not quite crashing, would be fun. Any other suggestions? (No 'comedy' pearly queen, morris dancers, tea drinking replies allowed).

Friday, August 22, 2008

The blog eats itself (or doesn't pay its way)

A very interesting article here on why blogging hasn't taken off in the UK with regards lucrative money making. Point six, regarding the BBC, and how it swallows up huge amounts of internet traffic because of its position, coupled with its reluctance to link to any other media sites, small or large, would certainly hamper growth of UK blogging, as a professional, money-making tool. Of course in the US (where blogging can make money) there is no 'one' media outlet that has such a control. Certainly if you're paying £139.50 for your license fee you might as well get your moneys worth and use the BBC.

Secondly the BBC's own technology blog has commented on the story and referenced point six as well which is an nice piece of naval gazing within the world of blogging.

A final, pertinent, point comes from a Patrick Altoft, who runs a 'blogging consultancy' (that wouldn't even have existed 10 years ago) who says, quoted on the BBC blog, "You have to develop your own niche, you need to break news, you need to write stuff that nobody else is writing."

That is if you want to make money though. This raises then, some questions. If you need to do that to make money, which many don't (me for one), then why do people blog, and blog endlessly? For fun? Because it's an outlet for your voice and opinions?

The blog is so new everyone asks, 'why do people blog?' and so on. But perhaps the point is people have always wanted to 'blog' (i.e. have an outlet for their voices), but it is only now with Web 2.0 and broadband internet, that millions of people across the planet can do just that, where before they were limited to writing letters to newspapers and magazines, at best.

It's up to you, your content, and probably a little dumb luck, as to whether you'll make any money from it. Ultimately though, it doesn't bother me, and it clearly doesn't both the millions out there doing the same. It would be nice, but it's not why any of us do it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Hard Sell

My editor has written a book. You can buy it here on Amazon.

She made me publish this.

She didn't really. But an interesting diversion nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oh dear

Well I don't know what they were expecting. The term 'undisclosed sum' suggests they probably paid a little too much than they would like to admit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday afternoon

How did they get the penguin to 'actually' inspect the troops like that?

A link

This is a very well-written and moving piece from someone who survived the Omagh bombing in 1998 and underlines the power that can be achieved through simple, plain, everyday language.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Was it...

A Sign O' The Times.

I love the video game billionaire and football pundit additions. Very modern.

He's Back!

Not content with appearing once, or twice, on this blog, Cliff is back again. This time he's promoting his desire to get another(!) number one. How did he even get one? Doesn't he know the number single position is now uttely irrelevant?

"He's got some support at Woolworths, at least, as the retailer has agreed to sell copies of Thank You for a Lifetime - a special exception to their decision not to stock singles."

Why Woolworths, why?!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where to start?

The BBC News, alongside many other media outlets, has reported that Policy Exchange's latest report 'Cities Unlimited' argues:

"Cities in northern England such as Liverpool, Sunderland and Bradford are "beyond revival" and residents should move south, a think tank has argued. Policy Exchange said current regeneration policies were "failing" the people they were supposed to help. A mass migration to London, Cambridge and Oxford would stop them becoming "trapped" in poorer areas, it said."

It's an incredible claim to make. Author Tim Leunig, a lecturer in economic history at the London School of Economics (proof indeed that at the end of the day intelligence is an unquantifiable trait), said: 'No doubt some will claim that these proposals are unworkable, unreasonable and perhaps plain barmy.' Plain barmy? That's putting it mildly.

It's all quite mind-boggling. If the north is 'beyond revival' as this think tank, that advises the Tories on key issues, suggests, then we should just give up on it and tell everyone to move south? Is that actually what they’re suggesting? The report is (now) online, you can download it here. Their site is is a load of rubbish though; the search function doesn’t work and the layout is garish.

Surely a mass migration to other cities will just ruin those cities? Does this ‘think’ tank really believe this is the best course of action? It almost seems like practical joke and if it was April 1st it would make more sense. How on earth have we evolved to a system of government and 'thinking' where a major think tank can suggest such outlandish, spurious, almost comical claims?

On the 'thisislondon' website they've included a great image comparision piece in their article to show the differences between Oxford and Liverpool - pictured. It's utter rubbish. You could find two shots of any two cities and make one look nice and the other like a dump.

Perhaps they're right. Perhaps everyone oop' north should just give up, come down here, (we've got loads of room!) and find jobs here, (can't give 'em away!) and let's allow the northern cities to turn into wild, ghost towns, that we can use for movie shoots in post-apocalyptic films.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not surprising, but...

Front page of the londonpaper last night:

Page 3: Sienna's dishy lunch date.

Page 8: Russia continue with Georgia attack.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Talked down to?

Britain From Above was a bloody odd show. It never really knew what it was trying to show, aside from that representing different things around the country in the form of colourful sperm looked quite interesting.

At times it was almost childlike: “look here, a train taking people to work, and over there some people having a swim”. Then it bordered on a Steve Coogan pastiche – the traffic engineer who controlled traffic light timings saying, ‘we have to be ready for the unexpected, once a milk float overturned’. Is that his best anecdote?

But the single most interesting, and depressing, aspect was the man whose job was to watch for the end of Eastenders and be ready to ensure there was enough energy to match the sudden demand for a cuppa the end of the show causes. How utterly pathetic is that. Again, not sure how it linked in to ‘Britain From Above’ but they put it in anyway.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I like Sport, but...

Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has told the BBC "it is vital" that Team GB reaches the target of 41 medals from the Beijing Olympics.

Is it though? Is it really? Of course we want to do well and if we were to finish fourth it would be great for the country and the continued progress we are making in these areas. But it’s not ‘vital’ that we reach our target. It’s vital we curb knife crime, it’s vital we try and ensure a proper, rounded education for all, it’s vital we address the roots of international terrorism. But it's not vital we make sure we win a gold for sailing a boat around a pre-determined course of markers faster than someone else. Or that we jump further than someone else into a sandpit.

Isn’t this taking a large proportion of what makes sport the enigma it is away? The best thing about sport is its unpredictability. The greatest matches are so because you’re never sure of the outcome, or an under-dog comes from nowhere and produces a performance that defies expectation. You don’t want to just be crossing off medals as and when you’ve predicated them to come in.

And based on Lucca Barra’s (who forecasts the Olympic medal table using the results of recent world championships in each sport) Athens performance chart (in which he got 2 / 10) it’s clearly not the most exact science, despite him saying we will surpass our target.

Monday, August 04, 2008

They all laughed

Interesting BBC Magazine story here about the continued existence of people who genuinely believe the Earth is flat. It's well written as it lets the bizarre individuals and their beliefs be shown up by themselves and their quotes in attempting to justify what they believe, rather than the author trying to do it with his own words. It is fascinating though that people still believe this stuff, if a little worrying.

As the final lines say:

"While we all respect a degree of scepticism towards the authorities, [says Ms Garwood] the flat-earthers show things can go too far. It is always good to question 'how we know what we know', but it is also good to have the ability to accept compelling evidence".

Plus gives me the opportunity to put in one of my favourite quotations:

"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small." - Neil Armstrong

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Waxing lyrical

A slight departure from the norm here…

In a long and roundabout way I’ve come to be listening to ‘Meet on the ledge’ by Fairport Convention a lot recently. It’s a great song, all about the death of friends and meeting them again in another life. Heavy.

Its theme is made all the more prescient by the fact the band were involved in a car accident in which the drummer died, aged 19, as did the girlfriend of Richard Thompson (who wrote the song) - this happened about a year after he wrote it. What’s more it was written by Thompson when he was just 19. To write something that is still musically and lyrically brilliant 40 years on is no mean feat and for a 19-year-old it’s something else.

I just felt like sharing this...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Link-a-holic

Good piece here on the BBC Sport website about the rivalry between Australia and UK at the Olympics. But it suffers from over-linking. If you read all those links you'd be reading this article for hours. The thing is you don't need to click on the links to understand the article, which is as it should be, but they are just there because they can be. With so many it makes the article feel like a join-the-dots piece of journalism, hiding the fact it's actually perfectly well written and interesting without having to point you in the direction of 'proof' of everything the journalist mentions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Great Blog In The Sky

So the 'oldest blogger' has died. The idea that she was born in 1899, lived through two World Wars and the rest of the 20th Century and into an age where you can upload words to be read by people from as far apart as Russia or America (which for a great deal of her life were polar opposites), is somehow both sobering and uplifting.

The best technology assimilates itself into life so seamlessly you soon forgot how you lived without it, (mobiles, the internet, Ipods, toasters...), and it's easy to overlook the humble blog. But their power to entertain - both the writer and the reader, (when done well) - means that a 108-year-old woman was able to communicate to people across the globe how they used to wash clothes before washing machines in 1908- another invention those of a certain age can't imagine living without.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Magazines

The BBCs online magazine section had its fifth birthday the other day. It's an odd section of the BBC, far more opinionated than almost every other output they do and a real ‘community’ feel to it – as magazines are meant to have: caption comps, letters pages, roundup of the daily newspapers, (often very tongue in check), and interesting sideways looks at the issues around news stories. I hope it keeps going very much under-the-radar, left to follow its own agenda.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eh?

Something about this headline on the BBC News website is just wrong. The offending word doesn't even appear in the article either - surely the sub could have done a little better?

---

Update - it did say 'sluts' it now says 'tarts'. I don't think I can take all the credit but...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Laws

This is actually a really depressing story. This bloke spent all this time trying to prove something using high brow maths equations and fancy experiments but was wrong - don't know how he was, whether or not the prosecution got in there own, better university-standard physicists etc but he lost. And it's going to cost him £15,000, or £15,060 - actually I imagine they do add the £60 on rather than included it, just to really grind you down, the bastards.

The final quote too from Philip Gwynne seems a bit rich. Speed is only measured by distance over time so the laws of the land are based in physics. Still if you can happily make snide comments as a qualified university lecturer is hit with a £15,000 fine for having the temerity to use his intelligence to try and use the courts to disprove a £60 fine then you've got to be a bit smug haven't you? The message here is, don't try and stand up for yourself.

Why does he need to be fined £15,000? Using legal recourse to try and defend yourself shouldn't mean the risk of incurring huge, unpayable fines should it? It sounds utterly Daily Mail to say but there will be people who commit far worse 'crimes' than this who will end up getting lower fines or token jail time (which is evidently not so bad), while this poor bloke admits he faces bankruptcy. Nice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back of the Q

A trip to the Q Monthly Music Showcase last night was a nice little perk of work. Martha Wainwright was fantastic and having long been a fan it was great to see her so up close. Support band Lazenby were also highly entertaining and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they became far more well known.

But…like almost every gig these days it was marred by people in the crowd talking, laughing and generally forgetting where they were. Ok so it’s a free event and probably not a rarity for some of the people there last night, but you and your friends can laugh about nothing on your own time. I think when a major artist is on stage playing an intimate gig you should simply just shut up and watch. The odd comment here or there, between songs perhaps, is fine, but not to laugh continually amongst yourselves almost the entire way through.

Rant over, otherwise though top stuff.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Logos

Some interesting and innovative reader-suggested mascot suggestions for the 2012 Olympics on the BBC here. Citizen journalism at its finest. Number 3 and 7 are my favourites.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This morning off

That was a short break. One day.

Ever Decreasing Circles

The news that Cheryl Cole is to replace Sharon Osbourne represents yet another milestone on the path of reality TV. Now, wannabe popstars on the X-Factor will be judged by a woman who is sitting there because she was a winner of a popband reality TV show. And the woman she has replaced only became famous because she was in a reality TV documentary. And her husband once ate a BAT! But that's not relevant here.

In a way breeding a microcosm of reality TV talent that judges itself might help to suppress it from the all-consuming monster it once threatened to become – the Lloyd Webber, Summer Strallen TV placement story being the zenith / nadir of this.

And call me shallow but if I am forced to endure these shows by others, which I perennially am, then at least Cheryl is nicer to look at than Sharon, or indeed, Louis Walsh.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

Coming up for air

Davina Mccall opened Big Brother Nine with: "Britain's got talent? Yeah right!" Cue out-dated dance tune.*

Well at least they've started the new series with a tone that doesn't even suggest they might shy away from the fact that all they are doing is showcasing another bunch of odd, neurotic, vacuous airheads, desperate for the oxygen of publicity. Boring television that has run its course.

*I only saw it because my housemate was watching it...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lost and found

Lost season four ended last night and brought to the close another series of outstanding episodes mixing drama, action, mystery, well-rounded, developed characters with extremely good writing and high-quality entertainment. The show now has flash-forwards as well as flashbacks so you know who gets off the island, although in a way, they don’t get off the island, the island just goes from them…but this doesn’t explain half of what the show has now become anyway and it would just be impossible to do so.

The show, admittedly, suffered from a slow first season and the ridiculous amount of adverts that interrupted its showing on Ch4 which has meant it became somewhat sidelined. People still say, who don’t watch it, based on incorrect knowledge, ‘they’re just making it up as they go along’, which is an incredible asinine thing to say – especially given what has happened in the last two seasons.

The rise of DVD boxsets is not a new subject now, but a show like Lost, could, maybe should, become an example of a beneficiary of this. While people may not have the patience to follow it from 2004 -2010 (which expressed like that is rather shocking) there is a chance once the entire show is on DVD and can be watched at the viewers choice it will suddenly find a new, second, audience who ignored it the first time around.

Lost is in many ways like a novel. A long, detailed set up, full of little moments of intrigue and interest, characters developing slowly, revealing their motivations and traits as they go. Now in season four, as the ‘novel’ heads towards a conclusion, large dramatic set pieces are being played out, literary, historical and scientific references are dropped in, and important questions are answered, while still bringing in more and leaving you desperate to see the next instalment.

The Boss is the Man

I went to see Bruce Springsteen on Friday at the Emirates and it was brilliant. Almost two and a half hours long, a fantastic set of the classics, new songs and some unknowns, and the E Street band in amazing form. The energy and enthusiasm from Springsteen was utterly infectious – it’s hard to believe he’s 58. Being three rows from the front made the four hour queue worthwhile.

It made me wonder just who will be doing live music like that in 30 years time. Bruce Springsteen has been going since the 70s, still brings out albums that far surpass much of what comes out by newer bands and can write some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever or subtly touch on major issues without ever sounding sanctimonious.

Somehow I don’t see Razorlight or Coldplay et al. filling stadiums in 30 years time with fans that weren’t even born when they started releasing albums.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ouch

I don't know why it's so much more fun to read utterly scathing reviews than glowing ones, but it is.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Out of touch

Something I’ve been meaning to recount for a while: About two weeks ago while my house mate watched Shipwrecked (a show where yoofs are sent to, essentially, bitch about each other, seemingly unaware they are on beautiful tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), I heard an amazingly moronic comment from one of the, er, morons on the show that made me cringe.

After spending a week getting to know the two ‘tribes’ known, somewhat oddly, as the ‘Sharks’ and the ‘Tigers’(?), on their separate islands the contestant, was doing a private piece to camera, said (paraphrased):

“this is such a hard decision, I mean the sharks were great, the tigers were great…such a tough decision…this really is D-Day…” And on he went. I think he went for Tigers.

But does he even know where the term D-Day comes from? Does he really think having to choose between two tropical islands populated by vacuous idiots equates to the storming of beaches in Northern France while coming under attack from rapid fire machine guns armed by Nazis?

Friday, May 16, 2008

No poetry please

The world's worst poet's works are going under the hammer, not to be destoryed, (a ha!), but to be aunctioned off. Re-reading McGonagall's truly epic piece "The Tay Bridge Disaster" it's not hard to see why he was regarded as the worst. The whole thing is a mess of forced rhymes and uneven meters, but the final few lines really are a piece of terrible genius:

Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

The lines about buttresses and building houses strong are so unpoetic and more like an acedemic paper on construction techniques.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The language of rock

One of the great joys of Wikipedia is that because it is so massively generic and covers, essentially, everything you can find some rather interesting, straight faced, encyclopedic entries for subjects that become quite amusing. The following extract is taken from "Concert Etiquette" and concerns Rock Concerts:

"Concerts of rock music typically maintain more liberal norms. At concerts of hard rock, punk or metal, a mosh pit will often form in front of the stage, in which slam-dancing and the like may be performed, usually in an atmosphere of lively camaraderie and mutual assistance. Dancers who have fallen are helped up, and found items of clothing are held aloft to be reclaimed. In general, singing along may not be disapproved, especially during songs of an anthemic nature. Fans may shout or scream or whistle during songs, but not continuously. Male moshers are frequently shirtless, but total nudity is frowned upon."

'Slam dancing and the like', 'an atmosphere of lively camaraderie', 'total nudity is frowned upon' - what great phrases to use to give a rock concert crowd a sensible description.

Comments and debate

My first Guardian blog was published on Tuesday and it drew quite a response. Probably more comments then this blog has had several times over, despite having been running for almost two years. My second blog went LIVE! today and those who know me in real life will know it is a subject close to my heart.

It’s nice to be writing pieces that people read and react too, even if they don’t agree with you, because it’s pleasing to see subjects you regard as interesting creating debate.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oh Congratulations

Cliff Richard has made it on to my blogging radar, again, with two ludicrous stories this week - I never thought I'd get to mention him once. Firstly he’s been told he woz robbed of winning Eurovision in 1968 by former Spanish dictator Franco who conspired to ensure Cliff’s song Congratulations didn’t win Eurovision, in favour of his own country’s equally banal song, La La La. Well credit to Franco - if you have the power you might as well – anything to stop Cliff, the Ultimate Pop Star, from adding another pointless string to his annoyingly smug bow.

"If, like they say, they believe there is evidence that it was I that was the winner, there won't be a happier person on the planet," he told newspaper the Guardian. "It's never good to lose, never good to feel a loser."

But Cliff you’re the Ultimate Pop Star – how can you feel like a loser? And really, you’d be the happiest person on the planet? For being informed you won Eurovision 40 years on from the event? Get over it!

And secondly he’s revealed he released an R&B track in 1998 under the very imaginative pseudonym CR to prove the music industry is deliberately undermining his music. I don’t think he needed to prove this but then again, what is there to undermine?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Web 2.0

Look at the BBC getting all fancy with Google maps showing voter's thoughts from around the world.

On another note - what's the point in the second digits on this post's time stamp if they always just put them at 00?

Arm a getting out of here

This story about should we or should we not be building survival shelters is an interesting and fun read, even if it is discussing the need to prepare for the potential of mass disasters and pandemics.

I'm just suggesting," says Mr Biggs, "that if you can afford it you should invest in a bolthole. A farm, perhaps, where you could live for a month and survive. I am talking Swiss Family Robinson," he says, referring to the famous 1812 novel about a Swiss family that survives after being shipwrecked in the East Indies. "You should have food, water, medicine, clothes. And possibly AK47s to fire over the heads of any guys, depending on how bad things become"

I don't remember the Swiss Family Robinson having AK47s.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A wave of technology

As reported on the BBC website today, 15 years ago the net was 'founded' as a free, open system that anyone could use. The effects, while slow to take off, are now moving at a pace that is phenomenal. The net has become such a part of life it's hard to remember what it was like before it. Indeed anyone younger than myself by just a year or so probably can't remember that. In that respect I, and many others, really have been at the forefront of the web's creation. I remember MSN messenger, Audiogalaxy, Hotmail and Napster and now it's Youtube, FlickR, Facebook and Itunes that have taken over - all evolutions or re-imaginings of existing ideas, made more involving, user created - the first three websites in the second list only exist because of users input, nothing else.

*As an aside Audiogalaxy was a music peer-to-peer website that had a lot of web 2.0 characteristics before the term existed - it had forums, user groups and you could even send songs to be queued up for other users - this was in the late 90s.

A link I found just yesterday via my old course tutor was a fascinating read about how the time that people have spent developing Wikipedia is actually nothing in relation to the time human's have spent watching television and that the net is now actually changing people lives because web 2.0 allows them to create information, or simply, to be creative.

What you have to wonder about is when the next generation take over they will treat the web as a standard, a norm, and rather than being impressed at what it can do they will say, 'why can't it do X?'. This will open up new and currently unimagined potential. It's always worth remembering this quotation - and one of my all-time favourites - if you believe the web is reaching its limit:

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles Duell, Commissioner of US Patent Office, 1899

As a final thought, this video is an amazing insight in to the future of the web and what it might become, or is on its way to becoming...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh to live in a totalitarian state...

So the London mayoral elections are upon us – for those in the London area – and I haven’t got a clue who to vote for but I know I must use my vote for good, and make it count...

Ken has been in charge and seems to be awight, but then I’ve only been here for eight months. Boris is a very likeable buffoon and quite funny and that could be fun or make us a laughing stock – more so! Brian Paddock actually has some good ideas (certain tube carriages with security guards after a certain time in the evening) and was in the MET for 30 years so probably knows a bit about the streets of London – but he’s with the Lib Dems so hasn’t a chance.

The BNP have been taking abuse from all sides for some time now which, while I couldn’t agree with their policies less, I find a bit poor as in a fair and democratic country, that we so pride ourselves on being, it doesn’t seem fair that the other parties can “gang up” on another because they don’t like what they stand for. It’s up to the other parties (Lib Dems, Cons or Labs) to make people not even have to think about the BNP because they are the far better option anyway.

Under questioning on an ITV show they all came across in measures good, bad, stupid, knowledgeable, clever and evasive on various subjects so that didn’t help me much either.

Really I have to be honest and say this video is the best part of the pre-election coverage I've seen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This isn't drug-based homicides in Harlem, it's raised bin lids in Whitehaven

The problem with laws is that as human beings we seem to find it hard to move beyond a black / white divide as how to implement them. There seems to be no way to go beyond this into a reasonable assessment of a situation. So the story that a man has been fined £110 for ‘overfilling’ his bin doesn't really seem fair but because the lid ‘was raised’ the council in question has said ‘Copeland Borough Council will continue to crack down on the problem of overflowing bins, which cause problems for local residents and in the battle to reduce waste.’

This is all ridiculous and the council is massively overstating its role to make them sound like noble crusaders campaigning for the last vestige of human decency. The man's bin lid ‘was raised’ it was not ‘overflowing’. You are not involved in a ‘battle to reduce waste’ and you are not ‘cracking down’ on overflowing bins – this isn't drug-based homicides in Harlem, it's 'raised bin lids’ in Whitehaven Cumbria. If there was rubbish piled high around the bin, that was attracting wildlife, even causing a health hazard, then the council might have a case. But the man's bin lid 'was raised.’ You know, like when you just squeeze in that last plastic bottle to clear the bin for the week's collection.

The issue here (aside from how sad I am about getting worked up about such closed-minded, blinkered actions regarding bins) is that we are creating a system where we never let people make a mistake, explain a mistake, or even, that we just accept it's actually not that big a deal. Because while the law may state people who do this are doing something ‘illegal’ in reality they aren't and certainly not in my eyes or many others.

It's things like this that turn me away from ‘politics’ in any serious manner as regardless of who I vote for, campaign for, believe in, argue for or against, I could never hope to stop such petty, moronic, childish and cold actions like those in this story.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Communication Breakdown

This is one of my favourite stories in a long time. As a sketch it would work brilliantly so for it to actually happen is genius, innit?

Of course there is a strong argument to be made for suggesting this story is entirely untrue and is nothing more than a very clever bit of PR / marketing that has such good potential as a news story most papers would happily print as it's good filler. I'm not going to stake my (non)reputation on whether or not it is actually true but either we are all too cynical (or just cycnical enough) or you just have to give credit to the creative mind that was desperatly trying to think of a way to get a story about cabinets in the national press and noticed the potential of 'cab innit' and dreamt up the entire story.

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When I once taught English to some foreign students I was always amazed by their desire to make up words while playing Scrabble. I've always felt that "woob" - a made-up word a student insisted was real - sounded so good to say, it deserves a place within our fine language.

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