Monday, 30 April 2007

the hagel brothers

The private war of Chuck and Tom Hagel: After saving each other's lives in combat, Chuck Hagel, the future Republican senator of Nebraska, and his brother Tom fought about Vietnam and Iraq -- until they finally saw eye to eye.
- an interesting Salon article, which will probably soon disappear behind a moneywall.

exploiting back catalogue

I wonder if the next steps in the exploitation of back catalogues, now that we're several years into remastering and including non-album and previously unreleased tracks, will include a) releasing CDs containing successive takes from the recording of individual tracks, and b) releasing albums in which the multi-tracks of the individual songs are 'unlocked', so you can listen to them individually and make your own mixes (I've got a feeling this might be being done already with some current tracks).

Also, I know that The mono and stereo versions of The Beatles earlier albums were different, sometimes using different takes, so I'm not sure why they haven't released both versions of those (as they have done with some other 60s albums).

And finally, for now, it's a little annoying to orderly folk like me that having collected all the career non-album material on Past Masters, and put out the Beeb and Anthology double CD sets, there are tracks relating to Beeb and Anthologies that are only available on the B-sides of the related singles. I've got the Anthology singles, but all the same...

And what about the Christmas records, eh?

And mumble mumble mumble....

imac gets ipod and imic

I got an iPod for my birthday last week. It's been a long time since I had a personal stereo that wasn't a radio. A portable cassette player at university, perhaps? The first, perhaps only, memory of that which comes to mind is hearing Tubular Bells (Boxed version) while crossing the Forth Road Bridge heading down to Edinburgh from Aberdeen by coach. The sound quality is, of course, much better than the radios I've been used to; also, odd to find that when I go into underpasses and so on the listening experience improves rather than worsens.

On first set-up I accidentally downloaded the stuff loaded on my iTunes, which at least gave me a chance to practice it and appreciate the random shuffle feature and the skip onto next track feature. Having practiced, I then discovered how to wipe everything off and did so, and am now loading it up with the complete works of The Beatles as a first proper stock.

I got an iMic a couple of months ago now, with a view to copying stuff off cassettes onto the computer. Around the same time I got an external hard drive with huge memory, for backing up, so I feel more secure now in putting stuff onto the laptop and then getting rid of the original (eg cassettes, and CDs I only want one or two tracks off). I've had a practice with the iMic and its Final Vinyl software, but it'll be a slower process in gaining confidence there. I fell at a related hurdle last week, by using some of my birthday money to buy Nashville Skyline on CD, rather than just iMicing the cassette I already had. There's a neurotic/psychological barrier there to overcome.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

book wallpaper

Three series of books of which I own many more than I have actually read, and which look rather nice on the shelf together: Granta; Arden Shakespeare; Pan British Battles. I'll get rid of the Grantas as I read them, the others I will keep.

holland on the south bank

We went to this Holland House event on the South Bank today, organised by the Dutch Tourist Board. We saw what we guess whas the ambassador and the organiser doing the rounds and getting their photos taken. It was very orange - a good choice of national colour, especially nifty as it isn't in their national flag.

In the music tent we saw Double Espresso, a Dutch female saxophone quartet, and heard them while we had our lunch; pleasant enough jazz (I was able to download a number of tracks from their website and will give them a listen again). There were children's activities; we ate Dutch food; we bumped into friends from church; on the way past the London Eye afterwards I bumped into my boss.

the entertainer

We saw The Entertainer by John Osborne on Friday 13 April at The Old Vic, starring Robert Lindsay and Pam Ferris. The performances were good, the play was okay.

Reviews (John Normington had been replaced, due to ill-health, by the time we saw it): The Guardian. The Independent. The Independent again. Evening Standard. Daily Telegraph. The Times.

Friday, 27 April 2007

baby poo

I heard this rather fine song on a comedy clip show on Radio 2 a couple of Saturdays ago, Baby Poo by The Arrogant Worms:

I used to talk about politics, politics, politics,
I used to talk about politics but I don't anymore.
I used to talk about communism, socialism, capitalism
I used to talk about all those isms but now I'm a dad
And all I talk about is baby poo

Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo
Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo

I used to rant about traffic problems,
fender benders, stupid signs
I used to fear an accident
But now I stay at home
And talk about:

Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo
Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo

Sometimes it's all brown and gooey
Sometimes it looks like dijon mustard
Sometimes it's like melted crayon
Sometimes it just smells like POO

I used to talk about philosophy,
Kafka, Descartes, Socrates
I used to think metaphysically
But now I think the world evolves around:

Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo
Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo

Sometimes it feels just like stucco
Sometimes it feels like Jell-o pudding
Sometimes it's like avocado
Sometimes she just pees on me

I used to be real int'resting
Discussing issues of the day
But now I call up my MP
And tell her all about my baby poo

Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo
Baby poo, baby poo
All I talk about is baby poo(x2)

Lyrics courtesy of The Mad Music Archive.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

world beaters and panel beaters

"Up front we played like world beaters - at the back it was more like panel beaters."
Wigan manager Paul Jewell on the 3-3 draw with Spurs.
- quote from BBC Sport's quotes of the week, Tuesday 24 April.

'the exact start of my 41st year awake'

Forty years continously awake? That must be some kind of record, surely.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

mid-life crisis? bring it on

If I stay up another 88 minutes I'll see in the exact start of my 41st year awake.

virginia tech

Is it more likely that the shootings at Virginia Tech will result in a ban on Koreans than a ban on handguns?

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

joined-up journalism

Interesting article from Monday's Independent; it'll soon disappear behind moneybarrier, but the subhead makes the point: 'The nationals diligently advertise their digital versions, but there is very little traffic going the other way.' Bournemouth University journalism students did an analysis, and found copious refs in print versions of newspapers to the online versions, but nothing or almost nothing on the websites encouraging people to look at the print versions, even to the extent of not mentioning when there were free gifts or extra supplements in the hard copy.

car crash

When I was coming back from the shopping centre on Saturday evening, coming up from the underpass below the roundabout, I was puzzled to find a lot of people at the top of the slope taking photos of the roundabout with their camera phones. My first thought was that some celebrity must be passing, but I couldn't see anything. I looked again and still couldn't see anything. Eventually I noticed the car hanging off the roundabout down into one of the other underpasses across the roundabout.

Picture and story here on the SE1 website and pictures here on someone's flickr space - in fact the same someone whose photo illustrated the SE1 item, Graham Neale of Big Van removals, whose vans we see around; those pics will disappear down the stock as time goes on. Some interesting pics there.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

mary bradley waits at home

While singing to myself over the dishwashing this morning, I concluded that this was really an anti-war folk song disguised as Christmas pop. At least, the way I was singing it.

two quotes from the history of the bible in english

In November 1515 Martin Luther, Augustinian monk and Professor of Sacred Theology in the University of Wittenberg, began to expound Paul’s Epistle to the Romans to his students. As he prepared his lectures, he came more and more to grasp the crucial character of Paul’s teaching about justification by faith.
- p27 (contrary to the impression you sometimes get of a monk cloistered away in obscurity having a brainwave)

Such experiences [as an unsustained charge of heresy against William Tyndale], however, led Tyndale to the conviction that the root cause of much confusion in people’s minds on the matters then under debate was ignorance of the Scripture. If this ignorance could be corrected, the eyes of all would be opened and the truth made clearly known. And the ignorance was not confined to the humbler laity; it was shared by many of the clergy. A first-hand account of Tyndale’s career at this time, which John Foxe later incorporated in his Book of Martyrs, reports one conversation which shows the direction of his mind.
‘Soon after, Master Tyndall happened to be in the company of a learned man, and in communing and disputing with him drove him to that issue, that the learned man said: “We were better be without God’s law than the Pope’s.” Master Tyndall, hearing that, answered him: “I defy the Pope and all his laws”; and said: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”’
In these words we may certainly recognize an echo of words appearing in Erasmus’s preface to his Greek New Testament of 1516:
‘I totally disagree with those who are unwilling that the Holy Scriptures, translated into the common tongue, should be read by the unlearned. Christ desires His mysteries to be published abroad as widely as possible. I could wish that even all women should read the Gospel and St Paul’s Epistles, and I would that they were translated into all the langauages of all Christian people, that they might be read and known not merely by the Scots and the Irish but even by the Turks and the Saracens. I wish that the farm worker might sing parts of them at the plough, that the weaver might hum them at the shuttle, and that the traveller might beguile the weariness of the way by reciting them.’
Erasmus’s desire was shortly to be translated into fact by Tyndale, so far as the needs of the English people were concerned.
- p28

- FF Bruce, The History of the Bible in English; 3rd edition; Lutterworth Press, 1979.

ruth 1:15

The reference to the gods [in Ruth 1:15] is sometimes held to point to a belief that a god and a certain piece of territory were closely connected, so that the god can be worshipped only on the soil of his own country. ... We have already noticed that Naomi thought of Yahweh as active in Moab (verses 8,9,13), so it is plain that she held no such idea. She may possibly have thought that Ruth would have been attracted by the idea and so referred to it. But her words need mean no more than that the Moabites were the community of Chemosh-worshippers. If Ruth were to continue to worship Chemosh she would be well advised to go where he was venerated. It is perhaps worth adding that, while the Bible never takes seriously the existence of other gods than Yahweh as real gods, it always assumes their reality as objects of worship. Chemosh was ccertainly worshipped in Moab, and Orpah must be assumed to be worshipping him.
- Leon Morris on Ruth, Tyndale OT Commentary on Judges & Ruth; IVP, 1968; p259.

shortage of real leaders

The shortage of real leaders was a constant source of anxiety to me during the war. I came to the conclusion that it was due to the cream of the manhood having been lost in the First World War. It was the real leaders, in the shape of platoon, company and battalion commanders, who were killed off. These were the men we were short of now. I found this shortage of leaders of quality applied to all three fighting services, and later I was able to observe that this same failing prevailed amongst politicians and diplomats.
- Alanbrooke Diaries, later note to 8 October 1941 entry

one pound of beeswax

Anthony Trollope claimed that all a writer needs is a pen, paper and 1lb of beeswax - the latter to stick the seat of his pants to the seat of the chair.
- Jeremy Beadle's Today’s The Day, 24 April.

Friday, 20 April 2007

whipping it up

Last month we went to see Whipping It Up at the New Ambassadors Theatre for our anniversary. A political comedy set in the government whips office , starring Richard Wilson and Robert Bathurst. It was pretty good. I was familiar with a lot of the stories and practices they referred to, not least because of Giles Brandreth's diaries, which they referenced in the programme.

It was the first time we'd used a babysitter who wasn't a blood relative - Margaret, unsurprisingly, was a great success.

It had transferred from the Bush Theatre. There was a table indicating a reception for people connected with the Bush. Saw an item in the Evening Standard diary the next day referring to Richard Wilson forgetting his lines at the performance - there was a pause we noticed, but it fitted in fine - and made the link with the fact that a group from the Bush were there, including the original director, Terry Johnson, the first time he'd seen it since the transfer. They'd all gone afterwards for a party to a restaurant in Soho the sign for which we could see from the bus stop.

Reviews: Daily Telegraph (Bush production). Evening Standard (Bush) production. Evening Standard (New Ambassadors production). Guardian (Bush production). Guardian (New Ambassadors production). Independent preview (New Ambassadors production). Independent (New Ambassadors production). The Times (New Ambassadors production). Guardian interview with playwright Steve Thompson on transferring to West End.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

free and legal mp3s, it seems

Looking for sources of free and legal MP3s, here's what I ended up with:
- Salon, which has a daily email and a podcast option (which means you can hear the songs without having to remember to visit the site, and can then download any of those you want to keep)
- Podbop, which has a nice A-Z artist database to work through
- My Free Music Friday, where the songs are only up for 24 hours every second Friday, I've only managed to open the reminder email on the right day once so far
- Last FM's free downloads chart

Thursday, 12 April 2007

our little patch in the news

We were woken between three and four by an arrest being made, relatively peacefully, in the street outside our house. It seems likely that it was related to this big drugs raid down the road, which was high in the news bulletins today. St Agnes Place is behind Kennington Park, and we've been down it a couple of time. I thought they'd moved everyone out some time ago - it was a big squatter community - in advance doubtless of demolition and redevelopment, but apparently not.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

last week's eye - grand apology offer

Eye Grand Apology Offer

What would *YOU* like us to apologise for?
Simply tick the relevant box and we will issue a heartfelt sincere and unqualified apology on your behalf.
_ The Slave Trade
_ The Crusades
_ The Sinking of the Titanic
_ The Peasants' Revolt
_ Global Warming
_ The Black Death
_ Channel 4
_ Bird Flu
_ Suez
_ England 0 Israel 0
_ The Battle of Agincourt
_ Sir Peregrine Worsthorne
If you would like us to apologise for something you didn't do, just go to our apology website and add your name to the lists of thousands who have already expressed their sorrow and guilt at various events that have taken place throughout history.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

from tony marchant interview article

According to the charity Combat Stress, the average veteran doesn't seek help for at least 10 years, while the MoD's figures show that men under 20 in the army are at particular risk of suicide. Marchant spoke to a woman whose husband killed himself after he returned from Iraq. He had given chocolate to a little girl who was then hanged by a mob who thought she shouldn't have accepted it, and he could not live with the memory.

The traffic between war and film is not one way: it's known that US Marines watched Apocalypse Now during the first Gulf war. "This time round they watched Band of Brothers," says Marchant. "In the Falklands I think they were watching porn." There was nothing innocent about the environment the army was going into, either. "No one's in any doubt that you can go into Basra market and buy snuff movies of Saddam's torturers at work."
- from Tony Marchant interview article in The Guardian of Saturday 24 March.

cannabis and schizophrenia

Does using cannabis cause schizophrenia?

The question was thrown up again this week by the tragic case of Thomas Palmer, who stabbed 14-year-old Nuttawut Nadauld and slit the throat of a Steven Bayliss, 16, in a frenzied attack. The prosecution claimed the psychotic episode was the result of heavy cannabis use.

But can the benign peace and love drug of the 1960s be to blame for this and other similar cases? Certainly more young people are being treated for mental illness and psychosis.

According to the NHS National Treatment Agency the numbers in treatment have risen from 5,000 in 2005 to 9,600 in 2006. And scientific evidence that has emerged in the past five years does point to cannabis as the cause of mental illness in a small proportion of users.

Scientists currently think that 8% to 10% of people who suffer schizophrenia-like illnesses would never have become ill if they had not used cannabis. That's around 25,000 people. But there is still great debate in the scientific community about the magnitude of the danger and to what extent genetic factors affect who will be tipped into psychosis by the drug.

To put the dangers of cannabis in perspective, a study published yesterday in the Lancet that ranked drugs in terms of the harm they cause the users and society ranked cannabis at 11 - below alcohol and tobacco. The team who wrote the paper lambasted the media for perpetuating the myth that super-strength skunk varieties available today are 20 to 30 times stronger than the cannabis of old. In reality they are only two to three times stronger.

- Guardian, Saturday 24 March.

looking on the bright side

I can't raise my arms above my shoulders, but how often do you need to do that?
- cheery soul struck by lightning at Castlerigg Stones, where we were a couple of weeks ago, telling his story in the Guardian of Saturday 7 April.

suicides in service

More servicemen and women in the British armed forces have taken their own lives (697) over the past two decades than have been killed in combat (438) according to the Ministry of Defence.
- BBC Magazine Monitor, 6 April

militant atheists

'Militant atheists: too clever for their own good'
- interesting article by Charles Moore in the Telegraph of 7 April.

martin burton interview

An interview from This is Local London with the owner of Zippos Circus which I happened to come across.

Monday, 9 April 2007


While women in the developing world are dying in childbirth, why are we fetishising doing it at home?
- Interesting article by Catherine Bennett in The Guardian of Thursday 5 April. Comes with the now-inevitable and tedious tail of unpleasant messages from people being nasty about the article and/or writer. I don't know why the news outlets think allowing comments on their articles is such a good idea.

'"In some developing regions", the WHO reported recently, "a woman has a one in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy and childbirth. This compares with a one in 2,800 risk for a woman from a developed region." A risk so low as to seem, to many women in those developed regions, completely negligible. Natural childbirth campaigners routinely challenge what they perceive to be the pathologising of childbirth with their mantra, "pregnancy is not a medical condition". Such is the hostility to medicine among some natural-birth enthusiasts that doctors are presented as a greater risk to a mother's health than childbirth.'

Sunday, 8 April 2007

half-full or half-empty?

Are you a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person? Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

It depends what it was before. If it was full, it's half-empty now. If it was empty, it's half-full now. Obviously.

This probably makes me a 'glass half-smashed and screwed into my face for being so pedantic and annoying' kind of person.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

zippos and wetland centre

Yesterday we went to Zippos Circus at Blackheath; today we went to the London Wetland Centre in Barnes.

We went to Zippos this time last year, the first circus trip for us all except Bethan. M had spoken about the circus from time to time through the year, and enjoyed it again this time. The grownups enjoyed it less, perhaps because it didn't have the novelty value, and a lot of it was very similar to last year's. Had animal rights protesters outside, which they didn't last year. Blackheath a nice place to visit, and a short train ride from London Bridge.

Similarly, first trip to the Wetland Centre for all except Bethan. A lovely warm day, and enjoyed by all. Saw many birds, wild and tame. I like hides; very peaceful places, although the ones there are busy compared to others we've been to, with people, like us, popping in and out all the time for short times. On the tube there we were acccompanied by many Chelsea fans heading for the early kick-off; while we were there there were helicopters , first for the football I guess, then for the boat race. We could hear people cheering for the start of the boat race. There was a wedding on there - not just the reception, but pretty sure they had the ceremony in the New Zealand area of the tame section. And we bumped into Ali Lyon and a friend too, which was lovely. Apart from the unusual helicopter activity, it was very peaceful, and again easily accessible for us.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

timon of athens

At the last minute my mother and I decided to go and see Timon of Athens at the White Bear, less than fifteen minutes' walk from here, in a production by Instant Classics. The theatre seats no more than forty, and there were ten in the cast, and it was really very good. It's not a production that's generated many reviews, but here's one from The Stage. First London production in seven years, they say; its rarity of performance would lead you to believe it's a bad play, but it's not (I remember it was on at the Young Vic soon after I came down, with David Suchet).

If you'd seen it in a West End theatre you wouldn't have grumbled with many of the performances; the women in particular were very good. Such are the chances of fortune that several of them could easily have been well-known by now, but perhaps none of them ever will be. I should list their names here, and then look over the list in a couple of years and see if any of them have come to anything: Victoria Bovingdon, Melissa Franklyn, Jonathan Gibson, Ruth James, Paul Joseph, Mark Kavanagh, Amanda Rawnsley, Gordon Ridout, Jos Van Tyler, Charlotte Thornton. Melissa Franklyn as the steward, Charlotte Thornton as Apemanta, and Ruth James in several older women roles were particularly good; the first looked very familiar, but just a type I think. Amanda Rawnsley looked very familiar, but that was because she looked exactly like Bradley Whitford's secretary in The West Wing (forgotten both those characters' names already, so soon).

They can't be making much money out of it; I guess the hope is of being seen by agents, casting directors and so on, who will rescue you from your penurious life of fringe theatre.

My second visit to the White Bear ever. Bethan and I saw an American political drama, small cast, there years ago, which was quite good; in fact the first night we tried to go to it there was a power cut before it started - I remember it was by chance the playwright who told us - and we had to come back the next night.

Another ticked off my Shakespeare list. Shakespeare's Globe are doing Othello this summer, so that should be another.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

shampoo planet quotes

staring at the many satellite dishes that now sprout like babies' ears from Lancaster's soil, ears cocked to the heavens, waiting to hear corrupting secrets from far up above.
- p9

Jasmine was an earth mother back in the 1960s. Sometimes we call her this . . . *oh earth mother, dear!* But more often than not we just say *earth to mother . . . earth to mother. . .*
- p15

Daisy and her boytoy, Murray, can't grill Jasmine enough about that era [...]
Jasmine is earnestly trying to tell Daisy and Murray about her youth: 'Sure they were freaks, but we honestly believed the freaks had keys.'
Blank uncomprehending stares.
'Look at it this way. We thought freaks had access to magic secrets. Your father was a freak, Daisy.'
'What kind of secrets?' asks Daisy.
Jasmine goes silent a moment: 'Secrets of what was on the other side. Of the posssibilities of perception.'
More blank stares.
'Oh, all right. Look at it *this* way: when I was your age, people only used shampoo to wash their hair, and conditioner wasn't even invented.'
Audible gasps of disbelief. I hear Jasmine stand up. 'You kinds are driving me crazy.'
- p21-22

'[...] I think Daiz is going too far with the sixties thing. I mean, doesn't she want to have a *now*? And I am stunned by how she manages to befriend every single male in Lancaster with a Jesus hairdo. I mean, we live in a small town, Tyler. What's happening?'
'They're the McDead, Jasmine. The sixties are like a theme park to them. They wear the costume, buy their ticket, and they have the experience. Their hair may be long, but it smells great.'
- p22

Imagine you are sitting down in a chair and on a screen before you you are shown a bloody, ripping film of yourself undergoing surgery. The surgery saved your life. It was pivotal in making you *you*. But you don't remember it. Or do you? Do we understand the events that make us who we are? Do we ever understand the factors that made us do the things we do?
When we sleep at night - when we walk across a field and see a tree full of sleeping birds - when we tell small lies to our friends - when we make love - what acts of surgery are happening to our souls - what damage and healing and shock are we going through that we will never be able to fathom? What filsm are generated that will never be shown?
- p32

'[...] if your dad gave you a fake [Rolex] and tried to fob it off as real, wouldn't you want to know?'
Silence greets my question. I realize not one of my friends at the table has a biological father present and stable in their lives, me included. So I guess the answer is we'd take any crumb our fathers might give us and never ask a question.
- p36

- Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet, 1992; Scribner, 2002 edition.

mourinho's blanket

"It's like having a blanket that is too small for the bed. You pull the blanket up to keep your chest warm and your feet stick out. I cannot buy a bigger blanket because the supermarket is closed. But the blanket is made of cashmere!"
Jose Mourinho reflects on his injury 'crisis' - at least they kept a clean sheet on Saturday.
- from sports quotes of the week in the BBC news email of 6 February

bonkers hearts chairman

It was the English philosopher, broadcasting personality and wit Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad (1891-1953) who opined "the secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry they will write half your paper for you." Our letters section proves that the Fiver swears by such sage advice, and has now been taken on board by Scottish hacks, who have realised that the best way to fill their newspapers on slow news days (or "days", as they are known in Scotland) is to wind up Lithuania FC chairman Vladimir Romanov and then wait patiently, pens poised, for his response.

While Romanov's habit of referring to football writers as monkeys (he served them bananas before Hearts drew with St Mirren last week) suggests he holds them in higher esteem than most football folk do, this didn't stop him posting what appeared to be a stinging, if slightly impenetrable, critique of their work on the Hearts website today. And while it reads like a tract that was translated from Russian to Lithuanian to English to PR Speak to whatever incomprehensible Anglo-Scottish dialect it is they speak in Edinburgh, Romanov used his pidgin English to present the concise statement "You are all a shower of b@st@rds!" into a wonderfully entertaining rant about simians, slatterns and Scotsmen.

"Dear monkeys," he harrumphed, prompting two Daily Record reporters to stop picking fleas off each other's backs. "Today I will not be showing your portrait to you ... the values which the ex-captain of Hearts was fighting for ... your leader Mowgli is not taking bananas anymore ... rotten information from cesspits ... to discuss whether referees take money or not is the same as discussing a woman who gives herself with no love ... two stupid teams ... frozen referee from Russia ... traitors were presented as heroes ... a Scotsman's proud name ... take the monkeys back to the Safari Park."

Sadly restrictions of space preclude us from printing the Romanov diatribe in its entirety, but it's probably fair to say that our abridged version makes as much, if not more sense. A spokesman for the Scottish Premierleague confirmed they had read Romanov's latest outburst, but would not take any immediate action. "See this statement! We will nae tae any immediate action," och-ayed an SPL blazer, before ordering an Enigma machine from eBay in a bid to establish if Romanov had actually said anything out of turn.

- from The Fiver of 23 February. The opening quote reminds us that user generated content has been around a long time. A fuller version of the text is here.


Re: 'bookkeeper' being the only word in the English language with three consecutive double letters (yesterday's Fiver letters). Although in terms of a job title, 'subbookkeeper' might be less prestigious, it contains a mind-blowing four consecutive pairs of double letters
- from the Guardian's football email, The Fiver, of 15 February

breakfast cereals

Netmums report Which's analysis of breakfast cereals. Yes, I'm a netmum.

other things I did on my holiday - read about lewis in the guardian

Bought and read a paper every day. Luxury. Read this story on the apparent lack of women in the Western Isles, from The Guardian of Wednesday 14 March 2007.

Took about a sixth of my pile of stuff to read - mostly papers - and read about half of it. Not all of them were over seven months old. I can't not read them, having them. And if I didn't read them I'd miss things like this story on the guga hunt, from the Guardian of 31 July 2006.

tearfund survey

Interesting research from Tearfund in the news today.
26m adults claim to be Christian
7.6m adults go to church each month
12.6m go at least once a year.
3 million would go to church if asked
Other faiths make up 6% of religious attendance
32m people have no connection with church
London has highest number of regular churchgoers at 22%

I imagine this result depresses people at both ends of the spectrum - Richard Dawkins will be appalled that so many people are in thrall to religion, churchgoing Christians will wonder what 18.4m adults' understanding is of what it is to be a Christian (the positive spin, as the BBC puts it, is 'The church says the results challenge the UK's secular image, proving not everyone has embraced consumerism as their modern-day god').

guardian style guide on swearwords

We are more liberal than any other newspaper, using words ... that most of our competitors would not use.
The editor's guidelines are straightforward:
First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend.
Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes.
Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it.
Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a copout, or as Charlotte Brontë elegantly put it:
"The practice of hinting by single letters those expletives with which profane and violent people are wont to garnish their discourse, strikes me as a proceeding which, however well meant, is weak and futile. I cannot tell what good it does - what feeling it spares - what horror it conceals."
- extract from The Guardian's style guide. The ellipsis is mine, omitting the swearwords. I'm with them, and Charlotte Bronte, on asterisks

Monday, 2 April 2007

things I'd never done before but now have...

... No 27,945 in a continuing series:

Watched The Sky At Night. It was atypical, being the 50th anniversary edition. Thought it was about time I saw it.

alan rusbridger meets piers morgan

Rusbridger went to Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1973. He later claimed to have won a place at the prestigious college because of the "extremely purple tweed" he wore for the interview. Of undergraduate life, he once recalled: "A lot of bread rolls got thrown at dinner, and people would ask things like, 'where do you keep your thoroughbred?'" A class warrior was born.
- from the Rusbridger biog at the end of an interesting encounter between Alan Rusbridger and Piers Morgan in The Independent of 2 April 2007


I wandered through my old college, trying to work out where the well with the foam chairs had gone. I talked to the porter. He called me pet, and that brought back a flood of memories.

Of a screening in Central Hall of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five when I went out for a cigarette and talked to the porter. I asked him why he wasn't, as usual, standing at the door watching the film. He said he never watched war pictures. I asked him why. He told me he had been with the British forces that liberated Bergen-Belsen. We thought we were so important, and we weren't - we were just kids. Maybe one day we would do something that mattered, or not.

- an extract from Linda Grant's article from the set by journalists going back to their university, for The Guardian of 16 February 2007.