Saturday, 30 June 2007

jonathan edwards's loss of faith

‘I have never been happier’ says the man who won gold but lost God: A giant leap of faith took Jonathan Edwards to Olympic glory in Sydney. Then he found the foundations of his life were crumbling.
- Times article of 27 June.

sons of the manse

Article on the BBC website on Scottish sons of the manse, like Gordon Brown.

ruth gledhill on richard dawkins

God . . . in other words: Richard Dawkins may be Britain’s foremost atheist, but he is willing to be inspired and uplifted. Is he a believer after all?
- Times article from 10 May 2007

slade, toilet roll, cobain, grunge, roller-blading goat

from Uncut October 2006:

- photo feature on Slade, captions by Noddy Holder. Photo from 1982: ‘The paper onstage is bog roll. We’d throw hundreds of them into the crowd and they’d bung ‘em back. In Poland, they never came back. You didn’t get toilet roll in Poland.’

- feature on grunge and Nirvana, by Andrew Mueller. ‘Cobain’s suicide was, like all suicides, drug assisted or not, an act of monstrous solipsism, necessarily involving a total disregard for the feelings of those who would be affected - who, in Cobain’s case, were considerably greater in number than just his wife and daughter. The spectacle of a universally revered artist conquering the world on his own terms in his mid-twenties, encouraging a generation to believe that anything might be possible, then reacting to the delivery of his dreams by chewing on a gun barrel, was not an encouraging one.’ Another quote: ‘An aspect of grunge that frequently baffled sceptical observers was that the scene seemed to be comprised exclusively of people who’d spent their youths obsessed with becoming rock ‘n’ roll stars, who’d dreamt of it, and who in the fullness of time actually became rock ‘n’ roll stars, and then hated every minute of it.’

- on Eddie Vedder: ‘Vedder took to stardom like a goat to roller-blading.’

churchill and dill

Just at this time I also began to hear rumours that Beaverbrook was undermining Dill’s position with Churchill. It did not take a great deal to do this, as Winston had never been fond of Dill. They were entirely different types of characters, and types that could never have worked harmoniously together. Dill was the essence of straight forwardness, blessed with the highest of principles and an unassailable integrity of character. I do not believe that any of these characteristics appealed to Winston, on the contrary, I think he disliked them as they accentuated his own shortcomings in this respect. At any rate, I know for certain that he could not abide the easy code of morals of some politicans and Winston’s methods were frequently repulsive to him.
- Alanbrooke Diaries, later note to 20 October 1941 entry

more shampoo planet quotes

Last week Skye said, 'Not thinking about sex these days is like not thinking about what goes into hot dogs.' I guess seeing Eddie [who has Aids] is, in a way, like seeing the inside of a hot-dog factory. The general concensus seems to be that it's best to think of modern sex as a uniform, abstracted snack - and not to dwell too heavily on its manufacture.
- p139

Imagine the person you love saying to you, 'Ten minutes from now you are going to be poked with a sharp stick. The pain wil be excruciating and there isn't a single thing you can do to prevent it.' Well then - the next ten minutes would be next to unendurable, would they not? Maybe it's good we can't see the future.
- p141

The word *history* triggers Harmony into telling us his theory as to why so many people are going to the gym these days. 'People need to be perfect in *every* way so their souls won't have to reincarnate again. So many people are at the end of their cycles now. That's why Earth is so overpopulated. It's obvious. People are fed up with having to relive history. They want to end it.'
- p160

'Europeans spend their years in school being beaten like animals,' I say. 'They suffer so much in the process of learning that their knowledge feels absolute. They won't tolerate being challenged.'
- p160

[from a list of tragic character flaws which the narrator writes on dollar bills]
- you are paralyzed by the fact that cruelty is often amusing
- you pretend to be more eccentric than you actually are because you worry you are an interchangeable cog
- your inability to sustain sexual interest in just one other person drains your life of the possibility of intimacy
- your own ability to rationalize your bad deeds makes you believe the entire universe is as amoral as yourself
- your refusal to acknowledge the dark side of humanity makes you prey to that dark side
- you wait for fate to bring about the changes in life which you should be bringing about yourself
- p190

- Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet

Friday, 29 June 2007

bugotak

So, that'll be Siberian folk versions of Come Together and Highway Star.

cycling safely in London

This article from Saturday 16th's Guardian explains how you won't die cycling. I'm not convinced.

gordon brown, texture like sun

I went past Downing Street on the bus down Whitehall about 11am yesterday morning, past a crowd of people at the end of the road, a mixture of war protestors and people taking photographs, waiting for Tony Blair to depart for his final PMQs. I watched PMQs, and then the toing and froing between Palace and No 10. Bethan actually went to the palace in her lunch hour, and saw Tony's car and Gordon's car (and saw Gordon and Sarah in the car) going through the gates. (I, slightly less impressively, saw John Sargent with a camera crew from my bus on Westminster Bridge Road on my way into town some time after 9am.)

Simon Hoggart's diary in Saturday's Guardian said, 'Tony Blair was at a private briefing meeting this week, when conversation turned to Helen Mirren's Oscar winning film. "I haven't seen The Queen, and the Queen hasn't seen The Queen," he announced to general surprise. At which his press spokesman Tom Kelly said, "Well you're seeing her on Wednesday. Maybe you could watch it together."'

fopp

To curb my CD buying, for several years I've had a self-imposed limit of not paying more than £5 for a CD, except on special occasions. The arrival of Fopp gave me a shop that had a high proportion of stock for a fiver or less. It also means that I'm paying about the same for albums today as I was twenty years ago. The Fopp fiver became a unit of currency for me, by which I could measure expenditure, usually relating to clothes shopping - "£60? That's twelve CDs at Fopp." This begrudging only works, however, if you believe you don't have to buy any clothes ever. I had to buy some last weekend, begrudgingly totting up how many CDs I wasn't getting in Fopp. And now, today, Fopp's folded without warning. Gutted.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

children's books

My post on the Little House covers led to this post of SB's, with attendant comments. I tried to comment, but couldn't; I've had the problem there before, not sure if it's a blogigo issue or because blogigo doesn't like Macs. Anyway, here's part of what I subsequently said in an email: 'Boys like me did/do read. I never read any books aimed at teenagers though, just went straight from children's Puffins onto adult books, things like Agatha Christie. But you're right, girls are allowed to read anything, boys are generally directed much more into 'boys stuff'. If it's true that it's harder to get boys to read than girls, I think the 'cure' - lets produce books which will appeal to boys - is part of the problem, since it narrows down so much what is 'acceptable' for boys to read, so that if you don't want to read about Biggles or his modern-day equivalent (as I wouldn't have been) you're stuffed/put off. I remember reading that Lord of the Flies was written as a response to Coral Island, showing how little boys would *actually* behave in such a situation.'

In the end I got Charlotte's Web (new) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (charity shop). I had originally thought about getting children's classics, but thought it was better to get books I'd actually read and enjoyed myself when young, hence LH and CW (39 was a bonus book, as I'd only read it as an adult and wasn't that keen but thought J might like it).

Looking at this list of Carnegie Medal winners, I see that although it's been going since 1936 I only read one of them as a child (The Last Battle) and another in the last couple of weeks (The Owl Service by Alan Garner, a birthday present, published in my year of birth - SB had, coincidentally, suggested Alan Garner for J's present, but dad's already got the sf/f angle in hand). That's a definite total of two (it's possible that I read The Borrowers. I started reading Watership Down when the film came out but made no headway with it (it must have been in S1 or S2, because when I think of the book I have a clear mental picture of being by the heater on the landing outside the secondary classes in Bayble with others including Mairi Maclennan, who must have read or been reading it) - one of my rare abandoned books; I should try it again). Many of them I've never even heard of.

a hundred to one in film dialogue

This is a compilation video on YouTube, clips from a hundred films counting down from a hundred to one in the dialogue. Satisfyingly, I recognised most of them. Here is the full list of films.

re: your brains

I liked this song on YouTube, 're: your brains', by Jonathan Coulton.

Monday, 25 June 2007

weird guitar guy

May 3, 2007 - Kindergarten kids in ritzy L.A. suburb Calabasas have been coming home to their parents and talking about the "weird man" who keeps coming to their class to sing "scary" songs on his guitar. The "weird" one turns out to be Bob Dylan, whose grandson (Jakob Dylan's son) attends the school. He's been singing to the kindergarten class just for fun, but the kiddies have no idea they're being serenaded by a musical legend - to them, he's just Weird Guitar Guy.
- New York Post

molly/misbah

The Molly/Misbah story gets an update in Saturday's Guardian weekend magazine.

west end live

At West End Live on Saturday, we were given a goody bag on the way out, which bore little relation to the theatre, just advertisers who'd paid enough, like snacks, Whiskas and air fresheners.

We got there at the start, but it was already packed. We didn't stay long. What we heard most of was an extract from the new surely-doomed Lord of the Rings musical, the most striking thing about which was that, out of costume, it could have been a song from any musical; it was just generic.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

scotland, football champions of the world

This is a tremendous thing: The Unofficial Football World Championship.

'This is how it works: the Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) pitches real international teams into a continuous series of boxing-style title matches. Winners of UFWC title matches become title-holders, and move up the rankings table.

'UFWC lineage goes right back to the very first international football match in 1872, between Scotland and England in Glasgow. As Scotland and England were the only international teams in existence, the winner of this initial match could safely claim to be the best side in the world – the Unofficial Football World Champions, if you will. Unfortunately, neither side managed to win the match – the score was a rather disappointing 0-0. So swiftly fast-forward to the second international football match, again between England and Scotland, and played in London on 8 March 1873. This time there were a full six goals – England won 4-2, and became the very first Unofficial Football World Champions. But they didn't hold the title for long. In 1874 they were beaten 2-1 by Scotland, meaning the UFWC title passed to the Scots.

'The UFWC title bounced backward and forward between England and Scotland, and then Ireland and Wales got involved. The British home nations dominated the UFWC during international football's formative years, until the instigation of international tours and tournaments meant sides from all around the globe began to play each other. Following the UFWC lineage through almost 800 friendly and competitive matches, we can trace how the title was passed between over 40 different nations during more than 130 years of international football. It has been held by most major European and South American teams, plus comparative footballing minnows like Australia, Israel, Ecuador, and the tiny Dutch Antilles. The title has been contested at World Cup finals and in seemingly meaningless friendlies. It has been won by the most celebrated players of all time, and by previously unknown and unsung heroes.

'The UFWC also operates an all-time ranking system. Sides are awarded one ranking point for every title match victory. No points are awarded for a draw. As of 2006, Scotland top the rankings table, some way ahead of second-placed England. That is a source of debate, but in the early years the UFWC, like football in general, was dominated by sides from the British Isles, of whom Scotland won most title matches.

'If the Unofficial Football World Championships' statistical roots can be traced back to 1872, the idea of an unofficial title was first born in 1967, and the foundation of the UFWC as an organisation began in 2002. In 1967 Scottish football fans claimed that, in beating World Cup holders England 3-2 at Wembley in 1967, Scotland had become unofficial world champions. In 2002, a caller to a football phone-in radio show echoed that claim, and threw down a tantalising statistical gauntlet. Who, the caller wondered, were the current holders of the unofficial title? Identifying the current unofficial champions required tracing the lineage of title matches from 1872 right up to date. Various dedicated football stattos reached for their record books to undertake this mammoth task. Differing methods and rules meant that there were various inconsistencies, which the UFWC sought to iron out. The launch of the www.ufwc.co.uk website saw a definitive set of rules and records created. The UFWC was 'officially' born.'

The current champion is Italy, who won it from Scotland, who won it from Georgia, who won it from Uruguay, who won it from Venezuela, who won it from Uruguay, who won it from Romania, who won it from Nigeria,...

The all-time top 5: Scotland (86pts), England (74), Argentina (49), Russia (41), Netherlands (32).

big garden birdwatch results

This is the result of the Big Garden Birdwatch we did our bit for earlier this year.

'Fewer songbirds visited UK gardens this winter than last year - with the numbers for some species at a five-year low, a survey for the RSPB suggests. The number of song thrushes spotted in gardens has fallen 65% in a year, while the number of blackbirds fell by 25%. The RSPB blamed the mild European winter and a bumper countryside fruit crop, meaning the birds did not have to visit UK gardens for food as often. Some 6.5m birds were counted in 236,000 gardens for the RSPB on 27-28 January.'

corporate anthems

A surprising number of corporations have their own anthems. This site's blog has links to quite a few, mostly IT.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

pc

I saw this at the weekend and thought hmm, that's a very liberal view of what constitutes 'taboo-breaking offensiveness'. Then there was this, and I thought yes, there's a rather less liberal example. And today (yesterday, now), there was this in the Guardian (On the offensive: Bernard Manning, who died this week, clung to a shameful, outdated idea of comedy with his racist and sexist routines. At least, that's what his critics said. But bigotry is thriving in stand-up, reports Stephen Armstrong), which reflects some of the things I feel about the resurgence of unpleasantness in modern 'ironic' comedy.

A nice opening para: 'Comedian Richard Herring's latest show Ménage à Un involves a clever routine in which he pretends to endorse the BNP. "Don't go thinking I'm the new Bernard Manning," he tells the audience. "I'm being post-modern and ironic. I understand that what I'm saying is unacceptable. But does that make me better than Bernard Manning, or much, much worse?"'

I'm always wary of people labelling something as 'politically correct' or 'political correctness gone mad'. In my experience, those things so labelled are usually perfectly reasonable attempts to be thoughtful, courteous and avoid giving unnecessary offence.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

'killer could walk free'

The worst thing about my job is that it makes some kind of sense to read the awful right-wing rag that is London's evening paper, the Evening Standard. The headline on the billboards today was 'Jill Dando killer could walk free', which annoyed me. No: the man convicted for Jill Dando's murder is appealing and could be found to have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice if his appeal is successful; if he 'walks free', he isn't the 'killer'. I'm surprised they're allowed to phrase it like that; they use the same phrasing in the heading of the article itself.

The heading of the relevant article in the Guardian is 'Man jailed for Dando killing gets go-ahead for second appeal'. (Wednesday's the only weekday I usually get the Guardian, as circumstances take me to Blackwell's where they sell it for 20p, which I can't resist.)

passion of the christ

A church couple's argument over a controversial film ended with the husband attempting to throttle his wife. Michael Watson had earlier enjoyed a meal and bottle of wine at home with his wife, Patricia, to celebrate his 44th birthday. But the evening erupted in violence after they watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ about Jesus's final 12 hours. Watson went upstairs to the bedroom as the "theological argument" became heated before his wife followed and tried to take his wedding ring and watch from him. He grabbed her around the neck, causing her to fall to the floor and only let go when she reminded him they were both Christians.
- Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2006

I remember hearing that story before (or one like it - maybe I'm thinking of the US incident where someone concluded their theological argument by going upstairs, getting his gun and shooting his friend), but don't remember noting it here. This was in Northumberland.

I haven't seen The Passion of the Christ - not for theological reasons, just haven't - but I think Mel Gibson was unfairly treated in at least one way. I remember quite clearly when the film was being made, people talking about him being nuts, making this peculiar film in dead languages with English subtitles and no stars that no one would go and see. After it was made and it was an enormous success, people talked about him cynically making a sure-fire hit aimed at the vast Christian market.

Mark Kermode, who knows a thing or two about horror, and is also not averse to some kind of spiritual content in films, described it as a horror movie, based on the realism of the violence being done. Cuts were made for the DVD release. From what I understand, if you're not put off by the gore and the second commandment question, the main issue with the film from a Christian point of view is the emphasis on the physical rather than the spiritual.

the problem of evil

An interesting sequence on 'evil' from the Guardian. I saw the original article and some of the letters in the paper, and hunted the remainder down online.

Prof Jones discussed the problems he comes across when teaching students with Islamic backgrounds. "To a man and to a woman, there are parts of science they will not accept. That means that, in their early lives, they have been told deliberate lies by people who, I'm sure, know they are deliberate lies. I don't care how charming they are, I don't care how pleasant they are, these people are evil. What's true for imams is, more or less, true for bishops."
- Steve Jones in the original article of May 29, headed 'Scientists divided over alliance with religion · Rees sees main faiths as help in extremism fight · Dawkins warns against 'buying into fiction''

Prof Steve Jones describes imams and bishops as "evil" (Scientists divided over alliance with religion, May 29). Could he give us the scientific definition of evil?
Lizzi Collinge, Lancaster
- letter, May 30

Lizzi Collinge (Letters, May 30) asks for my definition of "evil". How about "telling lies to children"; the universal habit of all religions through the ages?
Steve Jones, London
- letter, May 31

Lying to children is evil, says Steve Jones (Letters, May 31). So no more "you'll get well soon, darling", or "you'll love your spinach" or "once upon a time there was a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood". What a cold, dull, flat and colourless world of the imagination poor Steve and his buddies must inhabit. Give me the gods, the spirits, the myths and Father Christmas any time. They make science so much more interesting and valuable.
Ian Flintoff, Oxford

Steve Jones gives us an example, not a definition. He might have chosen the example of scientists producing nuclear weapons, or telling us that BSE-infected beef was safe to eat. But where is the scientific definition of evil?
Tim Brown, Cambridge
- letters, June 2

Interesting that Ian Flintoff equates Little Red Riding Hood with the stories of the Bible, Torah and Koran (Letters, June 2). Shame he can't distinguish little lies and tongue-in-cheek games from dangerously institutionalised mythologies. So far as I know, no one has conducted a crusade to protect the honour of Little Red Riding Hood and no warring wolfian factions have tried to wipe each other out.
Barry Cole, Epping, Essex

Since "evil" is a metaphysical term, by definition there can be no scientific definition of it.
Dr Allan Dodds, Nottingham
- letters, June 4

"Evil" is not a metaphysical term (Letters, June 4); it's a hypothetical construct defined by the behaviours that represent it. So we can study it scientifically, if we can agree on what behaviours are "evil". No problem there then, surely?
Graham Davey, University of Sussex
- letter, June 6

"Evil" is a concept (Letters, passim). It is understood by the suffering it causes. It can not be scientifically measured because no two beings are the same.
Prof Barry Fantoni, London
- letter, June 9

Doubtless everyone, like me, thinks the letters they agree with are the ones that got the best of it.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

missile guidance system software

Of this year's crop, the most outstanding is Four Weeks in May, David Hart Dyke's compelling account of life and death aboard HMS Coventry, the type-42 destroyer he captained before it was sunk on May 25 1982, appropriately Argentina's national day. Two enemy Skyhawks landed three 1,000lb bombs on Coventry, two of which exploded inside the hull, killing 19 people, injuring many more and sinking the vessel within 20 minutes. Hart Dyke and his crew became the first British sailors since 1945 to be forced to take to the life-rafts; with them went the ship's four Hong Kong Chinese, a tailor and three laundrymen, one of whom drowned in the icy waters of the South Atlantic.

Hart Dyke's description of the attack is electric, the more effective for the calm manner of its telling. On board ship, he is both the beneficiary and victim of technology. His communications system enables him to eavesdrop on air traffic on the South American mainland, so he knows whenever the enemy is coming. But at the moment the fateful Skyhawks flash into view 10 miles away, "flying very fast and very low, straight towards us, below the level of the bridge", the Sea Wolf missile guidance system on his partner ship, HMS Broadsword, automatically switches off, refusing to engage and possibly save Coventry from disaster. Why? Because the software could not decide which target to fire at when two aircraft were flying close together and at the same range.

- from a batch of Falklands book reviews in The Guardian of Saturday 5 May 2007.

unhealthy generation

The Lancet published a survey that concluded that today's teenagers are the first in history to be less healthy than their parents
- Guardian, 28 March 2006

the daily show

I'd heard a great deal about The Daily Show as the epitome of modern political satire, and people always trying to copy it and not succeeding. Now I watch it on More4 all the time and it's excellent.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

a hundred xes to y before you die

I find those books listing 1000 Xes to Y before you die depressing. Really, how long does everyone think they're going to live?

the n-word, the q-word and the p-word

More racism on Big Brother. It's a tricky thing, though, the double standard on the n-word, now that it's been reclaimed by black people; there's a case for saying it's racist itself to say that whether one's use of it is racist or not is dependent on the colour of one's skin. There's the same issue with gay people and the q-word. And the same thing's happening with the p-word; which again is an odd one, because without an awareness of the historical racist use of the word, it just seems like an innocuous abbreviation of nationality. Words, words, words.

double murder in muller road

A double murder last week in one of the flats in Muller Road. The second place I lived in London was in one of those flats.

by hook or by crook

... If it resembles anything at all, it is a comfortable and unhurried car journey to interesting places in the company of an entertaining guide. Did you know, for example, that Shaw named the character Henry Higgins in Pygmalion after the co-owner of a department store in Peckham? Or that the letter "o" in words such as "come", "love", "one", and "son" ought to be "u" but that medieval scribes changed it to avoid a chain of identical downward strokes that were difficult to read? Or that the patron saint of booksellers, St John of God, is also - shades of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - the patron saint of firemen? Or that a parrot was the last surviving speaker of one South American language? Or that the towns of Welshpool and Llanfair PG - the one on Anglesey with the 58-letter name - were both renamed by railway companies? (The former was originally just Pool, renamed to avoid confusion with Poole in Dorset, the latter was formerly Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and was gifted its overweighted name as a tourist attraction.)

- extract from a review of By Hook Or by Crook, by David Crystal, from the World Wide Words email, 9 June

footsteps in the dark

Georgette Heyer mostly wrote historical romances, but also wrote detective stories. I read Detection Unlimited (1953) a couple of years ago and enjoyed it - it was written with light wit, and like many pre-1960 English detective novels giving an interesting insight into the taken-for-granted class system in society.

I've just finished Footsteps in the Dark (1932), which was a bit sillier plotwise, but otherwise similar.

Duval made a gesture that swept the little room. 'You see my work, m'sieur, before you.'
All manner of canvases were propped against the walls, some so weird that they looked to be no more than irrelevant splashes of colour, some a riot of cubes, one or two moderately understandable.
'Look your fill!' Duval said dramatically. 'You look into my soul.'
For the sake of M. Duval's soul Charles hoped this was an exaggeration.
- p114

I see from the Wikipedia entry that I seem to have read her last and first detective novels.

carisbrooke castle's well

The well at Carisbrooke Castle, with its treadwheel originally operated by people and later by donkeys, which you can see demonstrated when you visit, is 161ft deep, with water to a depth of about 40ft, according to the guidebook. The donkey-minding guide said that if you put Nelson's column down it, Nelson would be at eye level to you. Wikipedia says Nelson's column is 151ft, with the statue 18ft, so that's about right. Some water was dropped down, and it was an astonishing length of time before you heard the splash.

Monday, 11 June 2007

robinson crusoe in space

On Saturday 24 March we went down to see Robinson Crusoe in Space at the Colour House Theatre at Merton Abbey Mills. We've been to Merton Abbey Mills a few times, but it was our first time at the Colour House Theatre, which is a children's theatre. We pre-booked, but sadly there were only six of us in the audience - two little girls and their parents. We only just outnumbered the cast. It was a shame, because it was good and would have been better with more audience to interact with. The cast didn't stint in their efforts, credit to them, and we did our best to do the audience participation bit in the songs and elsewhere.

This actors cv site lists a couple of the actors from Wheelhouse Productions, which is the company based there.

No real reviews to be found, sadly, but I was glad to find the pages on the Colour House Theatre site again, which were there while the production was on but which I thought had gone forever. The cast were all good, particularly Robinson and Ma Crusoe (who in character appearance resembled Mrs Merton; the evil Znurgle in character appearance resembled Elaine from Seinfeld).

Sunday, 10 June 2007

janet russell at court sessions

On Friday evening I went to Court Sessions, not having been to a folk club for a while. The guest artist was Janet Russell, who was okay, and some of the regulars who contributed were Ken Hall and Peta Webb (who I've seen before at Sharp's), The Wandle Delta String Band, Dave East and Doreen Leighter. As when we went there to see Eric Bogle (same club, different venue - now in Tooting Constitutional Club, handier for tube), Dave East singing self-accompanied on the concertina was the best thing. It finished 25 past 11, I was getting chips at midnight on Kennington Park Road.

One interesting thing was that Janet Russell sang a song called the Wexford Lullaby and said that, with the permission of John Renbourn who'd put the words and music together, she'd changed a couple of lines to remove reference to the Christian religion. Which at one level is perfectly reasonable, and you can imagine someone doing something similar in reverse. But the next song was a first-person tale of a woman who murdered her father and the man he wanted her to marry. I guess it's more obvious in a story song that the contents don't necessarily reflect your own view on anything in particular, unless the story seems autobiographical, whereas something reflecting spirituality or a particular view of the world is more easily misconstrued.

The autobiographical thing is why, despite the disclaimers, I've always found it hard to listen to so many of Loudon Wainwright III's songs without feeling I'm listening in on private matters which shouldn't be aired in public. One of my favourite new-to-me songs of last year, though, was LWIII singing a traditional song, Turkish Revelry; with LWIII, unusually, I like his voice but not his material. I wonder if he's done any albums of traditional material? I'll have to ask John.

koyaanisqatsi

I saw the film Koyaanisqatsi long ago (school/uni) and thought the music was really good; it was several years before I got around to buying it, and wondered when I did just why it had taken me so long because the music was indeed really good. My perspective only, of course: it's one of the CDs which is never welcome on the turntable when Bethan's around.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

overture at the royal festival hall

There's a weekend of free events at the South Bank Centre - the Overture - to mark the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall. We took some Boots sandwiches up and spent a few hours there. We heard The Bollywood Brass Band, who were okay, Bellowhead, who were quite good, Billy Bragg, who was good, and Beautiful Beginnings, which was a free ticketed event in the Royal Festival Hall itself (the others were outdoors) involving massed children's choirs of 6-and 7-year-olds and jazz musicians including Laka D and Harry Beckett (whoever they are). The choirs and Billy Bragg both did versions of Waterloo Sunset. Bellowhead and Bollywood playing dance music for people who aren't dancing; the choirs giving us a foretaste of school concerts yet to come.

We were standing behind and to the side of the stage for Billy Bragg, but heard and saw very well. We've seen him twice before, without really trying; we saw him at the Fleadh one year, headlining in the second tent (The Corrs were headlining on the main stage), and Bethan reminded me we'd also seen him down in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, with Naomi. Fairfield Halls always makes me think of Captain Sensible, as he was a toilet cleaner there.

There was an old Routemaster and some vintage cars outside the RFH, and it was Bethan who realised they would be from 1951, tying in with the building of the RFH for the Festival of Britain, and she pointed out the contrast between how old the cars looked and how contemporary the RFH looked; in 1951 the RFH must have looked very futuristic.

Oh, and when we went up to Waterloo Bridge we got a bus straight away, and then got a view from the front of the top deck of a massed naked cycle coming the other way. It was someone else on the bus saying 'Is that David Cameron?' which made me look up. I'm pretty sure it wasn't. The accompanying cycling policeman was fully dressed. Someone else on the bus said it's not the kind of thing you want to see anyone you know from work in.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

no boys on the prairie, please

Bethan and I both read and enjoyed the Little House On The Prairie books when we were young; Bethan's set is still on our shelves.

I was thinking of getting J one for his (9th) birthday. Puffin don't seem to do them any more, however.

The cover of the Puffin edition, which is the one we read, of the first in the series, Little House in the Big Woods, looked like this (hats off to Daphne, whoever she is); the cover of the current, Classic Mammoth, edition looks like this. The Puffin edition of the second, Little House on the Prairie, looked like this (Daphne again); the Classic Mammoth looks like this. A bear encounter in the lantern-lit snow, and a covered wagon travelling on the prairie, versus two sappy, smarmy girls in pastel shades, twice.

They really don't want boys to read them, do they?

Monday, 4 June 2007

the first amendment

Coincidentally, Alex and I have recently been reading articles about the separation of church and state in the US. The one I read was at Straight Dope, an interesting analysis of what the those writing the Amendment said and how it's been understood subsequently.

why the ak-47 is the world's weapon of choice

The AK-47's popularity is generally attributed to its functional characteristics; ease of operation, robustness to mistreatment and negligible failure rate. The weapon's weaknesses -- it is considerably less accurate, less safe for users, and has a smaller range than equivalently calibrated weapons -- are usually overlooked, or considered to be less important than the benefits of its simplicity. But other assault rifles are approximately as simple to manage, yet they have not experienced the soaring popularity of the Kalashnikov.

The AK-47's ubiquity could alternatively be explained as a result of a path dependent process. Economic historians recognize that an inferior product may persist when a small but early advantage becomes large over time and builds up a legacy that makes switching costly. In the case of the AK-47 that early advantage may be that as a Soviet invention it was not subject to patent and so could be freely copied.

- Salon

It's also on Mozambique's flag.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

seventeen times

Researchers for Disney found that a preschool child will watch their favourite DVD or video an average of 17 times before getting bored
- Guardian, Friday 4 May.

Friday, 1 June 2007

isle of wight

We had a long weekend in the Isle of Wight, us and Naomi. We did the set of four English Heritage properties: Yarmouth Castle, Carisbrooke Castle, Appuldurcombe House and Osborne House. The deep well and associated working donkey wheel were impressive at Carisbrooke Castle. We went to Ventnor Botanic Gardens. We visited Brook Chine, Alum Bay and saw The Needles. We stayed in Silver Glades caravan park, which was a good place. We went to Bethany Evangelical Church in Newport on Sunday morning. The Isle of Wight was the wettest place in the UK while we were there; it rained solidly from Saturday evening to Monday morning, especially Sunday day and night, you could really hear it on the caravan roof. Reminded me very much of home. Little flashes of memory from previous holidays in caravans came back to me; it's been a long time. We had a good time, weather good and bad.

panini sticker

"My fondest memory of him is his passport picture - it was a Panini sticker of himself. He was a legend."
Reading defender Michael Duberry on former team-mate Mark Hughes.
- BBC sports quotes of the week.

women in art

Another from YouTube - women in art.

here it goes again

A cheap and imaginative video for OK Go's Here It Goes Again.