Thursday, 22 May 2008

god's undertaker

The positive review of God's Undertaker by John Lennox referred to the positive review in the Guardian (not sure who Colin Tudge is - ah, this is him). There's a batch of readers reviews on Amazon too (and I notice the individual reviews even get their own sets of comments, which I have restrained myself, without much effort, from dipping into). As usual with such books (in all kinds of fields), the praise seems to come from people who agreed before reading it, the criticism from those who disagreed, so it's hard to weigh up. Again, in many of these things it seems quite rare to find someone whose mind was changed by reading the book in question.

In music reviewing in particular, I've often thought it would be useful to get albums or concerts reviewed by two different people, one already a fan and one not. I remember Tom Robinson writing an article in the Guardian wondering why the Guardian kept sending the same guy to review his concerts when he had never liked him from the start; he didn't grudge him his opinion, but wondered why they were both put through it again and why they didn't send someone different along for a change.

photoshop disasters

Photoshop Disasters - blog which does what it says on the tin, picked up from the Guardian.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

sharp's folk club

Last night sang Who's Going To Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet, Twa Corbies and (because there weren't so many there and they had to get three people to do a third one) Three Craws. Still every time I go there are people there, singing or not, who are obviously fairly regular but who I've never seen (or heard) before; this time a young woman called Ruth who sang very well.

more ways to choose which book to start reading next

Keep a short, rotating 'recent arrivals' section, like they sometimes do in secondhand bookshops in particular. That's where I picked up Childhood's End from the other day - in fact, the day I bought it, unusually. The size did it, as it was pocket size.

Read books off doubleshelved shelves, so that when you read and discard you're reducing the doubleshelving. The trouble with this is that you can get into a cycle of reading books which you don't expect to enjoy so much, as you think you'll be getting rid of them afterwards, rather than ones you think will be good enough to keep (this applies particularly in non-fiction, as I tend not to keep read fiction anyway).

Read a book off one of the many different kinds of lists of best/award-winning books you have.

tower bridge road bus crash

I remember a Garrison Keillor bit, probably from Lake Wobegon Days, where one afternoon a car drives through the quiet town a little fast. It doesn't nearly knock anyone down, but people who saw it reckon it could easily have knocked someone down if they'd been trying to cross the road when it drove through, and then people start to tell each other how they had only recently crossed the road, or had been thinking about crossing the road, or had been thinking of driving the forty miles into town and could easily have been crossing the road at that moment had they done so, so that pretty soon everyone had a tale of how they had only just escaped disaster.

That story's often reflected in real life whenever there's some kind of incident or disaster, with some people overimagining their connection with an event, either the moment itself or the aftermath and impact, from the death of Diana to the 7 July bombings.

Well, it's my turn now. The 188 bus that hit a tree, or was hit by a tree, on Tower Bridge Road around 0923 yesterday morning must have been about three or four minutes behind the 188 I was on. I was sitting upstairs in the front left seat, where the tree cut into the other bus. Of course, I'd never have been on that bus; I'd left the house a bit late, but had to wait ages for the bus to come along; I'd never have left the house so late that I'd have missed that first bus and only been in time to catch the one behind it. If it was tree to bus rather than bus to tree, however, the important timing becomes the shifting of the tree rather than the arrival of the bus, which is more thought-provoking. It's not unusual to hear the clonk or brush of branches or leaves on the top deck of a bus, but I didn't hear anything yesterday morning.

It's very hard from the photos and the accounts - so far - to see what actually happened with the trees. When I hear instant eyewitness accounts now, I always think of the Stockwell tube shooting, where all the eyewitness accounts on the day described, essentially, the wholly suspicious behaviour of a terrorist. I guess because that's what they thought they were seeing. It would be very interesting to read the reports from that day and see how they compare with what was eventually revealed as the truth. When I worked at St Thomas's I was getting a lift back from a meeting at Guy's with the UMDS principal when two other cars bumped into each other on the roundabout at the end of Westminster Bridge as we were on it too; he remarked, correctly, that we were eyewitnesses to that, but could have told no one anything of value or reliability about what had actually happened.

Andrew told Debbie that there was emergency service activity down the road - it was just a couple of hundred metres back from our office - so she went down to get some stock photos of the emergency services in action; we had no idea of the seriousness of the incident at that time. We sent some of her photos to some places; the Sky News website used a couple (one of hers was on the front page for a while, of fire crew lifting a casualty out through the upper bus window, and the ITV London news used a couple in their bulletin also. The BBC asked her to come back to the scene for an interview, and once she was there loads of people interviewed her for print and screen; she was in the local BBC and ITV bulletins last night.

One of the things I like about London is the way that so much of the street plan has been the same for centuries, and it is really true that famous characters from history trod the exact streets that you are treading. Yesterday, however, I walked homewards after work down a pavement on which a young woman had lost her life eight hours earlier, and that was not a happy thought.

Some of the news coverage. A couple of Debbie's pictures are on this Sky News page. Daily Telegraph. The Times. BBC yesterday and today. Guardian. London SE1 website.

Interesting to see how some basic facts are still wrong in some of the stories, like the direction in which the bus was travelling (confusion probably because although it was heading out of town and south-east in general, at that point the bus is travelling north). Also interesting to see yesterday afternoon how some outlets were naming the dead woman when others were still saying next of kin hadn't been informed; I'm sure journalists could wheedle it out of someone on the scene, colleagues in particular, and I wonder what the pressure is to be the first to name, and to do so before others. Also interesting that, as so often now, the photos which they were using had obviously been picked up online, probably social networking sites.

This morning on the bus in I sat in the same place as yesterday, upstairs front left. You can't worry about these things. Also, the 188 today was probably the safest bus to be on in London. When I was commuting to Bletchley there was a fatal crash on our train line, and I certainly felt that then the next day, that there was no safer line to be on.

On the other hand, my colleague David used to be a railway chaplain, and he said that pretty quickly he could spot the managers and experiences staff from where they sat on a train, for safety in a crash - back to travel (so you're not hurled forward when you crash), next to pillar rather than window (so you're not thrown out the window and crushed), and at the back of the carriage (reducing the number of bodies being thrown towards you when you crash - although if the accident involves a jacknife off the tracks, you could be sticking out across the rails at the back of the carriage, so in big trouble if another train's coming).

Monday, 19 May 2008

may ansible

PATRICK STEWART's Broadway role as Macbeth drew some highly relevant questions from _Newsweek_'s Nicki Gostin: 'When you're onstage, aren't you worried about weird Trekkie fans in the audience?' _PS:_ 'Oh, come on, that's just a silly thing to say.' _NG:_ 'But they are weird.' _PS:_ How many do you know personally? You couldn't be more wrong. Here's the thing: if you say the fans are weird, that means there is something essentially weird about the show, and there is nothing weird about it. I'm very passionate when people like you snigger.' [AL] Of course _Newsweek_ (7 Apr) headlined this _Macbeth_ interview 'Mr. Stewart Loves His Trekkies', with the photo caption 'Is that a Klingon I See?'
- from Ansible, May 2008

Saturday, 17 May 2008

jacksonville

Lynyrd Skynyrd, contrary to expectations, started life not in (sweet home) Alabama, but Jacksonville, Florida.

another sf book reading list

Over at the Guardian meanwhile, Sam Jordison, obviously a man after my own heart, is reading his way through the Hugo award-winning novels in chronological order (and also the Booker longlist). I don't want to read his reviews, though, as I suspect they'll be too detailed plot-wise.

the war of the worlds

Finished HG Wells's The War of the Worlds this morning. More interesting than enjoyable, although it was fine. The most interesting thing about it is the suddenness with which it ends, unsatisfyingly anti-climactically for modern readers. The bulk of its 190 pages recount the arrival of the Martians and the subsequent destruction, panic and desolation (the narrator is trapped in a ruined house for twelve days then forgets another three days, which is a useful device for saving on exposition of the developing situation and his doings); written today, they would be the first 150 pages of a 700 page book, or perhaps the first volume of a seven-volume series (which would expand the period between the apparent subjugation of humans and the end of the Martians, expanding on the resistance of survivors, and certainly changing the ending so that the victory was the result of human endeavour). There would certainly be no desire to save on exposition or description of mundane doings in these verbose times; a prime example which stuck with me, it might have been from a Tad Williams, was a page-and-a-half description of climbing through a hatch from one floor to another which could have been despatched in the six words, 'They climbed up through the hatch'; the description added nothing in terms of plot, character, anything, really, except wordage; modern writers don't even have the excuse of being paid by the word, like the Victorian serial novelists like Dickens.

But details like this, from p18, remind you that the book was written in another world: 'He met a wagoner and tried to make him understand [about the Martian emerging from the spaceship], but the tale he told, and his appearance, were so wild - his hat had fallen off in the pit - that the man simply drove on.'

arthur c clarke awards

Arthur C Clarke awards: a universe away from the Booker: Want to meet learned and passionate readers? Go to the Arthur C Clarke awards for sci-fi, says Andrew McKie
- good Daily Telegraph article of 10 May

'It is true that there were a few folk at the Clarkes who bore more than a passing resemblance to Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. But there were also a great many perfectly ordinary, even some rather glamorous, people who happen to take an intelligent interest in SF as literature - a fair number of whom are remarkably well-read in other fields as well.
'The reverse does not, on the whole, hold true. Most people who read fiction do not read any science fiction: or so they will tell you. Yet when I express surprise that they have never read Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World or Frankenstein or A Clockwork Orange, they concede that yes, of course they have read those. The unspoken assumption is that these books have ceased to be science fiction by dint of being, well, good.
'This distaste for an entire genre is remarkably common, and clearly strongly embedded in a lot of readers; yet one does not encounter any of the same antipathy towards, for example, crime fiction. All the same, you may find that you have read a lot more science fiction than you think during the past few years.'

manager sacked for getting promotion

The manager who was sacked for being 'too successful': Lewes' decision to axe Steve King for getting promoted too often was quite sensible, and that says a lot about what's wrong with football
- interesting article from the Guardian sportblog of 16 May

arm-wrestling

You Couldn't Make It Up Dept: Rochdale manager Keith Hill has banned arm-wrestling on the team's bus after striker Lee Thorpe broke his arm on the way to Saturday's play-off semi-final with Darlington.
- from Monday's Guardian Fiver

free bus travel

Cornwall to Cumbria with not a penny to pay (if you're over 60)
- Guardian article of 5 April, journalist and pensioner dad travel the country with free bus travel

newspapers

To choose a newspaper in London, I found out when I stood for the first time before a rack of them, was no simple undertaking. Londoners have a serious relationship with their daily papers. Freewheeling though your average Londoner's evening entertainment may be, he is not about to transfer his intimate morning attention from the paper of his choice, which is why even now morning television is a flop in England unless it addresses itself to children who are not yet committed to a paper, or to illiterates. A Londoner does not simply buy his daily paper, or subscribe to it; he marries it. His choice of a newspaper says a lot about his status, his ambitions, his taste in political and even sexual ways. He who is reading the Sun on the Central Line, for example, and he who is coming off the Hammersmith flyover with the Telegraph beside him on the front seat of his Range Rover, are as far apart in spirit as any two urban men can be. That's why many more papers are required here than in any other capital city: ten dailies at the last count, one in the evening, and nine on Sunday. He who does The Times crossword probably did not attend the same university as he who does the Guardian's crossword, and if he's doing the crossword in the Telegraph, the chances are he's an outdoorsy type with a cleric in the family. The moment a newspaper prints anything that deviates from its established gospel, its readers first probably write letters of complaint to the editor - they most certainly will if they are The Times readers - and only after supreme insult will they bitterly and critically sever all ties and shop around for a new voice in the morning. Every English newspaper has a history and a life-span: when they die it is slowly, as a rule, and quite horribly. One symptom of an ailing broadsheet is an increase in stories about the Royals. After that, its advertising slides downmarket, it changes the layout of its front page, and finally it slips away quietly in its sleep, unlike the tabloids that die in noisy fits. Three important morning papers, one evening tabloid, and one Sunday have passed away during my decades here, and two more are fading now. Reading an English paper is something like supporting a football team: an impassioned form of mateyness - the sort of thing blokes like to do. Most of the idiosyncrasies of London life - newspaper addiction, curry houses, betting-shops on every high street, pubs, clubs, Speakers' Corner, Saville Row, marathons instead of floats and parades, the noisy last night of the Proms at the Albert Hall - derive from the sorts of things blokes like to do. Paris has the soul of a thwarted woman; each new disclosure showed me that London is the model of a self-indulgent male.
- Irma Kurtz, Dear London, p34

Friday, 16 May 2008

rangers lose

We watched Rangers lose the Uefa Cup Final on Wednesday. I'd read that from the kick-off of the first leg of the semi-final they'd been playing for penalties at the end of the second, and they certainly seem to have blazed a trail of 0-0 matches on the way to the final. (Later: Wednesday's Guardian Fiver says that in the eight games they played to get to the final they only conceded two goals, but only scored five.) They certainly didn't deserve to win on Wednesday night. Their approach was summed up by the TV commentators, when they went 1-0 down in the middle of the second half, who said that Rangers would now have to go to Plan B - that is, try to score. Any team whose Plan A in a cup final doesn't involve scoring doesn't deserve to win. It was also slightly peculiar to see Walter Smith spend several minutes after the goal went in scrawling copious notes, presumably outlining his Plan B, which turned out to be making one substitution and changing the formation unremarkably, which didn't seem to call for that much writing. Not having seen any of the previous ties, or read that much about them, I was hoping for the Scottish team to win, but the result was just. As for the subsequent fan behaviour...

It's interesting down here how often people assume I support Rangers - most often in church circles, presumably therefore because I'm a 'Protestant' not from a place associated with a football team they might have heard of. I find it somewhat depressing, as, although it's certainly never intended, it kind of affirms the sectarian divide, in a way that most Christians would normally never do - it's like a peculiar cultural blind spot; perhaps in some cases they're just drawing in to the conversation one of the few facts they know about Scottish football. It's also depressing, but interesting, to see what the outsider's assumptions are. I was well on in my childhood football supporting years before I became aware that *in Glasgow* there was this Ranger Protestant, Celtic Catholic thing, and even then it never came up as an issue or joke/arguing point among us associated with who supported who. In fact I grew up supporting Celtic. I supported Celtic because my friend Ivor did. The fact they were in the middle of a huge dominant period in the early Seventies probably also helped.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

some kind of monster

At last watched Some Kind of Monster, the Metallica documentary, over the last couple of days, which I'd videoed yonks ago. Fascinating. Interesting seeing the ordinary people behind the image. The guitarist really was the 'luke warm water' a la Derek Smalls. People growing up, into families, through addiction, enduring break-up, breakdown and death of friends (having to audition for their new bassist immediately after burying their current one who had died in a tour bus crash). With so many bands, it's like, imagine you and your four best friends when you were sixteen, then imagine that that gang has persisted, or had to persist, perhaps with its adolescent dynamics, for years, not only that but you work together intensely, not only that but you have to spend large periods of time travelling and living together. It's not designed for well-adjusted lives, even before bringing the sex and drugs and rock and roll into the equation. One of the Wikipedia pages had a link to what seems to be an official Metallica concert recordings file site (and given the Lars V Napster episode, it's hard to imagine it's an unofficial one), where the older ones are free, so I might sample that another time.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

doctor who stalinist revisionism

It annoys me the way the series of the revived Doctor Who are being officially referred to as Series 1, 2, 3 and 4. I'd imagine they're at least thirty series further on than that. Wikipedia tells me they're 26 series further on; they refer to the earlier series as seasons, and the earlier stories rather than episodes are numbered (since the stories were usually several episodes long; the first episode of 'Series 1' is story No 161.

amy winehouse

I liked Rehab a lot at first but went off it a bit after repeated listens; the music was good 60s style, but I was going off the voice (and also it was becoming too apparently autobiographical for comfort). I had assumed that the band/singer/style package had been on the go together for a while, but I learned recently that a producer had pulled in the band from America to record with her, which further reduces my appreciation.

The subscriber letter with January's Word said that her 'tour manager recently handed in his notice because he was worried about the chance of inhaling second-hand heroin smoke'.

Monday, 12 May 2008

galatians 6:17

On the bus on Saturday I saw a young woman - South-East Asian origin, I'd guess - with a tattoo on her back, just at the bottom of her neck, which said 'Galatians 6:17'.

Galatians 6:17 says (in the NIV) 'Finally, let no-one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.'

There are so many tattoos about today - and I saw lots on Saturday, it being hot, from the simple to the elaborate - that I find it hard to believe that they're all permanent. But maybe they are.

Friday, 9 May 2008

'play something normal'

I did a gig up in Sweden in the mid-'80s where I was on between two sets of a disco on a Friday night. Everyone was having a great time. Then I came on for an hour in-between and they totally ignored me. After a while I realised there was a guy edging towards me from the side of the stage. I didn't want to give him any credibility by actually looking at him, so I kept playing, but I suddenly realised that he had a knife. He held it up to my throat and said in my ear, 'Could you play something normal?' and then backed off again. I thought, 'What does he mean by normal?' It certainly had me thinking long and hard about what to play next!
- Richard Thompson in a feature on live performance in The Word of December 2007

garfield minus garfield

Garfield minus Garfield: 'Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.'

Here's a Washington Post article about it; Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, is well-disposed towards it.

the roehampton mystery

An entry dated 26 April entitled 'We make our own fun in the bookshop world' from lucyfishwife's blog 'Life happens between books' (which is new to me):

A lady has just asked me for a book called "The Roehampton Mystery". She was very vague. She wasn't sure what it was about, and she definitely hadn't a clue who wrote it. She had been recommended it by a friend. When she said, after some minutes of vain debate, that she thought it might be about India, the penny dropped. She left with a lovely copy of Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance". We DO provide a service to the community that the internet simply can't match...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

my name is earl

Watched tonight My Name Is Earl, which makes me laugh. I pulled an article out of the Guardian Guide ages ago, which I'll reach in a few years, but helpfully it was referenced from the Wikipedia entry - My Name is L Ron Hubbard, Sat 9 June 2007. It was interesting because it was troubled that it might have underlying Scientology ideas. On the one hand, lots of things reflect the worldviews of their writers; it's usually not considered notable, unless it reflects a 'belief'. On another hand, when I saw it first it struck me that it looked like a programme about a person who'd had a conversion experience but they couldn't make it as funny if it was a 'serious' or full-on religion, so a vague karma motive not tied to a full karma-based system would work best. There are several religions or belief systems that would come to your mind when you looked at My Name Is Earl before you thought of Scientology. Scientology is still a preposterously absurd, perplexingly tenacious, unhealthy, dangerous cult, and the article is still interesting, though (the best bit is how Isaac Hayes stuck with South Park through all their attacking of everything until it made fun of the thing he believed in - Scientology, as it happened). But I don't think My Name Is Earl is going to lure anyone into the arms of old L Ron.

tesco

It's interesting to see how well the arrival of Tesco in Stornoway is being received by the press and people I know, like my mother and Alex. It must make a nice change for Tesco, who usually just seem to get local opposition when they try to open a new store.

Some Googled coverage. Gazette. Herald. Telegraph. Guardian. There are also other blogs which come up on Google; Island Life and Silversprite, of course, although interestingly their posts are from about a year ago, and, less happily, a BNP supporter in Melbost Borve who's all for it, in a blog I'll be happy never to come across again.

Tesco's is our closest supermarket, so probably gets most of our money, but we try to spread our wealth around.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

thomas middleton

The mad worlds of Thomas Middleton: Sexing the language, languaging the sex, doubting all truth, mastering all dramatic modes: enough of a case for Middleton?
- interesting article in the TLS of 23 April on our locally-buried playwright.

the big bang theory

We've been watching and enjoying The Big Bang Theory, which I noticed was another Chuck Lorre effort, who was also behind Dharma and Greg, which we also really enjoyed (it reminded me a little of Dad's Army, in that there was a range of characters each of which could say one line reflective of their character and get a laugh), but it got moved after midnight and I guess not every series was shown, so others weren't so keen obviously. I might have given Two and a Half Men a shot if I'd realised it was Chuck Lorre; mind you, he did Cybill and Grace Under Fire, which weren't much cop, although he started out on Roseanne - not sure if it was the early good series or the later liposuction years (the supporting cast was the strong point, including John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf).

extended season

Rangers are being rather disingenuous in their reaction to the SFA/SPL not extending the season to acccommodate them, 'to help them win the Uefa cup' - it's to help them win the league and Scottish cup, of course. You only have to imagine their response if the shoe were on the other foot (ho ho) and it was Celtic making the request, to see that it's untenable, whatever the Russians might do.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

wells, holmes, shaw, barbara

I started reading HG Wells' War of the Worlds yesterday. It was published 1898, but you think of it firmly within the 20th century tradition of science fiction. It's easy to forget how different from the world in which he was writing his ideas were; later science fiction writers are writing things which you can see as extrapolations from the developments they've seen. It's also easy to be critical of what he writes, forgetting when he was writing. Interesting for example to see how slowly the news spreads about the spaceship opening and the Martians emerging - not more than a few miles before the next day. (Time Machine 95, Invisible Man 97; HG 1866-1946)

It also struck me that we think of Sherlock Holmes as firmly 19th century, but the Holmes works straddle War of the Worlds - The Hound of the Baskervilles was published four years later, in 1902. (Conan Doyle 1859-1930)

Major Barbara was 1905; GBS 1856-1950. According to the programme, he died 'from injuries sustained on falling from a ladder while trimming a tree'.

In Hew Strachan's essay in the Major Barbara programme, says something interesting about arms manufacturers in the years before WWI:
'The international competition for armaments therefore seemed to create a sellers' market and, as Andrew Undershaft testifies in the play, to open the possibility of almost unlimited profits.
'The reality was different from the fiction, or in this case the drama. In Major Barbara, Charles Lomax sings the praises of Woolwich Arsenal, the British government's own arms factory. Governments retained the right of inspection, setting high standards, which were maintained until they were breached by the urgent demands of the First World War itself. those standards themselves acted as a brake on profits, especially as in many cases (and particularly in the case of field artillery) the states themselves maintained production and so could set prices. The arms manufacturers were therefore not monopolists, able to manipulate contracts and prices in the way in which Shaw implies. The competition for business was stiff and when it was deficient the government made quite sure that it fostered it precisely in order to provide a check on costs. In Germany the pre-eminent private manufacturer of arms was Krupp, and their field guns were credited with having delivered the victory over France in 1871 which had enabled the unification of the state. And yet in 1905 Krupp lost its monopoly in the sale of artillery to the German army when orders were given to a rival firm, Rheinmetall. Krupp had to face even more intense competition in the field of warship building, and so astutely did the German naval armaments office manage its contracts that many of the warships it ordered were built at a loss to the producers.'
It seems to be much the other way around now with governments and suppliers.

The National Theatre sent me an email today following up our visit to the theatre on Friday, which I've never had before. They've got a Major Barbara webpage, images page, reviews page and a production message board.

Monday, 5 May 2008

cutting the peats

As oil prices soar, crofters return to the old ways and get their heat from peat
- an article from the Guardian of Monday, 5 May, with rather a good photo by Murdo Macleod. My brother's one of those who got a tarasgeir made by the blacksmith this year.

major barbara

George Bernard Shaw's not as popular as he was, but his plays pop up from time to time. We went to see Major Barbara at the National Theatre on Friday, starring Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins, who were the star turns. It was a funny mixture of jokes and debating positions. I was looking at Pygmalion online the other day to check something, which reminded me that he gives very detailed stage directions, asserting his control over how he wants it played. I bought Androcles and the Lion in Tlon today for 60p, and about two-thirds of the book is his introductory essay. I was flagging a bit during the first half, , during the Salvation Army section, as I was a bit tired, having stayed up watching the election results for a while, to little purpose.

And we saw Melvyn Bragg in the foyer beforehand.

Some reviews. Daily Telegraph. Sunday Times. The Independent. The Guardian. The Observer. Time Out. The Stage. West End Whingers. An article on the play in The Guardian.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

boris

Well, we've got a new mayor. I've no real idea how it will work out. I'm old enough now to think I'd rather it worked out well, despite me thinking it's a horrible mistake, rather than hoping I will be proved right and it's a terrible disaster; which is to say, I hope people realise it's turned out alright despite the horrible mistake we've made, a mistake which we resolve not to repeat.

The worse thing is that more than 5 per cent of voting Londoners voted BNP, so now there's a BNP man in the London Assembly. More happily, one of our very own ward's Lib Dem councillors got in as a top-up; Caroline Pidgeon has always looked like a woman going places, or at least hoping to. When she's party leader I'll be able to say I was at a TRA meeting which she was at.

gramex

Gramex is the second-hand classical music shop in Lower Marsh; it's been there a long time, it seems, but I've only been in it properly this year, and I've bought lots of CDs there; I used to be under the impression that it was a seller of new and expensive stuff, but it's secondhand and cheap; they obviously go for turnover, most of the CDs I've bought have been in the £2 or £3 range. There's a downstairs where all the vinyl is; I should go down sometime just for interest (the website implies they also have reels, 78s and cylinders). They've also got a jazz section, and some other bits and pieces - my last two visits I got several scottish folk/gaelic CDs. The price tags have dates on them; the scottish CDs were mostly from 2003, but I assume they haven't been on the shelf all that time (the website refers to a stock of 15K CDs, which certainly aren't all on the shelves, in fact they have a curious amount of empty space on the shelves); a wodge of the ones I got on my last visit were same date about a fortnight ago, part of a huge wodge of Naxos in their sale section; some of those which I bought were obviously from the same seller; they had a sticker in with date, cost and place bought (I used to keep a list like that of my Beatles-related records; I also used to have a page for each song, on which I wrote every record/cassette on which I owned that song). They obviously buy collections and do house clearances and so on (second-last time I was there I heard the man saying they'd recently been up to Inverness buying a collection of someone who had died). The turnover means it's worth going in regularly. I've got CDs there relatively cheaply of a couple of the things Bethan's wanted as she's singing them in her choir. They have some videos and DVDs too; mostly classical music related, but last time I got a Goodies video including the Goodies and the Beanstalk for a pound (I guess they pick up some random stuff when they buy a collection and sell it off cheap and quick)

Friday, 2 May 2008

the man who wants ken's scalp

The man who wants Ken's scalp: If Boris Johnson beats Ken Livingstone in London's mayoral election tomorrow, he'll owe a debt to Andrew Gilligan. But why would the self-professed 'lefty' journalist wage a high-profile media campaign against Labour's candidate? It's nothing personal, he tries to assure Decca Aitkenhead.
- Decca Aitkenhead's interview article in the Guardian of 30 April with Andrew Gilligan (who I don't like because of what he did to the BBC in the WMD/Kelly/Hutton stuff) on his anti-Ken articles in the Evening Standard

american/german perspective on mayoral election

Duking it out to be London's head honcho: Two eccentrics are competing for the London mayor's office. But does either man really want the job?
- a Salon article of 18 April, which is actually a translation of a Der Spiegel article