Thursday, 21 October 2010

last minutes of london bus bomber hasib hussain

7/7 inquests shown last minutes of London bus bomber Hasib Hussain
Footage of the last moments of terrorist Hasib Hussain’s life has been shown to an inquest into the victims of the July 7 London bombings.
- Daily Telegraph, 14 October

At 9am, he made a decision. Shrugging his large rucksack off his shoulders, he dropped it to the ground in the doorway of WH Smith’s within the station. For two and a half minutes Hussain was seen bent at the hip, rifling around in the dark blue Sherpa rucksack, only yards from a security guard. Hugo Keith QC, counsel for the inquest, said: “He spent a very significant amount of time rooting around in a rucksack containing a highly unstable cooled explosive.” After adjusting the straps as he placed it back on his shoulders, Hussain walked into WH Smith’s and purchased a single Duracel plus 9 volt battery, at a cost of £4.49. In the shop’s footage he was seen handing over a £5 note to the cashier, who was oblivious to its later, deadly use. At 9.07am, Hussain dived into a nearby McDonald’s, emerging eight minutes later. “May we presume during that time that he put the battery he purchased into the bomb?” asked Mr Keith. “Absolutely,” replied Det Insp Ewan Kindness, who was responsible for accumulating the CCTV footage. The last pictures of Hussain were at 9.22am as he walked past Burger King and Barclays Bank, still on only a few metres from Kings Cross.

Friday, 8 October 2010

are american college professors religious?

Many sociologists of religion, as well as the general public, seem to take for granted the causal relationship between higher education and the decline of religion. The more educated someone becomes, the theory goes, the less religious they are likely to be. As European and American universities broke free from the control of the church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science and the scientific worldview arose to become the prime competitor to religious authority. With this historical trend, it was assumed that those who occupy these elite places of learning would also shed the trappings of irrational religious belief. However, more and more sociological evidence reveals that this may not be the case. In a recent article published in Sociology of Religion, sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons use data from a new, nationally representative survey of American college and university professors to test the long-running assumption that higher education leads to irreligiousness. Based on their research, they argue that "while atheism and agnosticism are much more common among professors than within the U.S. population as a whole, religious skepticism represents a minority position, even among professors teaching at elite research universities." This has been a long-running debate amongst those who study religiosity in higher education and pay attention to trends in societal secularization.
- Huffington Post, 6 October

Thursday, 7 October 2010

ruby wax and princess diana

Heard Frank Skinner's podcast sidekick Emily say that Ruby Wax had coached Princess Diana before the Panorama interview, and that the 'there were three people in this marriage' line was hers. This article from the Daily Mail of 21 December 1998 stored on the Free Library (whatever that is) seems to confirm this.

facebook unveils 'groups' feature and user controls

Facebook has introduced a raft of features aimed at giving users more control over their personal data. A groups feature will allow people to specify circles of friends with whom they want to share different updates and information. For the first time, users will also be able to download all the data they have uploaded onto the site. They will also find it easier to see how individual applications are using personal information, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said.
- BBC, 6 October

is your private phone number on facebook?

Is your private phone number on Facebook? Probably. And so are your friends'
Uploads from iPhones using the Facebook app will push all your contacts onto Facebook's servers - where they'll be matched against any and everyone. Worried at all? Update: Or how about a random Facebooker's number? If you have a friend on Facebook who has used the iPhone app version to access the site, then it's very possible that your private phone numbers - and those of lots of your and their friends - are on the site.
- Guardian Technology blog, 6 October

shape, rattle and roll

Shape, rattle and roll: The amazing survival of shape-note singing. Shape-note singing was America's first music craze, and 150 years on, it's still going. Alfred Hickling tries it
- Guardian, 30 September

Monday, 4 October 2010

obama: 'I'm a christian by choice'

Eighteen per cent of Americans may be convinced their President is a Muslim, but Barack Obama insists he is a Christian.
President Barack Obama was forced to open up about his Christian faith on Tuesday when an woman asked him why he was a Christian. "I'm a Christian by choice," he responded. It was a "hot topic question", the woman said during an informal conversation on the economy. Obama was meeting with families in the front garden of the home of Andy and Etta Cavalier in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the question was posed. Providing a brief account of how he grew up, Obama said his family members "weren't folks who went to church every week". "My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church," he said. Obama became a Christian later in life. What drew him to Christianity were "the precepts of Jesus Christ" which spoke to him in terms of the kind of life he wanted to lead, he explained. These precepts included "being my brothers' and sisters' keeper; treating others as they would treat me". He continued, "I think also understanding that ... Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings – that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes; we achieve salvation through the grace of God." In terms of how he's living out his Christian faith, he said he strives and prays to "see God in other people" and "help them find their own grace". "I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith," he said. Only about a third of Americans believe the president is a Christian, a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed last month. Last year, nearly half held that perception. Meanwhile, some 18 per cent say Obama is a Muslim and the rest do not know his religion.
- Christian Today, 30 September

Sunday, 3 October 2010

ibex on the face of a dam

Photos of Alpine ibex on the face of an Italian dam - on the Snopes site because they're being circulated with misattribution, but they're still genuine photos.

george best's bar stool thrombosis

According to an article in September's When Saturday Comes, George Best 'regularly used Spanish resorts as his boltholes. He fled to Marbella to announce the first of his retirements (in 1974) and it was in Majorca that he developed thrombosis in the leg from sitting awkwardly on a bar stool for too long.'

Saturday, 2 October 2010

'merry little christmas' second line

In this week's Radio Times, the interesting fact about Meet Me In St Louis in the film review section: 'The original second line to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was changed from "It may be your last" because Garland said it was too grim.' Hard to believe that was the original second line.

hamlet - rory kinnear, national theatre

I saw the National Theatre production of Hamlet with Rory Kinnear on Friday 1 October, second preview. On the whole it was pretty good. Some notes. Claudius (Patrick Malahide) seemed rather undercharged, but that was perhap deliberate to show that he was an ineffectual leader. In the bedroom scene Gertrude sees the ghost, but pretends she doesn't, or thinks it's alcohol-induced; another Gertrude who seems to be killing guilt and/or pain with drink. It is clearly implied that Ophelia doesn't drown herself but is drowned or murdered in some other way by security staff, which is a bit daft (though tying in very much with the security state emphasis, lots of security staff with earpieces and guns), and Gertrude knows this while she's describing how she died, as if making up this preposterous description on the spot, but angry about it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get aggressive with Hamlet especially after he kills Polonius, as they often do, which as usual doesn't tie in very well with their self-effacing subservience earlier. The security staff stand back and let Hamlet kill Claudius when they realise what's gone on, which was a nice touch. The courtiers, officials and security staff align themselves with Fortinbras as soon as he takes control at end. Security staff take away the actors after their inflammatory performance (some extra deaths to lay at Hamlet's door in this production), and also Laertes co-conspirators. Polonius as usual the windbag, but with implications that he's losing his mental powers, getting forgetful and mixed up, not the advisor he was. The Ghost and Player King (same actor) quite good, soft spoken in both roles which works quite well (and which in both cases is a refreshing change from the usual tendency to declaiming). Horatio was insipid, and Laertes not very strong either. Gertrude (Clare Higgins) was both strong and rough. The gravedigger (Polonius doubling, which I'd seen recently too) has no assistant, and also recognises Hamlet, though not sure to what purpose really. Rory Kinnear quite good as Hamlet, thoughtful and humorous. Plays up the pretending to be mad scenes. 'Very like a whale' sequence interesting, Polonius just flatly agreeing with him, uninterested in humouring him or disbelieving of his madness. Some interesting touches, most of which now escape me. In his first soliloquy Hamlet utters one of the 'God's as a questions rather than a swear. When they're on the battlements with Hamlet waiting to see if the Ghost will reappear they all jump out of their skins when the cannons go off to mark the king's carousing.

Not much online yet, press night next Thursday. Here are a couple. A blog review from Friday night by Dan Hutton. A blog review from Thursday night by Boycotting Trends.

The BBC has a large standalone Hamlet section now, after their David Tennant production, which I discovered when browsing led me to this page on the 1989 Mark Rylance RSC production, still my favourite and unlikely to be surpassed, which reminds me that Clare Higgins was Gertrude in that too.