Saturday, 31 December 2011

clisham camera

There's a webcam on the Clisham Road now.

battersea power station redevelopment plans photo gallery

Battersea Power Station: the power of dreams. Battersea Power Station will go on the market early in the new year after its latest redesign collapsed into administration. There have been many false starts over the years…
- Guardian, 21 December

Sunday, 25 December 2011

woody allen typeface

An Empire magazine email informs me that 'The distinctive typeface from Woody Allen's films is Windsor-EF Elongated'.

christmas hits: are slade, boney m and the pogues made for life?

Christmas hits: are Slade, Boney M and the Pogues made for life?
Every December records sell, kerching kerching, but do the artists live happily ever after?
- Guardian, 23 December. Interesting details on writing, recording and royalties of some of the hits featured.

Friday, 23 December 2011

comments sections of year-end lists

The 20 Unhappiest People You Meet In The Comments Sections Of Year-End Lists
- NPR, 14 December

why thatcher should not get a state funeral

Her divisiveness is far from being the only reason Thatcher should not get a State funeral
- Alastair Campbell, 22 December


#LastTweet: Of the notable people who passed this year, many were active on Twitter. Here is a sample of their (unwitting) final messages.
- New York Times, 22 December

Thursday, 22 December 2011

epetition - thatcher state funeral to be privatised

Thatcher state funeral to be privatised
Responsible department: Cabinet Office
In keeping with the great lady's legacy, Margaret Thatcher's state funeral should be funded and managed by the private sector to offer the best value and choice for end users and other stakeholders. The undersigned believe that the legacy of the former PM deserves nothing less and that offering this unique opportunity is an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded.
- epetition on HM Government epetition site

kim jong-il was a lefty atheist...

Kim Jong-il was a Lefty atheist in the same way that Hitler was a conservative Catholic
- Telegraph, 19 December

david cameron: the church must shape our values

David Cameron: the Church must shape our values: David Cameron warned the Church of England that it must keep to an "agenda that speaks to the whole country" as he said Britain should be proud to be a "Christian country".
- Telegraph, 17 December

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

britons 'drunk in three quarters of facebook photos'

Britons 'drunk in three quarters of Facebook photos': Britons admit to being drunk in three quarters of photographs of them posted on Facebook, according to a survey.
- Telegraph, 15 December

Sunday, 18 December 2011

more on totp 1976

The episode of Top of the Pops I watched this week opened with Eddie and the Hot Rods doing Get Out of Denver, which you'd have to say was surely the first appearance of punk on Top of the Pops, if I haven't missed any 1976 episodes (looking at the stats, it seems to have been the week of 4 September, as Abba have replaced Elton John & Kiki Dee at No1). Again I have no recollection of it at the time. Eddie and the Hot Rods are remembered now mainly for the later Do Anything You Wanna Do, which always seemed a bit too polished to be 'genuine' punk, which is a shame, given that high-speed performance on TOTP.

The same episode also revealed that the Bay City Rollers did a cover version of I Only Want To Be With You before The Tourists did (1979, Wikipedia), which again I had no memory of, if I ever heard it. An earlier 1976 episode showed the new Bay City Rollers member being introduced - looking at Wikipedia I see he was called Ian Mitchell - and I remember his arrival being 'late' in their history as far as I was concerned, so my peak of interest had obviously been earlier. The tape of theirs which I had, Once Upon A Star, I see from Wikipedia was 1975. That and The Rubettes' Wear Its 'At (1974, Wikipedia) may have been the first tapes I had, possibly got from one of those music clubs like Britannia Music Club by my mother.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

hamlet - globe - 26 april - joshua mcguire

On Tuesday 26 April I saw Hamlet at the Globe. Standing in the yard, as usual. I didn't see their previous Hamlet, with Mark Rylance, as I'd seen him do it before with the RSC, a decision I regret. We were at the Globe Exhibition a few weeks ago and I asked the lady who gave us the guided tour if they'd videoed it, but they hadn't - they've only started videoing them recently.

It was a version which they were going to take out on tour, and it seemed very well-designed for that, low on set and staging, with props and costumes in an area on the stage, and a cast of eight. It was also a very straightforward interpretation, perhaps designed with schools and colleges in mind.

I recognised Amanda Hadingue, who played Gertrude (among others), from the Factory Hamlet, where I saw her as Gertrude at least once, and she probably did better there. John Bett was Polonius (plus gravedigger and others), and he's a well-known Scottish actor I've seen in lots of things over the years, not least as one of the teachers in Gregory's Girl. I may only have seen him on stage once before, and that was in a bilingual Fir Chlis production about, I think, Rob Roy, in the Seaforth in Stornoway. Jade Anouka was in Handa's Surprise at the Little Angel, but I'm not sure that she was in it when we saw it (although I was inclined to think so).

Joshua McGuire, who played Hamlet, looked so like Tom Hollander that I spent a lot of time convincing myself that it was not Tom Hollander and wondering if TH was old enough to be his dad.

It was a straightforward production, which has its appeal, but unremarkable in acting: John Bett stood out to me as different class, and very at ease interacting with the audience. The thing I remember - unprompted by reviews - from the production is that the play scene was handled very cleverly, since Gertrude and Claudius were also the player queen and king; a 'theatre curtain' was put up across the middle of the stage, and Hamlet operating that - and which side of it Hamlet was on - signified us changing our viewpoint from watching the 'play' and watching the 'audience'.

Some reviews (looking at the dates I guess I saw a preview). Guardian. Independent. Daily Mail. Express. Financial Times. Telegraph (grinning Hamlet, stiff Gertrude, yes). Globe Education interview with Joshua McGuire. The Good Review blog interview with Joshua McGuire (haven't come across this blog before, only carries reviews of things they liked, which is a nice approach). The Globe production page (which has a photo which reminds me that one of the other chaps was the spitting image of the Glasgow comedian called Kevin who I've seen on HIGNFY). There Ought To Be Clowns. Mouth London (another new blog to me). What's On Stage (as they say, Polonius rather more buffoon than plausible trusted advisor). The Stage. British Theatre Guide. Rev Stan's theatre blog.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


In the Radio Times listings for a programme on 28 November about transplants, it said 'More than 10,000 people in the UK are waiting for a transplant. Of these 1,000 people will die each year due to a shortage of donor organs.'

hotel elephant

Popped into the Hotel Elephant gallery a few Saturdays ago, in an ex-industrial space on Newington Causeway. The exhibition was paintings and prints on tin by Reuben Powell (Flickr page here) - a bit of a mishmash, I wasn't so keen on the proliferation of rough nudes, but I liked this one of the Heygate and this portrait - which coincidentally were the two pictures on the promo postcard I picked up.

isle of lewis grieves for its lost innocence

Liam Aitchison murder: Isle of Lewis grieves for its lost innocence. The killing of Liam Aitchison has cast a spotlight on a generation of vulnerable youngsters and led the Western Isles community to question if its traditional values can survive in the modern age
- Observer, 11 December

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

'for whom the indefensible was good enough'

[Of Angus Peter Campbell's account of his experience of Evensong at Edinburgh's St Mary's Cathedral in his (gaelic) column in the previous week's Free Press]
His suggestion that the Highland congregations should follow the example of the cathedral choir and sing all 79 verses of Psalm 78 must have made every precentor quake. For myself, I was more puzzled by his reference to 5.30 u.f., till my great brain eventually suggested that this meant 5.30 p.m., and that 'u.f.' stood for 'uair feasgair': a real innovation, this, and I hope it doesn't get him into trouble with the stalwart defenders of the old, Latin form. After all, they will say, if 'post meridiem' was good enough for St Columba, why not for us? There is always some great man for whom the indefensible was good enough.
- extract from Donald Macleod's Footnotes, WHFP, 2 December

the free church minister and the ecumenical christmas service

One letter [in last week's Gazette] in particular caught my attention. It was from a certain Keith Baker: not a name I'm familiar with, but apparently he's the Pastor of Stornoway Baptist Church. On the face of things, Mr Baker was standing up as a Valiant for Truth, complaining tha the Free Church was to be represented at an 'ecumenical Christmas service' to be recorded in Stornoway for transmission by BBC Alba on Christmas Eve.
This, in Mr Baker's view, is shameful, becuase it means a supposedly Evangelical Free Church minister betraying the Disruption by sharing a platform with a Church of Scotland 'Moderate'; and a supposedly Protestant Free Church minister betraying the Reformation by appearing in the vicinity of a Catholic priest.
There's no shortage of nonsense here. There are no Moderates in the Church of Scotland in Lewis; and though on the issues debated at the Reformation the gulf between Romanism and Presbyterianism remains as wide as ever, on the events celebrated in a Christmas service the two traditions are absolutely one, as we line up to proclaim together the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ and his true and perfect humanity.
Besides, I would take it exceedingly ill if such a programme went ahead without a Free Church representative. Protestant 'crotchets' have already done damage enough, leaving us without a single Presbyterian voice in Parliament. It's time we shed our silly fear of guilt by association, and our equally silly fear of being compromised by practising the art of the possible. Mr Baker may be able to command TV coverage on his own lily-white terms. A Free Church minister cannot.
And when he goes on to speak of 'the evil and disobedience of ecumenism', one can only gasp. My youth gave me my fill of evangelical stalwarts trying to prove that when Jesus prayed, 'that they all may be one', he didn't mean it; at least, not the 'all' bit. He was referring only to the one-ness of a very small huddle of very holy people united by their hatred of ecumenism. Could there be a clearer case of 'wresting the scriptures to our own destruction'?
But, whatever the pious posturing, Mr Baker's real aim is to get a Free Church minister into trouble; and, beyond that, to fish in what he sees as the troubled waters of the Free Church, in the hope of attracting the disaffected into his own net.
How many other foreign trawlers are going to fish in our waters before sailing off to proclaim how the Lord has 'blessed' their heroic efforts at church-planting? There is indeed debate and controversy in the Free Church, but that's because there is life in her, and because we are no longer prepared to keep on doing things simply because this is the way they were always done. We have awakened to the importance of self-criticism and the need to review ourselves in the light of scripture. That has inevitably produced friction. But there is no friction in a graveyeard.
- extract from Donald Macleod's Footnotes, WHFP, 2 December

council cuts: the manhattanisation of central london

Council cuts: the Manhattanisation of central London. Westminster's proposed 'civic contract' foreshadows increasing social inequality in the capital and sends out a clear message: 'If you can't afford to live here, don't expect to live here'
- Guardian, 13 December

private eye cartoon and item

From Private Eye of 25 November:

Photo of David Attenborough in snow, from Frozen Planet. Heading: 'BBC airs first major series from new base in north of England'. Speech bubble: 'Once one gets accustomed to the cold, the poor diet and strange accents, it's actually not too bad here in Salford.'

Apology of the week
Ref faces at the Pink 'un which had to run a grovelling apology last week.
'An article on page 3 of early editions of yesterday's Financial Times attributed to Steve Hilton, the prime minister's chief policy adviser, various policy ideas,' it began. 'Many were entirely erroneous and frivolous, having been drawn inadvertently from a light-hearted comment piece... In addition, the photograph printed with the article was not of Mr Hilton.'
So what were the policy ideas Hilton had apparently put forward? Er, to 'replace the Commonwealth with a new union of countries based on their shared love of techno music', and to 'remove all Libyans from Libya and turn it into a huge solar farm'.
Even more embarrassingly, the publication that managed to hoodwink the august FT was... the Financial Times! In July it printed five real Hilton ideas and five fake ones, and invited readers to spot the difference. Shame the FT's own hacks weren't paying attention.

the end of apartheid

This week, I face a cruel dilemma. Should I use my column, as usual, to save the planet, or should I use it to give the planet some light relief and help it forget its woes?
The trouble is, someone sowed a trivial thought which is coming between me and my big thoughts: such as, for example, my thoughts on the late great and lovable cricketer Basil D'Oliveira, who died last week; and my thoughts on the Anglican bishops who have written to the 'Observer' protesting against government plans to cap benefits to families at £500 a week.
But Basil, a 'non-white' whose selection for England's tour of South Africa in 1968 led to the tour being cancelled by the apartheid regime of Dr John Vorster, has already had acres of coverage. It's fully deserved, though it's more than a trifle irritating to see the press assuming that it was the sporting boycott which followed the ban on D'Oliveira that brought apartheid down. The decisive moment came only when the largest Afrikaaner denomination, the Dutch Reformed Church, abandoned its support for the policy of 'separate development'; and it did so not because of the sporting boycott, but because of pressure from other Reformed churches (though my own church, the Free Church, hardly covered itself in glory on this particular issue).
- the start of Donald Macleod's Footnotes column, WHFP, 25 November

Monday, 12 December 2011

what would jesus do?: the rise of a slogan

What would Jesus do?: The rise of a slogan
- BBC, 8 December

Saturday, 10 December 2011

twitter and facebook in the riots

Twitter and the riots: how the news spread. Despite politicians' claims, most rioters did not use Twitter, but it played an important role for the media and during the clean-up
- Guardian, 7 December

How Twitter was used to spread – and knock down – rumours during the riots: From a tiger roaming Primrose Hill to the London Eye burning, startling reports spread fast on Twitter with the ease of a click
- Guardian, 7 December

Facebook played little role in planning riots, despite harsh sentences: The lengthiest of any riot-related sentences were for incitement through Facebook, but rioters say the site was not important
- Guardian, 7 December

spreading the global warming gospel

Spreading the global warming gospel: A climatologist in West Texas takes on skeptics with scientific data — and her own faith as an evangelical Christian.
- LA Times, 7 December

did group of muslim women escape jail for attack because 'not used to alcohol'?

Did group of Muslim women escape jail for attack because 'not used to alcohol'?
-, 8 December. (Answer: no.)

hmrc tax deal with vodafone 'may have been illegal'

HMRC tax deal with Vodafone 'may have been illegal'
Parliamentary committee examines claims that waiving tax bill of up to £7bn was outside HM Revenue and Customs's powers
- Guardian, 6 December

london remembers

London Remembers: interesting site aiming to detail all the memorials in London.

western isles police launch first murder inquiry for over 40 years

Western Isles police launch first murder inquiry for over 40 years: Investigation opened after body of 16-year-old is found in house near Stornoway airport
- Guardian, 5 December

Friday, 9 December 2011

almost 4m children in britain do not own a book

Almost 4m children in Britain do not own a book, poll finds
- Guardian, 5 December. One in three, up from one in ten in 2005.

every death on every road in great britain 1999-2010

Every death on every road in Great Britain 1999-2010
- a postcode-searchable map on the BBC website

what really happened aboard air france 447

What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447
- Popular Mechanics, 6 December. Black box recorder transcripts are terrible to read (I remember reading, and perhaps blogging, a Saturday Guardian article made up of such transcripts), but this is a fascinating article.

Final para:
But the crash raises the disturbing possibility that aviation may well long be plagued by a subtler menace, one that ironically springs from the never-ending quest to make flying safer. Over the decades, airliners have been built with increasingly automated flight-control functions. These have the potential to remove a great deal of uncertainty and danger from aviation. But they also remove important information from the attention of the flight crew. While the airplane's avionics track crucial parameters such as location, speed, and heading, the human beings can pay attention to something else. But when trouble suddenly springs up and the computer decides that it can no longer cope—on a dark night, perhaps, in turbulence, far from land—the humans might find themselves with a very incomplete notion of what's going on. They'll wonder: What instruments are reliable, and which can't be trusted? What's the most pressing threat? What's going on? Unfortunately, the vast majority of pilots will have little experience in finding the answers.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

the veil; the playboy of the western world

We had two nights to ourselves and ended up having an Irish theatre weekend: The Veil (by Conor McPherson) at the National Theatre Lyttelton on Fri 14 October, and The Playboy of the Western World (by JM Synge) at the Old Vic on Sat 15 October (I got dayseats on the Friday morning and got tickets later that day for the Sat).

We both enjoyed The Veil a lot more than Playboy, not entirely because we were in the front row for that and second or third row from the back of the highest circle for Playboy (we could see not too bad, though quite distant, but I found it quite hard to hear a lot of it, and certainly not just because of the accents).

The Veil was another ghost story (we saw The Weir of his before, which was also ghost stories), and was very much like a lot of Chekhov we've seen, with outsider aristocracy on its last legs. The performances were all good, and the dialogue likewise, although I wasn't sure how authentically 'period' it was. A ghost story seems surprisingly old-fashioned, and it's interesting that he's done more than one.

I'd seen some of the Playboy in a very stagey production a long time ago on telly. The dialogue was a lot less naturalistic, and was quite overblown and 'poetic'. It caused a stir at the time because it was thought to portray the country folk as stupid and low of morals; I found it less ridiculous than Bethan did, the admiration of the supposed father-killer by the rural community he comes into. It was I guess intended more as a comedy than the Veil, but the Veil had more laughs. The musical interludes were quite good, and the rotating set very impressive (both, I think, really to spin out the length, as it was quite short even with an interval - it was originally performed as part of a double bill with his other play Riders To The Sea). None of the performances stood out particularly well (Niamh Cusack, Ruth Negga and Robert Sheehan are the three main actors - the first two were the best, Niamh better, I saw Ruth as Ophelia and haven't seen Robert before though he's done a lot of telly), but I'd blame the play rather than the cast - a lot of it seemed quite over the top, but the acting was reflecting the dialogue. It's one of those significant, important plays which isn't that good in itself when you see it now.

The Veil programme only had two dull articles on the history of the period, the Playboy programme was more interesting. Synge was from a posh Protestant family - which is part of the reason that the play was initially badly received, as people thought he was mocking the rural Catholic peasantry - and no one in his family ever saw one of his plays during his lifetime.

The Veil reviews (more or less the first page of Google hits). National Theatre page. Telegraph. Independent. Guardian. Time Out. Webcowgirl. There Ought To Be Clowns. West End Whingers. What's On Stage. Evening Standard. FT. London Theatre. The Stage. Telegraph article by Conor McPherson. Standard interview with Conor McPherson. Mostly positive reviews (although the bloggers in particular, and their commenters hated it, possibly because they all seem to have gone to previews).

Playboy of the Western World reviews (unusual lack of the usual blogs on the first two pages of results). The Old Vic's own production page. Telegraph. Guardian. Independent. Another from the Independent. Financial Times (closest to my own response; most others like it more). Time Out. Evening Standard (commenters hated it). What's On Stage (some commenters hating it, esp hard-to-understand Irish accents). The Stage. Interesting Guardian article about the play. The Arts Desk. Londonist. BBC interview with Robert Sheehan. LondonTheatre.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

should there be a statue of dickens in london?

Should There Be A Statue Of Dickens In London?
- Londonist, 6 December. Complete with link to Flickr photo of Dickens bust in arches of Prudential building on High Holborn.

darius vassell's blog

Darius Vassell: the blogging footballer. The player's heartfelt blogs from Turkey have struck a chord with locals and expat Brits worldwide
- Guardian, 6 January 2010. An old-noted link; don't know what happened after (Wikipedia helps), but he's recently returned to blogging.

Monday, 5 December 2011

towering inferno billing

[re The Towering Inferno] did you know that co-stars Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were so concerned that neither should have top billing over the other that they got their agents to count the *exact* number of lines attributed to the fire chief and architect respectively and then got the writers to juggle the script until the amount of dialogue was perfectly balanced? After which, they got the promotion people to agree to a credit system whereby one star's name would appear left but *lower*, the other right but *higher*, on both the movie titles and poster ads, thereby preventing the possibility that *either* actor could be seen as 'second billed'.
- Mark Kermode, It's Only A Movie, p104. I knew re the billing but not the script.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

now that's what I call music

Now That's What I Call Music 80 came into our home today. I was pleasantly surprised. The first one came out in November 1983, and I got it, perhaps for Christmas. The track listing takes me back, and stands up quite well on the whole.


We saw a sparrowhawk today in our garden for the first time.

two sets of photos on telegraph site

Photographs of Tower Bridge being constructed are found in a skip
- Telegraph

Open House London: the best pictures
- Telegraph

top 10 peaceful places In london

Top 10 Peaceful Places In London
- Londonist, 29 November. Mostly familiar, but some interesting.

Friday, 2 December 2011

top of the pops 1976

This year on BBC4 they've been showing sequentially the episodes of Top of the Pops from 1976 (I think they started with 1976 because that was the first year they had a full set for - they're going to carry on next year with 1977). Various things it has made me think so far (and I've got quite a backlog to watch):

- it's striking to me today to notice how many of the acts in the charts are coloured artists (and it makes me happy to think that I never noticed or thought anything of that at the time).
- I was 9 in 1976, and was certainly watching Top of the Pops then, and it's fair to say that I'm fairly musically literate in popular music of the 1970s, but I'm amazed at how regularly there's a song or artist on the show (not even just in the charts) that I have no awareness of having heard or heard of before.
- you realse the extent to which you don't really have a grasp of timing, either of when an artist had a hit or what songs were in the charts at the same time. Thin Lizzy doing The Boys Are Back In Town took me by surprise, being so early.
- I remember going around schools singing 'Are you going to the party? Are you going to the Boston tea party?' But now seeing Alex Harvey performing it on TOTP I was struck by how he also seemed out of place, and carried with him the soft-spoken intensity normally associated with a criminally insane character in a crime drama.
- I was reminded that I knew Midge Ure first as the lead singer of Slik. He's had quite the career.
- I'd always remembered the chart rundown being at the end, or broken up through the programme with the top ten just before the number one was performed, but in the 1976 episodes so far they've been right at the start.
- my memory was also that they only played acts in the charts, and acts going up the charts at that, but on several occasions they've had acts who are new or who they expect to chart.
- I was surprised how many reissues there were in the charts, including one or even two Beatles songs some weeks

More thoughts as they're made.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

only nine pay council tax in enclave for super-rich

Only nine pay council tax in enclave for super-rich: Local authority investigates ownership of world's most expensive residential block where one-bedroom flat costs millions
- Guardian, 26 November

Saturday, 26 November 2011

london half-life reflections

Some random thoughts, thinking about my London half-life milestone:
- I'd rather be a tiny fish in an enormous pond than even an average one in a small pond
- I only came to London because it's the only place I was offered a job. In another version of my life I've never been to London at all
- I wasn't worried about coming to London: I thought I would take to it, as I had taken to Aberdeen, and I was right
- if you told me now that I'd live in London until I died - in this house, indeed - I'd be content with that
- I'd find it hard to live somewhere smaller than London now, and very hard to live in the country, not least because I can't drive
- sometimes at my age you look at your life and consider (with or without regret) other things you might have done or might have wanted to do, but looking at it in the other direction, if you'd described my life today to my 22-year-old self as my future, I'd have been more than happy with that
- I will not be in the slightest surprised if the next generation takes the opposite direction in life and goes from the city to the country
- when you're out in the country in the Highlands and Islands, on hills or otherwise, it's easy to feel that you're treading in no one's footsteps, although you are; while I appreciate that feeling, I appreciate even more the feeling that I'm treading exactly the same London streets that millions (notable or not) have before me over literally centuries (and in the case of the City, where some of the street layout hasn't changed since the Romans arrived, for almost two millennia), and where significant and insignificant moments in history have taken place
- the landmarks of life-changes became further apart as life became more settled, but the gaps between them seem to pass more quickly, and re-entering the school year cycle as a parent has speeded it up further
- I gradually stopped thinking of the Western Isles MP as my other MP; I moved through seeing in the Stornoway Gazette people I knew in graduation photos, then wedding photos, then work/community-activity articles, but gave up subscription a few years ago as I felt less and less connection with the contents and more and more annoyance with the absence of proofreading (I still get the West Highland Free Press, which has proper articles, columnists and journalism)
- I have a disconnection with my home culture since it is Gaelic and I do not have Gaelic; when I sing songs at the folk club, for example, I am singing from my record collection rather than my tradition
- I have been back to Aberdeen only once, I think, since I came to London, and I feel no strong connection with it now
- if you'd told me at school or university the extent to which the words of Bob Dylan's Dream would come true ('many a road taken by many a first friend, and each one I've never seen again'), I wouldn't have believed you

Friday, 25 November 2011

misconceptions about evolution, part 1

Misconceptions About Evolution, Part 1
- interesting article on Biologos Forum, 21 November

impressive photo of olympics site

An impressive photo of the Olympics site from the air, from the Guardian of 22 November.

just how far can the tube take you?

Just how far can the Tube take you?
- Spatial Analysis, 22 November: chart showing how far daily peak time travel distances on different Tube lines would take you around the world

sorry, I've got no head axed by bbc

Sorry, I've Got No Head axed by BBC: Breakout CBBC hit to make way for "new children's sketch shows"
- Radio Times, 23 November. Idiots. That and Horrible Histories, both on CBBC, are two of the funniest series on any channel in recent years.

ianvisits visits old aldwych tube station

Photos inside the disused tube station at Aldwych
- Ianvisits blog, 25 November

holy bankrollers

Holy Bankrollers
The Christian banker - who can marry God and Mammon - may seem like an oxymoron now. But Ken Costa, the 62-year-old City grandee enlisted by St Paul's to play mediator between banking and its critics, is an evangelist who reads the Bible every morning - after the FT, of course. If anyone can preach morality to the City, it is this righteous rainmaker.
- Evening Standard, 11 November

london half-life

I arrived in London, after travelling overnight, on the morning of Tuesday 25 July 1989, when I was 22 years and three months old, so I had been in London for exactly half my life (counting months rather than being pernickety about days) on 25 October 2011. I've now lived in London more than half my life.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

internal organs in the wrong order

I took my sister Annie to see Lucio Fulci's entertainingly revolting City of the Living Dead at the ABC in Edgware. She was training to be a doctor, and during one particularly gruey scene in which a demonically possessed young woman vomited up her internal organs, Annie turned to me and whispered, 'Well *that's* not scary - they're all in the *wrong order*.' Apparently the offal spewing from the poor actress' mouth was not biologically accurate and was therefore failing to send a shiver down my sister's hospital-hardened spine.
- Mark Kermode, It's Only A Movie, p81

iolaire story

'This boy told me he was only alive due to the amazing act of one man - Alistair Mackenzie, a church elder who was a great Christian. As the ship began to tilt Alistair told the men to climb onto his shoulders and get themselves to safety. One of the men asked him: "What about you?" He replied: "Don't worry. I am safe already." Alistair drowned, but those two boys never ever forgot how he sacrificed himself to save their lives.'
- an Iolaire story from a 2007 interview-based article with Catherine Macaskill (Katag King), from Aird, in the October 2011 issue of Back in the Day

ringo's fills

Heard an interesting clip of an interview with Ringo yesterday in which he said that the style of his drum fills was different was because he was a left-handed drummer but the kit was set up for a right-handed drummer, so he moved across the kit in the opposite direction from the usual, so it sounded unusual, off kilter and off the beat. In the clip he demonstrated himself trying to do on ein the normal direction and showing that he still couldn't do it, his hands tripping over each other.

More on Ringo's drumming: Wikipedia; Steve Hoffman forum thread; page of quotes on a Ringo fan site.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

girl starved to death while parents raised virtual child in online game

Girl starved to death while parents raised virtual child in online game
Korean couple became obsessed with raising virtual baby while their real infant daughter lay abandoned and unfed
- Guardian, 5 March 2010

Monday, 21 November 2011

reverse ferret

It was good to see this item of British journalists' slang turn up recently. When the Bishop of London executed a volte face by suspending legal action against the protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral, a couple of the more upmarket British newspapers referred to his decision as a reverse ferret.
.... It is agreed that the term was created by Kelvin MacKenzie, the notorious former editor of Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid, The Sun
.... He based the term on the Yorkshire extreme sport of ferret legging. It consists of tying string around the ankles of a contestant's trousers, popping a couple of ferrets down them and tightening the belt. No underwear is permitted. The little beasts are domesticated versions of the polecat, traditionally used to hunt rabbits by sending them down burrows to flush the animals out (hence "to ferret out"). They have viciously sharp teeth. The winner is the one who can stand the agony longest; the world record, I am told, is an astonishing five hours and thirty minutes. Kelvin MacKenzie's view was that his newspaper's job was to provoke public figures - as he put it, to "stick a ferret down their trousers". Whenever he felt that public opinion had turned against the policy of The Sun, he would announce a change with the mysterious shout "reverse ferret!".
- from Michael Quinion's World Wide Words email, 19 November

Thursday, 17 November 2011

the nature of expertise

My mother, who was a GP, once told me that the more she learned about medicine the more she realised just how *little* we really understand about the human body. This is not an uncommon conclusion - in almost every field of expertise, the actual extent of someone's knowledge and understanding can be gauged by the degree to which they are willing to accept that they actually know *nothing*. While expertise has been characterised as the art of knowing more and more about less and less, true learning (it seems to me) is all about understanding and appreciating just how much you will *never know*.
- Mark Kermode, It's Only A Movie, p77 (Arrow 2010 edition)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

brian pettifer and linda thompson

Learnt in a Word blog thread, and further research suggests it's true, that Brian Pettifer is Linda Thompson's brother.

the boxer instrumental break

Saw a very interesting documentary on BBC re the making of the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, which was very informative, including the fact that the instrumental bit in the middle of The Boxer is a combination of a pedal steel guitar and a trumpet. Also Roy Halee, who was also obsessed with echo, said he recorded S&G together on one mike, then double tracked them individually (and their double tracking matched perfectly).

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

kurt vonnegut letter

In December of 1944, whilst behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign, Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops and subsequently became a prisoner of war. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow POWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five). The next month - February - the subterranean nature of the prison saved their lives during the highly controversial and devastating bombing of Dresden, the aftermath of which Vonnegut and the remaining survivors helped to clear up. Vonnegut released the book Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969. Below is a letter he wrote to his family that May from a repatriation camp, in which he informs them of his capture and survival. Transcript follows.
[continues, obviously]
- Letters of Note blog, 18 November

women & islam: the rise and rise of the convert

Women & Islam: The rise and rise of the convert
Three-quarters of Britons who become Muslims are female. Now a major new study has shed light on the difficulties they face in adjusting to their new life. Record numbers of young, white British women are converting to Islam, yet many are reporting a lack of help as they get used to their new religion, according to several surveys. As Muslims celebrate the start of the religious holiday of Eid today and hundreds of thousands from around the world converge on Mecca for the haj, it emerged that of the 5,200 Britons who converted to Islam last year, more than half are white and 75 per cent of them women. In the past 10 years some 100,000 British people have converted to Islam, of whom some three-quarters are women, according to the latest statistics. This is a significant increase on the 60,000 Britons in the previous decade, according to researchers based at Swansea University. [continues]
- Independent, 6 November

Saturday, 12 November 2011

private eye cartoon

From 28 October issue of Private Eye: Bestie cartoon showing a giant satellite dish station with a conversation from within the building:
- We've just picked up a communication from a distant sun
- Wow! What did it say?
- Did we want to change our energy supplier

air hostesses' weight

In the new Radio Times, Kirsty Lang says 'My mother - who worked for an American airline in the late 1950s - was grounded without pay when her weight went over nine stone. She worked for TWA as an air hostess (they didn't call them stewardesses then). She is 5ft 7in and, when hired, was given a weight limit they felt appropriate to her height. (Each airline had its own guidelines.) It was 122 pounds or eight stone ten, which meant she spent large amounts of time starving herself or taking diet pills. You could buy amphetamines over the counter back then.'

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

from the land

When we were up in Lewis in the summer we saw an exhibition of photos by Ian Lawson in An Lanntair which was very good as long as you didn't read the captions. From The Land was an exhibition in association with Harris Tweed, marking some anniversary, photos in colour-matched pairs of sections of tweed and the similar colours in nature, but the captions were very pretentious.

never get manchester wet

Chris Addison had a nice variation on the Gremlins line in his episode of Dave's One Night Stand, in his home town of Manchester: 'Never get Manchester wet, and never feed it after midnight, otherwise it turns into Liverpool.'

midge ure interviewee

Just finished watching a documentary about Thin Lizzy, which was quite interesting, but the thing I'll remember most about it was how Midge Ure was again an excellent interviewee, funny, intelligent and self-deprecating. 'The worst guitarist Thin Lizzy ever had!' I knew he had toured with Thin Lizzy, but didn't register that that was before he was in Ultravox (and after Visage). He was one of the highlights of the Heaven 17 documentary too. Made me want to find out if he's written a book. Seeing the 1976 Top of the Pops episodes, among other things, reminded me that I first saw him in Slik.

Monday, 7 November 2011

I was ben, the unofficial face of shippam's paste

When a spectacularly inept attempt to 'do Twitter' appeared as @shippamspaste, people were suspicious – quite rightly
- Guardian, 4 November

victoria beckham and the ufo

There's little sign of intelligent life on Twitter, never mind over Los Angeles: The reaction to Victoria Beckham's tweet about a UFO hovering above her house was infuriatingly obtuse
- David Mitchell, Observer, 6 November

Sunday, 6 November 2011

oban fireworks fiasco

A technical hitch saw Oban’s community fireworks all released at the same time at Mossfield Stadium tonight,November 4 2011.
- Oban Times, 4 November

rio and goebbels

A Google image search indicates that a comment on Fighting Talk yesterday proves to be fairly true: Rio Ferdinand does look a bit like Joseph Goebbels.

the belle's stratagem

On Saturday 1 October I went to see The Belle's Stratagem by Hannah Cowley at the Southwark Playhouse. It turned out to be sold out (and turned out to be the final performance), but I got in on the last standby at the last minute (my ticket has the name of the assistant director on it). We had seen They Came To A City by JB Priestley in the second space, but I hadn't been in the main space before.

It was one of these revivals of a rarely-seen play; it was premiered in 1780, was very popular, but hadn't been performed in Britain since 1888 (all this according to the very nicely produced programme, set out like an auction catalogue of the time). And it was one of those revivals that made you wonder why it was so rarely done, as it was so very good. Again, the programme and other things I've read suggested that it had been edited and revised to make it more acceptable to today's audiences (which I'm always a bit dubious about; in general I'd rather see things as they were rather than through our current filters).

It was very well received, not least because it was the last performance. At the end it was obvious that the people in front of me (I was in the third row, a good seat despite being almost last in, unreserved seating and plugging gaps) were something to do with the production; I asked if this was the case, and was told by one that that one was the producer, and I told them that I had thought it was tremendous, which I did really.

Most importantly, it was very funny, and it was very well acted. The plot was one of those tangled romance-based plots, and one of the things I liked about it was that apart from the one baddy, all the schemes and deceptions were in the direction of morality rather than immorality - to unite the people who should be couples rather than enabling adultery, particularly in the case of the country wife with the dull jealous husband where the obvious route is usually for her to achieve illicit liaisons. They had some well done harmony musical numbers, modern songs done in old-fashioned style.

I don't remember any weak links in the cast. Maggie Steed was the most familiar face, and she was very good; Jackie Clune was the only other that I could say I definitely knew of before, though it may be I've seen some of the others before; a good number of them were recent graduates though (which I guess is perhaps a way to keep salary costs down, although equally a chance to give good actors an opportunity; you wonder how what is quite a large cast can be afforded in such a small theatre, especially with well-known folk like Maggie Steed, although perhaps they are all being paid less than you imagine - and perhaps the hope for them all, well-known or not, is for a subsequent transfer to a bigger theatre; and of course I always remember that Ms Steed was on the same TEFL course as Fiona, preparing for the possibility of the day coming when acting jobs dried up, which is quite an insight into the realities of the profession, though that was before, say, Jam and Jerusalem; she doesn't deserve ever to have to use that qualification, but people don't always get what they deserve).

Hannah Spearritt was the country wife, and turns out to have been in S Club 7; she acquitted herself well. Gina Beck played the primary love interest, and she was very good; mostly musical theatre up to now, says the programme (and indeed her website indicates she's becoming Glinda in Wicked in December).

Some reviews (which save me writing all the things I liked, since they pretty much like them all too) and linked sites. The production company, Red Handed Theatre Company - I'm sorry not to have gone to the Playhouse to see them and the same director doing The Rivals. Jon Wainwright blog - he went not once but twice (some good info in second review in particular, as also involved attending a director's talk). Playtext online at What's On Stage. British Theatre Guide. Time Out. Evening Standard. Guardian. Independent (I link here, but haven't been able to follow the link yet for some reason). Exeunt (and Jessica Swale interview). A Younger Theatre. The Stage. The Public Reviews. Fourth Wall. Webcowgirl. There Ought To Be Clowns. Backstage Pass. Fringe Review. John Morrison. Finally (I found no Telegraph review, surprisingly), a very interesting item in the TLS - Michael Caines blog criticising Jessica Swale altering the text of Hannah Cowley's play, and Jessica Swale's response.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

two quire churches

The London Gallery Quire sang in two Sunday evening services in October, at St Anne Chingford and St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Addington. I've been to a motley collection of churches to sing with the choir since I joined; many of them have been discouraging in terms of congregation size and dispiriting in terms of content. But in the last issue of the magazine I included accounts from four of our workers about how they had become Christians through reading the Bible alone; and there is often a lot of scripture material in an Anglican church service, however little else there might be. I have seen an interesting range of church architecture; the Addington church perhaps the most striking so far - founded in 1080, several archbishops of canterbury are buried there as he used to have a palace nearby, and very colourful Victorian wall paintings.

Friday, 4 November 2011

kitten covers

Kitten covers - blog of album covers reproduced using kittens.

twitter anger over closure of spoof shippams paste account

Twitter anger over closure of spoof Shippams paste account: Twitter users are today mourning the loss of @shippamspaste, a popular spoof account that extolled the virtues of a range of fish and meat sandwich spreads to an audience of thousands.
- Telegraph, 4 November

Thursday, 3 November 2011

dirty data: the internet's giant carbon footprint

Dirty data: The Internet's giant carbon footprint
- Montreal Gazette, 4 June

sample extract:
Ironically, despite the web’s green promise, this explosion of data has turned the Internet into one of the planet’s fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions. The Internet now consumes two to three per cent of the world’s electricity. If the Internet was a country, it would be the planet’s fifth-biggest consumer of power, ahead of India and Germany. The Internet’s power needs now rival those of the aviation industry and are expected to nearly double by 2020.


I love headphones and the soundtrack experience they give. I was walking down Cheapside last night in the dark and unexpected rain when on my ipod came Harry Belafonte singing The Banana Boat Song. I liked the film I was in.

(And it made me look this out today, Stan Freberg's version, which made me smile.)

smooth xmas

There was a new digital station on the kitchen radio this morning, next to Smooth Radio - Smooth Xmas. Don't know how long it's been there, wasn't there last week. Perhaps since 1 November? Yes, it says here. Commercial-free, and I presume 24-hour.

Monday, 31 October 2011

the protesters and the clergy at st paul’s cathedral have both got it wrong

Our sympathy should be saved for the City of London workers who pick their way around the tents of the anti-capitalist protesters.
- Charles Moore, Telegraph, 28 October

Saturday, 29 October 2011

wallet story

A great story on Danny Baker just now. The emailer had been driving along with someone else, passing a group of lads walking along, and noticed that one of them had dropped a wallet. Decided to turn back and pick it up. When they got back the lads had gone but they found the wallet - cash, cards and a ticket for a gig that night, which they were obviously on their way to. First thought was to go to the venue and give it back to them there. Then had a better idea. They knew which way they'd be walking, so went on ahead to a quiet industrial section of the route and put the wallet on the pavement, having made sure no one else was around. They then hid themselves away and watched the group spot the wallet, pick it up, look in it and realise it was one of theirs, which had mysteriously got to that point ahead of them.

Friday, 28 October 2011

knowledge is power, france is bacon

An amusing story, from Reddit and reproduced here on, about someone's misunderstanding of 'Francis Bacon' as 'France is bacon'

where folsom prison blues came from

Beverly Mahr sings Crescent City Blues on Soundcloud. Probably came to this link via Word blog, it's a sound file of a song from which much of Folsom Prison Blues was clearly lifted. The note on Soundcloud says, 'For the Johnny Cash fans. I believe the story is that JC saw the movie from which this song comes while staioned in Germany. He basically just stole the whole song. I'm not sure of this but I believe Folsom Prison Blues now gets listed as a co-write with one Gordon Jenkins (author of this little number here).'

poor goal difference near top

"Morton, in the Scottish First Division are leading the table after eight games but have a goal difference of -2," wrote Ross Smith. "Has a team ever led their league with a negative goal difference after so many games?"
As many of you pointed out, Norwich were top of the inaugural Premier League in mid-January, after 24 games, despite having a goal difference of -1. The main reason for that was a 7-1 trouncing at Blackburn in early October. Norwich eventually finished third with a goal difference of -4. That's the best you could come up with, although some of you pointed out examples of teams leading the table with a goal difference of 0: Herfolge Boldklub after 28 games in Denmark in 1999-2000, Bristol City after 42 matches in the 2007-08 season, and EDO, who were champions of the Dutch second division in 1959-60.
- Guardian Knowledge, 26 October

london from above

A set of photos of London from above, mostly by night.

fox news

Someone posted an image on Facebook, which I saw via Emlyn William's feed, saying this: 'Fox News: rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people to blame poor people'

niall horan and andrew collins

On Tuesday evening most of our half-term visitors went up the West End for a wander and saw Niall Horan of One Direction in Chinatown; they got a couple of photos with him. After seeing our visitors off at King's Cross this morning we went to St Pancras and in Costa sat next to Andrew Collins. Before we left I spoke to him and thanked him for his writing and broadcasting, which I really appreciated; that was all; there's not much else to say once you've expressed your appreciation; there's not generally a conversation to be had, I don't think; he took it well, and off we went. I'm getting old and shameless.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

margaret thatcher claims £535,000 for ex-pm duties

Margaret Thatcher claims £535,000 for ex-PM duties: Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has claimed £535,000 of taxpayers' money over the last five years, government records have shown.
- BBC, 27 October

letter in a bottle from titanic victim goes on display

Letter in a bottle from Titanic victim goes on display: The note was headed with the date 10/4/1912 – four days before the ship sank. It had a simple message: “From Titanic. Goodbye all. Burke of Glanmire, Cork.”
- The Journal, 27 October

Monday, 24 October 2011

300+ homes to be built on elephant leisure centre site

300+ homes to be built on Elephant leisure centre site: Lend Lease has signed a deal with Southwark Council to build more than 300 homes on part of the site of the Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre.
- London SE1, 24 October

the little used pedestrian tunnel by london bridge

The little used pedestrian tunnel by London Bridge
- IanVisits, 24 October. Goes into Hays Galleria basement.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

god knows why dawkins won't show

Paul Vallely: God knows why Dawkins won't show. Our leading atheists prefer abuse to argument when faced with a tough-talking Christian opponent
- Independent, 23 October

Saturday, 22 October 2011

orwell vs god

Orwell vs God: a very Christian atheist
- Spectator, 11 June 2011

defend persecuted christians, not just gays, ministers told

Defend persecuted Christians, not just gays, ministers told: Ministers stand accused of double standards by threatening to withdraw aid from countries that persecute homosexuals but ignoring Christians.
- Telegraph, 21 October

tony iommi's fingertips

It was his last day before leaving [his job as a factory worker in a Birmingham sheet metal works, as a teenager] to pursue his dream of being a pro musician on tour in Germany. In fact, popping home for his lunch, he'd said to his mum that he didn't think he'd bother going back in the afternoon. 'Oh yes, you will!' she replied and a couple of hours later Iommi sliced off the tops of several fingers in an accident. That led to him making himself some replacement fingertips, detuning his guitar and thus inventing the deep, sludgy riffs that were at the heart of Black Sabbath's music and thence the sound of a generation of rockers.
- I knew this story about Tony Iommi already, but not some of the details recorded here in Stuart Maconie's column in this week's Radio Times


A wise Roman Catholic once remarked that there is no one so prejudiced as someone who thinks he has no prejudices; and what’s true of individuals is equally true of societies. The more we pride ourselves on our tolerance the more intolerant we seem to become.
Admittedly, I’m not in the best of moods. Yesterday saw yet another of Edinburgh’s Sunday races, this one sponsored by BUPA, that fabulous invention for enabling those with money to jump the queue for medical treatment. The impact of these races on church attendance is deadly. I spent an hour trying to find a road to the Gaelic service at Greyfriars Kirk, but every possible route was closed off to accommodate the Run; and when I finally gave up, defeated, I wasted millions of precious brain cells in a futile attempt to outwit the demonic grid-lock.
When the children who now run Edinburgh City Council gave permission for the Run they were clearly unaware that the city’s traffic is already in chaos due to the fun they themselves are having with the trams fiasco; and their thinking took them no further than to realise that even if they imposed chaos upon chaos it would be OK since no one would suffer but church-goers. To the Council’s best knowledge, there are none such left.
A few days earlier, a group including Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Jews, the Pagan Federation, Bishop Richard Holloway, and the Metropolitan Community Church (a church ‘with a special outreach to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community’) had held a conference in Edinburgh as part of a campaign to promote gay marriage. These groups have two things in common: they are proud of having no prejudices; and they hate orthodox Christianity. Now they stand together to defend religious freedom and equality.
Good, because once we achieve such freedom I will be able to say exactly what I think about homosexuality: first, that it is absolutely right that homosexual acts between consenting adults should be legal; secondly, that homosexual acts are sins; and, thirdly, that like all sins, homosexual acts are forgivable.
I also think that to talk about gay marriages is nonsense. If a man can ‘marry’ a man we will need to re-write human language. We will also need to ban the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, which, although part of the British ‘constitution’, boldly declares that ‘marriage was ordained for the procreation of children’: not exactly what the Metropolitan Community Church has in mind.
As for equality and religious liberty, if I were to appear today on a radio show with two gay clergy, would I enjoy equality? It is not tolerance the gay lobby wants. What it wants is to silence alternative voices. But would any other paper in Scotland let me say that?
Truth is, Christian space in Scotland is rapidly shrinking, even on simple matters like getting to church on Sunday. Now, it transpires, the crew of the Uig-Tarbert ferry are to be denied that privilege, as CalMac once again joins forces with local anti-Christian voices to drive yet another nail into the coffin (as they see it) of Highland Evangelicalism.
Many will see this as no more than justice. One of the great Scottish myths is that for four hundred years Calvinism dominated the life of Scotland and that this explains all our problems from endemic national alcoholism to our failure to produce great epic drama. Everything is the fault of John Knox.
In reality, Knox never succeeded in consolidating the Reformation, and when he died in 1572 his idea of the godly commonwealth was still only a dream. Though the nation became officially Protestant in 1560, parliament refused to endorse the First Book of Discipline, thus denying Scotland the hope of a school in every parish, a university in every town and proper provision for the poor. These could all have been funded from the immense wealth of the mediaeval church, but our so-called noble families had their own greedy eyes on that wealth, and they grabbed it shamelessly. That is why their heirs today deserve not a shred of respect. They built their ‘nobility’ by rapacity, on the ashes of a noble dream.
The fortunes of the Reformed Church scarcely improved in the following centuries. The Stewart kings, ruling as absolute monarchs, showed undisguised hatred towards Presbyterianism, banishing its leaders and imposing episcopacy until at last there came Charles II, the vilest of them all, who treated Presbyterians as Hitler treated Jews. By the time the last Stewart passed from the scene it was 1690, and the Reformation was still far from secure.
It was into this situation that William of Orange walked, vowing moderation, and within a few years this moderation had turned to Moderatism, which for over a hundred years provided Scotland’s parishes with a succession of clergy of whom the philosopher, Francis Hutcheson (who taught them), said that the whole study of candidates for the ministry was ‘servile compliance with the humour of some great lord who has many churches in his gift’. These men banished Calvinism and earned credit only as the best dancers, the best drinkers and the best farmers in the parish.
Even in the mid-19th century, the Calvinist revival which accompanied the Disruption was blasted on the vine by the frosts of Darwinism and an alien German philosophy. By the outbreak of the Great War, such Calvinism as remained was dumb; and the 20th century heard no conspicuous Scottish Calvinist voice.
Scotland will have to find something else to blame for its neuroses and its artistic failures. But in the meantime it should ponder the fact that its most successful ventures into creative literature (the poems of Burns, the novels of Scott and the bardachd of the Gaelic renaissance) would never have come into being without Calvinism. It provided them with a whipping-boy.
I have no inclination to whitewash Calvinists: I have known some horrid ones, who claimed the label, but knew little of the reality. But by this time, we Calvinists should be used to speaking, unheard, from the edge, our holy day lost, our routes to church closed and liberals constantly denying us freedom.
But our cultured elite should also be asking themselves a question. Why does art always go where the money is?
- Donald MacLeod, WHFP, 7 October. Posting made easier because John MacLeod had reproduced it as a note on his Facebook page. This is the whole column.

science belongs to the religious too

Science belongs to the religious too: Sadly, we've reached a point where I have to declare my atheism and some scientists are scared to 'come out' as Christian
- Guardian, 20 October

robin ince on the ricky gervais furore

will someone rid me of this turbulent language
- Robin Ince blog, 21 October

Friday, 21 October 2011

richard dawkins doesn’t want you to know he’s debated william lane craig before

Richard Dawkins doesn’t want you to know he’s debated William Lane Craig before
- A Faith To Live By blog, 21 October

knit the city

Knit the City: stitching up London - in pictures. A band of sneaky graffiti knitters has been let loose all over London. Their mission? To bring some colour and warmth to mundane objects on the streets of the capital. Until it's time for a tea break, that is.
- Guardian photofeature, 19 October

richard dawkins is either a fool or a coward

Richard Dawkins is either a fool or a coward for refusing to debate William Lane Craig
- Telegraph, 21 October 2011

Thursday, 20 October 2011

v for vendetta masks: who's behind them?

V for Vendetta masks: Who's behind them?
- BBC, 20 October. Most interesting/amusing fact: these masks, used often now by anti-establishment protesters, make money for Warner Bros, as they're merchandise.

profile: william lane craig

Profile: William Lane Craig. He’s been dubbed the Christian apologist who puts the fear of God into leading atheists. So what’s so scary about William Lane Craig?
- Christianity magazine, November 2011

1927 herring harvest in lochs

Sometime in October 1927, a neighbour, Janet Macdonald was rock fishing below her croft, and a pet cat she had usually followed her around. Not long after arriving at her fishing point she noticed the cat coming towards her with a herring in its mouth.
Naturally she assumed that he had captured it somewhere in the seaweed and took it for granted that where there was one there were more. The incident made her get home sooner than she had expected from where she sent the 'fiery cross' around.
Bush telegraph had done the trick; the same evening a goodly number of boats could be seen pushing out to sea with herring nets and in the morning the villagers, and those further afield got news that the 'silver darlings' had arrived in Loch Erisort in style. Reports of nets sinking with the weight of fish was confirmed as genuine.
Within a few days the Loch was almost covered with boats and drifters of all sizes, shortly to be followed by 'klondykers' from the East European Countries.
I can remember vividly going down to the seashore and seeing live herring struggling in the seaweed. One could pick a good pailful of herrings in a matter of minutes; one ignored the dead ones floating on the surface.
The 'black boat' ['An Eathar Dhubh', his father's boat, tarred rather than painted] was well and truly in business, working day and night supplying the Klondykers. The Loch was literally chock-a-block with herring. It mattered not where the nets were set the results were incredible, as much as the boats could carry it could only be described as phenomenal.
I have heard my father and his crew say that while rowing they were actually throwing up herring on the oars.
They have also asserted that when the job of setting their nets was done, all they had to do was to go back to where they had started setting and start hauling in, usually the nets were full.
Those unbelievable shoals continued to be available for a matter of at least two months. It has been a matter of debate many times as to how this phenomenon came about.
One explanation was that a coal strike during the year precluded drifters from getting to sea, and so gave the shoals from the Minches free course or passage in the Lochs.
Others, more spiritually motivated, declared that Providence had intervened at a time when the lot of the people in this part of the Island was going through a lean patch. Whatever the explanation, it was most unusual, to say the least.
Most of the inhabitants, apart from benefiting financially, were well stocked up with barrels of salt herring to last over the winter.
- an extract from 'Recollections of a Lochs Man: The Autobiography of D Kennedy', which appeared, courtesy of Kinloch Historical Society, in the September issue of Back in the Day. The village was Balallan; the writer was born in October 1918.

'a very talented postman'

The best article title and sub-title in the September issue of Back in the Day (the Gazette's monthly historical newspaper):
Murdo Crola
'A learned man and a very talented postman'

why I refuse to debate with william lane craig

Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig: This Christian 'philosopher' is an apologist for genocide. I would rather leave an empty chair than share a platform with him
- Richard Dawkins, Guardian, 20 October

the shard's growth over the past year

The Shard’s Growth Over The Past Year
- set of photos in Londonist blog post, 20 October


After church on Sunday we took a turn down to St Paul's to see the anti-capitalism demo. As many people like us, observing and taking photos, as there were demonstrators/campers, though Saturday had been the big demo day. We took some photos, but none were as good as this one, of a long line of demonstrators queuing to get into Starbucks...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

indiscreet rock stars

If you're doing a TV programme with a rock star he will instantly assume that you can be trusted with confidences that he otherwise wouldn't share, partly because he knows that he will have some sort of say over the final cut but also because he now treats you as part of the production rather than an observer. While making a film about The Rolling Stones in 1986 I was at meetings where Mick Jagger openly discussed Bill Wyman's affair with the then 15-year-old Mandy Smith before it had got in the press. When making a short film about Simply Red, who were recording their first album in a studio in Holland, we were told not to point the camera at the bass player because he wasn't going to be in the final group and was going to be given the elbow within days.
- David Hepworth, writing about his Whistle Test years, Word, September 2011

reggae-related facts

Three facts from the 99% True page in September's Word, on reggae:
- Sly & Robbie (Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare) are thought to be the most prolific recording artists of all time, having played on or produced more than 200,000 songs.
- Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, is related to the Crosse & Blackwell food manufacturers. His mother, Blanche Lindo, was Ian Fleming's mistress and reputedly the inspiration for Pussy Galore. She also gave Fleming the gift of a coracle named Octopussy.
- Early sound-system operator Duke Reid was a former champion marksman in the Jamaican police and always kept a very visible armed presence around him. Trojan Records was named after the Croydon-made Trojan truck that transported his early sound system.

church hiv prayer cure claims 'cause three deaths'

Church HIV prayer cure claims 'cause three deaths': At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.
- BBC, 18 October 2011

Monday, 17 October 2011

in praise of… emergency planners

In praise of… Emergency Planners
- We Love Local Government blog, 9 September

you never know who you'll meet on the tube

Interesting Londonist blog post linking to two Evening Standard stories from today about encounters on the tube with the prime minister and an admiral in full regalia, with some other relevant links too.

tommy cooper and the queen

On being introduced to the Queen, Tommy Cooper asked her if she liked football. When she replied in the negative, he responded, 'Can I have your Cup Final tickets?'
- Word, August 2011

goal celebrations

Your proposed ruling on goal celebrations (Editorial, WSC 295) could be improved by one small tweak. 'All goal celebrations should be legal,' should have the caveat: 'but the team who have just conceded are not obliged to wait for the celebration to finish before kicking off.'
It would surely only take one instance of an easy, tap-in equaliser, against a team too busy forming a human pyramid to prevent it, before we saw a permanent end to all this over-choreographed nonsense.
Jon Cudby, East Dulwich
- letters page, WSC, October 2011

patti smith the celeb

Whether she likes it or not, she's a celeb in that we know more about her life than we do her work.
- David Hepworth (though the article's credited to 'David Heartbeat' for some reason), on Patti Smith in the September 2011 issue of Word

Sunday, 16 October 2011

a woman killed with kindness

On Monday 22 August we saw A Woman Killed With Kindness at the NT Lyttelton, by Thomas Heywood (Wikipedia for play and playwright) - another rarely-seen old play, this one from 1607, though this production set after WWI and in a feminist reading, according to themselves. I don't know how much they cut or changed to give it this reading, but I don't like that approach in general, since then you don't know what the play was really originally. I'd rather see it as it was, and learn about attitudes (or whatever) as they were as well as use my own sense to understand that we're not all agreeing that these attitudes are acceptable today.

Anyway, it was fine; interesting to see, but nothing special - a bit like The Lady of Pleasure in that regard, except much better acted and probably better written. I don't think I knew any of the cast, and none stood out for me in particular. The stage was divided in two, with left and right being the two different houses in which all the scenes were set except the last, when a full-width room-height section rose from the floor at the front of the stage, which I'd never seen before and was very impressive. That's the thing I'll remember most, probably, rather than the play or any of the performances. I remember the promo material suggesting it was revolutionary in being a domestic tragedy.

Some reviews. NT production page (which has links and content including photos and trailer). Independent. Telegraph (described it as cold, which it was, and reminded me that there wasn't an interval, which I'd forgotten). Guardian. West End Whingers (they, and all their commenters, hate it and the director; their review is entertainingly constructed, but we didn't think it was as bad as all that - maybe it was less dark and mumbly a few weeks in). Time Out (more appalled commenters). The Arts Desk. Financial Times. Webcowgirl blog (she, and again all the commenters, hated it). A Metro interview with the director. Evening Standard. That's a good set without going past the first page of Google results.

barra airport photo set

A set of photos of Barra airport from the Guardian of 5 September, taken by Murdo MacLeod.

strategy for getting a train seat

Do you want to sit down on the Overground during rush hour? Then prepare for war
- entertaining 4 October entry on blog on strategy for getting a seat

universe and human mind are traceable to god

Universe and human mind are traceable to God: Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox, explains why he believes faith is foundational to science and the Resurrection is not a violation of the laws of nature; and also remembers CS Lewis as a lecturer, in part II of an interview with Roland Ashby.
- The Melbourne Anglican, 3 October. Oddly it's not obvious to see how to see the first part of this interview

science and religion: a false divide

Science and religion: A false divide. On most issues, there is very little conflict between religion and science.
- LA Times, 10 October

Saturday, 15 October 2011

the lady of pleasure

On Friday 19 August I went to the White Bear (still haven't got a mailing list, I gave them my email address that night and haven't heard from them, I missed a Hamlet there earlier this year) to see The Lady of Pleasure by James Shirley (1596-1666 according to programme, Wikipedia entry here - there's an entry for the play too (licensed 1635, published 1637) and it looks like every play, perhaps a devoted James Shirley fan/scholar has been at work; the entry for this play cites CS Lewis). They quite often do rarely-performed old plays there, and I quite enjoyed this one. The play was interesting though nothing special (not one where you wonder why it's rarely performed, unlike say The Belles' Strategem which I saw a couple of weeks ago at the Southwark Playhouse), and most of the performances were okay, although two were in a different class, Jonathan Rigby as Sir Thomas Bornwell and Elizabeth Donnelly as Celestina. He's an older gentleman, and from the bios, he's done quite well being Kenneth Horne in a variety of formats; she from the bio is fairly new, I think. I was glad I saw it, though. The time was transposed to 1960s swinging London, the set was a chaise longue.

Let's see if I can find any reviews. Carousel of Fantasies blog (new to me, but says the review was written for Time Out). Time Out (it was). What's On Stage. Rev Stan's blog (only a passing mention in a monthly round-up, he left at half-time). Jon Wainwright blog (blog new to me; quite long review, with quotes; also I see has reviews of the Greenwich Playhouse Hamlet, which didn't kick up on my search so I'll add to that, and two reviews of The Belle's Stratagem, which I've yet to write up - he's just started this blog, and we've had a surprising amount of theatregoing overlap so far). Reviews Gate. Sally Mortemore as Lady Bornwell gets some good mentions; she had her moments, but a bit broad I thought.

this side of paradise

Just finished F Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, his first novel, which (according to the back of the Penguin) 'rocketed its young author to success. It was okay, seemed to be one of those debut novels which feels autobiographical, but didn't make you warm to the central character with his pretensions and philosophising. The thing which struck me most was that although it feels like a historical period piece, it was written right at the end of the period it covers, so it was a contemporary novel. I wonder which contemporary novels being written today will be looked to in a hundred years time as giving a picture of life in 2011, and how representative a picture those of us living in 2011 would consider it.

A couple of quotes, both from a section written as a play (there are also several poems, which made me wonder if he was just reusing material he had knocking around already).
Cecelia: Glad you're coming out?
Rosalind: Yes; aren't you?
C [cynically]: You're glad so you can get married and live on Long Island with the *fast younger married set*. You want life to be a chain of flirtation with a man for every link.
R: *Want* it to be one! You mean I've *found* it one.
C: Ha!
R: Cecelia, darling, you don't know what a trial it is to be - like me. I've got to keep my face like steel in the street to keep men from winking at me. If I laugh hard from a front row in the theatre, the comedian plays to me for the rest of the evening. If I drop my voice, my eyes, my handkerchief at a dance, my partner calls me up on the 'phone every day for a week.
C: It must be an awful strain.
R: The unfortunate part is that the only men who interest me at all are the totally ineligible ones. Now - if I were poor I'd go on the stage.
C: Yes, you might as well get paid for the amount of acting you do.
R: sometimes when I've felt particularly radiant I've thought, why should this be wasted on one man?
C: Often when you're particularly sulky, I've wondered why it should all be wasted on one family.
- p157 (Rosalind older sister, Cecelia younger (16))

Alec: She won't marry him, but a girl doesn't have to marry a man to break his heart.
- p166 (Alec their brother)

Friday, 14 October 2011

gaelic mafia

A friend of a friend's Facebook status said this, I guess not original, which I rather liked: 'Gaelic Mafia: Do they may you an offer you can't pronounce?'

the a-z of odd london street names (part 1)

The A-Z Of Odd London Street Names (Part 1)
- Londonist, 14 October

Thursday, 13 October 2011

the 17th century prison doorway in westminster

The 17th century prison doorway in Westminster
- Ianvisits, 13 October

it would be unspeakable to lose gaelic

It would be unspeakable to lose Gaelic: Few other countries have neglected and scorned a language in the manner that we have
- Kevin McKenna, Observer, 9 October

a game of thrones

I had had my eye out for a copy of A Game Of Thrones by George R R Martin for a while - it's on a lot of best of lists and awards lists. I got one earlier this year, and finished it a couple of weeks ago. A couple of hundred pages in I knew I would finish it but not read any of the further volumes, because although it was well put together, I didn't have the stomach for a massive saga of the political and military intrigues of fantasy nations, especially when so much of it was unhappy or unpleasant. This volume was 800 pages long, and there are several more, and still coming out, and all as long or longer. It made me realise that what I want is a one-volume quest story which goes along with good humour and ends happily.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

tv satellite dishes as navigation aids

From today's listings in this week's Radio Times:
'The sun is the most obvious aid to navigation being learnt by Sue Perkins, Stephen Mangan and Alison Steadman in All Roads Lead Home. But a more recent helping hand in many areas is the TV satellite dish. There are millions across the UK, all aligned to 28.2 degrees east of south or a tiny bit further north at 28.5 degrees. So virtually all dishes point south east, giving you a steer home on a handy compass bearing of 152 degrees.'

private eye cartoon

From 30 September issue: picture of a man with a briefcase and dressed only in socks, shoes, hat and glasses, walking down High Street among others. Caption: 'Oh no, I'm living the dream'

Monday, 10 October 2011

joyce carol vincent

Joyce Carol Vincent: How could this young woman lie dead and undiscovered for almost three years? When the film-maker Carol Morley read that the skeleton of a young woman had been found in a London bedsit, she knew she had to find out more…
- Observer, 9 October

facebook calls on web security firm to combat malware

Facebook calls on web security firm to combat malware: Users will be warned not to follow links posted on the site which lead to locations known to harbour malware
- Guardian, 3 October

Most striking quote: 'Another web security firm, Symantec, said in its annual report in April that malicious links accounted for two-thirds of all shortened links on social networks in 2010, and that almost nine in 10 of them had been clicked at least once.'

cairo: 23 homosexuals slaughtered by egyptian army

Cairo: 23 homosexuals slaughtered by Egyptian Army
- Cranmer blog, 10 October. A familiar point well-made.

elephant & castle ‘most dangerous’ spot for road injuries in london

Elephant & Castle ‘most dangerous’ spot for road injuries in London: More road users are injured at the Elephant & Castle's northern roundabout than at any other location in London, according to statistics obtained by campaign group Southwark Living Streets.
- SE1, 6 October

a list of scottish inventions

A page listing Scottish inventions on - though revisionists probably claim many of these are partly or wholly untrue.

Listed there:
Introduction: Television; telephones; penicillin; antiseptics; grass collecting lawnmowers; marmalade; tyres or golf.
Subsequent abbreviated A-Z of Scottish inventions:
Anaesthetics; Beta-blockers; Bicycles; Cash credit; Colour photography; Cotton-reel threads; Continuous electric light; Criminal finger-printing; Decimal points; Fax machines; Financial services by telephone; Fountain pens; Electro-magnetism; Hollow pipe drainage; Hypodermic syringes; Insulin; Kaleidoscopes; Lime cordial; Motor insurance; Noble gases; Paraffin; Pneumatic tyres; Self adhesive postage stamps; Quinine; Radar; Reflecting telescopes; Retail banking; Savings banks; Tubular steel; Ultrasound scanners; Universal standard time; Vacuum flasks; Waterproof mackintoshes; Wave-powered electricity generators; Whisky

Friday, 7 October 2011

the mini band do enter sandman

Youtube clip of The Mini Band - 8-10-year-olds - doing Metallica's Enter Sandman. The Word magazine email comes up with the goods again.

hamlet - greenwich playhouse

I saw Hamlet at the Greenwich Playhouse on Tuesday evening - it's got a nice frontage just next to Greenwich station (I was applauding at two minutes to ten, on the platform two minutes later, on a train two minutes after that - I was home within half an hour, which was excellent going), but in fact is a room above the 'adjoining' pub, seats along long side and two short sides of floor area. It was a Galleon Theatre production, which seems to be the resident company. Directed by Bruce Jamieson, who also played Claudius (and took my reservation for a ticket when I went in before the box office had opened), Robin Holden was Hamlet. No one I recognised, although Christopher Peacock (ghost/player king) used to be a newsreader apparently.

It wasn't my least favourite Hamlet of the year, but it was unremarkable. It was down to a tight two and a half hours, and perhaps the most striking thing about it was how many cuts I noticed - not just at the 'erase Fortinbras' level, which goes without saying, but lines within sections of dialogue. Emphasises how hard it must be to cut it down, and I guess if you've done Hamlet before it must be hard to remember what lines you've cut in this production.

Nothing that stood out, for good or ill really. Gertrude and Ophelia carried themselves and the roles well, the Ghost was a bit plummy (I didn't actually see him, as he was standing behind me in his scene - and the player king as thankless a task as ever), gravedigger scene wasn't funny (it's always hit or miss, but the Oliver/LesMis grotesque extras approach didn't do the job), R&G were patently slimy and ruthless functionaries from the outset; the edit did have Claudius telling R/G that the letters required the death of Hamlet (which was also the interval point, which is later than usual), which give you a reason for thinking that Hamlet's killing of R&G is less gratuitous. That was probably the most interesting point for me. Oh, and when Ophelia was giving out her flowers, she offered one as if to someone who wasn't there, which I took to be Polonius, but it was a nice touch whether or not it was him.

Reviews. So Anyway blog (a rather nasty review which the directors respond to in the comments and get some more nastiness for their pains - although I have to say that apart from the unpleasant tone, I did agree with several of the less controversial points of his analysis of the production). News Shopper. What's On Stage (which describes the Gravediggers as 'Thenardier-like', and I discover that the Thenardiers are villains in Les Mis...). The Stage. London Festival Fringe. Remote Goat (agreed in general with this one - naturalistic is a good description of the approach of the best elements of it, but did leave Hamlet a little underdone I thought). British Theatre Guide. A lot more reviews, in fact, than I'd expected to find (although I did dig down in the results more than I would normally do). Oh, and Jane Stanton - Gertrude - has a website, complete with showreel, and a Twitter account.

Late review addition: Jon Wainwright blog, which makes an interesting observation on the text: 'I’ve long wondered why Hamlet seems to forget, in one of the most famous speeches in all of theatre, his encounter with the Ghost (3.1.84–86): "But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will . . ."'.

man obsessed with the queen died on island next to palace

Man obsessed with the Queen died on island next to palace: A man obsessed with the royal family who set up home on an island opposite Buckingham Palace has been found dead after lying undiscovered for three years. The remains of American Robert James Moore were found by a tree surgeon on West Island, a small piece of land at the end of St James's Park with uninterrupted views of the palace.
- Evening Standard, 3 October 2011.

Funnily enough, probably every time I've been in the St James Park playpark - which on the bank alongside this island - I've whiled away time looking over the fence, on the lake side, at the adjoining undergrowth and thinking it perfectly plausible that one day I'd see a body there (a down-and-out, I expected). They'd really cut the undergrowth back last time I was there, which coincidentally or otherwise was after the date recorded in the article as being when they found the body.