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.