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.