Wednesday, 18 July 2012

july ansible

[From Ray Bradbury obits] As others see Ray Bradbury. He 'wrote modern myths, not science fiction [...] Bradbury was not that popular among science fiction fans. He was not geeky enough.' (_Telegraph_, 6 June) [MPJ]  'Bradbury wasn't so much a major science fiction writer. He was a major writer who specialized in science fiction.' (_Boston Globe_, 1 July) [DK]
- Ansible, July

Friday, 13 July 2012

the song that conquered radio

The Song That Conquered Radio: How songwriting spouses Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann joined with Phil Spector and the Righteous Brothers to create one of the most-played songs in history, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
- Wall Street Journal, 12 July

ed miliband's week

Ed Miliband's week: The BBC's sources, the Octonauts and a call from David Cameron: "It’s not the scale of our problems that concerns me so much as the smallness of our politics."
- New Statesman, 11 July. Entertaining and interesting.

'My three-year-old son, Daniel, wanders in as I’m making my final preparations for the Fabian conference and claps in the right places (mostly). Encouraged, I finish off my article for the Sunday Mirror in the car and arrive at the conference centre just in time for someone from a BBC comedy programme to try to slap a Post-it note on my back inscribed with the words "Kick me".'

'Much – perhaps too much – of Sunday is dedicated to Daniel’s latest craze, The Octonauts. Captain Barnacles, Kwazii and Peso understand message discipline better than most. "Explore! Rescue! Protect!" is now hard-wired into my brain.'

death_stairs tweet and blog post

Follow link for extraordinary photo, in this tweet by death_stairs, retweeted by David Schneider:
'Balancing Things On My Sleeping Girlfriend's Head' - Part 5. I don't think I'll top this.

Following me through led me to his blog, on which appears one of the most mortifying true stories ever: the 'stray hair on blouse' story.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

no chips in olympics canteen

Today's extraordinary Olympics sponsorship story, broken on Twitter:

Wow. The saddest, weirdest, most venal and repellent London 2012 "sponsorship obligation" yet? via

 RT So the first thing I see after reading this is this

Tom Chivers' related Telegraph blog item: London 2012 Olympics: McDonald's Is Watching You (and your chips)

Guardian article from 25 May on food outlets and food-related sponsorship restrictions in the Olympic park.

And here's a Guardian article from yesterday: The London Olympics is a corporate lockdown – why not a Games for all? London 2012 is turning into a sponsored security show, but the Games could be opened up to bring the ideal closer to reality

You do wonder if the handful of exclusive Olympic sponsors are appreciating all the publicity they're getting about the tight deals they cut and the draconian restrictions on everyone else, big and small.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Platterday is David Hepworth's blog of 'A record of the records I play on Saturdays', with photos. It's interesting.

scottish football

I've been keeping in touch only generally over the months with the unfolding story of Rangers FC, but have paid more attention in recent weeks as things have come to a head, not least thanks to links to articles tweeted by Alex.

(I had a couple of Twitter exchanges with Alex around 27/28 June:
I: Rangers would show integrity and gain respect if they said right now, please put us in Div 3 for fresh start.
A: Very true. But I suspect for some that would still be too little too late given their recent bullying and blustering.
Later: I (in response to Alex posting this BBC News link re plan to parachute Rangers in to SFL1): Disappointing. What chances of enough SFL teams voting against, do you think?
A: Hard to say but fan anger is mounting & clubs seem to be listening. I'm not confident enough will do the right thing though.)
Here are some recent relevant articles, mostly from Alex Thomson, who I'd never heard of before Alex posted links but has been taking time out from his work as chief correspondent for Channel 4 News to write very good blog posts on the whole situation:
- How to detoxify the Rangers brand (Alex Thomson, 23 June)
- Strawpoll: what do Rangers fans want for the Newco (Alex Thomson, 25 June)
- SPL threaten breakaway second tier if clubs do not agree to Rangers plans (STV, 28 June)
- In full: Document sent to SFL clubs to put Rangers into the First Division (STV, 28 June)
- Latest Plan to Save “Rangers” Is An Abdication of Responsibility by the Football Authorities (Paul McConville blog, 29 June)
- Scottish football's last chance saloon (Alex Thomson, 29 June)
- People at Hampden foresaw Rangers meltdown (Alex Thomson, 30 June)
- Momentous day for Scottish football (Alex Thomson, 4 July)
- Rangers: the vote that never was (Alex Thomson, 7 July)
- 'Despicable' actions of Scottish football authorities (Alex Thomson, 7 July)

Actually hearing more of the pundits and journalists on the issue, what has really taken me by surprise has been the way in which so many of them have gone so firmly down the road of jettisoning any talk of justice and accepted the assumption that even putting Rangers down to SFL1 will be bad for Scottish football, in particular financially, and that justice should be set aside 'for the good of the game' - never mind that doing so would bring the Scottish game into deplorable disrepute. Essentially, that Rangers are 'too big to fail' - or to be allowed to fail. Heard Alex Thomson on the On The Ball podcast and he said he was struck by how the Scottish journalists on the whole were not questioning or probing or challenging these assertions and assumptions and statements by the executives (too cosy?).

The big SFL meeting is on Friday.

does the higgs boson discovery resolve the religion-science debate?

Does the Higgs Boson Discovery Resolve the Religion-Science Debate?- Huffington Post, 6 July.
First para: 'Yeah, right.'

Friday, 6 July 2012

a neuroscientific look at speaking in tongues

A Neuroscientific Look at Speaking in Tongues: The passionate, sometimes rhythmic, language-like patter that pours forth from religious people who “speak in tongues” reflects a state of mental possession, many of them say. Now they have some neuroscience to back them up.
- New York Times, 7 November 2006

Thursday, 5 July 2012

a helicopter ride with paddy ashdown

The year is 1992. Paddy Ashdown is sitting on the floor in an ancient Russian helicopter with his Liberal Democrat colleague, the late Russell Johnston at his side. The machine is bucketing along at full speed just feet from the ground. Paddy is wearing a flak jacket and motions, as the craft lurches sickeningly past a clump of trees, for Russell to put his on, too. 'Why?' mouths Russell. Paddy's eyes narrow. 'Those pings you hear above the sound of the engines,' he screams in Russell's ear - 'that, my friend, is gunfire hitting the fuselage!'
I know this happened because I was there. Ashdown and Johnston had been invited to see the Bosnian Serbs and I went with them (I was a young TV reporter) for the ride.
It was some ride. The helicopters that ferried people from the comfort and safety of Belgrade, the capital of what was then still Yugoslavia, to the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale, were driven by wild-eyed Russians. They kept low so that folk on the ground with rocket launchers would not have time to use them. All the judgements the pilots made were fine and involved life and death. When I spoke to Lord Ashdown last week, I reminded him that our trip had begun with a false start; the chopper could't get above the trees so we landed again and two people were chucked off. I also reminded him that when we arrived he stood outside the craft and had a cigarette.
It was, the great Yeovil warrior freely admits, 'a frightening ride'.
- Justin Webb, Radio Times, 30 June

edgar wallace; on the spot quotes

Read a good old Edgar Wallace - my first, Bethan picked it up I think - a few months ago, On The Spot. Cover tag line: 'Gang meets gang - with hot lead - in CHICAGO'. First published 1931, this Arrow paperback edition 1962. The main character drawn on the cover is obviously Jimmy Cagney, which places the novel perfectly in its 30s gangster movie style (indeed I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it had been filmed). It's very well-written and fast paced, tight and well-constructed. (A review on this crime fiction site (Golden Age Mysteries forum) says it was based on a play he wrote in four days; read elsewhere he was notorious for writing at speed.)

I picked up a handful of other Edgar Wallaces, after some searching in secondhand bookshops, and finished the first of those, Big Foot, last night. It's not nearly as good (it was a detective thriller, but a bit all over the place I thought, and the detective's speech tended towards the 'spelled as spoken' which usually annoys me); and as Edgar wrote scores of books I will obviously have to try to choose carefully if I can (the Wikipedia entry has I presume a comprehensive bibliography; the entry itself looks like a biographical essay chopped up, not approved style at all; entry credits him as most famous for his involvement in the King Kong screenplay, not sure if that's really true). Big Foot was also a yellow-spined Arrow paperback, though not exactly same series style (first published 1927, this Arrow 1961). The cover image - of a boat chase on the Thames by night - is striking in that it depicts the very last scene on the last page of the book. One of the reasons I chose it, if I had a choice, would have been the cover giving a clue that it was set in London. I like reading stories set in London.

(I was reading an Agatha Christie on the bus a few weeks ago and Hercule Poirot was going to Charing Cross station, which I passed on the bus minutes later, looking (with its hotel frontage) pretty much as it would have to Hercule, if he were not a fictional character.)

(There's a memorial to Edgar Wallace on Ludgate Circus, as he was a noted journalist as well as author, which I see regularly from the bus.)

I wonder if I can find the covers of those editions online? Let's see. First hit in a Google Images search for On The Spot comes up trumps. The Big Foot cover comes up in the third row of its search, in this Ebay listing, don't know if it disappears after auction closes.

I noted three quotes from On The Spot:

First, p32, opening of chapter 2; Tony Perelli is the gang boss:
From the broad balcony with its venetian balustrading Tony Perelli could look down upon the city which he was to rule. He loved Chicago, every stone of it.
Chicago was home and kingdom. The endless trails of cars which passed up and down the broad avenue beneath him bore his subjects to their daily work - his subjects and his partners. Beneath every one of those shiny roofs was a man or woman who kept "the best" in their cellars. Visitors who came to dinner would have the best brought to the table - the best in gilt-necked bottles, the best in sparkling decanters.
It was against the law that the best should be made or sold at all; every furtive case or keg smuggled into the cellars stood for lawlessness, every purchaser contributed to the smuggler who purveyed it and the gunman who protected it. Rather than that they should be denied the satisfaction of parading the best upon their tables, they tacitly agreed that any person interfering with its delivery should be shot and flung from a moving car on to the roadside. They would have been horrified at the suggestion, but they paid for the shells that wiped these vexatious people from the face of the earth, and unconsciously subscribed to the flowers that went to their funerals.

'Killing a man seems pretty awful - in cold blood!'
Perelli shook his head.
'Killing a guy in hot blood - that's awful, because nine times in ten you make a mistake, and you kill somebody you wouldn't kill, that you didn't oughta kill. Look at the war, Jimmy - I was in that. Killing guys we didn't know - regular fellers, some of them. They'd done nothing wrong, but we just sailed in and killed them and they killed us. There's no sense to it. but when we bump off a man there's a reason, and when we do it it's been worth doing. The things you do in hot blood are generally fooolish, and the things you do in cold blood are the worth-while ones.'
So Jimmy had his first lesson in the ethics of gangland, and, being young, he was impressed.

p87: - ah, only noted because of the name of a character introduced, who doesn't play a large part, one of three henchmen:
'The most important of these, "Spike" Milligan, weedy-looking, hatchet-faced, sandy-haired, with the appearance of a well-furnished bank clerk, by nature more deadly than a ring snake, turned to the more pressing business of reprisal.'

forest fire photo

Snopes article on an impressive photo taken during a forest fire in America.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

crying german

UEFA under fire for faking ‘crying fan’ footage: European football's governing body UEFA has sparked outrage after it emerged that they manipulated footage of fans during the Euro 2012 semi-finals.
People across the world were touched when cameras zoomed in on a German fan in the crowd crying after Mario Balotelli put Italy two goals ahead in the first half of their match last week. ESPN commentator Adrian Healey even referred to the woman as he covered the game for American TV, saying it was "too early for tears" since there was the best part of an hour left in which the sparky Germans could fight their way back into the match. There was just one problem: the woman - a fan from Dusseldorf called Andrea - hadn't started crying at all, and was stunned to receive text messages from friends back home asking why she was blubbing with so much football left to play. It turns out that Andrea had actually been overcome by emotion during the singing of the German national anthem before the match. The footage was recorded, then cut into the live feed sent to broadcasters around the world after the Italians went 2-0 up.
- Yahoo Sport news, 4 July

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

don't tweet photos of your debit cards

Need a debit card? Twitter account exposes photos of debit and credit cards
- Naked Security blog, Sophos, 3 July

latest version of e&c shopping centre plans

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre could double in size: The owners of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre say that they expect to start work in 2015 on a scheme to effectively double the retail space and create 1,000 homes on top of the building.
- SE1, 3 July