Saturday, June 30, 2007

Marie's Membership Only - from 17 July

You know what a regular site of interest she is - so sign up.

Sign up soon.

Because you KNOW it makes sense.

Marie is brilliant - you will want to keep reading her.

Friday, June 29, 2007

If you like cats... then I hope you've been enjoying Nile's blog this week

It's a veritable cat-fest!!!

Summer is the time for blog anniversaries.

There's been several this week (must be the time of year), and the latest is our good friend Reidski - latterly disappointed that Fopp will not be able to provide further reduced price entertainment goodies.

First Class Anna

First Class!!!

Well done to Anna - she might claim it was 'unexpected' but we always knew she was more than capable.

Fopp gone: thank hell for Selectadisc


Otherwise we'd be stuck with just HummUV and BransonWorld.

Shame to hear about Fopp though: they've given me a lot of pleasure over the years. Though I can remember when they had only a handful of branches and the dinkiest store in the world in Leamington Spa (one of their first and branches).

Hmmm... maybe Neil wasn't quite as wrong as I wilfully denied he was...

This post would make much more sense with pictures, but bear with me since I can't upload any at present (STILL).

Last weekend we went to Leicester. Neil's eye was caught by a very fetching blue jacket with a thin white stripe.

He deliberately raised the point before purchase to check it DID NOT resemble too closely anything worn by David Tennant. He did this. In itself that question was telling: that he felt it needed to be asked (regular viewers will know this is NOT the first time that dangers of wardrobe resemblance have been raised...)

"No, no, no" I said, "you're fine. Trust me. If I thought it was... well, it would me who would look weird, not you. It suits you. It's a lovely jacket." (It is; and has drawn approving comments from his work place).

Cue today where I am taking a breather from working on other things to scurry a little on the Behind the Sofa blog (see below). Now it may just be the colourisation on my blog dimming the beloved brown suit, but it suddenly strikes me that Neil's new jacket is frighteningly close to the Doctor's current striped jacket.


It seems that I have absorbed a love of this fashion so deeply I can't even tell when I am in danger of dressing my partner like David Tennant.

Star Wars and Doctor Who

The fan's view of Star Wars inspires another fan's view of Doctor Who.

Both UTTERLY brilliant and hilarious in equal measure.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A little bit of politics: Blair's departure

There's been a lot of hot air expended in recent months, weeks, days and certainly over the last few hours about the departure of Tony Blair. Whether he's now perceived to be a liability to the party that he moulded to his recognition of the comprises necessary to enter power under the current political system, or whether he actually IS a liability: that's almost an irrelevant distinction.

For better or worse, he probably had to go - arguments will continue about if he should have gone earlier, particularly depending on how Gordon fares (if Brown settles in well and transforms things then the word will be he should have got the chance earlier: if it all goes agin him, the word will be that Blair dragged on the doorstep of No.10 and scuppered Brown's chances to regain the ground lost). Whichever way you look at it though, the wall-to-wall coverage on radio and TV was almost akin to that for a royal funeral cortege passing the population such was the tone adopted by journalists commenting on the minute-by-minute 'action'.

Anyway, selected thoughts:

  • Blair led the party to three historic general election victories
  • Even in this final term, the party still had a 66 seat majority - that's larger than the majority in 1992, 1979, either 1974 election, or the 1970 election
  • There's peace in Northern Ireland (something that seemed destined for constant disappointment and failure even after the mid-1990s efforts by the Conservative party seemed to make some headway)
  • Reduced waiting times in NHS hospitals: it's not as consistent across all points of entry as I would like but it's made progress inconceivable under the previous regime
  • Minimum wage: seemed a pipe dream in the early 1990s. Yes, it should be higher. I'd also like significantly adjusted tax bands to remove far more people from paying any tax. I'd also like us to stop subsidising and by default therefore justifying crappy pay levels via the provision of tax credits, but I accept that the assistance they provide has value. And this is starting to look like more of an anti-list than I'd like...

So, to less good things:

  • It's not an elephant in the room. It IS the bloody room. It's the house that no one is even trying to ignore. We're mired in wars we can't easily get out from without rendering both ourselves looking stupid and the countries concerned in greater potential danger (at least in the short term). I'm not happy about this, though probably for different reasons than many people. As you probably know by my signing and support of the Euston Manifesto, I was largely supportive of the overthrow of Saddam. But it was ultimately done with shit public reasoning, faulty logic, poor forethought, and crappy alliances at its heart. The intention of installing some semblance of democratic elections was laudible and, Galloway apart, does anyone really think that keeping Saddam in power was a good thing to do? I've heard a lot of piffle spoken by those who proclaimed against the war in Iraq on the grounds that we should have done something better and more effective earlier. Well YES, but the fact remained nothing did get done earlier and better so we were lumbered with circumstances less than ideal for everyone concerned. Did Blair lead as best as possible within a desparately difficult context? I'm not entirely sure I would have wanted any of the alternative leaders then on offer; did he do the best in a bad situation? Hindsight and ranty criticism allows a lot of possibilities to cross our minds that really weren't options at the time. I'd have liked stronger reasoning with and against the US and regarding the manipulation/ignoring of the UN but in reality that was unlikely to occur.
  • Faith schools: I suspect that these would be on the rise anyway whoever was in power, but I don't think that Blair has been anything other than a conduit for bringing this noxious provision to the fore.
  • Targets: if it moves, measure it. Targets suck; measurements generally suck - sorry, but they usually become about the PROCESS for measurement, about being exercises. Achieved changes tend to be by default and the work of specific groups or individuals than the the system of measuring per se. We know the cost/measurement of everything and the value of nothing (to paraphrase)

This isn't meant to be exhaustive, just a few reflections on my own particular thoughts. I'm still unlikely to consider voting for anyone other than Labour, for all my misgivings and the criticism I have faced for saying so. I'd like to think there could be a social revolution that felt more, well, revolutionary in what it changed but in the meantime I guess I'm going with the changes that have been introduced and a hope that we can eventually rebuild the house around us and not just move the furniture.

It could take some time.

In the House: the Big Blogger House

As if you didn't know that it was Big Blogger time again, here comes a big reminder that we all have a duty.

It's called VOTE CLARE!

(NB if you ain't high by the end of reading her post then you are clearly lacking something...)

But there's more to it than that (what, more than THAT?!!!): there's a meme too.

Three reasons why I would be an ideal housemate imprisoned in a house with random strangers for way too long.

  1. I would provide good visual entertainment - of course, that would only work in a real house with strangers rather than perhaps a virtual one (but maybe if we all had webcams... oh heck...)
  2. I make darn fine choc chip cookies (thanks to Joe's inspiration) - always good for keeping people happy
  3. I can talk obsessively and at length about many subjects such as those listed at the top of my blog... hang on, that's potentially more of a negative...

Three reasons why I would be the Housemate From Hell

  1. I am an unsociable grump and can easily fall into moody fits of sulky depressed silence - probably NOT a positive for long-term stuck with strangers scenarios...
  2. I'm not a joiner in activities: there's a reason I was never much good at clubs and societies
  3. If tasks go wrong and our food provision goes down this will Not Be A Good Thing. I get cranky when I'm hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry.

Now people, pick up this meme and RUN WITH IT!!!! That means all of you!!!

Clare needs your votes.

Vote Clare!

Do it!


You have only until MIDDAY 2 JULY 2007!!!! Then this mail will self-destruct!

(Or go into archiving... It's a close run thing)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Here come the drums, here come the drums...

Hee, Billy just made me laugh out loud.

BTW if you don't already know what the sound of drums is - duderlede, duderlede - (and it took me long enough: idiot) then work it out or let it be someone other than me telling you.

Not least because I am well creeped out by recalling our friends last spring tapping, humming, singing that sound and calling it 'the national anthem'.

At the time it seemed hilariously in tune with the nation's obsession; now it feels like maybe Saxon was here all along in his subversion of that rhythm! Tapping into the nation's subconscious...


Cloud has reached 500 posts

Given that Cloud was the one who got me started in all this blogging malarky, it seems only fair to note his landmark!

Empirical: jazz musicians to look and listen out for!

It's been a heck of a weekend. The season 3 finale of NCIS; a day out in Leicester; some gratuitous shopping; Doctor Who (am saving myself to comment on that till after the finale next week); AND the Lichfield Jazz and Blues festival.

It was at the latter we had the joy of seeing Empirical, a young band of jazz musicians who frankly blew everything else we saw into a hat. Yes, trombonist Gareth Roberts' quintet were incredible (and very Welsh he was too!); yes, the Zoe Rahman's piano-led trio were delightful (she brought a particularly light touch to the proceedings even when she was banging the hell out of the keys). And clearly John Etheridge has some serious guitar skills, though I have to say he was a tad too rock-guitar-soloist for my taste - and not so much in a good way (ironic really given that our friend Nick who tipped us about the whole event practically falls over himself to criticise the failings of 'popular beat combo' performers).

But Empirical were on another level entirely. As I was flagging and under the weather it took some work to stay as long as we did, missing only the finale headline act of Jacqui Dankworth. But after a blistering opening set, we were determined to stick out to see their second set of the day.

Empirical are five young musicians of awe-inspiring talent and the band is currently comprised of:

Jay Phelps - trumpet
Nathaniel Facey - alto sax
Kit Downes - piano
Tom Farmer - double bass
Shane Forbes - drums

They are just a delight to watch and their musicianship, composition skills and energy on stage are mesmerising. Their album is due out next month. Buy it, but especially go and see them live.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


How the hell did I not get that earlier? Tappity-tap. The sound of drums. Now 'hear' someone going 'wooo-oooo-ooo' over the top....

Bloody genius.

Whatever the collective Whoards thought, I was captivated. But I will have to spend another week ducking and covering to avoid spoiling the finale.

That means no reading of comments on MediumRob, I suspect (so that feed is just mounting up comments for post Sat 30 June at the mo). I just can't take chances.

It couldn't top last week's magnificence (it would have been hard to) but it DID provide a cracking part one of a finale double-bill. With fan-wank overload and more internally grinning references than my brain could keep up with, I had to mentally stockpile them all for that crucial second, third... well, re-viewing shall we say. Shudder. Aged doctor though: that HAS to be resolved (and SHUT THE FUCK UP IF YOU KNOW HOW IT DOES).

Did like the sidebar remark about "you've been watching too much TV..."

Oh have I really got to wait another 6 days, 8 hours, and 20 bloody minutes...

Marie's book

You can donate in its name and you can get yourself ready for the launch.

And now you can even watch Marie talk about the book!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dickie Attenborough's crockery

By Picasso of course...

I think Cloud's writing on this more, but at Leicester's New Walk Museum and Art Gallery there is a fabulous display of ceramics of Picasso's, all from the collection of Sheila and Richard Attenborough (he's a Leicester boy doncha know...).

The collection has been donated to Leicester - lucky sods - so this show only represented about 2/3 of the whole donation. It's a wonderful exibition.

theQuarter: a great new restaurant/bar in Leicester

Can I recommend in HIGH AND LOUD tone a fantastic new restaurant and bar which has opened in Leicester, England (for those of you elsewhere who may visit - local people, get your asses there asap [though obviously AFTER Who...]).

It's called theQuarter and its located very near the forthcoming new performing arts centre for Leicester (and the lovely adaptation of an art deco cinema, Athena, that I was lucky enough to visit for the BAAS banquet back in April).

The atmosphere is a delight: the seats and tables well-thought through; the design is chic without feeling either too posh to relax or too cliquey to fit in.

And the food! Woah. It's a small but perfectly formed lunch menu which was pleasing and well presented. Cooked VERY freshly, with good and (where possible) locally sourced ingredients. We definitely want to go back there. I feel a troop out of Summer Sundae coming on (in fact I may go back there on the Friday for dinner before the festival proper starts. Mouth watering at the prospect).

I had a lovely chorizo, pea and prawn risotto; Neil a steak sandwich with mushrooms and caramelised onions with chunky chips. We shared a chocolate tart with creme fraiche and berries.... delicious!

Great service too - friendly without being obsequious, welcoming, charming and cheery: and we had a lovely chat with one of the owners, Janice.

All in all, highly recommended as I say.

Getting too anxious about Who starting so a few quick blogs!

Finger nails duly chewed.

Conversations veering towards Who with alarming regularity.

Tension over how to recommend a good spoiler site to a friend (she asked for one) when I don't want to spoiler myself for the last two eps - let alone the next season!



Thursday, June 21, 2007

MediumRob's Blog Birthday: Two Today

A little late in the day, but its lovely to know that MediumRob has been bringing us the news, fun and wise reviewing on the media world for two years at The Medium Is Not Enough.

Go wish him a happy birthday and add him to your favourites.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloggers talking in Wolverhampton

Via Pete Ashton, I thought this deserved mention (partly because the Light House was an old stomping ground of mine from way back when...)

To Blog or Not to Blog...
Out Of Hours: Monday 2 July 2007, 5.30-7.30pm.

La Roche

You're no doubt right to complain if I have massacred your walls, of which I have always been a staunch admirer... But you do remember the origin of my undertaking. You said 'La Roche, when one has a fine collection as you have, you must have a house built which is worthy of it'. And my reply: 'Fine, Jeanneret, make this house for me'. Now, what happened? The completed house was so beautiful that, when I saw it, I exclaimed, 'It's almost a pity to put paintings in it'. Nevertheless, I said How could I do otherwise? Do I not have some obligations to my painters, of whom, indeed, you are one? I asked you for a 'frame for my collection' and you gave me a 'poem in walls'. Which of us was more to blame?
Raoul La Roche to Le Courbusier, May 1926, Fondation Le Courbusier (Open University, 1984, p.35).

Reference List entry
Open University (1984) "Radiovision Programme 22: Le Courbusier and Raoul La Roche", Broadcast Notes 3: Modern Art and Modernism, Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp.33-35

Sorry, just found this in my mails and had to post it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Imagine Irony

I quite fancy the chance to re-view some of Amstell's highlights from the recent Never Mind the Buzzcocks series, but the BBC trailer on YouTube for the forthcoming Yentob documentary seems to have taken concepts of irony to another level entirely.

Alan Yentob in a highly thoughtful, insightful and rare interview with Simon Amstell, about the pressures of hosting the popular pop music quiz, Never Mind the Buzzcocks...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Anyone prepared to guess just how much Sir Derek J had an absolute ball on Who?

Hellfire. I was a little wary at the start, but by the end - WOAH! Exceeding expectations on every scale.

Counting the days till next week and ducking neath the covers of spoiler-land.

I may be light on "blogging" (BWAH!) because its my last week before summer at the office (subject to that new contract coming through and me not being broke by the end of the month due to Human Resource screw-ups) and to avoid spoilers.

See you slightly, but a post-finale write up will come: its a promise!

Tartan Podcast is no more

Waaah!!! Thanks to George I became addicted to the tartan podcast. Whilst I enjoyed Mellow Monday, it was always the Tartan Podcast for me.

And now t'will be no more. Mellow Monday continues with a new female host, but Mark is leaving the labour of podcast hosting.

Pandagon's "Question of the Day" - which movie can you not resist stopping for?

Come on, we all know there are some films that when you chance on a channel screening them, no matter how far through they are, you just can't resist hanging on to watch them.

It's the subject of Pam Spaulding's "Question of the Day" at Pandagon today.

So what are your 'must watch' catches...?

The Kitchen Window View

In between all the lovely, adorable, ever-delightful E pics, comes this post from Joe in Vegas.

His Kitchen View.


I've just planted some seeds and they are growing but we have a sucky view by comparison. (Will try and get a picture up but you know this is a bit of a problem area at present).

Arcade Fire in the autumn...



Well, thanks to a collision of events (me being in a meeting I couldn't reschedule, Neil not being able to access either a phone or internet to book), we were screwed on making it through to book first thing for the Saturday Ally Pally date of Arcade Fire's UK tour this autumn. And of course by the time we could access a computer/get through on the phones, the Saturday gig sold out - having sold out in under an hour...

A visit to Ally Pally to see Arcade Fire would have been lovely, especially as Neil hasn't ever been there (I had the pleasure to spend a day there when the Stone Roses played their big gig there on 18 November 1989. Dire sound quality but the crowd was so buzzed we didn't care: and for the record, I was both too young and naif to be high on anything other than the thrill of being there).

Ho-hum. Not much use to us that that they have second date planned for the Sunday since we'd really need to be off the next day (Monday) and that isn't feasible for either of us.

Good job we got standing tickets for Nottingham Arena then eh....!!!!

[Imagine happy clapping sounds]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm suddenly less bothered about missing the "Seven Ages of Rock"

A man whose opinion I respect says The Seven Ages of Rock is "shite".

I believe him. If the programme did even half of the things he says it did it would be Very Shite Indeed. As it is, it sounds as if - apart from the chance to see some (probably very familiar) archive footage - there is little to make me turn over from CSI:NY.

How sad.

Norm's Beatles Song Poll results now in!

Get them here from Norm himself.

Bugger: I must have got one wrong - so much for being a writer

Your Vocabulary Score: A

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

Via the clearly smarter EineKleineRob.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Diet, surgery, harm

Via Clare a thought provoking review of issues raised in the [blurgh] Observer Woman magazine.

Film Quote

Why don't you come up sometime and see Rullsenberg?

Which movie was this quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Via JJ and a host of others...

(I rather liked that it came up with this one...)

UPDATE: it was of course all down to Reidski somebody in the blogosphere spreading the word far and wide...

UPDATE 2: Andrew!!! It was You! (I kinda knew that all along, but there are so many "Andrew" persons out there. I have a distinguishing Rob system; and a Paul system: maybe I need an Andrew system too?)

Did I say? How wonderful was Jarvis on the South Bank Show...

Ah, as if I could ever doubt it, Jarvis was on top form on the South Bank Show on Sunday.

As mischievous and insightful as ever. Brilliant!

BFI difficulties

A rotten state of affairs.

A lover of archives - and ephemera - the prospect of these facilities being lost and scattered to the four winds of various libraries resource centres [and we know how reliable they are at keeping hold of archival stuff] isn't that reassuring.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tonys for Tom (and an Arthur Smith anecdote)

Brilliant news regarding the wonderful Coast of Utopia trilogy which has just swept 7 Tony awards. A pity it wasn't as successfully received here in its original production but there's plenty to take a vicarious thrill from in it winning in the USA.

Talking of Stoppard, who provided one of my most oft-used expressions of frustration: "for the love of Hegel", we had a very fun time seeing Mr Arthur Smith at the Nottingham Playhouse last night. Besides reading out Cloud's "I'm grumpy because..." line (of which I will let him write up the story), Smith recounted how on one of the few occasions he has gone up to praise a famous person for their work it was Tom Stoppard whom he saw in the National Theatre bookshop.

I said "Hi, I'm Arthur Smith and I just want to say how much I admire your work" - and he just walked off! The bastard!

Years later I was at an opening night party for a play starring Tom Stoppard's son.

And it was at this point I realised that Tom Stoppard is a tall man.

For years I had been bearing a grudge against a short man who just looked a bit like Tom Stoppard...
Brilliant. A very enjoyable evening in the company of Mr Smith.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Blink": Moffat Rocks - a NewWho review

Should there be an exclamation mark there? Or should I have said "Moffat* statues"? (doesn't pun quite as well does it?)

It may have been the Doctor-lite episode of the season, but frankly it still worked and it was still riddled with Who-ness. Cloud loved it so much that this morning he thought it would be 'hilarious' to stand at the top of the stairs, stock still, with his hands over his eyes. Once I had woken up enough to realise what he was doing, I instantly shrieked "argh: don't DO that", fully knowing that like Moffat's equally effective little boy line [you know the one] with which Cloud still haunts me for the fun of freaking the bejeesus out of me, this will become a motif he will enjoy using against me.

What worked about this episode for me was that whilst I thought I would long for the Doctor to be on screen more, psychologically he was always there - so I didn't actually feel like he was missing, or that the episode was 'lite'. Sure, these episodes have a different feel to them, but then I really enjoyed "Love and Monsters", so perhaps I approach them in a different spirit.

Certainly "Blink" had a very different tone to last year's 'lite' episode: whereas last year's liteness was light (comedic), with touching edges (the demise of LINDA's members, Elton's family tragedy), this year's was more touchingly tragic with a mix of both dark edges and a charmingly light centre. Step forward the stunning Carey Mulligan for carrying so much of that: a truly captivating beauty. There is just something inherently poignant about her face, her eyes.

So for me it was a definite thumbs up and my witchy crew were equally captivated (HLW and Chrissie). I doubt it divided people quite as much as last year's lite-episode was intentionally designed to do; though with Moffat at the helm that wasn't so likely. Still, it is a brave move to take the central character out of a show once per season and though one might ask 'what's the point? - why not just have one episode less per year?', one could also consider 'why not?' After 40 years, surely a programme is big enough to cope with a whallop of subverting its priorities? [For some, of course, the NewWho series have done way too much of that just by existing and operating according to different TV criteria than in the days of old: that perverse sense of 'we'd prefer not to have it back at all as this 'travesty' of what we treasure'.] Well, as a product of Classic Who memories and NewWho delight, I have little objection to it doing strange things to itself once in a while: especially when they work as well as "Blink" clearly did for our house.

Funnily, I thought made an interesting companion piece to this week's UK terrestrial screening of CSI beardy, where Hodges and the lab techs took centre stage over Grissom and the usual crew. Echoes, echoes everywhere...

* btw is now a good time to spot that Moffat's talents may have something to do with where he was born...?

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I'm 18.46% mainstream it seems...

Thanks to this, I know can review the mainstreamness of my music taste (as shown via

This is constituted largely from a small number of artists well-played on my scrobbling (which of course does not demonstrate my full range of listening since - unlike the George - my computer is not hooked to my stereo and therefore only shows what I listen to when on the computer and not elsewhere in the house).

Anyway, these are the main culprits for my mainstreamness:

1. Rufus 26.11% mainstreamness
2. Regina Spektor 27.12%
4. Decemberists 43.2%
5. Arcade Fire 58.05%
9. Pulp 21.6%
12. Belle & Sebastian 52.78%
23. Bob Dylan 59.1%

In some respects, this list probably reflects more of the tastes of users than it does 'genuine' mainstreamness, but there's nothing on this list I'm ashamed of and there's plenty to up my non-mainstream credentials. For me, the rating of 18.46% mainstream seems fair because its less than one-fifth of my playing and I've always liked to mix up the more obvious with the obscure. of course, I suspect that George will be off-the-scale for obscurity [though those pesky obscurity loving dudes may yet affect him], and apart from Dylan, I doubt that Cloud will be making much impact on the mainstream. But I'm happy where I am.

Update: hmm - seems with George I forgot to take account of the impact of a life-long love for REM... and the impact of The White Stripes (perhaps further evidence of the listener profile)

Update: whilst Cloud comes out with the top of us three for obscurity with a rating of just 15.69% mainstreamness...

And because my Blogger access is screwed I just lost my post - again...


Note to self - MUST, MUST, MUST write posts in Notepad!

Forthcoming music: Decemberists

Having managed to miss their Nottingham gigs, we've planned a visit to our old haunt of Wolvo in the autumn. So come October we will (all being well) get to see The Decemberists in the moderately intimate setting of the Wulfrun Hall where previously we have seen such luminaries as Belly (supported by The Cranberries before the latter bafflingly became stadium-fillers) and The Divine Comedy.

Am looking forward to this a lot, and partly because its an age since we were last in Wolves so it will be a bit of a nostalgia trip.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I never thought I'd publicly like a MIKA song...

... but I've watched this so many times now its kinda got stuck in my head!

Apart from a somewhat abrupt jump at the start from dialogue to song, the editing in terms of matching lyrics to the scenes just hits me in the gut.

Of course thinking about it, I'm a sucker for ballads and this has strings that come in and underpin the song. That's pretty much a fix for me.

FJL Arrested: the button comes down...

Via EineKleineRob, my most brilliant Friday news.

FJL has been arrested according to the Oxford Mail.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Star Wars: 30s style

Via SavagePopcorn Paul. Genius stuff.

Wikipedia and information

Norm provides a fine and succinct summary of what is wrong with arguments about wikipedia et al.

I attended a very interesting session at the recent BAAS conference about Wikipedia, Google Scholar and research, with representatives from the British Library, Wikipedia and Google Scholar and a VERY full room of academics etc (it was one of the busiest sessions of the conference). Mostly we bitched about getting students to do any reading at all, let alone sufficient reading, let alone being critical of ALL the resources at their disposal (and not just the online ones). But there was certainly skepticism about the reliability of certain online resources.

The difficulty with wiki type knowledge is that is increasingly accepted by students as a reasonable substitute for broader research and increasingly not tolerated by academic staff as a legitimate source of information (in some instances even down to discouraging looking at it for inspiration, checking other sources recommended by it, let alone not citing it in a bibliography). This divergence is reaching something of a critical point, and one not helped by the sort of scare-mongering reporting cited in Norm's post.

I suspect at heart there is a psychological issue at stake here about the perceived over-democratisation of Web 2.0 in allowing anyone and everyone access to 'producing' knowledge. By making the process of updating and correcting knowledge not only more visible but also much much quicker, the old orders of power in producing knowledge have decayed somewhat.

Of course, undoubtedly there is a bit/lot of me that retains a sense of elitism about my love of books at which point I'm reminded of an exchange from Buffy - quel surprise! - where Jenny (techno-pagan and IT tutor) is talking to Giles (lovable fusty librarian)

JENNY: Well, it was your book that started all the trouble, not a computer. Honestly, what is it about them that bothers you so much?

GILES: The smell.

JENNY: Computer's don't smell, Rupert.

GILES: I know! Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a, a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences... long forgotten. Books smell. Musty and, and, and, and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, uh, it... it has no, no texture, no, no context. It's, it's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um... smelly.

I guess there will always be a strong part of me in love with books, with pages, but I'm fooling myself if I believe that they are inherently more reliable than judicious use of other forms of knowledge.

Do I want to take up being a Pastafarian?

I can't believe I've spent so little time being properly aware of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It's almost enough to encourage me to take up the 'faith'!

Via lovely Mr Wongablog, who's had real highs and lows lately.

Reproductive Rights

From Pandagon a well articulated analysis of what's really going on in the anti-choice/pro-life brigade.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Carusometer - now with added Randomiser!

Lovely witty and usually accurate MediumRob brings us a new feature of the world of the Carusometer. Since I am still wiping the tears of giggles from my eyes after reading his post I'll let you go to the post itself!

Debating the psychology of blogging and stalking

Fascinating piece - and an equally fascinating subsequent discussion - about FJL and a possible explanation as to how and why the stalking of Rachel has taken place.

Of course we're all a little narcissistic in spilling our thoughts to the world online, and the difficulties of any single theory defining the actions of an individual human are clear. BUT, those elements aside where does factual description tip over into libellious assault? We're obviously gone well beyond the point of simple name-calling or "descriptors you dislike" (even if that's how the commentor Gerard feels content to define them).

Thought provoking anyway: the sidebar button will hopefully come down soon. It's taken a lot to get it to this point and with a limited amount of coverage from Rachel herself (if with an inspiringly supportive response from other bloggers). The internet is a powerful place though and this highlights the impact it can have.

2012 Olympic logo: "crumpled crisp packet swastika"

Marie says it best.

I nearly spluttered soup at the screen reading that remark.


I'm Scientific it seems - rather like Sonia and lovely EineKleineRob. A little worrying though given my lack of science knowledge as compared to them!

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule.
I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online.
They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics,
and can explain evolution in fifty words or less.
More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be,
these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Angry Atheist


Spiritual Atheist






What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Monday, June 04, 2007

Shuggy really wanted to go home

You get the feeling that Shuggy was desparate on Friday:

More from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious
Searching pupils
The archives of the Department of the Bleeding Obvious

Hard to know which contained my favourite line, although I was especially sympathetic with "And I like the idea of breaking up larger schools, although I hope this is being taken literally. The last one I was in, for example, should be taken out with a bunker-busting bomb. One with depleted uranium, naturally."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

TV review: Human Nature/The Family of Blood (plus some thoughts on Martha/Freema)

There's bumper loads of happy happy boys over at Behind the Sofa. That alone should assure doubters that this managed to combine the best of Classic and NewWho.

TV Scoop was happy twice over as well, with both Human Nature and The Family of Blood getting a thumbs up.

Anna was also happy twice over.

And Freema-loving TV Today relished what the two episodes achieved.

So what about me?

Well, befuddling and grin-inducing mentions of Nottingham aside, this pair of episodes brought out the best of everyone.

The writing (re-writing) by Cornell was spot-on, transforming a well-loved (if not exactly million-selling) story into a beautifully realised television script. Keeping in mind the regenerations of the Doctor since the story was first published and the (very) different companion figure, the story was retained but adjusted, taking plenty of its nuances and characterisations whilst simultaneously updating them to match the current characters/actors.

The presentation of the narrative, leaving the viewer off-balance as to what was going on (even to some extent for those who already knew Cornell's novel) was well-handled. So some younger viewers may have been confused for a while, but getting your head around confusing ideas is what good TV should enable the viewer to do. Our own lack of clarity helps identification with the figures at the centre of the story, not least with Joan's growing realisation that Smith isn't the 'man' she thought he was.

And the note-book? What artistry and work went into that. Others have said it, but I will too: that HAS to be a PDF on the forthcoming S3 DVD box set. A shout-out to fans to be salivated over.

The direction from Charles Palmer was charming, subtle, dramatic and well-paced. Camera angles were grand, without grand-standing. There were some fine set-pieces and just the right number of close-ups to draw the level of intimacy to the surface.

The music, for possibly the first time in ages, is more spot-on than we might have dared hoped for, and whilst the invocation of hymns in Gridlock felt a little too pious, here the familiarity of "To be a Pilgrim" acting as premonition of the violence to come beyond this story's end, was given fine form with such an appropriate vocal version chosen.

Effects were kept limited, which meant when they did come to the fore they had real purpose rather than being there 'because we can so we should' (a bugbear of those who believed Classic Who had managed to be more creepy, scary and monstrous with suggestion and frequently dodgy SFX).

Which brings me to the people. And this is what has set this two-parter way up in the appreciation stakes. If we accept that NewWho especially (but not exclusively when set against the Classic years) is about people, about characters, then this brought the best of both together in giving everyone concerned real chances to demonstrate their acting chops.

Praise has been heaped on David and Jessica (sorry, she will always but always be Jessica "Daisy" Stevenson) and rightly so, even if it has been as the 'not'-Doctor that Tennant has best shined this season. Don't care says I, since Smith is within the Doctor as the Doctor was within Smith. And as noted elsewhere, come on, we all cheered at re-emergence of the glasses, the suit (BROWN!!!) and the Chuck All-Stars. A glorious moment. As was the sight of the firmly pissed off, getting-the-job-done Doctor giving each member of the Family their what-for.

Jessica was sublime here as Joan, whether terse (and racist) with Martha, charmed and adoring with Smith, maternal to the boys, and ultimately heart-broken by the Doctor. A hiding place on a "whim": ouch. Saxon isn't entirely wrong when Martha's mother Francine gets the messages that the Doctor brings destruction in his wake, whether intended or not. Like the press in Spiderman et al that both lauds the hero and points out that without him the bad guys wouldn't be there in the first place putting the innocent in danger, the attitude is wrong-headed but comprehensible. Funnily, having been re-reading a lot of Buffy and Angel books and essays lately, one of the lines that first came to mind after watching last night's episode was Giles' remark to Xander about his friend Jesse who has been vamped: "You're not looking at your friend; you're looking at the thing that killed him". No wonder Joan cannot look at the Doctor.

There's equally good work from the supporting cast: big kudos especially to Baines (Harry Lloyd, step ye forward for your totally-creeped-me-out award of the year) but all the cast deserve a cheer for their well-inhabited period turns. And that includes Thomas "I-need-to-see-a-birth-certificate-before-I-believe-that-boy-is-now-17" Sangster.

To conclude, I have to make a special note about Freema who finally gets to do some more good work (at last!), showing that much of the problem with her character/acting is to do with what she is given. Is she finally able to want to be with the Doctor, even or despite her knowledge that he doesn't and will not love her? It would be helpful if she could move on, since when she's allowed to be more sparky - as here - she's more than a match for anything Rose could or would have done. As I have said elsewhere [in the comments], Marth/Freema has had "rather erratic service from writers and directors (and probably in terms of overseeing her, the producers)". She's done some of her best work in this two-parter, probably helped by the overall raising of the bar and then some that it's drawn out. But I'm still left with a nagging sense that she's not fully hit, or been allowed to hit, her stride (I'd be interested to know what the filming blocks were this season to see whether that's down to directors or time: she's certainly been at her best here and in the opening episode or so). With some qualifications to those aforementioned previous remarks, I don't think she's "done justice to the spectacular opportunity she has has been given (or perhaps more truthfully had chance to develop sufficiently to do justice)."

Don't get me wrong, I grew to love the Rose/Ten relationship as passionately and fondly as a non-full-on-shipper could do (I appreciate the shippiness but my old skool Who chops can't help but think that proves to be a narrative cul-de-sac). I can't ignore the gut feeling that sympathised with those who came to loath the smug intensity of Rose/Ten 'in love'. In that respect, the possibilities for Martha as a character have been immense, not least because she is smarter, more worldly-wise. But I don't think these opportunities have been as well-explored as they could have been. The whole unrequited love thang that has over-shadowed much of Martha's behaviour and actions seems to come "not only from the Who team but also from Freema's own effusive delight in having the chance to work so closely with David Tennant as the Doctor. It's a bit of a fan's dream come true for sure, but it sometimes overwhelms her performance."

That's probably why in this episode it was so refreshing to see her doing more and also - the "... and it wasn't me" line aside - dealing and seeming to move on from being 'in love' with the Doctor. Martha and Freema deserve more of these opportunities. Whether they'll be coming is another matter.

So, the overall verdict: Brilliant episodes, with everyone on-song. Moffat to come (hurrah!) and the finale. Despite some nay-sayers, and the less-than-fully-successful Dalek story aside, I'd actually say this season has felt more consistent and enjoyable than the last. Maybe it's the different momentum this time around, a groove both settled (three years in) and unsettled (after the departure of Rose, who after all was deliberately intended to be our eyes into the world of the Doctor). Either way, I've been enjoying it far more than I dared hope. And this two parter has simply been the best cake, let alone icing, that any of us could have hoped for.

Yes, Aberdeen, Of course.

Doh. You know, somehow in my head I did know that, but I really wanted the Nottingham thing to NOT be recent.

So. I was 'wrong', 'right' and 'very wrong'.

Shut up girls.

Gig Review: Rodrigo Y Gabriela

Woah! I mean, seriously, WOAH! Rodrigo Y Gabriela rawk.

That was one fucking heck of a gig (the swearing is a deliberate invocation of the luscious Gabriela's casual swearing: nothing less than adorable).

It was pretty much a spur of the moment gig attendance, having been suggested by our friend Pete when we attended the excellent John Shuttleworth gig at Lakeside on Bank Holiday Monday (I'll review that separately too!).

Anyway, lovely Pete organised the tickets and the evening was off to a fab start when we ran into another ex-Marconi pal of both Pete and Cloud. Fortuitous or what? I already knew that lovely Sarah was coming to the gig, as would be Mike, so it was looking to be a real get-together. As it turned out, I also got chance to meet the elusive Swiss Toni, whose brilliant review of the gig is a much better read than this one can hope to be (and has some fab YouTube links).

(Mike, a seasoned attendee of R&G gigs and fond interviewer of Rodrigo, was not unreasonably distraught at having to share them with far too many oikey dorks who seem to think that a gig is the place to pay money to come to in order to talk during the quieter performance sections. I thinking of enforcing gags for these gig-ruining prats as Mike's distress was heart-rending).

Anyway. Like Swiss Toni, this was our first visit to a R&G gig and boy did it have an impact! For two non-singing acoustic guitarists to wow a standing audience in such a way scarcely seemed plausible as an abstract thought. It drew one of the more diverse gig audiences I have seen in some time in terms of age. That R&G could invoke such breadth of musical styles and never stray from displaying their metal rock hearts on their sleeves was a beautiful thing to behold. (I can't recall the last time I saw so many RAWK hand gestures: it was a thrilling reminder of past musical indulgences). Even if Cloud was one of the few people there to NOT recognise the inimitable Floyd track "Wish You Were Here" - one of the few Floyd songs I like - despite pretty much the entire venue providing impromptu vocals for the track, he still recognised this was an unusual and glorious moment.

And Gabriela: sheesh! They're damn hot pair anyway, but that gal takes guitar work to another level. With cameras and screens displaying their handiwork up close, you could truly appreciate the sheer speed and enthrallinfg fingers across the strings.

A soul-pumping experience, despite the chatty twerps. An album to treasure, but definitely a live show to be swooned over.

Save me from degrees of paranoia: a question of Who and where...

It's becoming an oft-used phrase on this blog, but here's the thing.

Even before it came up as being the basis for NewWho episodes, I had a good awareness of Paul Cornell's book "Human Nature", even if I hadn't actually read it in book form. [I'll write separately about the bloody fantasticness of this two parter].

It probably won't shock anyone that in watching Human Nature/The Family of Blood, it was hard for me to resist a big fat grin at John Smith's back story of coming from Nottingham (especially with such encyclopaedic knowledge of the back streets of the city).

But here's the thing:

I've been covering my back with my two witchiest friends, Lisette and Chrissie, that this birth location of Nottingham for John Smith pre-dates New Who because hey, that's what I thought I knew and dammit I'm not gonna open myself to paranoia and torment by letting them think for even a moment it's anything else.

So can some kind soul of supreme Who knowledge confirm I'm right to 'know' that Smith used Nottingham as his 'birthplace' pre-this script.

Pretty please?

'Cos the alternative is gonna be hellish to defend, even if Cornell's most recent pre-Who gig was on the recent Robin Hood series. I'm not helped either by the fact that one of Cornell's upcoming jobs is to work on the second series of Primeval.

Those sniggers? I can hear you already.