Friday, November 28, 2008


The measles rates have rocketed up over the last three years; something that's attributed to the MMR scare stories.

I'm just intrigued though as to why there was a rise in 2002 and 2003 - followed by a significant fall again for the two years after?

Personality blog


According to Cloud my blog is that of an ESTP - a doer.

Hmmm. So how to explain that a Myers-Brigg test earlier this year came up with me as an ENFJ? [Note: it actually came up with me as an INFJ but that was acknowledged as an aberation arising from my not having answered an number of questions, and the course runner coming down on the 'wrong' side.]

Extraverted feeling types seek continuity through harmonious relationships and collective values. They excel at picking up on the tone of a situation and acting accordingly, adding warmth to a cool setting or turning sour into sweet. They naturally seek to know what people do well, what they enjoy, and where and how they work. They seem to have an infinite number of acquaintances from all walks of life and are always on the lookout for people in need and those who can help out. ENFJs weave and strengthen the collective fabric of social conventions and interactions. Inclusiveness is important and they are particularly sensitive to those who are excluded.

ENFJs focus on others, feeling a glow when those around them are happy, and troubled when something is amiss. They are natural cheerleaders, often expressing support, gratitude, and encouragement, and heaping praise onto those they appreciate. They take note of what is being done and what needs doing, offering their assistance wherever necessary.

ENFJs enjoy organizing group activities and tend to take their commitments seriously. In general, they are reliable and do not like to disappoint others. As team players and project leaders, they have a gift for rallying their players, focusing on what is being done right and each member's strengths. They are loyal and they expect loyalty. They carry conversations well, finding common ground with their speaker. They tend to find the correct and gracious way to respond in any given situation, no matter how tense or uncomfortable it is.

Extraverted feeling types will uphold a wide range of values, simply because shared values are what create harmony. Some will profess the importance of tough-minded logic, justice and scholarly debate because their environments have these shared values. They tend to adopt the collective values of those they love and 'belong to'.
I am, at the very least, confused.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

ITV 2008/2009

Well, the ITV Winter 2008/Spring 2009 drama strand looks to have some goodies in it for sure... [watch Showreel]

I'd have shunted Primeval up the running order and its a shame that Collision doesn't get a mention, but hey, I'm gonna be pretty happy!

Hat-tip to the fansite for Douglas Henshall with thanks.

Anyone got Sat 22 Nov 2008 edition of the Telegraph magazine?

No particular reason (she lies), but it would be nice to have a copy of yesterday's Telegraph magazine in the flesh, so to speak.

In defence, I haven't been well and was only just well enough last night by 9pm to watch BBC2...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Billy Bragg - Rock City Nottingham 19 November 2008

Post started Thursday 20 Nov 2008 - delayed by work and health!

I could cheat on reviewing Billy Bragg in Nottingham by just saying 'what he said' and pointing you to Swiss Toni's spot-on review of the night.

But that would be a cop-out wouldn't it?

I've actually only seen Billy perform twice, and only one of those was an actual gig. The first time was at an anti-war demo in Hyde Park in 1991: with his charming self-deprecation he announced that they hadn't been given a music licence, but that was okay because his performance wouldn't count as music. Then proceeded to sing out the wonderful 'Tender Comrade' which echoed across the breadth of Hyde Park as we stumbled, reluctantly, to the waiting coaches back to Wolverhampton.

I next saw him only later that same year, when with the backing band he ended a raucous night with a cover of Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart". I know: madness. But somehow it worked. [I also fondly remember the day as when I took my final exam for my A204 OU course -- after the exam I ceremoniously tore down my revision schedule poster to the turned-up-to-11 volume of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward".]

So, as a non-festival attendee, I'd been a good while between Billy experiences. And in truth given how wiped I am by work I was hardly woo-hoo excited. It had been on the radar for months but we hadn't got round to booking. This didn't help make me feel I could drag myself out. But, bless him, Cloud pulled things round and demanded that we go. Once there of course it was brilliant.

Otis Gibbs provided charming support - a kind of Indiana version of BB - though I was less than impressed by the constant chattering behind me which (in my terribly British way) I just seethed about and ignored.

Thankfully when the main man appeared most of the chattering stopped*. And from first raucous guitar strum to the throw of his tea-bag, we were captivated. With such an extensive back catalogue to pick from there's a great mix of recent and older stuff to enjoy. I was particularly delighted to get "Accident Waiting to Happen" and even though excitement got the better of BB and his vocal power, there was usually enough energy and enthusiasm to carry the songs from the audience. I especially loved the audience not just singing along to "Sexuality" but also adding in a perfect replica of the Kirsty MacColl descant echo ("weighed dow-n" "informat-ion") which sparked a "you've been practising!" from Mr Billy.

A raconteur as much as a songster, any BB performance is always going to be a rallying call to action and an anecdote-laden engagement with the crowd. "What about those BNP c***s?!" yelled one; "Quite" replied Billy, "what you said". Despite attempts to moderate language ("my mum listens to the bootlegs!") there was little chance of him not using some appropriately excoriating language to describe the actions of the BNP and Red Watch for getting some come-uppance about releasing names and addresses [something they've been more than happy to do against left-leaners like BB).

Additional thoughts Sunday 23 Nov
Listening this weekend to some of his back catalogue, Bragg certainly has a knack for writing both sharply observant 'love sings' as well as his social commentary and more political pieces. But what is beautiful about his approach is that he brings the same passion to both types of song. He remains his own man and I for one am grateful he's around.

Even though I don't like Marmite, I love Billy Bragg.

*though the latter part of the gig did produce two yaddering middle-aged blokes behind me who would not shut up -- I couldn't take any more and between songs went over to tell them to 'please shut up: why do you come to a gig and talk? All I can hear is your chattering through the songs' to which their reply was 'at least we're talking sense'. Right. THOSE sort of BB gig attendees, the sort who you wonder if they're actually listening and get what's being sung...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BNP membership

Aside from some of the weirdness identified by Cloud last night, there are a range of things that strike me about the current BNP membership list row.

1) Nick Griffin has stated that the person they believe leaked the document was "one of the hard-liners I'd inherited from my predecessor who didn't like the direction the party was going, regarding us as too moderate"

-- how bloody worrying is it that the current BNP is actually a moderate (and by implication therefore perfectly reasonable) party? I know it's all a scale and that in the past there really were some seriously barking fascists in the party, but I'm not convinced they can't still be defined as fascists. In my book, that doesn't mark you out as a good thing.
2) The BNP describes it only as "ironic" that they are using the Human Rights Act to defend their members privacy.

-- No. You cannot have it both ways. If you believe that the European Union, and its legislation, has no business interferring with UK rights and attitudes and actions then surely you are giving such Acts of law legitimacy in your use of them? For whatever purpose you may want to use them? Seeing it as reasonable to use for "privacy" but not for "freedom" also seems like a rather strange distinction.
3) As a legitimate political party, members have a right to keep their political affiliations private....

-- Hmm. I'd personally dispute seeing the BNP as a legitimate political party, but within the scope of them being currently defined as legitimate, fair cop: their members do deserve to be able to keep their affiliations private.

Of course, the fact that some would prefer to keep that affiliation quiet because it demonstrates they hold some fairly dodgy political opinions is another matter. Which brings me to ...
4) Griffin spoke of the intimidation of BNP members being a consequence/part of the "Labour regime". When presented with the statements of the Prison Service about the problems they felt legally existed with serving officers being members (and similarly the Police Force), Griffin added that the restrictions being placed on these groups were themselves arising from the "Labour regime" as "this rule was forced on the Prison Service by the Labour Government". He described the restrictions on membership of (racist) parties like the BNP* within the civil service as akin to those of "Nazi Germany or the liberal totalitarianism of modern Germany".

Moreover, when told that the Association of Chief Police Officers believed that membership or promotion of parties like the BNP "would be incompatible with our duty to promote equality uner the Race Relations Act..." Griffin again disputed that such thinking wasn't imposed by the Labour regime as "parliamentary legislation is passed by the main liberal parties", and therefore reflects the agendas for political correctness etc etc etc...

-- I almost don't know where to begin taking apart this nonsense: its (incipient) racism, the fall-back onto 'political correctness' as the bogey of modern society, the 'they're all against us, the proper white British folk!'... there's just too much to choose from.
5) One small point in his defense (though not for the reasons he implied): YES, Hizb ut-Tahrir doesn't really have any place being tacitly tolerated as a representative group on behalf of Muslims. Sorry, but it really doesn't.

* BNP as a racist party: a definition I note Griffin did not deny

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Funniest thing I read today (regarding fan-fiction)

I guess I was put off Fan / Slash Fiction slightly when someone sent me a link to a story that turned out to be a highly improbable piece of magical realist porn featuring several Man United players. Shudder.

It DOES sound grim doesn't it!?

On a more serious note, the original piece by Jessica Reed does raise some interesting points about fan-fiction. I'd only make one proviso and that is 'why does it have to be the preserve of teenagers'? For sure, she's starting from a standpoint of reading RL/character or celebrity fic which generally runs to different expectations. But where writers online take existing characters and build new narratives, these can often be incredibly well produced: polished, edited, copy-checked, and critiqued giving eager readers extended scenes, alternate universes (not just as a sci-fi concept but, if you like, stories outside of the original realm of the story canon) and answers to 'what if?'

There's bad writing everywhere - much of it legitimately published. Just because its online doesn't make it bad, in much the same way that we may defend blogging...

Monday, November 17, 2008

My blogging pace

My year by year stats are a bit revealing aren't they?

2004 - I started in Sept and I managed 47 posts
2005 - hitting my stride, I manage 762 posts in my first full year
2006 - keeping up the pace, I squeeze out a ridiculous 824 posts
2007 - then it pretty much halves, offering up just 478 posts
2008 - and with only around another month of blogging to go, this year is halved again to a pathetic 217 posts so far

Someone tell me that its quality that quantity that counts?!

Norm speaks the truth on online friends

Norm is a wise man on many topics, not least in this brief but astute comment about online/real-life friendships:
[what about:] how you can make friends on the internet with people you otherwise would not have met; how you can then consolidate and extend these friendships offline; how, even if you don't (because of distance, say), having electronic friends can be a rewarding experience in itself; how old (real-world) friends who live far apart can now be in touch with one another with much greater facility and regularity than formerly; how, the internet being (when all is said and done) part of the real world, friends can also cease to be friends because of what happens there; and how anyone whose friendships are wholly confined to the internet probably has problems aside from an addiction to their computer.
Of course you do have to factor in that he was taking Roger Scruton to task for pointing out that online friendships differ to real-life ones in somewhat simplistic terms (finding fault with Scruton: fish, barrel). Even so Norm offers some wise distinctions and complications of the argument.

I'd certainly back up most, if not all, of these:
1) I've made friends with people all over the world whom I almost certainly would never have gotten chance to meet otherwise;

2) through blogmeets and just general encounters (especially with local bloggers) I've gotten to know some smashing people;

3) some of the people I know online I only know online - but through blogs, forums, emails and chats I can exchange thoughts and views on a whole range of life, the universe and everything topics;

4) the same works too for some of my more distant real-life friends -- without the internet I doubt I would have been able to sustain contact with Rita or Chrissie even though I do speak to each by phone (and yes, Chrissie, I know we keep talking about Skype!);

5) I've certainly made and subsequently lost friends through online contact - there is something raw in words on the page, written with an immediacy that may remove tone and gesture - but that isn't to say that I haven't screwed up real-life friendships too;

6) and I would (broadly) concur that to only have online friends may be indicative of bigger issues (with the proviso that for some, perhaps those unable to interact as easily with the physical/real-world through disability for example, an online life may be far more productive as a source of friendship. Arguably, that too is suggestive of bigger issues, though not necessarily 'problems' as Norm phrases this).

How do you feel about your online/real-life friendships and their similaries and differences? Is it different if you're on Facebook, rather than writing blogs?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

iPhoto help - thumbnail problems - resolved

What I said:
Grr - I was doing SO well. I've been transferring my photos to the mac and going reasonably great guns. When I was looking at images in events or photos the size of the image would be approximately the same size (about 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch) as the images on the Events list.

And then something happened. I probably clicked something unintentionally - yeah I know...

And now all my photos are automatically showing up as teeny-weeny thumbnails of about 1cm x 1cm! ARGH! Unless I click on each image I can hardly see WHAT the picture is!

I have tried searching for information - nothing is coming up that resolves this let alone helps me understand what the hell I did wrong in the first place. As usual almost all the info assumes I know what the heck I am doing so I can't ask an intelligent question.

Thumbnails doesn't even show up as an option to resize on the menu lists.

Any help GRATEFULLY received. Even just telling me how to phrase the question on a forum so I can actually get a useful answer would help (previous efforts in this regard have mostly resulted in nerd brush-offs).

Despite this can I still say that my mac is very shiny and I love it...
What I know now:
Doh: just click on the bar which changes the size of images at the bottom right... of course, I learnt this by accident rather than design!
Officially of course I am an idiot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shuffleathon 2008

Yes, you can hopefully look out for a new review of a CD I made and one of one I receive. Woo and indeed hoo!

It's Shuffleathon time again and if you want to keep up with the receipt and reviewing of CDs then keep an eye on Swiss Toni's place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fun with 'Auto-Summarise' in Microsoft Word

Why, when I was struggling to write an abstract of my PhD, did I not just use the 'auto-summarise' tool within Word? Oh, right, yes, because it comes up with complete nonsense as soon as you try to make it short!

For example, the following is a summary (selected as 100 words or less from an original document of just over 7200 words) of an article I wrote a few years ago:

Guggenheim provides a particularly problematic character for art history to consider. [27] Laurence Tacou-Rumney, Peggy Guggenheim: A Collector's Album (Paris and New York; Flammarion, 1996); Vail, Peggy Guggenheim.
Maybe I am being harsh, since the first sentence - actually the only sentence - is a reasonable summary of my point. But how did it decide that reference 27 was the one to select as the key summary for the whole article!?

Anyway, here is a link to the original article: A Biographical Pursuit of 'Peggy Guggenheim'.

I'm on a reading list!!!

I never google myself, but Cloud searches for me - and I'm on a Reading List! Yes, some poor students are required to read something written by me for their course at Arizona State University's Herberger College of the Arts. And hilariously it's alongside some writings by Griselda Pollock!

How damn freaking amazing is that?!!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

William Shakesbeare

Cute Bear Alert

Cute teddy bear alert...

Dragged myself to town yesterday as needed to do some errands. When feeling a bit ropey it isn't unusual for me or my heart to be captured by a teddy bear* and so it proved yesterday when I spotted a lovely cuddly bear in WHS just crying out to be given a home. I think he's an cast-off from the Waterstones teddies (he came free with any purchase). So how could I resist!? With the W on his foot I couldn't help but call him William, as in William Shakespeare -- and from there it was but a small New Zealand pronunciation step to calling him William Shakesbeare.

He's very cute.

* No sniggering at the back there HL and Chrissie.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How did you sleep? Reflections on US elections 2008

I couldn't cope with the TV coverage on BBC1, so we quit to bed and had radio 4 on through the night.

I dozed through some of the sections, but was awake when things were getting interesting as some of the crucial states started to come through.

Hearing McCain's gracious concession speech - and the appalling boos that greeted mention of Obama not once but twice during it - and hearing Obama's own victory speech were special events indeed.

Yes, we hoped [this is a good piece with Professor Richard King from Nottingham University talking about Obama and the Democratic hopes he carries: it was produced a few days ahead of the election]. However, we also feared the impact of the queues, the voting problems with technology and claim/counter-claim for voters, and the dread we now have of pollsters getting things wrong.

In the end, all that was swept aside in a flurry of states opting to take their chance on the oratory and possibilities held forth by Obama.

To quote a phrase, "what's next?"

Monday, November 03, 2008

USA future

Many moons ago I was an A level politics students: for our second year we did 1/2 UK politics and 1/2 US. We had an election in the UK in 1983 (just before we started) and an election in the US whilst doing the two year course.

I've been fascinated by US politics ever since.

All of which is by way of saying that the next 48 hours as the US goes to the voting booths - and dear god we hope we won't have another recounting fiasco like 2000 - have got me very nervous.

I dare not believe that Obama has it in the bag, however much it feels momentous and dazzling; the prospect of Palin anywhere near real power scares me far more than words can express; the idea that pollsters could be wrong, so wrong, gives me the shakes.

And on top of this, a man has lost his grandmother, the person who bought him up. And whatever happens next, that loss will bite at Obama and his family for all of his future.

Whichever way you are thinking of voting dear US readers, at least vote. Don't be put off by polls, or queues. Vote.

And change will come. For better or for worse.

Fleet Foxes - Nottingham Trent University 2 November 2008

Fleet Foxes in Nottingham Nov 2 2008
Fleet Foxes mix Beach Boys and CSNY harmonies and produce their own special folk-inspired narratives to beautiful effect.

After booking for them at Birmingham (Friday 31st Oct*) we then found they would be coming to the more convenient location of Nottingham Trent Uni (Sunday 2 Nov). So, up went the Brum tickets for sale [Hi Adam!] and off we were planning for Nottingham.

Arriving mid-way through J.Tillman's set was a semi-dispiriting experience: though this was no particular fault of the singer. He was fine enough but battled with a hideous amount of audience chattering - I couldn't tell for sure if he was being ironic but he did at one stage thank the audience for being so attentive. Hurrumph: they bloody well weren't from where I was (at the time, the fringes to one side of the stage about 6-10 people back). A real shame because as a side project this was lovely work, but it was overshadowed by the audience's reaction.

Once he'd finished - and he'd even had accompaniment from the rest of the Foxes on a couple of tracks to almost zero interest from the crowd - I made sure I loudly declared my murderous intent should anyone consider spoiling the main act. Yaddering during a support is pretty unforgiveable: during the main act deserves serious action.

We moved forward, planting ourselves on row two near to speakers. I needn't have worried because whether it was down to my location or a genuine attentiveness from the audience, when Fleet Foxes came on, tuned up and began their giddying harmonies, the place fell to silence. It was a wonderful feast of choral beauty.

And boy do these guys rock!

Despite being souped up on cold medicine ("robo-tripping" as in Robutussin children's medicine) they were as tight as on record but with added lustre, knowing this was live. By the time they struck up the tear-inducing White Winter Hymnal it felt like being chorused by angels. And they were happy to engage with the audience too: there was plenty of banter (Meadowlarks got an airing to great acclaim following a request), a good deal of political mutterings, and some giggle-inducing rambling asides (socio-political). That said, we were there for the harmonies and the tunes and we got them in joyous abundance. Robin Pecknold offered up additional covers (Judee Sill for the 'Mojo audience' which mostly met with silence as an audience identifier though the song was lovely) and pretty much burst his cold-afflicted lungs with a heart stopping version of Oliver James. This was a very decent hour and 10 mins set - possibly longer as I wasn't looking at my watch - and given those colds, a heroic achievement.

This track, He Doesn't Know Why, possibly presents their harmonies - and the band - to best effect.

* the pictures pretty awful but to get a flavour of how well they sound live, this from Brum gives a good impression.