Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Pitchforks and flaming torches at dawn

The Telegraph has it that Gordon Brown could remain Prime Minister even if he loses the election.
http://bit.ly/acDfeh
Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, has it that its to prevent a run on the pound whilst coalitions and the hung parliament is dealt with.

But I reckon its bullshit, if Labour aren't the biggest party after the election and Brown is still somehow in power, then its going to be up to the people to hound him out of office by whatever means necessary. I suggest stocking up on pitchforks and flaming torches, there's gonna be a lynching come 7th May.
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Monday, 29 March 2010

Let the press be the press

There's this episode of The West Wing where the Bartlett administration realises its just been pussying around for the first eighteen months in office and whilst it has lots of great ideas, they usually just dip their toes in the water and don't follow through. To counter the malais, after some worthwhile plot points, they decide to be more audacious and "Let Bartlett be Bartlett".

I understand that the Press Complaints Commission is making inroads into ruling the blogosphere. Rod Liddel was being a little racist on the Spectator's blog and the Press Complaints Commission have censured him.

Wikipedia has it that in 2006 the PCC received a total of 3,325 complaints, yet in 2009 when they received more than 25,000 complaints about a single incident, it would not uphold the complaints.

Clearly after 385 years of free press in the UK, the entire existance of the PCC is superfluous, and just a passing fad from the 90s, like Britpop or baggy, so now is the time to get rid of the damned thing.

But how? Its funded by the newspapers themselves and receives nothing from the government except the threat that if the PCC didn't exist there would be a government controlled equivalent in place.

So its going to be a waiting game. As papers like The Times and The Independant slowly die off, the PCC's funding will decrease and they'll just wither.

Unless, of course, some other funding stream appears. Bloggers levy perhaps? ISP levy? Maybe just government handouts.
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Sunday, 28 March 2010

The School and Allo Darlin - Bush Hall

I was possibly a bit negative in my earlier review of The Loves Rocknroll Circus, they are one of my most favourite bands in the world, ever since a solemn oath I made to one of their original members in '97.

I mentioned that they keep swallowing members of other bands, Pocketbooks and Arthur and Martha, but on the other hand they also spin out bands too, such as tonight's headline act The School.

Who do I like better The School or The Loves? Its hard to say. Five years ago it would be teh luvs, but now, I'm not so sure.

Tonight the venue is Indiepop Central tonight, if I were more reckless I'd do a London Indiepop Eyespy blogpost, to my right is Camila from the WeePop record label, over to my left is Iain HDIF, and away behind is the mighty Hibbett, I think I even saw the cute one from Little My. I wish I'd had a shower this morning.

The lights dim a little, a lone chap takes to the stage, with guitar strapped on he approaches a MacBook, clicks a few things and tentatively throws himself into his set. He is Pagan Wanderer Lu.

Its noisy clanking stuff, with squelches, squeak, beeps and grinds. Drums and backing vox too. This is a guy who sure knows how to use GarageBands.

Some mighty deep songs, in the context of the universe what about the Mona Lisa, and some mighty shallow stuff about going to PizzaExpress. Imagine MJ Hibbett crossed with Denim and you'd be in the right brane.

Some touching moments, the new sound his guitar makes when he plays it wearing a wedding ring and how one of his pieces of kit broke on the way to the show so he explains he's playing lessy gadgety and more guitary than usual. Is this what Robbie IoMoPS would be like, thrust on stage on his own?

Suddenly, tonight feels like a 1995 Flyer gig without Zee. The lighting is red, familiar bands are on stage, (Facebook) friends all around and I'm crouched in a corner, head down in a notebook/blackberry. Christ, what is wrong with me?

I think a made a poor call in the toilets, the urinal is wide enough for two and not quite three gents, I chose wrong.

Second up are local favourites Allo Darling. Earlier today my niece visited a petting zoo and met some ducklings and some baby chickens, quite rationally called chicklings. So, clearly a baby star is a starling, and what do you call a baby Dalek? Darlin'.

They've been on tour with The School and are clearly loving it. Elizabeth Darling starts the set solo, just her, her ukulele and a tiny tiney ukulele capo. But soon joined by the rest of the band.

No Stephen Hawking, no You Shook Me All Night Long, no Henry Rollins Don't Dance. These are all classic songs from their repertoire, how long has it been since I last saw them, how many albums away have I drifted past. There must be a rational reason why they're not in the set?

The new temporary bass player was on fire, strutting his stuff, and everything. The usual guy is off on paternity leave. When he comes back they're gonna have to have some kind of bass-off, there can be only one.

Monster Bobby comes on for their duet, its seems more polished than last time I saw them, almost growing on me, he's got a little of the Divine Comedy about his voice here, but there's doesn't seem to be much chemistry between Bobby and Elizabeth.

Headlining tonight are The School, its not quite the final night of their tour, but its a big one. There's eight of them in the band now, Liz teh singer reckons is the final line up, but I still miss Spud on glockenspiel, although Guido playing tonight is pretty good. They have two violinists which ought to give for a richer sound than usual. Occasionally when I've seen them live before, they've been a little flat compared to the what I'd spent the day listening to on my iPod, but tonight they've hit the mark.

There's happy banter on stage, and joshing between band members. I sink into a happy place, its all glittery, sparkly and sweet. Some would say sickly sweet, but you get used to that.

The mixing is good and with more people on stage for backing vocal duties they're getting closer to the motown girl-group sound that always been just there under the surface.

Aw man, I've been writing this for hours and hours now, from scratching away at my 'berry at the gig, to lying in bed tapping away, and then the next day, still picking my nose trying to spool out enough text to fit the photies round.

And well, I can't do it, sure if I'd bought the album I could be having more of a listen and give the textures and subject matter a more thorough going-over, but I'm skint, and I'm not going to be buying any music if there's gigs to go to instead. Its a bit of a trade off.

Ah well, the show was good, getting home was a pain though, the underground stopped before I'd got all the way, so I emerged into the middle of nowhere in Harlesden, so there was much trudging and trying to fine stops serviced by night buses. Thank god I didn't go to the Come Out 2Nite night, or it would be daylight when I got home.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

LIPES - Game on!

I don't think there's anyone reading this who hasn't played London Indiepop Eyespy at least once in their life. The rules are here

I reckon this evening at The School and Allo Darlin gig at The Bush Hall. I scored 35 points, do I win?

I spotted these guys:-

  • Emma from Pocketbooks
  • Ian froom Pocketbooks
  • Nat Davis
  • Andy from Pocketbooks
  • Alice Love
  • String Bean Jen
  • MJ Hibbett
  • Monster Bobby
  • Ian HDIF
  • Nik from Moustache of Insanity
  • Camilla from WeePop
  • Simon Love
  • El Presidente

Hmm, these people I spotted and then remembered that I neglected to put them on the scorecard:-

  • Travis from Brontosaurus Chorus
  • Laura Palmer from Little My
  • Andrew the photographer

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Loves Rocknroll Circus - Jamm, Brixton

I stand in the centre of a dark room, months since was last in a position like this, a London indiepop show. The Loves to the right, Monster Bobby some way behind, Iain HDIF to my left and Mr Solo on stage. I am all alone in a room full of (facebook) friends, for I am shy and that's just fine.

Its The Loves's Rocknroll Circus thing, music and entertainment on stage.

I was watching the film Almost Famous yesterday for the first time, it didn't quite reinvigorate my belief in music, its been too long, but there was a little sparkle of was there then. Not 1979 in the film, but music scenes from the mid-90's until five months ago. The two hundred or so people in Jamm in Brixton don't quite work out the same as the stadiumfuls of people Stillwater played to. Besides, the fans in the film were half the age of the fans here tonight. The between band DJs put on Pulp's Babies, from sixteen years ago.

It was a bit of a rush job getting here, I debated whether to take public transport or drive for too long, and then spent too long driving here, so I missed the first few acts and I'm limited to one half pint of beer, when my shyness calls for gallons on booze to be overcome.

The first band I caught were King and The Olive Fields, I must have missed their better tracks cos it was a bit dreary for the last song or two, although for a few brief moments they sounded like the often rumoured Johnny Cash Joy Division covers band Johnny Division.

Next up was Mr Solo, former frontman of David Devant and His Spirit Wife. He has his finger on the pulse and his banter's good, but for all the theatrics I was rather disappointed that after all the faffing about setting up a projector, he only did one song.

On stage right now The Mai 68's are asking for help with the Guardian crossword between Dadaist songs. They're an art school ideal, even more so as a girl stood next to me at the front of the crowd is playing scrabble on her iPhone.

I preferred them when the vocals were lower down in the mix and you had to strain against the fuzz guitar to make out the lyrics. Sure there was a nice wigout at the end when the guitar let loose and noodled his ass off. But I've been following them for years since the Betsey Trotwood basement gig with Town Bike, when it was all smokey. Sure the glugging of pints of red wine is the same, and Indietracks 2008 was a high point, but the years of practising and playing have polished the grit from their set and I think its lost something for that.

To my right some blonde girl has the same camera as me and is videoing half the set, if she ever gets it on YouTube you can check out what I mean.

Imagine, if you will the song 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' by The Smiths, now imagine someone tap-dancing to it. It was a wonderful thing to behold, until the CD cut out halfway through, the dancer soldiered on to the crowd trying to sing along half remembered lyrics, but it was a one-joke act. 'How Soon Is Now?' would have been wonderful.

BobUnderexposed and KittenPainting are not here, according to Songkick they've seen The Loves more often than anyone else, I've seen them lots of times too, but maybe I can catch up.

The Loves' line-up may have changed since last time I saw them, they've swallowed half of Pocketbooks and and half of Arthur and Martha too. Alice on keyboards is looking mighty fine this evening, apart from Simon Loves' bow-tie no one else has really made an effort.

They're still playing 'Little Girl Blues', it still sounds great, but it was part of their original John Peel set a long time ago. I always preferred 'She'll Break Your Heart', the original version too before they cranked up the drums in '07.

There have been a few healthy changes of sound over the years and their smokey blues track 'Can you feel my heart beat (Boom Boom)' is monster track, should be available for download from their MySpace soon, but they've only cranked it up to eight, there's still three steps to go.

Crikey, that girl is still playing Scrabble on her iPhone. Who goes to a gig and stands right at the front and then plays Scrabble? Really? I mean Scrabble Sunday at The Hangover Lounge is all right, but this is Loves gig. Admittedly people are leaving, the place isn't as crowded as it was when I first came in, which is a shame, but understandable, its a school night, work tomorrow and it was a free gig.

Well, no work for me, just stabbing away at flickr photies. Here's a slideshow of all the gig photies I've taken in London since 2007. Its thrilling stuff, not quite a snapshot of the indiepop scene, more of a running trawl.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Budget 2010 - Working Tax Credits

Not much for me to say about today's budget in Parliament, except the Times has an infograph saying the government are paying out £3.9billion and taking in £3.3billion. I'm not sure what the context is, but it looks like they're spending beyond their means.

Anyhoo I had a go at the BBC's budget calculator, and cos of my car, I'm about £10 better off but because of my Working Tax Credits I'm about £400 worse off. Not cos of the budget, mind, but cos I'm overclaiming this financial year. Now I'm on £54 a week, next financial year what I'll get is a lot lower, £14 a week. I'll have to tighten my belt a bit more.

There's something really wrong with Working Tax Credits. If you're on a low income you get paid money by the government, but you also pay income tax. At £10,200 annual gross earnings it reaches parity, you pay the same amount in Income Tax and National Insurance that your receive back in Working Tax Credits.

People who understand these things better than I will tell you that for low earners the marginal tax rate is near 100%. I'm not quite sure what that means, but I reckon if I get a wee pay rise for my £10,000 job, in return for working harder or more responsibility, the amount I take home barely increases. Working Tax Credits are a disincentive for promotion and hard work.

The personal tax allowance has frozen in this budget, so if I get an inflationary pay rise, that'll be taxed more.

Now the thing that's nagging in my head is that I used to feel guilty about claiming Working Tax Credits, they're a grubby con of a financial measure, so for months I didn't claim it at all. I'm not the only low earner not claiming.

Last year, 3rd November 2009, Hansard has Alistair Darling saying amongst some groups take-up is 81%. Wikipedia has info from 2004 that of the 7 million people entitled to Working Tax Credit, 2 million do not claim it.

So in terms of the net amount of tax/NI/working tax credits that the government gets, if you're earning that breakeven point of £10,200, the government gets nothing. But if 19% of people on £10,200 don't claim Working Tax Credits, then the government gets free money, and the people lose out.

In another world, if the government abolished Working Tax Credits and just raised the personal allowance to the break even point, there'd be no one losing out at that break even point. The government wouldn't be able skim off from people who didn't take up the Tax Credits.

And that's why they're there, to provide cracks for people to lose money down.

**UPDATE**

Time passes, I get home and feel less guilty about spending time drawing graphs. Here, I was playing with the BBC Budget Calculator, and thought you might like this if, like me, you earn less than £14,000 a year.


Gross Income % you keep
£4,000 167.75%
£6,000 144.65%
£8,000 119.21%
£9,000 109.30%
£9,500 105.13%
£10,000 101.37%
£10,250 99.64%
£11,000 95.45%
£12,000 89.48%
£13,000 84.90%
£14,000 82.74%

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Raising a heavy head

A few days ago, after a moan from the missus, I resolved to write some kind of feminist blog-post, or pimp some feminism story on Facebook, just anything to get me feminist brownie points. I was briefly going to write about fat, cos its a feminist issue, but then couldn't be bothered.

Until today, when I see from all over the internet that Size 16 Chloe Marshall has made it through to the Miss England Finals.

Sadly this is old news, everyone's linking to a BBC Newsbeat report from 2008, so its rising up the Most Popular Stories ranking.

As the internet goes crazy at the thought of a curvy bint in a bikini, greasy fingers double-clicking, flecks of spittle slowly oozing down chins, the BBC story becomes ever popular. But it was a long time ago. It was 2008. She didn't win, she came second, and then got signed up to a modelling agency specialising in curvy chicks, or 'BBW' as the fetish sites would call people of her size.

The BBC really ought to do something about this, like putting the date of articles in the most popular list, or some kind of timecap, anything to stop the past trending like this.

Chloe's got her own website and everything now, and its all professional like, with photies of Chloe with plenty of slap on. Alas the blog's not been updated since October and she only posted four times last year.

If you want to see her in person, she's judging the finals of Miss Natural Curves 2010 at the Civic Hall in Bedworth on Saturday 24th April 2010.

**UPDATE**
Oh Jesus Christ! Even topical news website The Daily Mash is punting this a new story in their piece MEN PUZZLED BY DEBATE OVER BOUNCY GIRLS
As the first size 16 contestant prepares for the Miss England beauty pageant, women said it was an important breakthrough while men said they could not imagine the circumstances in which this lovely big girl would be deemed unattractive.

Helen Archer, an official woman, said: "This is the culmination of years of determined struggle against a male dominated culture that enslaves women and demands they conform to a perfect ideal of sexual attractiveness."

But Nathan Muir, a completely normal person in every way from Hatfield, stressed: "What the hell are you talking about?
It was two years ago, get over it.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Photographer locations at The Battle of Bolton

Fond as I am of Bolton, I was somewhat saddened to here of the trouble there over the weekend. Two baying mobs decided to congregate in the town square and have a ruckus cos that's what they're into.

Flickr has a handful of photographers on location and I can't stop myself from putting together a google map of their locations across the day.

If you click through to the larger version, the photies are listed in time order, so you can follow the progress of each photographer. To be honest the most exciting point is around 1:00pm where a smoke bomb goes off and some UAF bigwig is arrested, dragged off and has his toothbrush confiscated.

View The Battle of Bolton in a larger map
Its a bit of a work in progress, but I'm finding it immensely satisfying.

Any suggestions about improvements I could make, warmly appreciated.

The Just Joans - Stereo, Glasgow

I've just discovered two new Just Joans videos up on YouTube. They were filmed by Colin BMX Rejects at Stereo, I think it was the gig where they supported The Hidden Cameras the other day.

This track's called 'Stuart Had a Dirty Book', it seems to be a riff off Belle and Sebastian's Judy and the Dream of Horses, its a song about masturbation.


This is 'Why Are We So lonely, Steven?', probably the same Steven who owes a pint in 'Friday Afternoons Down the Union'

Sunday, 21 March 2010

National Jury Nullification Awareness Day

I have just discovered the concept of 'Jury Nullification' and it sounds wonderful.

Over on BoingBoing, on of the most popular blogs on the web, Cory Doctorow has been covering a case where Peter Watts, a critically acclaimed sci-fi writer friend of his, ran into a bit of trouble returning to Canada from the USA. US border guards stopped his vehicle, started searching it, punched him in the face and ordered him to the ground, as he was in a bit of a daze he was too slow complying with their command, that's a felony offence in the US so he may be going to jail for two years.

Somewhere in comments someone mentioned the concept of Jury Nullification, whereby if the law is an ass, the jury can find the defendant innocent even though he broke the law. Apparently its an ancient legal tradition, on of the ways laws get adjusted and keep up to date with the times, except judges in the US aren't allowed to advise the juries on it's existence and its against the law to mention it.

Not so in the UK, judges just don't mention it as it diminishes their power, so its not in their interest for juries to know about it.

Anyhoo, its starts to appear in the comments section of more blogs in regards to the Peter Watts case, and the subsequent comments just highlight how little known it is.
There has been much talk of appeal, and of jury nullification. My understanding is that appeals are only considered on procedural grounds. I don’t know much about jury nullification, and the conflicting opinions I’ve seen here don’t leave me much the wiser.
From Tdawwg, a BoingBoing commenter
Jury nullification due to morally queasy jurors fills me with terror, honestly. Not nearly as much terror as what the guards did to Watts, but enough: anarchy is a horrible substitute for creeping totalitarianism.
Understandably, the fear being that regional prejudices and the voice of the mob could be bad, as commenter StrangeFriend says:-
I can see your point, though. Southern juries refused to convict white men for killing 'uppity' black men.
Its not perfect, but in the UK where the government are churning out so many new laws and we're slowly approaching living in a totalitarian state, it would be a useful too for the people to have at their disposal.

Blogger Avogadro's Number makes this point neatly
Zero tolerance: applying a law to every possible instance, and applying the maximum amount of force allowed, without regard to circumstances.

Jury nullification: negating the zero tolerance effect by considering circumstances and choosing not to enforce an outrageously applied law.
There is actually a precedence for Jury Nullification in the UK, as wikipedia informs us
In 1982, during the Falklands War, the British Royal Navy sank an Argentine Cruiser – the "ARA General Belgrano". A civil servant (government employee) named Clive Ponting leaked two government documents concerning the sinking of the cruiser to a Member of Parliament (Tam Dalyell) and was subsequently charged with breaching section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. The judge in the case directed the jury to convict Ponting as he had clearly contravened the Act by leaking official information about the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War. His main defense, that it was in the public interest that this information be made available, was rejected on the grounds that "the public interest is what the government of the day says it is", but the jury nevertheless acquitted him, much to the consternation of the Government.
But that was the best part of thirty years ago. I fear there are too few more recent examples of 12 people knocking back a law they find unjust.

If the government and the courts aren't going to make people aware of the concept of Jury Nullification, then its up to the internet.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Financial Woes

I work a fifty hour week, sometimes night shifts, sometimes painfully early shifts and sometimes evening shifts, and its not enough. I get paid a chunk above minimum wage, but I racked up huge credit card debts during a few months of redundancy, so its now impossible to earn enough.

I was thinking I need to get a job that pays more, or get pay rise at the place I'm at. But with Working Tax Credits, I'm beginning to fear such a think. If I earn more, my tax credits go down, so there's no net benefit, just more work.

Mark Wadsworth covers such a thing here
Don't forget that the income-tax free personal allowance is only £6,475 (and the National Insurance threshold is even lower than that), so you start paying income tax and National Insurance (total 31% of your wages) long before you have reached a level which could be fairly considered to be 'out of poverty'. So the impact of this is the equal and opposite of 'making work pay' and pushes as many back into poverty as Tax Credits claim to lift out.
...
There is little correlation between Tax Credits and tax paid, but as ever, let me point out that a single earner claiming the 30-hour Tax Credits rate who is earning £195 a week is paying £23.45 a week in income tax and National Insurance and is, in theory, entitled to £23.14 a week in Tax Credits (TBMT, Table 1.1b).
Raising the Personal Allowance is an issue that both sides of the non-political spectrum can agree on. Its the only thing that'll help my finances at the moment.

Cos changing jobs will only work if I do something that pays a step change more money than what I'm on now, rather than just a little bit more, and give my skills, I'm not going to find such a thing in this part of the country.

Live From Wembley #2

I've been threatening it for ages, to record an album, Chris Gilmour plays The Songs of Kenickie. Maybe a whole album is optimistic, so here's me in my squat playing a dreary cover of Come Out 2Night.

Could Drear-Pop be a whole new genre I can spearhead?

Comments welcome.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Predators

Eeep!! New Predator movie, from the orginal 1994 Robert Rodriguez script:-

Man kicked off train

I'm not sure if it really counts as great publicity, but you can't exist in the UK without having read somewhere that Tommy Shaw, bass player with The Magic Mushrooms, was kicked off a train because he was writing a setlist for a forthcoming gig, including the item 'killers' shorthand for a cover sof a song by The Killers.

Whilst this story just highlights the stupidity of jobsworths and anti-terrorism in the UK, it doesn't do much for the band. Most news reports mention Tommy plays in a band, but then failto give either the name or any forthcoming gigs.

From their MySpace page, here's a video of them playing a cover of Supergrass's Sun Hits The Sky


Sun hits the sky

The Magic Mushrooms | MySpace Music Videos

Its played with competance and a bit of backbone, which is reassuring, and the girl is kind of cute.

They have a healthy schedule of gigs, mostly the same pubs in the Portsmouth area:-
26 Mar 2010 - The Tap, Portsmouth
28 Mar 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
3 Apr 2010 - Hampshire Rose, Portsmouth
23 Apr 2010 - Centurion Pub, Havant
24 Apr 2010 - Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
30 Apr 2010 - Lord Chichester, Portsmouth
1 May 2010 - George & Dragon, Portsmouth
9 May 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
15 May 2010 - Golden Eagle, Portsmouth
4 Jun 2010 - The Colonial Bar, Horndean
12 Jun 2010 - George & Dragon, Portsmouth
13 Jun 2010 - The Tap, Portsmouth
19 Jun 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
26 Jun 2010 - The Tap, Portsmouth
2 Jul 2010 - Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
17 Jul 2010 - Golden Eagle, Portsmouth
7 Aug 2010 - Rifle Club, Portsmouth
13 Aug 2010 - The Colonial Bar, Horndean
14 Aug 2010 - George & Dragon, Portsmouth
21 Aug 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
4 Sep 2010 - Lord Chichester, Portsmouth
2 Oct 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
9 Oct 2010 - Golden Eagle, Portsmouth
13 Nov 2010 - The Pelham Arms, Portsmouth
20 Nov 2010 - George & Dragon, Portsmouth
11 Dec 2010 - Golden Eagle, Portsmouth
Sadly none of these show up on the gig listings site Songkick, so its almost as if they don't exist. Similarly, the only Magic Mushrooms that Last.fm has is the 1960s psychedelic band from Pennsylvania, and furthermore YouTube only has the earlier Mushrooms too.

I think what I'm trying to say is that they're just a bit pants at capitalising on this new found publicity.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Where do they find the time

So Unison put out this video against the idea of cuts in public spending, saying that frontline services would be affected.

In two weeks its had around 3,000 views.

Soon after the Taxpayers Alliance put out a spoof of it, replacing the titles of front line staff with the various non-jobs that could be cut without affecting front line services

In five days its had 20,500 views, clearly the more successful and more viral of the two.

Politics Uploaded reports that a spat has broken out with Unison spinning that its good news for them. A quote in the report caught my eye:-
But Unison isn’t taking the criticism lying down.

A spokeswoman told Politics Uploaded: “We should be flattered the Taxpayers’ Alliance are so worried by Unison’s strong message that they spend so much time and effort trying to rubbish it”

In the 21st century, video editing is easy, and quick, I can do it on my wee netbook. Making a spoof video doesn't take time and effort, it takes two hours.

If Unison thinks that doing such things takes any significant amount of time and resources, then truly they're relics from an earlier era, their members should be questioning whether their membership fees are being used efficiently or effectively.

When its easier to rebuild it from scratch

Via @Unpopular I found myself watching some Clay Shirky video the other day (http://www.shirky.com/herecomeseverybody/2008/04/looking-for-the-mouse.html). Whilst there are some wonderful concepts in it, such as the idea of using a 'wikipedia' as a unit of human effort (the equivalent of a weekend's tv viewing in the US), there was a wee throwaway remark from a Brazilian professor, Vasco Furtado, who was building a wiki crime map on google maps. The remark was that although the information exists out there with the government, it was "actually easier to try to rebuild it from scratch than to try and get it out of the authorities."

Sure, Freedom of Information has made things a little easier in the UK, but reading Tyler's Burning Our Money today, http://burningourmoney.blogspot.com/2010/03/unemployment-whats-really-going-on.html and the torturous calculations to figure out what unemployment in the UK actually is, it reminded me of the same thing, that its easier to build the information yourself than to try to get accurate information from the state.

There should be clear charts of this sort of thing on the government's homepage, not subterfuge and smoke and mirrors, trying to polish turds.
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Leading Lib Dem Voice

Did I do this?

For almost a fortnight I've been banging on about the Political Compass and wondering where the UK's political parties are located within it, and now Lib Dem Voice have launched a new site:
How Liberal / Authoritarian is your MP?

Liberal Democrat Voice has identified 10 key votes from the 2005-10 Parliament in order to rank all MPs according to how liberal or authoritarian their record is. All MPs are marked out of 100: the higher their score the more authoritarian they are. The lower their score the more liberal is their voting record.
Interesting stuff, I'm wondering if by going through loads of votes on TheyWorkForYou you could actually plot a fuller compass, rather than just the y-axis as LibDem Voice have done.

Well, LibDem Voice haven't actually plotted the y-axis, so I'll do it:-
Its not the most gracefull of bell curves, well,not a bell curve at all, you can clearly see the jackbooted authoritarian hordes on the right of the graph and the anarchistic free-thinking mob at the bottom.

Contrast this with this plot of the y-axis of 200 random folk off of the internet bragging about their political compass score as I've previous harvested.

Different shape graph completely. Is that the effect of whips, or parliamentary democracy, dividing folk so cleanly.

I'm gonna have a go at building this from scratch myself.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Moaning about the price of petrol

Oh, where did I read about people being concerned that the average price of petrol was going over £1.20 per litre? I'm not too concerned. A decade ago it was £1 a litre, there were protests and gnashing and wailing.

Inflation's broadly 2.5% so petrol ought to be around £1.30 a litre.

What concerns me more is that petrol is one of these things where through taxes and duty, the government gets more than 50% of what you pay, the supply chain getting the product out if the ground and into the car gets less than half of the price.

The government doesn't put the price up cos they want you to stop using petrol, but cos they know you value the petrol far higher than the supply chain charges, and they can skim this off.

There's a whole host of thing out there, like petrol, where the government gets more than the supply chain:-

Tobacco
Wine, spirits, beer
High income earners

Hmm, its a bit obvious really, but just kind of disconcerting.
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Latest dirt on Brent Central PPCs

Keen as I am to ensure I vote for the best candidate at the forthcoming election, I'm going to be keeping tabs on my local candidates.

Dawn Butler - Labour
LibDem Voice presents has a quote from the Evening Standard and a neat round-up of her misdeeds
Ms Butler has claimed £66,304 since being elected in 2005 for her constituency home in Wembley – despite having another property in Stratford. When the Standard challenged Ms Butler (left) on this by knocking on the door of her (publicly-funded) constituency home, she told our reporter: “I totally resent you coming to my private home. Have some respect. How dare you.”
Of course Dawn Butler is no stranger to The Voice, what with the unfortunate incident of forgetting who your local MP is, the disappearing statement, questions over Dawn Butler’s attendance record in Parliament, not to mention Dawn Butler’s highly unusual approach to local newspapers, as demonstrated more than once.
Sachin Rajput - Conservative
Local blog Not The Barnet Times goes through Barnet Councillor's expenses and find Sachin to be troughing somewhat:
Additionally, Sachin Rajput claimed £686.25 for office furniture & equipment, making him the second most expensive councillor (excluding allowances) in the London Borough of Barnet with a total expense claim of £1,671.55 - just a fraction behind Mike Freer’s £1,687.74.
This doesn't bode well.

Sarah Teather - LibDems
Councillor James Powney of Kensal Green reckons she represents the LibDem's hypocrisy
...the hypocrisy of Sarah Teather and the Liberal Democrats. They play to the Left when they want votes in Brent because most of the southern part of the Borough is naturally Labour leaning. But when they get into power they put a Conservative like Bob Blackman in charge of finances, and he then uses the position to do things like bankrupt people for very small amounts of Council Tax arrears, which the Liberal Democrats publicly claim to oppose.
His opinion's a bit to party political for my tastes.

Shahrar Ali - Green
No dirt as such to dish on this chap, but he does seem to enjoy being part of baying mobs, is that a crime?

It would be neat to see where these people stand on the Political Compass, don't you think?

Graphs on XKCD

A truly great strip today on the internet's finest webcomic XKCD

But his numbers are wrong on some of the graphs.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The political space of the compass

I've slung up my spreadsheet onto google docs and hopefully this graph and form combo belowshould automatically update when you fill in new information.



Sunday, 14 March 2010

Cultural artefacts of Immigration

My blogpost today was going to be a reaction to Raedwald's thing about anger rising. I could understand his frustrations, but felt he was wrong about immigration.

Despite my limitless creativity and degree in manufacturing, I have a crap job, working crap hours doing something a trained monkey could do with little training. On the shop floor of my factory, there's so few natives you could count them on the fingers of one hand, well, one finger. The rest are not born in the UK.

If only I'd learnt Portugese and some middle eastern languages at school instead of French and Russian, then I'd be able to engage a little more. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against my cohorts here, I just can't join any conversations with them. Football doesn't count.

Anyhoo, I just had an almost surreal experience. In one of the rooms five chaps are standing around waiting patiently for the end of their shift, having finished their allotted work for the day. One is seeking a pen, asking each person in turn if they have a pen they can give him. He needs to write something.

In the second room I was asked if I have any kids. No. Am I married. No. How old am I. 30 (well 31, now I think about it).

The gentleman who asked pshawed, I should be well married by now, with two kids. And went on to demand to know why not. I explained I had no money, which seemed reasonable enough to me. My debts are huge, and only decreasing painfully.

Its a lame excuse on reflection. For my culture its fine, but for the chaps I work with, a wife and kids are things you acquire early and don't need money for.

The gentleman pointed out I do have a job, so being skint isn't an issue, and I was at a loss.

So this is my point about immigration, just little things, that seperates them and us. I feel I need to be able to support a family before I get a family, for them, they feel they need to get a family first before needing to support it. I suspect they're winning, whilst I'm waiting for my debts to go.

I shrugged and shuffled back to the first room. The penless chap asked me if I had a pen. No, sorry. Could I get him one. Maybe. Could I bring it tomorrow. Sure. He said he'd wait.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Brent Central PPCs

Right, so the election's in six or seven weeks, I think I live in Brent Central, my candidates will be:-

Dawn Butler - Labour - current MP for Brent Souths - she has one house in Stratford and one in Wembley, they're about equidistant from Westminister, so of course, we pay for the expensive one.

Sarah Teather - LibDems - Current MP for Brent East - Ended upon The Telegraph's Saints list in the expenses scandal

Sachin Rajput - Conservative - Brent Council's Cabinet Member for Adults since December 2009

Shahrar Ali - Green - Wrote the "Why Vote Green" book for Biteback

No sign of a UKIP PPC yet or other parties.

I think I'll wait for other candidates to come forward before I make any kind of decision.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The DVD boxset

I'm up to watching the last disk of season 2 of The West Wing.

DVD boxsets are my little vice. There's this Just Joans song called Ma Baby (He's Boring), there's a line in it where Katie pines that "He's bought another boxset". That's me, I keep buying boxsets, not until I've finished the last one mind, I buy them consecutively.

It possibly started with Twin Peaks, I'd had a couple of Season 1 episodes on VHS from the nineties, but they became hard to find, besides Channel 5 repeated the season in the middle of the decade. I vaguely recall from the baggy, Madchester days of 1991 that season 2 was far superior, and waited patiently for it to be released.

That moment came with great celebration in 2007. I bought it, Region 1, broke my DVD drive and watched it in a weekend.

This is where I discovered something terrible about boxsets, TV shows are designed to be watched at weekly intervals, to watch an entire season in a far greater time span will never be the same as the original experience. Twin Peaks season 2 is a lot cheesier than I remember, sure its deep and fantastic, edgy and surreal, but cheesy. The comic sidekick from Hercules gets entombed in a giant chess pawn.

It was probably a better experience in the nineties, when I was an adolescent obsessed with a girl called Laura, reading the Twin Peaks Access Guide and The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Copper. This one time I was chatting to a girl who'd read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.

Then again I was going through a rocky period in 2007 when I watched Twin Peaks season 2 over a weekend.

At about the same time that I moved to London in the August I got season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. A friend off of the internet was studying Buffy at university and often ran Facebook updates on it. I was a big fan of Buffy the first time round with the movie and then the second time round with the TV series.

Almost a decade after Twin Peaks, Buffy was a lot better for watching over a weekend. Actually I think I watched it over the course of a week. A year or so later I gave the pack to Sheffield based acoustic pop singer Pete Green who was similarly embarking on a Buffy odyssey. I got up to season 3 before redundancy struck

I really fancied Eliza Dushku the first time round, the second time round too, but she was a little young for me by then. Well, when I watched it she was a bit too young for me, but in real life she's only a year younger than me. She should so have gotten her own spin-off series.

So late last year, back in full time employment, I got back on the wagon. The later seasons are masterpieces.

At this point I'm not sure where I heard it or read it, some random blog, possibly the radio, someone said that DVD boxsets are this century's novel. Rather than a movie which has you for two hours, and has to fit everything in to that limited time. With 24 hours worth of show, for each season, your get a far richer experience. You can embrace the characters, you can grow and develop with them. Graphic novels are so 90's.

I used to be into comics. In '93 I decided I hadn't done comics enough and proceeded to buy around five hundred Superman comics starting from '93 and working forwards and backwards. Got as far back as 1984 before I grew bored and had to go to university. There were brief forrays into Preacher comics and HellBlazer but comics kind of petered out for me.

Back in Bolton in my youth there were two or three comics shops, a handful of comic shops in Manchester. Glasgow had a handful, I used to stop by Forbidden Planet almost every day and flick through what was going on.

In 2006 I helped a girlfriend move from Glasgow to London, knowing that would be the end of our relationship. A year later in HellBlazer there was the Red Right Hand storyline, it was set in Glasgow the same weekend I was out of town. Maybe that killed off my love of comics.

Then again, when I read my hero Bill Drummond's book 17 in summer 2008, there's a pair of chapters where he's sitting out on the balcony of his flat in Shoreditch, musing, the same weekend I was unloading a Ford Galaxy. I haven't bought a Drummond product since.

I digress.

I'm up to the last disk of West Wing season 2. Its got its moments.

The first time round I didn't watch it regularly on TV. Just occasionally, and then around season 3 I was too busy to watch it at all. Around season 4 I just started getting the boxsets and gave up any thought of it being a regularly scheduled TV show. I couldn't bear the thought of watching a cliffhanger ending then, not only having to wait a week for the next episode, but possibly missing the subsequent episode and then inevitably waiting for the boxset to come out.

Hmm, so that's how I've ended up with seasons 4 and 5 on my shelf for months and months before acquiring season 1 thru 3.

My train got derailed, I watched up to season 6 of Buffy, acquiring them for between £10 and £15 each. Season 7 is twice the price of the others, or it was. HMV still has it for £35, Amazon's brought it down to £17. I'll wait a little longer.

My Amazon wishlist now includes most of Star Trek, all series, and most of 24.

I feel really uncomfortable putting Doctor Who on my Amazon wishlist. It doesn't start at the start, well, it does, but then it peters out again as the BBC deleted a vast number of episodes, lost for ever.

This one time in the nineties, over a Easter half-term, a school friend, Timbo, lent me his entire collection of Doctor Who videos, every video that had been released by the BBC by that time in the decade, and I watched them all, almost thirty year's worth of seasons.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Just Joans - London PopFest 2010

I missed them myself, on the night in question I was running late for a works dinner, feeling sorry for myself, about to drive off to Essex and I had no ticket for the show, so I missed the gig, and I can't believe its been three weeks and I never checked if anyone had any videos of Motherwell's finest The Just Joans:-

Friday Afternoons


Hideous Accident


Virgin Lips


All the Umbrellas in London


Grant Kelly

Londoners want more CCTV?

My wikio ranking has slipped below the 2000 mark, my blog is dreary and irrelevant, irregularly updated and broadly depressing. Maybe it accurately echos my life. Anyhoo, I strive...

The Willesden and Brent Times has an article about how councillors want a shurbbery, and are spending thousands of pounds on such things:-
COUNCILLORS are splashing out thousands of pounds on flowers and plants while snubbing calls for an outdoor play area for the borough's children, it has been claimed.

Furious people living in the Preston ward have slammed Cllr Bob Blackman, Cllr Alan Mendoza and Cllr Harshadbhai Patel, alleging the trio have allocated their neighbourhood working funds on greenery instead of listening to their views.

...

Mr Soon is enraged that while children living in flats on Hirst Crescent Estate, in North Wembley, are banned from playing on the grass outside their home, the councillors are spending £7,000 on shrubbery.
Have I mislead you in the title of this blogpost?

No
Cllr Mendoza went back to residents to explain what we are doing and why.

"We want to create the village-type atmosphere that is in other parts of the ward, which includes tidying up our roundabouts that have been neglected for many years.

"In addition to that, we are putting together a football league for youths and installing CCTV as suggested by residents.
London already has too many CCTV cameras, more per head than any other city in the world, and how's the city's crime rate, about the same as everywhere else. What on earth gives any resident the idea that more CCTV is a good thing? And how come these councillors show such poor judgement in paying any attention to such a suggestion.

Do I even get to vote for these people?

Turning the page on the Political Compass

I'm a big fan of graphs and spreadsheets, this you already knew. I feel that the future can in some ways be saved through the use of these tools, hence my interest in the Political Compass.

I've scoured the internet, seeking out the phrase 'political compass' on Twitter, I've dredged the depths of forums, blogs and blog comments. Over a hundred points in my swarm. The Political Compass has an application on Facebook, its just a repeat of the website quiz, but with the added bonus of showing you where you're friends are on the compass if they too have taken the test.

Here's graph, much like the one I posted on Wednesday, but with more points plotted on it, of the swarm that I've scraped off of the internet. The average point is marked with a star.
It does seem to be a bit biased towards the lower left quadrant, and the spectrum if it was just a line would be one which tilts from lower left to upper right, but about 30 degrees I reckon.

Here's a frequency distribution graph showing the bulges on the Left - Right and Libertarian - Authoritarian spectra:-

I tried to get a bit more balance in my data by going to where I thought I'd find upper left people, the white pride St0rmfr0nt forum, but well, they're a broad church with folk spread out all over the compass. Anyhoo, I've figured out the average point for a couple of the 'constituencies', here you go.

There ain't many authoritarian groups on the compass, the folk on the internet don't really go in for that sort of thing I guess. Then again, I doubt that its even possible to score the same as Hitler or Stalin.

Still, I haven't found any actual politicians or PPCs who've taken the test and published their scores, so why are we stuck with such authoritian parties?

**UPDATE**
I thought I'd given up on this one, but I couldn't stop myself from ploughing through google, and found this comment from WDCRob on a random messageboard:-
The fact that there aren't really any societies in that bottom right corner strongly suggests that it's an unstable place to be in terms of societal evolution.
Its an interesting suggestion for genuinely libertarian political parties. It makes me think of that bit in "A Brief History of Time" where Stephen Hawking claims that life would be impossible in a world whose spatial dimension is other than three. He says that a two dimensional dog would “fall apart along its intestine.”

Maybe WDCRob has a point, the bottom right corner is incompatible with political success.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The political compass swarm

I did the Political Compass test again and scored thusly:-
Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: 1.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.41


I've drifted towards the centre a bit since last time, but I'm still in the right quadrant, which is reassuring.

Anyhoo, seeing as I love graphs and data and stuff, I thought I'd venture out onto the internet and see how my position compares to other people. I've scraped data from Twitter, the blogsphere and a few forums, to generate this graph of the swarm.

Being the internet, the swarms in the Libertarian side of the authoritarian/libertarian spectrum and it all tilts a bit towards the left wing I'm not sure why that is. The wee blue star represents the average point of the swarm.

Compared to where the main UK political parties stand, the swarm is really under-represented, with only the dreaded Greens within the swarmspace.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Audacity of Change

Devil's Kitchen covers a piece by a former minister in New Zealand, but how they slashed socialism in the seventies with a series of 'bold, strong moves' ('bold and strong'?). Other bloggers have been showering the Kitchen with praise over this.

Blogoir highlights a few lines of the piece:-
...for every dollar we were spending on education, 70 cents was being swallowed up by administration.

...

...we immediately eliminated all of the Boards of Education in the country...

...

We converted 4,500 schools to this new system all on the same day...
Why can't that sort of thing happen here? Cos no one is audacious enough.

Well, the Libertarian's policy of abolishing Income Tax is an order of magnitude more audacious, but they/we're a few elections away from a landslide.

So what of the main parties in Westminster right now? Nothing.

Sure, three years ago there was George Osborne mooting the abolishment of Inheritance Tax. But that was a different world, that was before the recession.

Here, this is one of my favourite pie charts in the world:-

It shows projected tax receipts for 2008-2009. God knows how it turned out in reality, but going by that pie chart, Inheritance Tax brings in 2% as much as Income Tax, which is within the margin of error of how much Income Tax actually brings in. The UK could get rid of Inheritance Tax completely and no one would miss it in the great heap of taxes, its that insignificant.

The only people who'd miss it would be those involved with collecting it.

Elsewhere on the internet, Mark Wadsworth is using the phrase "white heat of techology" a bit more than strictly necessary.

The Tories are tinkering around the edges of National Insurance in an effort to help small business.
Mark Prisk, the shadow minister for trade and industry speak about the changes that the Conservatives will make if they win the coming general election. They will give small businesses a one-year break on national insurance contributions for their first ten employees. This should go some way to encouraging start-ups to hire employees again.

Alternatively Mark Wadsworth suggests:-
Thinking on, if they want to 'incentivise entrepreneurship', why not just scrap capital gains tax, which raises bugger all in the grander scheme of things?

Looking back at the wonderful pie chart of destiny, Capital Gains Tax gets us £5billion, that is 3% as much as Income Tax, still a margin of error level of money. The only people who'd miss it would be those whose jobs was collecting it. Capital Gains Tax is piss in the wind, its a rounding error. Its as much money as a project coming in on time on budget or late and over budget, the latter happening more often than not, so why not just get rid of Capital Gains Tax and make life more attractive.

I think my point is that abolishing taxes completely is far better than tinkering round the edges. The Libertarian's abolishment of Income Tax is a fine thing, but then the state would still be collecting dozens of other less significant taxes, employing people to and cocking it up as much as humans generally cock things up.

Abolishing taxes completely makes the state apparatus smaller, which is a good thing.

So please, please can some political party likely to gain seats, Labour, Tory, LibDem, UKIP and the regions, please, please just abolish some of the minor taxes.

Dealing with dogs

I gotta say, after reading about the new ruminations on reintroducing dog licenses and pet attack insurance, it does seem that Raedwald's reminding of where the responsibility lies is worth noting.
The mouth-breathing semi literate thug with the neck-tattoos and the pitbull isn't an owner-occupier. The chances are he's housed in council or housing association rented accommodation. He has no right to keep a dog unless at the landlord's consent - or face eviction.

The answer to 'weapon dogs' isn't yet more unworkable legislation from the central State, it's for councils and social landlords to do their job.

I'm pretty sure that for the past ten years of living in private accommodation, none of my landlords have allowed any pets, not that I've had any urge to get one. I can barely afford to provide for myself and the missus, another mouth to feed with have to come later.

So likewise, if the state wishes to reduce the number of dangerous dogs then all they have to do is start saying "no pets allowed".

If its a penniless pensioner with a shih tzu for companionship, then the council can make them an exception.

But other than that, when the housing officer comes round, either the dog goes or the owners get evicted.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Has Nick Hogan been released?

I used to be an underage drinker, fifteen years ago, tumbling around the mean streets of Bolton. I've lost count of the number of times I was found lovingly wrapped round a lamppost in a pool of my own vomit (it was either once or twice) or fingered a similarly drunk underager in the churchyard round the corner (twice, possibly three times)

The main school pubs for my lot were Ye Olde Man and Scythe and later The Malt and Hops. The Malt and Hops was a smaller ale bar attached to The Swan pub on the corner of Bradshawgate and Churchgate. I went in there three times, twice because Timbo said the girl who I fancied off of my school bus was in there (she was once) and once cos I was going to try to smoke.

Even to this day, the smell of cigarettes in pubs brings a smile to my face, it reminds me of being young. Some time in May 2007, I escaped from smoking ban Scotland to have a nervous breakdown, down a bottle of vodka, drove to London and went to a gig. The stench of Silk Cut was beautiful, at that moment I knew for sure my destiny lay in London.

Anyhoo, Last time I went to Bolton, The Swan was closed. It's former landlord is a chap called Nick Hogan. He's in a spot of bother at the moment, bankrupt and in prison for refusing to pay a fine. He was fined for allowing smoking on his premises.

Think about that for a moment. Not fined for smoking, but for allowing it. The smokers, they weren't fined, as they had been allowed to smoke, but allowing them to smoke in licensed premised was the illegal act, not the smoking itself. Punished for not joining the police.

The Bolton Evening News has a fine array of pieces about the Nick Hogan case
When Bolton Council brought the prosecution he pleaded not guilty to five counts of failing to prevent people from smoking in his pubs and four of obstructing council officers.

District Judge Timothy Devas (ah, the same Tim Devas from the Nottingham Police dog handler thing - I&A) found him guilty of four charges of allowing people to smoke.

He was cleared of one count because he was not on the premises at the time, and he was found not guilty of four obstruction charges.

If a fine is not paid, court enforcement officers follow it up, and if it remains outstanding the case will be brought back to court for magistrates to give an alternative sentence.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “The court’s decision marks the end of a lengthy process and proves that, ultimately, flouting the law can have severe repercussions.

Bolton Council's political make up is thus:-
Lab (minority) - 27
Conservation - 23
LibDem - 9
Other - 1

Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon summoned up the massed ranks of the pro-choice blogsphere, a fund was set up and donations invited. Even mighty Guido waded in.

On Friday the target of £9712 was reached, but now things have taken a murky turn. Internet messageboard Freedom2Choose waded in, claimed they'd got Nick Hogan released and demanded Old Holborn handed the money over to them immediately. Then mysteriously their announcement on it was taken down. And as far as I can discern Nick Hogan is still in prison.

The money was raised four days ago, tied up in a crock on the internet. All ready to be transferred to where ever it need to go to secure the landlord's release.

Keeping someone in prison isn't a cheap thing, it costs money, about £106 per day. Those four days that Nick Hogan hasn't been released during have cost us, the taxpayer, £427. I guess its possible that someone somewhere said that the financials could wait until after the weekend, cos there's no one in the office who knows how to switch on the 'puter at weekends, but that's just not good enough.

I donated £1.50, I demand to see justice and see the release of a bankrupt landlord.

Villains of the piece
  • District Judge Timothy Devas
  • Bolton Council


**UPDATE**
Actually, I think I went to The Swan a fourth time, after I'd moved to Glasgow, it must have been around Christmas 1999 or 1998, I was 19, on a whistlestop trip back to the mothership. I was doing the rounds of Bolton, trying to go to as many of the old haunts as I could. I stopped off in The Swan, didn't see anyone I knew and was about to leave I heard a voice call my name, I turned to find a well fit sixteen year old addressing me. "Don't you recognise me?"

It too a few moments, but I finally twigged that this was Georgie Brennan's younger sister who I'd last seen as a woefully underage lass on a climbing course in the lake district some years before. My, she'd blossomed, and now she was on the correct side of the too young/too old equation ((your age/2)+7=youngest age you can pull without it being gross)

So of course instead of taking advantage of the situation and adding her notch to my tree in the churchyard round the corner, I ran off to The Spinning Mule on Nelson Square to tell my brother. I can be such a fuckwit sometimes.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Some videos to watch

I keep getting distracted from watching some videos, so I'll post them up here to watch later.




The great spectrum

Eeh, its been months since I last did the Political Compass quiz thing, and back then it said I was a Lib Dem. Anyhoo, there's an election coming soon, in the unspecified future, and my poll in the right column here is looking towards none of the big three Westminster parties representing any of the voters.

This leads me to wonder about the smaller parties, the single issue mobs and the nutjobs. Sure I'm signed up to the Libertarians now, with my membership pack and everything, but it doesn't look like there's going to be a LPUK candidate in my constituency, so I'm wondering what the next best thing is.

Elsewhere on the internet there's a big old register of all the political parties in the UK, 357 of them, I'm wondering where each one of them stands on the Political Compass.

Sure, there's the locations of five of them, but that's a tiny fraction of the one's possible to vote for.

Its a gargantuan task, but could I get in touch with all the rest of the 357 and ask them to take the political compass quiz and provide their location? So if you're wanting to vote for a party and they're not standing for election in your constituency, you can look at the party political compass and pick the one that's next nearest in the cloud.

Would it even be a worthwhile endeavour?

Can a party, rather than an individual take the test? Like the writer of the Devil's Kitchen blog, Chris Mounsey is the leader of the Libertarian's, has published his location here, but that's not the same as the party's position.

SalmaYaqoob is the leader of Respect, her blog's here, if she took the political compass, would that respresent Respect's position? Lord Pearson, UKIP leader here, where does his party stand?

Maybe I should just farm this out to Iain Dale's Total Politics to look into, paying for the postage to mail 357 political parties is a little beyond my budget.

UPDATE

Friday, 5 March 2010

Do they represent you?

A poll, now located in the column to the right of this page, hopefully.

It's soon time for a general election, and whilst my colours are nailed firmly to the mast. Other people may be undecided. Let's explore that a moment.

In this country I feel people vote for the party rather than their local candidate, so my poll asks this question:-

Do either Labour, the Conservative or the Liberal Democrats represent your views? With the possible answers of 'yes', 'no' and 'don't give a crap'. I'm sorry for not allowing any degrees of 'well a little bit' or 'one more than the other two'. But I want you, my dear and valued readers, to make your own judgement about whther those three sufficiently represent your views generally.

You might want to consider the state of the UK under each of those regimes, and consider whether you feel that was what you had in mind if you voted for them.

Anyhoo, the poll closes at some point in the future, there will be more ranting.

Met office gives up on climate change

The BBC reports that the Met Office are giving up on their seasonal forecasts.
The Met Office is to stop publishing seasonal forecasts, after it came in for criticism for failing to predict extreme weather.

It was berated for not foreseeing that the UK would suffer this cold winter or the last three wet summers in its seasonal forecasts.

The forecasts, four times a year, will be replaced by monthly predictions.
So, next time they report that global temperatures could increase by 0.5 dgrees or so in X many years keep in mind this
Explaining its decision, the Met Office released a statement which said: "By their nature, forecasts become less accurate the further out we look.
...

"Although we can identify general patterns of weather, the science does not exist to allow an exact forecast beyond five days, or to absolutely promise a certain type of weather.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Death Disco - Notting Hill Arts Club

Decisions are made by those who turn up. History is written by the winners. There's no such thing as a free lunch, unless you're a goldfish.

This evening (or last night, depending on your perspective) I'm in darkest Notting Hill, at Alan McGee's Death Disco. You know how you find yersel chatting to random people at parties, then you bump into them time and time again and cos they're in a band you inevitably go to one of their shows, well here I am.

Three bands on tonight, my acquaintance's band are headlining, on stage at 22:45.

I have to get up for work six hours later.

The database state is bad enough, but here at the cool Notting Hill Arts Club, they demand photo ID at the door then scan it "So we know who's inside". My attractive young ladyfriend mutters something about being stored in a database. The guy on the door overhears and denies there's any database involved. So the point of scanning is?

I'm not taking an international flight. I'm not opening a new bank account. I'm not even taking photos of iconic landmarks in the proximity of a PCSO. I'm just trying to get in to a shitty little indie club night, so why do I need to show my papers?

I don't care that its not the doorman's fault, just management policy, or an alternative to form 696, or the Met Police policy or the local authority or health and safety for our own protection. It stinks.

Its understandable how such a system was introduced, someone clearly though we were living in East Germany. But how to turn it round? How to get rid of having to have you papers scanned for visiting an indie club?

When the management told the doorman, he should have said no fucking way. When the punters told McGee, he should have said no fucking way. When the police/authority/health and safety told the management they should have said no fucking way. When the powers that be sat in a meeting and decided it, the room should have rose up and said no fucking way. Whoever suggested it should have been sacked on the spot, escorted from the building, dowsed in petrol and set fire to, caught on camera, uploaded to YouTube and tagged accordingly.

Maybe I'm being hypocritical with my love of gig-tracking and Songkick. But I do those things by choice, not everyone does. Its linked to my Twitter and Facebook with my permission. God knows what the Notting Hill Arts Club's Clubscan is connected to, but no one asked me.

"Excuse me sir, do you mind if we scan your ID before entry?" That would have been an improvement.

Anyhoo, the entry process left a bad taste in the mouth and if this review ends up grim, that's why. Mr McGee, your precious Labour government have cultivated this, you must share responsibility.

Last time I was here was for a Scottish mob, Q Without U, they were okay, it must have been over a year ago. My ladyfriend was last here before the English smoking ban, the vibe is different. Hear that McGee, your mob have broken it. They've broken it all.

First band on are This Is Munich. One of their piano lines sounds just like Pocketbooks' Autumn Leaves, but the rest of it has Suede vocals, leaning a little towards Bowie. Geneva? I bet the keyboard player cites Coldplay as an influence, he was inspired to form the band after seeing Coldplay at Wembley Arena.

Scratchy samples of 1940s 33s. Then the guitar, bass and drums kick in again, epic soaring lead guitar. Aw man, I used to be able to remember exactly who these guys sound like, now after 543 gigs, its all a blur, a companion suggests The Kills. I think I once saw Coldplay third on the bill at King Tuts.

Tonight, This Is Munich are an odd looking bunch, nineties clothes, stupid hair. They were very competent, they certainly knew how to play their instruments.

Not sure what the deal is with Death Disco, is Alan McGee here? If he's not, it either cos he's too old or cos he's mourning the death of Michael Foot, either way, he's a cunt.

Next up are/is Sangeeta, some keyboard girl with drum-guitar-bass backing. Jazzy rock Kate Bush or Lapsus Linguae for another gender I reckon. Feist and PJ Harvey reckons my attractive young ladyfriend, she's on the money with the latter.

Love the plinky plonk piano at the end of every song. Extra points cos she sure can holler and cos the guitar sound is huge.

The audience are a bit disinterested, chatting throughout over their glasses of house red and tins of Red Stripe.

The headliners, Wonderful World of Cactapuss, take to the stage, spending 24 minutes setting up a vast array of keyboards, effects boxes and colour-changing chicken lights. Truly they are gods.

"Good evenin' earthlin's"

Are they London's answer to Air or Daft Punk. Great big crunchy rhythms, stuff you can not only get your teeth into, but could probably build a shithouse out of, if necessary.

Earlier the two of them were discussing their flashing LED specs, genuine artifacts from the eighties, do they even make them any more. Mark, the one on the left, had dropped his pair on the floor so they were now held together with masking tape.

Finally, for the first time this evening the crowd start moving, the place is packed and the kids are making weird shapes. Tall chap in the middle casting some shoulder moves, heavily make-uped girls on the right doing the cheekbone thrust, and front left a couple who've been snogging throughout, really face-chewing stuff.

In fourteen years time, this'll be the soundtrack to the Hull Olympics.