Friday, 28 November 2008
It's been a long and hard week, though all my teaching has been fun: Twelfth Night again, discourse analysis with the Research Methods students, semiotics with Comms. students and some shockingly offensive poetry - Rochester, Swift, Spenser and Ol' Dirty Bastard. The class, blessed with resilience and a sense of humour, took it very well!
As a respite, I've been fencing a couple of times (sorted out my habit of constantly renewing rather than parrying and riposting), and advanced yet further in the Anne of Green Gables series. I'm up to book 5, Anne's House of Dreams. In places, the books drag - too many mildly amusing local characters, but the joy and tragedy has returned. Anne's finally married Gilbert (notable mostly for his colourlessness) and there's an interesting tension appearing between Anne's independence and book-learnin', and the propriety which required her not to work. Presumably this, like the constant stream of parental separations and deaths, is autobiographical - L. M. Montgomery was a minister's wife. The solution is a bit weaselly - they both write occasional pieces for magazines which is genteel enough not to count as suffragist nonsense…
Other things are fascinating too - readers are expected to be knowledgeable about the tensions between Presbyterianism and Methodism, though we should be able to rise above such sectarianism - Cornelia's horror at Methodist heresy is clearly meant to be amusingly overplayed. French Canadians are slow, Forrest Gump-like amiable imbeciles, and Americans are loud and showy. England (and perhaps Scotland) is still 'the Old Country'. Most of all though, the series is astonishingly intertextual. Every character in the book, including the narrator, quotes or alludes all the time, usually to Shakespeare, the Bible and nineteenth-century respectable poetry. Longfellow and Tennyson are all over the place, as well as 18th-century bores like Moore.
Then there's the treatment of love and death. Love is purely Romantic in this novel, and not without its harshnesses. It is certainly coy - the narrative skips two months from the day of Anne's wedding to the couple's new settled life, but she does openly yearn for a child - who lives, like one of Montgomery's children, for only a few hours (don't whinge about spoiling the plot: it's book 5 and none of you are going to read it). Deaths are frequent, especially of children, and the misery is quietly but poignantly expressed. Finally, the books abound with unmarried, independent and resilient women. Some, like Marilla, had their chances at marriage and regret not taking them, but many others find fulfilment in strong female-female relationships, often modelled on homosocial lines. Finally, there are clearly-masculine characters like Cornelia, an open man-hater and devotee of abstract arguments - perhaps there are glimpses of other ways of life in this largely conservative text.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Yes, the results of the Literary Review's Bad Sex Awards are in and the winners are: Rachel Johnson, for "a mounting, Wagnerian crescendo" which has room for the woman in question to think of slugs and moths… she's the sister of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Mayor of London, so presumably he's helped with the research. Updike was also given a Lifetime Achievement award, which will please Howard Jacobson and all the other pseudo-American wannabes. (No link to the Literary Review because their site's useless).
Jon Henley in today's Guardian covers the rise and (gentle) fall of slow blogging. It's a nice idea - post something infrequently and let people mull them over. Unfortunately, the originator of this idea, Todd Sieling, has ceased blogging due to lack of readers. It's little wonder Sieling likes the idea of plodding blogging: he's Canadian!
Seriously though, I like the idea of moving blogging from instant reaction to contemplative haiku - but it's not going to happen because you can't control how the reader uses or consumes your material. They won't read an entry in a slow blog, go away and think about it for a week, then return for the next entry. They'll consume the post, then fill the intervening time reading other material, then never go back to the slow blog because they're bored…
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
While I'm in the mood for pictures, here are a couple from my walk up the Cheshire Matterhorn. There are plenty of landscapes over at my flickr site, but I'm particularly pleased with these images of lichen and icicles (click on them for a bigger image)
Monday, 24 November 2008
Alex Ross over at Therestisnoise has posted a few moments of Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel. If this doesn't convince you of the joy of modern music, nothing ever will. The first instrument is a viola, that underestimated but noble plank.
I can't help thinking that in this snippet, it sounds very like the opening theme of Vaughan Williams's Flos Campi, a far more beautiful piece than The Lark Ascending, although perhaps that's because the former hasn't been done to death by Classic FM (soporifically stealing your soul with music from bourgeois commercials: all your M+S favourites). I hate that station. It's the Daily Mail of classical music.
Walking on Saturday was stunning - from Macclesfield's finest delicatessen where I bought hare and venison pie, up Shutlingsloe, across the moors to the Cat and Fiddle for a pint in front of a fire. I'll post some photos (of lichen and icicles) when I work out why my camera isn't showing up on my computer - I'm hoping it's just a low battery.
The views were amazing - all the way to the Clees, the Breiddons, Cannock Chase, the Wirral and Caer Caradoc.
I'll also post some photos of mathematical veg - I got this amazing fractal thing in my veg box the other day. Neal informs me it's a Chou Romanesco. Here's a photo of it by someone else:
Friday, 21 November 2008
It's time for the Literary Review's Bad Sex Award (for bad sex in fiction, so you can't nominate your exes). I always enjoy the sight of aged soi-disant heavyweight authors and powerful men getting their mojos working in public. They're too powerful to be edited boldly, so they spill their literary seed onto the page and expose only their own tedious, and usually tediously mechanical, imaginations to the mockery of the crowd. There's a simple rule - get your friends to read it. If they laugh, cut it out (or off).
Thomas Pynchon's entry (sorry) is particularly egregious (last one on the page), though Updike has won it before. This year, I'm rooting (sorry again - it's catching after a quick browse) for Alastair Campbell's All In The Mind. But perhaps he can't help it, as the former 'Riviera Gigolo' of Forum magazine fame, to which I'm not linking.
Unless it's actually snowing tomorrow, I'm going up the Cheshire Matterhorn: it's said to be bleak and steep. So far it's Dan, Neal and myself, but others may be foolhardy enough to join the Map Twats.
Then in keeping with Orwell's description of middle-class liberals
'that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking to the smell of progress like bluebottles to a dead cat … fuzzy-haired intellectuals in pullover sweaters'
(The Road to Wigan Pier, Part 2, Chapter 11)I'm off to see Dick Gaughan (Scottish lefty folk singer) in the evening! He sounds better than he looks…
I'm not exactly an Orwell fan, but you have to admit that he had a talent for winding people up (also from The Road to Wigan Pier):
'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.Anyone know why this thing is ignoring my formatting?
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Some colleagues have just received anonymous text messages naming the alleged killers of Baby P. It's little more than a lynch mob (and in contempt of court) - the dark side of viral marketing, and the kind of thing that news media can't do legally and (mostly) wouldn't want to do.
The phone companies keep copies of every text message sent - it shouldn't be too hard to find the senders of these texts. What do they want, other than to circumvent the process of justice for, presumably, violent intent?
I'm on the third Anne of Green Gables book, Anne of the Island. It suffers in comparison with the first two slightly because the plot's moved away from the enclosure of Prince Edward Island, but there are compensations - Anne's emotional maturity is convincingly tested. On the down side, an authorially-approved character speaks disparagingly of the Byrnes - tribal fury stirs in my blood.
Actually, I'm really enjoying this vision of a simpler but fulfilling lifestyle. Maybe it's because I live in Wolverhampton, but I'm regularly checking the vacancies list at the U of Prince Edward Island.
By way of contrast, I'm teaching Petrarch, Spenser, Wyatt and Shakespeare this afternoon for the second time this week. Wonderful.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
The other excitement of the day, at least for me, was receiving two Northern Picture Library CDs in the post - post-Field Mice jangly guitar thrills from a band liberated from the demands of chasing chart success and living up to the legend that was Sarah Records. No books in the post today though - very worrying. For you completists, the other Field Mice splinter group was the rather special Trembling Blue Stars. Mmmmm, twee.
This BNP membership list just gets more and more fun by the minute. I've checked my area, my friends' hometowns and old schoolchums I've long suspected. Now the Guardian (or should that be theguardian?) has posted an interactive map of where these scum live.
Which brings up an interesting question - about the role of newspapers and blogging. The papers have to be very careful about this stuff. And those impeccable liberal souls at the Guardian have declared that 'The BNP has rights too' which is all very well but they certainly don't want to extend rights to Guardian readers. Bloggers presumably have the same legal duties and responsibilities as newspapers, but we're very unlikely to be sued - I've only got 1 reader. Those blogs which are prominent enough to be closed down are treading very carefully: Slugger O'Toole has listed the numbers in various places in Northern Ireland, but moderators and posters are being very careful to keep names out of it.
So the major blogs are behaving like the newspapers - both groups are using the BNP material in interesting ways, but are desperate to keep on the right side of the law (or of our lords and masters at blogger.com - hence the only place I've found the full list after the initial burst of joy yesterday is still wikileaks. This may be the making of that site - I've dropped in occasionally but only today have I seen the site made unavailable due to heavy traffic.
The whole thing suggests that there's a place for 'citizen journalists' outside the legal system - we can chance our arms because we have very little to lose (a 5-yr old laptop, in my case). We can move faster and we probably won't get caught. On the other hand, nobody's going to see this, so it's little more than self-satisfied, consequence free, electronic masturbation.
Yesterday, some mischievous blogger posted the entire membership list of the BNP: names, addresses, phone numbers and occupations in many cases (oddly, workshy bigot wasn't one of the categories, but I assumed that those names without an occupation listed were in this category).
I was going to link to this brave individual's site - it's the kind of thing that bloggers can do rather better than skittish, lawyered-up newspapers. We could all have paid a courtesy call to the fascist nearest our own homes, and had a 'quiet word'.
By this morning, however, the blog had been closed down - presumably by blogger.com. So much for free speech. They don't seem to mind hosting all sorts of Nazi material because the US has a freedom of speech presumption, so why not in this case?
Thankfully, those nice people at Wikileaks have come up with the goods again, and they're very much out of reach of plod and Britain's courts.
A quick trawl reveals a shameful number in Wolverhampton (including a vicar), a disgusting 100+ in Stoke, and 40 in Shrewsbury.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
My friend Cynical Ben has started a blog. He's a man with a lot to say, very little of it warm-hearted, so I knew he'd be good at blogging. I was right: he's got the right blend of wit, learning and top writing skills to be successful. I am, naturally, hugely jealous and slightly ashamed of my own efforts.
Last night I taught Twelfth Night, using lots of Sinfield, Greenblatt, Butler and Blackadder (to which they took rather well). This morning was a lecture on semiotics, followed by my poetry class - 'The Seafarer', Petrarch, Spenser and Shakespeare. It's quite exciting covering such big themes - but I'm quite tired, and have lots of marking to do!
Sunday, 16 November 2008
I read this week that the new President of the Maldives is going to set up a fund to buy land somewhere else (possibly India) when his archipelago sinks beneath the waves. Interestingly, nobody has suggested that we should be paying for this, as the ultimate cause of his country's destruction, handing over the billions while flagellating our leaders (particularly the CBI and Margaret Thatcher, dead or not) for persuading us that this kind of lifestyle was ever morally responsible.
Why don't we make eye-for-an-eye? He's got a tropical paradise which isn't long for this world. We've got Cornwall, or California - hand them over. And beg for forgiveness. One of the screaming, awful ironies is that the first casualties of our arrogance and greed will be those who've never polluted, never driven, flown, never had a weekend in Dubai or the Keys or wherever. We, on the other hand, will always be able to afford a higher bit of mountain. I favour Norway. Mmmm… socialist and cold. No really, that is pretty much perfection for me. I quite like the sound of the Faroes too, though I'm not so keen on fish.
When the Maldives go, we'll be living in the sci-fi apocalypse (try Baxter's stupid but poignant Flood) my parents spent so many years trying to stop me reading about. Who needs Atlantis when we'll have to explain to our grandchildren (maybe our children) that there used to be a place called the Maldives in that spot of ocean, and that Daddy and Mummy used to get into a whacking great metal thing which burned poison to sit (oh the irony) on an unspoiled beach?
According to the Guardian (though I can't find the link right now), Obama is preparing for office by reading Lincoln, but the journalist was rather slapdash and didn't specify whether this was a biography of the scourge of the natives (AL fought them in the Black Hawk War of 1832) of Gore Vidal's wonderful novel of the same name. I hope it's the latter - GV knows the White House inside and out, having been friends of sorts with the Kennedys and related to Al Gore. If anyone knows how to get Washington going, it's the grand old man of waspish letters.
See him destroy David Dimbleby without effort on Election Night.
Friday, 14 November 2008
So it's true. Hillary went to see Obama in Chicago to discuss a job - perhaps as Secretary of State. It might be a good move - foreign politicians like HRC a lot more than the average American (some don't like her for wanting a civilised national health service, some don't like her for not managing to found a civilised national health service). Additionally, spending four years trying to bring peace between Israel and Palestine will put her off aspiring to higher office for ever. John Kerry and Bill Richardson want the job too. Kerry speaks French, which in any other country would be seen as a positive attribute…
If anyone has a copy of Still Life by The Paradise Motel to share or sell, I'd be very grateful - I'm a completist and this one passed me by, what with only being released in Australia and all. All Talulah Gosh gratefully received too. And Field Mice 10" albums. Anything with jangly guitars basically.
England crash humiliatingly to India in the ODI - it couldn't happen to a better bunch of chinless wonders and imports who seem more determined to live the footballer lifestyle and reduce the game to bling-encrusted shallowness than to play well (and the ECB seems to think this is the future of the game. First the Stanford extravaganza and now this.
Martin Kettle (usually too rightwing for my tastes, but interesting anyway) has a fascinating column in today's Guardian on popular press coverage of the public sphere. It's no surprise, he says, that the public distrusts our elected representatives, given the hysterical and widespread presentation of them as innately venal.
The newspapers all covered the recent survey which showed distrust of politicians increasing (26% trust MPs) - but none of them mentioned the most distrusted group of all. 90% of the population distrusts tabloid journalists - yet only 4% of tabloid readers read/access any other source of political information. So we're becoming a nation of uninformed lazy cynics prepared to accept entertainment rather than information from a bunch of idle reactionaries. The future's bright…
Read the Committee on Standards in Public Life report here
I got through my observation OK - mostly because the students were quite interested in Sappho and Catullus. Obviously I forgot half my points, but we kept it going. I sounded halfway competent and not too patronising: success!
On today's menu - lots of marking, updating my Twelfth Night lecture and writing a lecture on heroism in poetry. I think I'll do The Seafarer, something from Beowulf and something else - not sure what.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Today's reading: I'm on to Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, which I've been meaning to read for years, and the second Anne of Green Gables novel, Anne of Avonlea. And no, I don't feel any need to defend it. I'm a professional literature teacher and I can read whatever I want. I'll hold fire on critical judgement for a while though. My colleague Steve says that Imagined Communities is his desert-island choice - weirdo.
Stoke City won their Carling Cup match on Tuesday - we're through to the quarter-finals for the first time in thirty years. I'm hoping to draw Arsenal at home (so we can rub victory in Arséne's face yet again) or Blackburn - because we can beat them and I can mock Laura mercilessly.
The Guardian is having a bit of a laugh at Stoke's expense and Rory Delap in particular. Smug metropolitan gimps. They won't be laughing when we win the cup and qualify for the Champions' League.
I had a fantastically unsuccessful lecture today - one of those sessions which makes you want to work in a shop. No enthusiasm, intellectual engagement or respect from the class. It was like a primary school class pumped full of Ritalin. I gave up a few minutes early because I couldn't keep track of my points amidst the childish giggling and interruptions.
Oh well - it's my Sappho and Catullus poetry session this afternoon - which would be OK except that I'm being observed for my PGCE in FE/HE, which makes me a little nervous. Then after that - off to coach the fencing team. Must resist murderous urges…
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
First essay picked up … plagiarised. Not even carefully and thoughtfully plagiarised, just lifted from high-school level sources like megaessays (not linking to those bastards) and random blokes' witterings. Just what I needed after an hour's meeting to discuss learning outcomes (my outcome - suicidal tendencies).
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
I wrote a few days ago about the Labour Party needing to adapt Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy to rebuild the party and our electoral appeal. On Comment Is Free today, Ari Berman writes that Obama's election is vindication of Dean's approach, which received plenty of internal opposition, including from Rahm Emmanuel in the early stages according to Sam Stein in the Huffington Post. I quite like Howard Dean, regularly described as 'rumpled' and passionate. He's the opposite of Obama, though he laid the groundwork for this election.
This week, I'm reading two books, Jonathan Culler's On Deconstruction and L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.
Now, one might think that an interest in both texts is mutually exclusive, you snobs. But hold: Anne and Jonathan have a lot in common. They both reject the restriction and even the possibility of fixed meanings, both value the complexity and richness of words, and both are poor lost orphans.
Anne wandered from family to family before ending up in the Hopeton orphanage, misunderstood and silenced, before mistakenly being sent to the Cuthberts' in Avonlea, where her gently anti-Protestant Romanticism and devotion to Imagination both shocks and thrills the buttoned-up community. Poor Jonathan had a glittering career at Cambridge, then Oxford, until the disapproving old conservatives decided that he was a just little too French for their New Critical tastes, with his interests in deconstruction and structuralism/post-structuralism, so they didn't give him a full professorship.
So he wandered the cold world outside the dreaming spires, refusing to simplify his message for the slower minds of academe but earning their respect. In this, he's of one mind with Anne, who tells Matthew '…people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?' (p. 15).
Monday, 10 November 2008
In between admin and spectacularly pointless seminars, I'm preparing tomorrow's poetry workshop - on Sappho (don't Google it at work, however innocent your intentions), Catullus and their translators. Up for discussion: is translated poetry even worth discussing? Robert Frost thought not: 'Poetry is what gets lost in translation'. Are there male styles and male subjects, female styles and female subjects? Does it matter who (if any) a poem is about? Was Sappho a lesbian in the way we mean it? How can we tell from 9 fragmented poems and a few isolated lines quoted by later poets?
Sunday, 9 November 2008
I'm such an idiot. I bought a beautiful Nikon D40 a few weeks ago. Today, rushing out to snap a pair of buzzards, I dropped it and appear to have wrecked the 18-55 zoom lens: it won't take photos at all on Automatic, the motors whirr but nothing moves, and manual photos are out of focus. So I guess I'm looking at £80+ wasted on repairs or replacement for my own stupidity.
I've started putting my photos on Flickr - only the Malvern ones were taken with the Nikon, but Vilnius is beautiful through any viewfinder.
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Where are you now, Arsenal? Sure, you can beat showponies like Manchester United, but you fold up like a cheap deckchair
Friday, 7 November 2008
It was an historic election - one that shook the fundamentals of modern politics and will echo down through the ages. Yes, Labour won a by-election, actually increasing their vote to 55%. The SNP increased their share of the vote too, but not by enough.
I'm a very old-fashioned, hardline socialist, but coming from an Irish background, I'm not viscerally anti-nationalist. The SNP and Plaid Cymru (not a bad website) have long been spirit-of-68 anti-imperialist nationalist parties rather than BNP fascists (I'm not linking to those scum).
So I'm pleased that Labour won (especially as my friend Richard was campaigning so hard in Glenrothes), but I don't think that it's incredibly momentous. What really makes me smile is that the Conservatives (not linking to toff scum either) lost their deposit. 3% of the vote is utterly pathetic, whatever the demographics. They could have got that without putting a single poster up. If Cameron can't scrape together enough protest votes to significantly damage Labour's chances in such seats, there's a chance that La Cosa Etonia won't win the next election. No wonder he's desperately trying to associate himself with Obama, despite having McCain address the Tory conference two years ago. The links go deep.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
David Beckham and Tom Cruise have taken up my beloved sport of fencing, according to the Torygraph. In a sport well-provided for in egos and moneybags, I'm not sure we need more, but it might be a good thing - Beckham alone will near-on double the percentage of working-class fencers (OK, slight exaggeration, but we're battling a certain reputation for snobbery still).
Most of the newspapers, as you'd expect, are running with the US elections on the front page, though the Express concentrates on the assassination risk, the party-poopers.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Oh goody, Hazel Blears is in The Guardian telling us that it's the fault of the 'commentariat' that public political discourse has been weakened. Now as it happens, I've met Hazel twice this year, once at a party policy forum, and once randomly at Birmingham New Street Station. At the forum, she and her henchmen refused to acknowledge any dissent and made it clear that mere party members were there to support the government and nothing more, and when I talked to her at New Street she was astonishingly disloyal to Gordon and suggested we should get Alastair Campbell back (how prophetic).
What really annoys me about this is that New Labour took several outdated lessons from the Democrats: that party members are less important than donors, that opinion polls serve only to help repackage predetermined policies, and that debate should revolve solely around marketing rather than ideology. Think on this: Howard Dean's 50 state strategy has won today. He said that Democrats should get activists out on the street in every state, not the 5 or 6 which were seen as battlegrounds. For that, you need enthusiastic volunteers and party members who aren't treated as embarrassing relics to be tapped for cash when your favourite hedge fund managers are short of a bob or two.
She also says that 'commentary has taken over from investigation or news reporting' - hardly surprising given politicians' reluctance to face anybody less cuddly than Richard and Judy. I'm so bored with Radio 4 having to say 'no minister was available for comment'. Let's be honest, Hazel. You'd rather have your awful ministerial blog and David Cameron would far rather concentrate on the toe-curlingly embarrassing Webcameron than be filletted by a decent interviewer or reporter - any defence of the political high ground from you is sheer cant.
I know I'm starting to rant now, but this got to me even more. Remember, she's having a go at journalists: 'And if you can wield influence and even power, without ever standing for office or being held to account by an electorate, it further undermines our democracy'.
Er… Peter Mandelson - Baron of Foy and Hartlepool. Now has a senior ministerial position without ever facing the electorate. He has a vote in a legislative chamber for the rest of his life, and never has to face MPs. Lord Adonis - the most malign influence on education since Margaret Thatcher snatched free milk from little children when she was an education minister. He's there for ever too. Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre appear to have their own keys to Downing Street: not much accountability there. The list goes on and on and on - so it's a bit rich of this appalling representative of the worst clique the party has ever seen to tell us that it's the journalists who are distorting the public sphere.
Most astoundingly, Hazel doesn't know what she's talking about. She declares that the vast majority of political blogs are rightwing Tory sites (when actually they're just the ones that rightwing newspapers cite a lot). She's clearly not familiar with the blogosphere at all. 'Mostly', she writes, 'political blogs are written by people with a disdain for the political system and for politicians…'. She got that right: her useless and no doubt adviser-written blog lacks any passion or any sign of ideological commitment. I despise the Tory bloggers she names (Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes etc), but her rant is just the eternal cry of the know-nothing. She could start here
The election's over. Obama won. Or rather, the election isn't over but he's won the Presidency. What's important now is getting a 60 seat majority in the Senate so that filibustering can't delay legislation, and it's looking unlikely. However, at least having a few more senators (hopefully including Al Franken currently behind by 700 votes) means that the Democratic Party can now hound, harass, isolate and generally make life unpleasant for Joe Lieberman, traitor, turncoat, egotist and blackmailer.
I saw Sigur Ros (footage unfortunately not from Wolves) last night, at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. The band were astonishing - ethereal in places, uncompromising in others. More so than on record, they submerged John Cale, Steve Reich and an awful lot of folk music into an enormous racket - received joyfully by a sell-out crowd which comprised every cool kid in Wolverhampton, a lot of parents, and me. It was certainly a good warm-up for an all-night election vigil.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Arianna Huffington declares the election winner: the Internet, declaring TV coverage tonight will solely be for entertainment. She also provides a useful list of all the sites and blogs (is there a difference any more?) which will provide a composite picture of events.
Is Robert Peston the man who broke banks by blogging discussions about solutions to the banking crisis on his BBC site (he's the BBC Economics Correspondent)? The Daily Mail thinks so, but that's because it a) hates the BBC, b) is the world's worst newspaper and c) has no understanding of economics or the real world. If a single journalist can cause panic in the finance market, then the system is even weaker than we thought…
Monday, 3 November 2008
I follow the US election statistics on the Guardian's round-up page, but an article today suggests that if you really want to get into the electoral nitty-gritty, you should head to FiveThirtyEight.com where Nate Silver, who used to collate baseball statistics, is hard at work tracking every bit of polling data available.