Friday, 26 December 2008

A Tribute to Harold Pinter

So. Harold Pinter's ……………
He's ………… had his cornflakes .………… at last.
It's all Blair's fucking fault.

(E. J. Thribb, 17.5… second pause).

Monday, 22 December 2008

We are not alone

Yes, someone else has used the phrase "map twats". Admittedly, in a string of code designed to fiddle with speech bubbles, but still…
agent.Speak("Those Chapman brothers? What a pair of \\map=\"twats\"=\"c*nts\"\\")
The only other comprehensible use is on a Spanish language news aggregator which has clearly been spammed:
Teens tasteless shoplife video lapsed rubin black xxx. Big map twats teens hush black with fixed-rate. About black teens books. Gore teens bowmen
Kind of poetic…

Setting about the toffs

A young friend of mine, whom the Daily Telegraph described as a 'teenage guitar wunderkind', attended his first seminar at university recently. Confronted by some arrogant toff who announced that proles debased literature, said chum stood up, pointed and uttered, as his first words in a university setting, 'You… are a fucking c**t'. I've only asterisked the word because it's so revolting, but I can't help admiring his forthrightness and essential accuracy. If only my students got that wound up and passionate. 
Needless to say, he hasn't attended many more seminars. 


Cynical Ben  recommended the Bovril website. He was right, it's wonderful. You do need sound though.

Oh, and while we're here, I foresee terrible things happening in Spring 2020. In particular, a pandemic virus called COVID-19, and a skull-featured Tory spinner breaking all the rules, then lying about it at a press conference, then editing his 'blog' (yes, they'll still be the coolest medium of the decade) to make it look like he predicted said pandemic.

Honestly, I scare myself with this level of precision foresight sometimes.

Thanks Laura

For my 'Carry on Jeeves' teatowel - brilliant.

Map Twats redux

Almost all of us managed to go for a walk near Littleborough (above Watergrove) this Sunday - all except Daniel, who had conjugal duties. Nevertheless, we off-roaded and ate effete food and found skulls. I took lots of photos of said skulls, lichen and twats. 

Amongst the many glorious gifts (a fascinating food book from Dan, goggles and a nose clip from Neal) Jo and Ben gave me a spork. I've always wanted one. Say goodbye to two-handed scoffing misery!

Educashun Educashun Educashun

My university canteen was playing 'Another Brick in the Wall' over the tannoy today. Somebody has a well-developed sense of irony… I doubt it's the students.

'Inspired' by the past

A few weeks ago I visited London to see my old chum Adam (who as a financial software creator, essentially caused the credit crunch), but who finally has found that special other to wield his second lightsabre (a few photos here). 

While there, I dragged him round the V+A's Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970 exhibition. Lots of it was predictable, but it did evoke a sense of awe, that people saw industrial design and city planning as our friends - science as our saviour from lives of agricultural drudgery. Some visions have worn better than others. The vertical cities designed to protect us from the polluted (irradiated?) Earth are stunningly beautiful but nostalgically futuristic, whereas Dieter Rams' designs have clearly inspired modern industrial products (yes, I mean you, Apple).

Friday, 19 December 2008

Educate, Inform and Entertain

The Daily Star featured Gary Glitter on its front page the other day - something like PAEDO HORROR GLITTER TAKES BUS (really - apparently cab drivers won't take him). Over a few beers, we wondered how Chris Morris would update his famous (infamous?) paedophilia episode. Here's what we came up with:
The Paedo-Files - not sure what the show would be, but it's a good pun.
I'm a Celebrity Paedo Get Me Out Of Here - celebrity paedos appealing for your early release vote.
Celebrity Paedo Big Brother: a 7 year old (some kind of Romanian orphan or one in the 'care' of Haringey Social Services, ie somebody nobody will miss) sits in the centre of the CPBB house, surrounded by CCTV cameras, watching Gary Glitter, Chris Langham and a selection of other internationally-famous pop stars and film directors who've been acquitted or never charged solve puzzles which get them further round the maze leading to said orphan's room. C4 are no doubt filming it now.

Coming soon: Paedo! Which closely-modelled-on-a-celebrity character committed unspeakable acts, with what implements, in which room? Family fun for all the family (not for under 18s).

Kids' stuff?

In a break from the L. M. Montgomery marathon, I read Terry Pratchett's Nation yesterday. People can be snobby about Pratchett, but who else is writing consistently good, funny, socially-engaged books which tackle the big issues. Nation propounds the joys of liberal humanism and atheism in a thoughtful and sensitive way, amongst other things. Pullman does the same thing in a more dramatic fashion, but TP quietly explores them in this book. We'll miss him when his Alzheimer's takes over. Curiously, the author photograph is the only hint of Pratchett's condition. Instead of a full-frontal one, his face is turned away from the camera, making him unknowable. Given that he has a white beard and always wears a black hat and clothes, the effect is one of darkness - very poignant. 

On the theme of children's fantasy, I saw Inkheart yesterday. I'm a fan of the books (they're about the power of reading), and grew to like the film. They give away the central conceit in the first line of the voice-over which is ridiculous, and Brendan Fraser is the worst actor I've ever seen. Keanu Reeves would have put more primal energy into the role. 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Nobody's business but the Turks'

I also went to the Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art - totally recommended. Despite it's reputation for inbreeding, plotting and internecine warfare, Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul produced some of the world's greatest artwork and preserved an awful lot of the ancient world, because it existed on borders between so many interesting cultures. 

Spin me right round

I've been gone so long that I've missed several rants on Cynical Ben's blog, but I've been having lots of fun. I went to see Tindersticks at the Union Chapel in Islington and it was amazing in so many ways (thanks to for sorting out the ticket so kindly - 10% of the booking fee goes to Oxfam, and thanks too to my sister Hilary and her fiancé Dominic). The venue is an octagonal neo-Gothic Victorian Congregationalist church which doubles up as a gig venue. I saw the BBC footage of an Arcade Fire gig there last year and was impressed, but being there was amazing. It really lends itself to the intensity of cult bands - of which number Tindersticks are definitely counted. They're a 7-piece not afraid of Jim Reeves-style crooning, cellos and feedback. 

The first records I ever bought were 10" vinyl. One was Tindersticks' Sweet Kathleen and the other was Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's Patio LP, purchased from my most favourite but ruinous shop in the world, Recordiau'r Cob in Bangor, North Wales. All I owned before I rolled up at Bangor Uni was a cassette tape of Automatic for the People (a present) and a love of Slayer. Why I chose GZM and Tindersticks I can't remember, but they were great buys - I'm still a sucker for lo-fi, cellos, side-projects and vinyl. 

Those gits at Cob made a fortune from me. They were all in Welsh-language bands like Ectogram and would stuff my pre-order bags with their own stuff and any old shit that nobody else would buy. I wouldn't have minded, except that they handed over all this stuff while keeping up a continuous running commentary on the all-round awfulness of everything I'd actually chosen to buy. For five years. I miss that kind of dedication - there's no record shop in Wolverhampton. 

The other reason I enjoyed Tindersticks was that it reminded me that there's a delightful, slightly self-satisfied but adorable world of bourgeois enjoyment out there. The crowd looked like extras in a St. Etienne video - cool, liberal, relaxed geography teachers. Most 'cool' people belong in a camp. They spend too much money on hairstyles and designer glasses, while solipsistically ignoring the world's woes (most of which they've caused). Tindersticks fans (and Belle and Sebastian fans, despite Cynical Ben's outpouring of faux-proletarian hate) are kind, warm, sophisticated people and there aren't any of them in Wolverhampton. 

Monday, 15 December 2008

I wandered past a nasty pub today. It annoyed me, as it always does, because it's called 'The Moon Under the Water', which is the name Orwell gave his imagined perfect pub in one of his essays (I'm a lazy man and can't be bothered to find the reference for one reader). It isn't the perfect pub, it's a run-down Wetherspoon's. I wouldn't begrudge this theft if the chain made the effort to follow GO's prescription, but it's horrible, although the beer is very good. 

Anyway, outside this pub was a smoking Goth. Or rather, a Goth, smoking. I like Goths, having lived with some gentle, vegetarian Goths in Bangor. This one annoyed me because smoking was clearly a part of his rebellious image. I know Goths have, like all subcultures as Hebdige pointed out, been appropriated and diluted for marketing purposes, but they think they're rebellious. I wanted to point out that in a corporate world, smoking is the ultimate act of non-rebellion. Sure, governments tell us not to smoke, but they're far less important than corporations as far as our daily lives go. Governments should be far more intrusive but they've been captured by corporate interests. Deliberately shortening your life and reducing your physical strength (and financial power) by smoking just make you a slave. I have more respect for kerb-crawlers: at least both sides are getting something out of that transaction. 

Must control murderous urges

My friends Ben and Dan are twitchers - birdwatchers. I like birds, and generally admire whatever they've spotted when we're out walking as the Map Twats. Yet I had a most satisfying dream the other night. Every time they pointed out something rare, I produced a gun and blasted it out of the sky, each time gaining an enormous sense of well-being. I don't hunt, or even like hunting (though I can see the justification for shooting your dinner), so why was it so enjoyable? Perhaps it's the transgression. I'm a quiet and well-behaved cove most of the time, and rarely do anything outrageous, so mayhap the old subconscious is hinting that there's a pressure-cooker of rage that needs release before I go on some sort of festive killing spree.

Still, seeing Tindersticks tomorrow so that should help.

Kids today, eh?

A while back I read some sour comment in the Guardian by a vicar, of all people, whinging about children all being violent delinquents and it pissed me off at the time. This weekend I was refereeing and chaperoning at the Junior Winton Cup, an inter-regions fencing competition. There were 200+ kids from all sorts of places and backgrounds, and nobody was stabbed (except on piste under controlled conditions) or robbed or anything untoward. Nobody got drunk, lost or pregnant (I think) and all the teams mixed well, whatever the rivalries in the hall. Most people are like this, and those who aren't can become so. But I suppose this isn't the stuff of headlines in the bloody Daily Mail

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

A couple of years ago, I joined my first social network, Librarything, which links readers and allows them to browse each others' libraries, comment on them, join discussion groups and share ideas as well as books. It's completely addictive.

Shortly afterwards, I was contacted by a student who needed a particular issue of Poetry Wales, a great magazine now run by a fantastic publisher, Seren Books. I duly scanned in the issue, sent it off, and thought no more about it after 'Brunhilde' thanked me. 

Then today, opening the daily pile of books delivered to my office, I found a card and Clancy's translation of Kate Roberts's short stories, along with the news that she'd taken a first class degree and thought I deserved a present. It was one of those occasions when a total surprise reaffirms my sense that most people are essentially good. I recommend Kate Roberts, by the way - if she'd written in English (here's a Welsh appreciation), she'd be at least as valued as Mansfield, Woolf or Chekhov. 

Thursday, 11 December 2008


For the ultimate news junky, go here: it's a stunning site which presumably draws on RSS feeds to track the biggest stories across the globe (hat-tip to Slugger O'Toole)

When armageddon comes…

This is where I want to move to - though Norway and the Faroe Islands appeal too...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Culinary experimentation

My continental housemates and neighbours asked me to cook a traditional British Christmas dinner for them yesterday. Although we started with a Polish Borscht with ravioli-like parcels as a donation from some of them, the rest was standard fare. The results were intriguing - everybody liked turkey, some were amazed by sprouts (!), pleased with parsnips, impressed by my cranberry-and-burgundy sauce, and everybody absolutely hated Christmas Pudding, which shocked me to my marrow. 

Then they all trooped off to the West Midlands' worst nightclub, Oceana, while I went to bed, exhausted and old. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Day of Remembrance

For lefty types like me, it's a special day. Firstly, Oliver Postgate died today - grandson of George Lansbury the Labour Party Leader, cousin of Angela Lansbury, the creative brain behind Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers and many more. I've never seen Bagpuss and don't give a flying one for childhood TV nostalgia, the last redoubt of rugger-shirt wearing students, but I know enough of Postgate's work to understand that like Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman, they're responsible for the generations of enthusiastic, open-minded, imaginative and thoughtful cultural socialists we have: liberation socialists, we could call them. There might not be many of them, but they're out there.

UPDATE: Zoe Williams makes my points much more eloquently - but then she's a professional journalist. Channel 4 News last night also claimed that Ivor the Engine was set in Wales because Postgate was a huge fan of Dylan Thomas - and there is a (gentler) ring of Llareggub about the cartoon. Also, Professor Yaffle was inspired by meeting Bertrand Russell. Everything I learn about the man makes me sadder that he didn't run the country rather than make cartoons in a cowshed.

Which brings me on to Milton - not forgotten at all, as the Today programme's grumpy slot claimed. I teach Milton in an ex-Poly, and some of my colleagues specialise in his work. I'm not an unalloyed fan of JM - the mouthpiece of a genocidal regime as far as Ireland's concerned - and as Ackroyd's Milton in America suggests, he could so easily have become an Ayatollah figure, but he was also a Republican in body and spirit, and a force for rationality and liberation in so many ways. Here's Philip Pullman reading Milton and here's Terry Eagleton's summary of Milton's greatness (the poetry's pretty good too).

Monday, 8 December 2008

Waugh … huh … what is it good for?

How I love puns. Surprisingly, the answer isn't 'absolutely nothing'. I read Brideshead Revisited again recently and realised how unlike the revolting, Tory, snobbish, arrogant ITV drama the book is. I'm a cradle Catholic, violently socialist malcontent (and if your kids don't pass their A-levels, I'll be brainwas sorry teaching them), yet Brideshead does evoke not just the fading of a class but satirises a class desperately searching for meaning. Remember - the Marchmains have only been Catholic for one generation, and none too successfully. There's little joy in their faith. 

I went to Evensong at Worcester Cathedral a couple of weeks ago, and felt like nothing but a tourist. As Cordelia says (that name is following me about at the moment), to the faithless a church is simply 'an oddly-decorated room'. The question is whether the experience is spiritually worthless. 

Miss Piggy

I'm trying to avoid any porcine-related double-entendres about the Great Irish Pig Scandal, because my sister is immortalised in the world's worst newspaper (actually, I can confidently make that the worlds' worst newspaper - even given the mathematical calculation that there must be several billion inhabited planets out there, surely none is so unfortunate as to have the Daily Mail), gazing hungrily at the empty shelves of an Irish supermarket. The Mail loves these scares - they've of course managed to reduce the complex interaction of organic chemistry to 'cancer causing dioxins' (no hyphens for them) and only just managed to resist tying it to house prices. If the Mail's shallow and offensive approach to science makes you sicker than a hamburger-scoffing Irishman, head over to Bad Science for the antidote.

Still, she seems to be wearing most of an Argentine cattle ranch, so the BSE should make up for the absence of swill dioxins.

Update: The 'Irish' version doesn't even have a website which isn't very impressive, and none of the comment sections are ever written for the Hibernian audience (as Roy Greenslade points out)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Cynical Ben will hate this

My twee, Sarah- and Postcard-loving soul thrills to the delivery today of the Belle and Sebastian BBC sessions. John Peel liked them too, so you can all sod off.

Where have all the great record companies gone? I used to collect Fierce Panda stuff, until they decided to become a super-indie rather than a launch pad for all sorts of weirdoes. Ankst used to be fun but their moment's gone. Bella Union are reliably brilliant, as are 555.

I see that my friends The Nightingales are no. 14 in the Dandelion Radio Festive 50 for last year - and they're getting better and better, mostly because we bought Alan a theremin.

PGCE again

I presented my critical incident report today - conceptualising and reflecting on disruptive students, so at least I was finally talking about something I know about. It went rather well - supportive and useful feedback grounded in practical advice. 

Kamp Krusty lives!

A 'Lapland' Christmas wonderland in Dorset has closed after 2000 complaints, mostly because the place was a cross between a B+Q shed depot and a jumble sale. 

Their site has already died, but here's the rather bitter and disingenuous statement from the organisers. They blame 'organised crowd manipulation and event sabotage' and 'unscrupulous and inaccurate negative bias media broadcasts' (though it seems unlikely that they'd have thanked the press for 'positive bias' if the thing had gone well).

However, the Kamp Krusty, Eddie Grundy or Father Ted-ness really comes out in this comment:
'a "tunnel of light" turned out to be a line of trees with a few strings of fairy lights'
'One child allegedly found [Santa] smoking a cigarette behind the grotto'.
UPDATE: a similar wonderland was meant to open at Essington, a few short miles from here by sleigh - but was closed down when Trading Standards unsportingly pointed out that the car-boot sale venue operation was, well, a bit rubbish. It would have been a wonderfully British day out. Jonathan Meades would have loved it. 

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A very Canadian coup

The Canadians had an election recently, as did the New Zealanders. In both cases, the Conservatives won despite succeeding decent liberal governments. Thankfully, the Liberals in Canada have got together to form a coalition, throw out Stephen Harper's no-good Tories in a confidence vote and save the world. (Poor Anne would hate it - she's a die-hard Tory but only because Matthew Cuthbert was). 

So what have the sneaky low-down Canuck Conservatives done, eh? Just gone running to the Queen like the Aussies in 1975, when the viceroy (sorry, Governor-General) dismissed Gough Whitlam's government even though he had a majority. Harper's asked the Queen to suspend parliament to avoid losing the vote - the coward. His whips should be bribing and threatening and dragging in the sick-bed vote like most mature democracies would.

No way!

Our esteemed leader has informed us that American software to mark essays is nearing completion - so clearly I should feck off and retrain at McDonald's because there's no need for actual learning, experience, ambiguity, creativity in either the teaching or studying process. This guy isn't worried - he clearly thinks it's a brilliant idea. I seem to remember Huxley's Brave New World positing a similar educational system.

The application I've found discussed on the web works on 'semantic similarity' - so that doctor/operate is linked by the computer to an answer which contains 'surgeon/scalpel'. Hmmm

Bush redux

Over at The Huffington Post, those good liberals are enjoying the implosion of the Republican Party. The front-runners for the 2012 nomination are Palin, Jindal and Jeb Bush. The mark of the true mess those bastards are in is encapsulated by this:
How screwed are the Republicans right now? Put it this way: the sanest contender in the above list is named "Bush".

I'm wiing myself

Jab, one of my PGCE colleagues, has tipped me off about Johnny Chung Lee, who has turned a £20 Wiimote (Wii remote control) into a cheap interactive whiteboard, constructed 3D interfaces, and got a Minority Report interface going - all for under £30. 

For shame, professionals

At last, an illuminating and informed exposition of assessment statistics and practices - by one my fellow students - puts the professional educationalists in the shade.

Nixon: we were right

According to today's Guardian, Richard Nixon really was a lying, paranoid, devious bastard,as revealed on the tapes. In particular, he had it in for the press and for academia:
the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times.

He's right - or should be. I've had the joy of working with a bunch of ageing radical for the past ten years, though there are always some rotten Tory apples in there. It's time for a purge…

Essential teaching skills

So far, the tasks covered this morning are: putting post-its on the wall and honing my Google skills. 

Still ill…

I'm not, but this morning I can empathise fully with Mozzer's comments. Up at 6 to be totally disappointed by a lack of snow, which means I had to take an early train to a Telford industrial estate for a PGCE day - which I'll be live blogging to stave off murderous urges.
And if you must go to work tomorrow
Well if I were you I really wouldn't bother
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know, because I've seen them
But not very often…

The Smiths, Still Ill.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Congratulations Alex

One of my favourite books, Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, has won an award from my favourite newspaper, The Guardian (though it now calls itself theguardian because it has an inferiority complex about the web). Ross's book is a guide to modern classical music - it's informed, witty, educational and passionate, and it certainly made me go back to some music I'd overlooked and listen to some I'd previously dismissed. There are blank spots, such as British composers (though he rates Britten) but it's a great read. 

More than that, Ross is one of the few who have genuinely grasped the possibilities of blogging. The book and his site go together, allowing him to post extracts of pieces of music he writes about.


Apparently, @tonybenn who has been Twittering all week isn't really Tony Benn. As if anybody could seriously think that the great man would fall for such inconsequential nonsense. Benn is (as the video clip demonstrates) is a fan of Youtube and web journalism as ways of 'speaking truth to power', but the idea that someone who has sat down with tea, pipe and tape recorder for fifty years would suddenly decide that SMS-length updates is appropriate is laughable. Though he does have his own very outdated website.

To me, Twitter is the triumph of medium over message - the fetishisation of technology. Does anybody remember Alan Johnson's Labour deputy leadership campaign Twittering? Never was a noun so apt. Tony Benn, love him or loathe him, is a thinker - and few things in life are so simple that they can be reduced to a text-message (perhaps 'I love you' or 'You're dumped'). What you get when people like Johnson Twitter is 'Visited primary school. Proves triumph of socialism. Had rice pudding' (I exaggerate slightly). Perhaps a few skilled poets can distil meaning into few words, but most people expose the superficiality of their thoughts… and that's what blogging is for!

Indeterminate Creatures

I've just been to a reading by Alan Apperley from his novel, Indeterminate Creatures, to be published by Tindal Street Press in January 2010. The title derives from an Elizabeth Goudge novel (she was a bourgeois, regional and religious novelist, completely unlike Alan) and the novel traces the simultaneous growth of creativity in a fecund and artistic sense during a young couple's first pregnancy (though it's much more profound than this summary makes it appear - and Hitler's in it too).

The reading was fun. Although an experienced lecturer and performer in other fields, he was clearly nervous and more comfortable talking about the novel than reading it - even though it went down very well in front of a crowd of lecturers, students and fellow novelists. I'd read the book in draft form a couple of times, and it was fascinating to hear how characters and settings were transformed into 'real' people and places simply by reading out loud. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Thanksgiving be to God

Last weekend I went to my American friends' house for a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings. I still don't know why Canadians celebrate a different date… 

We had the driest martinis known to man (3 drops of vermouth in several inches of gin), leading to an outbreak of unconsciousness later, delayed only by glorious turkey, roast sweet potatoes and homemade pies of pecan and pumpkin, while being regaled by tales of NYPD wit. Photos will be forthcoming. 

On Sunday, we went to Evensong at Worcester Cathedral. An atheist Catholic, a fairly lapsed Anglican and a non-observant Jew. There probably is a God: Evensong was off the menu and instead of glorious, resonant music rolling round that great space, a couple of pompous toffs droned unintelligibly for half an hour, using colons like sledgehammers…

Monday, 1 December 2008

Institutional cynicism

Another week, another pile of marking, moderation and all the stuff that comes with teaching. I've also got a PGCE day on Thursday - a whole day of institutional cynicism. The response to one of my sessions plans was that it left space for students to cheat - a professional educator seemed to be suggesting that all students are cheats and that it's my job to design assessments which preclude the possibility. I know some of my students do cheat, but most don't, and I'd rather not be a teacher than spend my time erecting barbed wire. Anyone who takes that view shouldn't be in a classroom at all (but then again, they're educationalists, so they're only inflicted on people like me).

Book 6 of Anne of Green Gables. Despite having 6 children in 9 years, Anne feels that Gilbert doesn't love her any more. I'd think she'd be grateful for the time off…

Friday, 28 November 2008

Protestants, radicals and readers rejoice…

Bunyan (1628) and Blake (1757) born today… The rather wonderful Walsall New Art Gallery has a collection of Blake's illustrations, and is hosting a Blake exhibition for the next few months.

Introducing the Map Twats

Two of them, anyway.

To my American and Canadian chums

Happy Thanksgiving… but why do Yankees and Canucks celebrate on different days?

Plodding towards Christmas

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

And now… the climax of the week

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).

Slow blogging

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…

Happy Birthday

… Ferdinand de Saussure, 1857-1913, father of structural linguistics and thus of all the good bits of literary theory. Without hell, there could be no heaven, as I'm sure he'd agree.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Trouble with lichen

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)

Fractal veg

My photos of Chou Romanesco aren't perhaps quite as good as that posted earlier, but I'm glad I took them. Here are a couple - the rest of on my Flickr page (under 'Chou Romanesco').

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. 

On the road again…

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

Uh huh her

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. 

These boots are made for walking…

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? 

Poor Adolf

He's discovered that he's on the BNP membership list…

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Still no books in the post today, but I did get a rather lovely pair of Doctor Marten shoes.


Peter Mandelson?

New Media - making the lynch mob so much easier

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?

The excessively soft hands of the provincial novelists

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

A nation yearns to care about mundane shit again

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.

BNP - the party that keeps on giving

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 - 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.

Fascists out -and in

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 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.

Teaching teaching teaching

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

Los Angeles is on fire. My friends The Nightingales have been playing gigs there for the last few days. Mark Jones is an inveterate and unrepentant gasper. I don't believe these facts are unrelated.

You are now entering dystopia… please swim carefully

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? 

The Reading List

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

The Clintstones

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…

Music needed

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. 

Sport sport sport sport…

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. 

How Media Work… part 93

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

Pedagogy rools ok

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

Life just keeps interfering…

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

Marking hell

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.

On Deconstruction… and Anne of Green Gables

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

On today's menu…

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

Why, why why, Delilah…

Where are you now, Arsenal? Sure, you can beat showponies like Manchester United, but you fold up like a cheap deckchair 
when faced with Stoke City - and Wigan hung on for a draw today. We'll settle for the UEFA cup this year (and thanks to Cynical Ben for my present of £1 on us to win the Premiership at 7500-1).

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

Celeb alert

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).

The honourable tradition of British tabloids

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.

Other papers (Daily Star and Daily Sport) however, aren't so impressed. The headline of the Sport (sorry, can't get a bigger image) announces 'Barack and Corrie Rosie, An Apology' - and goes on to promise that there won't be any more political coverage (or much coverage at all).

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Hazel Blears: shut up and feck off

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

State of the Nation

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'd still like to have seen President Kucinich, even if he is slightly hippy, but Obama will do as long as there's a good leftwing ginger group in Congress (this seems to be the position of the CPUSA, which is good enough for me). Langston Hughes would approve.

Sigur Ros, Wolverhampton

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

The first response: Tamara

Congratulations to Tamara: the first CO4002 student to get her blog up and running!

Election Results

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.

The power of blogging?

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


Just to see what difference it makes: 

US election stats

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 where Nate Silver, who used to collate baseball statistics, is hard at work tracking every bit of polling data available. 

Thursday, 30 October 2008


I love books. Buying them, reading them, owning them, stroking them. They're mine, all mine! That's why I love Librarything. It's Facebook for books - Bookface, perhaps.

Why The Plashing Vole?

You'll have to read Scoop by Evelyn Waugh to find out.

If You Go Down In The Woods Tomorrow

…you're in for a big surprise: because I'm one of the howling ghosts in the wood!

Is blogging unsuitable for political journalism?

John McCain certainly thinks so, according to Robert Draper. The idea is that blogging journalists are so desperate to get a 'gotcha' comment online that they've lost the art of sustained questioning - though neither candidate has gone out of his way to encourage this type of interview. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Inaugural Message

Greetings to the world - and in particular to the Wolverhampton University Media MA students, to whom this blog is dedicated as an example of new media.

The topic for the week is the U. S. election

If you would like to develop your blog into a substantial and sustained piece of work, you may wish to put this forward as your research proposal (due Tuesday 2nd December), to be developed into a finished product. 

Hint: to comment on a posting, click the posting title to open a new page: a comment box will be at the bottom.