• Get to the point, man!

    The urge to throw a missile at the radio is never far away when the current affairs programmes are on air - especially now it's almost election time. The set came close to extinction this morning during a particularly obtuse piece about the silly memo from the FO about the Papal visit.

    The Right Reverend Dr Peter Forster, the bishop of Chester, was debating (?) the issue with John Humphreys on the Today programme. Both of them completely missed the point that the memo was really objectionable in context only. A stand-up comedian making the same points would hardly ruffle many feathers, but the fact that it came as an official paper from an (admittedly tiny) cog in the huge machinery of the UK Civil Service was what made it a serious issue.

    Instead, Mr Humphreys and Dr Forster waffled on about the limits of free speech and anti-Christian bias in an entirely unilluminating and unincisive way. Either I'm getting more perceptive in my old age, or journos are failing to analyse issues effectively - but I do find the standard of questioning and debate to be pretty pathetic on the whole.

    Hear the clip.

  • Book of the week?

    I usually associate Amazon with low-cost copies of mass market books, but sometimes a search for something else can turn up a surprise.

    I am trying to decide whether to buy this one.

    The book has a compelling title that leaves no room for doubt:

    The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Non-Electric Gummed Tape Moisteners, Paper Cutters and Trimmers, Pencil Sharpeners, Perforators, Punches, Scalers for ... Removers, Staplers, and Other Office Machines (Paperback)

    and at 675.95, a snip! The author has a range of equally enthralling publications covering yarn, coal tar, peanut butter, rubber, school uniforms and many other esoteric subjects - so don't stint yourself - buy two and save even more :)

  • A winter wonderland

    One of the very few drawbacks of not having TV is missing out on weather news and pictures - so when I heard that there was a great satellite view of the UK in the snow, I had a look to see what was on the interweb. And I found this breathtaking image on the NASA site (a small version of part below) - seen full sized or using the Flash magnifier on the page, it gives one a small hint of what it must be like to orbit the Earth - and the clouds and snow-covered land are, to my eye, quite wonderfully beautiful.

    Devon and Cornwall in the snow

    Oh, and I found this archive footage from the 1963 big freeze, which I remember well as a child. If only modern day coverage was as sensation-free!

  • The pictures are better on radio...

    ... a fact neatly illustrated by Water Song: a compilation of sound recordings by Chris Watson. Brooks, waves, glaciers, snapping shrimps and cave droplets all combine with a thoughtful commentary for a fascinating 1/4 hour when you can let your imagination roam though a watery world!

    Listen again before Sunday afternoon...


  • Happy 50th birthday Youssou N'Dour

    A treat for world music fans that I caught in the wee small hours on the BBC World Service: an interview with the immensely charming and (I think) talented Youssou N'Dour. Sometimes, you hear someone speaking and just know he must be a really nice guy - as is the case here.

    Listen again for a few days.

  • Ironic, or what?

    In the latest O'Reilly catalogue, I was rather amused to find an entry for The Twitter Book by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein, which weighs in at 240 pages. A system set up to use 140 character messages that needs a 240-page book to explain it seems rather funny to me. But perhaps I am an old cynic?

    Buy your own copy here if you feel the need.

  • Sauce for the goose...

    sheepThe radio news is full of MPs bleating about how unfair it is that the rules on reasonable expenses have been changed after the fact. It's called retrospective legislation chaps - just like the rules that have been introduced by this government that put us ordinary mortals at a disadvantage. Tax laws are replete with retrospective changes to close loopholes introduced by the poor drafting of legislation in the first place - for example, the infamous (if you are a contractor) Section 58.

    Funnily enough, this page makes almost the same the point I was going to:

    "One former contractor ... commented 'How would some Cabinet Ministers feel if the rules on MPs expenses were changed retrospectively and they were forced to pay back all the money they had claimed for so called second homes? Apparently, it is OK for them to use loopholes in the rules but it is not OK for the rest of us.' "

  • What price original photos?

    I assume this item isn't a wind -up - it seems to suggest that none of us needs to pick up a camera again, since this clever product can trawl the web for sunsets, kittens in baskets, naked ladies and all the other elements of an appealing picture, and combine them before your very eyes! If this is for real and it takes off, it will unleash a whole lot more breast-beating in the photographic community about veracity and integrity - not to mention the wails of those whose copyrighted images have been sliced and diced!

  • 'Sun' headline writer in local council shocker

    My regular readers (or at least, those who used to be when I posted regularly) will know that I have taken on the job of Parish Clerk for my village. I had visions of a quiet life of paperwork and phone calls, but in fact as it turns out, managing people is a much more important (and sometimes fraught) part of the job.

    However, the mild excitement of rowdy public meetings or disgruntled parishioners' phone calls pales into insignificance when I read one of my trade publications, Clerks and Councils Direct.

    The September issue has, on its front page, these exciting headlines:

    Youths attack in park
    'Mess' walk-out
    Woman, 92, in bin ordeal
    Year ban for gay remarks
    Five cleared

    and some other plums from the inside pages include:

    Beach challenge coast shocker
    'Racist' gags are no joke
    MP digs allotment boost
    Death crash comments 'shameful'
    Clerk's 40-minute ordeal
    Ex-member refuses to go quietly

    and so on. I shan't spoil your fun by telling you what any of them actually refer to, since the actual story is inevitably more prosaic. Just like the issue of the Bridport News that announced, in about 200pt type, "Glue Sniffer runs amok" - which turned out to be about a youth who bumped into an old lady and made her drop her handbag!

  • Hurry - your last chance to hear...

    ... the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain at the Proms.

    I only just came across this little gem last night - and am listening again, again.

    Forget George Formby, and revel in a very eclectic mix of classical, punk, grunge and classic 1970s rock - all performed with vocals and ukeleles. Not only individual songs, but some rather enchanting medleys (well, more part songs - you have to listen to appreciate this!).

    Teenage Dirtbag; Life on Mars; Pinball Wizard; Wuthering Heights; the Ride of the Valkyries; the Dambusters' March; the tune from "Listen with Mother"; and many others.

    But hurry - the broadcast ends at about 11 tonight.


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