The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation

Koan

The Labour Party: cowardly where it matters, bull-headed where it doesn't. #

29 March 2020
The Weeknotes

This week...

18 January 2020
Popular in late 2002

Not Quite as Popular covers the top five singles on the CIN chart. This episode covers the first half of 2002. We move at the same speed as Tom Ewing's Popular project, which explains the eighteen-month gap between installments.

July 2002 dawned with Elvis Presley still at number one. Red Hot Chili Peppers had been going almost as long, 19 years compared to Elvis's 22 year career. Formed in 1983, the Peppers broke through in California with Mother's Milk (1989) and here with Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). Even then, it took until 1994 for the album to become a serious success here.

Three albums later, By the way enters at number 2. It's the group's biggest UK hit single, and one of their best-known (second only to Under the bridge, we reckon). More melodic and instant than many RHCP tracks, it has some depths. Some, but not many.

(More: With number ones from Darius, Sugababes, Blazin' Squad, Atomic Kitten, Pink, Will Young, Las Ketchup, Nelly, DJ Sammy, Westlife, Christina Aguilera, Daniel Bedingfield, Eminem, Blue, and Girls Aloud. And with this blog's marks.)

The winner was Sound of the underground, credited to Girls Aloud. Louis Walsh had had the song kicking around for a couple of years. Reports at the time said it had been turned down by Samantha Mumba just weeks before, for the album that was retconned out of history. A dance song with sampled guitars, a catchy chorus, a winners' song that actually reflected life as the voting audience lived it. Waterman went for the granny phone vote; Walsh went for a long-lasting group. He won, of course, putting the song to the top for a full month.

History has been kind to Sound of the underground. It wasn't pioneering, the beats-and-guitars thing had been going around all year. But it did bring a very new sound to the most mainstream part of the mainstream, and that sound would shape pop music for the next few years. Number one for four weeks, and while greater talents have had Christmas chart-toppers since, there wouldn't be a better festive leader for many years.

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12 January 2020
The number one hits of 2019

Here are all of the songs to have spent at least one hour atop the Peartunes digital sales charts during 2019. From the perspective of the end of the year, we've ranked them on the open-ended Popular scale (average is 5½, 10 is outstanding, 1 is abysmal.)

79d23h TONES AND I - Dance monkey
The year's most dominant song - almost 20% of the year on top - for a catchy and demonstrative number with great depth. It'll be remembered in years to come. TEN POINTS!

(Not all of the songs are as good as this...)

00d07h TAYLOR SWIFT - Christmas tree farm
A tale of Taylor growing up on her farm. This is going to be a classic, not just because of who's made it. 8.

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31 Deceember 2019
"Blue Monday or not, never trust any song that has '88 after the title."

So wrote Tim Worthington in August. Now, Tim's hot on popular culture, we've a lot of respect for his warm and critical nostalgia. But does the implication hold: were all songs with an "88" at the end a bit dodgy?

We can test this with actual research. Cranking up the Big Database of Every Singles Chart Hit Ever, we find there were 15 hits ending in "88". They were, unsurprisingly, all released in 1988. Let's go through them one by one.

Alexander O'Neal - Fake '88
Released in three mixes; the "House" mix was seven minutes of Alexander struggling to be heard over a synthesised drum loop. The "Single" mix ("Short House" mix) was the same but truncated to four minutes by chopping the intro and not bothering with the extended mixout. The "Club" mix ("Hip Hop" on some pressings) was a bit longer. All mixes were by Keith Cohen and Steve Beltran, keeping the keyboard figure in the pre-chorus. The mixes don't add anything significant to Jam and Lewis's original from the previous year, but benefitted from O'Neal's raised profile to reach number 16.

(More: Fourteen more efforts: the good, the bad, and the template for a future Kylie release.)

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28 September 2019
Say Naga

Earlier in the year, the BBC Breakfast Time programme had a brief discussion about racism. Dan Walker and Naga Munchetty noted how go back home was only ever used in a racist manner, particularly when directed at ethnic minority people. Naga, herself from an ethnic minority, drew from personal experience and described how she felt about the racists who say racist things. This is not controversial.

Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism. Now, I'm not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.

Co-host Dan Walker asked Naga how she felt when she heard a failed Yankee politician use such language

Furious. Absolutely furious and I can imagine lots of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious a man in that position thinks it's OK to skirt the lines by using language like that.

The BBC's editorial board were complained at by some thin-skinned bloviator, intent on stirring up trouble. The board came to the quite remarkable view that Naga was expressing her view on a matter of controversy. They're saying that it's possible to say racist things, and not actually be a racist. On that pinhead, they ruled that Naga had given a personal opinion when saying that someone who used racist words in a racist manner was himself a racist.

(More: Reflecting on the BBC's biases and racism)

Ultimately, we fear that this all exposes the BBC's permanent bias: it's in favour of the establishment in general. Elizabeth Windsor, a queen from Windsor, gets an annual party election broadcast in peak viewing hours, without any challenge from others. There's a daily act of Christian worship, without any challenge from other religions or atheists. And when the establishment is pushing racist policies, the BBC will not want to offend the establishment, so will act in a racist manner itself.

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8 August 2019
Onward, the think tank that doesn't

We've become aware of new(ish) pressure group Onward, which employs a couple of former policy directors for senior party figures. The group appears to be misnamed, as its vision of "onwards" strikes us as "flailing about in the middle of nowhere".

Its new report The Politics of Belonging commits two cardinal sins. The paper takes an opinion poll, and attempts to form policy based on the results of this one poll. Why is this wrong?

(More: Are these values different from previous years? Do voters really know what they want?)

In conclusion The report offers three "emerging conclusions".

1) "The post-war age of freedom is ending". Onward has offered no evidence to justify this remarkable claim. The pressure group's research has ignored history, so the report's conclusions can only be of the present.

2) "Voters do not want want more autonomy, choice and mobility." This is a description of the opinion poll results. It accurately describes what voters are telling opinion pollsters. It may not accurately describe what the voters actually want, because we voters may not know what we actually want. Much of the present mess stems from an ill-defined feeling of "we want something to change", without articulating what and how.

3) proposes 2) in spades for a Conservative victory. By following this advice, Onward would offer policies that are More Of The Same. It would be a party of followers, in a time when calm and consensual leadership is desperately required.

Onward's research tells us where voters tell opinion pollsters where we are, and does so in great detail. It presumes that voters are where they think they are. It hasn't told us anything about the historical direction of travel.

In short: the claims made by Onward are not supported by the evidence. Please do better.

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17 July 2019
Burger-u-nom

Boston Tea Party's "Plant Burger" carries a small paper flag, "100% Plant Power".

It's a sesame seed bun, containing lettuce, tomato, gherkins, some sort of sauce, and a tofu patty. Served with a carrot-and-onion salad, and a generous helping of fries.

Highlights were at the bottom: the tofu was delicious, tangy, slightly salty, and warm. We're always a fan of gherkins, and the combination with the sauce brought to mind the Big Mac from donkey's years ago. Sadly, the top was nothing to write home about: the bun was neither crisp nor succulent, and got a bit soggy from the lettuce 'n' tomato.

At £10 for the burger, drinks extra, this is definitely a treat rather than an everyday meal. We do hear *very* good things about their breakfasts.

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28 May 2019
Glickoblog looks at the cricket world cup

Going into the men's World Cup, here are the Glicko rankings of the competing sides:

Team  R     RD
SA1   1141  86.9
IN1   1132  83.8
EN1   1088  85.5
NZ1   1085  92.3
AU1   1080  82.3
PK1   981   77.7
BA1   981   82.7
WI1   902   82.7
AF1   856   82.2
SL1   840   86.8

Very roughly, we reckon that a 40-point gap is required to make a side clear favourites, and an 85-point gap is required to make a side more than 70% favourites. (That's what the RD means: a Rating difference of the average RD is 70% favourite, an R difference of the combined RDs is 95% favourite.)

If we get the same weather as last year (no rain), the semi-finalists following the round robin should be drawn from South Africa, India, England, New Zealand, and Australia. Pakistan and Bangladesh will do battle for sixth place, the West Indies should take eighth, and Afghanistan v Sri Lanka on 4 June is for the wooden spoon.

Were the World Cup played as best-of-seven series between every team, we'd be sure of the top five. But it's not, and luck - and rain - will get in the way. We'll keep an eye on the contest.

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24 May 2019
Nightlock

Fire the cannon, Foxface has fallen. Let's take a look at her best bits.

 

And the rest of her obituary.

Foxface has been a small-minded bigot since she first arrived at the Interior Ministry in 2010; her personal crusade against anyone "not of us" is a stain on her soul.

All of her failings as prime minister come from her personal flaws. She's always put the Conservative party ahead of the good of the country she claimed to run, and ahead of humanity. Lynne Featherstone gave us good warning. Foxface plots in secret, and listens only to her inner coterie.

Foxface *chose* to be a xenophobic bigot. She chose to witter on about "citizens of somewhere", she chose to send out the "liberals and homosexuals go away" vans.

Foxface *chose* to deny the truth at every turn, she would find reality did not meet her ideas, and insist on her day in court to litigate against the facts. When the court ruled in favour of reality, she'd demand her day again.

She refused to acknowledge the shaky democratic mandate, and pretended that the will of all the people (not just some of them) didn't exist.

Dave the Eager Young Space Cadet spent six years getting shit done, and six weeks to screw it up again. Foxface's entire tenure is shit upon shit upon shit.

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21 May 2019
1994 was a Prison of My Own Making

Caity Weaver of the New Amsterdam Times goes back to 1994, just for one week. She's mostly interested in the tech (or lack thereof) and obsessed with her mobile telephone. The biggest surprise: only four payphones remain in the whole of Manhattan.

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