The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Week of 18 August 2008

18 August 2008
Don't stop now Bryan, just when we're hating it.
UK Singles Chart for w/c 18 August 1991
Number One
(Everything I do) I do it for you - Bryan Adams - 7th week (Number 667 in seq.)
Highest new entryCharley - Prodigy - number 9
Fastest climber
(within top 40)
Love...thy will be done - Martika - up 22 to 13
Fastest climber
(within top 75)
Crucified - Army of Lovers - up 25 to 50
Lemming-like fallAlways there - Incognito - down 25 to 70
Top 40 debutsArnee And The Terminaters, Oceanic, The Prodigy, Tin Machine, Utah Saints, Zoe
Top 40 exitsVanilla Ice
Top 75 debutsArnee And The Terminaters, Oceanic, The Prodigy, JT Taylor, Teenage Fanclub, Utah Saints
Top 75 exitsBEF, DNA, Fantasy UFO, Rhythm Syndicate, Young MC
On this week's Top of the PopsStudio performances: Midge Ure, Zoe, Jason Donovan, Oceanic
Video performances: Utah Saints, Karyn White, Martika, Bryan Adams
Breakers: 808 State, Tin Machine, T Rex
Chart overlay: Prodigy
Closing music: The Farm
Simon Mayo Gary King's Record of the WeekEverybody's free (to feel good) - Rozalla

(This week in 1991: Great progress in the Middle East, Birmingham's toll road, settlement in the USSR. Profiles of Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Tin Machine, the Utah Saints, the Prodigy, and musings on songs that enter high and fall. With songs by anyone but Right Said Fred and Bryan Adams.)

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19 August 2008
Feelgood hit of the summer

The Smart Set writes on the death of the monoculture, about how there are no cultural touchstones common to everyone. Lots of points arising from this, and in approximately reverse order:

(More: You're here for the list of summer songs since 1980, we reckon...)

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21 August 2008
The price of oil, and BBC Parliament

This has come up from Mr. Pokery's discussion of his Prediction (Com) Petition. We're not planning to post again about the game until it closes in early February, but if we wait that long, the point will be totally lost. Mr. P. said,

It could be argued that speculators managed to double the price of a barrel of oil, so perhaps they might manage to make it double again.

Er, no. Speculators did not double the price of oil. Let us explain why.

Readers will recall that oil has gradually risen from USD 30 in 2004 to USD 60 in 2005 (when there was a supply-side shock in the Gulf of Mexico), then rose slowly during 2006 and 2007. The spike earlier this year occurred when a threat to supply from Iran combined with significant weakness in the USD against other major currencies. The recent threat to supply passing through Georgia didn't serve to drive prices up significantly, for reasons we'll explain.

As Jerome a Paris argued a few weeks ago, prices didn't rise because oil is at or about its market-clearing price. Supply is tight, and ceteris paribus, the slightest change in supply will cause visible changes in price. Equally, changes in demand will be reflected in price. The last few months have seen a small but notable destruction of demand for oil. People in the West are driving less, they're gradually moving to more efficient vehicles. More than this, there's a tremendous threat of recession. Recession will depress demand by a lot, and for quite some time. While Russia and Georgia were playing silly buggers, the ECB was adopting its tube announcer voice to say, Mind the Recession, and the oil price remained stable.

Speculators don't alter the market fundamentals. What speculators do do is bet that certain trends will happen. More often than not (and here we find Harford's argument not only uncompelling but flat-out wrong), their speculation will tend to magnify a trend. They can only magnify a trend that would have happened anyway. If speculators had been properly regulated, oil might have peaked at USD 120, before descending to its natural floor - wherever that is, probably around USD 100. It's still the case that supply is (for the medium term, at least) static, and much of the price variation comes from changes in demand.

Rather than blaming speculators for the high price of oil, critics may wish to examine a policy that has served to choke the supply of oil from one particularly rich oilfield for the past two decades.

Coming up on BBC Parliament

In a roundabout way, this brings us to The Parliamentary Channel's planned coverage of the Republicrat showpiece events, shown in conjunction with their Canadian equivalent, C-SPAN. Though only one party's events are being televised, they get to hold two showpiece events, which strikes us as particularly bonkers. Anyway, TPC will be covering both legs of the event live as they happen.

Coverage of day 1 begins at 2am next Tuesday morning, and there's full coverage of the day's proceedings until they end at, er, 4am next Tuesday morning. This doesn't strike us as a particularly full debate, but that must be us and our democratic ways, actually wanting to hear more than one voice. Days 2 to 4 follow the same routine, concluding at 4am on Friday next week. Each day's events will be repeated on a continuous loop until 2am the next morning. The return leg, we understand, follows in the next week, and will have similar levels of coverage.

Then - and only then - do we get a return to TPC's top rated programme, the Scottish sitcom, The Alex And Wendy Show. Readers will recall that the last series ended on a cliff-hanger, when Wendy lost her voice and got hit over the head with a picnic table. Alex begins this series waiting for his friends and enemies to set him up on a new blind date. That's The Hunt for Red June (Or Julie), premiering on 4 September.

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22 August 2008
The Modern Pentathlon. It's not difficult to understand.

After hearing the usually erudite Eleanor Android get confused by it in recent days, we looked into how the Modern Pentathlon scoring system works? It's really almost simple.

Shooting: 20 shots at a target, maximum of 10 per shot. 172 points equates to a score of 1000. Variance of 1 pt in shooting translates to 12 in MP, so 173 shooting is worth 1012, 171 is worth 988 and so on.

Fencing: Everyone plays everyone else. 70% of wins gets 1000 points. For a 36-player tournament, 25 wins gets 1000, each above or below gets 24 points.

Swimming: 200m of splashing about, 2m30 equates to 1000 pts, adjusted by 4 pts per 1/3 second. Round down to the nearest 1/3 second.

Show jumping: 1200 points minus deductions: 4 pts per second over time (computed as 350m / min), 28 pts per fence knocked down, 40 pts per fall or refusal.

All of this translates into advantages at the start of the final event, the 3000m running. A 4 pt deficit translates to one second on the line.

We reckon things would be a little clearer if they always gave the standings in terms of time on the final run:

These times translate to handicaps, and the first to complete the running race wins.

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23 August 2008
In the Parallel Bar

In discussion at his Bar, Mr. Bother opined,

The problem with doing Scavengers as a monthly (say) Wettern Dass style extravaganza ("Location data, Android..." "Go to the Fly Climb level 45 sector Z... Special difficulties: Sugababes unable to play their new single until all scrap collected.") would be the set costs I would have thought - either film all 12 for a year at one go in which case have no chance to react to the audience overe the course of the year, or book the studio and put the set up and down every month which would takes ages and cost a bomb.

Or they could have a standing set somewhere, and hire it out to other television companies to make their own versions of the show, as they do in (or near) Charente-Maritime. Did The Crystal Maze set get used for corporate events, or is this something we've completely misremembered?

But from there, we digressed horridly into our major topic. Mr. Pokery wondered about Parallel 9. Crikey, there was a show that had a few format revisions in its time. All episodes were by the independent production company Roache and Partners, the first time an indie had had such a major commission in children's television.

(More: A series-by-series guide to the bonkersness of Parallel 9, and a quick word on slashfic.)

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In our other journals this week...
This week in the arts

At Crooked Timber, Harry discusses whether grade inflation is happening, and if it would be a bad thing if it were. Much of the piece discusses the goings-on at Half Old, a relatively new college in the western provinces. We're particularly impressed with Alex's comment (number 10).

Steve Richards extracts a lesson from the Crass Spectacle: public spending is A Good Thing. Witness the mountain of gold accumulated under the taxpayer-funded lottery against the solitary spangle won by Mrs. Thatcherism's sport.

Censorship watch, and Avril Lavigne has been banned by the Malaysian government. According to the oh-so-delicate Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage, the pint-sized skater chick would be contrary to what we are preparing for, suggesting they're actually preparing for a nice tea-party with music by the ultra-raunchy Cliff Richard or that Chris de Burgh tour they turned down in Tehran. On the upside, the Malaysians recently fined the Pussycat Dolls for being rubbish, so they must be doing something right.

Marit Larsen takes the number 1 spot in Norway with If a song could get me you; she heads five new entries in the top eight there. Katy Perry moves to the top in Denmark and Ireland, and moves ahead of Kid Rock in Germany. The new chart-topper in Deutschland is Sohne Mannheims with Das hat die Welt noch nicht ge. It's an all-star collection of gospel and spiritual music, led by Xavier Naidoo.

We've grown bored enough to reduce coverage of the UK list, where the bishop's daughter Katy Perry holds at the top for a third week. The Script advance to 2, Rihanna to 4, Madcon to 5. Biffy Clyro have the highest new entry, Mountains is in at 10, the biggest hit of their career. The Automatic enter at 16 with Steve McQueen, Taio Cruz enters the top 20, and Little Jackie makes 21. Gabriela Cilmi's follow-up, Save the lies, enters at 33 - her old song is still in the top 15. Alphabeat finally make the top end with Boyfriend, up 14 to number 35, and J Magik comes in at 37 with Crazy world, and the surprise is that Bloc Party are still top 40, dropping a mere 18 places to 34. Far too many Metallica singles in the lower reaches of the chart, we wonder if there's been some promotion on their back catalogue. Their new single, The day that never comes, enters at 36. All eight minutes of it. It's eight minutes too long, and can be downloaded from your favourite filesharing networks right now. Pleased to see the Flobots hit in at 66 with the bizarre Handlebars; there's new LL Cool J, new Fratellis, and not-at-all-new Colbie Caillat, she's already been top ten in every country in Europe. Except this one.

Script remain at the top of the albums chart, holding Abba and Duffy down. Highest new entry is at number 5 for Monkey, with Journey to the West. This is really Damon Albarn and his ZX Spectrum, setting a traditional Chinese folk song to modern beats. The main publicity has arisen because a brief extract from the work was used to soundtrack BBC1's summer schedule; as is typical of the BBC these days, they picked positively the worst and most bleepiest bits. The hits of those top sailor people Lynyrd Ynglnyg land at 16, Black Stone Cherry puts Folklore and Superstition in at 23, and there are good climbs for Alphabeat and Abba.

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Shows of the week

This week, we've been watching and hearing...

In other media news, severe twattishness from Trinity Mirror. They'll make the Birmingham Post into Yet Another Tabloid, leaving the Torygraph and the Effin' T as the only big papers on general sale in the region. TM will also take an axe to the Saturday edition, the only Saturday paper that actually believes its readers might want to get through the edition on the day. The Post will somehow become more business-focussed, which will be a remarkable achievement, but it'll also have to share journalists with the exceedingly tabloidish BIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL and its even tackier Sunday edition, the Mercury. Trinity Mirror: shameful.

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News of the week

Torrential rain in Belfast caused the new Westlink underpass to overflow. The road cost millions of quid, and was opened just a few months ago. It proved unable to cope with a wetter than usual week-end in Northern Ireland, and the roads minister says that he'll be looking into the cause of the problem. No doubt he'll get Iris Robinson to have a word with her deity to ensure that water runs uphill from now on.

Pervez Musharraf announced that he would stop pretending to be the president of Pakistan. Mr. Musharraf assumed power during a military coup in October 1999, and invoked a state of emergency last November to secure his election to the post. Free elections in February resulted in an overwhelming majority for his opponents, and they had commenced impeachment proceedings against him.

For an MP to have one charge of abusing taxpayers' money might be seen as unfortunate. To have a second charge emerge should be fatal. The member involved is Zelda Spelman (C, Meriden), the Conservative critic on Local Government and Coffee Shops. She already faces criticism for asking her children's nanny to undertake party policital work. The rules there are obscure enough to give her a lot of wiggle room, particularly if she does that purple sparkly thing with her fingers. Now, Miss Spelman stands accused of using money from the Parliamentary Resources Unit to pay her political secretary, Simon Cawte. The rules here are simple: Mr. Cawte is plainly engaged in party political activity, and he must not receive a penny of taxpayer's money. That applies even if the money is paid to or through the PRU, it seems to be a clumsy attempt at money-laundering. We would advise Ms. Spelman to step down now, while the country's distracted by truckloads of gold-coloured shinies. Is that Salem Cawte's plan to become supreme ruler of the universe, by distracting us with gold?

The British Chiropractic Association submitted a libel action against Simon Singh. Mr. Singh had written a factual piece about chiropraticioners and yet he'll be taken to court for telling scientific fact.

We have long had absolutely no respect for the dunderheads at NPR Nooz. Their style of presentation hasn't been updated since 1934, their scripts haven't been updated since 1936, and their ability to get the basics right is dismal. See, for instance, a picture of a cricketer taken at a 2004 Champions' Trophy match at The Rose Bowl. Now, we have no way of telling whether the gentleman in blue is or is not Steve Massiah; the record shows that Massiah hit three fours during his innings. The opponents (not pictured here) are in the yellow-and-green uniforms of Australia. But, with NPR's usual inability to get the basics right, they say that Southampton is in Wales.

The Competition Commission proposed that Spanish giant Ferroval should sell three of its airports in the UK. Ferroval, trading as BAA, would be expected to flog two of its three airports around the M25 - Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stanstead - and either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Ferroval has been heavily criticised for the pisspoor service it provides at its airports, with tremendous delays every summer, and a botched fifth terminal at Heathrow. A final report is not expected before March 2009.

150 people were killed when a plane crashed on take-off at Madrid airport.

Red China has killed 140 Tibetans, says the Dalai Lama.

The government was forced to concede that the British economy had failed to grow during the second quarter of this year. Though it's a clear problem, we fail to see that an interruption to growth is a bad thing per se.

Barack de Bouwer announced the person he would like for his site foreman: Joe Photocopier. In 1987, Mr. Photocopier was caught repeating passages of speeches by then-Labour party leader Neil Kinnock. Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? asked the Welsh windbag. Why is it that Joe Photocopier is the first in his family ever to go to a university? asked the plagarist. Mr. Photocopier is due to speak in the early hours of Wednesday morning; you'll be able to see his speech on BBC Parliament from last Tuesday.

We regret to report the death of Levy Mwanawasa, president of Zambia and well-known Muppets song; and of Leo Abse, campaigning Labour MP.

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The wet summer continued with further falls of rain. Though nowhere near as heavy as the previous week, there was some sort of rainfall almost every day. That said, the bank holiday week-end was mostly dry, and the last week of August might see some settled weather, so do wrap up.

18 Mo heavy showers     13/18, 6.0
19 Tu cloud             14/20, 1.5
20 We showers           14/20, 2.5
21 Th sun, showers      14/20, 6.5
22 Fr rain o/n, sun     12/18, 4.5
23 Sa sun to cloud       9/19
24 Su rain to sun       13/20, 4.5

Rainfall in August: 136mm; monthly average: 69mm

Degree cooling days: 104
2007: 79/ 91
2006: 309/360
2005: 182/238
2004: 172/198
2003: 284/328

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