The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Week of 5 March 2012

Koan

ShabbyInJapan: That's it, you walk four abreast down the road so everyone else has to slow down to the pace of a lame tortoise. Please don't worry about it

6 March 2012
Disappointments and miracles

Things you can't say on the Toady programme, number 15: If you want an N-word for a neighbour, vote Labour. See also, Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary.

Changes afoot at The Nation's Favourite. Greg James moves from afternoons to driveltime, swapping places with Bamzooki reject Scott Mills. Gemma Cairney moves to weekend breakfast, and we hope a lot of swing work because she's got a raw talent. The request show moves back to its natural home, after the Top 40, with Jameela Jamil the new Annie "Hi" Nightingale. And Danny Howard is a new signing, bringing back Dance Anthems on Saturday teatimes.

Dear Geoffrey Pullum. We appreciate that you don't actually want to listen to anything your readers might say, but your right to remain ignorant must be balanced against our right to free expression. In your recent column, Noun choice, sex, lies, and video, you write about Chris Huhne,

But unknown to her, he was having a sexual affair with a bisexual staff member

What does Mr. Huhne's paramour's sexuality have to do with anything? At all? It's not germane to the substantive point of the post (which seems to be an account of a Westminster cabinet change), and it's not relevant to the fact that Mr. Huhne has separated from his wife. This comes across as gratuitous sensationalism, inserting a description purely to gawp at it.

We expected better of Prof. Pullum.

We also expected better of Redbrick, Birmingham University's student newspaper. An article discussing the forthcoming officer elections went as follows:

First sentence: "The Guild of Students is due to change its election system for the sabbatical and non-sabbatical officer positions."
Last para begins: "Hugo Sumner added: 'The e-voting system, as used in previous years, has not changed and will not be affected by Vote Match.'"
Good to see that Redbrick is keeping up its traditional standard of journalism.

We don't expect professionalism from the West Midlands Police. Not after the Serious Crime Squad won the Bookem Prize in 1989 for their collection of fictional confessions. Not after they unilaterally imposed spurious restrictions on the Lib Dem conference last year, thus ensuring we wouldn't make the ten-mile journey to attend. And not after the protesters at the Lib Dem conference were acquitted after the police lost four metal bars. Someone will explain why we have to have these particular specimens of uselessness.

And, for some reason unknown to us, we expected better of the world's largest advertising brokerage. G****e admits to serving malicious code and breaching Safari browsers' privacy. Damn us and our naïveté.

An Irish traveller has harsh words for Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series. Your 'documentary' encouraged them to incite ethnic hatred.

The Irish Times reports on Why China loves Riverdance. No need for Dustin the Turkey to apologise for it.

The office worker's survival guide. We think this is serious.

From the letters page of the Irish Times.

SIR - Statistically it appears there is a much greater chance of being healed while flying, regardless of whether it is Ryanair or EasyJet. In fact it is almost a 50 per cent chance.

On a flight from Belfast to Alicante on February 9th, three passengers required "special assistance". On arrival in Alicante, I was the only one left requiring such assistance. On the return flight a week later, six required assistance, but by the time we landed in Belfast, only three appeared not to have been healed.

Similarly, last September, flying to Knock from Alicante, the two who required assistance on to the plane, reduced to one by the time the flight landed.

On both these occasions I was amazed at the fantastic recovery as I watched those who had been unable to board the flight unaided, being the first people to sprint off the plane. So the good news is: expect to be healed when flying. Yours, etc, MAIRE MASTERSON, Freughlough, Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

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10 March 2012
Station Moved

From the department of very interesting: The Real Escape Game, running two weekends hence. Sadly, it's running very far away, in St Francisville, and we've already got a booking for a legend in Japan that weekend. From the looks of it, it's The Adventure Game for people other than CBBC celebrities.

Still with classic children's telly: how they created Clarissa Explains It All. And why is no-one showing it any more? Unlike Mark Mothersbaugh's most famous music, that for Rugrats.

From the very cool to the well off-the-boil: Punchdrunk really has sold out. Not only do they still claim, in spite of all evidence, that The Duchess of Malfi was a success, but they're attracting people like Michael Stipe and Her Off Of Sex In The City. No longer hip. We've moved on.

As we moved on from Skins after version 2 ended in 2010. Now it seems that the makers have given up the ghost, and will make six more episodes next year to end them all. Getting out while some people want more, it's the best way to ensure we'll still speak of their show in hushed tones in twenty years' time.

Speaking of ancient dinosaurs, we hear that the most conservative people in politics are calling for strikes. Len McCluskey, the present leader of the Unité trade union, is suggesting that employees withdraw their labour in order to disrupt the Olympics and to voice their dissatisfaction with the Government's public spending cuts. Um, no. It is perfectly valid to cause disruption to the Crass Spectacle. It is perfectly valid to object to specific reductions in government expenditure. But the two are not linked. The time to protest against the Spectacle was in 2005, before it was lumbered on That London, and before That London passed most of the bill to the rest of the UK.

Radio news, and are you confused about why Xfm has suddenly changed name to "Station Moved"? According to someone who appears to know what they're talking about (and is from Bauer Radio, which helps), various Service IDs (SIDs) are changing on DAB, alongside GCRAP's Programme Information codes on FM. The upshot is that both FM and DAB will enjoy seamless switching: when moving from the West Midlands to Leicester, the DAB flicks over; and on a car with RDS, 102.2 becomes 105.4 without anyone noticing. According to the techie from Bauer,

In the first phase happening today the stations will get new SIDs, but the old ones will stay active for a period. In a few weeks listeners who have not retuned will be served an audio announcement asking them to retune, and finally in a month or so the old SIDs will be deactivated - listeners who have not retuned by this time may well lose services, so please do!

In steam wireless news, Phil Upton is to leave breakfast on BBC WM. We're not fans, but then we don't think any presenter at WM has ever quite cracked the all-news format required at breakfast.

And we hear that Talk Radio UK is to drop all of its non-sport programmes, primarily overnight broadcasting. Well, we say we hear this, we simply have no interest in a station that airs wall-to-wall football phone-ins and says nothing to us about our life.

Everyday Sociology looks at the unapologetic society.

What I have trouble understanding is why we are so reluctant or unable to admit when we were wrong. Why do we feel the need to go to such great lengths to prove that our misdeeds were really just deeds that were misread? Is it because we live in an individualistic society in which self preservation and self interest come above all else? Is it because of our culture of narcissism in which we are so self-absorbed we cannot even conceive of doing wrong? Is it that we are so cynical we think by admitting guilt we will be scorned by others?

Yet again, a promising article on Language Log is blighted by snide imperialism masquerading as linguistics. Sofa King Stupid tells of the Northampton furniture retailer, which advertised in print that its prices were Sofa King Low. Almost inevitably, the busy-bodies have finally had their moment, persuading the Advertising Standards Authority (a body with neither teeth nor spine) that this should be banned on the grounds of being a bit rudey.

So far, so unexceptional, and a perfect piece for Language Log. Regrettably, the blog's reporter in Britain (not its British reporter - he's a visiting academic working in Edinburgh) went on to write,

once you institute a democracy in a place like the UK where there is no constitution dictating respect for free expression

You know what, Geoffrey Pullum, it's tempting to invite you to sofa king off yourself. Britain has taken the decision to balance rights and responsibilities. The right to free expression is to be balanced against the right to avoid causing gratuitous offence. Prof. Pullum comes from a culture where free expression is absolute, and trumps the right not to be offensive. That's a decision his society has taken. We happen to have taken a different decision. It would be lovely if visitors would respect that, and we will draw our own conclusions on those who do not.

By insisting that his way is the right way, that no thinking person could possibly come to any different conclusion, Prof. Pullum is advocating revolution. Careful now! Down with this sort of thing!

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TV and radio notes

Dirk Gently (Granada / BBC4) The tropes are familiar from Douglas Adams' books, the exposition is madcap, and there are some tremendous one-liners. We're not entirely sure that the mystery should be wrapped up inside an hour, though.

The Story of Wales Episodes 2 and 3 bring us through the mediaeval period, through the Tudors who didn't want to be deemed Welsh, and the first stirrings of religious nonconformism.

We were hoping to watch Gossip Girl, but it doesn't appear on the Pear TV Player.

Free Speech (Mentorn Media / BBC3) The replacement for Young Voters' Question Muck is still in a hundred-seater hall, and still has a panel of four people, and still has a hopeless sense of populism. The host is still a CBBC alumnus, Richard Bacon has been replaced by Bamzooki's Jake Humphrey, joined by a Social Media Jockey. Biggest innovation is the online voting for and against panelists, but they miss the opportunity to give a Winner of the Week. Don't think we'll be bothering again.

On this week's Blue Peter

Monday Helen's Antarctic Expedition part 7/9 Day 2 - kite, 41 miles to the Polar Plateau / Eat and drink - try not to burn snow / Big kites - stroppy Helen, slow going, not drinking enough / Flat light - kite down, Niklas angry, missing food, lots of thinking / Day 6 - strong wins, small kite, 100km in 7h28 (world record) / Hair wash with blowtorch dryer / Bikes, layers off, halfway

Thursday Audience Q: best achievement / Helen - We Bought a Zoo family / Mothering Sunday brooch / Peter Dickson v/o to introduce The X Factor tour, Marcus Collins main host / Amy Pond plugs Dr Who writing comp / Making of Helen's antarctic photo / Achievement result / Marcus Collins Higher and higher vt Make looks tremendously complicated and a bit fragile. Good X Factor piece

On this week's Top of the Pops

No TOTP this week.

Next week's highlights

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This week's news

Vladimir Poutine (United Russia) claimed victory in the Russian presidential election. International observers said that the election was neither free nor fair. An opposition rally was broken up by violence from pro-Poutine forces.

Unlikely meme of the week is a protest against a conflict in Uganda. The Invisible Children organisation posted a video publicising the actions of the Lord's Resistance Army under Joseph Kony, comprised mostly of children. People in Uganda reckon it misrepresents them, and that the campaigners aren't looking for a lasting solution. It's not clear that removing Kony will end the problems seen in northern Uganda, not least as he's been missing since 2006, and the LRA has reduced to fewer than 1000 people. To us, this comes across as a blast of Oh Dearism and Something Must Be Doneism. (Much) more: Nick Whyte's links post

Tom Elliott said that he would be standing down as leader of the Ulster Unionist party. A new leader will be elected at the party's AGM on 31 March.

We regret to report the death of Norman St John Stevas, inventor of the select committee system, and of Robert Sherman, songwriter and musician.

Marsha Singh (Lab, Bradford West) resigned on 2 March, owing to ill health. A by-election will be held on 29 March.

Westminster (02MAR): C 305, Lab 250, LD 57, DUP 8, SNP 6, SF 5, SDLP 3, PC 3, Ind Lab 3, APNI 1, Ind UU 1, G 1, Spkrs 4, Vac 1. C + LD majority 81 (effectively 86).

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In our private journal this week

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Weather

Extended periods of sun at both ends of the week, albeit with very different temperatures. Monday and Tuesday had clear skies under a northerly airflow, and Tuesday morning in particular was frosty. Rain spread through on Wednesday morning, about six hours of heavy rain, introducing a more south-westerly flow and warmer air. High pressure has built from the south, ensuring that things remain quiet, albeit with the prospect of cold nights in the coming week. Settled weather should last for much of the working week, but there may be a breakdown towards the weekend, so do wrap up.

05 Mo sun                 3/ 9
06 Tu sun                -4/10
07 We rain am, sun        6/10, 6.5
08 Th sun                 2/11
09 Fr cloud               8/13
10 Sa sunny spells        7/15
11 Su sun                 7/15

Rainfall in March: 13mm; monthly average: 50mm

Degree heating days: 570
2010-11: 985/1056
2009-10: 924/1098
2008-09: 811/927
2007-08: 626/810
2006-07: 397/499
2005-06: 601/684
2004-05: 517/556
2003-04: 668/754

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