The Snow In The Summer or So-So

07/17/2006 - 07/23/2006

Mon 17 Jul 2006

Going to the prom

The Proms so far. Overgrown Path has a brief introduction to the season, one that will completely monopolise the Third Programme's live concerts between now and the middle of September. Here's what I've heard so far.

1. First Night. Begins with a quarter-hour of Mozart, which is quite enough for me. Mozart is too clinical, too sterile, but small doses are perfectly tolerable. Smetana's Vltava is one I "studied" in primary 7 - well, listened to and then got told to draw a pretty picture based on it. Bloody useless primary school teachers. Dvorák's Tedeum is aptly named, as it does drone on a bit, but Shostakovich V is worth an hour of anyone's time.

I've skipped past the Saturday programme, as it was almost all Mozart, and I've got better things to do with my Sunday than to spend six hours listening to Wagner.

Monday brings a chamber music concert that went well in my lunch hour; the opening piano-oboe number particularly suited a languidly sunny afternoon. A short evening prom (Debussy, some modern Colin Matthews, Sibelius I) sounds promising, and I need only catch the first half-hour of the nightcap before it drops into the tedeum of More Frikkin' Mozart. He's back on Tuesday with a performance of Cosy Fan Tutti. Wednesday brings a birthday concert for Mrs Liz Windsor, a gadabout from Norfolk. Even in this year's uneventful programme, her tastes stick out as being particularly plebian - Dvorák's New World symphony (aka The One From The Bread Commercial), MF Mzrt. A commission from Peter Maxwell Davies gets its world premiere, so might be worth dropping by.

Thursday, excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (aka The Theme From The Apprentice). Friday, the first concert I'm getting a bit excited about, Schumann IV, Brahms Violin Concerto D, and a shoe-horned Ligeti. But as an opening week, and aside from to-day, highlights are scarce.

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posted 17 Jul 2006, 18.36 +0100

Culture
Two Songs a Week 13 - Lemonade

Back to 1996, then, and one of the records that was almost a massive hit in the summer of great pop. And a record that has become a bit of a minor classic.

The story begins in 1991, when Peter Freudenthaler and Volker Hinkel formed a band and called it Fool's Garden. Their first album didn't do a tremendous amount of business, but second album Dish of the Day included the hit single "Lemon Tree". It's a simple enough song, the ennui of a humdrum life is contrasted with memories of a blue sky and the titular lemon tree. For my money, the song's strength comes from the interplay between the lyrics and a complex instrumental arrangement.

Though a moderate hit in the UK, "Lemon Tree" was massive across Europe, and the group is still performing to this day - four further albums have come out since the hit, and they're still playing to some of the largest summer festivals. The song also gives my top chum Greenamber a title to play with. It's a pleasure to wish her a very happy twenty-first birthday, and a deep honour to know her.

"Lemon Tree", music and lyrics, Freudenthaler / Hinkel; performance, Lemon Tree.

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posted 17 Jul 2006, 18.43 +0100

Two Songs a Week
Happening to-day

To-day's news: Railways, shootings, Wikipedia, Longbridge, travel news, pedantry, and tennis.

We were wrong about railways, say Conservatives. In a specific admission of error, Chris Grayling C, transport said that his party was wrong to split track from train, and pledged to restore the link when his party returned to power. A similar admission of error has not been forthcoming from Gordon Brown Lab, Prudence X or John Prescott Lab, Croquet S who must carry much of the blame for the mess of a rail policy over the past decade.

There will be no criminal charges over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes last year, though the Metropolitan Police will face a corporate charge of failing to protect Sr de Menezes' health and safety by shooting him eight times at point-blank range. The prospect of civil action against named members of the police, or the Met as a whole, cannot be ruled out.

Wikipedia is beginning to look something like a post-revolutionary Bolshevik Soviet, with an inscrutable central power structure wielding control over a legion of workers.

Some production will re-commence at the Longbridge car plant, situated just next to this blog. The site will be used to assemble cars that are built in Red China, and will employ barely 200 people. Until Rover group was driven into bankruptcy by the precipitous actions of Patricia Hewitt last year, the site employed 6000.

Travel news, and the A38 at Longbridge will be closed on 5-6 August for bridge demolition work. Diversion routes will add about 10 minutes to your journey; traffic heading into Birmingham from the M42 will probably want to jump off at junction 3 and head up the A441 Pershore Road.

Pedantwatch: Matt T suggests "Gulf War" was the 1991 Iraq/Kuwait conflict. That's how it's known. No, sir, the original Gulf War was the 1980-88 conflict between Iran and Iraq. The 1991 spat over Kuwait was the Second Gulf War, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq the Third.

The Federation Cup has been playing this week-end, and divides into Red and Green groups. Or, as the Swiss put it, the caravannes de rougers and the caravannes de bogies. Oh dear.

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posted 17 Jul 2006, 20.16 +0100

News

Tue 18 Jul 2006

Newsmagazines

It is a cliché of the first order to review the New Statesman and the Spectator at the same time. Still, why not? The magazines are meant to be the two arts-and-news publications, a bit like the good bits of a Sunday paper boiled down to 64 pages. Both face competition from the news-only Economist, and the no-new-content The Week. Both have been re-launched in recent months. Are they any cop?

The Speccie is currently comparing itself to champagne - potent and effervescent, according to publisher Kimberley Quinn. The edition I saw, from late-June, was utterly vapid in the news section. A portrait of David Davis told me nothing, the columnists advanced no argument at all. However, the arts reviews were informative, witty, and honest, particularly an attack on the back-slapping nature of book awards. I also liked the games page, which treated the world cup with appropriate irreverence.

The Staggers says it will expand minds and change worlds. The news section certainly does that - coverage of the Taliban and the failure of feminism in North America was a fresh perspective, and the columns were mostly informative. Kevin Maguire was particularly vapid, though. The magazine's arts coverage lacked a cutting edge, and - books aside - seemed to be fitting a quart into a pint pot. The magazine ends on a low note, with a navel-gazing column from Julian Clary - another engagement where he's not making a good fist.

Both papers have political leanings - the Spectator's editors include Nigel Lawson-Badger and Boris Johnson, while the Statesman is owned by Blairite cabinet minister Geoffrey Robinson. It's the Statesman that suffers from its view, rarely straying from safe ground for a left-wing publication, and this becomes stifling after just one read. The Spectator tries to give some balance to the other side, and even though it doesn't do the job well, it deserves some credit for trying - I found the magazine to be refreshing.

The magazine's layouts are also vastly different. The Statesman uses a lot of photographs, thrown onto the page in a particularly modern manner. It looks and feels like a magazine of this age. The Spectator, in contrast, has three columns on every page, with photographs and cartoons fitting exactly into this grid. The result there is a very old-fashioned magazine, almost a throw-back to the fifties.

Ultimately, I think the perfect magazine would be the Statesman's news coverage coupled with the Spectator's arts pages. Later this year, the BBC will launch itself back into this market, fifteen years after The Listener printed its last. I would hope that the new magazine will pick up where its predecessor left off, giving support to broadcasts on the Third and Fourth, coupled with some news-and-arts coverage. There are high standards out there, but no one mag yet covers it all.

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posted 18 Jul 2006, 19.06 +0100

Print
You say: Gulf War, Wikipolitia

This is the bit where you write a small comment, and I expand in depth. Shortly, the administration of an online encyclopædia.

Matt T writes about usage of "Gulf War". A cursory review of the web will, of course, associate this term with the 1990-91 Kuwaiti Sovereignty Crisis. A cursory review of contemporary literature (such as the online newspaper search now available to all library members) will associate the term with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict. Indeed, the Wikipedia article claims,

The Iran-Iraq War... was commonly referred to as the (Persian) Gulf War until the Iraq-Kuwait crisis (1990-91), which became known as the Second (Persian) Gulf War and later simply the (Persian) Gulf War.

As usual with Wikipedia articles, this statement is unsourced. It would be necessary to consult a professional dictionary to discern the date of first use. That most web references suggest the 1990-91 battle can be attributed to the facts that a) Western armed forces (specifically, those of the rebel colonies in the Americas) were deployed, and b) the event occurred around the time that the internet became a medium of mass communication. It may be the most popular usage, but that doesn't make it etymologically correct.

Matt's other point, that we're talking about how readers of the Daily Hell use the term, is a winner. We're not discussing people who require precision in their language, or who will re-cast a sentence purely to avoid a split infinitive. The people who take that organ do not receive a primer in the finer points of recent middle-east history, or the destabilising effect that a prolonged conflict had on the region. Or, indeed, the way that the 1980s conflict built up Iraq so that it would have the strength to attack Kuwait, and a reasonable expectation that it would be allowed to get away with it, thus precipitating a stand-off that lasted into 2003.

Ultimately, they shall not be bothered, because an imprecise use of the term "Gulf war" is not political correctness gone mad, and does not have any effect on house prices.

Building a better wikipedia

Chris asks after better ways to administer Wikipedia.org. Stopping anonymous edits would be a start; the bar to make an account is low enough to be trivial, and I suggest that ensuring all edits are signed by someone will significantly reduce petty vandalism.

Is it necessary to have such a huge management structure? What does an "administrator" do that a standard user does not? A "steward"? A "bureaucrat"? A "board member"? It's not clear, even from reviewing the community pages, what each post does. Or whether the deletion process should occupy something like 60 pages of text.

I'd also point out that the site's policies are those of the site, not those of a proper encyclopædia. Thou Shalt Not Include Radio Schedules makes a discussion of Bannister's changes to Radio 1 almost impossible. Thou Shalt Work By Consensus is going to be flouted by anything that is moderately controversial. There's nothing wrong with having site policies, but the conflation of Wikipedia.org and a proper encyclopædia causes needless confusion.

Ultimately, many of the problems come from a fundamental design flaw. Wikipedia always prefers the latest edit to the consensus edit. A better architecture would have been for changes (which would have to be non-anonymous, natch) to go into a review queue, and approved or declined by any other user. Yes, there would need to be some form of IP-checking to ensure people couldn't approve their own edits, and I suggest that any edit that's not actively blocked within 24 hours would be auto-approved. However, this was ruled out as a reaction against the proper peer-review system of Nupedia. Such willy-waving and petty point-scoring has been a tremendously significant decision.

Even within the existing structure, it's possible to use the "talk" page to create a fork, edit the article behind-the-scenes, establish consensus, then push the whole thing live. This practice is positively frowned upon, as it's deemed a violation of Thou Shalt Be Bold. For instance, see the comment on Mega-society talk

The result of this, the main problem with Wikipedia.org, it tends to the bland. The vast majority of entries are good enough to avoid deletion, but never aspire to any academic excellence. For instance, the Wikipedia.org entry on BBC Radio 1 suggests nothing happened at all between 1967 and 1994; Transdiffusion's section contains four full articles on the station's history, including the crucial background on the pirate transmissions and how Radio 1 fitted (and fits) into the BBC's overall radio strategy. The Transdiffusion articles are encyclopaedic, scholarly, and far too good for Wikipedia.org.

While preparing this article, I've come across an interview with some Wikipedia editors.

As for Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, I suggest returning to the original source. He's a small-government person, and implicitly argues just that point.

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posted 18 Jul 2006, 19.53 +0100

Intellectual

Wed 19 Jul 2006

More lies from the loose people at Six Apart

In which Patricia Mitchell, Six Apart's retained advertisement whore, pretends that everything in the garden is rosy. LiveJournal is a top 100 site - true, number 61 in to-day's Alexa rankings - and probably the only one that didn't have advertising. False - excluding the various Asian sites, which I don't have the knowledge to read, there are no paid-for commercials on Ebay (numbers 9, 36, and 66), Microsoft (13), Amazon (15), Comcast (62), Apple (63), Dell (78). There are no advertisements at all on Wikipedia (17), the BBC (23). Mrs Mitchell is either woefully uninformed, or is flat-out lying.

The LiveJournal community is an interesting and eclectic group of personal bloggers. Many of them are anti-advertising and believe all advertising and marketing is bad... I decided to use the power of social networking... It's going the right way by making it an engaged experience... I’m personally approving every [commercial] that runs on LiveJournal.

A system that works so well that Mrs Mitchell is personally installing crapware on people's computers. It's going so well that there are instructions on site to get rid of Livejournal commercials. It's going so well that some of us have moved off Livejournal completely.

If you're going to engage with us, Mrs Mitchell, why won't you answer any question that criticises the commercial creep of your company? Why was your first reaction to install loud and intrusive banner advertisements everywhere? Why did you try to change your terms of service to tell us what software we could run on our computers? Why will you not accept that Six Apart has killed the community it tried and failed to buy?

It's got to be the right message. The targeting's got to go both ways. I can deliver the right person to you. You've got to deliver the right message to them.

The message here is that Six Apart, as a company, is a bunch of money-obsessed hucksters who would happily sell their own grandmothers if the price were right. Of course this isn't about improving the service for blog-authors. It's about delivering eyeballs to advertisers. Just like every other bunch of social retards who sell their principles for cash.

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posted 19 Jul 2006, 19.13 +0100

Annoyed| Six Apart Is Useless
From the Levant

The Rev. Mister A. R. P. Blair has spoken from the pulpit on the current crisis in the middle east. "Of course we all want violence to stop and stop immediately, but we recognise the only realistic way to achieve such a cease-fire is to address the underlying reasons why this violence has broken out."

As ever, the reverend is almost completely right. Everyone wants the killing to stop, with the exception of those whose aims are advanced by formenting further unrest in the Jordan drainage basin, such as Mr. Olmerta of the Washing Powder Force, and Brother Bush of the Church of Latter-Day Morons.

The Rev. is also right that the best way to silence to guns is to address the underlying problems. All we disagree about is the method of tackling the root causes. Some suggest that the political entity of Israel has a long-standing policy of expanding beyond its agreed borders, and that this would need to be addressed in any meaningful discussions. Others propose that the whole conflict has been caused entirely by those who would wish to see Israel removed from the map entirely, and that the best response is to deploy Sister Condy to tell the Arabs to stop doing this shit.

As the underlying reasons will not be discussed, so the cycle of violence will continue. It's not certain that discussing them will stop the slaughter, but it cannot hurt to try.

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posted 19 Jul 2006, 19.45 +0100

News

Thu 20 Jul 2006

The cultural preview

In this post: Proms preview, L-Word, Party of Five.

Peter Maxwell Davies has been having a pop at Dave Cameron's taste in music. A list that includes Radiohead, early REM, and the Smiths may not keep Mr Maxwell Davies in beer, but it shows a certain frisson of modernity. Whether these are Mr Cameron's genuine picks, or those of a focus group, is not clear.

This would, of course, be the same Mr Maxwell Davies who inflicted a tedious load of drivel on an unsuspecting audience - his anthem to the birthday of Mrs Liz Windsor, a landowner from Norfolk, was tedeum of the highest order. Bring back wall-to-wall Mozart, all is forgiven.

Next week, it's the Blue Peter Prom, featuring Lord Matt Baker, Chris Jarvis as The Narrator, That Zoe Person, a guest appearance from Chris The Gardener, and finishing with the world premiere of the new BP signature tune. That's at 11am on Sunday morning.

Saturday evening's show is promising - Jánacek's Cunning Little Vixen and Dvorá 7, though the programme also includes some Mzrt. Sunday evening stars Brynt Awful, but the programme - Elgar, Bliss, Walton - could be better than the performer.

Monday's Chamber Prom is two sopranos and a piano, so we'll give it a miss. The evening is Haydn, Benjamin, Brahms; I'll probably join after the interval. Tuesday is a live presentation of a Classic FM opera show. Wednesday evening features Webern, Shostakovich, Brahms, and could be OK. There's a night-cap of music from the Basilica of St Mark's circa 1600 - that could be one to hear in bed. Thursday sees new Rihm and Mahler 4; Friday is Brahms and Strauss.

Pick two? The BP prom, natch, and Wednesday's late prom.

In television news, a couple of imports of their time come to the small screen this week. The third series of The L-Word begins on UK Living at 10pm on Saturday. I've found this to be an irritating series, some of the episodes and characters are entertaining, but there's far too much filler surrounding incredibly tedious and predictable plotlines. Don't expect sex scenes, don't expect a same-week repeat, and - as it's on opposite the utterly fabulous Fort Boyard on TV5 Europe - don't expect viewing here.

Party of Five had six series in its original F*x incarnation, from 1994 to 2000. The first series went out as part of Channel 4's Sunday afternoon youth programming in summer 1995, so never started at the same time for three weeks in a row. Series two filled the 6pm Wednesday My So-Called Life slot in the second half of 1996, and the third run picked up from the start of 1997. An assured success? Perhaps not - series 4 was taken off for six weeks in early spring 1998, which meant that the last couple of episodes had to be make way for the channel's Tour de France coverage. By the time series 5 was due to start, Andi Peters had been appointed C4's head of youth programmes, and preferred the upstart Dawson's Creek and zillions of episodes of Hollyoakes. As a result, the shows didn't air until E4 began in early 2001, and two series never went out on terrestrial television.

The late-90s drama made stars out of Scott Wolf (now appearing in ITV's ...Everwood), Matthew Fox (C4's Lost (Not the game show, the incomprehensible rubbish)), Neve Campbell (the Screech motion pictures), Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls, The Wild Thornberries, The Future Mrs Choccers), Scott Grimes (C4's ER's Archie Morris), Jeremy London (Hallmark's 7th Heaven's Chandler Hampton), and Jennifer Love Hewitt (yeah. Sorry.)

Rights have now been picked up by ABC-1, the Disney-owned imported entertainment channel, and they'll be showing Po5 each weekday for the next six months or so. At 9 in the morning. I intend to catch some episodes, not necessarily all of them, and see if the programme really is the seminal coming-of-age drama that I remember from first time around, or if it's forever going to be caught up in the memories of 96-98.

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posted 20 Jul 2006, 19.07 +0100

Culture
It's a good Tour this year

For the first time in forever, we've had an entertaining Tour de France this year. Lance Armstrong's domination of the tour was total and utterly tedious - we were watching in the vain hope that someone would come along and overtake the Texasite. Even when he steered into a spectator in 2003, Mr Armstrong went on to win by a mile.

So this year, where the winner wasn't obvious from before the starting pistol, has been fascinating. Coming out of the Pyrenees section, Floyd Landis was in the leader's yellow jersey, and looking good to remain in the lead for the remaining week or so. Then, on Saturday's flat stage, his team allowed a group containing Oscar Pereiro to escape up the road and win the stage by something over half-an-hour. Sr Pereiro was gifted the lead, and retained it on Sunday's flat race.

After a rest-day, the tour continued on Tuesday, with a climb up Alpe d'Huez. This is the tour's iconic location, with a significance far beyond the mere fact that it's a huge-ass mountain. Comparisons with Beacher's Brook or the Indianapolis Speedway would be appropriate. Mr Landis regained the lead, taking a minute and a half out of Sr Peirero. His advantage was just ten seconds, and Mr Landis completely cracked on Wednesday's climbs, losing eight minutes to many of the leaders. Sr Pieiro finished third on the day's stage, and regained yellow. Six riders were within four minutes of the lead, making this a much more interesting spectacle than anything we've seen in donkey's years.

And then... this happened.

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posted 20 Jul 2006, 19.08 +0100

Sport

Fri 21 Jul 2006

Two Songs a Week 14 - Souled in

Our Kind of Soul was the 2005 release from the duo known as Daryl Hall John Oates. According to the liner notes, it was recorded in three weeks in a makeshift studio in the Caribbean, and it really does sound like it at times - the production standards are ramshackle, and the gloss finish from the duo's last album, 2003's Do It For Love is missing.

Most of the songs are covers of major and minor soul classics, with a handful of new compositions making up the numbers. The resultant sound is perhaps closest to a couple of guys in a beachfront bar, performing their takes on their favourite songs. It's not for everyone, and it's not for all moods, but it fits right in to the extreme heat we've been having this week.

The most interesting track on the album is the re-working of I can dream about you, with the lyrics changed almost completely from Dan Hartman's original.

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posted 21 Jul 2006, 19.05 +0100

Two Songs a Week

Sat 22 Jul 2006

More on the Levant

It's one thing not to be actively calling for a cease-fire. It's something else entirely to be arming one of the combatants.

AZ has a telling point on the crisis in Gaza, which - lest we forget - began when an Israel army unit invaded Gaza to arrest someone they suspected of crimes. Rightly or wrongly, this was an invasion of a country that even Israel recognised could handle its own affairs. The local Hamasites made their raid in response the following day, the Israeli response was to wage collective punishment against the entire Gaza territory. The Hizbollaites followed the same script in Lebanon last week, with the same effect. Net result? A whole lot more support for the radical extremists, thanks to the political over-reaction of the Israeli state.

There's some good history in one of the comments, too.

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posted 22 Jul 2006, 11.26 +0100

News
The week in a nutshell

What was John Prescott's greatest achievement? My money's on the chipolata.

The new schedule for BBC-1 will include some late evening concerts at 10.35 - these will be single-act performances, rather than the bran-tub approach favoured by Top of the Pops. Another venerable act, Panorama, will shrink to a half-hour and move to 8.30 Monday nights. To be fair, there's rarely more than 30 minutes of actual information in the programme, and the tighter time-limit should make for more compelling telly. It's also going to air just about all year round, rather than the current 30 or so weeks per year. However, it's now opposite ITV's ratings behemoth Coronation-street and - barring an outbreak of common sense from Roly Keating - opposite University Challenge. Two highbrow programmes on the Beeb at the same time? This way for madness.

In his analysis of the rail privatisation fiasco, Simon Jenkins repeats the canard that it's all the Conservatives' fault. This is palpable nonsense. Had the Labour party said in 1994 that it did not feel bound to honour the subsidy arrangements, no train operators could have been sold off. Had Gordon Brown said that he would renationalise Railtrack, the share offer would have failed dismally. And Jenkins fails to point out that it's Labour who have really botched up the system, panicking after the Hatfield de-railment and dismantling such checks and balances as the Tories had left.

Rebecca Front on how libraries are being let down by the middle classes.

Metafilter discusses sudoku. Again.

More praise for this year's Tour. Where would we be without Liggett and Sherwin? As we discovered in 2001, when Eurosport had the only daily coverage, bereft of decent commentary.

Very advance notice: the biggest cultural phenomenon of the year lands here on 22 September. It had better be worth watching...

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posted 22 Jul 2006, 11.51 +0100

Intellectual

Sun 23 Jul 2006

Music in week 29

Starting with the artist airplay list.

1. 5 orson   5
2. N pipettes   4
3. 3 kooks   4
4. N floyd cramer   4
5. N nelly furtardo   3
6. 2 kelly clarkson   3
7. 10lostprophets   3
8. N lemar   2
9. N james dean bradfield   2
10 N jadyn maria   2

Yes, that is Floyd Cramer the 60s pianist. And Lemar, the Star Academy loser, whose new single is rather good, but then so are all Star Academy contestants (cf Jadyn Maria, who was the person voted off SA-NA by The One voter.)

France has a new number one, a tribute to their favourite footballer, Zidane y va marquer. Can't quite see any England fan putting together a good song in favour of Ed Rooney, but this isn't a good song to begin with. The footy continues to hold down the top three places in Germany, and David Baddiel's pension plan continues to pull in the wages of a top-20 single. Scandinavia has gone potty for Stars are blind, the release from Paris Hilton, a Yankee version of Abigail Titmuss.

North Europe's Top Twenty

 20 14 Mary J Blige / U2 - One
 19 16 Muse - Supermassive black hole
*18 NE Oliver Pocher - Schwarz und weiss
 17  7 Keane - Is it any wonder?
*16 19 Sportfreunde Stiller - 54 70 90 2006
 15 17 Infernal - From Paris to Berlin
*14 18 Basshunter - Boten Anna
 13 12 Lordi - Hard rock hallelujah
 12  5 Zutons - Valerie
 11 11 Feeling - Fill my little world
 10  8 Automatic - Monster
  9  9 Pink - Who knew?
  8  6 Annoying Thing - We are the champions
* 7 13 Pakito - Living on video
* 6 15 Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway
  5  4 Kooks - She moves in her own way
  4  3 Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
* 3 10 Lily Allen - Smile
  2  1 Shakira - Hips don't lie
* 1  2 Nelly Furtado - Maneater

The one new entry is from a German comedian singing about the lack of racial differences when everyone's cheering for the national team. Evidently a fan of Look Around You. It would be interesting for someone to translate Sportfreunde's record into English, though it would require more success than the football side has ever had. New peaks for Pakito thanks to new success in Dutch-speaking areas, and for Kelly Clarkson, almost a year after the record first made number 10. Nelly Furtado has the new number one, only the eighth chart-topper of the year.

In the UK, it's another number one for McFly; Please please is their second charity chart-topper in less than a year, which can't be good for the act's career. Rhianna lands in the runner-up slot with Unfaithful, and James Morrison winds up at number 5. Nelly Furtado has had eight weeks in the top 10, and Sandi Thom - the Kaycee Nicole of modern music - nine. Gnarls Bakrley scrapes a second top 10 hit.

Red Hot Chili Peppers' Tell me baby is clearly from the "Will this do?" school of music, the sort of quarter-assed funk filler that ensures the fast-forward button will remain in use. Clitring Aguilera charts on downloads alone; full releases from Sean Brown and Chris Paul both miss the top 20. Snow Patrol also chart on downloads.

Unusually large amounts of rock in the chart - Wolfmother's Woman is swagger writ large, and Bullet For My Valentine are new-emo. We also note Supermode's Tell me why, a mash-up of Bronski Beat's 1984 hits Smalltown boy and Why. That's on downloads, as is Ray Lamontagne; Franz Ferdinand and Klaus Badelt also have full-release entries.

Lower, we find that the Flaming Lips land at position 41, which is just unfortunate. Madge can only make 45 on downloads alone, and there are fast plummets for the DPTs and JDB. Gary Numan is still recording, his new single makes a not at all bad 63. Current indie darlings Sleepy Jackson can only make 69, which will disappoint.

On the albums, Razorlight, Lily Allen, and Paolo Nutini have new entries in the top three positions. Orson have a good climb, and Wolfmother's slow journey upwards sees them reach number 29. Ali Farka Toure was the biggest hitmaker in Mali until his death earlier this year; a compilation album enters at 34, seven places ahead of the Pipettes. There's yet another Beach Boys compilation out, and even though it's been blessed with the best summer weather ever, it only makes 46. The Rifles' album comes in at 68, as another indie darling fails commercially.

Here's the good stuff on the singles listing:

 1 NE McFly - Please please
 3  2 Shakira - Hips don't lie
 4  1 Lily Allen - Smile
 7  4 Nelly Furtardo - Maneater
13 11 Kooks - She moves in her own way
17 13 Automatic - Monster
20 15 Zutons - Valerie
21 17 Pink - Who knew?
25 DL Snow Patrol - Chasing cars
27 22 Muse - Supermassive black hole
30 NE Franz Ferdinand
         - Eleanor put your boots on
31 NE Wolfmother - Woman
32 24 Lostprophets - Rooftops
33 28 Feeling - Fill my little world
35 31 Kooks - Naive
37 NE Bullet For My Valentine - Tears don't fall
41 NE Flaming Lips - The Wand
44 37 Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway
46 20 Dirty Pretty Things - Deadwood
47 35 Beatfreaks - Somebody's watching me
48 18 James Dean Bradfield
         - That's no way to tell a lie
49 39 Keane - Is it any wonder?
50 43 Snow Patrol - You're all I have
52 29 Nylon - Losing a friend
55 60 Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats
59 44 Jose Gonzalez - Hand on your heart
62 49 Primal Scream - Country girl
63 NE Gary Numan - In a dark place
64 57 Orson - Bright idea
67 51 Pipettes - Pull shapes
69 NE Sleepy Jackson - God lead your soul
71 55 Guillemots - Made up lovesong number 43
73 70 Raconteurs - Steady as she goes

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posted 23 Jul 2006, 19.38 +0100

Entertainment
Weather in week 29

Unlike the one at the beginning of the month, this week's heatwave was unusual because it came with very low humidity. The prevailing winds last week were from the north and east, directions that bring relatively dry air over the UK. Once the winds dropped and the solar heating effect began, such winds as there were remained from the south-east quadrant, so the moisture content remained very low. The effects - low humidity, almost cloudless skies, and longer-than-usual visibility. The record for warmest July day has probably fallen; the old mark of 35.9°C, set at Cheltenham in 1976, was provisionally beaten on Wednesday - 36.5°C at Wisley, 36.3°C at Charlwood, and a mere 36.0°C at Farnborough.

At Birmingham airport, the front passed around 5pm on Wednesday, causing the dew point to rise from 7°C to 13°C in just half-an-hour. The dew point continued to rise during the night, settling between 16°C and 18°C around midnight. Humid conditions persisted into Saturday, and there was a rainstorm with some thunder activity between 2pm and 4pm. This storm was remarkable for the temperature drop that accompanied it, falling from 25°C at 1pm to 18°C at 4pm. More drizzle on Sunday morning.

It's not just people who are feeling the effects of the current extreme heatwave. The grass, as one would expect, is turning from its traditional shades of green to a slightly ill yellow, and in some cases on to a brown. Trees are beginning to shed their leaves - there's a coating of dropped digits over the surface of my lawn. And some of the plants that people use as hedges are beginning to curl up. The tips of the leaves are brown, as if someone had stood over them with a very small magnifying glass, caught the sun until the end of the leaf started to smoulder, and then moved away.

17 Mo sun                 16/32
18 Tu sun                 17/32
19 We sun                 17/34
20 Th rain on, humid, sun 19/29, 1.0
21 Fr cloud to sun        18/28
22 Sa cloud, rain pm      19/25, 5.5
23 Su cloud to sun        xx/xx

No fewer than 60 (SIXTY) degree cooling days this week, the summer's total soars to 227, compared to 141/237 last year, 72/184 two summers ago, and 138/310 in 2003. The warmest seven days of this heatwave was from last Sunday, 68 degrees of hot. The recent record was another Sunday-Saturday spread, 3-9 August 2003, which totalled 65 degree heating days

The forecast: A couple of weak weather fronts will tickle western parts of the British Isles on Monday and Tuesday before petering out; most other parts will be under a slack easterly airflow, which will probably leave more cloud than we've had this week. Expect things to be more humid, but not the absolute heat. By Thursday, the dominant feature will be an area of low pressure in mid-Atlantic, which will already be flinging weather fronts over Ireland. Winds will swing round to the west, and there will be some showers, perhaps with thunder at first. Next week-end could be spent under the depression, so do wrap up.

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posted 23 Jul 2006, 19.39 +0100

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