The Snow In The Summer or So-So

09/18/2006 - 09/24/2006

Mon 18 Sep 2006

From farm to plate

Oi! Supermarket! Stop selling my produce. The maker of a rather nice packet of premium crisps has told a leading supermarket to take them off their shelves. Will Chase, the founder of Tyrrells chips, has refused to sell his product to larger supermarkets, but the store managed to source them via someone else.

School meals

On Friday, there was a brief story about some mothers who were running a take-away service to their children's school. One of the mothers is quoted as saying, "We get what the kids want. Today we've been delivering jacket potatoes and salad sandwiches. Everything. Children are locked up like caged animals inside there, starving all day." When term began two weeks ago, schools were subject to new standards for their meals.

A case of lower-class rebellion against the forced bourgeoisement of school meals? Hardly, as an interview on PM demonstrated. The head teacher has implemented a bizarre split lunch system, with children moving between 11am and 1pm each day; at 30 minutes, the lunch break may not be long enough to comply with relevant legislation. There are also suggestions that the quality of the meals served is particularly low.

On the other use of a card

In the Torygraph, Philip Johnson is annoyed about the government's plans to know everything about everyone at every time. He touches on the pernicious growth of closed-circuit television cameras, the identity database, computerised medical records, and the ban on encryption.

Once you accept that the government has the right to know where you are at all times, to demand that you tell its agents when you move home or to render up your private musings at its behest, then you have changed the nature of the individual's relationship to the state in a way that is totally alien to this country's historic, though ill-defined, covenant between the rulers and the ruled. If enough people say "so what?" to that, as well, then Mr Blair really has left a legacy, and it is a pernicious one.
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posted 18 Sep 2006, 15.57 +0100

Culture| News
News from Europe

In Sweden's general election, a narrow win for the opposition Moderate party, ending the twelve-year rule of the Social Democrats. The Moderates propose to cut taxes by Kr100md (€15md), financed by reducing unemployment benefits from 80% of income to 65%.

It takes a lot for the people of Deauville to go up in arms, but somehow, it's happened. Ryanair, vous n'êtes pas bienvenue, a dit les Deauvillais. «Retourner au l'Irlande, et prenez votre petits homme verts avec toi.»

A crooked cheat - Mrs Thatcher. The story doesn't quite allow the headline to stand up, sadly.

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posted 18 Sep 2006, 16.15 +0100


Tue 19 Sep 2006

Hungary for change

There's been a night of rioting in Budapest, following the admission from Hungary's prime minister that he has been lying like a doormat. We lied morning, noon and night, said Ferenc Gyurcsany, a city speculator turned socialist prime minister. In response to this unscheduled outbreak of honesty from politicians, the people of Hungary rose up and told him to go. They also tried to take over the state broadcaster, for reasons that weren't entirely clear. Cars were set ablaze, and the riot police used tear gas and water cannon. From my memory, this is rioting more fierce than during the relatively peaceful transition from communism in 1989, and might be the worst rioting in the half-century since Soviet tanks moved in.

Last week-end, the people of Mexico were also revolting. A presidential election in June has been recounted and litigated ever since, the courts have consistently upheld a small but decisive victory for the right-wing candidate. Supporters of the left-wing candidate have continued to claim that Something is Up, and the left-wingers have formed their own shadow government and taken to the streets in protest. Readers may wish to compare this against the reaction of the left not quite so extreme-right following contested elections in the provinces just north of Mexico; when Something actually was Up, the not-so-far-right stayed at home and groused amongst themselves.

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posted 19 Sep 2006, 18.07 +0100

If this is the first prize, what do the losers get?

The local rag is giving away tickets to see Herr Plunkett on his hector tour late this month. To win the tickets, people must answer the following question:

Which was David Plunkett's last cabinet job before his resignation?
a) Prime minister
b) Foreign secretary
c) Home secretary

The correct answer - Secretary of State for Work, Pensions, Getting the Taxpayer to Pay For Your Girlfriend's Train Tickets, Lying to the Press, Ignoring People Offering Honourable Advice, and Generally Being a Cad - was noticeable by its absence.

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posted 19 Sep 2006, 18.43 +0100


Wed 20 Sep 2006

We ask your pardon for the inconvenience

It's been fifteen years since the last coup d'etat in Thailand, and we were beginning to think that the armed forces were rather out of practice. Still, staging coups is a bit like riding a bicycle, and the Thais proved themselves up to the task yesterday. While Thaksin Shinawatra was in New Amsterdam addressing the United Nations, the armed forces stepped in and said that they were going to run the place now.

Mr. Shinawatra won his second election last year, but faced criticism after allegations of corruption and venality. There was a short-notice general election in April, but the opposition declined to participate, and the parliament has been inquorate ever since. General Sondhi Boonyaratklin, leader of the coup, said that he would be the acting prime minister for the next fortnight, but would make way for someone "who is neutral and upholds democracy". General elections scheduled for this autumn have been postponed until October next year.

Though he denies involvement, very little happens in Thailand's political circles without the tacit approval of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king has endorsed Gen. Boonyaratklin's premiership, and both men have promised to honour Thailand's international treaties. There were no reports of unrest, and a small pro-Shinawatra protest broke up after the army suggested that things might turn a little bit nasty. Mr. Shinawatra has continued on his prepared programme, to-day visiting London for talks with another neutral fan of democracy, Mister Tony Blair.

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posted 20 Sep 2006, 18.04 +0100

Pulling threads

In discussions elsewhere, a couple of points have emerged that are worth recording in a more public place.

1. Minnie the Moocher is one of those songs that has become a standard without ever providing a particular hit recording - the Polyhex UK charts database records just one hit single, and that was a number 35 smash in late 1988. The incredibly incomplete "Allmusic" site lists about 200 different recordings, one of which is in the famous motion picture The Blues Brothers. (Must be famous if this correspondent has heard of it...)

2. Why are there 231 cubic inches in a Yankee gallon? It's all from the legal definition of a gallon in the early eighteenth century, the Wine Gallon. In those days, wine was carried in diddy one-gallon barrels - a cylinder 6 inches (15cm) long and 7 inches (17.5cm) in radius. In a feat of parliamentary innumeracy that would leave Gordon Brown green with envy, the British legislature decreed that 6*3.52*π = 231, rather than the 230.9... it really works out at. That was in 1707, and by the time the correction had worked its way through the select committees, the Yankees had not only started to be revolting, but had secured de facto independence for forty years. More reading at Custom units and Doctor Maths.

3. Television shows of the now - comedies Broken News, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Mock the Week. Light entertainment Antan Dec's Saturday Night House Party, Bremner, Bird and/or Fortune, Veronica Mars, Blue Peter. And the obgameshows Countdown, University Challenge, La Carte aux Tresors. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Andrew Lloyd Webber's Ego was entertaining in a frothy manner, but I shan't be watching Strictly Come Prancing. Nor The Cow Factor. I was mildly interested in seeing High School Musical, more to see what the fuss is about than anything, but given the saturation advertising and the fact that it'll clash with the Ryder Cup, I'll give it a miss. It seems that the British television channels aren't doing full-length drama series any more, merely soaps and one-offs. And no sign of the next Gilmore Girls series, which is just annoying. We're only three years behind production anyway.

Old stuff that might justifiably get a repeat? Press Gang is the obvious take, it's been off the screens for over a decade now. Gosh. Remember when ITV made programmes for children, rather than programmes to advertise at children? Byker Grove from start-to-finish would be a marathon effort for CBBC, and the science programme Tomorrow's World could take a revival.

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posted 20 Sep 2006, 19.02 +0100

Intellectual| Introspective

Thu 21 Sep 2006

Arrested for crimes against broadcasting

Chris Evans has been arrested by police. The Warrington-born twit, best known for his ginger hair and friendship with "Honest" Danny Cockney, has been detained by police investigating his impersonation of a radio disk jockey.

Oh, hang on, it's some other Chris Evans, nicked in the cash-for-peerages scandal. This Evans is Labour's resident science wonk, and shared a stage with soon to be former prime minister Mister Tony Blair when he launched Labour's science manifesto last year.


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posted 21 Sep 2006, 16.25 +0100

Politics| Radio
Still not flying to-night

Maybe Mr Evans should have had a quiet word in the ears of the transport and interior ministers. Between them, they've announced that the aircraft hand luggage ban will be relaxed a little further, restoring the size of bags to the international standard. Travellers will still be allowed just one carry-on per person, and no liquids will be allowed through security - the scientific numpties still believe the myth that a plane can be blown up with nothing more than some lipstick and a tube of extra-minty toothpaste. It is not clear if 50% of passengers will still be subjected to body searches.

To-day's transport minister, someone called Douglas Alexander, said, "We will never compromise the security of the travelling public." By insisting that the security staff concentrate their efforts on people carrying eyeliner, rather than investing their time in targetted searches, Mr Alexender is compromising the security of the travelling public. He is a woeful failure and must resign.

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posted 21 Sep 2006, 16.47 +0100


Fri 22 Sep 2006

A miscellany

Good Mathematics, Bad Mathematics on the art and craft of the slide rule.

We are going to ban it because it's the kind of thing that should be banned. Andrew Rilstone on the logic-free space inhabited by those who would not have us think yucky thoughts.

Taxi drivers will not call at Neustraße station, as they'll be charged 20p for each fare they pick up. It's not entirely clear if passengers will now be dropped off on the road outside the station.

MFI has sold its furniture retail stores for 1 pound. The stores contain pictogram instructions and one vital piece missing, and they'll collapse within five years.

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posted 22 Sep 2006, 14.45 +0100

Get 'Out'

Two Songs a Week has been trying to pick out one track that adequately explores Gabriella Kulka's latest release, Out. And we've failed to boil the album down to a single stand-out track.

This is what we would technically call a Difficult album, with complex piano melodies (in places, reminiscent of some of Smetana's more taxing figures) and cryptic lyrics ensuring that the first response is likely to be puzzlement. If you're expecting something simple enough to fit into the Sarah Kennedy show, you'll be disappointed. Those after a record with a little substance, something to hear while waiting for Late Junction, may well find this one worth the effort.

A point on the ordering process: international orders are handled by the Oregon-based CD Baby, there's not a European small-run distributor. Even though the net transfer is from Warsaw to Birmingham, the disk travels about 10,000 miles to reach me when it could have gone a tenth of a minute. It also exposes us to the irritatingly chirpy bunkum that CD Baby spews out when it ships an order. If anyone knows of a decent European distributor, please let us know.

The pain is worth it, as Kulka's album is rewarding in ways that only become clear after a number of hearings, and I'm only part of the way there yet. Readers can find ten of the fifteen tracks for download on her website.

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posted 22 Sep 2006, 17.45 +0100

Two Songs a Week

Sat 23 Sep 2006

Not Alan Partridge

Sports news, and on the first day of the Ryder Cup (it's a bit like Antan Dec's All-Star Cup, only professional) went to Europe, 5:3. Though the Yankees won the opening match by one hole, Europe took two of the other morning fourballs, and halved the last match. It was slightly closer in the afternoon foursomes, Europe winning one match and three being halved - one thanks to a marvellous Montgomerie putt on the last green.

Tennis, and the UK should make it through the relegation play-off against Ukraine. One of the opposition squad members is Sergei Bubka, whose father is better known as a champion pole-vaulter.

The BBC broadcast a programme this week in which it claimed that Sam Alladyce, the Bolton Wanderererererers manager, was prepared to accept a bung in a transfer deal. The side from north Manchester refused to allow the Beeb's local radio station to cover its press conference earlier this week, and looked set to refuse to talk to the corporation for its Mismatch Of The Day programme. The Football Association has decreed that all clubs should give interviews to Auntie's rep, though it hasn't said that they should give a substantive interview. Or that he can't use language that might be described as rudey.

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posted 23 Sep 2006, 12.09 +0100


Sun 24 Sep 2006

Malcolm Arnold and Radio 3

The death has been announced of Malcolm Arnold, musician, aged 84. Never one to be pigeon-holed, Mr. Arnold composed the statutory nine symphonies, but most of his work was incidental music for the motion picture industry. He'll be remembered for his theme to The Bridge on the River Kwai, and for his groundbreaking work with Deep Purple. Mr. Arnold's style was quintissentially English, melding elements of traditional classical with folk styles, and always composing with a slightly mischievous sense of humour. His successors include the pop group Blur. Mr. Arnold was originally a trumpeter, and fondly recalls a meeting he had with Mr. Louis Armstrong, a jazz musician. By speaking to the masses, Mr. Arnold helped to make the obscure more accessible without compromising it in any way.

It's fair to say that Mr. Arnold encapsulated the culture of The Third Programme, which marks its diamond jubilee this Saturday. He was able to talk to the high culture audience, and to the popular culture audience, as though they were one and the same. In its original incarnation, The Third Programme was an esoteric mixture of high culture - music, lectures, drama, talks. Budget cuts in 1957 reduced the service's hours; the absolutely barking Broadcasting In The Seventies changes removed most of the spoken-word output, ensuring that high culture would become almost identical with classical music.

Birthday celebrations start with History Through the Ears (9.30 to-night), a discussion on how people have listened. Blood transfusion - another organisation celebrating its diamond anniversary this week - is marked in Night Waves (9.30 to-morrow). The big night is Friday, when there's a repeat of Joyce Grenfell and Stephen Potter's How to Listen, followed by a commission from Jonathan Dove, a talk from Mr. Tom Service - the Controller of New Music - and an exercise comparing and contrasting the culture of 1946 with that of the present day. The decennial out-takes programme is Between the Ears at 10.15 next Saturday.

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posted 24 Sep 2006, 15.06 +0100

Culture| Radio
Music in week 38

Germany has a new number one, as Bert Bills knocks Bill from Tokio Hotel off the top spot. Oh Lordi, there's also a new topper in Finland, where Who's your daddy gives the Eurovision winners their second homeland chart-topper. Over in Estonia, 2001 winner Tanel Padar has a top ten hit with Vota aega; Vanilla Ninja are Rockstarz at number 19 there.

North Europe's Top Twenty

 20 re Arctic Monkeys - Leave before the lights
 19 re Feeling - Fill my little world
 18 18 Snow Patrol - Chasing cars
*17 19 Tokio Hotel - Der letzte tag
 16 10 Basshunter - Boten Anna
 15 20 Lily Allen - Smile
*14 14 Bob Sinclar - Rock this party
 13  6 Kasabian - Empire
 12  5 Muse - Starlight
 11 13 Plage - Coup de boule
*10 NE Seizure Sisters - I don't feel like dancing
  9 11 Cascada - Everytime we touch
* 8  9 Fratellis - Chelsea digger
* 7 12 Lemar - It's not that easy
  6  7 Rhianna - Unfaithful
  5  3 Shakira - Hips don't lie
  4  1 Nelly Furtado - Maneater
* 3  4 Justin Timberwank - Hairyback
* 2  8 Robbie Williams - Rudebox
* 1  2 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous

We could write something snippy about the Seizures, but we really can't be bothered.

The Seizure Sisters retain the number one single, outpointing The Killers by an embarrassingly large margin. Cascada (back up from 12 to 7) Jamelia (up a place to 9) and Pink (15 to 10) benefit from the lack of hit releases this week.

It's a grade I disaster for Janet Kackson and Nelly as Call on me staggers in at 18. Very bad news for Jet, INXS without the catchy tunes, as their latest pile of nonsense only makes 23. Not quite such a disaster for The Zutons, as the third single misses the top 20 on full release. The Automatic appear with more of their identikit rock; it's nowhere near as strong as Monster, which would only now be dropping out of the top 40 had it not been deleted, and position 25 is not going to impress anyone.

Amongst the download-only releases: Little Chris lands at 19 with the novelty hit Checking it out. The Pussycat Dolls make 21 with their anti-male call; way to piss off 96% of your audience, peeps. Lily Allen's re-released LDN would be in its fourth week in the chart had the record company not had it deleted a couple of months back. It's not clear if ROPRA's latest rules - the third major rules revision since April 2005 - will end this utter nonsense when they come into effect on 31 Dec. Evanescence should be moderately chuffed to be gothing up number 32, but it's how the album performs over some weeks that will be the test.

Lower down, Paolo Nutini and the High School Musical OCR just miss the top 40 on downloads alone. Full releases for Scott Matthews and the Bluetones barely enter the list.

On the albums listing, it's a good week for the queers, with the Seizure Sisters in at 1, and Dane Elton John new at 6. DJ Shadow, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, and Fregie enter the top 30, and there's a good climb for the Zutons. Lower down, the Rapture, Free, Kelis, Chris Isaak, and Bonnie Prince Billy enter the top 75.

Here's the good stuff on the singles listing:

 2  5 Killers - When you were young ^^
 4  4 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
 6  7 Shakira - Hips don't lie
10 15 Pink - You and your hand
11  9 Feeling - Never be lonely
12 11 Lemar - It's not that easy
14 13 Fratellis - Chelsea dagger
19 NE Little Chris - Checking it out **
22 19 Muse - Starlight
24 NE Zutons - Oh Stacey
25 NE Automatic - Recover
27 re Lily Allen - LDN **
28 24 Kasabian - Empire
31 23 Lostprophets - A town called hypocrisy
32 NE Evanescence - Call me when you're sober **
33 40 Bedouin Soundclash
  - When the night feels my song
35 33 Kooks - She moves in her own way
37 27 Arctic Monkeys
  - Leave before the lights come on
38 35 Lily Allen - Smile
45 NE High School Musical OCR - Breaking free
49 47 Pink - Who knew?
50 NE Cord - Sea of trouble
53 45 Feeling - Fill my little world
54 36 Guillemots - Trains to Brazil
62 NE Wolfmother - Love train
66 38 Get Cape Wear Cape Fly
  - The chronicles of a bohemian teenager (part 1)
67 56 Kooks - Naive
68 NE Bluetones - My neighbour's house
71 32 Larrikin Love - Happy as Annie
72 55 Muse - Supermassive black hole

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posted 24 Sep 2006, 19.37 +0100

Weather in week 38

With the areas of low pressure tracking further north than expected this time last week, most days were quiet, moderately sunny, and quite warm. Thursday in particular was baking, thanks to the remnants of a tropical depression dragging strong winds up from the Azores.

18 Mo sun to cloud        14/19
19 Tu sunny spells        11/19
20 We cloud                9/21
21 Th sun, wind           14/27
22 Fr sun and showers     14/18,19.0
23 Sa mist to sun         10/20
24 Su rain to sun         16/21,10.5

Will this heat never stop? Nine more degree cooling days this week, the summer's total moves to 357. The last three years had all finished by now: 237 last year, 184 in 2004, and 310 in 2003. The month's total is now 76mm, within hailing distance of the month's average - this should be the second wetter than usual month in a row.

Monday and Tuesday are looking good; after that, much depends on the precise course of another ex-tropical storm. It's likely that there will be some rain and strong winds for most parts during the week, but it's not clear when. Expect temperatures to start falling away, now that we're after the equinox.

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posted 24 Sep 2006, 20.00 +0100


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