The Snow In The Summer or So-So


Sat 25 Nov 2006

Telegrams from this week

MEXICO: Mexico will two presidents, following the swearing-in of both candidates from July's disputed election. Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate, was certified the winner of the popular vote by less than 1% over the socialist candidate, Lopez Obrador. Sr. Calderon's ceremony will take place on 1 December. (AJ)

BRUXELLES: Volkswagen will cease production of its Golf car at the Forest plant. Up to 4000 people will lose their jobs. (RTBF)

NEPAL: A peace agreement has been signed between Maoist freedom fighters and the national government.

KIGALI: Rwanda has recalled her ambassador from France, and ordered the French representation to leave the country. A French court had earlier requested that Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, stand trial over the death in 1994 of Rwanda's ancien-president Habyarimana. (AJ)

LUXEMBOURG: The European Court has ruled in favour of different taxation schemes in different countries, by insisting that people must travel to another country if they wish to purchase goods there and not pay duties at home. This is a rare victory for the nation-state over the Greater Europe project, not that the vitriolic contributors to the BBC would believe a word of it. (BBC)

LONDON: The death has been announced of Nick Clarke, the broadcaster. He tried to bring light, not heat, to difficult topics.

LONDON: A former Russian spy has died from Polonium-210 poisoning. The radioactive substance is believed to have been administered when Alexander Litvinenko met other exiled Russians in central London on 1 November. Mr. Litvinenko came to the UK in 2000, alleging that the FSB (ancien-KGB) had bombed citizens in Moscow the previous year, in order to force ancien-president Yelstgin to resume the civil war in Chechnya. (CBC)

BURNLEY: Two Liberal Democrat councillors have been jailed for vote-rigging. (UDR)

PARIS: A Paris St. Germain fan was killed by a policeman in disturbances on Thursday night. The policeman was rescuing a fan of Hapoel Tel-Aviv, who was being attacked by «the Boulogne Boys», a group of racists attatched to the Parisian club. After CS spray failed to clear the aggressors, the policeman opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding another. The procurator says that this was «legitimate defence». (F2)

MELBOURNE: At the Australian Masters, a player has been removed for being completely rubbish. Jon Abbot had scored a 24-over-par 96 in the opening round, and dropped a further 14 shots in the first five holes of his second lap. It is not clear if news of this rule has reached Brisbane. (DT)

BOROVETS: Oliver Burkeman attends the World Puzzle Championships. (HG)

LONDON: Diamond Geezer on those new Oyster rules in full. Before they start charging people the return fare from Antwerp to Brussels for a simple journey from Charing Cross to Waterloo, they might at least make sure that their barriers actually open...

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posted 25 Nov 2006, 11.59 +0000

Sun 03 Dec 2006


Marcus Berkmann on the rise and rise of SMS answering services. (Tel)

The opening of an ice-skating rink in Warwick has been delayed by warm weather. The attraction, at Warwick Castle, has had to import some cold from Rimsby. (BBC)

One of the many tasks on the plate of the incoming Democratic administration in the FARCE is to do something about the traveller's records. Patrick Leahy, who will be chair of the judiciary committee, says, something must be done. (AJ)

Obituaries, ready! Augusto Pinochet is in a grave state, according to hospital reports. (F2)

Sport, and the biathlon season has begun in Sweden. Guess who won all three of the races on the men's tour. Ole Einar Byørndalen won the 65th individual title of his career in Thursday's 20km race, his 66th in yesterday's sprint, and his 67th in to-day's pursuit. Last week, Bjørndalen won a cross-country ski race in Gällivare, the first biathlete to win a competition without bothering to shoot anything. Russian Dmitri Iaroshenko took second place in the latter two races; he's an impressive talent for the future. The women's events had three different winners - Irina Malgina of Russia, Magdalena Gwizdon of Poland, and Linda Grubben of Norway. None was expected to win, though Gwizdon has performed usefully in the past. (Herc)

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posted 03 Dec 2006, 14.29 +0000

Wed 06 Dec 2006

Orders of the day

* Forms of address. If someone wishes to be called Ms. Jean Smith, then call her Ms. Jean Smith. Do not call her Miss Jean Smith, Mrs. Jean Smith, or Mrs. John Smith; this would be presumptive and rude, and we're only rude in this way to Mrs. Tony Blair.

* Selection of teams for the NCAAball Notional Championship. There is a general consensus that a national champion must be a conference champion. The only possible exception I can think of is in a round-robin league (such as the "Big" East), where (for instance) Louisville narrowly loses to Rutgers, both sides winning their remaining divisional matches. Rutgers loses all their out-of-division matches to sides like Buffalo and Miamiohio and Hicksville Junior High; Louisville beats highly-regarded teams such as Ohiostate and Southerncalifornia and Notredame. Though not divisional champs, Louisville has a far better claim to a notional title game than Rutgers.

* NEW AMSTERDAM: Wonderful World - Anthony Lane on the myth and life story of Walter Disney.

* BAR: Mr Bother chides the world for insisting that their favourite festive song is Fairytale of New Amsterdam, a tune that will be playing Eligibility Hokey-Cokey with the top 40 this year. Here at The Snow In The Summer, we think it's still far too warm to be thinking about Yuletide, and we will continue thinking that until there is some frost on the ground. So about 1 February, then.

* OTTAWA: There will be a debate to-morrow in the Commons to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry. It is not expected to pass; while the governing Conservatives and main opposition Liberals will have a free vote, minor opposition parties BQ and NDP will be whipped into the no lobby. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has said that when this procedural motion falls, debate on the matter would be finished. (CBC)

* OSLO: Lap-dancing is an art form, says a court. The ruling means that striptease clubs need not pay Norway's 25% VAT rate. (UDR)

* LONDON: Police are treating the death of Alexander Litvienko as murder. (AJ)

Bollards and other traffic-calming measures, discussed on Architectures of Control.

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posted 06 Dec 2006, 20.44 +0000

Sat 09 Dec 2006

Game Show Of The Day

Guy Smiley (for it is he): Helllllooooooooo! And welcome to the Game Show Of The Day, where one lucky viewer can win something from the back of our prize cupboard. And to-day's Game Show Of The Day is....

Name That Airport!

Our contestant is Robin from Leicester. Robin, all you've got to do is tell me the name of the airport nearest to you in these three years. First, what was the airport's name in 2000?

That's easy, Guy. East Midlands Airport.

In 2005?

Nottingham East Midlands Airport.

And in 2008?

(blows out) East Midlands Airport - Nottingham, Derby, Leicester.

Is the right answer! Yes, you win a two-week holiday for four in one of Nottingham, Derby, or Leicester! Yaaaaaaay!

Meanwhile, the viewer question. True or false: wii is a greeting in parts of Newcastle-upon-Tyne? To enter, tappez the number on screen, and you could win a prize from the back of our cupboard.

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posted 09 Dec 2006, 10.58 +0000

News to use

OTTAWA: The debate over same-sex marriage is dead. A procedural vote to re-open the matter fell in the Commons on Thursday, by a margin of 175:123. Prime minister Stephen Harper confirmed that the homophobes had no plank left, I don't see reopening this question in the future. Twelve Conservatives, including six cabinet members, voted against the motion; thirteen Liberal members supported it. (CBC)

PERTH: The retirement of Damien Martyn, the Australian cricketer, has been announced with immediate effect. His side has taken a 2:0 lead in the best-of-five series against England, outclassing the visitors in the first match, and profiting as England pulled defeat from the jaws of a draw in the second. He will be replaced by Adam Voges for the third test, which begins next Thursday. (BBC)

LONDON: Following its fourth coup d'etat in the past twenty years, Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. The democratically-elected government was overthrown on Tuesday. A previous coups in 2000, and two in 1987, led to similar suspensions until democratic rule was restored. (AJ)

OFCOM has approved the London station Smooth FM's request to change its format. Out will go a diet of repetitive soul music, and in comes a bunch of oldies, aimed at people 50 and over. At least 20% of its daytime playlist must be at least 40 years old - so most of the Beatles' output will count, but not (yet) the weirdy stuff. The station will have more speech, and will continue to play jazz in the evenings.

Mark Lawson writes at the over-decoration of television studios. Here at The Snow In The Summer, we still think it's far too hot to put up any decorations, and we won't even consider it until there's a frost on the ground, and the biathlon season has broken for the winter. (Guess who joined Andrea Henkel on the winners' roll yesterday. Go on, guess. And guess if he'll win the BBC's International Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, in spite of being undefeated in eight races. First podium finish for China in the women's event, mind. And next week's round has moved from Osrbile to Hochfilzen, owing to a lack of snow.)

The death has been announced of David Bronstein, the chess grandmaster. (Also, but may contain traces of penguin.)

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posted 09 Dec 2006, 11.20 +0000

Sun 17 Dec 2006

News of the week

DEN HAAG: Parliament in the Netherlands has formally censured the immigration minister, Rita Verdonk. Mrs. Verdonk had declined to implement a motion from the new Parliament, insisting upon a suspension of deportation proceedings against 26,000 illegal immigrants. The motion is specifically targetted at Mrs. Verdonk, who is an object of opprobrium for many on the left. If her party leader is to be believed, Mrs. Verdonk's resignation would cause the liberal-right VVD to withdraw from coalition talks, making a rainbow-left coalition - and the consequent removal of prime minister Peter Balkandervalk - more likely. (BBC)

COLUMNIST: Mark Steel is unhappy that Zara Philips won the B.B.C.'s vote. They voted for her because she's 11th in line to the throne. They'd have voted for the Queen if she'd been nominated for beating Prince Philip at snap. Then these idiots would have justified it, saying, "She held her nerve wonderfully to shout first on the two sevens when there was a big pile during the crucial second leg."

GENIUS: Tim Hunkin on polonium. That's in the sense of Secret Life of Machines presenter discusses highly volatile radioactive element.

RAILWAYS: The new train timetable is available as a large number of PDF files. (Backup) Readers will need to know over which bit of track they want to travel, then download the table(s) required. In other rail news, Sea Containers has been fired from its running of the East Coast franchise (table 26). The sensible approach would be to re-nationalise the company; this is not going to happen, thanks to Labour's mania for privatisation.

LONDON: John Prescott, the professional croquet player, has recorded 2771 visits to his website since late August. In the month of November alone, this site recorded 7892 visits.

DOWNING-STREET: We are seen as a shambles, according to a memorandum. The prochain ancien prime minister's office says that the next election is Mr. Cameron's to lose, and Labour's only hope is to elect one of its young turks rather than the old Mr. Brown. The denial from Downing-street is rather interesting, as it says only that the memorandum did not originate from them, raising the prospect that it's a genuine memorandum, leaked on purpose, to stop Mr. Brown. (18DS)

IPSWICH: Five people have been abducted and killed over the past few weeks; all worked in the sex trade. To-day's Observer suggests that Tony Blair bears responsibility for their deaths, as he personally vetoed plans to allow sex workers to work indoors. Fear of bad newspaper headlines for a few weeks has led to five people being killed. Glad you can have that on your conscience, Mr. B. (HG)

KHATMANDU: The ruling coalition and Maoist rebels have agreed an interim constitution for Nepal. The period of direct rule by King Gyanendra will end in approximately six months, and a full constitution will then be proclaimed. (AJ)

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posted 17 Dec 2006, 11.46 +0000

Tue 19 Dec 2006

Wholly innocent

Rashid Rauf has been cleared of terrorism charges. Mr. Rauf was arrested last August in Pakistan, sparking off a massive flap about an alleged plot to bring down aircraft using nail polish, caustic soda, guesswork, and blind luck. Police in High Wycombe have closed their search of woods, without finding anything more than some dead rabbits. They wish to return to their day jobs, picking up motorists for speeding on the M-40. Wills, allegedly put together by would-be bombers, were actually from soldiers who fought in Bosnia in the early 1990s. A map of Afghanistan was photocopied as part of a school project. Many of the 26 people arrested in a blaze of publicity in August have been freed, without a blaze of publicity. The others now face far less serious charges.

Rashid Rauf is still detained in Pakistan; he is wanted in Birmingham in connection with the murder of his uncle some years ago, and an extradition request is now before the court. The war against un-noxious substances continues, and John Reid has inflicted his arrogant nonsense on the rest of Europe. I would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by this nutter, and hope that he returns to his level of competence as soon as possible.

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posted 19 Dec 2006, 18.22 +0000

Wed 20 Dec 2006

Euro if you want to

In 2002, President Sadaam Hussein of Iraq announced that his country would, in future, sell its oil for euro and not dollars. In 2003, President Sadaam was visited by the storm-troopers of the Dollar Defense (sic) Fund, who seized the Iraqi oil fields, and started selling them for dollars once more.

On Monday, Iran announced that she would be selling her oil, and calculating foreign trade revenue, in euro rather than dollars. The change will come into effect at the start of the new financial year on 21 March next. Iran will also divest her dollar holdings into a basket of other currencies. The European Commission has declined to comment on this news. The dollar has dropped by almost 10% against the euro this year, and Bloomberg reports that it may weaken further as oil producers - including the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Indonesia - plan to put more of their funds into the European currency. All of this will serve to make the euro a better reserve currency, and one can expect it to rise further against the increasingly friendless dollar.

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posted 20 Dec 2006, 19.15 +0000

Thu 21 Dec 2006

News of the week

What's wrong with this article? A misleading newspaper story gets a thorough fisking, and is left staggering on the side of the road.

Why the monoglots of England are missing out.

When theatre critics dress up.

The demise of the intellectual audience. I can't help but think that this would be less of a phenomenon if there wasn't constant pressure to level down.

Parties would benefit from less money, says John Redwood. Spend less on market research, computers and fancy campaigning, and get back on the streets with a volunteer army.

Max Hastings on why Gordon Brown should pull troops from Iraq.

The probabilities for last week's European League draw.

That new Radio 3 schedule in full*. Rob Cowan to breakfast, Artist Focus at 10.30 - sounds very dodgy. The Essay goes out at 11, and I repeat my call for this to be a podcast from the get-go. Music and Words appears on Sunday evenings - the Words being poetry. Jazz Library replaces Mixing It, a show that really needs to turn up on 6 Music. Music Matters shifts to Sunday lunchtimes, Andy Kershaw to 11.15 Monday nights. Again, a programme of world music on 6 Music is the least they can do.

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posted 21 Dec 2006, 19.19 +0000

Fri 29 Dec 2006

The week in a post

Have I stumbled across too many depressing Myspace layouts that have sapped my Christmas spirit?!

I make no apologies for being unusually quiet in the past week, there are perfectly good reasons why. Here's a bundle of stuff from the past week or so.

We welcome any excuse to big up Melissa Ferrick (and the people who sell merchandise at her shows), but must raise eyebrows at this bibble from a syndicated arts feature:

One of the hardest-touring artists going, Ferrick somehow found time to lay down her sixth album in the past year.

Crikey, six albums in one year? That's good going! Or bad journalism. Which is more likely.

Speaking of bad writing, I've been reading I Wish I Was Me, the 2000 autobiography from Pete Waterman. He explains how he single-handedly invented European disco, gave us Fly Robin fly and the Belle Stars and left the keyboard loop on You spin me round by accident, and treated Bananarama like hard-partying nieces. His plans for a rail company came to nought, and it does rather feel like he's used the book to big himself up. It's a trait that most of us find annoying in Jonathan King, and Waterman is no better. There's a lack of attention to detail - calling records top twenty hits when they peaked at 23 makes us question other points he makes. And, being a 2000 book, there's no word on Pop Idol. But plenty on Steps, which is no bad thing. And he does close by saying that the internet will be good for pop music when you can see something on the telly and order it at once. Where's Leona Lewis when we need her? Number one? He's right, and JK (the internet will never amount to more than 5% of the music business) was wrong. Anyway, the book was knocked down to 50p in a clearance sale, and I can't honestly say that it was worth much more.

Quite the most bizarre thing I've heard in recent days was Capital Disney's Santawatch programme, from 8pm until midnight last Sunday. Cube regulars James and Val spoke to festive characters include Mr. Frosty (snowman), and made plans to interview Mr. S. Claus, should he visit. Star of the show was E. Bunny, Esq, who I never knew was Welsh-Romanian, and who finds work to be a little slack at this time of year. Can't think why.

More conventionally interesting was Sisters of Aphrodite, the Third Programme's feature on goddesses, comparing the Greek love goddess with Mary of christian faith. It's on Listen Again until Sunday evening. UK readers might also be interested in a bunch of free tracks from GWR's new jazz station, The Jazz, available until 2 January. (And it is UK only, not even extending to l'Ireland.)

Television: I've managed to avoid CBBC's Doctorwho programme. Caught Vicar of Dibley, then remembered why I've not bothered to watch since the last millennium. 'Snot funny. Never Mind the Full Stops really is a radio programme with pointless visuals and a pompous chairman. Recognised a lot of the French clips from Fort Boyard Takes Over The World, and rather enjoyed Eurosport's filler from the Great Outdoor Games. Unimpressed with It Started With Swap Shop, and one glance at the production credit (Unique for BBC2) explains why. Pick of the season was Pat Gibson's steam-rolling of all opposition in the Brain of Britain final. As familiar as it is magnificent.

As it's the last days of the year, a number of famous people have died. Finding a good way to get a long obit in the paper this year were Charlie Drake (comedian), James Brown (wife-beater), Marmaduke Hussey (chairman of the B.B.C. governors), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmen dictator), Dennis Linde (songwriter), John Butched (Coventry M.P.), and Gerald Ford (first motor car to lead the southern Canadian provinces).

One clipping: Sam Leith sticks up for Fairytale of New Amsterdam.

Bono has been awarded a knighthood, against the advice of someone who makes Tony Blair look like a yammering idiot. Apparently he's a saint, he's going to save the world, yada, yada, yada, but my God! He never even takes the sunglasses off. Paris was right. Big deal. Paris is always right.

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posted 29 Dec 2006, 11.33 +0000

older writing... write to