The Snow In The Summer or So-So

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The Labour Party: cowardly where it matters, bull-headed where it doesn't. #

20 April 2019
The Elton John pop canon

Over in the Top of the Pops recaps, we're annoyed that Elton John's Sad songs say so much has slipped off playlists over here. What is the Elton John canon according to worldwide radio, and how does the broadcast radio here differ?

We've used data from, which monitors a good number of broadcast and internet stations around the world. Data relate to the period 3-16 April 2019.

Nikita is Elton's most-played track globally, and notches 234 plays on UK stations. No broadcast station spun it more than 5 times in the survey period.

Sacrifice is number 2, and 436 spins here come mostly from The Twenty Five Smooth Radios, where it's in every-other-day rotation. Your song ranks third globally, the UK leader with 707 spins - 450 of those from The Twenty Five Smooth Radios.

Number four globally is I'm still standing, 388 domestic spins with Heart 80s and Union Jack playing it at least once every day. Rocket man rounds out the international top five, 393 in the UK.

(More: The rest of the global 25, and the domestic airplay chart)

Looks like Elton has six big hits (plus Step into Christmas), another eight or so that appear fairly regularly, and the rest is deep catalogue. Sad songs say so much is one of the biggest in this deep catalogue.

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9 March 2019

Scala Radio launched, tagline "classical music for modern life". It's a DAB-and-internet commercial station from Bauer. We've dipped in and out over the working week, and we're rather liking it.

The BBC's Radio 3 is "serious classical music done seriously", long-standing commercial rival Classic FM is "relax, relax, relax, don't do it, relax". Scala treats its classical music as a jumping-off point for other interests - Simon Mayo's "Confessions" slot, book reviews, short speech pieces. There is lots of light classical and modern choral work, and a few pieces of pop music in a classical style. We particularly like the commercial-free segment from 6.40am, a montage of music and natural sounds for alarm-clock listeners. Might be commercial-free from 6.03, we're not getting up so early to check [smiley_face emojus].

Not everything is perfect: the station plays short pieces, three to six minutes long, there's no full works or concerts in its schedule. The audience tends to be middle-class yummy mummies, the review show promoted Scala's own schedule, gave a critical review to Harriet Tye's book, and plugged plays in That London. And the station's musical motif isn't good - an ascending scale does a crescendo, then finishes with a "waaaaaaaaah-plunk." Sounds like a sneeze, or a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff.

Most of all, we're reminded of Classic FM before it became "relax relax when you want to suck it relax". There was an effort to build out from classical music, make a lifestyle that GWR and Warner Bros. could sell to advertisers. GWR pulled back from that endeavour after about five years and concentrated on their core radio business. It was a loss to the greater culture milieu.

Technical notes: 112kpbs original-flavour DAB, but sensitively processed. We can hear artefacts when listening through earphones, not through loudspeakers. And we've not heard the weekend schedule: it could be that Scala's going for ratings by day and critical kudos by night.

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12 February 2019
What in a Hundred

From this week's The Riddler:

Given any three random integers X, Y and Z what are the chances that their product is divisible by 100?

To make a number divisible by 100, there must be factors of 2, 2, 5, 5 somewhere in the three multiplicands. There can be other factors - we're partial to a tasty 37 ourselves - but any combination of numbers with two 2s and two 5s as prime factors will be divisible by 100.

Let's think about factors of 2. There's a 1/2 chance that X will have no factors of 2, 1/4 that X will have precisely one factor of 2, and 1/4 that it will have two or more factors. The same applies for Y and Z, of course.

So these arrangements have the required factors of 2:

X	Y	Z	prob
2	0	0	1/16
0	2	0	1/16
0	0	2	1/16
1	1	0	1/32
1	0	1	1/32
0	1	1	1/32

As these are mutually exclusive possibilities, we can add them up. 9/32 combinations have the required factors of 2.

We can run a similar analysis for factors of 5: a 4/5 chance of no factors, 4/25 of precisely one factor, and 1/25 of two or more factors. Plugging these into the table gives:

X	Y	Z	prob
2	0	0	16/625
0	2	0	16/625
0	0	2	16/625
1	1	0	16/3125
1	0	1	16/3125
0	1	1	16/3125

That's a total of 288/3125 with the required factors.

And, as the factors of 2 are independent from the factors of 5, we can just multiply these probabilities together. The final answer: 2592/100000.

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27 January 2019
PERKINS Stephanie (ed) - My True Love Gave to Me

Twelve sweet stories about wintertime love. All have happy(-ish) endings for the lead characters, some endings are happier than others. There's not a weak tale amongst the twelve, a couple were flat, but we'll come back to at least three in coming years.

Content notes: marketed as "young adult", we'd shelve it in "teen fiction", suitable for 10-13s. No-one does anything more than kiss or hug. No heavy petting, no taking advantage, no consent problems. These stories were written in 2013-14, so there are same-sex couples in the background of most stories, no trans kids.

(More: Capsule reviews of all the component stories)

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12 January 2019
Happy New Year - signed, A Politician

Metro_Land asked When exactly did PMs start doing these new year messages? Metro_Land doesn't remember Thatcher or Major ever inflicting them on the nation.

Well, the Margaret Thatcher Archive contains a message to her potential constituents in Dartford, for New Year 1950. But that's a bit parochial...

By tradition, the Conservative and Labour leaders (and we assume the Liberals, and the Communists, etc) would write a piece to their party members at the start of the year. Thatcher and Callaghan's messages for 1977 were exactly that: partisan, for supporters only. This continued for some years, and then something changed.

For new year 1986, Ronald Reagan had delivered an address on Russian television, and Mikhael Gorbachev had spoken on American telly. The new year message had moved from the partisan to the public sphere. Why weren't our leaders doing the same? Good PR at a quiet time of year.

Margaret Thatcher issued a public statement for new year 1987. It was a classic example of repurposing content - in message and strident tone, it was barely distinguishable from her party statement a year earlier. Neil Kinnock also put out a public new year's statement.

By new year 1988, these messages were expected and embargoed. By the start of 1990, the "new year's message" from politicians was an established tradition.

Another tradition was the Archbishop of Canterbury's message, shown on BBC1 at 12.05am on New Year's Day until new year 1998. Yep, straight out of Big Ben and into a prayer with the establishment. For 1999, it moved to 12.30am. 2000's prayers were live from the North Greenwich Marquee in the hour to midnight, and the ABoC's been a movable feast since.

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30 December 2018
Top of the Pops at Christmas

Fearne Cotton and Clara Amfo are back, everyone! Keep clapping! Keep clapping! They want the crowd to applaud and cheer right through the opening speech, previewing all of the coming attractions.

Great performances from Zara Larsson, Freya Ridings, a double-hit from Sigrid, Christine and the Queens, Tom Odell with Rae Morris, and George Ezra.

But also: which performer reminded us of a foghorn? Who was lucky to be collecting silver tokens? Which newcomer impressed us with stagecraft, and who was the typical BBC Eurovision entry?

All of the answers are inside!

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2 December 2018
Pick a playoff or two

One last time for the results service:

MA: #27 Buffalo vs #62 Northern Illinois 29-30
PX: #9 Washington vs #13 Utah 10-3
BT: #6 Oklahoma vs #15 Texas 39-27
SB: #24 Appalachian State vs #64 Louisiana-Lafayette 30-19
CU: #36 UAB vs #40 Middle Tennessee 27-25
AA: #7 UCF vs #60 Memphis 56-41
SE: #2 Alabama vs #3 Georgia 35-28
MW: #10 Boise State vs #17 Fresno State 3-6 (aet, following 13-13)
AC: #1 Clemson vs #28 Pittsburgh 42-10
BX: #5 Ohio Province vs #26 Northwestern 45-24

(More: Who's in and out of the bowls, and the new top 15)

All of which leaves our eight-team playoff as: Alabama vs Washington, Clemson vs UCF, Notre Dame vs Ohio Province, and Georgia vs Oklahoma The Rematch. Other play-off systems might omit the first round, but any playoff system rooted in reality will produce the same final four.

It's not possible for Georgia to overhaul all of the sides in front of them, so they will not be able to retain their position as Glickoblog Champion. UCF may yet remain as Reigning National Champions.

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25 November 2018
Title week is set

Let's start with the Top 15 games.

01 Clemson beat South Carolina 56-35 02 Alabama beat Auburn 52-21 03 Georgia beat Georgia Coll of Tech 45-21 04 Notre Dame beat USC 24-17 05 Michigan lost to 09 Ohio Province 62-39 06 Oklahoma beat West Virginia 59-56 07 UCF beat South Florida 38-10 08 LSU lost to Texas Ag and Mech 41-43 (after 7 extra timeses, following a 31-31 draw) 10 Washington Province lost to Washington 15-28 11 Florida beat Florida Province 41-14 12 Fresno State beat San Jose State 31-13 13 Kentucky beat Louisville 56-10 14 Utah Province lost to Boise State 24-33 15 Army -- bye

Top four get the job done. Michigan lost out on the Big Ten title game to Ohio P, and lost in big style. Oklahoma rode a drunken game, Defending National Champions UCF handled their business.

A l-o-n-g game between LSU and Texas Ag & Mech finally ended. A snow game in Washington saw victory for the home side, and a place in the Pac Ten title match. Fresno and Boise will meet in the Mountain West title match, winner is first in line if UCF stumbles.

(More: All the upsets, all the title games, and the new top 15)

And our best guess at the eight-team playoff would be: Alabama - Washington; Clemson - UCF; Notre Dame - Georgia; Oklahoma - Ohio Province.

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23 November 2018
Ten years of Twilight

Ten years since the first Twilight movie "hit" the "screens". What's it done for pop culture?

Twilight was a movie by women, for women. Directed by Catherine Hardwick, written by Stephanie Meyer, screenwritten by Melissa Rosenberg, starring Kirsten Stewart, and watched by young women the world over. It's too rich for men and their fragile, sensitive nature.

How has this inflected the world? Twilight had (has?) a passionate fanbase, and was part of a low-key culture war. Raged against it were a very loud and very boring tribe of man-babies. These pathetic creatures would shake their tiny fists and cry because (gasp!) it's a successful film that (shock!) isn't aimed at macho men.

Just by existing, Twilight is a feminist statement: anything written by women that makes men uncomfortable has a place in feminism. The Twilight fandom dominated the cultural zeitgeist for a few years, it was young women seizing control in a way that made older people and men twitchy.

Passionate fanbases have continued, so has sneering at them. The more masculine the original work, the less sneering there is. So there was lots of rage at One Direction (aimed at young girls), less at Game of Thrones (plenty of blood and gore, even if the women look like they'll win), and very little at Marvel's movie franchises (aimed squarely at man-children).

(More: Why Twilight is a series about respecting Bella's choices; how fanfic disputes come from a place of love; and why CBBC has ignored the phenomenon.)

As for the on-screen talent? Robert Pattison (Edward) still acts. Taylor Lautner (Jacob) went on to do BBC3's Cuckoo, where he was a right laugh on set. Ashley Greene (Alice) has done TV's Rogue and Pan Am, and movies such as In Dubious Battle. Kristen Stewart (Bella) has chosen to do indie and alternative films - The Runaways, Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Marina, Personal Shopper - and is held as one of cinema's leading talents.

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18 November 2018
Easy games week

Here's the top 15 results:

01 Alabama bt Citadel (II) 50-17
02 Georgia bt Massachusetts 66-27
03 Clemson bt Duke 35-6
04 Notre Dame bt Syracuse 36-3
05 Michigan bt Indiana 31-20
06 Oklahoma bt Kansas 55-40
07 LSU bt Rice 42-10
08 Ohio Province bt Maryland 52-51
09 UCF bt 13 Cincinnati 38-13
10 Washington Province bt Arizona 69-28
11 West Virginia lost to Oklahoma Terr 41-45
12 Florida bt Idaho 63-10
14 Army bt Colgate (II) 28-14
15 Penn Province bt Rutgers 20-7

Just the one upset defeat, and West Virginia did all they could to win it.

(More: Lots of upsets in the MAC, and Clemson move to the top because we know their title game opponent.)

The eight-team play-off swaps Clemson and Alabama's opponents.

Clemson - Washington Prov
Alabama - UCF
Notre Dame - Georgia
Michigan - Oklahoma

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