The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation

Koan

I once offended a man by telling him what he did to me was rape (it was). His feelings don't make it any less rape.

11 December 2017
"And by 'sovereign state', you mean..?"

A statement from this blog's MP. We've slightly edited it to remove swearing.

So when [a named sex offender] says he recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital because it's the choice of a sovereign nation, shouldn't he also recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine as the choice of a different sovereign nation? Or don't Palestinian choices count?

Let's unpick this a little.

(More: Explain the status of Jerusalem, define "sovereign state" and "nation".)

Let's run with Mr. Burden's position, that Palestine is an actual "sovereign nation". If this were true, then Palestine would have the ability to do whatever it liked over territory it controls. Palestine could make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

This changes Mr. Burden's position. He has long campaigned for Palestine to become a sovereign state. Yet here, he takes Palestine's sovereignty for granted, when it is neither de facto nor de jure sovereign. If Palestine is a "sovereign nation", then Mr. Burden's earlier arguments have been consigned to history.

The same argument extends to other "sovereign nations" such as Israel. Israel can make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

It's almost as if there's a different standard at work here, where Palestine is given advantages that Israel is not, where Palestine is held to a different standard from that applied to Israel. Some might call that "anti-Semitic".

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3 December 2017
The curious case of Damian Green

Further leaks from the police, claiming that they found thousands of smutty thumbnails when they raided Damian Green's office in 2008. Some claimed that merely having legal smut on your work computer is grounds for insta-firing; this blog doesn't agree.

The normal channel for this sort of complaint is through the Cabinet Office. Instead, the police have gone straight to the press.

The standard procedure is to destroy findings when it's clear there will be no prosecution. But, nine years after the initial raid, the evidence is still around.

Even the police accede that the images are legal, no crime has been committed. And yet the police leak the cache to the press. This stinks, and the stench does not come from Damian Green's office.

Back in 2008, there was a mighty protest about the fact of this raid. The police were convinced that Damian Green's office was receiving leaks to damage the police. They arrested Damian Green on charges made up out of whole cloth, and persuaded speaker Michael Martin to authorise the raid as "national security".

Martin was a failure as speaker, hopelessly pro-Labour, and would be the first casualty when the expenses scandal broke a year later. It appears that he's still exacting his revenge, from beyond the political grave.

Let's make a few things clear:

  1. The police were out of order to arrest Damian Green and raid his office. It appears that they were acting outside their constitutional powers.
  2. By retaining information, and leaking it to the police's advantage, it's clear that the police are still outside their constitutional powers.
  3. The leaks are designed to smear Green, and remove him from the deputy prime minister's office. It is not clear what else the plotters expect to achieve.
  4. We don't like the implication that Damian Green had smut on his computer. It is a fact that this smut was and is legal.

We would welcome an independent inquiry. It needs to be into the behaviour of the police, as it appears the police have grossly overstepped the mark.

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31 October 2017
Sounds Like Friday Night

Greg James and Dottie are in The BBC Studios, a BBC Studioworks studio, for Fullwell 73's Sounds Like Friday Night. The crowd cheers everyone on the show - Jessie Ware, Charlie Puth, Scunthorpe. Well, maybe not Scunthorpe.

If I'm lucky is the first track, performed by Jason Derulo. He's on a low stage, in front of the crowd. We reckon about 150 heads in the main pit, a few dozen on balconies around the arena. The crowd cheer all sorts of lighting effects, spotlights changing colour, and moving around the arena, and even when they flash on and off. The warm-up man has told them not to clap along, this isn't a show for grannies.

Greg James appears in a comedy skit with Dave Grohl from The Foo Fighters, in which Grohl records continuity announcements for BBC1. Can we see Dave on Ballroom With the B-List? Not this series. Idea behind this sketch is safe, as derivative as they come. The execution was no better than OK.

Then Greg's in the balcony, talking to Jason Derulo. This starts a bit slow, though livens up when Jason talks about his first gig, Michael Bolton. They talk about Taylor Swift's new video, but commit the cardinal sin of not showing it. Don't tell us, show us!

Back to the one stage, where Greg shouts down to Charlie Puth. An interview with one person on the balcony and one on the floor? Have we tuned into Romeo + Juliet 3.0? Puth eventually performs How long. Something like seven minutes since the last song, a huge gap on a "music" show.

Puth's performance is entertaining, though his song is a little too close to Derulo's - another mid-tempo plodder. If the crowd cheered the dancing before, they'll cheer the slight vocal extensions here.

Dotty is joined on stage by Jessie Ware, talking about Sam Smith. Then a film of the regulars playing basketball with Jason Derulo while asking him questions. Don't think it'll catch on as the new Mastermind. The session is interrupted by a Very Tall Man, and then by a mariachi band. Again, what are we watching? Derulo's fans will have been irritated by the interruptions, everyone else will have zoned out before the end.

Performing next: Jessie Ware with Alone, a piece of blue-eyed soul. Confession: this blog has a problem with Jessie Ware, we have a naggling fear that she's been hyped well beyond her abilities. Sure, she's got great pipes, and a fine vocal technique, but we don't get any emotion out of her work.

We can't see Taylor Swift, but we can see a new clip from BBC comedy Korrupt FM, and an interview with some of the characters. Nice to see the show's priorities. Jason Derulo begins and ends this show, with an acoustic version of Want to want me, just Jason and his guitarist on a small stage. Jessie, Charlie, and the hosts join for the final goodbyes.

Initial thoughts? It's a work in progress. There's almost a narrative through the show, there's almost some good ideas with the inserts. We wanted to hear a music news bulletin, or something outside of this studio. They desperately need to mix up the bookings - all three acts were in a narrow area, rhythmic pop with a dash of soul.

We're reminded of very early CD:UK, when they had decent ideas but hadn't cracked the execution. It took CD:UK about four months to find its voice; Sounds Like Friday Night needs to improve by the end of the run.

That said... the problem might be that BBC1 runs to a slower pace. Pointless is a beat slower than The Chase. Tipping Point is a bit faster than The Boss. Can't Touch This was much slower than Cannonball!, and The X Factor moves faster than Strictly Come Dancing. Would it be such a surprise that Sounds Like Friday Night is just that bit slower?

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7 October 2017
Our Town

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 4 October

Our Town is a difficult play to do badly - if everyone knows their lines, it'll work. But it's a very difficult play to do well, and each of the audience will have their own idea of what "well" is.

This was a stylised performance. Audience and actors sit round tables, and later around the edge of the stage. They're on plastic chairs, as found in school halls and waiting rooms everywhere.

The cast use their natural accents, we have a token Yank as the Stage Manager, lots of Manchester-area, a Scouse, some RP. Standout actors: Youssef Kerkour is the Stage Manager, a role that has to command the stage and never overshadow it. Get this right and you're on the road to greatness. Patrick Elue and Norah Lopez Holden are the heroes of the play, the romance of George and Emily.

The Exchange is a theatre in the round, and it allows for lots of pacing around the stage. Lots of pacing around the stage. Unusually, the Exchange theatre stands in a greater hall, and can be circumnavigated from the outside. At one point, we see George running outside the hall, his shadow appearing on the canvas walls.

(More: The company got a lot right in this play, we concentrate on design flaws that stopped it from being even better)

The production misses the Scylla of schmaltz, but we found it sailed into the Charybdis of meh. "Take me back! Take me back!" emotes Emily, but it's not the emotional catharsis we're here for. There are enough distractions to jolt us out of our reverie, enough to concentrate on the mechanics and not the plot.

This blog doesn't make a habit of awarding "marks out of ten", or "stars". People concentrate on the score, not the content. That said, we don't quite see a path to four-stars out of five, unless there's a very generous piece of rounding from around three-and-a-half.

Overall, this take on Our Town hit the big notes. It got the whole faith in humanity, it emphasised the importance of small detail. Problems with design and staging meant it didn't pack the emotional whoomph we came for.

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4 October 2017
More United - more radical?

Back on 21 September, a group of ten in a room above Cherry Reds in Birmingham city centre. It was very much a masculine-of-centre group, not representative of the membership. We're summing this under Chatham House rules: opinions will be attributed to an unnamed individual.

Discussion was dominated by four contributors. One was new to More United, and was hung up on the balance of power in Westminster. "We need to hold the balance of power," his persistant cry.

This blog believes that More United would be best to design structures that can last. If it builds processes around the present balanced parliament, there is a danger of setting bad practice in stone.

The contributor appeared to see supporting More United as a binary, in-or-out, proposition. This blog sees shades of belonging. Perhaps it might be helpful to have a "More United charter", analagous to Charter 88. Candidates could put their names to this set of values. We the people could ask dissenting candidates what value they don't support.

Would it be possible to make funding contingent on plugging More United? Well, yes, but how does one police this? If Wera Hobhouse mentions More United on Peston on Sunday and no-one watches, does it still count?

For this blog, and for other contributors, the best publicity is a concrete win. Pick something More United can mobilise towards, strain every effort to bring it about, and take ownership of the victory.

More United's assets are cash, people on the ground, digital campaigns, and general goodwill. At the moment, it feels like a motherhood-and-apple-pie group, a safe space that will threaten no-one. On reflection, maybe it needs to show steel, make waves on a controversial matter.

Fundamentally, we're worried about More United. This blog is involved to bring about change, to dismantle shit and rebuild a geniune democracy that might tempt us to remain. We're not convinced that our goals can be achieved within the Westminster straitjacket.

(A full write-up)

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15 September 2017
When 4-0 reverses to 1-4, according to the NCAA

There's been a lot of snark about how Southern California does not recognise its 2006 title game loss to Texas. "We don't do this in football," sniggers The Comeback.

Tell that to the NCAA, which requires history to be entirely re-written.

(More: We actually read the judgement and laws, in a way other "journalists" don't)

The net result is quite simple, and utterly confusing. There's no doubt that SCALF beat TEXAS four times in the past, and that TEXAS won on the field in 2006. But SCALF is bound to ignore that loss, they're required to pretend the game never happened. Their media guide correctly lists them as 4-0 in games they're allowed to count.

But TEXAS is not bound by any such injunction. It will count all five games against SCALF, including the 2006 win. Texas's media guide - for the same game, against the same opponent - says they're 1-4, the precise reverse of 4-0.

The fault here is with the NCAA, and its absurd desire to pretend that history can be re-written to fit later fashion. The NCAA has told SCALF to vacate its wins and its postseason competition. SCALF is following these orders exactly and precisely, to the letter.

The absurdity stems from the NCAA.

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12 September 2017
Song of the summer 2017

Time to push the buttons and work out Northern Europe's Hit Song of Summer 2017.

This feature is inspired by the North American obsession with naming the song of the summer. Sean Ross lampoons the mania, variously naming Praying, Despacito, There's nothing holdin' me back, Stay, Body like a back road, Feels, and Feel it still to various categories.

(More: Positions 20-6 and a note on our methodology.)

05 attention  -  charlie puth
04 there's nothing holdin' me...  -  shawn mendes
03 2u f/justin bieber  -  david guetta

Charlie Puth did one better than Calvin Harris, pushing out his single at the end of April. It's remained in or around the top ten all summer, never quite hitting the A-list, but adding up lots of points each week. Shawn Mendes spent most of the summer at the weekly number 4, first below then above Guetta and Bieber. Yeah, three Justin Bieber songs in the top fourteen.

02 mama f/william singe  -  jonas blue

Remarkably close for places 4, 3, 2 - less than 3% covers the three tunes. For our money, this was the inescapable song of the summer. Bright and bubbly, but completely vapid.

01 despacito  -  luis fonsi / daddy yankee

But this was the best-charted song of the year, the Latin-tinged love song with something for everyone. Didn't do much for us, but it won by about 14% over the next three.

If you must combine the two Despacitae, then it wins by a mile, and Miley Cyrus's Malibu ranks at 21. That's another of our faves, and it might just be the summer song to come out of 2017.

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9 September 2017
Jerry Pournelle

The death occurred yesterday of Jerry Pournelle.

Sci-fi author, though never crossed our radar. Computer journalist, but Byte was too expensive and something we could only flick through in Smiths.

Jerry Pournelle entered our life in 2000, when we stumbled across his daybook. This could be the answer to our writer's block, a less structured, more organic way to document things. Seventeen years later, we're still following the basic structure. Pournelle had a voice, and we thank him for helping find ours.

He leaves many acolytes, a special tip of the hat to Dave Farquhar. Jerry Pournelle also leaves a method of political thinking (belief in state control, orthogonal to belief in rational solutions) and an Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people.

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

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