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UK local elections 2013: all the main parties' election broadcasts in one place. [Apr. 23rd, 2013|09:35 pm]
(Am I missing a party broadcast, or have I made a mistake? Let me know in comments)


Green Party:


Lib Dems:


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The response the 'No' campaign didn't want you to see... [May. 2nd, 2011|01:14 pm]
The links bit.ly/notofairervotes and bit.ly/stupidlies will both take you to the official 'No to AV' campaign's latest broadcast on YouTube. These videos, best described as disinformation films, are usually met with an immediate and extended chorus of disapproval from YouTube users who can't believe the shamelessness of the 'No' campaign's attempts to mislead and confuse the public ahead of one of the most important votes of our history on Thursday.

The obvious, near-universal disapproval of their videos is so embarrassing for the 'No' campaign that they almost always disable users' abilities to post comments and ratings (which YouTube ordinarily allows) within a day.

With this latest video, the official 'No' campaign has been true to form, disabling comments within a day of posting the video to YouTube. Everyone anticipated this would happen, so I took the precaution of taking screencaps of people's comments before they were taken down, in order that their voices weren't silenced. (A large number went in after this which I didn't catch - apologies to those that I haven't captured here, but it was all of the same flavour)

Remember you can see the video for yourself at bit.ly/notofairervotes and make up your own mind - unfortunately you can't any longer comment there.

Lots more deleted comments from the same video under this cutCollapse )

The referendum is on Thursday. I'm voting Yes. For some great, share-able, explanatory content from 'Yes to Fairer Votes' campaign supporters - which you *can* comment on - visit letsavabeer.com... and Share Teh Kittehs!
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...with a fox at its tail [Feb. 18th, 2011|01:17 am]
If you didn't know, I have a new blog now just for music - tada!. Please follow it!

I'll still be using this one for other updates, as often as I ever have. (ie about once every 6 months or so).

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#savelibraries - a recent local history via Youtube [Feb. 6th, 2011|11:27 pm]
Closing on 500 libraries are under threat in the UK. See here for the current picture - it's updated every few days, with all the latest news stories, and scroll right for the map (it's scary).

On 16th December Somerset County Council announced that they were going to do their bit by closing 20 libraries. Glastonbury was one of them. Reaction from the public was spontaneous. A Friends group was formed (Facebook; Google). Within days, some enterprising youths had made, edited, and posted this short film:

There were petitions across the County and in the Town. The latter amassed the signatures of more than half the town's population in just a few weeks. The Council had arranged a consultation meeting for a Friday morning but the Friends group held their own a few days ahead - standing room only.

When the Council came to town, a local poet (one of Glastonbury's 'Elder Bards') had his say:

And everyone wanted their say. The local papers barely had room on their letters pages. The Council revised their plans - now they were only [ahem] going to close 11 libraries, and cut all of the rest by 20% instead of 10%, and charge anyone who lost their library card a fiver for a new one.

Not everyone in the area was wholly impressed by this.

A group of local filmmakers asked people to come and tell them what they thought:

They, too, ran out of room.

Then the Friends group invited Tim Coates down, and invited all of Somerset County's Councillor's to hear him talk. This is what he had to say:

...but the Cabinet still recommended their program of cuts to the Council. Their leader said that "people understood the savings needed" - even though only 11% of Somerset residents agree the reductions to the service are fair in the current financial climate.

The same day, the filmmakers made the trip to London, and projected We Love Libraries onto the wall of the British Library:

On Saturday 5th December there was a national day of action. Somerset residents' We Love Libraries film was in the top 10 most shared films on all of Youtube on the day.

Somerset County Council votes on whether to accept the budget that its Cabinet has recommended on 16th February 2011.
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One year St. Nick got tired of the sceptics. [Dec. 25th, 2010|10:32 am]
He tacked up Dasher and Blitzen and the rest, took to the sleigh, shook the deer-reins and cried 'Ho!' - then flew over the Earth, riding the thermals all night, without stopping at a single chimney. He took the time to see the world that night, jingling over vast uninhabited regions where no-one could hear him. In particular, he made for the forests, whose majesty he appreciated immensely. The hard rims of the reindeer's toes flicked snow from the top of the trees.

In the morning, the world woke to the sound of children crying. They sobbed, wailed, bawled and greeted; blubbed, howled, weeped and mourned. Stockings hung limp and empty. Brandy was untouched on the mantelpiece. The Father of Christmas had confused them with wicked girls and boys: Santa had not come that year.

When finally their tear glands were cracked and sore, and there was not another drop more of sorrow to be shed, the children were dressed in scarfs, hats and gloves and sent out into the snow to walk and play. And there a sight met them that turned their broken hearts to juicy oranges. Every tree shone with light, every branch bore gifts and sweets and tinkling bells. Back in his grotto, he and his reindeer were laughing. Riding the skies on Christmas Eve, Old Saint Nick had decorated the world.

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Yusuf Azak [Nov. 21st, 2010|10:54 pm]
Anyone following me on Facebook in the last week will have been unable to avoid my growing excitement over the release of Yusuf Azak's debut album Turn On the Long Wire, and the positive attention it's been getting from music blogs and podcasts.

I first heard Yusuf's music when I was listening to demos for Glastonbury Festival's 'Emerging Talent Competition. Michelle had had Yusuf's demo in her box, and was really excited about it, so brought it to the panel. The recordings sounded a little bit as if they'd been made on a cassette recorder positioned halfway across the room, but there was something beguiling about them. Beneath that, was clear that a lot more care had gone into them than into many hundreds of the other discs we'd been listening to for weeks.

Taken as a whole, the panel didn't choose to put Yusuf through to the finals - it was an exceptionally strong year in the 'Acoustic' category, to be fair, even the extraordinary Birdengine didn't make the final - but a couple of us kept watching him, and after a while I plucked up the courage to invite him to write a piece for the upcoming Attack!!!! CD.

The result was 19:19.

In 2009, Yusuf collaborated with me on The Key Underground for my (as yet incomplete) Two Heads project.

2009 was also the first time I'd seen Yusuf play live, on my birthday and then at the Attack!!!! 13 launch. Live, his sound is stripped down to just his voice and guitar, both of which he uses to idiosyncratic but bewitching effect. It is actually in the live performances that I think his greatest strengths show. I like Yusuf because it feels to me as if he is always on the edge of something, expressing something which is almost inexpressible, and pushing his guitar in such a way that it always feels as if he might just miss the next note.

Last week Michelle and I went to see him play at the Grain Barge. That was the first time I knew that the Key Underground had made it onto Yusuf's new album and so I not only have a (hardly deserved) thanks but also a writing credit! It is a peculiar joy to hear someone of his calibre sing your own words to an audience.

Not only that, but it's very satisfying to see the album and even the track in which I had a hand attracting diverse praise, especially remembering back to hearing those first few demo tracks years ago. I think best of all was probably seeing it featured on Jon Hillcock's New Noise podcast.

Well worth checking out the video for the first track on that podcast, too, Pogo's incredible 'Snow White' remix, 'Wishery':

Some other feedback for the track and album (get them here!) - so gratifying to see this:

Herald Scotland - "...as distinctive a sound as has appeared this year"

Codes and Signals - "A sweet little sample from a Mills and Boon novel come to life, repeats all the way through, like a romantic Eno who has never drunk coffee"

It All Started With Carbon Monoxide - "...best played loud, I find, with all your windows open so that people passing by can enjoy it too"

Have Fun At Dinner - "What Yusuf Azak has achieved with 'Turn On The Long Wire' is a solid and enchanting debut album"

Sound of the Overground - Band of the Week; "What's not to like?"

Drowned in Sound [on 'Eastern Sun, from the album] - "...I nearly made it Single of the Week..."

Folly of Youth - "A headphone album for today’s looped guitar freak-folk movement?"

GaydarNation - "Fourth track ‘The Key Underground’ is the standout... this is a debut to savour..."

Mojophenia - "It`s only occasionally a character like Yusuf Azak comes along, an extraordinary talent"

Edinburgh Man - "If I did albums of the week, this would certainly be that. It’s quite special, and quite unlike anything I’ve heard this year"

You can download Yusuf's first two EPs in full, for free from his myspace, and also check to see live dates there.

You can buy the full album Turn On The Long Wire for only £8 and download two more tracks for free from Song, By Toad records.
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Garfield Linus Garfield - the geekiest achievement of my life. [Nov. 21st, 2010|05:44 pm]
You've probably, by now, heard of the Garfield Minus Garfield site, which reproduces original Garfield cartoons with the eponymous hero removed. It works superbly - bringing to the fore the element of the strip that is really all about Jon's rather miserable, lonely life. I'm quite sure I've laughed more at those than I ever have at the original Garfield strips with Garfield in them.

So if you haven't already seen Garfield Minus Garfield, click the strip:

Jim Davis liked them enough that he brought out his own book of them eventually.

It's a bit less likely that you'll know Square Root of Minus Garfield, which runs parodied, altered and mashed up Garfield strips in a daily basis. Anyone can submit a strip and there is practically no filter policy. With a few exceptions - such as topical strips thought unlikely to make sense out of context - every strip put forward to the site appears, in the order they were received. You can do one yourself!

Bizarrely, although I already knew of the original Garfield Minus Garfield, I stumbled upon this site because of a contribution which features my family home.

The unfiltered approach means results may vary... some are hopeless retreads of earlier ideas or just don't work at all, but the best are clever and funny or simply have their own kind of weird beauty.

I find this kind of tinkering with pop culture irresistable - to the point that I've become fixated on custom My Little Ponies in recent weeks (look here! And here! And here! And if you're really getting into it, here!)...

and of course I had to have a go at a couple of 'Square Root of Minus Garfield's myself.

I submitted a couple,

Mirrored Garfield

Just Look at that Gorgeous Garfield

and then a couple more, and then a bit later having clicked obsessively through the whole lot from many and various others I was idly thinking it was a bit surprising there hadn't been all that many Peanuts cameos among them, especially considering how many other strips do feature among the 'square roots'.

So I made this and sent it in:

Garfield Linus Garfield

I think I pretty much forgot about it not long after, mostly because the Storm the Charts project went a bit mental, but checked back in a while after it finished... to discover that my Garfield Linus Garfield strip has become a little template all in its own right! There are dozens of strips reworking it - a whole bunch listed here, for example - to the extent that the Square Root forum post-ers are actually kind of sick of it.

I did it! I made an obscure webcomic sub-meme! Garfield, Linus, thank you. I'm so proud...

And if anyone following this decides to make their own Square Root of Minus Garfield, please let me know when it goes up.

See also.
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Glastonbury Carnival 2010 [Nov. 14th, 2010|07:33 pm]
Somerset's 'Guy Fawkes' carnivals are among the largest illuminated processions in the world. They are almost impossible to describe adequately to anyone who hasn't seen them - a parade of bombastic floats on themes that range from bad jokes, through crude imaginings of other cultures, to (once or twice a year, if you make the effort to stand through the rest of it, and keep an open mind), genuinely stunning feats of engineering and imaginative spectacle that nothing-quite-like can be found anywhere else in the world.

The carnival represents a huge community effort over each year, the results of which regularly leave onlookers agape with incredulity. Sometimes in a bad way...

These are the scrawled notes I took last night as the pop music, light bulbs, and dancers of varying shapes and levels of enthusiasm trundled past.

A few of the comments are direct quotes from my sister's boyfriend Pete, an out-of-towner seeing Glastonbury Carnival for the first time.

Bikers in superhero outfits
Santa Claus
Crappy majorettes*
Minibus with no apparent purpose
Man trying to sell 100 balloons
Caged dinosaur & pirates
Juggling Santa Claus troupe
dropping their stuff
Random teenage girls showing off extremely shoddy dance to Katy Perry record
Traction engine (nice!) hooting & steaming
Drumming troupe - Pete: "not a smile to share between them"
Carnival queen & princesses in temple/greenhouse
Dancing yawning elves on wobbly reindeer sing "Rock'n'Roll Christmas"
Pete: "Jesus Christ what is that"
Giant ragged crow on sticks
with Morris dancing witches
Followed by actual Morris men
Trolls actually from Germany!!**
"AFRICA". Say no more.***
Flower fairy tableau - Actually good :)
Little majorettes... and big majorettes...
Extremely brightly coloured "Ceremonial Barge" 'oriental' float
Olympic union jack zimmer frame dance
"TUSK" - Giant moving woolly mammoth heads & cavemen dancing with spears to thrilling music. Includes cave girl in a cage. [this was good]
Masqueraders Carnival Club: "Odyssey" - Dragons, with even more dramatic music. A dragons/viking boat mashup. Even the fake flames work. [this was *really* good]
Followed by: "Pirates", with Spongebob 'You Are A Pirate' song - Bit sad by comparison - but they're only kids.
Actual baton twirling! - behind vaguely pom-pom decorated waste disposal lorry.
"Pretty impressive" says Pete
Teenagers imagining being at a rave - "Chavin' it!!"
"TOUCH DOWN" - American themed float, with Alexandra Burke's Broken Heels soundtracking it [this kind of incongruity is what most wrinkles my brow about the carnival]
Walking magician woman
Walking rainbow peacock supernova girl with maracas
People dressed as chickens with 'Feeling Hot Hot Hot' playing. Float is called "Hot Chicks". [This is at least the third annual outing for this giant moving bad pun that I know of]
Crazy walking lightning man
Happy hardcore Christmas medley float
Lit blue feathery alien walker
Windows vibrating
"Colosseum" - slow Roman tableau playing Gladiator theme. All the horses' eyes are about six inches too far forward.
Official collection float sponsored by P. Phillips & Sons Patterned Concrete & Surfacing Specialists
Small boat that looks like a trebuchet
Float I can't even be bothered to write down
"Jest 4 Fun" jesters-themed float, silky harlequin outfits
Creepy card-themed masqueraders following vehicle blaring out 'Poker Face'
Scary Pinocchio float - "pretty good, pretty bright", "bloody mad", "surely they only need 10W lightbulbs"
Golden woman on skeletal dinosaur
"What the bloody hell is that"
Giant roman alien robot skeleton maybe
Scary horned white churchy things - "Gargoyles" - giant moving bells, stained glass spinny stuff - "I mean it is bloody impressive" [I took this float, which was ostensibly about kind of demonic, sinful church, to be a comment on the priesthood. But it might just as likely have been a kind of 'naughty nuns' fantasy on the part of those responsible]
"What've I missed?"
"A Jai Ho Indian dancing troupe"
"Actually Indian?"
"No... come on..."
"The Way You Moove" - People in cow-costumed overalls dancing to "The Way You Move"
Upside-down clown walkers with heads between fake legs
tune: Paloma Faith (?) 'Upside-Down'
[at this point the pear ciders and mulled wines were taking effect, I may have missed quite a lot from here on]
Big colourful butterfly walkers
"Medieval Pageant" - widely applauded for some reason?!
On the "Tarot" float, the "Queen of Pentacles" holds up a card bearing an... er... Star of David. [AND THIS IS IN GLASTONBURY, OF ALL PLACES! FOR SHAME!]
"The Way You Milk Me Feel" - another cow-punning float. But, they've actually changed the lyrics in the actual music they're playing. "My milkin' days are gone..."
loads of crap, then...
"The Spirit of the Blitz" - an astonishing tableau float featuring multiple scenes with participants in period dress, and the float made to look like a bombed red-brick building. One of those it's worth turning out for.
followed by Shark-y float playing 'O Fortuna'
"Over the Rainbow" - [too many glasses down the line to remember what this was about]

And that was it for this year.

You can read about the 150-year history of the carnival on this .pdf file (http://glastonburycarnival.com/GlastonburyCarnivalHistory.pdf) - there are some entertaining 19th-century letters to the paper to be found there...

One of those things everyone should see once in their life. For better or worse, you won't believe your eyes.

*That might sound mean, but these particular ones really were crappy. They all had batons which they raised and lowered vaguely in time to the music. *I* could've majorette-d better, and that's saying something.

**After years of seeing local residents' 'interpretations' of other cultures and countries, I was really impressed to see a group of costumed individuals had actually traveled across from the continent to show themselves to us for real! The next float spoiled all that though.

***'Say no more' won't work for those of you who haven't seen the show before... the float, titled 'AFRICA', featured a lot of large models of safari animals, and white Somerset people wearing warpaint. And grass skirts. And thrusting spears. No, I'm not kidding. This is the kind of thing that goes on. There was a black-and-white-minstrels float in living memory... and by 'living memory' I mean 'you might remember it even if you're only 10 years old'.
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Hello again the internets [Sep. 5th, 2010|11:43 pm]
[Tags|, , , , ]

I've been (mostly) offline since mid-July, learning how to function without my fingers touching a Qwerty keypad again in the wake of Storm the Charts, which involved staring-at-screens pretty much 24/7

Now that I'm back, it transpires that my own website domain has expired. Whoops. I will get the site back up as soon as possible.

One of the things I decided to try and do while I was avoiding the internet was to read the books that have been longlisted for this year's Booker Prize. This is because every year the prize comes around and I'm never sure whether to shout at the telly or be delighted for the winner or not -- I'm still not likely to quite manage that this year either seeing as I've only read 1 of the 13 so far, but still, it should put me a lot more up to speed with mainstream literary fiction for a bit. And (in theory) there should be some good reading along the way.

The one I have read so far is February by Lisa Moore.

Looking at the 'customers who bought this item also bought' section on that link, it's clear that a lot of other people have had the same idea as me!

The book is the story of a grieving process. Throughout the book sad and seemingly mundane moments are given a transcendent beauty by Moore's transformative, rich and sensitive prose. While I was reading it several people asked if I thought it would be a worthy winner and my response was that it was a good book and I was glad it had been recognised but I wouldn't make it a must-read. However, Moore's style really comes into its own in the last portion of February and there are some fantastic passages there that reward sticking with the book - not that it lost my attention at any point but suddenly it became, I felt, insightful and I gained an increasingly clear sense of the totality of the protagonist's devotion and of what it (love and loss) meant for her. I particularly liked the description of death as something just right there, in the corner of our eye, politely waiting for us - that we don't like to look at, and avoid until the moment comes, despite its great and looming nature.

Also -

"Panic and beauty are inside each other, all the time, copulating in an effort to create more beauty and panic, and everybody gets down on his or her knees in the face of it. It is a demonic, angelic coupling".

I have also started The Finkler Question - the mournful man described at the beginning (mourning nothing but his own largely self-inflicted lot really) was an interesting counterpoint to February's Helen, but I didn't feel really taken in by the novel yet. I had to send it on in the library as someone else had reserved it and I didn't get it read in the loan period, but will come back to it later.

The next one is going to be either In A Strange Room or Parrot and Olivier in America. The longlist becomes a shortlist on Tuesday but I mean to read all 13 books eventually anyway.
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Share this everywhere [Jul. 2nd, 2010|03:00 pm]
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