Monday, July 30, 2012

Daily Mail in "Olympic Ceremony was Left Wing Crap" Shocker

Rick Dewsbury writes in the Hate Mail

The above article, presented on Freezepage as the Mail rapidly yanked it from their website, demonstrates that not everybody thought honouring the NHS at the Olympics was a great idea.

It is a Daily Mail article, so be prepared for hatred, bile, vitriol and stringing together a series of almost unconnected events in order to make up a story,

Sunday, July 29, 2012

World Music Marking

I have just peer reviewed the week 1 essays from six of my fellow students on the Coursera / Penn University course Listening To World Music.  They were rather a mixed bag.

One essay stood above the others, the student has phrased his/her essay in academic language, the question had been thought about and looked at from two differing angles and it read through as one coherent whole. Another essay was pretty good, asked to comment on positionality and emotion within music the student chose the original song, and then three cover versions of the same to illustrate his point, clever thinking.  The other four were hard going though, at least two seemed to understand only basic English, not one used any basic academic conventions and at least one seemed to be answering a different question.  Or perhaps even a question from a different course.

This is where I feared the Coursera project might begin to fall down.  I am going to be quite happy if the first two students read and score my essay, they have a good grip of what the course entails and understood the questions clearly.  Judging by the standard of the other four essays, I wouldn't want any of them marking my work as they appear to have little or no idea of what is going on. Asking them to give scores based on academic conventions and whether or not the arguments are convincing and nuanced just won't be possible as they do not seem to understand these terms.

Fingers crossed then. I think I have written a decent first essay, not as well argued as my Open University work, but then it is a free course without a recognised qualification so I am not spending the research time on this that I would with the OU. I am the only person I have seen so far who has presented references and a bibliography, the OU have drummed that into me over the last year.

Week one scores will be out tomorrow, I have a very busy weekend next week so I'm unsure if I can manage to whole essay and peer reviewing business.  It may depend on whether next week's questions really pique my interest.

Over in OU world, our collaborative wiki is coming on well, and I have made a start on next month's essay question - "To what extent has tourism transformed the meaning of religious objects?"

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where Are The Immigrants ?

That was the Zimbabwean news response to the Olympic opening ceremony, was he watching another channel ? If anything, I would have said that Danny Boyle was slightly guilty of over-representation of Black and Asian faces with each scene carefully choreographed to demonstrate Britain's multi-cultural and ethnically diverse, and the most obvious scene of immigration was the actual re-creation of the Windrush and the first wave of Caribbean immigration.   What of your violent colonial past ? asked the same correspondent. Well, come one, no country is going to put on parade their past transgressions in this sort of thing.  Although if he thought there wasn't anything counter-culture going on, then he wasn't listening to the music either.

London 2012 Olympics, The Opening Ceremony

What do you think about the opening ceremony ? I thought it was quite splendid, quintessentially British, a homage to some of the incredible things Britain has achieved married to a knowing understanding of some of the harsher realities of life.

After the incredible opening ceremony in Beijing, Danny Boyle had already said he would not attempt a similar style of ceremony. Instead, what Boyle produced was a potted history of Britain replete with mythological and political imagery; China and other nations cannot failed to have noticed that part of what Britain chose to showcase about itself was the human and political rights movement of the Suffragettes, and pride we feel in having a National Health Service.

Boyle wove together great strands of what we were, the industrial revolution and empire building, with what we hope we are today, inclusive, multi-cultural, ready to acknowledge our shared past and muddle on together as best we can.

The things that Britain still does really were pushed to the fore, literature and especially J K Rowling's all conquering Harry Potter series was featured as a huge Voldemort fell beneath an onslaught of Mary Poppinses with illuminated brollies. The music showcased a parade of British talent from the Elgar through numerous acts familiar to a global audience, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, and Boyle was happy to use the cynical and the anti-establishment as Pink Floyd, The Clash and The Sex Pistols music was put to good effect.

Other parts of the ceremony showed the traditionally British way of being self-deprecating and quirky, Rowan Atkinson turned in a quick performance as Mr. Bean, trying to cheat his way into beating the Chariots Of Fire runners.  The Italian national news service described the ceremony as "as unpredictable as the people here" and went on to say that only the British could conceive of doing the event in this fashion.

After much speculation over who was to light the Olympic Flame inside the stadium, Britain put in to practise the Olympic ideal, to inspire the next generation, seven young British athletes nominated by British gold medal winners ran into the stadium and lit the cauldron that had been constructed from petals carried in at the head of each participating team.

Personally I thought that the opening ceremony was a great success, it was unorthodox and showed off as many British idiosyncrasies as it did British achievements, but this is how we British are, we are actually really proud of all the great things we have done, but we don't like to boast about it. Well done Mr. Boyle, that was a tough ask, and I mean this most sincerely when I say that wasn't a bad job, not bad at all.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How To Be British

There are some spot on observations, and a host of cliches and stereotypes in the BBC 12 Part Guide To The UK.

"The English are British and lots of people think the British are English but that annoys the Scottish and Welsh because although some think they're British and some think they aren't and some think they are but don't want to be, they all agree that they definitely are not English. The Irish mostly think they are Irish, apart from the ones who are Northern Irish. Some say that makes them British and Irish. But others disagree and say they should just be Irish and then some say they aren't British either but part of the United Kingdom. People from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland can all play cricket for England because they're British as can those from Ireland even though they aren't British. So can South Africans. The English play football for England unless they aren't that good when they might try to play for Ireland. Those from the Isle of Wight are English, from Anglesey are Welsh and the Orkneys are Scottish, but although that means they aren't from the island of Great Britain they're still British. The Channel Islanders depend on the crown which is what the Queen wears but they aren't in the UK and those from the Isle of Man are the same, apart from their cats."

"He never gets his round in." There is no more damning assessment of one's character to be heard in the British Isles.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Bridge

At night in the city
from thousands of wounds
blood comes pouring out.

It comes flowing into the canal
that is stagnant, dully,
where the bridge is suspended.
The bridge is neither going forward into a future
nor coming from a past,
just from the opposite shore, to this shore,
it is only hanging
over a dead current
and just fastening together two nights.

When night becomes late, over there at its top
and aged man and a young woman come
and, without appearing confident,
casually hug one another.

- Shiro Murano, trans. Edith Marcombe Shiffert and Yuki Sawa.

I Am Not Nike / Coke / Adidas / Heineken etc.

My favourite t-shirt has printed on the chest "This space is not available for corporate advertising"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

University of Pennsylvania

I signed on with the University of Pennsylvania using the new online university service Coursera. The first module I have opted to take is Listening To World Music taught by Professor of Music and ethnomusicologist Dr. Carol Muller.  I had expected these free courses, which cannot count towards any formal qualification, to be fairly simple stuff. I am very pleased to find though that the lectures, while easy to understand, are pitched at a fairly high level.

In the opening lectures, which are all delivered in short video sections, Dr. Muller talked about Arjan Appadurai and his theories of social rupture. I am already slightly familiar with Appadurai from module A151 with The Open University in which his book The Social Life of Things features prominently so the music lecture held some relevant crossover points with the material culture studies I am doing.

Coursera works by delivering video lectures with short quizzes and then writing a weekly essay which will be peer reviewed - your own essay will only be reviewed if you have reviewed someone else's work. I am not sure how well this will work to be honest, you can really only mark something correctly if you really understand the subject and know the answers.

This week's questions (choose one of) are...

Week 1 Questions
1) Appadurai argues that modernity is a form of rupture in everyday life, and that the experience of modernity is now globally present.  Moving places is one such form of rupture.  If you are from a family or community that has made significant moves in the last several decades—from rural to urban areas, from one country or continent to another--ask members of your family/group, if music provided a means to maintaining a connection between past and present places of residence and how it has done so--live performance, recordings, human travel? Has music worked to maintain your language of origin? How else might it have worked as a connective tissue in the move or significant moment of rupture?

2) Steven Feld argues that some ethnomusicologists who have studied traditional music have expressed a certain anxiety about commercial market forces in relation to 'traditional' and 'local' music-cultural practices. Others celebrate the potential for intercultural communication and collaboration that made possible with new forms of musical travel. In what ways do you think processes and forms of mass mediation have changed in the last two decades? How might these changes confirm, challenge, or otherwise problematize the anxiety/celebratory takes on musical change? How might contemporary forms of mass media affect our understanding of 'local' or 'traditional' musical practice? Such newer forms of mass media might include the internet, file-sharing, YouTube, iPods, Tablets, etc.: what others can you think of?

3) Find youtube examples of the three forms of authenticity outlined in this lecture segment, and explain how they are articulated in the clip.  It maybe that there are only one or two of these authenticities expressed in the clip.   How does the presence of authenticity contribute to the power of the music for you as a listener/consumer?

4) Watch this clip about the commercial recording of Gregorian chant by a German monastic order.  It provides a parallel example of commodification of the sacred to the earlier “Chant” recording.  It presents a narrative of monastic life and deep history, the place of prayer, work and ritual in that life.  Comment on the discourses of the sacred, the commodity, authenticity, the miraculous, new technologies, commercial success; on Father Karl, the narrator’s story and rationalization for inserting Chant into the commercial marketplace.  What do you think is to be gained by this process, and what might be lost?  How does the music work for the monks?  Is it the same as for the consumer?  Gregorian chant by the monks of Heiligenkruez

It is going to be hard getting this done alongside my Open University commitments. I will have a go at question 4 if I can find time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ethical News Reporting

"If you don't want to propagate more mass murders...

Don't start the story with sirens blaring.

Don't have photographs of the killer.

Don't make this 24/7 coverage.

Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.

Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market." - from Newswipe by Charlie Brooker.

Television Review - Survivors 8*

I bought a Netflix subscription, it seems a very reasonable cost at £6 a month, and although I haven't managed to make full use of it during high season at work I have managed to watch the re-makes of the cult 1970's series Survivors.  The BBC made two 6 episode series of this post-apocalyptic drama starring Julie Graham, Max Beesley, Philip Rhys, Paterson Joseph, Zoe Tapper, Chahak Patel and Robyn Addison.

I have a bit of thing for apocalypse and end of the civilised world scenarios.  Survivors follows the tribulations of a group of people thrown together in the aftermath of a devastating global flu virus.  The characterisation was good, Julie Graham and Max Beesley in particular turning in very credible performances.  Beesley as the distrusting convicted killer whose first answer to most problems is violence was a world away from his run as likeable wide boy Charlie Edwards in Hotel Babylon.

The two series had just enough time to develop most of the main characters well, and to advance the plot beyond the end of the world survival scenario into a darker battle to halt a second virus outbreak tied in with a sinister and secretive research unit.  The last episode of series 2 tied up a couple of long running plot threads and also paved the way for a third series, which the BBC have promptly cancelled.  A shame, I thought Survivors was well made, mostly believable and well acted.


I have come a bit late to this Pinterest thing, and much like Tumblr I'm not sure if I've either quite got the hang of it, or whether it's quite the thing for me. Of the two, Pinterest seems the easiest to fathom, it's just a place where you can assemble collections of images that appeal to you. Tumblr ? This is often referred to as a micro-blogging site, micro-blogging being blogging without going to the effort of actually writing something for yourself as far as I can gather.

Yorkshiresoul's Pinterest , if I keep it up, will be similar to the blog - goth girls, dark art, musicians, sporting stuff and the like.  I have grabbed my domain name at Tumblr as well, but I'm not sure if it is of any use.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gun-filled, blood-drenched, high-octane mayhem

From the official Riz Facebook page.

Book Review : Riz (The Rizwan Sabir Mysteries) - Charlie Flowers 7*

Riz is the début e-novel from Fighting Cocks band leader Charlie Flowers.  It tells the story of Riz, a former wannabe Al-Qaeda terrorist now working for a shadowy and violent branch of British security.

Riz is a fast paced novella and liberally peppered with guns, bombs and blood.  It takes place in contemporary London at the time of the 2012 Olympic Games, Riz is employed to get inside a terrorist cell and nullify them, to this end he associates himself with a group of cyber-hacking, gun-toting, helicopter flying girls known as the Hur al-hyn, Cheerleaders or Black Eyed Maidens.  This then is where life imitates art imitates life.  Flowers heads up a pro-Muslim / anti extremism group called the Cheerleaders who are variously a group armed with the cultural weapons of mass destruction - according to themselves, or possibly a group of lunatic fringe internet trolls and bullies - according to a handful of right wing bloggers. Is Flower's vision of  heavily armed babes taking on Islamic terrorists just fantasy then, or does it cross over into the real world, it certainly adds a level of intrigue to a fairly strait-forward narrative.

Flowers mixes a fast paced spook story with gore in abundance as the Hur al-Hyn ladies launch themselves against their nominated foes in a visceral frenzy, look away if the thought of teenage girls playing football with severed heads is likely to upset or offend.  The plot builds in a vivid cinematic style to an apocalyptic fire-fight and leaves a plot thread hanging for the follow up novel.

Mostly I really enjoyed Riz, but where it could do with a little more work was a broader look at the both the moral reasoning and background of both Riz and the Hur al-Hyn girls, their motives seemed slightly glib and glossed over.  The blur of acronyms didn't help clarity at a couple of points. Amidst the general carnage and welter of gunfire and explosions though these are only minor criticisms. Riz, despite the title, isn't a mystery, it's a fast paced action adventure novel, a sort of boys own rush crossed with Die Hard and the opening ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Gun filled, blood drenched, high octane mayhem. The Kindle edition from Amazon can be bought at the bargain price of 77p!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chrome Weblab

Chrome Weblab

This is a set of new gadgets / thingies / widgets from Chrome. I'm just having a look around on the Teleporter which is supposed to be showing the action from the 24hr Amelia's Bakery in North Carolina, it looks quiet, perhaps everyone is having a fag break.  It isn't really a teleporter of course, it is just a series of webcams, and to be honest, the camera quality isn't all that great.

I'll try the virtual orchestra then, oh, there are 12 people in the queue in front of me and a possible 34 minute wait to join in, perhaps I won't bother then.  The Sketchbots ? I don't have a webcam so cannot get this to work. Data Tracer ? Pictures from the blog are hosted in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Ireland, sort of interesting, but I don't know what use this information is. Finally, the Lab Tag Explorer, where it appears that everyone else on the site can't get anything to work either, oh well.

Drugs Again

Frank Schleck has withdrawn from Le Tour amidst allegations of doping. A urine test has revealed the presence of Xipamide, a medicine that lowers blood pressure and increases urine production. Schleck has left the tour voluntarily, and is arguing that he has done nothing wrong and that any positive test result must be the result of 'poisoning.'

I am not sure what to think about this, professional cycling has a long history of drug problems and despite the modern Tour taking a much tougher stance against dopers riders are still willing to take the risk.  If Schleck has been interfered with in some way I would imagine it would be very difficult to prove without evidence from the 'poisoner'.

Bradley Wiggins remains the General Classification leader, defending champion Cadel Evans has had a bad few days in the mountains and is now over 8 minutes behind the race leader.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can Turkish Fireman Get Water On A Burning Building

"Local television footage captured the building engulfed by flames, and later, firefighters dousing the charred building"

From BBC Istanbul

It's windy lads, use more pressure. Here the helicopter, can he hit the enormous 42 story building ? Ha ha, nope.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Farewell Jon Lord

Deep Purple founder member Jon Lord died today.  Thanks for all the great songs mate, we'll miss you.

The graduate with a science degree asks, "Why does it work?"
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"
The graduate with an arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

Sent to me, the arts student, by a bloke with an engineering degree. Ta Stuart.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Listen Against

Listen Against isn't perhaps one of Radio 4's best comedy programmes, but almost worth listening to for the awful "Melvyn Bragg has been tampering with the time of the Reformation in his home-made In Our Time machine" gag.

Cue groans.

England Demolish Australia / TDF etc.

Hurrah!  We'll be claiming the whitewash, Australia can't count a rain abandonment as a draw.  It is great to see England finally improving as a one day side, just so long as it does not accompany a slump in form in the longer game.

Shane Warne said before the series that England were becoming "arrogant" and were going to be humbled by Australia.  Well Botox features, you couldn't have been more wrong, the visiting Australian side were weaker in every department than their English counterparts who completed their series whitewash in stylish and accomplished form.

On a serious cricket note, I am sure that everyone who loves the game sends their best wishes to Mark Boucher after the freak accident that has caused his early retirement. Boucher has been a stalwart member of the South African team in recent years, a fierce and determined competitor who had said in interviews prior to the England tour that he wanted to lead SA to a series victory and up to #1 in the test rankings.  Jacques Kallis said the day after the accident "It's not about cricket any more," he said. "It's about a mate and hoping he recovers fully. It puts cricket and life into perspective."

Mark Boucher
Over in France Bradley Wiggins didn't just win the individual time trial, but won in by such a margin that so long as he can stay out of any further crashes he has set himself up for being the winner of the yellow jersey. Team mate Chris Froome also excelled at the Stage 9 time trial, both of the Sky riders were comfortably ahead of defending Australian champion Cadel Evans. What's that ? England* beating Australia again, they must be getting sick of that.

*I know, Wiggins was born in Belgium and Froome in Kenya, but that's English enough when it comes to giving the Ozzies a spanking.

Bible Studies

Some time ago, in fact it seems like an age ago, I thought I would have a go at reading the Bible.  I am currently around three quarters of the way through, having just got started on the New Testament.  Of the many things I have learned about the Bible from reading it the comparative lengths of the Old and New Testaments came as a surprise.  I had always imagined that the two sections would be roughly the same length, or perhaps I just did not pay enough attention in Sunday School.

The Old Testament was both depressingly blood drenched, overly long, blandly repetitive and largely narrative free.  The constant imprecations and dire oaths do become hard reading, and the long genealogy lists and compilations of dimensions of things, parts of the OT come across like an Ikea guide to building a tabernacle, are hardly gripping either.

Getting to the New Testament then with its messages of tolerance, peace and love is a breath of fresh air.  The story of Jesus looks to be so short though, he is born, and only a handful of pages later he is about to die, I thought he would get more of a run. Oh well, 79% down, as we Kindlers' say, I'll keep clicking the page turn button.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Le Tour

The Tour de France has been incredible so far with multiple crashes changing the race on an almost daily basis.  Mark Cavendish, as it he was in the Giro earlier this year, has been involved in crashes, including going down in the huge accident that happened on Stage 6.  Commentators are saying it is the worst crash in the history of the Tour, two thirds of the peloton were caught out as riders tumbled from their bikes.  Many riders were hurt, including Ryder Hesjedal who had to abandon the next day, and so many bikes were damaged that it took many minutes to sort out the wreckage.

After the mege-crash the Tour hopes of Frank Schleck, Thomas Voeckler, the entire Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda team and a host of others were effectively ended.  Bradley Wiggins and most of the Sky team escaped the carnage and were able to set themselves up for a mighty push in the first mountain stage.

As the peloton climbed the hills towards La Planche on Stage 7 the Sky riders were close to the front, and on the final Grade 1 climb Michael Rogers, Richie Porte, Christopher Froome and Bradley Wiggins executed a brutal team display to destroy most of the leading group.  The Sky train attacked and dragged the peloton up La Planche, rider after rider dropped out as the relentless pace on a hot day left them spent and wasted on the mountainside. At the top Froome took the stage, Wiggins the pre-Tour favourite the yellow jersey and Sky, despite a trailing Mark Cavendish, were the fastest team overall.

Bradley Wiggins takes the yellow jersey.

Obviously Sky will be trying to win yellow, and this does not bode too well for Cavendish's chances of gaining the points jersey.  Peter Sagan has already shown his class on hill finishes and flat sprints and with the loss of one lead-out rider Sky may not be able to support Cavendish as they try to keep Wiggins in the yellow.

50 Shades of Fanfic

I don't think I am going to read the current literary craze that has housewives the breadth of the country cackling with delight over how sexy it is.  No matter how many people tell me that 50 Shades of Grey is the best thing since Harry Potter slash fan-fiction. Actually, 50 Shades is Twilight slash fiction isn't it, because that's where author E L James started out ?

 You haven't heard of of slash fanfic ?

Supernatural - you'll never see the Winchester's in the same light
once you have encountered Supernatural slash-fiction.

Well, there is fan fiction - stories written by fans of a particular novel or series of novels which place existing characters in new situations and plots. Some of it is good, much of it is dross. Then you have slash fiction which began as homosexual pairings of literary characters - Frodo buggers Sam, Legolas gives Boromir a blowjob etc. - and has now broadened to become a wider erotic genre encompassing heterosexual relationships and other, stranger pairings. Stranger pairings you say ? Well yes, Lord of the Rings has Ents, and Harry Potter has house elves, and their crazed slash-fic fans don't like to let any possible match-up go to waste.