Posts from 10th November 2005

Nov 05

i am ignorant

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 364 views

“A quarter of adults who have bought alcohol for youngsters claimed they did not know it was illegal, research showed today”, it sez.

how could you not know that?
whoops i didn’t
Sadly, I suspect Gale’s brewery will be quickly closed, as Fullers has extensively expanded its London site.
Roger Protz


Blog 7Post a comment • 271 views


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 400 views

I love old cookbooks, looking at how culinary fashions have changed but also picking up useful tips that have been forgotten. Such as the best way to judge when a pig is done ‘is when its eyes pop out’ (the Art of Cookery, by Hannah Glasse, 1747). I was very pleased to read, therefore, that the collection of cookbooks at Leeds University have been Designated by the MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives Council) as an ‘outstanding’ collection. I only hope that they can get some money from HLF to digitise them and make them available online.

not funny really :(

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 177 views

but i heard someone read this story out aloud from metro (update=the woman won her case) and they pronounced it “SEMOLINA POISONING”

What A Difference A Lyric Makes

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 335 views

ABBA’s “The Day Before You Came” has a superb lyric. If you don’t know it, it’s a haunting song* detailing a totally ordinary day in the life of a single woman – getting up, going to work, eating lunch, coming home, going to bed. She’s vague on the details, because after all it was an ordinary day. It was also “the day before you came”, and we never learn any more about the “you”, but that’s not the point right now.

One of the reasons it’s such a great lyric is that it makes Andersson and Ulvaeus slightly pernickety grasp of English work in their favour. Sung in the voice of someone no more than averagely articulate, their grammatical exactness gives dimension to a life that seems exact, routine and slightly dull. Another reason is that it’s full of delightful little details, like this from when the singer goes to bed:

“I must have read a while, the latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style”

Offhand, vague, and the choice of author is perfect – intellectual but still quite populist, exactly the sort of thing you’d expect a serious-minded European woman to be reading in 1982. (Plus as a writer best-known for studying the history and effects of patriarchy, she’s resonant with the song, whose dread-laden music makes it ambiguous to say the least about the benefits of coupledom.)

The single was not a hit, and a couple of years later Blancmange covered it. They changed very little of the lyric, which is mostly gender-neutral and worked just as well for a gruff male voice. But they did change that particular line, probably because Marilyn French wasn’t that well known in the UK. (Although The Woman’s Room was a bestseller.) What did they change it to? Well –

“I must have read a while, the latest one by Barbara Cartland or someone in that style.”


There are several reasons why this totally misfires:

i) It has at least one more syllable, two more when you hear how the original squeezes “Marilyn”.
ii) There are perhaps slight ideological differences between Ms.French and Ms.Cartland.
iii) You find yourself unavoidably thinking, “Why on EARTH was he reading a Barbara Cartland novel?”

Great example all in all of how a song can be made or lost by a tiny detail.

*(A-Ha’s “Stay On These Roads” has just come on my iPod – why are these Nordics so damn good at this?)

Numb3rs Watch: Week 4

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 637 views

Already it is getting personal. Maths brother feels a bit bad because a student at his University that he blew off a few weeks before commits suicide. Being emotionally unstable, and given that Judd Hirsch seems a bit low on fatherly pats this week, he concocts a ridiculous maths based reasons why this is murder* (angle of plummet slightly out). Turns out this week its all about a dodgy building, and maths brother makes up some equations to show that a tall building will fall over. So the excitement of applied maths leads to a showdown with the FBI Architecture Squad and Non-Union Welding Taskforce. The main use of maths is about application of forces: yet again Numb3rs should be called Phys1cs.

*It wasn’t murder by the way: HA! THE NUMBTHREERS LIED.

What you notice when you drink Pimm’s Winter Cup…

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 516 views

What you notice when you drink Pimm’s Winter Cup (ie what in my youth we called the No.3 Cup: the Brandy Cup) is how much it tastes like Pimm’s. You know Pimm’s No.1 (the Gin based cup). There is a slightly more warming edge to it, but that could well be due to the fact that it has been mixed with ginger ale. And you would imagine Ginger doing the warming.

Whilst the bouze might be the key ingredient in Pimm’s, it is the bitters in there which give it its distinctive flavour. After all, can you really taste the gin in the No.1 cup? All credit to them for the brand extension though, it fills a nice hole in the market: I just wonder how much different it would taste if you mixed your summer Pimm’s with ginger ale?

Not Petty Enough

Blog 7Post a comment • 159 views

Sorry, I have a feeling that this might not genuinely come into the area of minor irritations. I was going to avoid this blog this month as I (like to believe I) have a kind of Zen-like calm when it comes to the little things in life, and ignore rather than rant. Or perhaps it is because I recognise myself as being one of those petty irritations and hence feel sympathetic towards people who walk at variable speeds, leave the tea-bag in or throw eggs on my front door*.

The source of this irritation is unfortunately Tony Blair. Though he would say the rise in terrorism is the actual source. So a Swoppie might counter that it is the imperialistic politics of the USA which caused it. I DON’T CARE WHOSE FAULT IT IS. But how do we go from three days without charge to a mooted ninety days without charge? How we got to fourteen days I don’t really know, but to suggest that the police might need up to six times as long to find something to charge someone with is astonishing.

The way I see police work happening (and this is probably hopelessly naive) is that the police have reason to suspect someone. They do this because they have already investigated and gathered data together. Nine times out of ten, they will arrest people and charge them pretty much straight away. However occasionally they might need to interview them, and then make a decision on charging. Then the courts come in and they need to prove it.

Under the suggested scheme they could arrest someone on next to no suspicion at all, and then spend ninety days (or twenty eight days, which is still a fair bit of time) looking for evidence. Will this improve their ability to do their job, or the quality of evidence they will get? Probably not, all it will do is allow the police to arrest people earlier in the investigation cycle.

There is unfortunately a fact of life in the police where it is much easier to convict someone after they have committed a crime. The problem is that the crimes in question are terrorist attacks (supposedly). By arresting them before they commit said crime, they prevent said crime: someones been watchin Minority Report. But then they have to prove they were going to do it. Why do they need ninety days? A cynic might say that gives them a lot of time to be tempted to fit people up.

I have seen TV dramas that depict our secret services. I have no doubt that given decent info, the security services will take people out with no care upon civil liberties. But I am equally sure that giving the police power to lock people up without a decent level of evidence is asking for trouble down the line. And no-one in the news reports as far as I could see, were even commenting on whether the extension to fourteen days has aided the police in convictions or not.

Blair tried to play chicken on this, and lost. But how much did he lose? The limit is now 28 days, a good nine times longer than it was five years ago. Was going for ninety days a way of making a failure look like a victory? Good work fellas.

*Some kids threw some eggs at my front door yesterday. My next door neighbour came round and apologized to me even though it was clearly nothing to do with her or her excellently behaved kids. Nevertheless, taking this as an admission of guilt I shall be detaining her without charge for twenty eight days because she CLEARLY KNOWS SOMETHING.