Posts from 7th April 2005

Apr 05

For enquiring minds who want to know

Blog 7Post a comment • 285 views

They Work For You is a great site – a much quicker search facility of the Parliament site, all the info from the latter is there at the former, available as RSS with email alerts when particular subjects are raised, or when individuals speak.

In a similar vein, The Public Whip will tell you how rebellious your MP is, showing you how they’ve voted, or how MPs have voted on a particular issue.

Finally – want to know how it might turn out? Try UK-Elect to download a trial version of an election outcome predictor. Only trouble is, it’s based on uniform swing, which I just don’t see happening such is the breakdown in the bedrocks underpinning the Butler-era swingometer approach to electoral punditry.

And then there was one

Blog 7Post a comment • 292 views

What if she dies before polling day? Would a Thatcher factor benefit the Tories?

In 2001, I worked in a constituency where the Tories were strongly tipped. People reported that the visit of Thatcher was pivotal. Unmotivated activists were reminded that despite their ambivalence about the government, there was a difference between the parties. Many voters felt the same, with the nice looking (if rather insipid) candidate for the tories acquiring a personality all of a sudden, and a personality they didn’t have much time for. Given the majority was incredibly small, it was one of many factors which definately made a difference.

But death is different. The vitriol that Imany still feel becomes more difficult to express with a pressure to show ‘respect’. We’ll see the dead unburied and rubbish piled in the streets, Thatch in a tank with a hanky for a hat, we’ll see Howard and the Tories projected into the position of official mourners with the statesmanlike demeanour that entails, with Blair also in shot, dancing to the Tory tune, and reminding some Labour voters of the uncomfortable fact that Blair has more admiration for a Thatcher than a Wilson or an Attlee. That’s my fear. My hope is we decide that particular past is a foreign country we don’t want to visit again.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 904 views

And I quote:
“Emo Boy, an outsider who is constantly physically and mentally bulllied, uses his super-human sensitivity to sabotage his own happiness and his unpredictable emo powers to confound his enemies. But they should be warned: There lies treachery in Emo Boy.”


Day 32: Clarksville

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 338 views

It took half an hour of drinking before we were rudely interrupted by the sound of helicopters overhead. As loathe as I am to admit it, it appears that Crispian was right. There seemed to be some sort of massive inter-agency conspiracy to take us into custody and probably dissect us while we were at it. All I wanted to do was go around the world. It seemed that at every turn I was thwarted. It was almost as if Lord Tooty had done this to us.

I enquired to the bar staff if they had a rear exit, and tipped them with what was left of my money. Well Crispians money. It did not really matter, he owed me so much. I also found out the location of the train station which I guessed might be our best way out of town. Little did I know the hell that would approach us when we got to the Amtrak station.

I don’t know much about American trains. All I know I have learnt from silent movies: so I kind of expected those boxcar style things tramps ran the rails with. Free to travel on, easy jump on and great for buddy bonding sessions. Not that I had any intentions of bonding with Crispian, however he was with me., He was a cheap bulletproof vest if nothing else. The station presented a different alternative. Sleek, gleaming trains which you needed tickets for. And a shortage of viable destinations.

We had to travel West. We were still circumnavigating after all. But it was already late in the evening and there was just one train left. Two stops. Nashville and Clarksville. Now as much as I might want to burn all of Nashville down, the idea of spending more than five minutes in the home of country music repulsed me. So Calrkesville it was. I assaulted a busker and stole all of his ill gotten gains and bought us two tickets. Which is when the evil ticket officer let me know exactly what I had done. We were on the Last Train To Clarksville.

THE MONKEES – Last Train To Clarksville

Weren’t they wacky? The Monkees. Hey Hey, They Were The Monkees and people said they monkeyed around. Well, no. I say the were shit. Hey Hey, They Are Shit And I Say They Shat All Around. Before The Monkees it was relatively safe to put the television on and not have any music more offensive than the Mr Ed theme tune* trouble you. After the Monkees we had house bands and no end of pop star lunacy. If I see Mickey Dolenz riding around on that little bike one more fucking time…

But to the Last Train To Clarksville. Written by Boyce and Hart, though written seems an overly generous word. Because this is a simple little ditty with very little in it except getting the last train to a particular place. Therefore it being the only plot point you would think they might have laboured over it a wee bit to make it convincing. Instead it turns out that the LAST TRAIN to Clarksville gets there at 4:30. Which is not very late in my book. I even know pubs which are not open until 5pm. 4:30 is not very late. Unless you have to go to be at 4:45, which may well have been the case with Davy Jones, as he was so tiny. Indeed Davy Jones was so small he was made to attend school all the time he was in American. Which meant he had his own lunchbox, satchel and locker.

If only the Monkees had all ended up in his locker…

*Still troubling enough. A Horse is a Horse, of course, of course, and a lousy theme tune is a lousy theme tune, of course, of course.

INCANTATION – “Cacharpaya”

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 1,773 views

I like the sound of pan pipes. They have a delicate, burnished tone that I find very attractive. On a recent visit to Finland my wife had to take a Pan Pipes Play The Beatles compilation away from me and return it to the one euro bin. Incantation’s “Cacharpaya” has an odd, loping groove to it which makes its rather weak hooks and melody bearable, but it’s hardly a masterpiece. For me, though, it’s hugely evocative.

This is the nub of pan pipe criticism, of which there is plenty. The shorthand association “pan pipe = Andes” has been hammered into peoples’ heads and the instrument has come to stand for a particularly lazy kind of cultural tourism. Combined with the pipes’ widespread use in music designed for relaxation and background use and it’s easy to hear commercialised pan pipe music as odious, pretentious mulch. (I wonder if there is more credible pan pipe material on world music labels, or whether those particular gatekeepers stay safely away.)

“Cacharpaya” hit at around the same time as Flight Of The Condor, the BBC Andes wildlife series that helped popularise pan pipe music for an early 80s generation. This, for me, is where its intense nostalgic pleasure comes from. I never watched the show but I have vivid memories of it being on and keeping my parents rapt. I believe it was the first thing we ever videoed, I can almost see a peeling label with my Dad’s writing on it. The image “Cacharpaya” brings on for me is being curled up on a sofa on a Sunday evening in Winter, lost in a fantasy book while my parents watched TV, half-hearing this soft, odd music in the background and able to forget school for a few more hours. You can keep your Boards of Canada: I have Incantation.

Quatermass and the Noughties

Do You SeePost a comment • 452 views

Quatermass and the Noughties

It was a very strange thing, the BBC4 live remake of Quatermass. The script was barely updated, and yet it was not a period piece otherwise. Instead it lived in a low budget parallel universe where the Tate Modern was a storage unit outside white City (p’raps) and man had never been in space. Did that matter? Oddly not, the fact that the science on the show was bobbins did not matter a jot. The fact that the scientists did not use scientific method, the police ignored procedure and medics were grossly incompetent seemed to matter more. Television loves procedure, and we know how things are done, if not what it means or why. Here the ill, possibly alien infected returned astronaut manages to escape next to no custody easily. Why not? Why – because that is not the way it would be done in versimilitous television any more. Indeed even the BBC TV news inserts seemed badly done: though not as bad as Quatermass’s apology to the world for destroying it (cue panic on ver streets of London).

It was an odd project, to retell a story whose premise is now implausible. Those bits could have been updated, other bits could have been tweaked. But that seemed to hit the money problem too. So instead we had an impressive cast doing stirling work on something that itself seemed below their combined powers. Especially the ending, which seemed to deviate from what I remember of the original and stumble into some vague form of spiritualism. Cheap, perhaps, but poor.

Quatermass is a wonderful British character (even when being played as an American in the films). Arrogant, irrational, imbecilic on occasions and yet magnetically personable. A scientist who over-reaches, then causes disaster he is remarkable in his contriteness, his ability to accept blame. This article suggests that he displays a real British ambivalence about science, which might be true (the article also sees him as an analogue for the end of Empire amongst other stuff). He is certainly not the kind of character you would name a television series after now. He is not a traditional hero, or even a traditional scientist sidekick. But then Quatermass was not traditional television, it existed before even those ideas were settled. Which makes this version odd, it resembles television in many ways, but gets so much else wrong. But a case in point on how far a decent cast, good planning and a half decent script can get you. Probably about 60% of a decent show.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 401 views

DOUBLE DECKER PIE: The increased popularity of dim sum over the years is nothing to be sniffed at. The lovely layers of steamed dumplings delivered to your table, the confusion when your “four delicacies” turns out to mean “four custard dumplings” – it’s all gravy. But how do we encourage the trends towards traditional British cooking? The publog, surely, has already addressed British tapas. But what about British dim sum? And when I talk of British dim sum, I mean, the double decker pie!

Basically this will involve a real actual pie with a thick, meaty, gravy saturated filling forming the base of the pile. A hole to let the steam escape from aforesaid pie will be present in the traditional place, and possibly a few other vents in strategic positions. On TOP of this pie, you will place ANOTHER pie – this time, a lighter vegetable pie – where the vegetables will be gently steamed through the heat of the UNDER-PIE!!

Think of the variations! Perhaps instead of vegetables you could have fish, which would open up the books for a TRIPLE-DECKER PIE!! And perhaps a sweet pie on top!! A QUADRO-DECKER PIE!! I officially claim copyright on this right now and shall be dashing off to the patent-office post-haste.

Mmm pie!


Blog 7Post a comment • 274 views

Asda to launch party political ales. Labour Landslide Bitter – “once deep red, but now with a blue tinge, watch carefully your glass may turn Brown”. Lib Dem Lift-Off Bitter – “the alternative pint”, and then of course we must not forget Tory Triumph Bitter – “brewed without any continental ingredients to appeal to traditional drinkers”.

B-b-but where’s RESPECT?

Blog Seven appeals to all reader(s) with a local Asda to please sample these beers and submit REPORTS BACK to the usual address.



Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 416 views


And more gravy queries too. Monday night, site of my Pillars Of Hercules all nighter, was also the site of pie action. In particular, blackboarded up, were a selection of ten different pies for ‘4.95, all coming with chips and veg. Was not bad value, the pie Meg got seemed nicely full, and the shortcrust pastry looked nicely old-school. Without drifting into the “what is a pie” discussion, I am always disappointed when I get a ceramic bowl with a puff pastry lid. I want the pastry gravy combo when I eat a pie. And the PoH seemed to deliver.

Except, Meg had a Fisherman’s Pie. Now again avoiding the “pie” discussion (where a fisherman’s pie would have a mashed potato top) it was somewhat bizarre to see this served with gravy. Nice for the chips of course, and crisp dippas, but it did seem a bit odd. I wondered briefly what they did with the vegetarian pies, including an intriguing ratatouille pie. I hope they ask at the counter.

Mind you is fishy liquor (aka parsley sauce) is acceptable with a meat pie*, there is no reason why meat gravy should not get its own back on the fish pie.

*Its acceptability generally rests on how much you like Pie and Mash shops.

Worst diet ever

Pumpkin Publog3 comments • 1,519 views

Worst diet ever
I can only blame this on hormones or something. I’ve been eating reasonably healthily (more healthily than YOU i bet), but last night, something in my brain chemistry flipped and i had the following to eat:

Bobby’s Salt&Vinegar Spirals – 1 bag
“Millions” – 1 “tube” strawberry flavour
Mini rolls – two
Chocolate-coated raisins – 1 65p bag (also prob Bobby’s)
prawn may/cocktail – 1 entire tub (prob 200g)

Today I do not feel too clever, and my tum is compaining about something. Here are some nice pics: