Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Honours

As I have stated before I am not that fussed about the Honours System, but, like everyone else I looked at todays news about the New Years Honours with mixed feelings:

Members of the Emergency Services during the July 7th bombings: Well done and much deserved.

Tom Jones
getting a knighthood: Er, erm, not sure about that!

My problem with the Honours System is not that it exists (I am not one of those inverted snobs who thinks it is clever to refer to the Queen as 'Elizabeth Windsor'), but how it is used, and so long as people get the awards that they deserve and that the system has no leeches on it like the late and unlamented Arthur Maundy Gregory (I could only find him under 'Victor Grayson' in Wikipedia, and whilst the comments there may be true, they should not be taken as solid fact), then I am happy with it!
After all, bar the peerages, most of the honours are only titles

In Musical Praise of: George Harrison

(BBC Online)

I have his first proper solo album All Things Must Pass (albeit the remastered 2001 version), and his last, Brainwashed.
I prefer the former (although 'Brainwashed' has it's moments), which is a fine album. Probably because it was his first post-Beatles album, (given the fact that John and Paul only let George contribute two, or if he was very good, three, songs per Beatles album)and therefore the songs on there have been carefully selected and crafted. As it was, this turned out to be Harrison at both his professional and commercial peak, with gentle ballads such as 'I'd Have You Anytime', My Sweet Lord (although I am somewhat uncomfortable with the ending), All Things Must Pass, and 'Isn't It A Pity'. Whilst he was succesful with later songs, such as 'All Those Years Ago' (written in memory of John Lennon), and When We Was Fab, he never quite managed to keep to the same consistent quality he showed with 'All Things Must Pass' and his Beatles songs such as Something and Here Comes the Sun. That said his guitar playing was still appreciated and his solo on one of the Beatles 'reunion' songs, Free As A Bird was seen as one of the song's highlights.
He was certainly as talented as Lennon and McCartney and his contribution to music is much missed.

Mars Hill blog entries of 2005!

In two catergories. My favourite and everyone else's favourite.
This is difficult because looking at how popular some entries are, there seems to be a consistent tie, and you can't judge on the amount of comments left because most of those consist of Kerron teasing me about the stupid moment that I mentioned an attraction I had towards Hannah Hedges. But C'est la vie.
That said, these blog entries seemed to attract some attention:

In Musical Praise of: Bob Dylan

First Photograph

And below are my four personal favourites of 2005:

Luton bomb

The Year London Blew Up!

Political philosophies and leadership races!

and something light hearted:


A Happy New Year to You All :)

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Short Review of the Year

And so much to mention as well, so I thought I would say my farewells to 2005 on this blog in list form.


Live 8

Labour winning a Third Term in office (Are you thinking what we're thinking ;)! That said several decent MP's lost their seats and (bar Helen Clark), my thoughts are with all the Labour candidates and MP's who worked hard, only to see that things did not turn out as well as expected)

Doctor Who returning to the BBC after sixteen years.

Titan, the only moon in the Solar System with an atmosphere, receving it's first probe.

Queen going back on tour

London getting the 2012 Olympics

The fact that I started up a blog ;).


Pope John Paul II
Anne Bancroft

Lord Callaghan

Robin Cook

Sir Edward Heath

Sir John Mills
Mo Mowlam
Dave Allen
Rosa Parks
Ronnie Barker
Dame Cicely Saunders
George Best
Lord Sheppard
Brother Roger of Taize (Which was a particular shock, given the fact that he was murdered and that I had met him several times)


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


Gordon Brown (For just being a good Chancellor)
John Sentamu (For becoming Archbishop of York. He was good as Bishop of Birmingham)
U2, Bob Geldof, et al.. for their determination to see through the 'Make Poverty History' campaign
Abigail Witchalls (For her bravery and courage after the attempt on her life)


Live 8

I ought to say David Cameron, but I am going to be annoying and politically biased and select friends; Kerron Cross, Anneliese Dodds, and Jamie Bolden for the hard work they put into their standing for Parliament!


Campaigning in Hemel Hempstead and N.E. Herts constituencies during the general election. We lost, but it was fun, and some friendships were made along the way.

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 24: The End of the Christmas Season

It's true that Christmas officially finishes on Jan 6th, otherwise known as Twelfth Night, but let's face it! How many people in North America and Western Europe still sing carols, hold Christmas parties and give and receive presents on that date!
So yes, the tinsle is looking a bit jaded, the cards are being counted up and put away, and the Christmas CD's no longer playing (In spite of the recent bad weather), and given the forthcoming New Year's Festivities, I thought now is the right time to call an end to the Things to do with Advent/Christmas articles.
But not before sharing with you a picture that fellow blogger, Jo Salmon, had on her blog during the festivities, and which she has kindly given me permission to use.
True it's a bit warped, but that's my sense of humour for you ;).

In Musical Praise of: Stevie Wonder


And before it even enters your mind, I don't think 'I Just Called to Say I Love You' is a particually good song.
But that said, he does have discerning musical talent and an ear for melody, even if occasionally he goes OTT with saccharine. A boy genius signed to Motown in his early teens, he later made his own niche with Music of My Mind, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life, the last being songs I can remember as a small child (The intro to Sir Duke still makes me smile, although I am blase about the rest of the song, and Isn't She Lovely is one of my favourite love songs).
He is past his peak, and no longer has the drive and force he had in the 1970s with songs like 'You Are the Sunshine of My Life', 'He's Misstra Know It All' (which, incidentally, is about the then US President, Richard Nixon) and 'Living for the City' but he is certainly one of the main musical influences of the last fifty years.

A Trip to the Denitst


Thought I ought to get this down while it is still fresh in my mind!
I have not been to the dentist for a long while, although I am well behaved with my teeth. I clean them nearly twice-daily, I have never had a filling, and whilst they are not as good looking as the teeth of any major Hollywood star, they are certainly a lot better looking than Shane MacGowan's.
But lately I have been having trouble, a mouth ulcer, followed by the suspicion that my gums were not 100% healthy, made me book an appointment with my local dentist, which was this morning.
Now, as I said, I have not been for a while and on previous trips I was happy-go-lucky about it, fairly confident, possibly to the point of arrogance, that I would be okay. I used to wonder in this state of mind why some people equated going to the dentist with that infamous torture scene in Marathon Man, as seen in the photo above.
But I am no longer young, I am thirty years old (well, relatively young and my friend Rachel Holt once told me that reaching thirty is the begining of wisdom), and know the experience of unemployment, premature greys in my hair, the death of two close friends, and the fact that I can no longer eat and eat and eat and remain slim, has made me aware of my own mortality.
So there I am in the waiting room, seeing bars behind one of the windows, posters about mouth ulcers equating to possibly mouth cancer and overhearing one paitent tell his wife about some drilling that needs doing on one of his dentures and I am afraid. Well no, that's an exaggeration, I am nervous.
But heigh ho, I am invited in, have my mouth probed with intruments (the ulcer is healing very nicely apparently), and have an X Ray done on my teeth. Now that was torture, I had some block of metal clamped in my mouth to push my teeth forward and shut. It made me almost gag.
Suffice to say that I have another appointment in less than two weeks time and it wasn't as bad as I feared, although I am not out of the woods yet and I have now learned that I ought to be apprehensive, as opposed to being over-confident

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 23:The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

(Walt Disney/Walden Media)

Okay, it isn't really about Christmas, although Father Christmas does make an appearance, and last night I finally got to see the film version (which makes the 1979 version look amatuer in comparison).
It is very good, and the deviations from the book work well in the film (The hints that Edmund's inhability to get on with his siblings is down to his fears over the war, and Edmund finding himself imprisoned with Mr Tummnus in the White Witch's Palace), although the scene with Mr and Mrs Beaver did not last long enough for my liking and Peter and Susan were played by children in their late teens. The latter was particually disturbing because I found Susan physically attractive.
The acting choices overall were superb. Ray Winstone and Dawn French were inspired as Mr and Mrs Beaver, Rupert Everett did well as the Fox, Tilda Swinton was suitably unnerving, dangerous, restrained, and sexy as the White Witch, and Liam Neeson was brilliant as Aslan and avoided the temptation to go OTT!
But all in all, it was very good, and I warmly recommend it and it certainly beats Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was also very good.

The Thirty Year Papers

(BBC Online)

For those who live outside the UK, at the end of every year, government papers deemed sensitive thirty years ago are released into the public domain, unless of course they are deemed too sensitive even for today.
So today has seen the release of government papers from 1975 (which is incidentally the year I was born), and I don't quite know where to begin!
There are plans on what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion (Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at the time, was to be taken to a secret bunker in the Cotswolds, art treasuers were to be taken to some slate mines in Wales, TV was to close down, and yet there were no plans to evacuate civillians. Always best to get ones priorities right), fears that the British economy was facing 'wholesale liquidation', the Prime Minister convinced that the BBC was overrun with hippies (although to be fair, Wilson had some degree of paranoia at the time, which may have been linked to the Altzimers diesease that took hold of him shortly after he retired), Denis Healey and Tony Benn disagreeing over policy (like it wasn't even obvious at the time), cabinet splits before the 1975 EEC Referendum (again, this is already known about, to some extent), the possibility that Saddam Hussein could have a back operation in the UK (Thank God he didn't the revelation that it was mooted as a possibility is embarrasing enough), worries about the Queen Mother going on a Concorde flight because of fears over it's safety (somewhat painfully ironic), and plans to nationalise small breweries.
All in all, the same as previous years, a no of things giving detail to incidents we already knew, minor incidents, the odd one or two that raise eyebrows, but nothing truly shocking.

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 22/In Musical Praise of: King's College Choir


Yes, I have 'A King's College Christmas' in my collection.
I am in two minds about KCC, because there is an image of middle class elitism about them, but on the other hand they do know their stuff.
Of course Christmas in the UK seems to begin with the Nine Lessons and Carols in Cambridge and the opening solo of 'Once in Royal David's City' does grab your attention and manages to be sentimental without being saccharine.
Plus they do perform new carols every year, usually by John Rutter, who seems to have an almost exclusive arena in writing contemporary Christmas carols.
And they are usually very good, and whilst hardly chart material stuff, are more deserving of a No 1 Christmas slot than someone from X Factor.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In Musical Praise of: Bob Dylan


I actually don't think he is as good as they say, although I suppose, like The Beatles, he was a bit of a pioneer.
Of course, when I was at Junior School, shortly after we moved to Hertfordshire, one or two of the teachers inflicted him on us, and I thought he was okay, albeit just an average folk singer.
Skip forward about eleven years to Uni and I heard his song 'Gotta Serve Somebody' for the first time, and finding that he was a fellow Christian, (or professed to be for a while, depending on what you read) I found some of his songs suddenly took on a whole new meaning and I suddenly saw the originality and poetry of his lyrics. Insightful and profound, peppered occasionally with humour and acerbic social commentary. I soon discovered Like A Rolling Stone, Knockin' On Heaven's Door (which I thought was an original by Eric Clapton, and All Along The Watchtower. I even discovered that he wrote Quinn the Eskimo ;), which shows that he has a sense of humour. Unless the rumours are true and it is about drugs.
In any case, this Christmas, my sister got me 'The Essential Bob Dylan', so now I have two Dylan compilations in my CD Collection.
And yes, I appreciate that, as a Bona Fide Dylan fan I ought to have Blonde on Blonde.

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 21: The Christmas UK No 1 single for 2005

(Press Association)

I sometimes contribute on the message boards on the C.S. Lewis website Into the Wardrobe, and this morning I saw a post which I suppose is tantamount to a fan letter, asking who was at No 1 on Christmas Day.
It was Shayne Ward :(. Will the British public ever learn!

Faith and Schooling

(BBC Online)

A subject which is much contested, and which I wanted to think about before adding my contribution!
It is in response to a news report, concerning the news that more than 50% of the secondary schools in Wales break the law by failing to pray every day.
I didn't even though it was the law to pray at morning assembly, and I am sure it is a law which dates back some decades.
It's difficult, because this is an emotive subject, but, put basically I think everyone should have the choice. In other words, secular schools should not be pressurised to have morning worship if they don't want to, as to do otherwise would harm people's conscience. Those students who have a strong faith, should be given the time to do so, perhaps under the auspecies of a school chaplaincy etc..
Then you have the Church schools, and the muslim schools. In those circumstances I would be puzzled if they did not have worship in their respective school assemblies! Of course faith-based schools are a different kettle of fish altogether and some secularists are downright hostile towards them (I remember once having a mutually thoughtful, respectful, and considered debate over this (given that it is an emotive subject) with two fellow Constituency Labour Party Officers over afternoon coffee. I backed the ideal of faith-based schools, and they didn't). The argument is that children should have the choice, that would be denied at a faith-based school. But is putting one's child into a secular school giving them the choice, in that (for the sake of argument), this would be enforcing secularism on children and denying them the choice to actively pursue a particular faith (The very reverse argument I have heard against faith-based schools). Besides which, children are more canny than you would give them credit for.
To me it is a matter of simple choice for parents, and that is simply why I back secular AND faith-based schools. I doubt that these schools in Wales will be penalised, given that we are a Christian nation in almost name only, but people should have the choice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nasty Britons

(Press Association)

The BBC History magazine has compiled a list of the 10 worst Britons since 1000 AD.
According to magazine Editor, Dave Musgrove, the conflicting definitions of wickedness from historians involved, led to a pretty diverse list, which you can see below:

1900 to 2000: Oswald Mosley
1800 to 1900: Jack the Ripper
1700 to 1800: Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
1600 to 1700: Titus Oates
1500 to 1600: Sir Richard Rich (Lord Rich of Leighs)
1400 to 1500: Thomas Arundel (1353-1414)
1300 to 1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger)
(died 1326)
1200 to 1300: King John
1100 to 1200: Thomas Becket
Archbishop of Canterbury
1000 to 1100: Eadric Streona
(died 1017)

I have to say, I have never heard of Eadric Streona, and it is bothersome that there are two Archbishops of Canterbury in the list! That said some people in this list deserve their place. Titus Oates for one, and Jack the Ripper and Sir Oswald Mosley.
That said I can think of a large no of other deeply unpleasant people in British history who would deserve a place here!

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 20: White Christmas

Still being the Christmas holidays, I think we can say with some truth that we are having a 'White Christmas'. The photo is the driveway of my home.
It is slightly worrying though, my brother is going home today, before coming back for the New Year!

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 19: Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Well another Christmas holiday, and another year! And to think this is just my thirty-first Christmas, sheesh! ;)
Well it's been a bit quiet, there has been fun, plus the odd stress and irritation, like everyone else, but it's been good!
In the photo you can see some of my presents. The Little Britain book is from my sister (I returned the favour, inadvertantley, by buying her a talking Vicki Pollard doll), I also got from her, a Bob Dylan album. The jumper is from Mum and Dad, the Kings and Queens book from my cousins, Alison and David, and the Blogging book by my brother and his girlfriend. The other present I got from them was on how to win arguments, even when the evidence is stacked against me, which I am sure might come in useful ;)!
The morning service was a minor chore in that I did one of the readings. Now, normally I am one of those remarkable people that only suffers stage fright on few occasions, but four verses into reading half of Chapter 2 of St Luke's Gospel and I hear a two year old in the congregation say:- 'Don't like it!' and it reminded me so much of Andy in 'Little Britain' that I just about managed not to smile, let alone struggle not to burst out laughing.
Then there the Queen's Speech (and, whilst I am no royalist, I am a fan of the Queen, and I did think her comments about uncertainty and faith hit the nail on the head, as it were), followed by a late Christmas lunch, followed by some tv and a game of Monopoly.
I tried to play this with a difference this year, following the Jonathan Bartley rule of playing to help others and not to win! (i.e. bailing out others when they are losing, giving away properties, when you can help others etc...)Just to try to play with a difference and buck the system. Suffice to say I failed, my brother is ruthless at Monopoly and we finished just as I had to start seriously morgaging my properties. Thanks Jonathan!
And today? Well I am now using the computer that my brother fixed yesterday (we have two computers and one was infected by a nasty virus last month), and I have had a fairly quiet day, spent in part starting to read my books. Incidentally on the blogging book, Normblog and Pootergeek were mentioned, but what about Bloggers4Labour, or Jo Salmon, Annie Porthouse, or Kerron Cross?
In fact, what about me? Ah well, I guess I am not so entertaining, and my entries are not exactly Pulitzer Prize material, suffice to say that I hope that next year there will be a book released that mentions the blogs I have briefly mentioned myself.
And Christmas itself! Well it has been a moment for reflection. It's fully hit home, or maybe not far enough, just how out of touch with the Spirit of Christmas we are as a society. We get wound up about the turkey cooking in the oven, the lack of decent presents, the smug round-robin letters, family members disliking each other, petty rows, etc.. and buy, buy, buy as many material goods as possiblethat we forget what Christmas is actually about. Aside from the 'Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men', it is about being there for those less fortunate than ourselves (as we should for the other 364 days of the year). There is something sick about the fact that we get so materialistic that we forget that we are meant to remember an individual who was born in a stable, whose parents couldn't find room at any inn in town, who was first visited by shepherds, whose parents nearly got divorced, and where the Saviour nearly got killed by King Herod in a plot that kind of outdoes your average Christmas episode of EastEnders. A long, long way from the stresses and strains of modern day Christmas.
As John Lennon once said 'And so this is Christmas and what have you done?'

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 18: The night before!

Just a few minutes to spare!
Well the whole family are home, have come back from the evening service (my one quibble today is that I have missed midnight mass, again :( ), and all are in, apart from my brother who is out with friends. So it's a case of watching 'Bridget Jones's Diary' with my sister and the Carols Service on the BBC before going to bed1
Oh and the other thing to mention today is that I hear that Prince Charles allegedly wants to be known as King George VII when he ascends the throne.
I suppose ultumatley, does it matter? Part of the argument is that the first Charles was executed by Parliament and the second was just short of a sex addict, but think how many other monarchs had a bad press! On this basis, George is not a good-enough name! George I imprisoned his wife, and George IV was a crashing snob (even by the standards of his day). With regards to other monarchs, Henry II's temper resulted in an Archbishop's murder, Richard III was not the sort of monarch who would be trusted with telling a bedtime story, Henry VIII (well, where do I begin), Mary I liked bonfires, usually with non-Catholics as part of the fuel1
As far as I am concerned, a name is a name, and so long as he is doing it to honour his grandparents and it makes him happy, then fine!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 17:Christmas 1875


We always talk of Santa Claus and his elves at the North Pole when it comes to Christmas (even though on the weeks leading up to Christmas he can be seen in shopping stores up and down the Western World and, according to some, he is buried in Turkey ;)).
But some people do actually spend Christmas in the snowy wastelands of the Arctic (admittedly few, given that the weather at this time of year is even more foul thn usual, and that there is twenty-four seven darkness), and given that there is always an element of Dickensianism at Christmas, I thought I would mention what was one of the Northernmost celebrations of Christmas of the Victorian era.
It was in 1875, and the British were making another attempt on the North Pole (In fact their last official attempt, and it was derailed by scurvy after some of the men reached 83 degrees North). Led by Admiral, Sir George Nares, they wintered at Floberg, at the Northernmost part of Greenland (82.24 degrees North) and, true naval fashion, decided to be as organised as possible in their preperations and social life, so as to see out the long dark days and nights.
During Christmas, a skating rink was formed, firework displays were made, boxing matches (although that had to be below decks after it was discovered that the men couldn't see each other, because of the mist caused by heavy breathing at such low temperatures), 'semi-educational entertainments', the relaunch of the Royal Arctic Theatre, as well as igloos, connected by ice tunnels, made for astronomical observations and the ship's surgeon would go for very long walks, just to enjoy the moonlight cleam of an Arctic night.
Sounds like fun, if it wasn't for the cold and the fact that, given the degree of incompetence in British exploration at the time (although hindsight is a wonderful luxury), it looks like fun to the point of envy.
And, given this might by my last blog posting before Christmas Day, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!


In Musical Praise of: Delirious?

(Word on the Web)

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I mentioned a 'Christian' band, although I feel I have done that already with U2!
Although, like any other decent 'Christian' band, there is more to Delirious than being pigeon-holed into a sterotypically specific label. None of the band members are called Matthew or Philip (sorry Matt and Phil, you were great mates at Uni but the names do conform to sterotype ;) ), and they don't go on stage in hippy wear and play acoustic guitars at Greenbelt. Mind you, few Christian bands and singers do!
I first came across 'Delirious' when I was at Uni and they had released a single called 'White Ribbon Day'. Everyone at the Christian Union Society was encouraging each other, and everyone else, to buy the single so that it would reach the Top 40 (It reached No.41 in the charts). Later on (at 'Greenbelt', amazingly enough), I brought the album.
So did I end up buying their stuff so that, in my youthful naiveity, they would dominate the charts just because of their faith. Well actually no, it was because their music was quite good. The album I have King of Fools, was usually played in the background in the main room of the Chaplaincy Centre (which some of us at the CU treated as a continuation of the Sixth Form Common Room) sio there was a sense of nostalga, but also some of the songs just managed to hit me at the right places. 'Sanctify' on the need to consistently pick myself up whenever I fell, ;King or Cripple', on how important it is to be vulnerable in order to reach out to the vulnerable, and 'Promise' because. Well, it had a cool intro!
And all along while writing this, I have been listening to Stevie Wonder (I got his 'Definitive Collection' today as a present to myself), so maybe I haven't explained how I regard 'Delirious' adequately, but I think I have explained enough ;)!

We lead, you follow! ;)

(BBC Online)

Senior Conservative, Oliver Letwin, has stated in an interview with 'The Daily Telegraph' that, and I quote; "a future Conservative government should make wealth redistribution its goal".
Nice to see that after eight years, the Tories are deciding to pursue Social Democratic ideals ;)!
It certainly contrasts with a speech Margaret Thatcher made in 1975, where she stated:

"We have gone as far as we possibly can with the redistribution of income. We really now must concentrate on creating more growth so that the size of the cake is bigger."

I can imagine this will go down well among some Tory donors and some of the grassroots who hold shrines for 'The Lady of Grantham'.
It looks like next year will see some form of internal bloodbath among the opposition parties

The Olympic debacle

(BBC Online)

Sounds like one of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories!
Put basically, according to the BBC, London got the Olymipcs due to one misplaced vote..Apparently, the Olympic official, Alex Gilady (who sounds French)says this happened early on when a vote was cast for Paris instead of Madrid!
Thats just typical of the French isn't it! Always complaining ;).
But actually there is more to it, because apparently, had we been pitted against the Spanish we might not have got the Olympics!
Ah well, C'est la vie!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 16: Count Your Blessings!

A friend just sent me this e-mail, which I think is a lesson to us all if, at any point over the next few days, we are having a bad Christmas!
It certainly seems to echo what Make Poverty History and Live 8 are all about!:

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100
>people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would
>look something like the following:
>There would be:
>57 Asians
>21 Europeans
>14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
>8 Africans
>52 would be female
>48 would be male
>70 would be nonwhite
>30 would be white
>70 would be non-Christian
>30 would be Christian
>89 would be heterosexual
>11 would be homosexual
>6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth, and all 6 would be
>from the United States.
>80 would live in substandard housing
>70 would be unable to read
>50 would suffer from malnutrition
>1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
>1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
>1 would own a computer
>When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need
>for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.
>The following is also something to ponder...
>If you woke up this morning with more health than illness... you are more
>blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
>If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of
>imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation ... you are
>ahead of 500 million people in the world.
>If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest,
>torture, or are more blessed than three billion people in the
>If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead
>and a place to are richer than 75% of this world.
>If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish
>someplace... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
>If your parents are still alive and still married... you are very rare,
>even in the United States and Canada.
>If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that
>someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than
>over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

In Musical Praise of: Jools Holland


Yes, I confess I have his two-volumes of 'Small World, Big Band' albums, made with his rhythm and Blues Orchestra!
Aside from the fact that what I hear I like when it comes to his music, I initally brought the first volume because it had George Harrison's last song 'Horse to the Water', and it is a good song, although not one of his best, that probably goes to 'All Things Must Pass', 'Something', 'Here Comes the Sun', 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', 'I'd Have You Anytime', and 'My Sweet Lord'.
But anyway I am digressing! The album did introduce me to other great artists like Eric Bibb and Chris Difford and, okay, I have yet to buy any of their albums, but they do good music.
All in all his two rhythm and blues albums are great organised classics, showing the guest stars at possibly their most relaxed, and if you get the chance and like r n' b, then please buy these albums, if only to listen to 'Town and Country, Rhythm and Blues', Stereophonc's version of 'Revolution', Fun Lovin Criminals version of 'Fly Me to the Moon' and the delightful Sam Brown singing 'Valentine Moon'

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 15: Christmas at the Vatican!

(Associated Press)

It looks like the Pope has got well and truly into the spirit of things!
Although according to the BBC, the hat is part of the Papal costumes, except that the hat was last used by that radical Pope, John XXIII, who died in 1963.
Aside from the fact that this shows that Pope Benedict is a bit of a snappy dresser, it shows he has some sense of fun and you get the impression that if you met him, he would be like some benevolent great-uncle.
Although it would be nice if he also showed more of a continuation of the reforms that the Roman Catholic Church put forward during the Second Vatican Council, which he helped to initiate. Much as I love the Roman Catholic Church, I feel that they, in fact the rest of us Christians as well, need to do more to reach out to people and not leave anyone feeling unwanted or unloved!

It's not what you know, or who you know, it looks like it's what you do!

(BBC Online)

So the new Conservative Party Deputy Chairman is businessman, Lord Ashcroft.
Of course the fact that he recently donated £10m to the Conservative Party is a complete coincidence! He certainly has an interesting past.
David Cameron is said, regarding the new staff changes at Central Office:

"I want the Conservative Party to set out an agenda of hope, optimism and change and to reach to those people whose support we need - women, young people, professionals, businesses and those who live in our great cities.

"These appointments will strengthen our campaign team and help us win new support."

And the way to do that, it seems, is to appoint a leading donor with a colourful past.
And of course the Tories have never done that before, have they!

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 14: Wrapping the presents


Yes I finally did it last night, but realise I need to buy one or two more presents.
Wrapping one present required some imagination, and I still find fiddling with cellotape an interesting experience, but all in all, all done within forty-five minutes whilst watching Rome on the TV!
Not one of my favourite episodes, I have to say! At the risk of sounding prudish, I know some things did go on in those times, but what I saw made me feel ill!
But I think that was part of the dramatic intention.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In Musical Praise of: The Blues Brothers


Sometimes there is just one album, one album, which propels an individuals interest into soul and blues.
For some, they will say it was a Muddy Waters' album, for others, The Rolling Stones or John Lee Hooker. But for me it was the soundtrack to the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.
I first saw it, well some of it, in the early hours of the morning on a double decker coach, travelling at that point through Belgum on the way to a school ski-ing trip to Austria. I had heard of Dan Aykroyd and had only just avoided confusing John Belushi with his brother James.
Did I like the film?
Well given that my sense of humour is warped and off the wall yes, but I was too tired and fell asleep shortly after John Belushi's character sabotaged a rally that the Illonis Nazi Party were holding.
Three years on and I was at North Herts College, studying for a BTEC Nat Diploma in Performing Arts and the lecturers and other students were fans of the 'Blues Brothers', so I saw the whole film, heard the soundtrack and brought the album (one of the first I brought).
I learnt from that album to appreciate blues and not just dismiss it as music for depressives, I developed my love for soul and motown music and I still think Belushi's version of Jailhouse Rock is, for me, the definitive version!
But that said, I wasn't so keen on the movie sequel!

Monkey Business


The subject I do my best to avoid, for the same reason many people don't want to discuss religion or politics in-that it can cause horrendous rows.
I even try and avoid forming definite opinions, although the evolutionists will be pleased to know that I don't believe in the literal seven-days of creation.
Put simply I have seen arguments in the media and elsewhere on this where people tear each other to shreads, readily go for personal insults and humiliate each other, cast doubts on each others mental health etc.. etc.. in ways which I think are disparaging and unfair and which do no honour, either to the cause of science, or to faith.
But last Sunday I saw a documentary on evolution and the debates around it on the BBC. Presented by Professor Robert Winston, you can find some of the details here.
He had a discussion with Professor Richard Dawkins and visited the Bible belt in the USA, where he saw a museum on creationism and got involved in a radio debate with a creationist scholar. Throughout Winston was calm, considerate, and thoughtful in the way he put forward his case. Perhaps I warmed to him because he believes in God (unlike Dawkins), and doesn't slate people who disagree with him as being abnormal!
But watching this documentary, I suddenly realised why people get so wound up about evolutionism vs creationism.
It is basically to do with a craving for absolutes. Many people in the world like to know for sure how the World works, what is their place in the World, what is their purpose in life! A single chink in the armour and everything may be thrown into doubt. And those who believe in a war of science and evolution vs God and heartily take part in it, may well do so because they have intellectually and emotionally sussed it out and their faith must not crumble, because let's face it. These arguments deal with the ultimate absolutes.
I can well understand that, speaking as a Christian who would passionately argue that Christ died for our sins and rose again, as opposed to whether we are descended from apes or not, I can understand the strains and stresses involved. But I think it helps to be a bit detached about these things, to try and see the oppositions point of view, even when you may well believe that you could never agree with them or understand them, because otherwise you will never be able to persude the opposition to your point of view. Listening and empathy can be great uses in a debate.
So whilst, being heretical to both sides here, I would rather argue for more important things in life than evolution vs creationism, I think I can understand the feelings and motives and passions from both sides and that many people have based their whole spiritual creed on this. But I would rather argue about love, grace, redemption, the state of the Planet, and whether it is better to have tea or coffee first thing in the morning!

The Arrogance of Youth

I am in a Cafe with Internet access and I have just overheard a teenager say to the hordes of admiring females around him; 'If I get diabeties, so what! You only live once.'
Clearly he has never been close to anyone who has had it

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 13: The Christmas No 1Single

(Press Association)

An area where I am afraid to say I am a musical snob!
Every so often, the British people vote in a way that sometimes makes me question their sanity, their intelligence, their wisdom, and their common sense!
No, nothing political, although when Burnley elected a BNP Councillor I did wonder! No I am talking about that cherished place the public vote!
On Christmas Day the Christmas No 1 single will be announced!
I have given up being outraged, angry, annoyed, and wondering why some people would vote for 'Mr Blobby' because "The children love it!", and have learnt, like other occasional Christmas disapointments, to just bite my lip and shrug my shoulders!
But why should I get so annoyed, we all think that occasionally a song gets to No 1 in the charts which does not merit praise or thanks!
That is true, and unfortunatley it happens often (For example if bands like U2 or Queen, or Radiohead had as many No 1's as, no in fact more No 1's, than Take That, then I would be a happy man), but Christmas is different, at Christmas time there is every need to be afraid because the awful song gets remembered!
VH1 will play it on their '20 Years of Christmas No 1's', people will look back over the years with bewilderment and ask 'What have we done!' and most of all, those songs will end up on Christmas compilations and rake in royalties for the undeserving (actually forget the last bit because it is Christmas and the poor artists involved probably need the money!).
How can this be combated! Well you could remind and shame any fifteen year old in your family by mentioning that it was because of their nagging of their parents that Noel Edmonds' Mr Blobby was the Christmas No 1 in 1993, but that is just petty revenge. One could I suppose, elaborate on one of the scenes in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and refuse to sell rubbish songs to customers, perhaps a quiz beforehand along the lines of:

SHOP ASSISTANT: Which do you think was the better album, Beggars Banquet or Abbey Road?

CUSTOMER: I'm sorry, I don't know what you are on about?

Would therefore merit automatic refusal because if they lack musical knowledge they may well lack musical taste! Children would also be barred from record shops during the advent season because you just know that they will buy the Teletubbies single or something equally awful!
But this is somewhat facistic, and unworkable, as Pete Waterman is a Wagner fan, and some people just are not exclusive in their good tastes. Not only that but I have my own guilty musical pleasures, although I would never inflict them on people on Christmas Day!
But it's not all bad! For every St Winnifred School Choir's 1980 Christmas No 1 'There's No One Quite Like Grandma' (which I loathe because my maternal gran died suddenly, less than a fortnight before), there is Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas', which was also for a good cause (although the Stock Aitken Waterman version was awful!), as well as other classics, such as Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody'.
So every cloud as a silver lining, but please, please, please, in the name of good music! Encourage everyone to buy classics, not tack that shames the British public for decades to come!
And this year, please encourage people NOT to buy the following this year:

Westlife and Diana Ross
X Factor winner (There are principles involved here)
Crazy Frog (Under no circumstances. It's bad enough that people like this menace!)
Baarmy Sheep
England Cricket Team

Thankyou ;)

In Musical Praise of: The Beach Boys

(Associated Press)

Yes, I have 'The Very Best of the Beach Boys' among my CD collection.
I used to dismiss them as a band that did surfers' music and was ignorant to think that if you heard one Beach Boys song, you heard them all!
Admittedly they do have a particular style, but my opinion of them started to change when I was doing my degree and, as part of my Media Practices course, some of us watched the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me.
Whilst I fully appreciated the film and felt for the people of Flint, Michigan being one of a no of US Cities that grew up around a single industry in the postwar boom, only to stagnate and break down when that particular industry had to sell off some of it's plants in that city, I nontheless was also transfixed by Wouldn't It Be Nice being part of the soundtrack. I had never heard it before and was tranfixed by the shifting chords and the craftmanship of the composition and sound production.
It wasn't long afterwards that I founmd it came from the band's Pet Sounds album, which is considered to be their best work and was one of the influences that sparked The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album. 'Pet Sounds' is definetly one of those albums which merit the term, 'Classic', and it certainly has some of their best songs, such as God Only Knows.
But such revelations do bring a general revision of the band. I still get mildly irritated by songs like 'Barbara Ann' and 'I Get Around', but I have appreciated others such as 'I Can Hear Music', and Brian Wilson's clever songwriting and innovative ideas, certainly propelled the band into one of the best remembered bands of the last fifty years.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Another Day Out

(BBC Online)

Monday being relatively free, I went to London for a spot of light shopping and a chance to meet up with two of my friends, Liz Evershed and, of course, the Voice of the Delectable left, Kerron Cross.
Kerron and his fellow staffers in Andy Reed's office are as delightful as ever, although I seem to be feel more put-out about the David Cameron resembleance joke than Kerron is ;), suffice to say a whole gang of us had lunch at Bellamy's Cafeteria, and Liz got to see the delights of Westminster Hall (she is a medievalist doing a Phd in Medieval and Renessaince literature), and, all in all, Kerron was very kind and courteous as usual.
Then a spot of book shopping, coffee at the National Gallery (Yes I am a fan of the place, as is Liz), followed by evensong at Westminster Abbey (neither of us having ever been for evensong there before), and all in all a good day.
Now for home and for sorting out presents etc.. ;)

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 12 (b): Bizarre Saturday's in advent

Last Saturday saw me attend two Christmas parties in London.
The first involved a 'Christmas lunch'at the National Gallery, in the resturant next to the Sainsbury Wing. Like all these things, it was a good chance to catch up with old friends! Two cried shy at the last minute. One person had a bad cold and another had accidentally driven a nail into his foot at work and Saturday was to be therefore spent getting tetanus injections.
But anyhow six of the original eleven did make it and a fun time was had by all, as you can see in the above photo!
Toward the end of a meal though, we saw a vast army of about fifty plus Santas, march through Trafalgar Square, with some posing for photos by Nelson's column. AT the urging of my friends I dashed out of the resturant and got to take this photo,

before we finished our dinner, said our farewells, and gradually broke away to do our individual, or group, Christmas shopping.
Those of us remained saw the army of Santas in Picadilly Circus,

and it turned out that they were a huge gang of friends out on a London pub crawl, dressed as Santas, well it takes all sorts I suppose!
Anyhow, I said my farewells after a point and went to Covent Garden to do some Christmas shopping (where I saw about ten inebriated Santas) and (to my amazement), managed to finish it all within the hour (I can't be too exact, because I don't know who will be reading this, suffice to say one of the things I brought one of those talking toys in HMV. The sort on the bottom floor, hint, hint), before checking my e-mails, updating my blog, and heading off for Battersea, where former Parliamentary research assistant, and CSM exec member, Jonathan Cox, was holding a 'Christmas barbecue' party.
It did feel like it, the temperature in his flat was boiling, and I got chatting with a couple of Australians into the bargain, before leaving at a socialble hour.
Unfortunatley there was a massive security cordon by King's Cross, and the last train journeys were by bus. There were no buses for Baldock, so I headed off for Stevenage and got home much later than expected, which was just short of Three AM, and this would not have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that part of our initial journey on the coach home was delayed by an aggressive drunk who didn't seem to think that anyone else on the coach existed, bar himself, his more sensible and sober mates, and the guy he wanted to beat up!
Britain eh! Still things did improve after he left the coach and got reported.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 12 (a): The weekend before Christmas

Article coming up tomorrow with photos, but for now I will leave with the teaser that it involves a lovely resturant in the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, an army of loud Santa Clauses, toys, HMV, summer barbecues, delayed train journeys, and getting to bed short of Three AM!

Curious! You should be ;)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

R.I.P. John Spencer

(Associated Press)

Yes the actor who played one of the leading actors in the West Wing has died of a heart attack at the age of 58.How they will write his character out will take some doing, although the programme will not be the same without him!

Friday, December 16, 2005

In Musical Praise of: Paul McCartney


What is there to say about him!
For the last five decades he has had a keen ear for music and has written, or co-wwritten songs people want to hear. Admittedly he has had his moments (Such as Give My Regards to Broad Street, although some say it isn't as bad as the critics say!), and even with his latest album he has managed to continue to avoid the musical lethargy that seemed to affect his erstwhile colleagues in The Beatles (Lennon circa 1972, Harrison's sporadic successes post-1971, and Ringo from 1973 onwards).
But what about Wings, the much maligned band that he formed after The Beatles!
Well they did more than 'Mull of Kintyre'! What about 'My Love', or 'Live and Let Die', or 'Band on the Run'! What's more, whilst he is undoubtedly past his prime and has been for years, the might macca certainly doesn't seem to be flagging and still pulls in the crowds when he does another tour.
And do have any favourite McCartney songs? Well aside from 'Hey Jude', post-Beatles 'Every Night' and 'Coming Up' are two particular favourites.

This Week

(Photos: BBC Online, Getty Images)

As I said in an earlier post, aside from moments where they dress up (I still remember Mark Mardell dressing up as batman for a short piece on 'Fathers4Justice', I kid you not..), and behave in a silly fashion in the manner of children's TV presenters saying to kids; 'Today we are going to spell a new word, it's called "Patronising"!', This Week can be a very good late-night TV programme.
Last night a group of them were discussing the chances of each of the Party leaders survival in the coming year, the people being interviewed being Diane Abbott MP, Michael Portillo, Piers Morgan, and Rosie Boycott.
On Charles Kennedy, the consenus among them all is that he won't survive until Christmas, at the least he won't be leader after Spring 2006. David Cameron has a good chance, but Portillo pointed out that for the Tories to succeed, Cameron needs to pick a public fight with the hard-right of the Party (which is what a lot of people have known for a while. Question is, does Cameron have the guts. The Daily Mail reading grassroots of the shires can turn very nasty and very successful when they feel threatened!).
And Blair! Well better than Kennedy, but so long as he hands over to Brown before 2008, all will be well, was the consensus. Portillo of course, tried to portray Gordon Brown as tired, and Diane Abbott mentioned the 'Rab Butler' syndrome, but Morgan rightfully mentioned Brown's determination and drive and that this would make him a succesful and radical Prime Minister!
And given David Cameron's call to the Lib Dems this morning, and the civil war that the Conservatives need to indulge in, in order to get the Centre Ground, then maybe it will be the Labour government that will be the fresh and radical party facing an unprecedented fourth term in office ;)

Employment Tribunals and Iraq

(Associated Press)

So the US ABC News Correspondent who was sacked for refusing to go to Iraq has won his court case for unfair dismissal.
I can see why he refused to go, given the situation there, but I thought the point of War Correspondents was that they risked their lives to report an armed conflict.
Although, lets face it, the situation in Iraq is extremely dangerous. The whole thing almost reminds me of that episode of Blackadder the Third, where Blackadder tells the Prince Regent that he will go to France to rescue an aristocrat.
No sooner do they enter the Palace kitchens however than Blackadder tells his manservant Baldrick to put the kettle on:

'But I thought we were going to France?'

'Going to France! Of course not. It's highly dangerous there, teeming with revolutionaries, we will almost certainly end up killed if we went!'

But I am being sympathetic, not overtly critical. Iraq is hardly my No 1 country of choice to visit right now. Although that said, it's citizens have to live there, and yesterday they bravely went out in large numbers (In threat of being attacked) to vote in the latest elections.
An example to our more apathetic society perhaps!

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 11: The Christmas Cards

9Malene Thyssen,

Have just finished the last of them (Although there is still the Internet one to send!)
The trouble with getting older is that you make more friends, and if, like me, you are a gregarious person (if a little shy), who naturally likes people, then there is more to send, coupled with the worry as to whether you have left anyone out (even when you have your address book right in front of you as you write the cards!).
Then there are the cards you write, but don't send, which you hold on to give to people at the various Christmas parties etc.. Which is hazzardous because if one or two individuals don't turn up you haven't given them a card (Not all is lost admittedly, you can still send them an e-card if you have their e--mail address), but it means that a card is left sealed and unused and waiting for the next twelve months.
But I have hopefully cracked it this year and it was rather cozy writing up the last ones last night with Bing Crosby singing 'With every Christmas Card I write...' in the background, although I wasn't dreaming of a white christmas, more of a 'Hoping to get everything done by Dec 24th' series of thoughts going through my head.
The reassuring thing about that though is that whilst you may say I was dreaming about this, I know I'm not the only one! Cringe, cringe ;)!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Things to do with Advent/Christmas Pt 10: Favourite Christmas food and drink!


1) Mince Pies (I confess I ate about four of the forty on display at the Christians in Politics Carol Service).

2) Turkey and esp stuffing. Preferably onion and sage stuffing

3) Christmas Pudding (And I am the only person in my family who loves it ;) )

4)Chocolate Log


6) Mochas (Okay it isn't Christmassy per se, but it feels like it should be ;) )

7) Mulled Wine

Actually, looking at this list, I realise it makes me look like a bit of a glutton, although that isn't really the case.
Well, possibly on two days of the year ;)! (Inc Boxing Day)

In Musical Praise of: Eric Clapton


Well I have his Unplugged album, so he's in as it were...
One of the most versatile guitarists of his generation, and writer of such beautiful ballads such as 'Wonderful Tonight', and 'Tears in Heaven', as well as such fantastic rockers as 'Layla'.
But the reason I have 'Unplugged' is more personal. When I was at University, one of my best friends was the guy who was the University Chaplaincy Warden in my second year, Simon Rees.
The main idea with the Wardens is that the Chaplains would hire someone who was on their year out after graduating from Uni (In Simon's case, St Anne's College, Oxford), and whilst I got on well with his predecessor and successor, Simon always made a point of being a good friend. Usually this would involve inviting a whole gang of us after Church on a Sunday evening, to his room at Cemetery Lodge (which belonged to St Mary's Church), and then it would be the usual student thing of browsing through books, drinking teas, coffees, and something stronger, as well as listening to CD's.
Simon was a great Eric Clapton fan, and the thing with 'Unplugged' is that it seemed to be the right-on, mellow-sounding CD to have for such occasions. So a few years later I brought the CD, where it hangs, pride of place among others on one of the racks.
It also now has it's poignancy, because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Simon died in early 2002, whilst having an epileptic fit. I remember the night I was told and, in some state of shock, put on the CD.
The tracks 'Tears in Heaven' and 'Lonely Stranger' suddenly made some kind of awful commentary over what had happened. That has lessened somewhat, although obviously, as much as I still enjoy 'Unplugged', it now has it's bittersweet associations

Seven Things

I somehow suspect that I have been inadvertantley challenged by Kerron over the Seven Things test, given my one-time constant and pathetic joke about him looking like he is David Cameron's twin.
I have seen this float around the blogsphere, but I find it is one of those 'on-the-spot' things, where you sometimes find you are unsure what to write. So I will go for instinctive responses.
Here Goes:

Seven things to do before I die

1. Become a succesful novelist and become the subject of a couple of BBC2 and BBC 4 Documentaries after my death, or what ever arts documentaries they might have then!
2. Get married.
3. Have children.
4. Be elected to Parliament - either as an MP or to an elected Lords.
5. Visit (Places I have never been): the US (esp New York), Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, the Polar regions, Paris, South Africa, India, Australia. Places I have already visited: Canada, Rep of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy (esp Rome), South of France, Norway, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Hong Kong.
6. See the 'Make Poverty History Campaign' through to it's conclusion
7. Labour becoming the dominant party in government for the twenty-first century in the same way the Conservatives were in the twentieth.

Seven things I cannot do
1. Play squash
2. Agree with people on the hard left and hard right
3. Tap my head and brush my tummy at the same time I can do, but to change hands
quickly is another matter..
4. Smoke
5. Give up on the poor and vulnerable.
6. Run 2,000 metres without having an asthma attack
7. Let go of my faith

Seven things that attract me to my spouse (as I don't have one, I'll do what would attract me to a potential spouse)
1. Lovely and caring personality
2. A Christian faith
3. At least some sympathy with my commitment to the Labour Party
4. Good looks (I tend to go for unconventional good looks as much as conventional, mind ;) )
5. Someone who I love, respect and feel protective towards
6. Someone who accepts me, warts and all
7. Someone who I can hold hands with when things are not going well for either of us

Seven things I say most often
1. In some respects..
2. Well the thing is...
3. Look!
4. Brilliant
5. Jurassic Park! (Usually something my friend Aidan and I usually say in each other's company if we hear good news. I comes from watching an episode of I'm Alan Partridge, whilst at Uni)
6. Cool.
7. Okay

Seven books (or series) I love (at this precise moment)
1. The Bible
2. The Complete Works of Shakespeare
3. Things Can Only Get Better - John O'Farrell.
4. The Space Trilogy - C.S. Lewis
5. The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
6. Crosland, Healey, and Jenkins - Giles Radice
7. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)
1. Anything involving Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. Well, nearly anything!
2. A Bridge Too Far
3. The James Bond Movies
4. Charade
5. Forest Gump
6. The Untouchables
7. Monty Python's - The Meaning of Life

Seven people I want to join in, too (who might have the time and inclination to do this)
1. Aidan (If he can get his blog working again)
2. Travis
3. Radioleaflet
4. Annie Porthouse
5. Friends in the 'Subway Writers Group'
6. Friends in Church and the 'Christian Socialist Movement'
7. Future Labour leadership contenders (should be de-rigour for hustings meetings ;) ) and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Who at the risk of name-dropping told me, on one of the two occasions I actually met him that Homer is his favourite Simpsons character!) ;)

Okay I cheated slightly, but the problem with these things is that it can sometimes make out that your interests are more narrow than they actually are!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No Inquiry for July 7th bombings

(BBC Online)

I can see why, but surely you can hold an enquiry without the need to interview everyone and surely you can keep some parts of the investigation "off-limits" for security reasons!

Gaius Charles Kennedy

(Press Association)

I have, further to my previous posting, been avidly following the BBC/HBO series 'Rome'. A mini series which, if not historically accurate, does portray well the intrigue and ruthless backstabbing that takes place.
It's a bit sad to know what Ceasar's fate will be (Considering that this is not wholly fiction), although his vicious murder in 44 BC is pretty much what tends to happen, albeit in a metaphorical sense, in today's politics. Simply ask Iain Duncan Smith.
So it seems to be the case right now that, further to my last post on the Lib Dems, the metaphorical knives are really out for Charles Kennedy.
Ah well, never mind Charles, there's always Christmas!

This is just disturbing...

(Associated Press)

The Iranian President has cast doubts on the Holocaust having happened. To paraphrase Maureen Lipman, referring to her meeting a Holocaust denier at a London Party, do they think that that the allies somehow managed to find millions of anorexics to take part in a fraud or something?
He added that even if it did happen:

"If you [Europeans] committed this big crime, then why should the oppressed Palestinian nation pay the price?

"This is our proposal: give a part of your own land in Europe, the US, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country,"

Ahem! Well the fact of the matter is, Israel was once the Jewish homeland. How the Israelis have gone about dealing with that is another matter entirely, but the Iranian Presidents comments, aside from the fact that they would make any Nazi feel proud, were racist and beligerent. To make such comments about any race of people shows lack of love, compassion, and concern and I thought Allah was mentioned in the Koran as being merciful!
If they want to simply criticise Israeli policy towards the Palestians, if they want to criticise aspects of their foreign policy, then fine! But to slate a whole race of people, to criticise and slam every member of a faith which has much respect among many who are not Jewish, then I regard that is purely dangerous and racist and has no place among those world leaders who wish to practise mature statecraft.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More on Doctor Who

(BBC Online)

Apparently at some point the Doctor and Rose will share a brief kiss and Producer, Russell T. Davies promises more!To which my response is 'No, no, no, and again, no!' That breaks the rules in the Doctor Who canon and as my sister says on these kind of things, 'No, it's wrong!'.
It is almost like the momentary horror I experienced when Bond and Miss Moneypenny snogged each other in Die Another Day, although thankfully that turned out to be a fantasy on Moneypenny's part.
I am no prude, the reason I am unimpressed is that there is some asexual quality about the Doctor that is appreciated. True there are all those highly attractive female assistants that he has had over the years, but the Doctor is like some older relative you have known as long as you can remember, and somehow...
No, just wrong. I am sure that he did sire a family at one point, but...
No. Please don't, and if this is a ruse on Russell T. Davies's part, I would say, leave the John Nathan-Turner publicity tactics behind. It was things like that that helped damage the original series.

Eugene McCarthy

(US Library of Congress)

Almost forgot to mention that former US Senator, Eugene McCarthy, died a few days ago.
He is best known for campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency in 1968.
It was one of the most difficult Presidential elections in recent US history. 1968 was the year of the student revolts, the Vietnam War was in full-swing, Martin Luther King was assasinated, as was Senator Robert Kennedy (another person trying to obtain the Democratic nomination). And to cap it all, there was the awful acrimony of the Democratic Convention that August, which probably helped cost the Democrats the election, and which permanently damaged the reputation of the Chigago Mayor, Richard Daley (Believe me, what went on at that Convention in Chigago makes the most undisiplined party conferences here in the UK look like a model of decency in comparison!).
Until the convention, McCarthy nearly got that nomination. He stood for the Presidency after many Democrats called for a candidate who opposed the Vietnam War. His initial success helped cause the US President, Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from running for a second full term (For those who don't know, Johnson was John F. Kennedy's Vice President and successor), and then, to cap it all, Bobby Kennedy announced that he himself would be in the running. Being charismatic, as well as the brother of the assasinated John F. Kennedy, meant that he would get much support. Plus he also opposed the Vietnam War. As one student said at the time, 'We woke up, realising it was Christmas Day, only to find Bobby Kennedy had stolen the presents!'.
To be fair though, if there is any time in American postwar history that, had I been a grown adult with money to spare, I would have gone to help as a UK Intern, it would have been on Robert Kennedy's campaign (True, I would have helped Jimmy Carter in 1976 as well, but there is some wonderful mystique about the Kennedy campaign of 1968). He was determined to end the Vietnam War, he campaigned for civil rights, against poverty. He had the support of people from all classes in various key states and I believe that, had he lived, he would have made a great US President. In fact I would say he may well have been better than his late brother!
But it was not to be. Kennedy was shot in the early hours of the 5th June and died less than 24 hours later. At the Convention that followed, Eugene McCarthy, the only candidate left, and his supporters, found that the result was fixed for Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, who never even ran in the primaries and who almost certainly would have declined if Robert Kennedy had not been shot and was still in the running (It is worth noting that when Kennedy died, he had carried four out of the five primaries that he stood in).
And so, America had to face the Nixon administration, and therefore Watergate and the corrupt policies that followed. This destroyed the automatic trust that many americans had that their Presidents (whatever they thought of their policies), were decent and upright men.
Maybe it was better that McCarthy got that nomination, what if Robert Kennedy had lived? Who knows, maybe America needs to go through these long periods of pain in order to renew their original sense of moral statemanship and decency, but like many 'What if's!' in history, it would have been interesting to know.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In Musical Praise of: The Rolling Stones

(Associated Press)

A band I am in two minds about, admittedly.
Well first of all, why the ambivelence! Well there is the danger! The dodgy experimenting and the dangerous aspects of the counter-culture in which they originally thrived. There is the mysoginy. (I recall spending a weekend with friends and on the Sunday morning, as 'Under My Thumb' was playing in the background, I mentioned that I was uncomfortable with the song, because I found the lyrics to be mysoginistic. Their response was, "We know but it's The Rolling Stones!"
I somehow don't think the liking of something, or someone, should make them an object above criticism, but there you go.
So why have I picked them! Well I was given their Forty Licks album as a twenty-seventh birthday present and I do like some of their music. They really help bring R n B into the mainstream in a similar way that U2 does! The songs I like, I do like and find them to have a searing musical and lyrical honesty, added with an occasional sense of fun(Favs include 'Satisfaction', 'Gimme Shelter', 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', 'Jumping Jack Flash', 'Wild Horses', 'Ruby Tuesday', 'Get Off My Cloud', 'Paint It Black', 'Start Me Up', 'Miss You', 'Beast of Burden', 'You've Got Me Rocking', 'Fool to Cry', 'It's Only Rock and Roll'). They go from the gospel-blues message of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', to the soulful 'Miss You', with the lyrical-pleading and catchy 'Satisfaction'.
The songs I don't like! Well aside from 'Under My Thumb', 'Sympathy for the Devil', with it's lack of obvious satire (If there is any..) and unnervingly catchy percussion rhythmns and 'Brown Sugar', again because of the mysoginy.
They don't seem to be as they once were, but they still have drive and energy about them and their albums may be released to sell their tours, instead of the other way around, but they still give some satisfaction!
Now I must dash for another carol service, which I will mention tomorrow.

More on Hemel Hempstead explosions

The photo I took from my bedroom yesterday morning.
You can make out the dark haze in the distance, which obscures some of what you can normally see in Baldock on a clear morning, as yesterday would have been.
And no, I won't be sending in my photo to the BBC. Aside from it not being that newsworthy, I was somewhat unempressed by one or two people from Belgium saying that they could hear the explosion etc..
Nor was I impressed by two amatuer documentary film makers going as close as possible, beyond the safety area, in order to get some footage. I could almost hear the subtext, 'If Sky won't buy the pictures, we contact the BBC!'
It's just a relief, as I said yesterday, that no one was killed and tomorrow will be yet another day!
That said, it will be interesting to find out what series of situations allowed this to happen and what harm this will do the the local enviroment!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The explosions at Hemel Hempstead

I live some thirty miles away, and no I didn't hear the explosions, although some neighbours did. That said you could see the black clouds on the skyline. I took a picture of it with my digital camera and will post it tomorrow!
That said, it is a miracle, and mercy, that no one was killed!

How Masculine/Feminine Are You?

I suspect I am a sucker for these tests, but in following Kerron and Normblog's examples here is the result of mine:

You scored 63 masculinity and 43 femininity!
You scored high on masculinity and low on femininity. You have a traditionally masculine personality.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 52% on masculinity

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You scored higher than 10% on femininity
Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Ah well! I always suspected I was more blokeish than I appear to be on the surface!