Monday, 28 February 2011

Simon's Cat in "Sticky Tape"

The ever-brilliant Simon's Cat is back... and this time he's getting into a sticky predicament!



Sunday, 27 February 2011

2 Years of Blogging - kind of!

Although I didn't start this blog until July 2009, today is the second anniversary of me being bitten by the blogging bug. My former colleague and friend Stephen had been blogging for some time and had asked me to do a guest piece for him. Without a deadline and without a topic, it took me a while to come up with something but I eventually did.

Having written the piece, and seeing it published, I was inspired to join him in the ranks of bloggers. After some further procrastination I did and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Although I will still make a song and dance when anniversaries of this blog roll round, I will always count that guest post for Stephen as the real beginning of my blogging journey!

Click here to read it in all it's nascent glory and here for Stephen's blog.


Saturday, 26 February 2011

5 on the 5th has a Facelift

Regular readers will know that I contribute to a monthly photography feature called "5 on the Fifth". The deal is simple - just take five pictures on (or in the lead up to) the fifth of the month and then post them on your blog or photo site.

This month the project has been refreshed and rejuvenated with new logos and a fresh approach to posting - details to follow. The organiser, Stephen, has also spruced up the look of his blog which I'd recommend you add to your follow list - have a browse here.

The fifth (of March, eek!) is only a week away now - so why don't you start thinking about making a contribution? The theme this month is "lines" but your pictures could be anything you wish. Keep an eye on Stephen's Blog for more details.


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Comic Relief

Last month I posted this on The Inbetweeners' Rude Road Trip. As you may have gathered, I've long been a supporter of Comic Relief, the UK charity founded by (amongst others) Richard Curtis in 1985 and which has been organising Red Nose Day and the accompanying TV charity telethon since 1988.

One of the founding principle of Comic Relief was that every penny raised should go direct to the people whom it aims to support (the split is historically 2/3rds to Africa and 1/3rd to the UK, although support was given to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.) To this end, they have a number of partners who either give support in kind or cover the various admin costs associated with large-scale fundraising.

This transparency also extends to those products that are sold to support Red Nose Day, where the amount actually going to Comic Relief is publicised at the point of sale.

Another great reason to support Comic Relief is the way that they use celebrities in fundraising. It is not enough for a celebrity to appear on the show or record a video in support; they'll visit projects that the charity is funding both here and abroad and see the challenges first hand. It is also interesting to note how many stars remain supporters year in year out, even while fame and trends wax and wane,.

A more recent development, kicked off by David Walliam's English Channel swim for Sport Relief, are the sponsored events where groups of celebrities take on gruelling challenges. Last year a group of 8 or so cycled from John O'Groats to Lands End non-stop while the year before a similar number climbed Kilimanjaro. These cleverly cover a number of fan-bases and widen the scope for donations as well as lengthening the period over which funds are raised.

This year Lorraine Kelly, Scott Mills, Kara Tointon, Olly Murs, Ronni Ancona, Dermot O'Leary, Peter White, Nadia Sawalha and Craig David are crossing 100km's of the Kaisut desert in Northern Kenya. You can find out more here and donate here.

In the UK you can also text 'Desert' to 70011 to donate a pound. Or text twice to donate £2... Texts cost £1 plus the cost of one text at your standard network rate.

Anyway, all that was a roundabout way of getting to today's post of one of Dermot O'Leary's latest video diaries from the trek:


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Not an A-Z of my CDs: B

After featuring Adele's fantastic Brit Awards performance last week, which propelled "Someone Like Me" to a re-entry at number 1 in the charts, here's the second entry in my series featuring acts whose music I do not (yet) own, have previously owned, or just stuff I like. This week, B is for B52s along with an honourary mention for the BMX Bandits... Click to enjoy some Serious Drugs

Now, back to the B52s and Roam:

and here's Rock Lobster:

Such good fun!


Monday, 21 February 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Courtesy of Stumble Upon and Flowing Data, here's a guide to winning at Rock, Paper, Scissors:

Now, Best of Three?


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bristol Photos - Part Two

Yesterday I posted some pictures from the 8th January, today I'm posting some pictures from yesterday. These were all taken around Bristol's floating harbour and include two of The Matthew. - a replica of the ship John Cabot used to sail to Newfoundland in 1497.

The Matthew
Fancy a Shag* at the end of the Jetty (OK, Cormorant, then.)

The Matthew
Young Swan
Daddy Swan

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Bristol Photos - Part One

This post is the first of two (with more to follow in the future, no doubt) posts featuring some photos taken around Bristol. These ones were taken on the 8th January 2011 and, aside from the first one, are all from the city's Brandon Hill Park.

The Floating Harbour, Arnolfini and Cranes in the morning sun
Cabot Tower
Squirrel Attack!
Cabot Tower
Park- and Cityscape

More tomorrow!

Friday, 18 February 2011

This is Not Porn

This is Not Porn is a great photography website featuring fantastic, and often candid pictures of the rich and famous of decades past. Here's a flavour:

Nancy Reagan and Mr T

Stevie Wonder and Grover

Elton John
For much more and larger version of these pics, do go and browse the site, it really is an internet gem. Hat-top to @Twisted_Blood and @whoruleswhere for the link!


Lets do the timewarp again...

Last week, the UK got to see the Rocky Horror Glee Show, which aired at Halloween in the states. It was, quite simply, brilliant. It has also left me with various tunes from the show running round my head and wanting to see the film again.

Until I get a chance too, however, I guess I'll have to make do with the Bunny Parody:


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Debtris: Putting things in Perspective

We all (well mostly all, unless you're Ed Balls) know that the budget deficit is huge. Indeed, most of the economic facts and figures involve huge figures well beyond the comprehension of most mere mortals.

How does it compare with, for example, the revenues of OPEC countries? Or the cost of the Iraq war? How do the profits of Tesco stack up against the UK's defence budget? And how much do African countries owe to the west... or to put that another way, how much would debt cancellation cost the so-called civilised world?

The people from Information is Beautiful have made the following video which graphically compares these figures and more through the medium of Tetris:

You can see more, including a US version, here. Hat-tip to Marcus Brigstocke for this.


Not an A-Z of my CDs

How do I follow my A-Z of my CDs series? Well, it struck me tonight that I could do a series of tracks by artists whose material I don't own...

Whether or not I do follow this route, here's Adele's amazing performance from last night's Brit Awards. This year's awards show was better than many of its predecessors - the format was revamped, James Corden's presenting was surprisingly good (he played it with a pretty straight bat, which worked better than forced jokes do) and there were a number of good performances from a diverse range of acts.

But, for me, the star of the show was Adele. It's (relatively) easy to excite a crowd with fireworks, scores of dancers, lasers and bombast but to hold a venue the size of the O2 in rapt attention with just your voice, a beautiful ballad and a piano takes real talent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have no more superlatives, I simply give you Adele:

Enjoy. Then press replay and enjoy again.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

What Price Democracy?

As you will probably know, in a little over two and a half months there will be a referendum as to whether the UK should move from the current system of "First Past the Post" for Westminster elections to the "Alternative Vote".

There are many good reasons to change. While it may be true that AV isn't the first choice for those who want a truly proportionally representative system, it has much to commend it.

The key difference is that it recognises that aside from their chosen candidate, people will have views on the other candidates - in other words, voting is not a binary activity.

By ranking candidates, those who wish to vote for a minority party can do so without feeling they have wasted their vote. If after the first round of votes no candidate has a majority of votes, then the second preference votes of the last place candidate are allocated to the remaining candidates. This process is completed until one candidate has over 50% of the vote.

The result is that, to win, a candidate can no longer rely on a core 30-40% of the electorate. He or she must convince more people of their merits as a prospective MP, even those who may not be inclined to vote for them as a first choice.

Candidates will have to work harder to be elected, MPs will have to work harder to retain their seats. AV isn't perfect but it will go a long way to tackling a "jobs for life" culture of safe seats and complacency. You can learn more about AV here on the "Yes to Fairer Votes" website.

Unlike the Yes campaign, which has been in place for some time and is, by and large, a grass-roots movement, the "No to AV" campaign was only formally launched today. Led and supported by a number of heavyweight political figures - Margaret Beckett, Lord Prescott, William Hague - I was interested to see its arguments in favour of First Past the Post...

Well, I would have been, except that the main argument seems to be that AV would be costly to implement - starting with the referendum - at a time when the country can ill afford it. Ah yes, the question of spending priorities... Why pay for D when A, B and C are so much more important? As is so often the case, though, the answer is that D has benefits which may not be easily quantifiable but are worthwhile none the less.

It's not without irony that some of the major Labour figures backing the No campaign - and the tactic of suggesting that the cost is too high - are amongst the most ardent of the deficit deniers...

So the campaigns have now commenced in earnest and your choice is between a positive change or passive acceptance of the status quo. Vote to make this choice the last binary choice so that at the next general election you can say who you would prefer to win... and who you would prefer if they don't.


6 times

On Sunday, fellow blogger and tweeter Andrew Reeves tweeted a link to this blipfoto of the Water of Leith, which flows through Edinburgh, succeeding in making me a bit homesick. He also jogged my memory about a couple of photos I took when I was home in November, featuring the work of Antony Gormley.

Part funded by the proceeds of the Gulbenkian Prize (which the Scottish National Gallery for Modern Art won for the Charles Jencks landscaping project, Landform), 6 times features 6 sculptures positioned along (with the exception of the first one) the course of the  aforementioned river. Time and weather prevented me from seeing them all, but here are two of the figures - 1 and 3, since you ask!:

You can find out more about 6 times here.


Monday, 14 February 2011

Magical Urbanism

Using Stumble Upon, as I do, really can lead to finding amazing, interesting and life-enhancing websites. Tonight I have discovered Magical Urbanism. It's a great site featuring wonderful cityscapes both real and imagined. I really do recommend you visit - and you can also follow the site's creator Mike Ernst on Twitter - but for now, here's a taster:

First some fantastic drawings and imagined cities by an artist called Vasco Mourao:

Next, an imagining of a London devastated by Climate Change by photographers Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones:

And finally, a shot from Willi Dorner's Bodies in Urban Spaces series:



Valentine, be mine...

I had intended to try and find something about celebrating the joys and perks of being single for this post but struggled to find anything suitable - and all of it from a woman's perspective. I did find this about an annual anti-valentines day event in Edinburgh along with suggested songs and films for the the occasion but it didn't quite seem to fit the bill...

I then found this image:

While this amused me, yet again it didn't seem to quite fit the bill. This is probably because if I were in a relationship I would probably be buying in, to some extent at least, to the whole cupid thing - even  though I tend to regard myself as an old cynic.

So, dear reader, I had given up and instead was using Stumble Upon when I found this:

Happy Valentines Day!


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fast and Loose

Once upon a time there was a Radio 4 comedy called "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Due to a monumental failure of vision on the part of BBC Television, the TV rights were bought by Channel 4. After a stuttering start while they adapted to the visual medium (and a less high-brow audience) it became a tremendous success and helped launch the careers of Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Tony Slattery as well as introduce the UK to some great North American talents.

The show was the brainchild of Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson and went on to spawn a US version. They subsequently created the satirical news quiz "Mock The Week" for the BBC.

Dan Patterson's latest project is "Fast and Loose" which is pretty much a return to "Whose Line...?". The first episode wasn't great but subsequent episodes have been better - the show certainly has potential, although there may need to be some tweaks to the format. It's biggest problem is comparison to it's forebear and, presumably, a need for legal and artistic reasons to try to be sufficiently different from it.

The best feature so far has been David Armand's "Interpretive Dance" in which he mimes to song and a couple of the players have to guess what song he has been miming too.

Here he is, as Austria's foremost interpretive dance artiste, performing to The Killers' "Human":

But Armand has been doing it for years, here he is at The Secret Policeman's Ball in 2006 performing to "Torn"... with a special guest.



Friday, 11 February 2011

Protection of Freedoms Bill - Cross Post

Cross Posted from Lib Dem Gains

Today the government unveiled it's Freedom Bill. As is tradition with these posts, I'll quote from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Manifestos... and the Coalition Programme for government:

First the Conservative Manifesto:
"To protect our freedoms from state encroachment and encourage greater social responsibility, we will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights."
Now the Liberal Democrat Manifesto:
"Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill"
"Introduce a Freedom Bill. We will regulate CCTV, stop councils from spying on people, stop unfair extradition to the US, defend trial by jury, and stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission."
"Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, too."
"Ensure that everyone has the same protections under the law by protecting the Human Rights Act."
And finally the Coalition Agreement:
"We will introduce a Freedom Bill."
While the Conservative idea of a UK Bill of Rights sounds attractive on some levels, repealing the Human Rights Act and (potentially) leaving the European Convention on Human RIghts would have been a retrograde step. Now we have a bill which has the following statement on its very first page:
"Secretary Theresa May has made the following statement under section 19(1)(a) of the

Human Rights Act 1998:

In my view the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Bill are compatible with the

Convention rights."
While it may not (quite) cover all the areas listed - although it also covers a number of other areas - the Protection of Freedoms Bill would not have happened without Liberal Democrats in Government.

Here's a video of Nick Clegg addressing the issue of criminal record checks for those working with children, courtesy of the BBC:

Caron's Musings , Richard Baum , and Duncan Stott have more and if you're so minded, you can read the bill here.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

An A-Z of my CDs: W

So here it is; the complete list of acts featured in my A-Z:

Abba, Beautiful South, Capercaillie, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, Erasure, Franz Ferdinand, Al Green, Lauryn Hill, (Ice, Sea, Dead People), Billy Joel, The Killers, Annie Lennox, Pete Murray, Kylie Minogue, Paolo Nutini, Pet Shop Boys, Finley Quaye, R.E.M., Dusty Springfield, Sharleen Spitiri, Texas and U2 and...

...Dinah Washington. Now I must confess that Ms Washington had not been in the running for this slot (I had been minded to choose a track by Robbie Williams) until I had looked at the make up of the overall list. I hope that her presence gives the end of the list a certain class and distinction. 


So that's it... I'm now off to think about what comes next...


Brighton Rock

Earlier this evening, I went to see Brighton Rock. I should point out that I have neither seen the 1947 version of the film, featuring Richard Attenborough, nor read the novel.

Sam Riley is Pinkie Brown, a runner in a Brighton gang who witnesses the gang's leader (and his mentor) being murdered by a member of a rival gang. He takes the subsequent reprisals too far and murders the man responsible.

Matters are complicated by the presence of Rose (Andrea Riseborough), who has the potential to be a devasting witness should she ever tell the police what she knows, and her employer Ida (Helen Mirren) who was a sometime lover of the deceased. Can Pinkie ensure that Rose doesn't reveal what she knows or will Ida persuade her to speak to to police?

Riley gives a steady and measured performance which takes his character from a wet-behind-the-ears teenager who fluffs his first attempt to revenge the killing to the sociopathic killer whom, it seems, will stop at nothing to avoid capture. Rose can only be described as "dowdy" - a fifties throwback in 1960s Brighton - living with her father and working in a tea room. Her association with Pinkie offers her - she believes - "a life" but she seems, initially at least, unable to step out of her down-trodden role and use the knowledge she has as power and currency. Mirren is great as Ida, exhibiting a steely determination to find out what happened to her "gentlemen friend" and to save Rose fromthe life of a gangster's moll.

The film is bleak in its portrayal of human nature - both that of the sociopathic Pinkie and the blindly loving Rose. The palette is equally dark and even the gaitiy of the Palace Pier at night takes on a jaded feel. It is safe to assume that Brighton's tourist authoroties did not have a veto on the portrayal of the city!

For all the inevitabilty of an impending doom, however, the film manages to maintain tension throughout in part due to the score. While other reviewers have described this as bombastic, I felt that this was well judged, adding an additional layer of melodrama.

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot. It is beautifully shot and while the slow pace may not be to everyones taste, it is well worth going to see. Of course, you may have an alternative opinion of this film or be able to compare it to the book or the classic film. If so, please feel feee to share your thoughts below. In the meantime, I'm giving Brighton Rock 7/10.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Donations Gratefully Received

People who know me, or at the very least the ones who would be asked should anything untoward happen to me, are aware that I carry a Donor Card. I am a firm believer in organ donation and would like to see the participation rates raised, so if you're not on the register and you don't carry a card, please consider it - you can find details here and some key facts and figures here.

People who know me are also aware that I am, quite possibly, one of the most squeamish people ever. Horror films and TV medical shows hold pretty similar levels of revulsion for me. They may be surprised, therefore, about something that I have considered before and in recent weeks have started thinking about again - donating not just my organs but my whole body.

Now I considered this a number of years ago but didn't take any action, primarily because I never got round to discussing it with my parents whom, I believe, would be most affected by this. On the off-chance that you, dear reader, know my parents, please don't mention it - I shall discuss it with them in due course.

Donated bodies can be used in a variety of ways that I'm not really sure I want to know the details off. What I do know, is that donated bodies can have a worthwhile impact whether it be in the training of doctors or surgeons, or furthering our understanding of the way the body works.

Unlike regular organ donation, donating your body will have a much greater impact on those you leave behind - after all there may be nothing to bury or create, or at least not for some time - and is therefore a much bigger decision than that of carrying an organ donation card. If you do want to look into it further, you can find information here and here. Despite my previous inertia, this is something I do intend to follow up - an additional post may well be written when I do.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

5 on the 5th - February

I'm afraid today's contribution to 5 on the 5th is a bit of a cop-out. I have no new pictures to post, I'm lacking inspiration for the theme of "Reflections" and it's very windy outside. 

Having decided to look through old photos, I decided to post some from my holiday in Padstow a few years ago. I had actually forgotten I had previously done so (on this post) but here is another selection:

Camel Bay

Land's End

The River Camel

St Michael's Mount



P.S. I'm dead chuffed I got through this post without trying to pretend I was on theme!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Jus' Like That...

... the late, great Tommy Cooper:

No need to tell you to "Enjoy"!


Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Day the Music Died

Today's post is the first in what I intend to be a (semi-) regular "On this Day in History" feature. So without further ado, here goes: 

On this day in 1959, Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens, J P Richardson and the pilot. To mark the anniversary, here's two tracks - first from Buddy Holly himself, Peggy Sue:

The plane crash was subsequently used as the basis for Don McLean's classic song, American Pie, with the roles of "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" attributed to the three singers:


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

An A-Z of my CDs: U

Well, we've reached the thin end of the alphabet and the second last of my entries in this series as I have nothing for V, X, Y or Z...

For U, though, we have one of the greatest bands of all time: U2. Although I never really got on with their 90's material, the 80's stuff and much of their output over the last decade is in a class of its own.

For this entry I've chosen a real classic, With or Without You from The Joshua Tree. Enjoy:


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... Repurpose

I've featured sites I've found via Stumble Upon here before - and todays post is borrowed from another (which in turn had borrowed it from another blog!). So not only is this post about redeploying some common household objects to alternate uses - it is also recylced itself!


You can see more examples of "Extreme Repurposing" here and the rest of the blog is well worth a visit too.