31 December 2006

Geek of the week

Here's a cool thing: here's the cycle route that I took last week, displayed on Google Maps . How cool is that? I feel the urge now to try and work out how to embed this in my own page, which seems hard.

29 December 2006

The Guardian

The Guardian really is a most unusual newspaper.

I don't just mean that the style is quirky (though it is). I'm also thinking of the sheer breadth of topics it covers ... in depth.

The paper consistently carries articles of a type that you couldn't read in any other newspaper (or at least, not any other UK newspaper, perhaps the NY Times has some similarities)

Here are three articles that caught my eye just in last day or two that could only have been in The Guardian.

  1. First - for the content - a piece describing the tactics and strategies Kelloggs are employing to fight the controversial new 'Traffic Light' food labelling scheme the the FSA are propounding. The article includes the astonishing detail that, of the £84m pa spent by the industry (not just Kelloggs) on advertising breakfast cereals, under the new regulations proposed by FSA no less than £70m of it would be banned.

    Only in the Guardian could you read an analysis of this topic in this much detail- a double page spread and several other articles .

  2. Second - for it's style - an astonishingly hostile obituary of Marmaduke Hussey

    Only in the Guardian could you read such an aggressive, and unrestrained style of obituary (and it's not the only example - look up P.W.Botha) For instance here is the The Times effort on Hussey for comparison.

  3. Last, a round up of the best articles of the year (some of them excellent, btw)

    What's unusual about that one, you ask, many newspapers have best-of round-ups?
    Well, only in the Grauniad could you read a collection of the year where (in the print edition) every single one of the stories was datelined 28 Dec 2006 :-)

I recently switched from the Times to the Guardian. I buy my paper at the station and, intriguingly, after a week or so the kiosk owner actually commented on my switch. He said he had noticed that quite a number of his customers have made exactly the same change in the last few months. A trend?

28 December 2006

What makes a good blog (and why this isn't one)

Forget permalinks, track-backs and mutual blogrolls; Worry not about short paragraphs, understatement and whether-to-use the personal pronoun: none of these are criteria for being a great blog.

On the other hand, there are five components that are needed to make a great blog. These are:

The Five Components...

  1. Theme: There must be one. What's the blog about? What's the point of it?
  2. Things: (to write about) A good blog needs a natural, reliable source of original incidents / anecdotes / examples / news that fit the theme. (a blog that relies on having a good idea every week, won't last)
  3. Tone of voice: sarcastic, cheerful, critical, suicidal, wry, it doesn't matter, but a blog needs a personality (note - this the only one of the five that has anything to do with the ability to write)
  4. Timeline: A good blog needs developing personal narrative. A good blog is rarely (never?) about its author, but all the same, the author must be present. This is one of the things that makes it a blog, not a newspaper column. The author needs to have a story.
  5. Tempo: A good blog needs regular updates. Contrary to much advice it doesn't have to be daily. But it does have to be regular. Daily, weekly, twice a week. Stick to it.

Some Examples...

Armed with these five criteria, you will often be able to spot examples of blogs that are not a great blog...

  • My Random Thoughts on Assorted Things I Read in the Papers isn't a great blog
  • Hi everyone, gosh its ages since I blogged, sorry is never going to be a great blog
  • Now I've gone part-time look after Harry, I've finally got time for a blog isn't a theme
  • although Part-Time Fireman, part time Dad might be theme. And
  • Inept government policy is killing our part-time firemen .....now you're talking

..and it will be easy to understand why something like Coppersblog is a great blog

  • Theme - 90% of police work is a waste of time
  • Things - life as a policeman is never running out of material
  • Tone - wry, amused, surrounded by idiots
  • Timeline - anonymity, cult blog, famous blog, book-deal, fame, pursuit, discovery, new life
  • Tempo - Dave, you're slipping mate...

The mandatory link..

Everyone knows that an expected feature of all good blogs, is links to other blogs, writing on the same subject: Every post should have one.

Bloggers love to receive incoming links, but don't often get them on their very first post so, hopefully excorpus, also writing self-referentially about what makes a good blog should be agreeably startled :-)


I'll leave my thousands of readers to work out for themselves why, sadly, green ideas isn't a great blog (..but never fear... I have an idea for a new project....)

27 December 2006

Street Fashion

When you get to be the wrong side of forty, it can be hard to keep up with Street Fashion.

In Selfridges for some pre-Christmas shopping, imagine my delight in discovering that this prestigious department store actually has a Street Fashion Department. How easy is that?

It's upstairs next to Cycling - in fact, for quite some time I laboured under the extremely pleasing misapprehension that padded shorts, leather palmed gloves and lycra are, actually Street Fashion. Alas, not.

But the best thing about the Street Fashion Department was the way it allowed me to escape from all the other family recommendations as we passed from floor to floor, from section to section (I don't really like buying clothes).
- "This shirt is nice..." "Yes, but I think I'll check the Street Fashion section, before I buy anything".
- "This is very fashionable at the moment, and it would really suit you" "Hmm, I think if it were really fashionable, it would be in the Street Fashion section, wouldn't it?".

If we had ever actually found the Street Fashion department I might have been forced to buy something. However it was Christmas, no one could understand the store guide, it was extremely hot in Selfridges and of all the family only I had the ventilated arm-pit holes that the situation called for.

Suddenly it all became all too much and we escaped thankfully on to the cool street, - where there were some very weirdly-dressed people we were careful to avoid. We dived into the fundamentally dishonest Bond Street Underground Station (the signs indicate a Station, but take you to a another shopping mall) and headed for home.

I'll have to catch up with Street Fashion sometime in the New Year.

26 December 2006

Wicking and other modern miracles

Back in the last century if I wanted to go out on my bike I'd put my anorak on (well, yes, all right, I'd put my Parka on). If I pedalled hard I became hot and sweaty. If I pedalled very hard I became very hot and very sweaty. In those days we didn't have wicking base layers, we took our jumpers off.

In the 21st Century, like everyone else I know, I have a special outfit for cycling and a quick ride on my bike necessitates going upstairs for a complete change of clothes.

I wear Tardis shorts (perfectly cut on the outside to conceal the middle-aged backside, a close inspection of the contents will reveal within an astonishingly sizeable, completely flexible, self-contained and separate padded layer) and I have choice of two tops: the one thin and short-sleeved, and too cold in the winter, the other thick and long-sleeved and too hot anywhere outside the arctic circle.

Until this Christmas that is! A fruitful piece of shopping yielded no presents at all for my loved ones, but for me: a brand-new, windproofed / shower-proof / low cut back / grey and black, zipped-rear-pocket cycling top. And best-of-all, with that sina-qua-non of sporting clothing, the cleverest invention of C21: zippable armpit-ventilation holes.

How we ever did without these miracles of modern clothing design, I don't know. I have made sure to have them in all clothes worn in situations where over-heating is in a remote danger (ski-jacket, walking jacket, cycling top, interview suit, pyjamas).

On Boxing Day my friend and I managed 16.5 wet and muddy miles along the Crane River and Grand Union Canal in 1 hour 31 mins, average speed 11mph. I wore my new top and, much to the envy of my comparatively ill-clad friend, whenever the going became harder or softer I was able to easily regulate my temperature simply by adjusting the armpit holes. We stopped every 200 metres or so.

My top was a dream: showers bothered me not; my lower back was snug and warm, the wind penetrated my jacket solely through the gaping armpit holes, the only moisture that failed to entirely wick away being the cold, smelly moisture of the River Crane sloshing around in my right shoe (following an, admittedly ill-advised, armpit-hole adjustment on the move. They should put something in the instructions about that). At least it wasn't the GUC.

My top cost just £485. The stretch-fitting (to tell the truth, I'm not totally sure about it) wicking base layer: £79.99. It's good job Mrs Botogol never reads my blog.

Family Christmas...

Christmas Day, about 9.30pm

Two programmes are currently being recorded !
To view
-- Greatest Most Embarrassing TV Moments. Channel 4
Choose a recording to cancel:
-- The Vicar of Dibley. BBC1
-- Doc Martin. ITV1

23 December 2006

change of name?

There is no such thing as a meme. Tell your friends

22 December 2006

The next sentence is there to wish you a happy christmas, but this sentence isn't

The previous sentence is there to wish you a happy christmas, but this sentence isn't.

20 December 2006

Billion Monkeys

My mind has been colonised by Brian Micklethwait's billion monkey meme.
As you can see in the photo, I caught a great many billion monkeys at the flashmob in London last week.

The nascent meme has reached flickr (just) :

16 December 2006

Flash and other Mobs

Twenty minutes before it started the only sign of impending activtiy were two bored-looking policemen.

I imagined the shout
- "All units, we have a report of a pillow fight starting imminently on Leadenhall, Urgent Assistance required"
- "Control this is Charlie Oscar - will deal"
-"Roger Charlie Oscar, do you require back up?"
- "Negative control, have on board water-pistols and anyway all vehicles are classed as homey"

By 18:10 things were busier: an impressive crowd of net-savvy mobile-phone and camera wielding bloggers had gathered were tightly encircling a small crowd of sheepish looking intending cushion-coshers. It was a flashmob waiting to happen.

Waiting for the Flashmob

At the stoke of 18.12 a whistle blew and the square went crazy, erupting in a series of flashes and whirrs as the billion monkeys - as one - pulled out their concealed phones and held them aloft, arms bobbing as they paused to re-set them to 'night' mode, and raised them a second time. In the centre of the square, pillows swung, bashed and burst.

Passers-by were suitably amazed
- "What it is it Mark?"
-"It's one of those things they organise on the internet"
- "Oh, right, I see"

Amidst the frenzy of photogenic feathers one breathess participant interrupted his filming just long enough to make a phone call - "Mate you've got to look out of the window and see what's happening outside your office!"

Flashmobbing in London

I received text and my phone dutifully stopped recording to offer it up to me. It's not often I get a chance to text back sori. runin l8. gn 2 c a pilo fite so I didn't miss this one.

In the middle of the square, people laughed, shrieked and flailed. Around the edge, cameras flashed some more, feathers flew, phones rang polyphonically.

Watching the mob

After about 10 minutes the police must have spotted an Al Quaeda suspect with a pillow full of Polonium 210 or something, as a quick, angry burst of their siren signalled the end of the fun. "Move along now! Nothing to video here"

It was all over but for a moment - just a fleeting one - but a nevertheless a real moment, it seemed the police had moved a bit preemptorily, and some hackles were raised. No one was doing any harm....how can they just stop us....it's a free country..... and I seemed to catch a glimpse - just a tiny glimpse - of a real mob.
And the feathers weren't quite so funny any more.
One day, one of these flashmobs is going to get out of hand.

Mobile Clubbing
More Pictures

Other bloggers who were there
Seamus Macauley Mikko

13 December 2006

Maria Tribe / Louise Braithwaite / Private Showings

The small gallery private showing of a new exhibition is a ritualised set-piece in middle-class English life.

The smart invitation (always featuring the most colourful picture) the glass of warm wine, the canapes, the attendance of the artist, little red dots, the wit and wisdom of one's own critique, the frightful banality of comments overheard.

The occasional coincidence of marital taste and an unexpected purchase.

Mrs B and I have been to two exhibitions recently - Louise Braithwaite, at the Conservatory in Battersea, and Maria Tribe at the View Gallery in Thames Ditton; both paint bright, colourful and allusive portraits of cheerful middle-class life.

Louise Braithwaite's theme is real-places / unreal people. A typical picture contains a recognisable backgound (Wandsworth Common, Big Ben, Padstow) before which a host of blocked-in people cavort and dance. I like them (we own one). Comparisons with Lowry are inevitable, but studying this new collection the startling lack of perspective in the backgrounds, and the strangely-blank expressions of the zombies in the foreground reminded me unexpectedly of medieval art. Nevertheless the paintings are fun, and it would be churlish of me to even consider the possibility that the choice of comfy suburban / holiday-home locations might considerably increase the chance of recognition sale in Braithwaite's target market.

Maria Tribe's theme is journeys, and so again a sense of location is important in her work, which is more abstract than Braithwaite's. and with more restricted palettes. A typical painting features a fashionable juxtaposition of images, text and ideas all collated from a place, or a journey, so in other words it's Blog Art (and what's wrong with that). Her pictures contain figures, riddles, puzzles and hints and are about 60% per sq inch cheaper than Braithwaite's. I like them (and - now - we own one. In fact this one).

There's nothing like buying a painting to enhance enjoyment of the opening-day-exhibition ritual. The quality and beauty of the chosen painting (and hence one's own good taste) is immediately and immeasurably improved by the little red dot and with one simple flourish of the credit card your glass is refilled and you are free to eat all the canapes you damn well like.

You also have purchased the right to chat with the artist, in fact the rules positively demand it. But this is not always the enlightening experience one might expect: whereas Braithwaite professionally exuded charm and chat to customers and potentials alike, Tribe came over all Charles Ryder when asked to elaborate on her painting (our painting now). 'Well, it's a diving picture really", "Yes?", "Yes, I like diving and, well, I've started painting it.". "The red blobs on the left struck me as poppies?" "They're coral".

Well, I don't know much about art, but I know what a show is supposed to be like, and that 60% gradually started to make a little sense: after all even the artist - especially the artist? - should know to follow the opening-day, private-showing ritual.

11 December 2006

No more Christmas

In the botogol household we have decided to ban Christmas. We're replacing it with a similar festival called by a different name and with fewer sprouts.

This decision is in no way connected to the blood-stained Christmas tree presently in my garage, clamped in the vice by, er, a vice-like grip, wood shavings and splinters littering the floor all around it, the diameter of its mutilated trunk still incredibly, indisputably, demonstrably, significantly greater than the diameter of the bucket.

No, this isn't a trivial or opportunistic decision. We recognise that abandoning Christmas is a big step and this is about valuing and respecting the diverse cultures within our family - a family which, when you think about it, is kind of like a large corporation to us.

Sadly, our valuing of diversity seems to trigger a lot of cynicism: friends immediately assume it's simply to avoid the threat of a shunning by our politically-correctly-educated children!

Well its not entirely for that reason: we also value diversity because there is a very good business case behind it, a business case basically involving the risk of shunning from all kinds of people.

With diversity comes a whole set of new values that Mrs B and I have adopted: these include:
  • tolerance
  • respect for each others differences
  • the placing of positive values on different cultures, and
  • generally banning things.

So this year instead of Christmas the botogol family will be celebrating Apocalypto. a much more modern festival much more suitable for a modern extended family, all under the same roof for two days with little daylight.

Apocalypto is a good festival for our family: It preserves all the best things about Christmas but with more chocolate ginger and fewer sprouts. And a smaller tree. A much smaller tree.

08 December 2006

Naked Celebrities

One month in, botogol's memes has received 25,573 hits.and 5 comments.


Close analysis of my stats reveals the following sources:

  • my blogging sister - 27
  • my wife (prompted) - 156
  • my wife (unprompted) - 1
  • all other family members - 14
  • the 257 friends to whom I sent a warm and witty email containing the URL - 257
  • strangers (arriving via one of 845 self-publicising links planted all over the net) - 123
  • strangers (arriving from google searches of things they are actually interested in) - 38
  • myself (admiring my own wit and cleverness) - 5,259
  • myself (tinkering with that bloody template and especially trying to get rid of the blank space in ma mignonne) - 19,798


Close analysis reveals the following breakdown of commentators:

  • myself (testing to see if the comment function is broken or something, that would explain it..... No it seems to be working fine) - 2
  • myself (in disguise, creating a buzz) - 0 (so restrained!)
  • my blogging sister - 2
  • passing strangers, somehow coming across the blog, and reading something they actually find interesting enough to comment on - well hello and welcome, Redkez!

Clearly, a different approach is needed before another blog falls in the forest. Luckily I think I have hit on an idea: From now on I will be mostly writing a Celebrity-Led-Blog!!!


All of a sudden, I don't know what I have been thinking of, ignoring all the incredible blog material right in front of my own eyes. For if you keep your eyes open (as I do) you find you do run into an impressive number of celebrities living in suburban South-West London:

  • I was very surprised to encounter Britney Spears on a secret visit to London this week. She was visiting the Post-Secret exhibition at Foyles. I have too much respect for her as an artist to reveal the contents of the postcard she stuck up on the wall.
  • it was revealing chatting to Wayne Rooney at the Rocky Horror Show. Apparently he's been offered the role of Rocky when it transfers to the West End
    He's a surprisingly good heckler
  • spotted Madonna at my local tip dump last month. Like me she was throwing away her Dyson. We chatted for a while, and afterwards we went to Comet together and she showed me the Miele that her lovely (and very cheap, by the way) Brazilian cleaning-lady swears by, apparently.
  • it was unexpected to spot long term hero of mine, Richard Dawkins in the audience for a talk by Patrick Dixon (futurologist). (I bet Dixon regrets opening up that session for questions!) Richard told me that while he has been in London he really enjoyed, the rather puzzling theology revealed when John Humphrys interviewed Rowan Williams, In Search of God on Radio 4
  • Robbie Williams plays the most unexpected gigs doesn't he? The 58 members of Twickenham Folk Club who crammed into the Cabbage Patch two weeks ago to hear Boo Hewerdine were initially rather doubtful when the identity of Boo's mystery support act was revealed. However the cheeky-chappy soon had us all onside, singing along with the collection of well known folk tunes he was test-driving for his forthcoming folk-covers album (eat your heart out Bruce Springsteen)

You know, perhaps I should carry around an autograph book, and a small camera.

More celebrity-led blogging on-the-hour every hour at botogol's memes.

Hit that atom feed link!

05 December 2006

PostSecret exhibition in the UK

Seeing the actual postcards in the flesh was strangely different from viewing them on-line.

Unexpectedly they seemed less real. I think it was the 'gallery effect': all togther, neatly arranged into groups of six, carefully framed and brightly-lit against a white background, they had become divorced from their makers, and something personal had been lost in the process.

Previously they were heartfelt, now they were just art.

www.postsecret.com has come to Foyles in London

PostSecret in the UK

The selection is well chosen: 90 cards, some I rcognised from the site, others possibly unseen, they are a representative sample ranging from the poignant "I shredded all my photographs", to the witty "I discourage my friends from dieting - because I want them to be fatter than me" to the banal "I hate brushing my teeth'.

But the nature of secrets, however, is that most of them are sad or guilty. "I may be smiling but I'm not happy" declares one, "I steal from my mother" admits another (well stop!) On his site Frank Warren maintains just one link (where he could have 100s) - it's to a suicide hopeline.
Up close it's more evident than it is on-line just how much effort some correspondents put into their cards: artwork, photography, collage and the signs of a fair-copy - and how little effort goes into others. Some secrets we wear lightly on our shoulders others weigh us down.

PostSecret in the UK

Some the cards bear signs of the rigours of the US Postal Service but Warren leaves them resolutely untouched and unrepaired. Most tantalising is the bar-code strip that the USPS sometimes applies, which aches to be peeled carefully away. One card reads "I put lipstick on my boss's shirt, so that his wife will think he is having an affair. Even though we're not" [sticker]
Not yet? Not going to? Not ?
The project asks: what makes a secret? 'I loved you so much' reads one card written across an overflowing ashtray. We are invited to create a narrative, and duly oblige (a parent with lung cancer, an illness, a long estrangement) It fits the mood: but is this a secret or a story, or an artwork? Who is it a secret from?
At the end visitors are encouraged to write their own secrets, and post them up, and it's in this unmediated corner that the project comes alive. There are scores of cards. A few have been prepared and brought along, but most are spontaneous, and the variety and untidiness of the uncollected cards reveals the unseen influence of the collator, Frank Warren, in forming the more manicured, slightly one-note post-secret garden.
This being England, of course, there's an irreverent note to the secrets confessed: 'I love picking my nose' declares one card (surely NOT a secret to anyone who knows him) 'I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll' declares another 'I am Spartacus' comes the rejoinder.
The format also enables a dialogue that's entirely missing from the site. This ranges from the childish (this is England recall!): ''I don't know how to tell Jane that she smells" is followed by the simpler "So do you" through the more metaphysical 'I HATE that this person didn't finish their card / I think they did' (No Warrenish protocol of leaving each card untouched is observed).
If Warren's thinking of how to develop the site further, this must point the direction
After looking through the exhibition I browsed the book. Altogether I spotted seven of my own secrets, but none of my own cards.
Other reviews

04 December 2006

Excessive Dust

Arrived at Waterloo to the odd news that Waterloo and City line was closed this morning because of 'Excessive Dust' on the platforms.

Looking left and right for gobblers, I hurried past the entrance to the 'Drain', only panicking when I became momentarily separated from my demon (A three-toed giant sloth, if you want to know. You'd think I'd be used to her lagging fourteen paces behind by now, she's certainly no fun to commute with. But at least she doesn't require a seat on the underground. Just a free metre of overhead grab rail]

But seriously, what kind of dust could close a station? Other than Emergingly-Intelligence dust falling through split-seam in the space-time continuum, that is ?

  • radioactive Polonium 210 dust?

Now there's a thought.

Later: I'm not the only blogger to hear this announcement, but so far the only one to discern the real cause. I hope the KGB don't read this.

02 December 2006

Rocky Horror Plants?

Saw the Rocky Show for the umpteenth time. An excellent production with David Bedella and Suzanne Shaw, and as much fun as always.

However (and perhaps I am getting unduly cynical in my middle age), is it possible that this production includes some plants in the audience?

You'd hardly think it was necessary, to plant a heckler at the RHS, but.....but.... all the same: were one or two of the heckles just too good? but Was there sometimes a pause-for-heckle at just the right time? It made me want to see it again, just to check.

29 November 2006

Dysons at the Dump

Dysons at the Dump, originally uploaded by botogol.

I couldn't resist this - a colourful flock of new-looking discarded Dysons at the local tip.
Not a great shot, alas, but it was using my phone and I only got one go at it: oddly, the sight of me taking a picture triggered a furious response from the staff.

27 November 2006

Boo Hewerdine

An enthusiastic band of the faithful squashed into the noisy back room of the Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham on 26th November, for a lively gig from a witty and on-form Boo Hewerdine.

Belying the slightly uncomfortable performance on his 'Live One' album, and his sometimes brooding on-stage presence behind Eddi Reader, Boo smiled and joked his way through a baker’s dozen of songs accompanied by the winsome, if breathless, Rosalie Deighton on vocals, and the talented fast-learner Dave Marks on bass.

Boo Hewerdine

The small back-room at the Patch, which doubles as the home of Twickenham Folk Club each Sunday night is intimate in the way a top oven is intimate, and it's hardly an ideal venue for a softly-spoken singer. Indeed, from time to time in the gig Boo, like Rosalie before him was accompanied by the not-so-faint sound of bar chatter the other side of the door, and occasional crashing of saucepans from the nearby kitchen. The lack of space was such that come the interval, the trio were forced to hide, hilariously, behind a velvet curtain - hapless Manie Krugers: ‘off-stage’ but with feet and elbows clearly visible.

Nevertheless the homely surroundings seemed to suit Boo, perhaps in some part accounting for the stronger, meatier delivery than typically heard on his records – and beneath the plaintiveness and sadness easily associated with Boo’s music, on this hearing I detected a thread of anger running through the gig, beginning in a powerful Bell, Book and Candle (complete with introductory Emmerdale synopsis), and continuing through to Slow Learner, normally dismissed as slightly too self-pitying, which came alive with the added bite. (Has Eddi recorded this song? I think it would suit her).

That’s not too say our heartstrings went untugged. Teasing his audience by inviting requests (‘Nope, sorry, it’s got to be the one that’s in my head already’) Boo seized on a thrown-out shout of Ontario to set up a trio of ‘dead puppies’:

Ontario, complete with slightly anomalous sing-along chorus, segued smoothly into Murder in the Dark, Boo's depressing, pessimistic picture of married life, and then (abandoning any pretence of requests now) a tight I Felt Her Soul Move Through Me finished the section. Credited on the album to Hewerdine/Reader/Henderson/Dodds, to my mind this song is nevertheless Boo’s own - and possibly his finest. Written after the death of Boo’s mother and Eddi’s father in just a short space of time, it’s a simple but powerful piece with clever and subtle images. Hearing anything sung live often brings out different aspects, and this time the couplet ‘Too late I landed / To say goodbye’ suddenly struck me as the keystone of this short song.

But it wasn’t all miserable. We enjoyed Patience of Angels and - this being a folk club after all - Boo obliged with a new song Harvest Gypsies written for up-and-coming folk artist, Kris Drever as well as the sentimental favourite Follow my Tears; the choruses of all accompanied by an enthusiastic audience.

Boo finished with Peacetime, which will be the title song of Eddi’s new album out in January. Peacetime’s not a new song - it’s on Anon. I’d never really thought of it as a ‘protest song’ before, but that’s how Boo described it, neatly extending and tying off the angry thread that I detected weaving in an out of all his songs that evening.

Boo has recorded eight albums with Eddi, and he told us that Peacetime is the best of the lot. Listening to the song last night it wasn’t hard to imagine it with a Simple Soul type arrangement, with Eddi’s vocals soaring over the top.

A new album! Eddi Reader sings the songs of Boo Hewerdine, perhaps? A great prospect.

Boo’s on tour for a while longer on his own before he joins up with Eddi in the New Year. See him if you can.

Rosalie Deighton
Rosalie Deighton

Set List

Stone in your shoe
Bell Book and Candle
Harvest Gypsies
Patience of Angels
Slow Learner
59 Yards
Honey be Good

Follow My Tears
I felt her soul move through me
Murder in the Dark
16 Miles

25 November 2006

Partick Dixon: Futurolgist

An unusual morning listening to the slightly alarming 'futurologist' Patrick Dixon.

He's an interesting character: so far as I can gather he makes a living with ideas - giving speeches, consulting and writing books, of which he's written many, spotting trends and analysing significance. Good work if you can get it.

He was speaking in a church and his thesis went more or less like this

1) Modern Society isn't sustainable

  • in business, surveys of the 25-35 and 35-45 age groups reveal widespread wish and plans to 'downsize' and leave business. They are disillusioned and lack purpose
  • fast mutating viruses threaten world health
  • birthrates are falling in developed countries (and in Britain the government has adopted an unofficial policy of unlimited immigration to counter this)
  • divorce rates are rising and families breaking down
  • large corporations no longer offer the comforting stability they once did, as they all fall victim to rapid take-overs, restructurings and name changes
  • people are failing to achieve work-life balance - and becoming more concerned about that
2) A sense of the unsustainability and purposeless of much of modern life is causing people to look at the spiritual side of life

  • people are becoming more 'spiritual' than they used to be and realising that we are more than 'a bag of bio-data'
  • and even non-spiritual people, atheists, become spiritual in the face of death
  • but this is trend is unfocused, and too much is wasted on crystals, alt medicine etc etc.
3) The way forward is for people to find Jesus

  • this will provide a purpose in an otherwise purposeless and morally bankrupt society
  • even if it seems unlikely, at first sight, that Jesus was "who he said he was", just the small possibility that he might have been dictates that we should investigate (a weak form of Pascal's Wager)
  • and anyway, if you look around you can see that Christians do good works
4) The best way to find out more is to sign up the Alpha Course

  • this is a challenging 12 week course that offers people the opportunity to find out what Jesus actually wrote (sic)

[hmmm, the logic isn't entirely unassailable , is it?]

Anyway, he wasn't as structured as I've made him seem. The reverse in fact: he gave an emotional speech, with anger, at the modern world, sorrow at what he saw around him, a very emotional and touching present-tense first-hand account of a death, a trembling lip relationship with Jesus. All this with humour and passion as well.

He was good, but he was also slightly scary. I left somewhat glad that he's directed his religious energies in a mainstream direction. I'm sure he wouldn't have the slightest interest in founding a cult, but I half-think that if he wanted to, he could.

I did like and admire

  • his way of connecting trends and features in modern life to make patterns and conclusions
  • his fluency with, respect for and enjoyment of ideas
  • the way he's found to make a living (I'd like his job)

I didn't like

  • his casual way with statistics (but give him the benefit of the doubt, this was an informal talk, presumably his books are footnoted)
  • his furthering of the idea that a life without religion (indeed without his particular religion) is necessarily purposeless and without direction
  • his use of emotion to carry his audience - there was a little Thomas Hardy's preacher about him
  • for a futurologist, he didn't give the sense he was grounded in history (is is really the case that people are more spiritual than in the past? It seems unlikely to me)
But if you get a chance to hear him - especially perhaps in a business, rather than a religious context, go along. He's a good way to fill an hour.

21 November 2006

The very first day that I...

The very first day that I went to the gym at my workplace (with that awkward feeling anyone who has ever been to a new gym will know) I settled down on the first piece of familiar kit - a treadmill.
After 2kms the woman on the next treadmill tapped my arm to attract my attention. Bizarrely she complained that my locker-key, safety-pinned to my shorts, was annoying her. It was jangling too loudly!.
I've been to that gym hundreds of times since, and never had anything like that since.

The very first day at in a previous job I arrived absolutely determined to take all the opportunities a new job offers: above all the chance to create a good first impression
Entering through the revolving doors, I went in just as someone else was coming out, I must have revolved too hard because I caught his heels with the door and he stumbled and swore at me.
I never had trouble with that revolving door ever again.

The very first day that we moved into our very first flat, we set to work sweeping up the builders' dust in the back garden.
From nowhere a little old lady appeared at our elbow. 'You bought this flat?", she asked, with no ceremony. We admitted it. "You want to be careful - there's water down there". And with that she scuttled off, leaving us rather worried. .
In three years we never saw anyone in our back garden again. (She was right though)

The very first day I went to University, the very first person I spoke to seemed like a nice guy - friendly and interesting. University was evidently not so hard as had I feared.
But he turned out to be a Christian trawling for recruits.
In three years hanging around the college bar, I never got approached by a Christian again :-)

Many people seem to have odd first-day experiences like this: odd things that happen on your first day, but never before or since. What causes them?

Three theories:
1) The effect is an illusion. Things like this happen every day, it's just that we only notice, or only remember these unremarkable events because of the 'first day' context.
2) Being nervous or uncomfortable, we unconsciously project an air of vulnerability that encourages other people to mix it or approach us.
3) Fate/God or some other supernatural force enjoys teasing us.

It must be a mixture of (1) and (2), right?

On the very first day after I passed my driving test, I took my Mum out for a drive (as you do) and a tree blew down in the road right in front of us.
I did an emergency stop and came to rest in the branches.
Needless to say, in twenty years of driving since, I've never had a tree fall on me again.

"The Gods, too are fond of a joke"

17 November 2006

Figaro at the ENO / Opera as Musical / Feral Memes

To the Coliseum, a rare excursion to the Opera to see the ENO's Marriage of Figaro.

Slightly odd to have them singing in English AND with surtitles.

The critics didn't like it much. Ho hum: I enjoyed it a lot, but (and get ready, here's the philistine bit...) I couldn't help thinking it was 90 minutes of wonderful entertainment packed into three hours.

"What if", I thought to myself, during one of those slow bits in Act 2, when the central characters were badly bogged down trying to heave the plot along two more tiny steps, "What if you cut out the all the 'sung' dialogue, lost all the twiddly bits removed a couple of the sub-plots and focused more on the real songs? A bit like a musical in fact.."

Luckily, my inner culture-alarm bell rang insistently in my mind, and I refrained from expressing my childish, ignorant thought out loud during our sophisticated, witty, £27 bottle of ice-bucketed chardonnay, interval conversation. Phew.

And then I read in the papers about what Trevor Nunn is doing with Porgy and Bess

A feral meme indeed (How do ideas spread?)

03 November 2006

Rowan Williams' unorthodox Theology

The first programme in Humphrys in search of God featured an unusually deferential John Humphrys interviewing the unfathomable, confusing and confused Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Much of the reaction has focused on Williams' strange lack of Christianity in his answers - only one passing mention of Jesus but much enthusisam for rather formless spirituality, aimless meditation in search of ... question mark (sic) and his rather Philip Pullman-like concept of thinning membranes between our world and...um...God's world.

But what struck me wasn't RW's formlessness - we're used to that - but rather his unexpected deviation from accepted theology, when he seemed to suggest that we are not judged on our lives on Earth, but have plenty of time to make up with God after we're dead.

The interview went like this

John Humphrys: What happens to me ultimately if I don't open that door?
Rowan Williams: If you don't open the door you're not fully in the company of God. And it's your choice.
John Humphrys: And after death?
Rowan Williams: What I'd love to think of course is that after death a possibly rather unusual experience might happen in which you'd say good God I got it all wrong.
John Humphrys: Too late then.
Rowan Williams: No.
John Humphrys: After death??
Rowan Williams: I think we continually have the choice of saying yes or no.
John Humphrys: So that death is not the end of us?
Rowan Williams: Death is not the end of us. I want that's rather axiomatic for a religious believer.
John Humphrys: Ah what, quite so, but I said us meaning 'us non believers'.
Rowan Williams: Non believers?

RW seems to to clearly be saying that there's time to repent after death. Which surprises JH, and which presumably surprises most Christians? That's not what he's supposed to believe is it? I thought that judgement for us non-believers comes at the point of death... and then we've had it?

Curiously the BBC seems to be protecting RW from himself: their transcript of the show has RW saying the opposite. RW's clear 'No' (after JH's - 'Too late then') - is transcribed as 'Yeah' ! Perhaps a cover up, perhaps the transcriber simply couldn't believe his/her ears?

Luckily you can listen to to it for yourself here (it's around 26mins in) and see who is right.

STOP PRESS! The transcript now corrected.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rosemary Grundy [mailto:rosemary.grundy@bbc.co.uk]
Sent: 07 November 2006 15:21
To: botogol@greenideas.com
Subject: FW: HiSoG
Thank you very much for pointing out the error in the Rowan Williams' transcript. This is now being corrected.
Regards Rosemary Grundy
BBC Religion & Ethics

25 October 2006

Extras - what Gervais is really doing

The second series of the hyper-clever, self-referential Extras finished last week. It's a comedy series for Hofstadter fans, with enticing self-referential layers deposited weekly - here's a good discussion of what went on.

But if the series is as clever as that, why the increasing use of childish dirty jokes (viz the not-really-very funny masturbation scenes in Episode 6?) Why is Gervais sometimes like the four-year-old shouting 'bum' for comic effect?

Here's why... Gervais is having a laugh at us (Having a laugh? Is he having ... etc etc)

How's that? Well, one of the exquisite pleasures of Extras is marvelling at the things he persuades the celeb guests to do... the 'How on earth did he get him to say that??' moments, as guest stars are carried along by the tsunami of Gervais's own celebrity into portaying themselves as racist, or sex mad or just plain unpleasant.

Well, guess what? Gervais is doing the same with us, the audience (..and also the critics!).
Watch the last episode again, but this time have in mind the thought 'How on earth did he get me to laugh at that?'

Feel a bit silly now?

29 August 2006

Garmin GPS Basemap

Got a new GPSr Legend Cx, which is good fun.
It comes with a built in 'basemap' which is about 200m adrift of the real world. phones Garmin and they confirmed that it's meant to be like that and agreed with me that it's actually useless.

10 July 2006

Ma Mignonne

In Douglas Hofstadter's extraordinary book Le ton beau de Marot he presents multiple translations of a 16th century french poem, and challenges readers to try their hands at their own translation.
You can find many attempts on the web, here's my mine (if any one out there *ever* googles their way to this page, please let me know!)

A Une Damoysell Malade
Clement Marot

To a poorly little girl

Ma mignonne,
Je vous donne
Le bon jour;
Le séjour
C'est prison.
Puis ouvrez
Votre porte
Et qu'on sorte
Car Clément
Le vous mande.
Va, friande
De ta bouche,
Qui se couche
En danger
Pour manger
Si tu dures
Trop malade,
Couleur fade
Tu prendras,
Et perdras
Dieu te doint
Santé bonne,
Ma mignonne

Princess mine,
Just a line
t'say 'hello';
You're so low
Jailed all day.
That I say
Get well soon!
Leave the room
Walk outside,
- door is wide -.
Run, even,
Uncle Stephen
Tells you so.
Out you go
Cure your ill
have your fill
of bread 'n' jam.
Or - I am
Warning you -
If your flu
Lingers on
You'll be wan
Pale and thin
Haggard skin.
Trust in me
God will see
You'll be fine,
Princess mine.

Here's a great discussion of Hofstadter and his works

09 July 2006

Getting Started

There are two sorts of 'first posts' that people make to their blogs:
- postings that self-consciously refer to themselves as being a 'first post'
- and postings that don't.

It would be intersting to create a list of all first-posts that don't refer to themelves.