Category: Stray Thoughts Page 1 of 3

All new … almost ready

If you’re reading this,  then that means you’ve found my revamped website. Hello! Are you well?

This blog pulls into one place my very first online musings (dating back years –  cue nostalgia about how the internet all used to be fields) from the old ‘blogger’ platform, and the far more limited number of postings which I made directly onto the old version of this site (for the technically-inclined amongst you, it was an FTP setup, and I found it very hard to post regular blog updates using that approach). So if you want blog posts by me, this is the place.

There are a couple of pages which I just need to put the finishing touches to, but they’re almost there now (I promise), so this site should be all in place very much imminently, and then the blogging shall recommence (I promise). In the meantime, though, please feel free to take a look around, and do let me know what you think of the new place.

A Historic Occasion, Indeed

That’s right, yesterday was the first UK General Election since I started this blog.

Anyway, despite the fact it’s still all rather up in the air, thought I’d share a few stray thoughts about it, in no particular order:

  • Nick Griffin of the BNP didn’t win the seat he stood for, despite vigorous campaigning over the last year or so, including appearing on BBC’s Question Time. In fact, the BNP share of the vote was down from the last election, which leads me to conclude that the BNP might have been better off campaigning less, as it seems the more people see them, the less support they have. Certainly suggests that they shouldn’t be censored or banned in case it leads to a huge increase in their support.
  • During the campaign, a lot of play was made both in the press and online about David Cameron’s background, calling him a toff etc. There’s certainly a point lurking under the personal attacks – that he may not be able to relate to other sections of society, etc – but I’d imagine it would be unacceptable to suggest a candidate from, say, a very poor background would be unsuitable for office? Inverted snobbery is, let’s not forget, still a form of snobbery.
  • It almost feels a bit like 1992, when the polls were fairly far off the mark; in the same way that 1992 voters seemed to say they were going to vote Labour and then get into the polling booth and vote Conservative, a lot of voters said they were going to vote Lib Dem and then didn’t do it when that X needed to be made.
  • Increased coverage of the actual mechanics of the UK voting system, which I think is an interesting angle: questions about voting reform and the flaws of the current or proposed other systems, and even, on the day, concerns about voters being unjustly turned away from their polling stations. Good to see the system not just being accepted ‘because it’s there’.
  • Distinct lack of canvassing in my constituency, really – leaflets from Labour and the Lib Dems, nothing from any of the independents, and not a single ring on the doorbell to ask about our voting intentions. It’s probably my cynicism about these things, but I like to feel wooed a bit, made to feel special.
  • Thought the BBC coverage was pretty good, and the ITV stuff I saw seemed very hesitant and uncertain (with a lot fewer people; seemed the BBC had thrown all its recognisable news staff at the evening). I was fading at around 1am, I don’t know how Paxman and Dimbleby managed it. Does the BBC News department endorse polyphasic sleep or something?
  • Finally, and let’s put any kind of partisanship to one side and face it: none of the parties should try to claim this election shows a ringing endorsement of them or their policies, or any kind of mandate. Thankfully, none of them have done so.
    • Anyway, we do live in interesting times…

      Mind You, Which Of Us Hasn’t Wondered What Our Teenage Selves Would Make Of Who We Are Now ?

      For reasons far too obscure to mention, I was trading silly e-mails with m’colleague when Feargal Sharkey was mentioned, specifically his hit A Good Heart. Feargal, as you may know, is now a spokesperson for the UK record industry, often quoted in debates about piracy and the like.

      Of course he’s not the only person from an entertainment background to have taken an interesting career turn – bestselling science writer Michael White used to be a member of the 80s group Thompson Twins (leaving before their success), and if you’ve ever wondered where Bob ‘Spit The Dog’ Carolgees is now… well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect him to be “just off the B5152 from Frodsham to Delamere”.

      Life, I feel, often takes us strange places, to do things we could never have guessed at. Not that I’d ever have it any other way, of course.

      It’s The Question That Keeps Bookbinders Awake At Night…

      … which seven-volume fantasy series which began with a fairly slim first volume got more and more lengthy as the end drew nigh: Jo Rowling’s Harry Potter or Stephen King’s Dark Tower?

      Let’s find out! Potter’s in Blue, the Tower is Purple

      So – perhaps appropriately enough – the Tower has the highest numbers.

      Here’s a thought: how different would the current state of Bloomsbury publishers be if the Potter books had each been 324 pages long, and the series had run to ten books ?

      I know that books, unlike many media, can be as long as they need to be to get the story told, but I’ll wager that somewhere, a publishers’ accountant has asked exactly the same question, though they probably followed it with a sigh, and then returned to crunching numbers.

      Yes, I Know The Subject Of MPs’ Expenses Has Been Well-Covered Elsewhere, But….

      … two thoughts:

      1. Isn’t allowing MPs to decide the nature and scope of their own expenses a little like letting kleptomaniacs vote on revisions to the 1968 Theft Act?

      2. How does the fact that Gordon Brown’s attempts to reform the expenses procedure have been kicked out by MPs become something which is interpreted as a dent in his credibity as PM? Surely, by MPs voting to reject the reforms, and therefore voting in favour of maintaining a system which is clearly open to (and indeed subject to) abuse, that reflects far more damningly on MPs generally?

      Granted, I’m rather inclined not to trust MPs as an instinctive reaction, but still…

      Perhaps Unsurprisingly, This Question Was Prompted By My Watching Red Dwarf : Back To Earth

      Will there ever be a post-Final Cut of Blade Runner, reflecting the original vision of Hampton Fancher and David Peoples?

      The Triumphant Return Of Stray Thoughts

      1. I have to admit to being faintly disappointed at the stripped-down nature of Duffy’s cover of Live And Let Die on the Heroes album, but I nonetheless urge you to buy it. It’s for an incredibly good cause, and her version corrects the irksome overuse of prepositions in the line “but in this ever-changing world in which we live in”.

      2. I would have embedded this bit of video as I think it’s amusing, but it features language which might not be suitable for public places (and I know some of you read this blog whilst at work), so instead I offer it as a link. Contains strong language, but it makes me smile. Some of you may have seen it already, as I gather Mr Fry recently shared it on Twitter, but for those of us who don’t tweet…

      3. Speaking of such things, Fry’s recent Meet The Author podcast (free to download via iTunes) contains, amongst many other comments to enjoy, the best argument I’ve yet heard for using Twitter. Streets ahead of the ‘you must’ or ‘everyone else is’ stuff I’ve heard. I won’t repeat it here as I doubt I could do it justice, and anyway you’ll benefit from listening to the whole thing. Worth your time.

      4. I can’t make it, but if you’re of an energetic and charitable nature, this looks rather fun…

      5. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the music of Jim Steinman, so I was rather disappointed that the rather lightweight boyband Westlife recently covered his song Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Mind you, I was even more disappointed to hear that Steinman had done a remix of their version of the song, which the record company then decided not to release. I appreciate that he’s ‘work for hire’ in that situation, but if anyone should know how to do a version of that song, you’d think it might be the chap who wrote it.
      Anyway, the song’s never been properly released, which means that there’s no legitimate way of getting hold of it… but then again, as we all know, there’s often more than one way to rip a track.

      Hmm, a slightly link-heavy post today, I suddenly realise. Still, I like to share the fun stuff around if I can…

      If You Tolerate This, Then Your Stray Thoughts Will Be Next

      1. It’s been a while since I did one of my round-up posts like this, I know, and I think it may well be because I’ve mastered the art of taking what should be a one-line post and making it into a whole paragraph. Perhaps a career in newspaper writing awaits? (Premonition: the King Tut exhibition in London beginning this week, plus the eye make-up Amy Winehouse wears, will surely lead some idiot to claim that ‘the Egyptian look has never been hotter!’, or some such page-filling piffle).

      2. Speaking of whom, a joke I heard the other day:
      Q: What’s Amy Winehouse’s favourite tube station?
      A: High Barnet.

      3. I find myself, as ever, watching very little TV for fun, and the vast majority of it is imported (Heroes, Flight of the Conchords, Californication, and 30 Rock, to name the majority of my preferred shows). Is there anything on any of the Freeview channels I’m missing out on? Do let me know…

      4. Oh, for god’s sake.

      5. Nanowrimo progress is very slow indeed, but I’m not giving up yet. Will certainly beat last year’s effort, but that’s hardly a push, I know…

      6. Told you (in this post earlier today) that I’d make up for lost time. Should be six posts in one day by the time I’m done. Prolific, I know (though you know there could be a connection between this brag and the comment in point 5, above. Fortunately, I’m too stupid to be able to make any kind of correlation).

      7. Want to go and see Steven Poliakoff talking about writing and stuff? Well, it’s next Monday in London, and free – click here for more info. I’m going, do let me know if you will be too…

      8. Now, I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy (well, the use of the phrase ‘fuddy-duddy’ is always a headstart, but you know what I mean), but isn’t the whole ‘lolcatz’ meme a bit like ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’? By which I mean, it’s kind of incomprehensible and inaccessible to the general reader, not actually as wildly funny as some people seem to think, and may well out of favour by the time I’ve posted this…

      9. Due to the techy hassles over the past few days, I was unable to post my usual Remembrance Day thoughts, which appears to have become a semi-tradition for me. So, in the spirit of ‘better late than never’, I’d like to post the following, which is a transcript of an interview which forms the opening and close of Roger Waters’s album ‘Amused to Death’. The dialogue’s taken from an interview with Alfred ‘Alf’ Razzell, who was a member of the Eighth Batallion of the Royal Fusiliers during WWI.

      He was born in 1897, so he would have been in his teens during the events he describes – Alf talks in measured, grandfatherly tones of his time in the WWI trenches, and the last line (where he figures out the number of years) never fails to hit me like a kick to the stomach… For, I like to think, the best possible reasons.

      Alf Razzell:
      “Two things that have haunted me most are the days when I had to collect the paybooks; and when I left Bill Hubbard in no-man’s-land.

      I was picked up and taken into [the German] trench. And I’d no sooner taken two or three steps down the trench when I heard a call, ‘Ooh, hello Razz, I’m glad to see you. This is my second night here,’ and he said ‘I’m feeling bad,’ and it was Bill Hubbard, one of the men we’d trained in England, one of the original battalion.

      I had a look at his wound, rolled him over; I could see it was probably a fatal wound. You could imagine what pain he was in, he was dripping with sweat; and after I’d gone about three shellholes, traversed that, had it been…had there been a path or a road I could have done better.

      He pummelled me, ‘Put me down, put me down, I’d rather die, I’d rather die, put me down.’ I was hoping he would faint. He said ‘I can’t go any further, let me die.’ I said ‘If I leave you here Bill you won’t be found, let’s have another go.’ He said ‘All right then.’ And the same thing happened; he couldn’t stand it any more, and I had to leave him there, in no-man’s-land.”

      Years later, I saw Bill Hubbard’s name on the memorial to the missing at Arras. And I… When I saw his name, I was absolutely transfixed. It was as though he was now a human being instead of some sort of nightmarish memory that I’d had of leaving him all those years ago.

      And I felt relieved. And ever since then I’ve felt… happy about it, because always before, whenever I thought of him, I was searching myself; “Was there something else that I could have done? And that always sort of worried me. But having seen him, and his name in the register; As you know in the memorials there’s a little safe, and there’s a register in there with every.. every name… And seeing his name and his name on the memorial.. It sort of lightened.. lightened my heart, if you like.”

      “When was it that you saw his name on the memorial?”

      Alf Razzell:
      “Ah, when I was eighty-seven…Ah, that would be the year, ninety f…eighty-four, nineteen eighty-four.”

      It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged, That A Single Man In Possession Of Stray Thoughts, Must Be In Want Of A Wife*

      1. I’ve recently discovered, and thoroughly like, Word Magazine. Each issue has a free CD, but that doesn’t mean it’s all music – there are features on film, TV and books, and I like the general approach they take. Well worth your time and money, and their free weekly podcast is a lot of fun too (have a look for it on iTunes).

      2. Speaking of things musical, is it just me, or does Robyn (with that song about – and possibly even titled – ‘Every Heartbeat’) sound a lot like Kate Bush?

      3. And speaking even more of musical things, I note that once again whoever’s doing the incidental music for X-Factor appears to be doing so by breaking into my home at night and using my CDs as the source material. Granted, that mainly involves the CDs by Craig Armstrong and Rob Dougan, but still…

      4. Had another eye test (post-laser surgery) this morning, and my vision is better than 20-20. Am vaguely disappointed that the improvement hasn’t led me to develop X-ray vision and the like, but I guess that’s only fair as it wasn’t covered by the paperwork.

      5. The London Tube strike this week, since you ask, did affect me (and my beloved) a bit, though it could have been worse. One trick which many people seem to miss is that there are boats which run east and west along the Thames, and which you can pay to travel on. Not exactly the vaporetti of Venice, granted, but beats a crowded bus or train. But shh, don’t tell anyone I suggested it.

      6. I’ve never had a go on one of the current trend of ‘Brain Training’ devices, but I’m moderately sceptical; the whole idea of ‘brain age’ sounds a bit arbitrary to me, and if the idea is to try to get as low an age (that is, a low-number score) as possible, won’t that mean that you’re looking to emulate an age at which you had fewer pathways connecting the bits of the brain, and therefore are less able to recall items or make connections? I think they’ve made a boo-boo on the scoring system here. I wouldn’t want to get a really ‘good’ (that is, low) score and then be told that I have the brain agility of someone who toddles around with a nappyful of excreta.

      7. I firmly believe that the current elevation of Elton John to ‘national treasure’ status is a ghastly misjudgement, perhaps brought about by his eyebrow-waggling antics as he sang doggerel at the funeral of the Princess of Wales. I feel he is a man of limited talent, who seem to have released an appalling number of ‘best of’ albums, and that the way he’s currently venerated is an embarrassment. Given this, I’m sure you can imagine that I find this very, very funny indeed.

      8. I don’t know if you use iTunes v7, but the User Agreement for it (and don’t ask how I know this, but it’s true) states in section 8 that ‘Licensee also agrees that Licensee will not use the Apple Software for … the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, [sic that comma] missiles, or chemical or biological weapons”. Maybe I’m just a negative type, but it seems to me that if you’re involved in that kind of thing, you’re probably not too worried about Apple setting their lawyers on you.

      *I’ve found one, thanks. And she’s fab.

      The Very Stray Thoughts Of You

      1. Yes, a few days off there. Back now, though, and I had a good time, thanks. How are you?

      2. My Pobrophenia post appears to have been greeted with general bemusement and disagreement. I’d argue that it’s more apparent when both chaps are moving, but you might still disagree. Ah well.

      3. Mike Reid – arguably best known from EastEnders – died yesterday. As I was a contestant in 1981 on the TV quiz show Runaround, which he hosted, I can cheerfully report that he was a friendly chap, and that he willingly signed autographs for the members of the audience who asked for them. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I won a digital watch, not the top prize. I still have the t-shirt, but it does look more like a belly-baring top now, so I only wear it on special occasions. Anyway, Mike was a nice chap, from my meeting with him.

      4. I don’t want to sound like an old straight, but when I was a kid, it was pretty clear to me that Battlestar Galactica (the original version) was a rip-off of Star Wars. When I was older, I felt the same way about Digimon and Pokemon, even though I was arguably outside their target audience. And now, again though the stuff’s not aimed at me, am I entirely wrong in thinking that Kate Nash’s music is suspiciously like that of Lily Allen?

      5. When I’m not writing this blog, what do I do with my time? I’m glad you asked. At the moment, I’ve mainly been writing a screenplay, a stage monologue, and a shortish radio play. And at my back I always hear my second novel, not drawing particularly near… which does beggar the question of what I’m doing typing this right now, doesn’t it? All right, I’ll get me gone.

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