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Wednesday, 30 April 2008

twistori

twistori again
I've been using twitter for a little bit more than a year, but in the early days it was a bit like having only one half of a telephone in use.

Nowadays it seems to have reached a critical mass, so rashbre central now has a twitter feed embedded, as well as a way to publish 'tweets' from the blog entries. If you don't know what I'm talking about then a quick flip across to twitter.com could explain more about it.

In the meantime, people are now experimenting with twitter streams, like the one I show here from twistori, which intercepts twitter messages with 'i love, i hate, i think, i feel, i believe, i wish' and publishes them as a stream.

Can be quite fascinating.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

GTA IV - a walk in the park?

dlgtamain1
When I've visited Vegas, I've had a great time without spending gazillions at the tables. In fact, the last time, I didn't even play a slot machine. But enough of that, what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas etc.

I suppose its the same with the new car game that everyone in London (nay, on the gaming part of the planet) seemed to be queuing for (even if Zavvi actually had stacks and stacks of the thing).

Grand Theft Auto IV just hit the stores in a superb wave of Potter-esque 'open the stores at midnight' marketing and seems to have sent everyone who likes console games into rapt glee despite its gang violence related to car theft.

So the idea of using it for a bit of sightseeing of a kind of Sin City version of New York wasn't necessarily on the minds of the creators. However, as long as you don't mind getting grenaded occasionally, then its not a bad way to cruise the Hudson in a boat, admire bridges and skylines and take a look around some of the less well heeled streets of the metropolis.

I know that is not the intent of the game (which is all about rags to riches goodfellas style gangland activities), but, like Las Vegas, it seems a pity to waste all the clever scenery.

You can tell I don't really PLAY console games - not even at the TW@ internet cafes in GTA IV. No more bets, please.

Monday, 28 April 2008

slick

28042008(002)
Oystering around town today. West End, City and Canary Wharf. A combination of tube and buses. By tonight the papers are showing that Boris could win the London mayoral elections.

This is a tough one to have a proper opinion about because it seems to be about who can dress in the most unusual costume, who can get a candid picture in a pie shop with another politician or on a train reading the Londoner and what does each candidate think about bendy buses and noveau Routemasters. I'm sure I'm missing something.
borken

Sunday, 27 April 2008

its thundery weather

beijing-rights
Yesterday, I was reading a few bloggers talking about not being able to think of topics for blogging as I flitted around the interweb.

Sometimes I think its a function of time as much as a function of ideas. The act of blogging for me is still much less than the moves of the activists reviewing, say, the upcoming Olympics and taking steps onto a street to raise their voices about injustices and reforms needed in China. Or maybe the those concerned for their futures and indirectly creating the fuel panic buying now defining that a tankful for my car costs around £85 ($170). Its all a question of degrees.

We get caught it our own little worlds and then the commodity that becomes precious is time, creating strange and personal priority lists for all of us. Add a few moments for domestic chores and the discretionary spending time available to comment or think on big topics becomes significantly marginalised.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Dylan Moran for Doctor Who?

dmfdw
Anyone else watch Doctor Who? I still do most weeks, for that feeling of family entertainment. And like the old series, there's usually a few clues about plotlines built in.

The early reappearance of Rose "she will return" including the somewhat superfluous soothsaying, the reference to "something on your back" (Monkey? invisible spider? mind controller? guilt of betraying the Doctor later in series?) when talking to Catherine Tate and the subtle use of the so called Doomsday tune to herald, perhaps, the demise of Tennant by the end of this series, or even before the end so that Rose and co can go find him.

My guess is that they'll do a temporary substituion of a female Doctor (Jennifer Saunders) before bringing in the next replacement (not James Nesbitt, please!).

The old rashbre central campaign site from 2005 sits forlornly recommending Dylan Moran and, hey, maybe Fran as the sidekick, but I'm beginning to wonder if the controllers have ever read it. They should. DMFDW.

And, of course, we should use an old Doctor Who as a new Master somewhere along the way.


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sun

blackbird
Its official. Now the blackbird has started sunning itself in the garden, it must be proper Spring.

Three weeks ago we had snow, then a couple of weeks of greyness, but now the proper barbecue weather is appearing and I've just checked that the outdoor wi-fi is still functional.

Friday, 25 April 2008

engineering of consent

unbranded-1-giant-leap
There's something clarifying about seeing Eckhart Tolle saying "this is now" whilst he makes a point about freeing the mind and enjoying the moment. He's in 1GiantLeap's film of 'what about me?' which deals, in its first chapter, with bombardment.

That's the mediated bombardment of the senses via ueber communication. So living in the Now is about filtering the noise from the system to get back to basics. Its about removing the fear that gets put into the messaging from marketeers to their targets. If this sounds simply Orwellian, it takes the ideas further, into Chomsky's views on the mechanics of control and the need to free the mind and lose the static.

Jamie and Duncan from 1GiantLeap took their leap into this project over a year ago when they started to travel the world to explore themes around media, communication, beliefs, love, freedom and grace. They have built a content rich set of activist ideas, with global influencers and thinkers from many groundings, linked together with the thread of music.

Just watching it I found myself jigging for joy with some of the rhythms and wanting to talk to the television (which I consider a good sign, even if others wish to restrain me).

The show's nature as an encapsulation of many sources makes it more a series of inspirational vectors, rather than a means to fully articulate within the format. What is interesting is that just about every frame adds value. There's so much in the first episode that it serves as an object lesson to other documentary makers with tired formats and repetitive establishing shots.

As is often the way, the schedulers have decide to use the 'after midnight' slot on C4 for this programme, so I guess it attains a somewhat rarified audience (the scheduling also reinforces some of the points made in the programme). Perhaps the word of blog references will help broaden the audience.

ungood

services
Significantly early for a meeting, I made the chilling mistake of stopping at a Westbound motorway services station. I know, you can hear the Hitchcock Psycho music already.

I save the location's blushes as I describe the pitiful scene which greeted me. Shops were closed, the coffee bar was blocked off with red and white tape. The other 'eating area' was also partially blocked off but did have breakfast food and coffee. I paid the small King's ransom for a cup of frothy brown water and sat in the area which had an aroma reminiscent of incontinent camel. The jangly recreation of 1990 pop music blinged away in the background to make me feel happy, until the industrial floor cleaner sallied forth with its 97 decibels of cleansing. I looked away from the area of this noise just as the hobnailed workman arrived to start tapping the floor to the side of where I was seated.

Back in the dark ages, there used to be a song about places like this with a verse that went something like: "Watford Gap, Watford Gap, a plate of grease and a load of crap" but this was apparently expunged from its EMI long player because an EMI board member was also a non-executive director of Blue Boar (the owners of the service station).

Its author was right.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

low road

images-1I've been trying to work out who is taking the lowest road at the moment. Is it Hilary Clinton's scare tactic campaigning in Pennsylvania or some of the strange twists by Gordon and Alistair with the UK taxation adjustments?

Hilary seems happy to win ugly; its about winning at any cost - which presumably carries through to the subsequent real election of the new President.

Here in Britain, the replacement of Gordon seems to be more optional. It could have been via an election last October, but voting is probably now not until May 2010. Unless there is some good luck for the Labour Party and he decides to go for an earlier general election.

As wheels fall off the economy and decision making on things like taxation is being botched by Chancellor Darling we see the last minute rescue attempts around the 10p tax debacle. No-one from Government really knows how much the repayment of the tax would cost. My guess is if it affects 5 million taxpayers at maybe £300 per head, then its £1.5bn. A mere drop compared with some of the other decisions. Of course, I've made those numbers up, but thats because no-one from the Government will release any figures (even after they claim to have been working on this for 2 months). Suspicious or what?

So the scene could be set for some instability in the UK leadership as the chain of events which includes: the management of the big picture finance, the civil service inefficiencies, the dithering on decisions, the botched recent US visit and now the taxation 'corrections' all start to stack up.

I can't see Gordon giving in easily, but I wonder if he now needs to see someone else get replaced as a sign of strength. I'm sure Hilary would know how to be ruthless in the interests of holding power.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

dragon

stgeorgeAnother St George's Day passes almost unnoticed. The English are not very good at celebrating their Saint's Day.

Our Turkish Saint was popularised by Caxton in the story about the dragon. Terrorised villagers fed daily sheep to the dragon, escalating the menu to tasty townsfolk. Strangely the King's daughter became a candidate entree and George became the dragon stunning rescuer.

Smoothy George uses the princesse's underwear to bridle the dazed dragon to be led into the village. Rejoicing and baptisms followed but ended in tears for the dragon, finally slain by George.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

no money pit

qlympic village artist impression
Artists impression of 2012
The banking debt hole I've written about previously is becoming easier to spot and now we see banks looking for ways to cover their part of the hole. I wonder if the banks concerned will continue to sponsor expensive sports like Grand Prix racing as a result of the need for frugality?

The big numbers have provided an ideal time to announce the miscalculation of the Olympics funding, where the original estimates of £4bn seem to now be north of £9bn.

I wonder if the old "take the number you first thought of and multiply by four" will ultimately apply for this grand project.

At the original amount, it worked out to around £150 per taxpayer, now its around £350 and using my 4x calculation it would go to £650. Using the £9m calculation it works out to about £4.50 a month per taxpayer between now and the start of the Games, assuming the Lottery puts up a couple of billion. I see private industry is still in for $150 million, although that is a bit of a rounding error on the general calculation.

Another way to look at it is to take £9bn and estimate the daily burn rate. Using rough maths, where a year has 220 working days, its about 900 days to start of the Games, which is around £10m per day spending rate, assuming it was linear.

I expect to see charts.
qlympic village 2008
Current status 2008

black squirrel in the garden

squirrelThere's been much talk of the urban grey squirrels seeing off the rural red squirrels in London and that only the North of England, Scotland and the Isle of Wight still have the red squirrels. Now there is also talk of black 'super squirrels'. I had an urban squirrel moment today when, like something from a movie, a helicopter was hovering around the back of the house.
heli1
I managed to snap a quick picture, somewhat fuzzy, and then with the miracle of Aperture turned a blurred dot into a recognizable form, complete with the tail identification of G-NTWK. A quick google later and I could piece it together as a Aérospatiale AS 355F2 Ecureuil 2 'Squirrel' helicopter working for Network Rail and presumably looking for some track to inspect with the prominent camera.
heli2
I suppose its a black and yellow squirrel.

Monday, 21 April 2008

abuse of power comes as no surprise

grantacat
I'll admit it. I'm a closet Granta reader. Have been for ages. Granta calls itself the magazine of new writing. And it is. Except its a book and has very few adverts.

But it always has great content and what makes it interesting is also that there will be a mix of really new writing and some existing well known authors experimenting or providing some form of topical commentary, which can't always directly make it to their fiction for timeliness or experimental reasons.

The Spring 2008 issue landed a couple of days ago and I just opened it to get the endorphic buzz from the very special ink they use which persists aromatically for a few days but is always strongest at the moment of first inspection. I really can be found with my nose buried in a book when Granta arrives.

This copy is also a little different. They have adapted the format ever so slightly. The intriguing thing about Granta's 'look' is that it has always appeared like a capsule from the near future and they continue to make minor styling adjustments to achieve this. The new editor Jason Cowley has also added some very short sections to the front and even a letters page, for feedback. At this rate it will really become a magazine. Not bad from origins back in 1889. They are also about to drop the modern archives into their web site and add some new daily content.

So I'll pick an article or two. First up is one of my heroes, Douglas Coupland (yes, he of Generation X and the amazing "Girlfriend in a coma"). He writes about (Maximum Bob take note) Visual Thinking and how, last summer in Vancouver he attended a screening of the (cult) movie classic "Helvetica". He describes how he wanted to hold a pennant with "Helvetica Neue(T1) 75 Bold" to show his allegiance. That he thinks in Helvetica. That the world has different reading audiences and and he writes for the Mac users - the visual thinkers. That some people get this and the rest don't for they are the PC thinkers. Medium and message melt together.

Or maybe the Paris Intifada, where Andrew Hussey writes about the banlieue outside the boulevards peripheriques which mark the edge zone of Paris and the million immigrants who live in this area, in varied groupings by nationality and religion. The Bagneux zone of Arabs and West Africans and the contrast with the Semite areas of Rancy. Ghosts may walk in the daylight of Paris but I'm not sure that Sarkozy has figured any form of exorcism.

By now I'm around page 50 of 280 and I've only picked quickly at a couple of the articles. There's another about Beijing and their attempts to banish the past in time for the Olympics and Annie Proulx has a short story next to a photo essay about the Arctic.

You'll detect my enthusiasm. Check it out.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

hard drive failure

hard drive power supplyIt happens to everyone who uses computers. The annoying failure of a hard drive. Nowadays I back up the home system using Apple's Time Machine, which somehow backs up everything every time a computer is somewhere that the network can see it. The only trouble is, a few days ago the backup disk itself went wrong.

The lights still came on when I restarted it, but I could hear a little clicking from inside the case. The disk contained the backups of a couple of other computers. I've had similar problems before with disks that I use to store video.

Each time, the fix has been the same. A new power supply brick. £25. Problem solved with no screwdrivers. I've just tried the same with this broken unit and it worked. The replacement power unit has boosted the drive back into action.

I must admit I'm suspicious, but I now I've swapped out three of these 'bricks' and each time the disks work again, so I'm posting this as a hint to others. One was a Lacie Big Drive and the other two occasions have been iomega Ultramax. All three were terabyte - perhaps that should be terrorbyte.

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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Billy Bragg Rough Trade Brick Lane

Dagenham Lad
Shoreditch is an area famous for markets, Brick Lane and curry houses. The pubs like the "Edie Sedgwick meets Sweeney Todd" Commercial Tavern where we met are geared up for the night-time drinking at any time. They do this by making the interiors very dark, lighting candles and it really works. More a staging post than a destination. We were holed up there before taking the short walk to a record store - Rough Trade - as part of Independent Record Store Day.

The shop is just off of Brick Lane by the old Truman's Brewery and was pretty busy when we arrived. A DJ set was playing with members of an ex techno kraut rock band called Can. We were waiting for the man from Essex to show up with his guitar and a few minutes later, there was the click of a telecaster styled guitar being plugged for action.

Then we were all asked to move forward a bit which meant we were right by the speakers. "How loud?" asked Billy as he started. "Louder" came the response. And then a set of well known goodies played with Billy Bragg's characteristic style, interspersed with banter which included some stories of his own time working in a record shop which sold remaindered Indian vinyls.

Just because you're better than me
Doesn't mean I'm lazy
Just because I dress like this
Doesn't mean I'm a narcissist

The factories are closing and the army's full -
I don't know what I'm going to do
But I've come to see in the Land of the Free
There's only a future for the Chosen Few

Just because you're better than me
Doesn't mean I'm lazy
Just because you're going forwards
Doesn't mean I'm going backwards


An excellent set; we all left happy, with smiles on our faces and a ringing in our ears. Kudos to all involved. No video from the event, but here's one I prepared earlier

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the WindIn Drury Lane to see the new production of "Gone with the Wind", which is still in preview, with the press night next week.

Most people have seen the film of Margaret Mitchell's American Civil War story, with scheming Scarlett O'Hara and philandering Rhett Butler played this time by Jill Paice and Darius Danesh,

The largish 1960s New London Theatre in Drury Lane used to be the home to the musical Cats and maybe could do with a southern states makeover on the way in to the show.

The iconic Selznick film was around three and a half hours and this musical production is of a similar length. The cast of around 35 people work their way through more or less the same story as in the film, but with the supplement of around 10-15 two to three minute musical numbers. This creates a significant logistical challenge; how to tell the full story whilst simultaneously incorporating the musical numbers. One approach is to tell the story quite fast and in some cases bridge parts of it with spoken commentary. They do this frequently, although one gets the impression that there has already been some fairly heavy pruning to get the length to 3h30.

I believe Trevor Nunn has directed this production, and I have a few suggestions to turn a moderate show into a very strong one.

1) Revisit the musical score. Try to put a theme or two which run though the length of the production. Give the audience something to take away. There needs to be a couple of memorable hooks.

2) Adapt the way that the music is played. Its quite syrupy in places, with more musical parts than really makes sense. Some of the 'slave' numbers could sound better acapella. The harp used in the Irish number is okay, but don't then incorporate it into every other number. Make more use of the southern states instruments like the banjo instead of creating a sort of light orchestral musical soundtrack. Use the piano, the guitar more - for example, the harmonica works well in a few places. More on-stage instruments would also be better.

3) Get rid of the superfluous narrative "she walked back to the house" whilst she walks back to the house and similar. People around me were fidgeting during some of these pieces.

4) Find some further pieces to cut out. Its really too long at the moment and another 20 or even 30 minutes shaved off wouldn't do any harm. If necessary drop some storyline instead of cramming everything with high speed speech. Decide which of the scenes and set pieces really add something. The revolving bed birth scene can go for starters. What does the little boy with the Oliver wig do in the show?

5) If needed use the overhead flag as a media projection area to tell some pieces with pictures or short video. Trust me it would work better.

6) Take careful stock of some of the more awkward sections, like when the woman is dying in bed but then unpredictably breaks into a song. I cringed and the people behind me burst out laughing and I'm sure that wasn't the intended effect. This ain't la Traviata: 'Gran Dio! morir si giovane '.

7) Character empathy is difficult when so much is crammed into the available time. I don't think 'Ashley' cut a very sympathetic character, yet would be a pivotal part of the original book and film.

8) Recognise that some of the lines from the film are 'classic quotes' and play them well. I could sense the audience flinch when one of the famous lines was more or less thrown away by Scarlett.

9) A little gentle humour would help. Make one of the guys waving the flag a comic figure. There are already plenty of bland heros and it gives the audience a point of identification.

10) The slaves really blasted out their numbers well. A couple more spots from them creates a counterpoint to the other songs. They could still be singing part of the story, but it could work better and be a way to précis a bigger piece of the action. Sharpen the points of view within the Tara household.

Why so many suggestions?

I suppose I want to try to stay positive and constructive. The actors in this seemed to be trying to deliver a good performance, but are hampered by the production. Its a great shame because this is a bold show to attempt and has the potential to be a runner if it is done right.

At the moment it gives the impression that it still needs more work on the production and so I hope Trevor 'les miz' Nunn and a helper or too are thinking strongly about how to get this into good shape and not simply by more marching on the spot with flags or running in circles over bodies. They're both in Trev's French musical.

gardening clubThe ending of the show stays linked with that of the film, although it was disconcerting to see a few rude people leaving 'a la soccer match' before the final goal, so to speak. I gather they lose around 100 during the interval, but I suppose we really need a trend analysis to see which way this is heading.

I'm told by my rational accomplices that the pre-end departures were a consequence of people not wanting to miss 'last trains home' although I suppose this could also affect the mid-week audience attendance.

Being a Friday, we just decided to move on to the nearby Rock Garden for the next stage of our evening. Last trains? Pah!

The critics get to see this next week. I hope they don't just go for the headline clichés about 'Frankly, I don't give a damn' (already on all of the tee-shirts on sale) although at the moment the show teeters between a strong idea and something still in need of more musical and production work.

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independent record store day

record store dayI buy music from varied sources; record shops, supermarkets, the internet and amazon. I see that today is intended to be a celebration amongst independent record stores of their form of retailing. I'll try to drop by a store if I can - but of course with the march of zavvi, HMV and Tesco there are fewer and fewer independent record stores left, except in sometimes more unusual locations often on the edge of town.

I'm hoping to drop by Rough Trade, who should be throwing a mini celebration of their own - then maybe a curry in Brick Lane.

Friday, 18 April 2008

smollensky's

smollensky's
I've been flittering around the City and Canary Wharf the last few days. I managed to arrange to meet a friend for a couple of drinks in Smollensky's whilst in Canada Square. We both know the area well and I'd suggested meeting at the flying saucer and the alternative suggestion was Reuter's Square and although we both knew each others' suggestions approximately, neither of us were quite sure.

Smollensky's is a good alternative landmark, next to 'the clocks' which just about everyone knows (12 clocks in a circle on poles).

Of course we had the 'duh' moments when we realised the saucer was the big blue one in the middle of the area by the HSBC and Citicorp buildings and the Reuters Square is the the one with the Reuters ticker and the big TV screen with Reuters news. Hmm.

Smollensky's tables were empty when I arrived and the music was gentle in the background. A couple of drinks later it was bangin' as everyone piled out of the nearby skyscrapers for a quick drink after work.

Then today I was meeting a couple of other folk at a coffee bar in the City, although I noticed as I walked past the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England, that an Angel in a suit with silver leggings was hanging around, presumably to hear the latest about the RBS rights issue.
angel of the city

Thursday, 17 April 2008

pooped?

pope
Now that the Brown era is almost at an end, we can start to speculate about the replacement.

Turning up in the USA on Titan air because BA couldn't supply a plane and then being bumped in priority by the Pope didn't start Gordon's day well.
titans
Having George Bush's advisors forgetting to mention that the main action would be in Washington, rather than New York doesn't sound like an accident.

Then being stood up by Mbeki, the South African president, can't have boosted self esteem. And needing his appearance on the Simon Cowell show explained to a nation that still thinks Blair is the PM. Not so good.

But still better than the emerging commentary about 'Mr Bean visits the US'. Oh dear.

To top it all, the not-fired Chancellor Darling referring in rather high profile speeches to the need for the UK Government to sharpen its ideas. Cripes. Maybe Darling has done a deal with someone to stay in a position after the next leadership change.

So will the next era be the undefinable Miliband's? or maybe simply Balls? And I see Tony Blair is popping into the USA next week, after Gordon and the Pope have left.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

difficult to fathom

tag
Yikes, I got tagged by starlet and its kind of astrological.

If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged!

TAGGING RULES:
1. Mention the person who tagged you and create a link back to them.
2. Copy-paste the traits for all the twelve months (see below).
3. Pick your month of birth.
4. Highlight the traits that apply to you.
5. Tag some people and let them know by visiting their blogs and leaving them a comment.
6. Let the person who tagged you know when yours is up!


(my Wednesday version below, Thursday might be different)
NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.


The Twelve Months
The Twelve Months
JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.

NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Harry Potter cloned

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Spookily, truth can be stranger than fiction. Even Harry Potter fiction. A mere couple of weeks after my spoof April Fool's story about a pretend Harry Potter book, there is now a genuine case and Joanne Rowling has been in court in New York asserting her rights to the Harry Potter properties.

Someone created a web site index to Harry's world and recently decided to publish it as a guide book. JK Rowling had a similar idea to create 'glossary/index' but as a work for charity.

The book at the centre of the case was for commercial gain. I happen to think that someone merely copying the index to Rowling's work is rather shabby and looking for holes in copyright law. Fair enough when fans do this kind of thing for no commercial gain, but a commercial work does raise interesting ethical questions.

The case is still running; we shall have to wait to see the outcome.

Monday, 14 April 2008

penny

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A few of us decided to grab a bite to eat after a late finish in the office. We formed an orderly convoy and steered ourselves towards a rather agreeable restaurant in a large stately home, complete with spa and golf course.

The dinner was stylishly presented and we all chatted for around three hours until cars arrived to whisk some of our number away to a nearby hotel. I was heading for home, ready for an early start the next morning.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

sizzle

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This Sunday I woke up here. Another fairly hectic weekend which started innocently enough waiting for a train in a sleepy little train station somewhere called Riddleswick in deepest Surrey.
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I'd driven to the train station and was waiting on the platform, expecting Thomas the Tank engine to show up at any moment. In the end a sleek twelve coach mainline service arrived and our larger group then headed back to the car.

DSC_1602We were actually on the way to party, which was kicking off in the afternoon and then keeping going into the night. We'd decided to be there for the first part before heading into town for he evening. Last Sunday our barbecue was under 5cm of snow. This weekend it was possible to fire up a barbecue and start one of the rituals that reminds that spring is properly here.
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Then back via the South Circ for an evening in town. We expected to be around Waterloo but somehow ended up in Lambeth drinking dusty Mexicans which kind of leads me to the view from the room. Great last night and amazing in the sunshine this morning, at least until the rain clouds arrived at about eleven o'clock.
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I could see past Lambeth Bridge to Westminster Bridge in the distance, where there was a noticable absence of traffic. Sunday heralded the London Marathon and so there were plenty of road closures in the central area.

I could see the planes and helicopters buzzing overhead and realised that the end of the race was only about 15 minutes walk away, so what better than to take a look?
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And as I walke dtowards the Mall, I started to spot evidence of the race, streets close, police, medics, venues turned over to after race parties and people walking around with the distinctive flora carrier bags, in some cases wearing their medals or the tee-shirts provided at the end, emblazoned with 'Finisher'. At the time I was around the finish, it was still the faster rnners coming through, maybe at around times of just over three hours, with many being filmed at the line by the Press, the regulation Elvis, Marilyn, gorillas and tu-tus, with just about everyone whooping with joy at the line. More pix here
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Saturday, 12 April 2008

spandy

blown away
rashbre central is mixing popular music today before partying later and has composed a practice lyric and snapped an accompanying cover art. Translations available upon request.

Crusin' 14 hours straight
snagged a rockstar parkin' spot.
Already wired to the moon
when I got myself s-cubed.

Then checked G Manifesto
whilst lookin' for the game.
Cracked ace with wire-cutters,
hooked to B L Smooth.

We playas saw that it was wicked;
smoked a blunt to the dome.
Attract some ship it hotties
then deet club time for us.

flexin, flexin, flexin, flexin.
Yeah
flexin, flexin, flexin, flexin.

Agreeably old-skool?

balance

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Two or three blogs I read have all recently mentioned something about what and why they write and how they sometimes have ideas and other times it all goes blank.

A related question is whether writing about writing is part of the equation.

I say "anything goes" in a blog because, for each of us, its up to us to decide what we think is important, of interest or merely whimsical. Most days there will be something noteworthy, whether from a chance encounter with a van full of police, something on the telly, somewhere we've visited, what the politicians are doing, the latest groovy record from the Long Blondes and why Time Out's reviewer was wrong, whatever happened to cassette tapes or even whether its time to put fresh petrol in the mower now the grass has started to grow again.

Some say a proper blog should be mono-themed. "All about tote-bags" or similar. I'm sure this can help attract readers by the subject matter and even my dormant MIDI files site that I created one rainy day has clocked up four thousand hits without me ever adding any new content.

Single themes helps create limits and a type of community. For some people there's the comfort of rules, regulations and boundaries. Actually, for some there's the sheer genius of interpretation within a themed boundary. Checkout this week's Rick Astley pie chart, wonderbra yellow platform lines, Penrith's warning sign and IKEA furnished tube carriages.

I was going to post about adding videos to flickr today, but then I noticed the immediate phenomenon of new self appointed policemen operating on the site. There's already a community debate about whether or not flickr should even allow video to be added to its existing photography. Flickr have been clever though and already limit the video to 90 seconds, so its intended to be 'long photographs' and short artworks.

I innocently added a couple of snippets from my travels around London, to support the new London Video group, and as a consequence noticed the new regulators of the broader flickr video content. They seem to be patrolling to indicate in some cases that they don't approve of video additions to flickr. In other cases they've been adding their home made badges to videos which they thought had been edited or adapted in ways that they didn't think were appropriate to the new flickr ideas.

Personally, I'd rather give the site a chance to develop before applying the brakes in what can only be the first few days. I'm pretty sure the 90 second limit will stop much of the tv-download youtube content from being applied and it probably makes sense to give it a chance for people to experiment and find new styles.

I suppose its about living with the evolutions of the media and in much the way that film and vinyl have their role to play. Anyone that has tried to make videos knows how time consuming the editing can become, so there's a sort of self regulation to the amount of genuine home made content that can be added to flickr in any case.

So as I reflect on my picture from a few days ago of cops descending on some people on a street corner, I recognise there is a place for controls, but we have to be careful that the vigilance doesn't undermine the freedom.

Friday, 11 April 2008

sticky, but proud

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First there were the great Jaffa Cake wars, between McVitie's and HM Government about whether the humble Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. Biscuits and cakes are considered necessities in UK law and are zero rated for tax.

However, chocolate-covered biscuits are a luxury and subject to VAT at 17.5%. So back in the dark ages, McVities and HM Customs & Excise argued over whether the Jaffa Cake was a cake (no VAT) or a chocolate biscuit (lots of VAT).

The argument went to tribunal for resolution. McVities pulled a 12 inch Jaffa Cake out of the hat to prove cakiness over biscuityness.

BUT NOW

The same thing has happened in the multi year argument between Marks and Spencer and HMG about chocolate teacakes.

For anyone confused about chocolate teacakes, we are talking chocolate dome, marshmallow filling, optional red jam and a slightly crunchy base.

They have just been exempted from VAT in the same way that Jaffa Cakes were previously.

However, HMG's sly rearguard action is to say the VAT does not belong to Marks and Spencers, instead it belongs to the customers who paid it. I'm wondering whether to claim back my share of the £15million for some purchases I've made over the years.

BUT I'D BE CHEATING

And why would I be cheating? because there is really only one proper chocolate teacake.

The Tunnock.

It's the absolute overlord of the teacake domain. Tunnock teacakes don't have jam in them. They don't need jam. They have reached a pinnacle of marshmallow perfection inside the microthin crackly milk chocolate. Try putting one in the fridge before eating it. Miraculous.

Try the perforated Tunnock suction eating technique or the marshmallow popper (er, maybe too much detail).

Lets just say that these teacakes would be worth the VAT, if one had to pay it. Next time you visit a supermarket, look out for the top shelf yellow packaging and furtively score 6 or even 10 of these princely wonders.

You won't look back.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

la fille sur la pont

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Decided to go French this evening and watch a black and white movie. The one where the girl stands on a bridge ready to jump into the Seine, but is rescued by a cabaret knife thrower. A simple story, with expansive journeying across Europe, some scenes which pay respect to other movies and a stylishly lit black and white style.

Its a sort of comedy, where the power of two overcomes the bad luck of their individual lives. At one level the underlying story is one of two desparate people who become platonically successful when working the cabaret circuits and casinos of the Mediterranean.
girl on the bridgeThe girl played by Vanessa Paradis (nowadays partner of Johnny Depp) agrees to become the Daniel Auteuil knife thrower's target. Much of the story is a two hander between them, with incidental encounters akin to a road movie.

There's a fair amount of edgey blindfolded and bound knife throwing in the movie and the girl Adele has a fair few other encounters with passing men as the storyline progresses.

Its an interesting essay into screenplay too, with Patrice Leconte's direction making quite simple scenes and words tell a story which I find quite captivating, with its poetic underpinning of destiny and making one's own luck.

Follow the sound of the crickets.

base optimism or economic with the facts?

News outside Bank of England
I was passing the Bank of England in the City on Wednesday and noticed the news being filmed on the pavement. Interesting to hear a news outside broadcast in real life instead of from the television.

An ITN broadcaster was talking to camera about the gloomy IMF forecasts for the economy and the subsequent speculation whether or not there would be a further base rate cut Thursday. The rashbre central bet is another .25% reduction.

Our UK Chancellor Mr Darling says the UK's growth has been downrated less than everyone else and that is supposed to build our confidence.

When he goes on to say that UK economy could grow by up to 2.25% in 2008 and 2.75% the following year, he seems to be saying something at odds with the rest of the economists, who seem to be revising downward now to 1.6% for 2008.

Darling's statement predicts a range of 1.7%-2.25%, but the implication of the range and his statement of "optimism" are to direct thinking into to the 2%+ zone.

Of course it is great to have someone with such decisive visionary leadership skills managing our UK economy.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

repeat offender

jimmycarrBack from seeing Jimmy Carr doing a stand-up comic show. I arrived about 2 minutes before the start, and as I hadn't arranged the tickets, I was somehow expecting it to be the guy from the Friday Night Project. Jimmy Carr made a quip about this very topic in the first few minutes.

Carr mixes smarm with smut and I think one of his previous tours was called Charm Offensive. This one is called Repeat Offender and in between some cracker humour there were pops at just about anything that would get spoken about in hushed tones in the back bar.

There was a huge amount of content, good ad-lib banter with the audience and a pretty swift response to the occasional heckle. It was entertaining enough and felt like a good evening out.

My sort of 'but' is that when I've seen Dylan Moran or Peter Kay do stand-up, they can use wit over political incorrectness to drive their humour. Jimmy Carr did a slew of excellent one-liner gags and a few slightly longer ones, but I found the reliance on pivoting his jokes around political incorrectness a little wearing.

Judging from the hoots of laughter from the audience, I suspect I was in the minority.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

hello boys

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"Hello Boys" rises to a new level with the new Agent Provocateur advert beamed onto the side of Marble Arch.

Monday, 7 April 2008

baa

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Out in the Cotswolds today, for a meeting this morning, and then across to another one this afternoon in Surrey.

Passing through the countryside, with hardly a trace of yesterday's snow and showing green shoots on trees and plenty of new lambs bouncing about in the fields.

Of course, lambs have brown adipose tissue; that's different from white adipose tissue and helps keep them warm and snuggly.

Tomorrow, I'm in Watford!

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Sunday, 6 April 2008

Smashing

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The Wondermashers of Doctor Who's new series grabbed 8.4 million viewers on Saturday, apparently by taking an early screen time as 'the gateway to the evening'. Sounds more like something from the Torchwood rift to me.

The horse race earlier in the day attracted just over ten million viewers and the rather cheap ITV1 television filler programme TV Burps (offcuts from shows with apparently humorous commentaries) took the highest commercial television entertainment programme rating with 5.5 million. The Anne Robinson breast groping incident had about 5.5 million too.

titivating-a-quiz-show.jpgNo wonder there's cutbacks in TV drama production budgets, when a horse race, some crass and limp editing and titivation of a quiz show get nearly the same audience figures as a flagship BBC series.

I'll stay loyal to the idea of Doctor Who as good family 'hide behind the sofa' Saturday entertainment although this week the monsters were a tad too friendly looking to pose any real threat - maybe they grow up all snarly later in the series.

The Ms Foster character who 'foster mothered' them was modelled on the aforementioned Anne Robinson, albeit with different hair colouring. The new slapstick relationship between The Doctor and the Catherine Tate character was pretty slick. I've never really enjoyed the Catherine Tate shows and her comic book characterisations but since I heard her interviewing David Tennant on a Radio 4 show a couple of months ago, it was clear that the two of them had really hit it off.

Of course, most fans are probably waiting for the real monsters to show up, rather than a fairly tame set of squeaky micro Mr Blobbies. I know they were supposed to kill one million people as part of the plot-line, but it all seemed a bit detached in the way of a spreadsheet calculation, when you only got to see half a dozen non speaking extras writhing on the floor before being saved.

We also had a fleeting flash of Rose's eyeliner before she disappeared into a parallel universe again but the multiple ex Doctor Who assistant storyline has been well leaked so I guess that will help ratings further along the series.

The spaceship involved seemed to pay homage to Close Encounters (spinning top shape, flashing light, spiky bits) and it had multiple tractor beams to retrieve the so handy pack sized Adipose made of white fat tissue (WAT?) extracted from humans. I assume the Beeb is flexing its CGI muscles with the spacecraft and little aliens before the real baddies start to cut up rough in the rest of the series and I hope there will be some other dues paid to famous scenes.

I've series linked it on the Sky Plus now, and am sure I will watch the whole series. UK needs a few institutional television shows beyond the pure soaps.

Secret Winter Bomb Detonated

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In a leaked memorandum, it can be exclusively revealed by rashbre central that the UK Government authorized detonation of a Winter Bomb over southern England early this morning. Scientists at the closely guarded Chillingston Weatherby facility have been waiting for an opportunity to use these capabilities for over two years.

Reliable sources informed rashbre central that the escalated reason to use the officially named 'Climate Modification Capability' (CMC) was linked to today's planned run of the Olympic torch through Central London against the backdrop of protestors linked to China's civil rights record. The intention has been to create a weather-based diversion to reduce the impact of the event.

Other factors receiving beneficial side effects from the detonation include the London's Heathrow airport, where plausible weather based delays to flights allow workers a chance to relocate the 28,000 missing luggage items. The snow also mitigates against global warming concerns which this weekend saw gratuitous pictures of sun drenched British beaches in many of the red tops.
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Across the capital, unseasonally early barbecue plans were today halted as children switched from finding sun-blocker to looking for bobble-hats and scarves and prepared to build snowmen.

A spokesman for the Meteorological Office commented "We noticed an excessive buildup of snow clouds suddenly this morning at about 02:30. The weather pattern was unusual, as was the way that synchronized snowfall occurred in a cell pattern very similar to the planned route of today's London procession. However, there was also significant wind strength last night and the main weather system seems to have drifted south west from the originally expected position."
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There are now fears of people trapped indoors by the still rising quantities of snow drifting in some places to a height of several metres. The UK Government was unavailable for comment, having been delayed in traffic chaos caused by what has been described as the wrong kind of snow.