rashbre central: March 2008

Monday 31 March 2008

tera bite

If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me. I was running a full backup of a computer today, bizarrely because the backup disk itself had decided to start making a clonking sound. Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

The fresh backup says it needs to backup 1,518,289 things.

Forsooth, how careless we become with filing when it's all digital. Perhaps the overflow of good somehow converts to bad.

I suppose, like most of us, I just leave everything until full and then add more storage. So out of the nettle of danger, we pluck this flower, safety, to keep our systems secure.

Noting this doesn't include video folders (but does include iTunes and pictures), I wonder how the likes of writers in the past managed with simple paper and ink?

I just checked Shakespeare who penned a grand total of 884,647 words (thats words not items) to write his works, with (methinks) 31,534 different ones included. Not that I'm comparing quality (!) simply that creative life was simpler then with just ink and inspiration. Sometimes, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.

Sunday 30 March 2008


clockI loaned and borrowed a few DVDs last weekend.

So tonight, as reward for fixing the new and surprisingly snazzy £8.95 metallic venetian blind to the window in the loo, I watched the first film and somehow the time just flew by.

It was one of those 'classic' movies which I was sure I'd watched but somehow hadn't.

Saturday 29 March 2008

boat race

I lost the bet today. Oxford beat Cambridge. It's the only thing I bet on, but today I've earned the forfeit. My select syndicate bet with one another by phone and the debt will need to be settled in person very soon.

It was a rather wet day for the race, which also had a late start because of tides or something. Cambridge won the coin toss, picked the best position and did get off to a strong start. However, the big curve in the river was surprisingly difficult and Oxford managed to gain an edge, which served them well for the last part of the race.

The choppy river and the rain didn't help timings; it was about 20 minutes this year, whereas a fast time is more like 16 minutes.

Oh well. Cambridge will win next year.

Friday 28 March 2008

Non omnia possumus omnes

I admit it, I watch the Apprentice. I watched the very first UK series a few years ago at around two am on a hotel television somewhere, where they showed the episodes back to back. I somehow got hooked after just two shots. My warning is to step away from the television if you havn't already seen it.

So the new series started a few days ago and I've just got around to dialling it up on Sky Plus to watch as the new wannabes seek to impress Sir Alan. And who finer than Nicolas de Lacy-Brown, to be ejected from the first show for incorrectly labeling lobsters at £4.99 a pop? No wonder the stall had an instant queue as some of the finest specimens crawled icily around the display table - and that was just the other already fractious game players.

As this week's ejected player quotes at his online art gallery, we can't all do everything.

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buzzy.jpgGetting ready to go to bed this evening, I am greeted by the sound of a small light aircraft in the bedroom.

Okay it was just a bumble bee the size of a ping pong ball.

I tried to reason with it for a few minutes before it scuttled under the bed and stopped buzzing. So I waited a few minutes for it to emerge, but I think it must like the comfort of the carpet or something.

I shall sleep in another room because I'm too tired to chase it around now.

Thursday 27 March 2008

french dressing

french dressingThe French have come to town. But the zoom lenses seemed to be pointing towards newly demure Carla Bruni instead of Nicholas Sarkozy, in the very week when Carla's picture was up for auction at Christie's.

Of course, Mr Sarkozy has been trying to rebuild credibility back in his own country, where, after election, he seemed to go into something of downward slide, surrounded by the glint of overbling.

Visiting his near neighbours may be an interesting move, particularly as the Royals seemed to be able to dial up eleven on their own bling-ometer even to the extent of getting the horsemen in Windsor to wear special gold plated ceremonial suits - I wonder if that's a kind of Regal joke. I forgive Beckham's choice of golden football boots for the game against France, on account of his gaining his 100th cap, but there's some sort of quirky coincidence around all of this.
blingaling.jpgInteresting also to see that Dior clad la Bruni seemed to be on the platform for the important speeches delivered to Britain's great and good in French by her hubby. Many of the UK politicians seemed content to listen to the speech without translation and to be watching the new French reine des coeurs throughout. For the Sarkozys, the combination of visiting Windsor Castle, parading with horses and carriages through Windsor, plus a visit to Westminster Cathedral (ie the Catholic one rather than the Abbey) and then the Palace of Westminster all in the same day as touchdown is a pretty whirlwind experience.

And Nikki's speech in the gold encrusted Royal Gallery (which features distinctive pictures of two battles - Waterloo and Trafalgar) was all about entente cordiale and mutual support, including energetic references to working closely with the British in places such as Afganistan. Carla, who speaks significantly better English probably advised him not to mention the Guerre de Cent Ans, and will presumably be keeping an eye on things during the dinner occasions.
sarki sms
The next day should be quite interesting for the Browns who get a slot on what is primarily a State visit. After the big evening bash Wednesday night at Windsor Castle, the next day Mrs Brown entertains Carla, whilst Nicholas visits Gordon briefly in Downing Street before heading to a meeting at the Emirates Stadium.

More photo opportunities await.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

china pigeon

paper pigeon
Ambient activity, taking place in Leicester Square from 7am, will see the area filled with 5,000 Chinese origami pigeons.

Commuters and passersby will be encouraged to pick up one of the recyclable paper birds, which unfold to reveal a piece of modern Chinese artwork alongside information about the China exhibition, a map of how to get there and a money off voucher.
And if you fancy making a pigeon as good as the ones above from Emma, click through here to the video instructions or head over to Em's site which also features television coverage from the event.

Monday 24 March 2008


IMG_1417 - Version 2
Out west today, well Fulham, anyway. A group of us had decided to go to an Italian for lunch and the one we'd originally selected was closed for Easter, so we ventured slightly further afield.

London on a Bank Holiday - not too much traffic, no congestion charge and easy parking in a side street close to the restaurant.

And amongst the topics, a few film reviews, the alternative ending for Harry Potter, which only a couple of us had read, a suggested date for a visit to a venue in the Strand for a gig in what used to be a men's loo, planning for the Wednesday paper pigeon stunt in Leicester Square and some general chit-chat around Easter.

Then a leisurely meander back via Battersea.

Sunday 23 March 2008


swanExcitement with multiple phone calls from the Dome to rashbre central. The chink of champagne glasses at the distant venue, where the Eagles were preparing for the fast lane.

And at the Dome, other members of the rashbre clan in fizz laden celebration as an engagement was announced, for a wedding planned in August 2009.

From afar we mused the type of setting which will be possible with a year of preparation. I've already suggested white swans pulling a carriage along a petal strewn path, but we shall see.

Congratulations to J & G.

Saturday 22 March 2008


Henley this afternoon, principally for a late lunch, but also a quick meander around the town. Set on the River Thames and well known for the Royal Regatta in July, there were only a few rowing today in the rather crisply cold weather.

We dodged sleet and rain to visit our enjoyable venue and surfaced to witness the few minutes of near sunshine, before the wind and rain returned.

Friday 21 March 2008

Gardening Notes

Regular readers of rashbre central may not have detected the extent of rashbre acres spread today in sunshine glory despite the weather forecasts. The garden is on a kind of self help programme, with an occasional visit from a man with a trailer who somehow keeps it neat with two or three large, noisy machines.

And the garden has its sense of drama. The blackbirds commandeer various bushes for nesting and it all goes along in nice equilibrium until at some point a neighbourly cat appears and starts (a) patrolling and then (b) hiding in the bushes to er - surprise the birds.

So today, that's the scenario being played out, with the very street wise parent blackbird dodging around and making special alarm call sounds to warn the fledgling pilot young ones of the need for care.

Thursday 20 March 2008


Simulation to test the effect of traders injecting false rumours into the global economic structure using creme eggs and mousetraps. Press the start button to see the findings.

koffie time?

Pink Bicycle
Woah! - I've angemeldet and entered my waachtwoord tonight and everything is different again!

Amazingly, the Dow has leapt from the doldrums to add 420 points in a single day. Some would call this magic, some would call this a miracle and some might even attempt to make profit from this remarkable turnaround.

Perhaps everything I said yesterday was wrong. Perhaps the economy hasn't really got a hole in it.

Or maybe the Fed bouyed confidence by dropping base rate by a whopping 0.75% in a day, so that its now at its lowest level in years and close to the point where it can't really go any further. Or maybe even the further $200bn just slipped into the American economy through support for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac government back mortgages has some tiddle of an effect.

Perhaps Mr Bush reads rashbre central too, and felt compelled challenge my points in his speech just delivered to the Pentagon. He emphasized that the world is a better place as a result of the Iraq war. The half trillion spent has been worth it.

Perhaps my thinking needs adjustment. Perhaps I've been sitting in this koffie shop in Amsterdam too long and the smoke is beginning to get to me. I'll be seeing pink bicycles next.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

no problem

It looks as if the black holes in the global economies are starting to form now. I wondered some months ago what would happen to all the missing money and where it would finally come to rest.

Bush, Brown and a few other politicians have attempted to influence outcomes by lobbing extra reserves into the system in an attempt to stave off the problems. For Bush it was relevant to the US election year and better for him to hold problems until the other side of his term. Brown had already been given a hospital pass when he took the premiership with the interesting twist that he'd somehow thrown the ball to himself.

So now we can hear the gentle popping of major corporations. The Northern Rock was the highest visibility UK one, with around £50billion of missing money so far and climbing. Bear Stearns was the fifth largest investment house in the USA until a few days ago and the value at buyout of some $236m compares with $18bn around a year ago - or some 0.14% of the prior value.

In a few days, around 3-4% has been wiped from stock exchanges around the world, notably except the Dow, where the amount of intervention has kept it around neutral. The Fed dropping $30bn into help JP Morgan Chase absorb Bear Stearns may have just tipped the Dow positive. Somehow things seem to be on a very delicate edge at the moment with what seem to be huge quantities of reserve funding being used to plug the various gaps.

All of that overlooks the money pit of the Iraq war. Some would (perhaps cynically) say that Bush's original involvement with Iraq was partly done for economic reasons. Beyond all of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Resolution 1441 ambiguities that led to the war, there was also a view in some areas that the short term boost that followed the intense part of the war was a way to bolster the dot bombed US economy. Not to mention keeping a hold on middle eastern oil.

Experts such as the Centre for Economic and Policy Research tend to disagree that the 'stoke an economy through war' has anything beyond a short term effect and that by year six a war would have major negative economic consequences for the United States - we are currently at year five.

The spending on Iraq totals somewhere north of $400bn from the US so far and a current run rate of around $8bn per month, according to the CSIS Iraq Study Group.

Just starting to add together some of the numbers listed here illustrates the amount of money flow that drifts towards a hole of some sort. Whilst they were disaggregated it was difficult to see the scale of the challenges. Now there's the visible accumulation of loss and the knock on effect of this into the next layer of organizations.

As an example, another UK organisazation, HBOS, lost 12.5% after Bear Stearns, because of its rumoured links to US sub-prime. Other UK financials like Barclays dropped 9% and RBS by 8% and in the USA Merrill Lynch dropped 5%, Morgan Stanley 8% and CitiGroup 6%. More scarily, intra day, Lehman Brothers dropped 46% but corrected after the chief exec issued a statement.

The problem now seems to be that most of the conventional corrective tactics have been played. The last few Bank rate reductions haven't worked. Last week's $200bn injection by the Fed didn't work. The UK and US Government are now both bailing out a significant financial services institution. And still somewhere there's 'missing money' which has been driven by corporate commission-driven sales tactics and efforts to boost global economics on the back of warfare.

I'm sure the politicians will want to make the best they can of a lumpy carpet, but the dirt is really beginning to pile up. The only vacuum in town seems to be the one created by this ever expanding global deficit.

Tuesday 18 March 2008


Amsterdam 007
My plane arrived slightly early tonight, so I was feeling smug as I negotiated the double revolving doors to the outside of the airport.

Then whoosh! A sudden barrage of tiny hailstones that lasted about ten minutes. I was waiting for Guus to show up in his big black Chrysler and had arranged to meet him by the vast television screen near the airport taxi rank.

There were about fifteen other people with similar plans huddled into the little glass shelter, and I was just getting ready to make a dash to the other distant empty shelter, when I spied the distinctive car and the reassuring flashing of headlights. An effortless drive into rainy Amsterdam and now I'm sitting with a local beer in a bar around the corner from this street.

Tomorrow and Thursday I will have my nose to the grindstone, so I guess I won't have much time for wandering although I expect a group of us will pitch up for a dinner tomorrow evening. Still. Amsterdam's distinct character with canals, narrow streets, merchant houses, bicycles, cafes and bars, sweet smelling cigarettes (!), liberalism, tourists and bustle permeates even a short visit.


once 02.jpgLate finish from work but then another movie evening, this time with the musical called Once, which was filmed in Dublin for about €130k. There's a busker played by Glen Hansard and Czech Republic immigrant pianist played by Marketa Irglova. Simple plotline building towards making a music recording against a backdrop of his torn breakup and hers with a child and husband in home country. Not a musical in the Hollywood sense, but a good "Ahhh" ending.

Endearingly played and filmed with often handheld digital video. It mixes in natural lighting, grabbed street scenes and I believe a number of the actors who were relatives of people in the production. It seems to capture Dublin well and the love of the music shines through. I really enjoyed it and can see why it played well at the indie box-office. Interesting that quite a few movie watchers thought it was based on a real situation. Enthusiastic guerrilla film making done really well.

Monday 17 March 2008


pillow fight day

American Gangster

american gangster
I cracked open the DVD of American Gangster, which I missed at the cinema. First dilemma was that there were two versions of the film, apparently with different endings. Conservatively, I decided to go for the original movie theatre version, which is also some 18 minutes shorter than the re-cut version.

It's Ridley Scott directing Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in a pseudo true story about the rise of black gangster Frank Lucas. As a Harlem based gangster, he buys heroin direct from Bangkok creating a New York street price that upsets the Mafia. The police are on the take except messily honourable New Jersey cop Crowe, whose job is to reel in these bad folk.

Washington plays Lucas as a princely, if cold blooded hoodlum; I suspect the real version was somewhat rougher around the edges. Strangely, the 'chasing Lucas plotline' only comes out quite late in the film, so the usual 'cat and mouse' aspects are missing.

There's some rise to fame scenes, Thailand jungle moments, bribed US military drug shipments, a lower order criminal who gives the game away and then an intercepted military transport plane which is dismantled a la French Connection. The drugs turn out to be in the base of the coffins being carried back from Vietnam and then there's a heavy duty raid on the drug manufacturing plant in the Projects of Harlem.

Its shot in a sort of seventies brown, no doubt for atmosphere, but if I'm honest I found it to be okay rather than great. I think there have been other films across this territory, both mafioso based and rootin-tootin cop thrillers. Consequently I found this well acted but sort of tame and formulaic. Probably a bit long, too. Even the section leading up to the discovery of the two tons of heroin packed into the presumably somewhat heavy coffins I found laboured.

I suppose a lot of this story has been done in other films so many of the scenes had a slight 'paint by numbers' feel. I know that Bourne, Godfathers, Goodfellas, LA Confidential and similar have genre components, but they all seemed to have some extra grip or zing that I found missing from this one.

I've still got the other version to watch, but I think it could be some time before I come back to this Hollywood Blockbuster. Meantime, I see ex members of NYC DEA have raised a class action lawsuit against Universal for the film's allegations of corruption in New York.

Sunday 16 March 2008


kristen03.jpgThere's quite a difference in the coverage of some events between the USA and UK. The current big US scandal story gets around page seven coverage over here. Its about about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and "Kristen"/Ashley Alexandra Dupre the expensive lady who takes the train from New York to Washington to consort consult with him in hotel rooms.

And rashbre central's hastily assembled webcam of Kristen is not part of a negotiation, in case anyone is mistaken. She seems friendly enough over at her myspace website and even has a pop song as Nina Venetta called "What we Want" to promote.

Like Kristen, family man Foxy Spitzer seemed to need a different name whilst in room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel, but allegedly used his 5th Avenue, NY address, which perhaps could help the billing for these diamond rated services. The redacted transcript of the wiretap (P27 onwards) explains this and shows that Client 9 had to have Kristen described.

Apparently, the payment is normally by wire at an hourly rate back to QAT Consulting of New Jersey which is outside of Eliot Spitzer's jurisdiction, unlike Staten Island where he closed down a similar operation. However, Client 9 had some credit and seemed to pay cash. Client 4 seemed to have asked whether QAT could be classed as a legitimate business and therefore properly expensed.

So I can't help wondering if the US taxpayer has been paying for any of the "comprehensive and hands on" services provided by QAT Consulting and who else in power is a member of the Emperor's Club VIP from whence these ladies are supplied?

Here in the UK its much simpler; we have a television family show to select the next stars to appear in the West End production of Charles Dicken's story of a child exploiter and his lady of the night accomplice, Nancy. In fairness, when the phone votes open we can select the ragamuffin street lady, but the principal exploited boy will be chosen by the judges. And this preview of the next production of Oliver Twist is something I don't mind paying my licence to enjoy.

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Saturday 15 March 2008

The Diamond Age

science fiction
I can't say I've ever really enjoyed the Star Wars films although I like the ideas of future/science fiction and so forth. One of the good things about the very first film was that it portrayed space related artifacts as slightly beaten up. Much like cars in Winter, the elements had a chance to spatter grit around.

Its the same around at rashbre central, when a piece of theoretically gleaming technology has to be taken into the repair shop.

It has just happened to my little work PC, which suddenly had a collection of meltdowns. First the keyboard fatigue that somehow makes rashbre central a source of google hits for people emulating my technique to reapply loose keys. Then the buzzy fan which sounds like a hovercraft preparing for Channel crossing. Then the clicks from the special shock absorbing disk and finally the one that clinched it - the blank screen. Not Blue screen. No screen. Oh dear.

Resourcefully I just plugged in a spare monitor into the erstwhile laptop until I could find a time to drop it in for repair. It was a day I was travelling abroad and I could afford to operate from Blackberry. But then I got the phone call. It said - "when we switched your machine on, the disk failed - so we have to make you a new fresh image of your disk".

Some would go weak at the knees from such news, but I'd already backed up the entire disk, so I could laugh it off. And sure enough, they've given me a replacement machine with a new disk. Same model, same age and I've noticed the 'new image' seems to mean that a few popular office products seem to now close with mystery errors involving serious looking hexadecimal codes.

So perhaps Star Wars is right and we are closer to scruffy cyberpunk rather than gleaming sci-fi.

Friday 14 March 2008


darling2.jpgPerhaps this week's budget speech by Darling was a clever ploy to camouflage whatever parlous state we are in fiscally. Everyone expected his delivery to be boring and by popular accounts it was more of an incantation, perhaps suited to a wizard from Harry Potter.

Most of the budget information had been leaked in advance, which used to be a sackable offence. Presumably nowadays its to give all the management accountants a chance to get their at-a-glance briefings prepared. It certainly meant that much of what he said was recited like so many lines from a dull spreadsheet.

And no 'special something' to brighten up the fagsgasnbooze increases.


Yet a first budget, which would have been the ideal time for Darling to make his mark on something. Maybe he's already done that with his dithered assistance to Northern Rock's flailing deficit or the way he presided over the Department which lost 25 million citizen records.

Its likely that Pa Broon asked Alistair to keep a low profile as he's not already been fired for any of the above points. A hint now that the next election won't be until 2010, but maybe a separate bet whether Darling makes it that far. Unless, his near neighbour in Scotland, JK Rowling, gives him some new spells.

Thursday 13 March 2008

car cam revisited

A dirty pretty remix of Wednesday's meander across West London featuring M3, M25, M4, A4, Hogarth's, Hammersmith, Knightsbridge, Beauchamp Place, Sloane Street, Sloane Square, Chelsea Bridge. Finishing at the Snack Bar.

copy cats say cheez

Those new London posters from the Met about how to report terrorists have been getting a fairly rapid set of copy cats. I particularly like this one by the mainly anonymous lex10. I suppose we'd all better be mindful now about taking photos of surveillance cameras in London, carrying multiple phones or swapping SIMs.

2 cool for catz.



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Tuesday 11 March 2008

blowin' in the wind

I woke on Monday to the sound of wheely bins careering around the pavement.

The rather strong Ides of March had playfully decided to beat the bin men to the recycling contents and to playfully scatter papers all over the road aided and abetted by the rain.

I don't think it would make a very enchanting picture, so instead, as I sit here this evening in the full aroma of daffodils and tulips scenting the room, I thought an appropriate picture would instead be the unusual view of the London Eye that I awoke to a few days ago.

Monday 10 March 2008

Mad Men

I've just watched the second episode of this show by some of the Sopranos team, with a slew of new actors. I really want to like it but I'm struggling at the moment. Its certainly well filmed and luscious but I'm not sure about the pacing which may be a little slow for modern viewing. As a quick 'for instance' Tin Men was on television yesterday - the one set in a similar era about the scams of selling aluminum house cladding with Danny de Vito, and I must say that had a more driven plotline, sharper cuts and still funny observations of the time.

I guess the challenge with Mad Men is that in between the clever evocative Madison Avenue 1960 colour schemes there's an acting style that seems to owe too much to old TV re-runs from the era. The press releases all say how wonderful this show is and historically accurate and so forth but I wonder then if it sways towards unnecessary reverence in some of the portrayals.

For my eyes there's still to much sign-posting around the what would be judged in 2008 as political and social incorrectness of the 1950s turning into the 1960s. Tonight when the girl walks in playing spacemen with a clothing plastic bag over her head, the comments about 'I hope you haven't left my dry cleaning on the floor' seemed just a little too forced. And when our secretary heroine is being eyed by the 'red blooded office men' it gets a lengthy montage in case anyone is missing the point.

The equivalent 1970s incorrectness of the British 'Life on Mars', for me, usually in a split second gesture gives a more robust counter to some of the social change between the decades.

So back on Madison Avenue, there's the new girl in the office, who presumably will fall inappropriately for one of the other office workers by the end of the first series. There's the main man with a pretty but ailing wife and bohemian mistress (who probably lives on Bleeker St., but I suspect another couple of episodes before that unfolds). I'm concerned that we have another psychiatrist supporting a main character though in Sopranos it was Tony, this time it's the wife. And there's the sort of barber's shop quartet of main man's office buddies, all of whom smoke copiously and drink manhattans, old fashioneds and similar cocktails from about 11am.

At the moment I'm struggling to find characters to like. Perhaps they will do more with the advertising campaigns that get passing mention. Cigarettes, Nixon and new aerosol Right Guard all have potential, but somehow are being underplayed. Maybe I'm looking for plot when the series main ticket is a form of sixties evocation that I don't properly comprehend.

Perhaps I need a blast of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to set me more in the era. Bring on 169 East 71 Street. And maybe some cultural drift from the real 1960s into what is presumably still a late 1950s workplace. Don't think twice, its alright.

Sunday 9 March 2008

neutral sons

People sometimes talk about parallel universes, in my case there is sometime the one between visible and hidden. So when the CD I'd acquired from Neutral Sons morphed into a hidden world for several months, it meant I'd moved from a brief initial hearing to being unable to make more informed comment.

Fortunately, its resurfaced in all its yellowy greenness and spins as I type. Inbetweentimes I'd listened to some tracks on the web-site and also an impromptu live jam somewhere in a bar, via melanie.

Anyway, the album is filled with silky goodness. How to describe? Two primary musicians Richard Knutson and Mark Cottrell have somehow collaborated across the space between UK and USA and provided a mix which is very seamless even with the musicians sending each other takes of their parts of the tracks.

The more conventional tracks have a shimmery floating quality with layers of instruments backed with ambient choruses sometimes of singing, other times of strange and mysterious sounds.

'Drop out' has a quite Zappa-esque feel and there's some subsequent pieces that maybe pay some dues to Captain Beefheart. Further along several species of small furry animals may well have been gathered together in a cave and be grooving with a Pict. I don't mean its all 'Ah feel like Ahcid' stomping, but rather that there is considerable variety with jazzy wah-ed guitars and slices of flange and phase washing across some of the tracks. Parts of the vocal can sound a little Velvet Underground early days although the majority of the record has a bubbly uplifting vibe.

I don't want to attempt to over categorize though, because this is really an album to listen to on its unique creative merits. There's tracks which have been given a chance to breathe like rm 101, which, whilst short, takes a simple riff and provides a sensible chorused progression of the idea.

I may have to sit munching picasso truffles and vanilla beans whilst I listen. There's clear care and attention to the mixing and some rather good wide spacey stereo too, more enveloping and swirly than just nailing the instruments to a position. The ambient pieces made me look around a few times before I realized there were little pingy effects and voices off that have been dripped into the mixing.

So I mentioned parallel universes at the beginning and indeed this album finishes with a dark universe, but along the way has yielded a partisan and committed soundtrack - anything but neutral.

flat surfaces

Some time spent decluttering today. There seemed to be more stuff coming indoors than going out and I needed to adjust the equilibrium.

Yesterday I junked a seriously large amount of unneeded items and today was similar. So indoor areas show more clear horizontal surfaces again, which is always a good sign. When I've done this before I've also managed to donate items to others fairly successfully, but even that needs a time limit.

My retention/rejection criteria included: Does it make me smile? Have I used it in the last year? Can I squish two of something down to one instead? Are there boxes of stuff that haven't been used at all for the last year? I could probably have been more calculated, but this seemed to work well enough.

Saturday 8 March 2008

economy of intelligence

Unexpectedly, a complementary copy of the Economist's foray into quarterly publications thudded through the letterbox a few days ago, with a personalised letter dated February 2008.

The heavy volume was titled Winter 2007 and I can't help thinking they may have had a few left over as the news included the upcoming Led Zep concert (December) and somewhere a picture of figgy pudding.

Big format, thick matt art paper, I was expecting something quite special. Unfortunately, the advertisers have better grasped the page size compared with the journalists. A few classy jewellry, perfume, watch and fashion advertisements leading into...an airport seat back magazine. Genre equivalents like Vanity Fair or even the ft's 'How to spend it' do the job better. And I'd rather read 'Why things suck' in Feb's Wired than the pathetic analysis of what's wrong with airports in the freebie. And twice baked potatoes don't suck, by the way.

Advertising itself as "Intelligent Life" I found it more of an unfortunate contribution to the wrong side of the carbon footprint debate. Perhaps the website version will be better although as that still promotes the Winter version too, I wonder if their heart is really in this project?

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Friday 7 March 2008

jammy dodger

I see they are talking about new pay lanes on some of the UK motorways around London, like the M3 and M4. The idea is to make the outside lane chargeable in the rush hour and cars would have some kind of sensor like the TAG that's already used on the M6.

I'm sure there will be big debate about this, on top of congestion charge and £25/$50 per day parking for London.

But my guilty confession is that I couldn't help smiling whilst in Milan this week being driven around in big black Mercs that zip around all kinds of special lanes that bypass the normal traffic.

The driver yesterday even had a black peaked cap and sunglasses. When I worked regularly used in Milan I thought that Italian traffic didn't really park, it was just momentarily at rest. Yesterday, my driver reversed up along the pavement to the front door of the building where I was working and then used a combination of bus and taxi lanes and some special routes separate from the slow main traffic to drive me around.

So I'm sure the UK arguments about the pay lanes will escalate, but for a day I can't help admitting its quite fun to speed past the jams.

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Thursday 6 March 2008

my manic and milan

Speaking of Union Chapel, I was also supposed to be there tonight, because I'd got one of the magic tickets to see Laura Marling and others performing live. Unfortunately, despite leaving Milan centre at 17:00 to take the fast route back to Linate, it was all in vain because the plane was delayed taking off.

The pilot made suggestions that we'd be able to fly really fast knocking some 40 minutes off the advertised time, but as I suspected it was uphill on the way back and we actually arrived around 30 minutes late.

By the time we'd got steps to the plane, been bussed around half of Heathrow and then retrieved my car it was around 21:15. With the gig about 50 minutes away if the traffic was perfect, I had to cut my losses and admit defeat.

So above, instead, is Laura Marling singing to accompany me taking a drive this evening across Milan to the airport.

And here, as Siouxsie Sioux leaves the stage, is Laura singing 'New Romantic' on Jools Holland.

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Wednesday 5 March 2008


I've gone a bit folk-poppy this week listening to er - Goldfrapp - whose recent album surprises by swinging away from phat dance basslines (ok there are still some) and now twirling some acoustic jangly bits into the mix.

The album start is reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell encircled with a warm sweeping synth. The poppiest track is probably 'Happiness' and was played on Jonathan Ross last weekend.

The less obvious choice for the videotrack is called A&E (Accident and Emergency) and appears to be describing someone slipping in and out of consciousness after too many tablets.

Goldfrapp's private warmup gig on Monday at the Union Chapel was to fans before they tour. Hopeful ambassadors for new inventiveness whilst tipping a hat to some different genres.ucgI'm also pleased to see another CD 'worth buying' with some more imaginative artwork including a little notebook of hand scratched lyrics and artwork alongside a yet to be watched DVD.

This album takes the owl as its totem suggesting secrets and truth and for Goldfrapp yet another direction.

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Tuesday 4 March 2008

tiger tiger

Part of Saturday's plan was to also find a bar nearby the Haymarket Cinema. The Haymarket is very close to Piccadilly but instead of our usual wandering around Soho, we'd called toptable to get us a rendezvous point very close to the theatre.

They suggested Tiger Tiger, which is only about 100 meters from our destination, so we went along with their choice.
tiger tiger lounge
We somehow missed what a lot of people know about this venue and a particular type of event which takes place there - especially at weekends.


Hen nights. I suppose I should have said Hen Nites.
tiger tiger
We'd been there less than ten minutes when the first group trouped in with several balloons and a selection of other inflatables.

About five minutes later a group with black sashes appeared, but they circulated and then hit the bar.

A few moments later a large group wearing pink sashes which flashed with little red lights arrived. They had balloons as well as a rather large inflateable champagne bottle. The smaller black sash group then seated and the pink group took over the bar area.

it was clear that things were going to get progressively more raucous, and as we left, a group with little cats ears were just arriving.

Tiger Tiger would seem to be well and truly on the same circuit as the pole dancing and bus parties.

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Monday 3 March 2008


HP fiji
I wonder if its a reaction to the embarrassment of a few days ago that has caused Gordon Brown to make his latest Public Relations move?

For those that missed the first story, which was well publicised at the time in the London papers, Gordon Brown somehow endorsed tourist travel to Fiji. Furthermore the picture used and which is still on the Fiji website shows Gordon with a bright red flower behind his ear.
PM fiji
In case any Londoners missed this, it was helpfully projected onto the side of the Houses of Parliament during the week as well by some people protesting about this type of Prime Ministerial endorsement. Neighbouring countries to Fiji, such as Australia and New Zealand are particularly aggrieved because of the military dictatorship currently running Fiji, since the coup in 2006. And of course the PM's Press Office wanted to put the record straight and explained that the sign-off to do this PR endorsement had been done at the wrong level.

So the latest idea by Gordon's office has been to spice up his public relations by the hiring (unpaid) of Jennifer Moses, whose CV includes being a former non executive director of Agent Provocateur, the well known purveyor of fine lingerie.

So whether Gordon will soon be branching out into a variation of Dolly's Diary remains to be seen, although perhaps the practical advice will instead come from Jennifer's prior background with Goldman Sachs (who have other links into Number 10) or the CentreForum think tank which is a critic of Labour policies.
dolly kneads the doughJennifer's other recent claims to fame include being the court case victim who didn't notice an assistant has siphoned £1m from her bank account. And in other recent news her investment banker husband's company hedge fund just collapsed as a result of sub-prime bets in the USA.

Maybe the new advice will prevent Gordon from any further accidental tie ins with military juntas, although I notice that Dolly from Agent Provocateur has somehow become tied up whilst kneading the dough.

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Sunday 2 March 2008

brief encounter

Brief Encounter
A fine evening's entertaiment yesterday. I shall have to write about the Tiger Tiger part separately though. We decided to see the recent adaptation of 'Brief Encounter' which is running in the Cinema in the Haymarket, which is being used as a theatre for this show.

Its one of those immersive events. You walk into the foyer of a 1930's cinema, with uniformed usherettes and tea and cucumbers being served amongst the popcorn. The whole production is a delight, the actors move around in the audience, there's black and white film inserts shown, a superb ensemble band and a kind of relaxed excellence about the whole production.

There's rock cakes, platform refreshments served by a lad, subsidiary romances alongside the main event and all manner of steamy evocations of the era. As a play it balances the action of the main affair between the chiselled faced doctor played by Tristan Sturrock and the desparate housewife of Naomi Frederick who goes shopping via the train every Thursday.

Alongside them are other members of the excellent Kneehigh ensemble who hail from Cornwall and are each multi-talented at acting, movement, singing and general musicianship.
Before it starts formally, with its own special Certficate and the clatter of a 1930's projector, we get tunes and songs from the musicians, and then again in the interval, along with a series of black and white movie advertisements for stain removers and toupees. A few moments of very entertaining front of curtain stage acts decoy us through set changes too.

The cinema effects are used well, including the actors on stage fusing with those on screen such as when the greyness of an unexciting marriage is portrayed.

I found the show very captivating, and the time flew by. There was plenty of applause at the end and a refrain of one of the excellent (mainly Noel Coward penned) songs.
If you get a chance, its one to see. Trailer here

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Saturday 1 March 2008

yellow teeth

Yellow Teeth
They are trapped
somewhere outside;
silently pressed between others in anonymity
suffocating in unwarranted suppression.

They are trapped
yellow teeth with power of fangs
to tear through thought
ripping and cajoling uncomfortable ideas.

They are trapped
by casual throw and subtle collapse
ideals pinned to dead spiders and rotting leaves
preventing 6pm hopscotch and dustbin jinks.

They are trapped
in 60's red with three and a tanner looks
merseyful sounds rioting for exposure
beneath left luggage dereliction.

And then today
an upstart child, a shiny relation
letterbox squeaked then shrieked for touch.
The captive nods release as words noisily escape.

Since a post last week, I've been trying to find the 'The Mersey Sound' poetry book stashed somewhere in the garage. Eventually I gave up but then today a little envelope containing a silver covered copy arrived. Above is my minor attempt to emulate some of the great words.

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more tiping

I use computers a fair bit and am conversant with desktop operating systems like Windows, OS/X and Linux. The last two or three days I've been writing something for work and I've been using a very common word processor that most people use on a very common operating system that probably most people still use.

What has been annoying is the number of little buglets in the course of some fairly rudimentary word processing. Some examples include:

- Copying tables from a spreadsheet into the document and getting different formatting results from the same copy and paste operation.
- Having the document suddenly flip into the Greek character set for part of the text
- Having pieces of the text 'lock' so that they cannot be edited
- Deleting a character and watching a whole preceding section reformat itself into a different style
- Adding a line between two existing lines and seeing the text style change in the new insertion

I could go on, but I suppose that is enough. I use these products all the time and pity the more casual user who may not know how to reformat and remove problems.

I'm guessing that the products concerned are deemed 'good enough'. It still seems wrong though, that a fairly basic requirement like formatted typing would have these difficulties. Or am I alone with these problems?
pillow fight day