Friday, December 02, 2016

Where Have All the Comments Gone?

I have just noticed that all the comments - all 1588 of them - on my blog have disappeared. That's a bit rich, don't you think? In the opinion of many, these comments are or were the best thing about my blog, especially the ones I write or wrote myself. It's not that I mind but people might get the impression that nobody reads my blog.

I have also noticed that I have been proved wrong in just about every prediction I have ever made, Donald Trump being only the latest in a long line of failures. It's enough to send anyone into a deep depression. Incidentally are his tax returns still being audited?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Recommended For You

I would like to draw your attention to an entry I posted in May of this year:

Slate is a free online magazine written by and for hipsters like me. If asked to summarise its "political" stance, I would say that it's not so much libertarian as contrarian. I find many of the articles written and views expressed infuriating but at the same time I recognise the very high quality of the journalism. The magazine has some very intelligent people writing for it and it is at heart a serious, if provocative, publication. It is also sometimes very funny. How is it financed?  This is where the problem lies. In addition to ordinary advertising, to which I have no objection, it has at the end of each article a feature called PROMOTED STORIES or RECOMMENDED FOR YOU. Here are the headlines for a couple of entirely typical stories "promoted" immediately  after an article exposing Donald Trump's misogyny:
  • 25 Most Gorgeous Female Politicians
  • The Before and After Photos of 10 Celebs Who Clearly Have False Teeth
What is wrong with that? Well, it just makes a mockery of the whole idea behind the magazine and puts it on the same level as the people it purports to attack. A publication which wishes to be taken seriously today simply cannot "afford" to send out mixed signals like that...

I was gratified to find that the New York Times, at least and at last, has shown signs of coming to grips with this scandalous state of affairs. Here is the link to the article in question: 

The New Yorker, to its credit, has now banned these advertisements from its online site but the last time I looked they are still to be seen on such reputable sites as The Guardian, CNN, Forbes and 41 of the top 50 news sites.

In a way, I feel for these sites who are desperate to make money in any way they can, but I wonder if they realise to what extent they are supping with the devil.

Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This book, first published in Britain by Doubleday in 2003, has only recently come to my attention. I am a great if jealous fan of Btyson, feeling that, if only I had his talent and energy, I could have made a better job of his books than he has. So I am naturally delighted not to join in the chorus of praise for A Short History of Nearly Everything. For a start there are no pictures. The index is a disgrace: there is, for example, no mention of the apple tree in connection with Isaac Newton, and the reader will look in vain for information about either Ike or Tina Turner. In short, a better title would have been  A  Short  History of Virtually Nothing.

But these are mere quibbles. My main issue is with the clear, if unstated, promise to bring the world of science within the reach of the layman, to make it amenable to dummies. Well, I have to report that the book left this particular dummy gasping for breath, in the sense that by the time I reached the end of the paragraph I had already forgotten what we were supposed to be talking about. Is this the fault of Bill Bryson or of this particular dummy? I think we all know the answer to that question.

To sum up: some excellent anecdotes spoilt by rather boring and largely incomprehensible passages about galaxies and the like.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

My Foray Into the World of Political Blogs

I have just returned, suitably scathed and chastened, from a short stay on a forum where people exchange views on subjects close to their heart. I was labouring under a misapprehension. In my innocence, I thought that all opinions would be welcome, if expressed in a civilised manner, but this turned out to be not quite the case. In my experience, these message boards are places where people come to air their obsessions which all tend in the same direction, leading to a claustrophobic and all too often toxic atmosphere.

Each post starts off reasonably enough with a well-written introduction post by the blogger, but since everyone is in agreement with this introduction, it seems that the only way to add a bit of spice to the proceedings is to descend, very suddenly and violently, into abuse and worse.

It's a bit like falling off the continental shelf.

Del Newman

If you have ever liked a piece of pop music but have thought that a lot of its success can be put down to the arrangement, there's a fighting chance that the arranger is Del Newman. Del has worked with Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Elton John, Carly Simon, John Cale and goodness knows who else.

Listen to how he transforms a lesser-known Cat Stevens song into a masterpiece:

And here's another one from Cat Stevens, unknown to me,  and brought to me by my daughter in London. A simple tune that somehow gets under your skin.

Alun Davies often accompanied Cat Stevens in concert.

He also accompanied Murray Head on acoustic guitar in Say It Ain't So Jo

And what about this collaboration with the late Ronnie Lane?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who could this be?

By David Leonhardt, New York Times

He lied about the loan his father once gave him.
He lied about his company’s bankruptcies.
He lied about his federal financial-disclosure forms.
He lied about his endorsements.
He lied about “stop and frisk.”
He lied about “birtherism.”
He lied about New York.
He lied about Michigan and Ohio.
He lied about Palm Beach, Fla.
He lied about Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve.
He lied about the trade deficit.
He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.
He lied about her child-care plan.
He lied about China devaluing its currency.
He lied about Mexico having the world’s largest factories.
He lied about the United States’s nuclear arsenal.
He lied about NATO’s budget.
He lied about NATO’s terrorism policy.
He lied about ISIS.
He lied about his past position on the Iraq War.
He lied about his past position on the national debt.
He lied about his past position on climate change.
He lied about calling pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers.
He lied about calling women “pigs.”
He lied about calling women “dogs.”
He lied about calling women “slobs.”
So… who won the debate?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Multi-Story of Country Folk

When I last tuned in to The Archers, Walter Gabriel was still trying to re-establish contact with his estranged son, Nelson. Since then, I have moved "out of range", as my TV screen keeps reminding me. There's something going on here. But what?

Well, it appears that one of the actresses, maddened beyond endurance by the eternal sniping to which she was subjected by the actor playing the part of her husband, finally took a battering ram to him and, in full view of a carefully selected studio audience, pounded him into submission and beyond.

When the case came to trial, a nation wearied by Brexit, climate change  and other disasters, but united as never before by the prospect of a hanging, switched to BBC Radio 4 which had secured the rights to the proceedings. Would she or would she not swing?

The omens were not good. The person playing the part of the judge was not known for his liberal views. Indeed, he had once been heard to remark: "Better that 99 innocent people should be hanged than that one guilty person should go free".

And the verdict...?

Isle of Apples

We are all of us to some degree products, and sometimes victims, of our upbringing. Although I am a very different person to the man I was in my fifties, let alone in my thirties and twenties, I shall never be entirely free - nor would I want to be - of the "English pastoral" of my youth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Liz on Top of the World

This breathtakingly beautiful music is from the soundtrack of the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice. No-one (except me) seems to have noticed that it has been taken lock, stock and barrel from Maurice Ravel and, as far as I can see, without acknowledgement!

As from about 16 minutes if you would like to compare.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The SwiftKey Betaine Experience

My world has been uploaded sin I started using SwiftKey betaine. The SwiftKey predicated keyboard has an uncategorized knackered of guessing what you want to see next. For instance, I only have to input Donald Duke  and SwiftKey betaine will promote Americans got taller.
Other favourites: Projectile dysfunction, Judas Asparagus, Rabbi Malinow, Bipolar expeditions and Half-plastered gables.

More About Nostalgia

I've been thinking a lot about a comment Michael Leddy made a few weeks ago on my post Roman Holiday. With regard to nostalgia, Michael wrote: Besides, it doesn't have to be first-hand experience. That reminds me of an observation I’ve been trying for years to track down — that what people often feel nostalgic for is the time just before their own. For me, it’s the mid-century black-and-white world I know from movies and photographs and TV."

I agree with Michael, and would even go so far as to say that nostalgia, with all its ramifications, may often be for something or somewhere I have NEVER  known! It seems to me that it is often at its purest precisely when, to echo Michael's words, it does NOT involve first-hand experience. 
For example, I do not look back with all that much affection on the England of the 1960s with which I was all too closely acquainted, but the America of the same period is a different story. In writing these words, I am thinking in particular of Joni Mitchell, whose career I was barely aware of at the time. 

Here are two versions of Both Sides Now, separated by goodness knows how many years. The first version is nostalgia in its simplest form, but blowed if I don't almost prefer the second one. What a beautiful arrangement

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