Wednesday 26 November 2008

'Eds Up!

Someone's somehow let that bastard Charlie Brooker back on the telly again. Watch the episode on advertising here before Tuesday 'cos I think they take them down again after a week.

BBC4, 10:30 on Tuesdays if you've got BBC4.

Saturday 8 November 2008


So, November already. I've spent all afternoon raking up beautiful pink and orange cherry tree leaves in the garden, and planting bulbs which I'll now forget all about until they cheer me up on some still far away spring day next year.

I've just come back from Bruges, which is beautiful - all medieval architecture, horse-drawn traps and autumn leaves drifting through the November fog into canals full of swans. They have amazing lace, very tasty beer and every object, person or animal you could ever imagine made out of chocolate. I bought a chocolate Pope, just for the rather bizarre experience of eating him.

There were also hundreds of British tourists, many visiting World War One sites to commemorate Armistice Day on 11th November. I've written about Armistice before, and was annoyed that I'd forgotten to take my white poppy with me to wear instead of a red one.

Both of my previous posts on the subject prompted some interesting responses last year, and lots of people also got in touch to ask where they could buy white poppies. It's a bit late now to buy them online, but there is a map here showing all the places you can find shops or people selling them in the UK.

I'll be wearing mine on 11th November, when I always try to be in a crowded place at 11am to observe the silence. The silence of a large group is incredibly powerful, and it's a tradition I've always liked - I remember mass silences being called often during protests against the war in Iraq, and what it does to the mood of both participants and observers is quite moving.

I'm saving all the programmes I want to listen to on i-player until tomorrow, when I won't be able to turn the radio on without being assaulted with cannon fire, hypocrisy and Nicholas Bloody Witchell.

Sunday 31 August 2008

Back From Reality

Right, first things first: I've been unexpectedly absent from this blog for a couple of weeks due to some Real Life stuff that isn't blog material. This has meant that I haven't mentioned the Daily (Maybe) Best Green Blogs 2008 yet, which has meant that I've only got three votes for the "People's Choice" with one day to go. You can vote here if you read this in time, but I think I may have missed the window for frantic self-publicity. Oh well. I've lost the top spot I had last year, but I'm frankly amazed to still be included in the Top 20 given the quality of all the others. I'm especially pleased to see Beansprouts in there, which I've liked for ages - Hi Melanie!

Second thing second: It's surreal, dark and part-animated. It's called "The Wrong Door", and it's on BBC3 at 10:30pm on Thursdays, or here on i-player if like me you still don't own a freebox digiview thing. In general I don't really like CGI animation - it so often doesn't move convincingly, and fails to be truly life-like while also missing out on the rich and distinctive characters and textures that scruffier stop-mo techniques can give. For a sketch show though it'll do nicely, especially if it matures a bit further into edgy weirdness.

Other things in no particular order:

Wasp thing - why are so many wasps dying in my flat suddenly? Is there something in here that attracts dying wasps, or something that kills passing wasps, or something that attracts lots of wasps which then die in average numbers given the time of year but it seems like a lot because there were so many to begin with? And how long will it be until I step on a not-quite-dead one with bare feet?

Fat furry thing - my neighbour's cat is back, along with quite a few extra rolls of cat fat she's acquired over the summer. As soon as she's settled down I'm going to start chasing her twice round the flat every day for exercise. I'm just cultivating a false sense of security for a while by putting a blanket on a table for her and rubbing her ears...

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Good Advice

(Click for a bigger version if you can't read the text properly)

I'm guessing it's probably from Private Eye.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

NETCU Guide to Policing Protest

I heard a rumour while I was at camp that a copy of the NETCU Guide to Policing Protest had been dropped by a police officer during one of their violent incursions onto the site. The NETCU guide is a handbook for police on laws relevant to protests with guidelines on how to interpret them, and police forces "are advised not to release this guide following freedom of information requests".

I've just found the entire thing in PDF format here, so I thought I'd link to it as a public service since it's not available through normal democratic channels.

I can't work out how to save it on my own machine because I only have Adobe Reader and none of the menus say "Save" on them anywhere - can anyone help?

Additional from Indymedia:

If you have any concerns about NETCU then get in touch with them

04.08.2008 22:56

They only have a postal address as a contact so here's a little extra:

PO Box 525
PE29 9AL

Tel: 01480 425091
Fax: 01480 425007

Email: ***NEW***
Or try:

You can ask for Steven Pearl, head of NETCU, for all of your complaints.

Concerned Activist
home Homepage:

Monday 11 August 2008

Lego Protest

From Indymedia - E.ON’s replica of the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station has been occupied by one inch tall climate change campaigners. The drama unfolded at the Legoland park in Windsor – sponsored by E.ON – where the Lego Kingsnorth is given pride of place next to Big Ben and Canary Wharf.

More here

Friday 8 August 2008

Climate Camp Ready for Action

My plan so far for the day of action involves using some kind of floating thing to sail up the river, getting into the power station and find the manager's office. I'm told that on his desk is a big red button marked "STOP", and there is a prize of a bottle of rum for the first person to press it and switch the power off.

I went canoeing a few times when I was at school and it's only a few miles, and I've got an eye patch and everything so I'm sure it'll be fine. Until then I'm trying to put residents of Sipson (which is where the climate camp was last year) in touch with residents of Hoo, which is where I had a lovely pint of Kentish ale last night and chatted with some local people here.

Local feeling has been very much swung in our favour after some really nasty police behaviour, and rumours are rife of the ridiculous items confiscated from campers and locals alike, most of which are true.

I need to cycle to power the battery of this laptop for half the time I spend using it, and since I'm a slow typist and a poor cyclist I'll just point you at indymedia and our own onsite TV station VisionOn for further news, probably at least until Sunday and assuming I'm not either drowned or nicked by then.

Please send messages of support to the camp if you can, it's good to hear from the world outside the police lines occasionally!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Climate Camp at Kingsnorth

Well, Glastonbury was amazing - having so little rain meant being able to sit on the grass, walk around a lot more easily and generally relax more effectively, without having to wrestle with waterproof trousers and stinking wet socks every few hours.

I came home to find the allotment knee-deep in weeds, and I've spent several weeks frantically picking all my fruit before shoving all my kit back in the rucksack to go to Climate Camp.

The camp this year is at Kingsnorth in Kent, where E.ON and the government apparently think it would be a good idea to build a new coal-fired power station on the site of an old one.

It would not.

As the camp paper puts it, "Building a coal-fired power station in the middle of a climate crisis ... makes about as much sense as a petrol-filled fire extinguisher" The existing power station is reaching the end of its 30 year lifespan, and building a new one would be a commitment to burning coal there for another 30 years. Coal is the most polluting form of fossil fuel (despite the impression that E.ON's greenwash tries to create), and six more coal-fired power stations are planned across the country if Kingsnorth goes ahead.

It's big and it's urgent, and it's now half a mile away from me as I sit in my tent flicking spiders out and eating carrots. I somehow managed to lose both my waterproof coat and my wellies at Glastonbury, but I'm surviving intermittent rain so far with boots and a drab stinky coat that I found in a bin recently.

Yesterday was mostly taken up with resisting some nasty police behaviour, but today I've been going to talks and workshops and generally getting on with what I came here for. The day of mass action is on Saturday, the police haven't beaten anyone for a good few hours now, and I'm trying to figure out the logistics of having a wash with a cup and a bucket inside my tent.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday 23 June 2008

Seven Songs

Merrick tagged me with this:

“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your [summer]. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”

I should warn you that my taste in music is just as chaotic as everything else in my life, which at least should keep everybody awake. Sorry that I’ve been extremely lazy and linked almost everything to YouTube – please try not to get too distracted there by searching for talking cats.

Other disclaimers: I’ve gone for what I’m honestly listening to right now rather than turning it into “My Top Seven Tracks Ever,” and if you asked me again next week I’d probably pick seven completely different and equally random tracks. Also I’m totally useless at describing music, so you’ll have to use the links to find out what it all sounds like. Come back and tell me if you like them though.

1. “Two of Us” by Aimee Mann – cute, summery, close harmonies – yum.

2. “Oops Oh My” by Tweet and Missy Elliot – loud and dark and sexy. Strangely I find it sexier without the skinny nearly-naked women in the weird ice palace thing, but they’re here if you want them.

3. “Revolve” by Hush the Many – I first heard this a couple of days ago when Merrick did this meme, and now I can’t turn it off – thanks Merrick! I love animation, especially when it’s kind of dark and creepy.

4. “Bobby Brown” by Frank Zappa. Also pretty dark and creepy, although in a different way…

5. “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum – because I’m off to Glastonbury festival tomorrow, and because my mum warped my musical taste early on. She wants this at her funeral, which might be rather odd at an otherwise very pointedly Jesus-free event. Mum’s having Elvis instead of Jesus.

6. This choice shall be known only as “Malcolm Middleton – Choir Eddie Cointreaus 2008 Redo” – not because I’m deliberately trying to be obscure, but because someone posted me that link, it’s something their friend did, and I’m not even certain that I’m strictly supposed to tell anyone else about it. But I love it. So sue me.

7. ELO “Hold on Tight” Apparently when I was very little I thought the lyric was “Hold on tight ‘til you’re three,” and imagined that something amazing would happen to me on my third birthday. If it did I can’t remember, but I did hold on.

So, I’ve managed to do seven things I’m currently listening to without mentioning this by Howard Jones (discovered by accident when I got a Robert Knight song in my head) or the theme tune to the chipmunks. Phew!

Might do some more of this when I get back from Glastonbury, if there’s any call for it. I promise to tag seven other people when I get back too, but it’s very late now and I need to pack my tent, which I put up in my living room three days ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Let Me In

Everyone liked "Wake Up Cat" so much that I thought I'd better post the new one "Let Me In", also starring Simon's Cat

"Wake Up Cat" can now be found here

Sunday 15 June 2008

Change of Address

I mentioned recently that I've been having big problems with, who have provided my e-mail account for a couple of years now and who are crap. I just about managed to dump them before they dumped me this week, but not without spending several sunny days indoors staring at a stupid computer screen. Sorry if I’ve been ignoring you.

When I first set up my account I couldn't get it to talk to Outlook properly/at all so I ended up just leaving everything on the server, and it was oh-so-convenient to be able to access it all from any computer anywhere. This did eventually mean having two years worth of correspondence saved somewhere out in cyberspace and not backed up anywhere, but hey, that’s not a problem when it’s all working fine, and what could possibly go wrong…?

A few days ago, just as I was beginning to get warnings about having reached my capacity and needing to delete some old messages, Bluebottle sent an email to all their users to let us know that they're no longer going to be providing free accounts, we have ten days to download any of our correspondence that we'd like to keep, and then please would we bugger off if we're not going to give them any money.

“Panic” would be too strong a word considering the way I’d probably feel about, say, finding that I’d fallen into a polar bear’s private swimming pool, or being trapped in a lift for 41 hours, but I was pretty quick to send a pathetic message to Techie Friend begging him to come over and make it work please. Techie Friend being good at this kind of thing, it now does work in that all 3000+ messages that were on the server are now on my machine and won’t be deleted by Bluebottle. Unfortunately, the downloading process and the fact that I haven’t bothered to organise anything into folders for two years means that I now just have a very very long list of messages in no particular order. In fact it looks quite a lot like my paper filing system.

I've spent nearly four hours today putting thousands of messages into 38 sub-folders in Thunderbird. This is in addition to time spent persuading five Yahoo groups to use my new address, trying to somehow capture all the e-mail addresses I've ever used which Bluebottle holds onto forever in a massive, badly-punctuated list rather than permit me to keep a proper address book, changing 38 subscriptions to various accounts and websites many of which I'd forgotten I had, and writing to everyone I’ve ever met to let actual real people know my new address.

So, apologies to anyone reading this who has written to me recently and who I haven’t yet replied to.

If you still only have either of my old addresses then my new one is the same username – I will get anything sent to the riseup address, but the process of moving has left me with three different inboxes and a large folder called “dump” which is going to take me a while to sort through. I will reply to you all, but for the moment you are probably marked blue for “To Do” in a funky new Thunderbird folder somewhere.

I honestly don't remember it being this hard to change my physical address, although it has been a while since I've moved house and I'm probably forgetting.

On the plus side, I've got my new address talking to Thunderbird to avoid ever having all this hassle again. I can now do italics and different colours and all kinds of exciting things, and other people's text gets wrapped rather than keeping going for six feet or so off my screen to the right. Unwrapped text quite unfairly makes people seem very longwinded. I haven't even started on creating my own mailing lists yet, but look out world…

Saturday 31 May 2008

Friday 23 May 2008

Time warp

At this time of year I feel as though anything I turn my back on for five minutes goes through some kind of time distortion effect where weeks of neglect happen to it in my short absence.

I spent two whole weekends recently doing nothing but weeding the allotment, and it now has dandelions in it that I couldn't possibly have missed only a couple of weeks ago - great big mature bloody trees have sprung up, with masses of seed heads crumbling gently into cracks in the soil all over the entire plot.

Slugs of course are well known for having the ability to warp time - this is why, for instance, courgette plants sometimes seem to disappear completely without leaving any remains at all. They apparently find it necessary to shred corn, so I'm growing a second batch of corn plants for them to eat when they've reduced the first ones to ribbons. At least the fox deli bar should prove cheaper this year, since a new plot-holder on my site works part time in a pub and can get us all beer dregs to use in the slug traps.

I have loads more seeds to sow, a strawberry patch full of buttercup, kit to repair before the festival season, a zillion things I'm supposed to have read by now and a flat that I can't even find the dirty laundry in any more. Socks, in particular, have been doing the time-distortion thing a lot recently. I've always found them to be prone to it.

I haven't posted here in over a month, and I have a huge backlog of things I wanted to ramble on about, some of which I'll try to get around to posting soon. In the meantime, you may like to amuse yourself with pie charts and Venn diagrams...

Back soon, perhaps with some more short and sweet ones until I've got RL a bit more under control.

Sunday 20 April 2008

Tinker's Bubble Photos

I've recently been for a working holiday at Tinker's Bubble, an intentional community in Somerset. I keep thinking I'll write something about it and then I keep changing my mind about exactly what I want to write - every time I've been I've had quite complicated feelings about it.

I've just put some photos up on Flickr so I thought I'd link to those first - they're not brilliant, but they might give a general idea of what some of it is like. Some text to follow probably at some point... Is Crap

My STUPID e-mail account is TOTALLY inaccessible because NO pages will load at all because is so CRAP.

Apologies to anyone trying to contact me by e-mail - if it's urgent and you don't have my phone number then try leaving a comment here.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

How to Sell Your Head

I was going to write about the lack of advertisements in Sao Paulo, Brazil. But then I saw this:

Monday 17 March 2008

Free Tibet

The whole world is watching...

The Free Tibet Campaign is still updating its website with photos taken by protesters today. Here's another one:

They must be very, very scared.

There are reports of people protesting outside Chinese embassies around the world today. There is no embassy near me, so all I can think of to do for now is to copy these images here. If you happen to live in London though the embassy is at 49-51 Portland Place, and will probably be very busy tonight.

The editor of the Guardian has written to the embassy about media censorship, which might be a good basic letter for the rest of us to change a bit and also send - names, addresses and e-mails here to send to. I'd probably leave out the phrase "henceforth unfettered" if you don't want to sound like a Guardian editor.

Personally I think I might give them a ring tomorrow on 020 7299 4049, although if I had access to a fax machine I think it would also be quite good fun to repeatedly fax those photographs of dead protesters to all the embassy fax numbers...


Sunday 16 March 2008

Real England

Hooray! Paul's new book Real England is out very soon, and small bits of it are readable now. They are currently unfortunately only available in the Daily Mail, which leaves me with a dilemma - can I really bring myself to link to the Daily bloody Mail?

I actually stole a copy yesterday before I realised I could read it online - if I'd been caught I wasn't sure if I'd be more embarrassed about shoplifting or about wanting a copy of the Daily Mail. Anyway, there will be more of it in the Mail on Monday, you really should read it and you really shouldn't buy the Daily Mail, so I'm just going to point you at it once.

That's it, I'm not going to do it again until it's in the Guardian, and then only if there aren't any "Fly to Prague for 20p" adverts next to it.


Sunday 9 March 2008

Fallen Tree

I went for a walk the other day about half a mile up the road from my house, and saw this:

Down at my end of the road police tape usually means either a recent shooting or a massive car crash, but at the posh end in Roundhay the police apparently isolate the public from fallen trees, presumably in case anyone fails to notice a huge tree trunk of maybe two and a half feet diameter and bruises their knees by walking into it.
Both the tree and the wall are probably about 100 years old. Somehow that's an impressive but not completely unimaginable length of time, and I stood for ages just looking at this massive dying tree, wondering things like how much it weighed, what the place was like when it was a little sapling, and how terrifying it must have sounded when it fell.

Certainly puts a few other things into perspective, anyway.


Sunday 24 February 2008

The Scale of the Problem

I've just stumbled across pictures of an exhibition called "Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait" by Chris Jordan in which "Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use in the U.S.); 106,000 aluminium cans (thirty seconds of U.S. can consumption) and so on." I love it, although I take his point that "the prints must be seen in person to be experienced the way they are intended."

Below is my favourite single image, although each print takes several images to get the scale unless you're there in person. It's a small detail from one of six huge panels in which each folded prison uniform represents one of the 2.3 million prisoners incarcerated in 2005.

"The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits." Chris Jordan


Tuesday 12 February 2008

Life Explained On Film

Half of Tescos up the road is now piled high with chocolate Easter eggs, and the other half is plastered with red plastic heart-shaped things. Thought I'd share "How to Survive Valentine's Day When You Are Single" from Video Jug - personally I'm quite looking forward to seeing lots of unsold chocolate go on sale at the weekend.

You can see such other useful things on Video Jug as "How to Get Out of a Car Without Showing Your Knickers," "How To Stop Leaving the Toilet Seat Up" and "What To Do If You Catch Your Parents Having Sex"*. Enjoy.

* Quality of advice may vary and is not necessarily endorsed by this blog.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Wake Up Cat

This vid can now be found here. Highly recommended.


Thursday 10 January 2008

Alice in Blogland Cooperative

I wrote to BlogShares to ask about having found this blog listed there, and got this reply, copied from the comments on my previous post:

Hey! That's me!

Alice - what you stumbled upon is actually called BlogShares - it's a fictional stock market where players receive B$500 to buy/sell/trade in a market based on blogs (valued by, among other things, the number of people that link to the blog). For what it's worth, blogs start at a base value of B$1,000, so a value of around B$20,000 like yours is by no means shabby.

The exact message you found is from what we call artefacts - a way to manipulate prices of the market.

All that said, registration is open to all, the game is incredibly addictive, and a great time - we are also home to a player community unlike any other I've found. Also, there is absolutely no real world value to B$, our currency (unlike games like second life, etc).

BlogShares is the main site.

This is my reply:

Ah, ok, then I'm afraid there has been a misunderstanding.

Alice in Blogland is actually a fully-mutual cooperative. This structure prevents the sale of shares for profit, and is designed to ensure that a company or enterprise serves its users or customers rather than the expectations of shareholders. BlogShares looks like a very busy and interesting site, but because it is based on trading shares for profit, Alice in Blogland is unfortunately not eligible to take part.

The usual system of shareholding in a cooperative is that each service user (each reader in this case) becomes a cooperative member and buys a share for a nominal set fee, usually £1. This share cannot be sold for profit, but as many shares can be created as there are readers willing to become shareholders.

The cooperative model is designed to protect against distortion by markets, so that, for example, Alice in Blogland will not become one big campaign to persuade others to link to it at the expense of writing anything that people really want to read. This model also promotes and springs from a belief in equality, both by implying a democratic structure within an organisation, and by preventing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

I would love to take part in BlogShares if it were possible to do so with a blog based on the cooperative model, perhaps joining leaderboards of blogs with the largest number of individual shareholders. Please could you let me know if it would be possible to join in on this basis?

What I need to know now is, how many of you out there would like to try spreading a little not-for-profit love around the blogosphere? If a cooperative structure can be made to work in BlogShares, how many of you would become members of the Alice in Blogland cooperative by buying a share for a nominal, fictional amount on a fictional stock market site?


Monday 7 January 2008

Available to Trade

Can anyone tell me anything at all about this? I don't get it, but it appears to have got me.

"Alice In Blogland was the subject of much speculation when analysts at several firms were heard to be very positive about its recent performance. Its share price rose from B$379.88 to B$554.63. Much of the hype was said to originate from J.T. Sage whose Oxford Dictionary (artefact) was said to be involved."



Glamorising War

It seems I'm not the only one tearing up military recruitment materials - The Rowntree Foundation has published a report concluding that "Potential recruits to the armed forces are given a misleading picture of military life, including the physical risks and ethical dilemmas involved." More here from the Grauniad.

In the meantime, there will now be a brief window in which this point of view can be taken seriously by The Establishment. It won't last, but while it does I'm going to register a complaint about their T.V. adverts with the Advertising Standards Authority. They are obliged to investigate even one complaint as long as they are satisfied that there "is an issue for the advertising parties to answer," and a nice big official report in the news might just swing that one this week.


Friday 4 January 2008

Imagine My Surprise!

Another paradigm-shifting cartoon by Marc Roberts from Climate Cartoons - the full version is even better, but it only fits here if I cut half of it out...