Archive for February, 2009

Who is Gail Trimble?

February 28, 2009

This little snippet taken from from Lucy Mangan’s column in today’s edition of The Guardian answers that question.

Intellectually challenged Gail Trimble

Q: Your starter for 10: who is Gail Trimble?

A: She’s the University Challenge contestant who carried her Oxford college team to victory by answering two-thirds of the quiz questions single-handed.

Q: How did the public respond to this feat?

A: By and large with the traditional mixture of vitriol, contempt and gnashing fear that the British reserve for puppy killers, child abusers and intellectuals. They called her a snob, supercilious, patronising and many other derisive terms too depressing to repeat.

Q: Was she granted any meaningful accolade at all?

A: Yes. She was asked to do a photoshoot for Nuts magazine. But she turned it down.

Q: So she is a snob?

A: Yeah, totally.


Clive James & Pete Atkin “Tracks of my Years”

February 28, 2009

Clive James and his songwriting partner Pete Atkin chose tracks for Tracks of My Years on BBC Radio 2’s Ken Bruce show last week. Here is a list of the tracks selected.

 23 – 27 February 2009

In Dreams ~ Roy Orbison (Clive)
The Magic Wasn’t There ~ Julie Covington (Pete)

Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic ~ Shawn Colvin (Pete)
River Deep, Mountain High ~ Ike And Tina Turner (Clive)

Cover Me ~ Bruce Springsteen (Clive)
What A Fool Believes ~ The Doobie Brothers (Pete)

Dec ’63 (Oh What A Night) ~ The Four Seasons (Pete)
How High The Moon ~ Les Paul And Mary Ford (Clive)

Bad Moon Rising ~ Creedence Clearwater Revival (Clive)
The Goodbye Look ~ Donald Fagen (Pete)

Pete has posted this to his, Midnight Voices, The Pete Atkin Web Forum.

 OK, these are the tracks that were on our lists for the Ken Bruce show but which weren’t chosen by the producer.  Do bear in mind that these are not meant to be Desert Island Discs-type all-time-favourite choices, just stuff we like which might be Radio-2-friendly and which we’d happily natter about.
Mamas and Papas: Creeque Alley
Eagles: New Kid in Town
Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights
Jefferson Airplane: Somebody to Love
The Band: Whispering Pines
The Roches: Mr Sellack
Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
Trisha Yearwood: A Lover Is For Ever
Chip Taylor: (I Want) The Real Thing
Elvis Presley: Trying To Get To You

  Here are all but one of the tracks Radio 2 listeners did not get to hear.

Creeque Alley” is an autobiographical song written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas in 1967, narrating the story about how the group was formed. The title of the song is derived from the road Creeque Alley, home to a club in the Virgin Islands where the Mamas and the Papas spent time. The third song on the album The Mamas and the Papas Deliver, the song charted #5 on Billboard Pop Singles.
The lyrics of the song mention, directly or indirectly, many artists and bands who were part of the music scene at the time including Zal Yanovsky, John Sebastian, Roger McGuinn, Barry McGuire, The Mugwumps, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Several locations important to The Mamas and The Papas story are also mentioned e.g. The Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village.(Wikipedia)
 Eagles: New Kid in Town
The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California during the early 1970s. New Kid in Town, from their album Hotel California, which came out in December 1976. was a No1 hit in Billboard charts on February 26, 1977, and the title track of the album made No 1 on May 7, 1977.

In 1978, at age 19, Kate Bush,  topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut song Wuthering Heights, becoming the first woman to have a UK number-one with a self-penned song.

Barney Hoskyns
With its heartrending Richard Manuel melody, “Whispering Pines” was a cry of exquisite desolation that no one but he could have sung.

Somebody to Love (Darby Slick) is a rock song that was originally written and recorded by 1960s folk-psychedelic band the Great Society.When, in 1966, Grace Slick departed the band to join Jefferson Airplane she took her brother-in-law‘s song with her, bringing it to the Surrealistic Pillow recording session along with her own composition White Rabbit.


 The Roches: Mr Sellack The Roches


Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight In 1974, Richard Thompson and his then wife,  the former Linda Peters, released their first album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, now considered a minor masterpiece.

Trisha Yearwood: A Lover Is For Ever (click on link to play)  A Lover Is Forever (Steve Goodman/ Fred Knobloch) by Trisha Yearwood 

Patricia Lynn Yearwood, known professionally as Trisha Yearwood (born September 19, 1964) is an American country music artist, best known for her series of major hits throughout the 1990s decade and into the new millennium. She is a three-time Grammy award winner, a two-time Country Music Association Awards winner and a two-time Academy of Country Music Awards winner. (Wikipedia)


Chip Taylor: (I Want) The Real Thing (not available on You Tube)

Chip Taylor (b. January 1, 1940 in New York City) is the stage name of American songwriter James Wesley Voight noted for writing the song, Taylor’s brothers are the actor, Jon Voight, and the geologist, Barry Voight. He is the uncle of actors Angelina Jolie and James Haven.


Trying To Get To You (Rose Marie McCoy and Charles Singleton) recorded twice (February 1955and then July of that year) by Elvis Presley on his Sun recordings. Elvis heard it first when it  was recorded rhythm and blues band The Eagles in 1954.

The July recording was the one published. Presley recorded this song whilst simultaneously playing the piano ( not rhythm guitar, as first believed). Sun boss Sam Phillips erased Presley’s piano playing from the master take,  leaving Presley backed by lead guitar, the bass and the drums. Scotty Moore’s guitar solo replaces a saxophone solo heard on the original.

Inspirational Boss of the Year Award

February 26, 2009

I’m thinking seriously of having a prize for inspirational boss of the year. If I do,  then this year’s will almost certainly go to Mr Steve Ivell, of Ivell Marketing and Logistics Limited in Clacton, Essex. Why, I hear you ask, is there unlikely a more worthy candidates for the accolade this year? What has Mr Ivell done that is so very special that would make him a shoo in for this years throphy ?

His great contribution to management, and our understanding of what it is, and should be, has been to sack with “immediate effect” on Kimberley Swann, a 16 year old who cannot have worked for him for long enough to see what a sterling leader he is, for saying that she thought job “boring” on Facebook, the social networking site. Mr Ivell will have none of that, least of all from a 16 year old whippersnapper who has crossed the line.    

“Had Miss Swann put up a poster on the staff noticeboard making the same comments and invited other staff to read it there would have been the same result,”

“Her display of disrespect and dissatisfaction undermined the relationship and made (her job) untenable,”

“We thought that Miss Swann’s best interests would be served by working for a company that would more suit her expectations.”

Well done, Mr Ivell, you are truly an inspiration to all of us. We cannot afford to be soft on crime or the causes of crime. Personally, I cannot understand why you did not have this culprit taken out and horsewhipped. Oops, that kind of thing is no longer allowed.

A Texter or Ghengis Khan? 3

February 26, 2009

This item of news obviously amused John Naughton


Gud 4 da kids


Phew! Just seen this BBC NEWS report.


Text speak, rather than harming literacy, could have a positive effect on the way children interact with language, says a study.


 Researchers from Coventry University studied 88 children aged between 10 and 12 to understand the impact of text messaging on their language skills.


They found that the use of so-called “textisms” could be having a positive impact on reading development.


The study is published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.


“Children’s use of textisms is not only positively associated with word reading ability, but it may be contributing to reading development”, the authors wrote in the report.


There is a serious points touched on here,  and I touched on them in these diary entries.

A Texter or Ghengis Khan?

September 5, 2008

A texter or Ghengis Khan? 2

September 16, 2008

The Orwell Prize 2009.

February 25, 2009

On today – Wednesday the 25th of February – the longlist for The Orwell Prize 2009 was announced. From this year’s submissions, 18 books have been chosen for the Book Prize longlist,  12 journalists for the  Journalism Prize longlist, and 12 bloggers for the first ever Blog Prize longlist.


The shortlist in each category will be announced at a special Shortlist Debate at Reuters, Are political parties bankrupt? The economic emergency and the next election’, on 25th March 2009

Watch this space, as they say.

Bible study and English studies – 2

February 24, 2009

In a diary entry I made last week I mentioned the previous day’s issue of  The Guardian, which reported that the poet laureate, Andrew Motion, wanted children to be taught the Bible in school. Then I expressed my own doubts whether it was possible to teach “religion free” bible. What I did not notice until today was that in the very same edition of the paper Andrew Brown, editor The Guardian’s Comment is Free – Belief , was asking much the same question at greater length than I had at the time I made my entry.

The Motion approach is rather like tourism: pupils are to be shown the delights of a literature they do not know, but which is strange and fun. But tourism is something we can perfectly well do without, it is entirely discretionary spending. The traditional approach was much more like teaching the language of a country where you will live. It wasn’t an entertaining diversion, but something vital.

By this time, I know, half the readers will have abandoned the article to write comment saying more or less “nyah! It’s not true! Why should anyone bother learning anything that isn’t true?” But lack of truth is the worst possible reason for not learning, or teaching stories like the Bible’s. All societies understand themselves through myths which are not true; so do every one of us as individuals. I used to rage against this fact and deny it, but it has itself the blunt weighty authority of truth. If you try to kick it away you will only bruise your foot.

As for why we should prefer one myth to another, the answer, I think, is that we need to share the myths of parents and grandparents, because if we don’t know how they understood the world, we can never learn from their experience; and the whole of culture and of civilisation, depends on learning from mistakes we don’t have to make ourselves.


Letter to today’s Education Guardian.

I’m eternally grateful for my early indoctrination into all things biblical. How else could I have appreciated The Life of Brian?


Roy Matthews

Rainford, Merseyside

Is there is a downside to Facebook & Twitter?

February 23, 2009

According to the columnist Jackie Ashley, writing in today’s edition of The Guardian, Baroness Susan Greenfield the cross-bench peer and  neuroscientist, speaking in a debate about social networking sites, asked whether the new way of social interaction actually changing the brains, and indeed the minds of a generation, and if so, what might that mean?


The nub of the Baroness’s argument, as Ashley reads it, is this:

We know from neuroscience that the brain constantly changes, physically, depending on what it perceives and how the body acts. So Greenfield suggests that the world of Facebook is changing millions of people, most of them young.

Greenfield argues that a shorter attention span, a disregard for consequences in a virtual everything-is-reversible world, and most importantly, a lack of empathy may be among the negative changes. She quotes a teacher who told her of a change in the ability of her pupils to understand others. She points out that irony, metaphor and sympathy can all be lost in cyberspace.

There is also the question of identity. An intern working for Greenfield told her: “In a world where private thoughts and feelings are posted on the internet for all to see, it’s hard to see where ourselves finish and the outside world begins.” Where is the long-term narrative in a life reduced to a never-ending stream of bite-sized thoughts? Even clever writers end up “twittering” a burble of banalities.

Ashley herself recognises that the a great deal has been gained by our embracing the new ways of interacting. She’s no Luddite, and fully accepts that “if you opt out of it, you cut yourself off” However she does suggest that the good Baroness may very well have a point.

….I think Greenfield has a good point. The changes to our minds caused by the internet revolution are happening at a time when mankind faces very difficult long-term choices. They are about energy use, the consumption of natural resources, security threats and, not least, our apparent inability to learn lessons about booms and busts. They are not abstract. They are highly political and they make people angry.

When it comes to such choices people tend to gather – they want to shout at politicians, or march, or grab someone and talk. I find my mind is changed more by direct human contact than by reading, or by online communication. When you make eye contact, hear another voice – perhaps too calm, perhaps trembling with passion – observe body language and how someone reacts to what you say, you are more fully engaged than you can be remotely.

Ashley accepts even those who seem even in an age which seems to be dominated by online communication there is recognition that in face-to-face communication we address our concerns.  

When it comes to complicated issues, we also need time and space. Not everything can be whittled down to text messages. We are living in a world of fact boxes, ever shorter sentences and flatter, simpler statements; and I wonder if we can begin to resolve some of these complex challenges this way. I’m obviously not alone. It’s been pointed out that the public appetite for live debates and lectures is growing fast; from book festivals to local protest meetings, there seems to be a celebration of direct contact that’s going in the opposite direction to Facebook-ism.

It, as far as Ashley is concerned, all comes down to our becoming more aware of what is happening and consciously adapting to it:

 Digital culture has brought us a wider conversational democracy (good), which suffers from short attention span and is too self-referential (less good). There is no answer to this. The new world is here to stay. It is part of who we are becoming and how our minds are adapting. If you opt out of it, you cut yourself off. But show me the revolution that didn’t have a downside. Show me the technological breakthrough that did not need to be reassessed. What matters is that we are conscious of these limitations, and make what adjustments we can.

The only difficulty I have with the good Baroness’s argument, as presented to us by Ashley, and Ashley’s own argument is that they both tend to  texting and social networking are somehow detracting from our ability to engage in serious debate. Anybody who thinks that the way to engage with people in a personal, public or political through a social network or by sending texts back and forth is unlikely to be able to communicate anyway.  

Those pesky sats (yet) again!!!!

February 20, 2009

Cambridge University, having undertaken three years of academic research,  considered 29 research papers and participated in dozens of public meetings around the country, has just made public the findings of the biggest review of the primary school curriculum in 40 years. It should make uncomfortable reading for the government. Its major finding is that the government’s insistence that schools focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of creative teaching means that the children are not getting the well-rounded education they are entitled to.

The Guardian’s education editor, Polly Curtis, has written a good summary of what the report says. Here are a few choice excerpts:

Labour has failed to tackle decades of over-prescription in the curriculum and added to it with its own strategies in literacy and numeracy, which take up nearly half the school week, the Cambridge University review of the primary curriculum found.


The review finds:

• Children are losing out on a broad, balanced and rich curriculum with art, music, drama, history and geography the biggest casualties.

• The curriculum, and crucially English and maths, have been “politicised”.

• The focus on literacy and numeracy in the run-up to national tests has “squeezed out” other areas of learning.

• The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which sets the curriculum, have been excessively prescriptive, “micro-managing” schools.


The review accuses the government of attempting to control what happens in every classroom in England, leading to an excessive focus on literacy and numeracy in an “overt politicisation” of children’s lives. Despite this too many children still leave primary school having failed to master the 3Rs.

Sats have also narrowed the scope of what is taught in schools, it claims, concluding: “The problem of the curriculum is inseparable from the problem of assessment and testing.”

You wonder just how many times the government has to be told something is not working before it gets the message.

Christine Tobin & Betty Carter.

February 20, 2009

A little while ago I made a diary entry noting that the jazz singer Christine Tobin was BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Library talking about Betty Carter’s recording career.


Tonight she’s Ian McMillan’s guest on Radio 3’s The Verb, the weekly cabaret of language. On the programme, which is being broadcast from the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, Christine will paying tribute to Carter who died of pancreatic cancer a little over a decade ago.


Christine Tobin

Christine Tobin

Correction 21/02/2009.

This was a repeat of a programme first broadcast on the 26/09/2008, the tenth anniversary to the day of Betty Carter’s death. If you, like I, missed it first time around, it is still available on the “listen again” player for another six days.

Bible study and English studies.

February 18, 2009

According to a report in yesterday’s edition of The Guardian, the poet laureate, Andrew Motion, wants children to be taught the Bible in school.

Children should be taught the Bible throughout their education because it is an “essential piece of cultural luggage” without which they will struggle to fully understand literature, according to the poet laureate, Andrew Motion.

Too many students arrive at university to study English literature barely knowing who Adam and Eve were because teaching of the Bible and its “great stories” is disappearing from the school system, he said. He was not arguing for religious indoctrination, but for people to learn historical stories which have influenced writers. “I am not for a moment suggesting that everybody be made to go to church during their childhood. But what I do think would be worth thinking about [is] how there could be some kind of general treatment of this all the way through a child’s schooling,” he told the Guardian.

People cannot expect to understand much of literature – from John Milton to TS Eliot – without learning the Bible first, he said. The sermon on the mount and the crucifixion are stories which have influenced story structures ever since, while the book of Ruth is essential because of “the beauty of the writing”. Children should read the Bible, he said, “simply because it is full of terrific stories. They speak to us about human nature and the recurring patterns of human behaviour.”

I can see the sense in what he is saying. What I cannot see too clearly at present is you would go about teaching a “religion free” Bible.

Having studied T.S.Eliot and Milton, I can say with some confidence that I’d not have quite the same understanding of them, had I not had spent some reading the Bible.

In a radio broadcast at Christmas Clive James remarked

  I notice that even my friend Christopher Hitchens, who has lately become famous all over again for declaring that religious belief is inimical to human reason and a threat to justice, would still rather like to maintain some of the traditions. Writing beautifully himself, he knows that much of the beauty of the English language has the Bible as its fountain, and that an education without a Bible education is no education.

Now, that’s a good reason for us not being deterred from seriously considering bringing Bible study back into the mainstream education.