Monday 31 January 2011

Farewell Mr Barry, John Barry

John Barry wrote the iconic theme for that secret agent, licensed to kill On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Although he never received an Oscar for Bond he did have five of the little Golden chaps. Two for Born Free (1966), one apiece for The Lion in Winter (1968), Out of Africa (1985) and Dances with Wolves (1990). He was classically trained as a pianist, but learnt to play trumpet before taking an interest in composing and arranging, it was during his national service that he began performing as a musician.

His band the John Barry Seven had some hits including Hit or Miss which he composed for the BBC's Juke Box Jury. His first movie score was in 1960 for Beat Girl it was also the first film soundtrack to be released as an LP in the UK. After he did the soundtrack for the Adam Faith film Never Let Go he was approached to come up with a theme for the lead character in a new film Dr No the composer Monty Norman had given the producers one they weren't satisfied with. The result Barry's polishing up* of course is legendary as preformed here a capella

Of course there was plenty more in the body of Barry's work, as the five academy awards, one Grammy and one BAFTA show. As well as the 11 Bond Films he scored there were 87 other movies that had the Barry touch as well as 25 TV themes and 5 musicals. In 1998 he was inducting the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2005 was awarded a BAFTA Fellowship.

He hadn't been responsible for a Bond score since The Living Daylights (1987) but his successor David Arnold, suggested by Barry himself has remained true to his motive, most notably in Casino Royale (2006), where as each piece of Bond identity is acquired a little more of the theme is utilised until the crescendo of the final titles of the most quoted introduction in movies, "The name's...."

So the names Barry, John Barry 1933-2011.

* Many believe he did more than that and started from scratch, something that Barry himself always denied.

Friday 28 January 2011

Sometimes the Effect of Words Can Hurt or Kill You #DavidKato #Uganda

One of the saddest things I read this morning about the killing of Ugandan gay activist David Kato, is not the fact that he was killed for being gay, but that some haven't noticed the effect of their words.

We had a recent sentencing on a homophobic murder in Trafalgar Square, but we didn't have the national press calling for gays to be hung weeks before. However, the words of Giles Mulhame the managing editor of Ugandan weekly show no remorse. His paper on 2 October 2010 published a picture of Kato with his address details under the headline "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak" and across it the words hang them. While he said he was sorry for the family he said Kato lived in an area where murder was common, going on to say:

"This looks like any other crime. I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong".

Apart from the fact the the group which Kato worked for Sexual Minorities Uganda took the paper to court to stop them publishing more details. They were successful. As Kato left court more death threats were directed at him. That means this was not like an ordinary crime, nor with the number of death threats that apparently he had been receiving should anyone consider it might just be a coincidence of an accidental "just another" murder before the police announce their findings. But this is what a newspaper proprietor thinks he can do.

Yes Rolling Stone in Uganda was exposing people, but in a way that leaves them unprotected from a vigilante. Unprotected from a loose cannon, or in this case a hammer wielder. Someone who the paper had given all the details they needed, image and address and the edict to hang David Kato and 99 others. With freedom comes responsibility, with the words that we use we must think of possible consequences. Mr Mulhame hasn't realised yet that the words in his paper led to this murder. The blood is as much on his hands and the person with the hammer that hit David Kato twice in the head killing him.

But it couldn't happen here in the UK, surely? Actually men have been charged with handed out leaflets calling for the death penalty for LGBT people in Derby. It only takes one person to form their own vigilante execution squad to mean one LGBT person is exposed to immense risk and possible lose their life.

As Johann Hari wrote so well this morning in the Independent we only want to be treated the same, that is the end of the gay agenda.

Time to Save the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy #SaveH2G2 #H2G2

 Don't Panic there is not a Vogon constructor fleet poised above us in the ionosphere, at least I hope not. But there is axe axe being wielded by the BBC over some of its online content. One of those sites is a quite remarkable site, it is a social media that was popular before Facebook reared it's head, it was an online encyclopedia of Life, the Universe and Everything before Wikipedia became the de facto font of all knowledge. It is a place where people have made friendships, many have then taken that online relationship offline into real friendships at meet up, some have fallen in love and even produced small people as a result of sexual co-joining. After all as Douglas Adams once wrote, most of the rest of the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy is full of sex.

This is story of one of that Guide's researchers.

Back in December 1999 a fan of a the books, Radio and TV series (there was no film back then) of Douglas Adams's opus saw a link from the online edition to The Times to a site that purported to be the online edition of the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy. He was hooked, he started to write articles about things he knew, get involved in the community, write for the community news paper. He was mildly dyslexic and the people around him helped him overcome the embarrassment of the occasional mistakes in what he wrote, correcting it with love.

He eventually became one of the first researchers to write 100 solo approved entries for the guide, under the nom de plume of Demon Drawer. He also wrote for over 100 collaborative entries and 100 articles for the H2G2 Post. He certainly gained an confidence in getting his written words out there on public display. However, in recent years his contributions to the guide have been less frequent, he still has works on progress that he revisits from time to time, but that doesn't mean that he has not been writing.

You are currently reading the words from the same person, one of the over 3,000 online pieces that he has written in various formats and on various sites including almost 2,700 blog posts on here.

H2G2 was difficulty once before, in the early days of this millennium when the Internet bubble started to burst. The lifeboat was picked up by the BBC. But on 24 January the BBC announced that it was making radical cuts to its online presence, the community, especially the old hands, felt here we go again. The result however is that the BBC is prepared to set H2G2 adrift again rather than merely turn it off at the switch, but it needs someone else to come by in the 'virtual' sense like the Heart of Gold and pluck us from the etha. The Community has set up its own Community Consortium to look after the needs of the community in that transaction, as one of the ancients (although not quite a 5 figure user number*) I wholeheartedly back this campaign and will do what I can to help Save Our Site.

It has changed my life not only through the confidence in my writing, but it was through finding love with a fellow researcher that I ended up in Scotland, it was through that I became so heavily involved in politics once more, it is through the site that a lot of who I am today has bizarrely come to be. H2G2 is more than just a mangle of words on a screen it is a community, it has a heart, it has a soul, it is a family.

Long may it continue.

(Aside) Can someone check, are the dolphins still around? (Pause) Good.

Yes it is too early for so longs, even the Delphinidae and Platanistoidea agree on that. There must be plenty more fish in the sea ready to keep H2G2 alive.

Your normally Hoopy Frood Demon Drawer

* A sign of great seniority in the early days, which us young upstarts having a six figure user number, mine is all the even number 104268.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Cé a bogadh an eascaire? - Who'll move the writ?

Now that the formalities of Gerry Adams vacating his seat, as Nigel Dodds wittingly said in PMQs to emigrate, or at least attempt, to so he can stand for the Dail Éireann, here is the next issue.

The Parliament website says that:

"Traditionally the Chief Whip of the political party whose MP held the vacant seat will begin the procedure for a by-election. This is known as 'moving the Writ' and takes the form of a motion in the House of Commons."

This has to occur within the next three months now that the vacancy has arisen. Now the highest level Chief whip that Sinn Féin have within the United Kingdom is Carál Ní Chuilín at the Assembly, who is not one of their 4 remaining MPs, not that she or any of the 4 MPs are likely to take the oath merely to move the writ.

The recent occurrence in Oldham East and Saddleworth was moved by the Liberal Democrats because although Phil Woolas had been elected as a Labour MP upon the initial court hearing he was suspended from his party, therefore the Lib Dems in second place were the top party in the previous election to have a party member still from that ballot.

In the case of West Belfast it may well fall upon the SDLP also the party in second place in May's elections who are the party that will move the writ as no members of the party who have vacated the seat have a member sworn in at Westminster.

Friday 21 January 2011

About Face for Facebook over Lennon Page

Neil Lennon in the green of Northern Ireland
For the nine years I was over in Scotland I supported Livingston Football Club. In that time I of course got to see many of the Northern Irish players both senior and junior plying their trade. Of course one of the ones I saw in the SPL days and in several cup ties was Neil Lennon.

Now I admit there is a certain level of animosity towards Neil from all sorts of Scottish fans, must of that is non-sectarian. If you ever saw him being interviewed on TV post game there is a certain arrogance from him (or from a number of other Old Firm players) that grates with the fans of the other 38 Scottish League's clubs fans as well as the other half of the Old Firm. However, one thing I never joined in with was the chanting against Lennon, after all on a really cold day I may well have as an extra under layer have been wearing one of my Northern Ireland tops to remind me of the team we both shared. Yeah the old club v country thing comes up in the stands, sometimes I couldn't get into the really personal chants against by fellow Norn Irish (seeing as I was one of the chant initiators for my section that says something).

So of course the bullets being sent to Neil have once against sent shivers down my spine. To misquote Bill Shankley, "Football isn't a matter of life and death, [life] is more important than that". The fact that there was a Facebook page calling for the former Northern Ireland captain's execution was a despicable act. I'm glad that Cllr. Niall Kelly took the matter up with Facebook and the page has now been removed.

Football crossed divides in Northern Ireland, even in the heights of the troubles nobody cared which side you came from. In one Home Nations match on 15 April 1964 two young men one 18-year-old Catholic from Newry, one a 17 year-old Protestant from East Belfast made their debuts side by side against Wales. It is possible you may have heard of one or other of them. The first went on to be Northern Ireland's most capped player Pat Jennings, the other its most loved, skilled but sadly for too short a time George Best.

Side by side through the years Catholic and Protestant have played in the green shirt of Northern Ireland for years, yet sectarianism cost us the still considerable skills of Lennon in 2002, with him we may well have qualified in one of those close run things. Despite a full career, he only earned 3 more caps than the often troubled George Best! He now is one of the most prominent Northern Irish born football managers having this season taken on the Celtic post. Sadly the experience he has gained at that level will I suspect never be passed on to our national team due to the actions of mindless idiots over the last 10 years or more.

While I don't agree with Lennon's political views, I recognised his talent on the football field and am anticipating he will be a successful emergence from the Celtic Park bootroom. I defend his right to express his views on politics or football without fear for his life, sadly it seems that people took exception to one without realising the great loss of the other. So next time Norn Iron fail to make a finals let us not forget that without some bigots we may well have had the wizardry of Lennon in midfield or could look forward to his appearance on the managers bench with what he has learnt elsewhere.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Ádh mór ar an Maor nua ar an Mhainéir na Northstead. Nó an bhfuil sé? ~

For the first time since 17 April 1986* Northern Ireland have both the Steward of the Manor of Northstead (see above) and Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds. Iris Robinson is the holder of the latter title since she stepped down from Westminster on the 13 January last year. However, with the announcement today of the General Election in Éire for 11 March and the intention of the long time Belfast West MP to seek election to the Dáil Éireann for Louth, we have (or will shortly) have a new Maor an Mhainéir na Northstead (Steward of the Manor of Northstead).

The reason I'm referring to one of the two "offices of profit under The Crown" in Gaeilge (Irish) first today is because of the irony that today brings. The taking of such an office disqualifies an individual from sitting as a Member of Parliament, that steward of one of those offices is someone who hasn't taken his seat since first being elected on 9 June 1983 (though not the MP from 1992-97).

May I introduce Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh, Maor an Mhainéir na Northstead (Gerry Adams, Steward of the Manor of Northstead).

If Eric Illsley, MP for Barnsley Central,  had actually already stepped down the Sinn Féin president would have been taking an office off the wife of the DUP's First Minister. As it is Illsley only announced on 12 January that he was winding down his office, before stepping down as an MP before he is sentenced next month for his guilt of false accounting over his expenses.

Update: On Monday 24 January it emerged than somehow Gerry Adams had managed to resign as an MP without taking an "Office of Profit Under the Crown". Has he managed in his final act to change the British constitution? We may have to wait until the next Stewardship is announced from the Treasury. If it is Northstead, some deal has been done, if it the Chiltern Hundreds, it has merely been supressed.

Update: On 25 January Ian Paisley MP (Antrim North) raised a point of order to the speaker about the status of Mr Adams resignation, asking had he accepted an office of profit under the crown in his correspondence to the speaker. In the reply the speaker stated that correspondence with him was confidential, but that the matter was one that should be resolved and shall be.

Update: In Prime Minister's  on the 26 January Nigel Dodds MP (Belfast North) asked the following question:

"You may be aware that one of the Members elected to this House has decided to emigrate - and you may want to chalk that up as one of your achievements.

"The said Member for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, seems to be embarrassed about applying for an office under the Crown, an office for profit - although he has shown no such embarrassment of profiting from his office in this House for many years at taxpayers' expense. 

"When will you deliver on your pre-election pledge to hard-pressed taxpayers that you will abolish parliamentary money for parliamentary purposes going to those who do not fulfil their parliamentary duties?"

To which David Cameron responded

"First of all, just in case people haven't caught up with the news, you are quite right that the Honourable Member for West Belfast has accepted an office for profit under the Crown, which of course is the only way you can retire from this house.

"I'm not sure that Gerry Adams will be delighted to be a baron of the Manor of Northstead. But nonetheless I'm pleased that tradition has been maintained. 

"In my view, what we should be aiming for is for all Members who are elected to take their seats in this House. That is what should happen. 

"And if some Members have a problem with what that entails, they ought to look at a remedy for that and they should come and talk about that. I think that is the most important thing we can achieve." 

So there we have it finally confirmed 6 days later (and after I first wrote this), Gerry Adams (Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh) is the Steward of the Manor of Northstead (Maor an Mhainéir na Northstead).

~ Translation Good luck to the new Steward of the Manor of Northstead.
* When Times columnist Matthew Paris took the Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead in place of Enoch Powell.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

UUP take Golgafrincham approach to budgeting

"Fiscal policy!" whooped Ford Prefect, "Fiscal policy!"
The Management Consultant gave him a look that only a lungfish could have copied.
"Fiscal policy ..." he repeated, "that is what I said."
"How can you have money," demanded Ford, "if none of you actually produces anything? It doesn't grow on trees you know."
"If you would allow me to continue ..."
Ford nodded dejectedly.
"Thank you. Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich."

from Chapter 33 of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Northern Irish readers may recall that before there was a water crisis there was a budget crisis. This was resolved at the last minute before the MLAs all went home for Christmas only to find there was no water.

David McNarry the Ulster Unionis Party's (UUP) finance spokesman yesterday rejected the draft Assembly budget, that was trying to make the best out of the reduced budget that Northern Ireland, in common with Westminster departments, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly had all dealt with long ago.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson retorted with the line echoing the above quote:

"The UUP response to the budget argues for more money for jobs, more for health, more for education but fails to indicate where this money would be found.

"Has no-one told the UUP that money doesn't grow on trees?"

Sadly for Northern Ireland another of the parts of the quote above also rings true. "How can you have money if none of you actually produces anything?" with one of the largest public sectors in the UK* of course our economy is heavily reliant on the Government provisions and funding, we don't produce much. It is something that needs to be dealt with, but sadly political point scoring over budget funds that aren't available, or bi-lingual traffic signage or whatever is the theme of the day's disagreement isn't going to cut it.

If Northern Ireland really wants to flourish as a vibrant location it needs its politicians to do some grown up politicking. It needs them to look beyond the realms of their own little interest sub-section of the community, it needs them to look to the good of the whole. The fact that each party has it's own little departmental nest egg that it wants to protect makes the budget point scoring all the more dispiriting as parties defend party lines, or their party's minister rather than looking for what is best for Northern Ireland.

* In December 2008 it was 30.8% of the workforce, down from 37% in 1998. Source Department of Finance & Personnel (2009) 2009-10 Northern Ireland Public Sector Pay and Workforce Technical Annex

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Labour Lords a Sleeping

Now some may call it pillow talk as a result of the all night sitting of the House of Lords. But it does appear as if some of them weren't half talking some nonsense through the night.

While I was sleeping one of my friends posted on Facebook that some Labour Peer has said:

"[Labour] now claiming that no present or future seat crosses county/local government boundaries."

This echoes something that was written yesterday for the Guardian  by Lewis Baston:

"The new boundary rules, as I have written at length elsewhere, are likely to produce a complicated and flawed new political map of Britain. The government's insistence on constituencies being a maximum of 5% away from the average size of 76,000 electors means that county boundaries will be crossed, local government wards split between parliamentary constituencies, and seats drawn up in defiance of community identity and sometimes of common sense."

May I draw both of their attentions to the seat where I have lived for most of the past decade and indeed stood as a candidate in both times it has been contested; Linlithgow and East Falkirk.

It does actually reside across two local authority areas, West Lothian and Falkirk Councils, but the multiplicity is worse than that. In Scotland of course we have Scottish constituencies, there was a danger on the first draft of the Scottish Parliamentary Boundaries that there would be three different constituency MSPs to be dealt with. In addition we have members for the regional list, two of which Lothians and Central Scotland already cause a split in Linlithgow and East Falkirk.

There are also two Health Boards (Lothian and Forth Valley), two police forces (Lothian & Borders and Central), the education is administered by Unitary Authority area so again two etc. So the hard working MP has to be sure just where in the constituency a constituent comes from to beware of addressing this matter to the right authority. Sadly the postcode of the constituents address is not going to be a guide. Though by in large the EH postcodes tend towards Edinburgh and Lothians and the FK ones towards Falkirk and Central, what about poor Bo'ness with its EH51 postcode?

Of course the fact that such confusion affects one of their own MPs fails to impress their Labour Lordships and Ladyships, as does the fact that this boundary review was carried out as part of Labour legislation. But it does seem to have interested them no end in the wee small hours as a reason to take up time to delay the 'Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill'.

If this is one erroneous argument being used by them that I have picked up in a cursory glance heavens knows how much else I might find if I actually look, that is merely time wasting and filibustering.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Has Top Artist Gone Round the Twist?

Think back to your childhood days. Were you ever entertained by a balloon sculptor? Was the shape that ended up in your hands or the child next to you by chance a sausage dog?

Chances are it was. In balloon sculpting the dog shape is one of the easiest to make seeing as it requires just one balloon and only seven twists. Easy! Any old clown could do it (see picture). Even I have been able to make a balloon dog for almost 25 years.

However  internationally celebrated artist Jeff Koons has made a few balloon dogs himself, out of steel between 1994 and 2000 Blue, Yellow, Purple, Red and Orange. Notice I'm not using any images on here of any of those, but you can link through to see then.

The reason being that Koons has decided to sue a company that used the image of a balloon dog for their own bookends. Now if Koons had the intellectual copyright on the image of a balloon dog there may be a point in his case. But as I pointed out above he started making his balloon dogs in 1994, which is actually long after I started making mine (maybe I should counter sue). However, what is the true origin of the balloon dog. The 1975 book by "Jolly the Clown" Petri credits "Herman Bonnert from Pennsylvania at a magician's convention in 1939" as being the first balloontwister*. I have very little doubt that one of the first shapes he twisted looked like a little dog. So for at least 72 years there has been the image of the balloon dog in generations of peoples' minds.

If Koons had come up with a origional image for his sculpture, rather than reinventing an old one, he may have had a case. As it is he is clearly round the twist.

* Source Dewey, Ralph. Balloon History BalloonHQ Column (via Wikipedia)

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Stand Easy Major Winters 1912-2011

Winters during WWII
One of my favourite TV experiences of the past decade would have to be the HBO/BBC production of Band of Brothers which follows the real heroics of Company E 'Easy Company' of 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division of the US Army.

At the start of each episode there were vox pops of veterans, not just any veterans though, these were the ones that were depicted on the screen. Included in those veterans was Richard 'Dick' Winters who rose from being a platoon commander though to command of the 2nd Battalion.

Along with his men Winters parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, 6 June, 1944 landing near Sainte-Mère-Église not aware that First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan III, the commander of Easy Company had perished when his plane was shot down. He gathered the paratroopers in his area including some members of the 82nd Airborne to proceed towards their objective for the day near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.

Later that day with just 13 men under his command he came upon a battery position manned by 50 Germans at Brécourt Manor. They were firing 105mm Howitzers down unto the causeways that were the primary exit routes from Utah Beach. Some assaults are talked of as being text book but the one led by Winters (dramatised below from Band of Brothers) is still taught as West Point as an example of how to take a fixed position.

He was recommended for the USA's highest award for bravery The Medal of Honor for his action at Brécourt Manor, but because of a rationing of awards, only one Medal of Hounor per division was allowed and this had already been awarded to Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole for a bayonet charge near Carentan five days later on 11 June. Therefore on 2 June 1944, the day after he was promoted to Captain he was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross the second highest honour.

The War carried on and Winters with Easy Company was involved in Operation Market Garden in September 1944. When a patrol of four of his men came back injured having seen a large group of Germans 1200 metres away from the Company's position, Winters himself led a squad to reconnoiter the situation, they came across a gun postion firing towards the Battallion HQ. Having taken the position with his squad Winters came under fire from a gun position opposite and estimated the strength of the enemy to be of Platoon strength called up reinforcement from the rest of the 1st Platoon. It was discovered the strength of the enemy was in total 300 men.

From December through January 1945 took part in the Battle of the Bulge holding the line near the town of Foy northeast of Bastogne. The last action his men saw in the war was the capture of Berchtesgaden on 5 May, this was the town above which lay Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus or 'Eagle's Nest'. Three days later the war in Europe ended.

At the ceasation of hostilities Winters had enough points to be repatriated to the states but he stayed on as he was need to help with the the process of occupation and demobilization. Though he was discharged in 1946 he was called up for active service in 1951 at the start of the Korean War, and given six months to report. He used that time to head to Washington, D.C. to persuade General Tony McAuliffe that he had seen enough war and not to be sent to the war zone. McAuliffe understood this position but needed his experience and therefore Winters was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey, as a regimental planning and training officer.

In his last years he was suffering from Parkinson's disease but through Damian Lewis's portrayal of his part in Easy Company's war he will be remembered.

Let's not forget the rest the rest of those who served or are serving for our freedom. But Major Richard Winters, you can now stand down from your patrol on this earth. Rest well and stand Easy.

Major Richard 'Dick' Winters Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star (with Oak Leaf), Purple Heart 
21 January 1918 - 8 January 2011

Sunday 9 January 2011

Pity Meeting with LGBT Groups Counts as News, but Welcome Step

Tom Elliott MLA Picture Belfast Telegraph
In 2011 it is a pity that the leader of the UUP saying he will meet with a Northern Ireland's gay community counts as a headline, but as Tom Elliot has said he will this is welcome. Depending how wide the group that he ends up meeting is he may find it interesting how many of the LGBT community leaders he has already met in other capacities rather than merely LGBT advocacy.

There are two interesting things about this, first that Tom did say he wouldn't attend Gay Pride parades during his leadership contest, but it was his comments about reading of support on gay websites that had sparked the invite. So well done to P A Mag Lochlainn of NIGRA for following through with an invite.

The second is that obviously we are now 12 years on from the Belfast Agreement, in which the LGBT community were established as one of the minority groups within Northern Ireland that the Assembly were meant to look out for an include in the future of Northern Ireland. It would appear that it has been easier for some politicians in Northern Ireland to sit down with former terrorists long before they are prepared to sit down and talk to people who are happy and proud in their sexuality which is non-heterosexual. Not that I'm saying that is the case here, but it could be assumed that some of the supporters that Tom wanted to reach out to win the leadership thought that was the case.

I look forward to the LGBT community being able to share their concerns with the leader of the UUP in open and frank dialogue, as already with other party leaders. I hope soon this headline sort of thing won't be so newsworthy for any of the party leaders involvement in Northern Ireland.

Christina Taylor Green Born 9/11/01

If you were a mother who went into labour, or a father who was pacing the corridors and by your wife's side on the day that the World will  remember you would no doubt what a brighter future for your daughter or son.

 For John Green a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and his wife Roxana that is that they thought lay ahead for their daughter Christina. She loved her ballet and had recently shown an interest in politics being elected unto her school council. It was that interest in politics that prompted a neighbour to take her along to a "Congress on Your Corner" meeting being held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords yesterday.

Sadly that nine year old who had featured in the book "Faces of Hope, Babies Born on 9/11" took a bullet in the chest and was later pronounced dead at Arizona University Medical Centre. She was born on a day of immense tragedy for her country, for the world, she has sadly died on another as a victim of violence. Irrespective on what led the gunman to doing what he did, the lose of life so full of early promise is a travesty.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Updated: Gabrielle Giffords shot, child amongst six dead; staffers and others injured

Rep. Giffords with her husband Capt. Mark E Kelly NASA Astronaut
Originally posted at 21:06:

The news this evening that Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot  point blank shot to her head while out campaigning is harrowing news. The fact that some of her staffers and others in the grocery store when she was holding her first Congress on Your Corner were hurt or killed sadly highlights that in some cultures where guns are readily available, reaching out into the community isn't always safe. The fact is that a nine year old child, Christina Taylor Green, has died in hospital as a result and eight others are being treated, four others along with the congresswoman in a critical state. Update: It has now been confirmed that at least five other people were killed. As they were not taken the the hospital as reported earlier they may have been pronounced dead at the scene.

Update: The other dead have been named John Roll, chief judge on the U.S. Distroct Court of Arizona and Gabe Zimmerman the congresswoman's director ofcommunity outreach. Along with three elderly consitituents Dorwin Stoddard, 76, Dorthy Murray, 76, and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

The 3rd term representative for the Arizona 8th Congressional District was Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman. Her election in 2006 was against the former Republican Senator Randy Graf who was famous for his enforcement only position on immigration and illegal immigrants. Her debut congressional race was therefore often mentioned in the run up to polling day as a test bed for Arizona's tough immigration stance. Last year she retained her seat for a second time after defeating on the 'top ten' Tea Party Republicans Jesse Kelly. She is a pro-choice, pro-stem cell research, has spoken up for the immigrants which in a state like Arizona are all controversial subjects.

The events surrounding her shooting still remain a mystery. There have been numerous time in campaigns that I have been on walkabouts or events with the candidate, if indeed I am not the candidate myself. In fact I think in all four of the hustings I have even done as a parliamentary candidate on each occasion I was sat next to the person who was defending his seat. We're fortunate that the number of political assassinations or attempted assassinations in the UK have been few and far between. But would an increasedrisk make me any less likely to go a walk behindmy party leader, a candidate or go myself as the candidate out in public? No, my love for politics and helping others is what is and always will drive me on. Therefore those staffers and the congresswomen have been injured doing something they love, indeed have a passion for.

But while we of course all express our concern for her husband, who was to be the commander of the last Space Shuttle on Endeavour, scheduled for April, and family and sympathy for the family of the child who has died, there is also needs for the families of the other eight who are affected by this incident. Many of them were just going about their work helping their congresswoman, some appear to have been attending a public gathering that she had arranged. They were going about their democratic right to gather to talk about their future, making things better.

"For those that are fighting for their lives, it is time to pray" Mayor of Tuscon live at 21:05 GMT speaking at press conference at Arizona University Medical Centre

Update Somebody has recently unearthed this rather harrowing, in light of today's events, news piece from 25 March last year about threats of violence against some Democratic Representatives including Rep. Giffords

Update 2  While I am not putting a blame on any source, some of the imagery that did exist on Sarah Palin's website for those of her opponents that needed to be removed from office looks a bit sick in light of today's events. The Website is currently down and many are speculating that this list of Democratic congressional districts will either be removed or severely modified in the mean time.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Response about Sports Women of the Year's Absence

My dear friend Jennie had pointed me in the direction of Pink Stinks' blogpost about the lack of women on the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show last month. Being a helpful male 'feminist' I added in the comments some of the notable female athletes who somehow failed to make the remembrance slot in the show. Of course I went further than this and wrote to the BBC on the 19 December:

Where were the women?

Apart from Jessica Ennis and Amy Williams making up 20% of the shortlist for SPoTY, and the occasional female presenter of the awards, plus of course Sue Barker there was a distinct lack of female sport's representation on this year's show.

Apart from a 40 second slot entitled Girl Power there was very little about the successes of female athletes in a wide range of sports apart from the two aforementioned. There was also a lack of any women in the list of sport greats to be remembered.

What of:
  • Audrey Collins OBE died 14 February English Cricketer and Administrator. She appeared in one test before WWII but was Secretary and then Chairman of the Women’s Cricket Association from 1984-94. She was one of the first ten women members of the Mayrlebone Cricket Club when it lifted its male only policy in 1999. The day after her death the English team on tour in India wore black arm bands and both teams observed a minutes silence in her honour. 
  • Janet Simpson died 14 March who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics with Mary Rand, Daphne Arden and Dorothy Hyman in the 4 x 100m. She also won a European gold in 1969 in the 4 x 400m setting a world record of 3.30.8 with Rosemary Stirling, Pat Lowe and Lillian Board. 
  • Or Audrey Williamson (29 April) athlete and silver medalist in the last London Olympics in 1948 over 200m. 
Their exclusion and lack of women's sport representation is general is a shame to the BBC.

I got a reply on the 3 January.
Dear Mr Glenn

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC One’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ broadcast on 19 December.

I understand you feel that there was a lack of female representation on the programme, and that sportswomen weren’t sufficiently acknowledged.

In programmes such as this we strive to commend as many different sportspeople as possible; male and female, however due to time constraints it’s not always possible to accommodate for everyone’s tastes.

I can assure you we value female sport as much as male sporting events, however, as I'm sure you can appreciate; a difficult decision has to be made by the BBC on the amount of time available to mention or acknowledge athletes. The choices we make will not be appreciated by all sections of our audience.

Nevertheless, I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your concerns on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Shona McCullough
BBC Complaints

Do I think that the BBC made a difficult decision to exclude so much female sport from the SPoTY awards? No they took the easy decision and went for what was 'commercially' viable. The same as they do when sport is shown on their channel along with anything else.

Yes at Wimbledon we do get women shown playing, as with athletics but some of of female sports people perform at the highest level, are world champions, yet are not given the same coverage as men. Sometimes the women are competing at a higher level than the men, yet the reflection of SPoTY is that is a area of misogynistic thinking. Even the 40 second clip title I'd mentioned showed that, pity they got a woman to signature the response.

It's not good enough BBC, adding me to the log is not good enough*. The sportswomen I know personal, or watch compete need better representation than this. The BBC is as much their BBC as it is my BBC. Better shape up, SPoTY needs women, and my heart is set on you, to do better next year you. You're the BBC, won't you listen to me.....shakes out of a Grease singalong.

* I have too many contacts inside the BBC, past and present, that say this is just something that gets skimmed.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

The Day the Music Died Twice: 4 January 2011

I have a confession to make.

Well not so much a confession as any of you who knew me in the 80s will know I walked around school, blazer sleeves rolled up, the hair as big and up (as an athlete could have it without causing blindness by sweaty hair gel), and a dash of colour in the paper clips on the label. Any one who has seen me since will know my aversion to still wearing anything covering the end of my arms as a result.

Yes I was a New Romantic. I modelled myself a bit on my two favourite bass players John Taylor and Mick Karn. While I got to see Duran Duran play I never did with Japan as they last performed live in 1982 when I was just 12/13. However, I have all of Japan's album on vinyl as well as duplicated on CD.

Therefore late last year when one of the founders, key writers and bass player of Japan Mick Karn was diagnosed with late stage cancer I was waiting for the news which came yesterday, that he had succumbed. It came within hours of the news that another songwriter, the singer Gerry Rafferty has also passed on.

For a fellow bass player Karn was one of the wonders of the fretless bass, a guy who could play by feel with precision. Listening again now that I know that art as well as guitar I pick up the intricate nature of some of the stuff that he was able to play, especially when the band moved towards a fusion of Euro Pop with Asian influences as befitted their name in their later albums. One of the greatest examples of his craft on the bass has to be Gentlemen Take Polaroids.

So as a tribute to Mick Karn here is that.

One final legacy of Mick death is that he was diagnosed with late stage cancer. I don't know if he had earlier symptoms but did nothing about it, but seeing as most men tend to put these things off, may I add an additional legacy. If in Doubt, Check it Out if any of your bodily functions changes, and stays changed always best to check, it may be an early sign, possibly of an invisible cancer and may be worth getting checked. 

Rafferty was from Paisley but in his early days he came across a certain Billy Connolly and together they formed the Humblebums. They released two albums did John Peel sessions but got nowhere with their folksy stuff. Gerry encouraged his friend to go it alone as a comic.

He carried on with his music writing stuff like Stuck in the Middle with You in 1972 before in the mid 70s preceding Prince or George Michael he had disputes with his contracts lasting for 3 years. Through this period he worked away on a demo for his next album in his wife Carla's parent's old house on a 4-track, laying down every instrument himself, including lentil jar percussion. United Artists signed him and the comeback single was Baker Street the song was an instant smash sold 5 million copies. It and it's iconic saxophone solo carried on making Rafferty £80,000 a year in royalties. He carried on working away writing, recording and performing until 2000. But he was always battling alcoholism, in the end it spiralled out of control.

However, remembering the man at his peak here is Baker Street.

In memory

Mick Karn (born Adonis Michaelidis) 1958-2011


Gerald 'Gerry' Rafferty 1947-2011

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Anne Francis Stars in Forbidden Planet 1930-2011

Anne Francis with Robbie the Robot in a still
to advertise Forbidden Planet
As Jennie and others noted yesterday the acting world lost Pete Postlethwaite, but the day before we lost one of the stars who warranted her own line in Science Fiction Double Feature the opening song over the titles of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Yes Anne Francis may have starred in Forbidden Planet (1956) but her career spanned almost 70 years from 1936-2004. Starting as a child model aged five to help her family through the great depression before taking to the Broadway stage at the age of 11.

He movie debut came in 1947 in This Time for Keeps but while Forbidden Planet  was her most famous film role she also starred as the TV detective Honey West in the show of the same name from 1965-6 for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy.

Along the way she made appearance in The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, Mission Impossible, Dallas, Murder She Wrote and Golden Girls amongst others. Her final appearance was in a 2004 episode of Without a Trace.

Twice married first in from 1952-55 to Bamlet Lawrence Price, Jr and then to Dr. Robert Abeloff from 1960-1964, with whom she had a daughter Jane Elizabeth in 1962. In 1970 she adopted Margaret "Maggie" West becoming one of the first single parents to adopt under a change in California state law. She had been suffering from lung cancer between 2007 and 2008 but died from complications due to pancreatic cancer.

However, of all the stars named in Science Fiction Double Feature only Thora Hird's daughter Janette Scott remains alive as in order Claude Raines, Michael Rennie, Leo G Carroll, George Pal, Dana Andrews Fay Wray and now Anne Francis have all passed on. Time for some late night, double feature, picture shows.

See also the following obituaries

Saturday 1 January 2011

Water Stupid and Criminal Act

Yes Northern Ireland does have a water crisis.

BTW Thanks to all the friends by text, Facebook or MSN who have enquired. We're doing fine here.

Yes at some point there has to be an independent enquiry. Yes at some point people may have to take responsibility for their failings. However, that time is not during a crisis, when you need all the management experience you have trying to sort it out.

However, what we also don't need at this time is mindless acts of sabotage to what is currently a sparse resource WATER so the act of wanton wastage of 22,000 litres by vandals last night in Coalisland is disgraceful.

Some of the local politicians are also acting disgracefully, their Twitter feeds are playing to their perceived 'choirs' rather than spreading the information that the people actually need. A number of notable exceptions have been MLAs Conall McDevitt and Dawn Purvis, plus Balmoral Cllr Niall Kelly. All three have been providing information as soon as they had it, even if it was nothing further. They have clearly all been doing it from the front line where the people are without water and not from the cosiness of some office. They were the first that I noticed giving news not just from Northern Ireland Water but from the streets of Belfast.

Other parties have started doing similar things since, but these were the ones I spotted first and most frequently even now. Other's I have noticed pushing their own political agenda a little too much when what the people really want to hear is when they are getting water, or where to go to get some not whose fault it is that there is none.

There will be a time to assess what happened. Now is NOT that time!

Seems you can lead a politician to water but you can't always make them think.

My Top Fifteen Blogposts for 2010

 It's that time of year to see just what you have been reading on my blog in 2010.

Normally this would be an easy task. Not this year, as well as blogging here, I was also blogging at the old address as well as the potential shift to WordPress which although didn't happen did get some hits.

To make things worse in July I changed the template on the old site and forgot to reattach google analytics. So I have almost a month of missing data.

However, I've spent so much of my life working with numbers, so I can work this out right. Here are the top 15 (as far I can tell).
  1. Chinese Deathly Whispers (2494 views) from March 2009 but the picture is still scoring high on Google Images
  2. Fife Council: Child Snatchers (856) in January
  3. One Small Step for Sinn Féin: Why Iain Dale is Wrong (827) Yeah the days of taking on the blogfather when he gets things wrong and him linking back to you to up your views may be gone. This one from October may be the last time I can rely on the Dalester to boost me.
  4. Applying for a postal vote deadline (797) Being ever the helpful candidate I was keeping people informed of the deadlines on the way to the election. Sadly not all of the people who read this could have voted for me they were from all over the country.
  5. A is Airbrushing Part ii (731) Remember the days when us Lib Dems were at the Tories throats all the time? Well when David Cameron said in his New Year Message that he would spell out just what the Tory policies were I start a series looking at just that. This was a little bit of 'after' work done on a campaign poster.
  6. About me (711) Yeah I added pages to the blog this year and quite a view people looked up my profile. Which tells you a little bit about who I am. I'm guessing the No 2 AV looked this up too, but just forgot how to spell my name.
  7. 15 Albums (633) One of those Meme's that sometimes allow us bloggers to fill a spot without thinking. Although for the blogpost I did go the extra mile and pull images of the 15 Albums that inspire me.
  8. Tory Bear Pop Pyschiatry Gone Political (528) When Harry Cole was still hiding behind a blue bear rather than a man pretending to be an 18th Century Terrorist he did sometimes go off on one. So I took him to task.
  9. Who I am not (509) This is a fun page I added. This is all the other Stephen Glenn's online that I am not. Yes there is one that more of me, or at least named like me.
  10. Where's the Reader's Digest Draw When They Need it? (472) With the news of the demise of Readers' Digest I asked where was the letter from Champagne to announce that they had won the prize draw to pull them out of trouble.
  11. Kong Hei Fat Choy 2010 (449) My annual look at China's Human Rights record on Chinese New Year always seems to make this list.
  12. ***BREAKING*** Ashok Kumar MP Found Dead (370) Never a nice occasion when you look on one of the news websites and see a Breaking headline that you know is going to dominate. As a top blogger you urge is get something out on your blog, but then knowing you will have to update as more facts come along. Seeing this blog was in its infancy when this first happened in similar shocking circumstances I knew just what to do and how to do it sensitively.
  13. Short List for Livingston Labour (311) following on from the above was the fact that the shortlist to replace the disgraced MP for Livingston Jim Devine was getting drawn up. He'd been one of the top stories on this blog in 2005 (see above).
  14. Prime Minster Clegg (295) When someone joked about the possibilty of Nick Clegg being Prime Minister, I said why not? Of course we have seen him at the dispatch box during PMQs since as Deputy Prime Minister Clegg. 
  15. Comedian Jason Wood Dies Aged 38 (282) Another of those sad occassions.
As regular readers will know normal service will not be resumed on this blog for the first third of 2011. However, if I can stay off party politics something that is bigger than that may lead me to my keyboard.