Monday, August 27, 2007


Ok, I admit it, I'm generally no where near the forefront of technological discovery - but I don't think I'm at the rear either. This week's discovery is already changing my life. I'd heard about it last year but just took it as another "social networking" site and therefore something I didn't really need. Ok it had something to do with music but so what? Then an article in the Guardian newspaper made it sound a little more than that so I thought I'd check it out. Now, god damn it, I'm hooked.

How do you describe Personalised radio? Music spider-web? Aural world organiser? I don't know - all I know is that I don't think I'll ever listen to music in the same way again. So let's get down to the practicalities - it's legal, it's not a file sharing service (hence the legality) but it gives you access to 1000s of music tracks whenever you want by choosing a "radio station" based on an artist's "similar artists" or a genre. I'm currently listening to "artists similar to The Hold Steady" (as recommended by darling Rand) and so far I've had a Bournemouth band called Art Brut and an American band called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. I haven't heard of either of the them before, but so far I'm liking both of them.

Friday night Husband and I were sitting out on the front patio, drinking a little and enjoying the first summer night where we could enjoy the great outdoors (how crap is that) and had the "british folk" station playing through the window. On came Kate Rusby, June Tabor, Fairport Convention, Billy Bragg, Maddy Prior- things we'd heard, things we hadn't but like the sound of. A perfect soundtrack chosen for us by some wonderful algorithm beyond our comprehension. And do you know what? It's already learning what I like and making recommendations!

Go on, click the big red button.... and come into my magical musical land....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Oh no... they didn't

On sale at your local B&Q now for the bargain price of £89.99 - "Water butts":

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Note from our postman

Scrawled on junk mail for previous owners:

"Can you please get a box or container to put your packets in as you are never in and I then have to carry them for quite a few miles. Thank you. Postie Joe"

But I thought delivering parcels was your job? We're "never in" because we both work full time. You can leave parcels (today a paperback book in padded enveloped) with our neighbour, but not in a box (or on our step as today) as it is not secure. Or you can just leave them at the depot and leave us a card. But then that would kinda defeat the point of having a postal service, which is paid for by the sender, which then employs you Postie Joe.


Monday, August 20, 2007

3 weeks to go

Tomorrow it will be three weeks until husband and I are off on our American adventure - and it can't come around soon enough. It's been 18 months since our honeymoon and our last proper holiday (i.e. longer than a long weekend), and I think we are both in desperate need of it. We booked the last thing we needed to book last night (I say "we" loosely as I've sorted it all as I'm the one who's good at that in our marriage, I just wanted him to choose the car - he went for a "Dodge Stratus" from Dollar) and now all we can do is wait. We've got machine readable passports so don't need visas, the travel insurance is sorted (with plenty of medical and legal cover, you know those crazy Americans), and the itinerary ("just in case") is nearly ready to go to our respective parental units.

Despite the fact that my job title starts with the word "international", I haven't really travelled very much. This will be my first trip to the States and also the first to that side of the Atlantic. I guess I am only 27, and with kids looking a less likely prospect, Hubbie and I should still have plenty of time to travel before we really do run out of oil and have to go back to pedalo crossings of the Atlantic.

We're off to Austin, Texas first for the City Limits festival and to stay with some University friends of mine. Then a couple of nights in Houston - Husband is being sent to the Johnson space centre while I pop on a work day trip to Oklahoma City. Then six nights in New England - spread between mid New Hampshire, Boston and Cape Cod. Expect lots and lots of pictures on our return

Monday, August 13, 2007

BBFC, what's happened?

I've been to the movies twice in the last couple of weeks after a long hiatus. Our Amazon DVD rental subscription normally puts me off paying the £6.20 to see a movie (so £12.40 for me and husband), but since our big TV broke and we're down to a 14 in portable until we decide to splash out on a new TV, some things just have to be seen on the big screen. Both films were aimed at young audiences, both also appealing to adults - Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Both films were rated 12A - i.e. if your under 12, you need to be accompanied by an adult.

I left the cinema on both occasions thinking, good film (surprisingly good for Transformers) but has the British Board of Film Classification lost its mind? I sat through Harry Potter with six and seven year olds crying behind me through the scary bits. It was a later evening showing of Transformers so I was spared a repeat performance but goodness knows what the afternoon showings have been like.

Transformers opens with an attack by an evil autobot on a US airbase in Qatar - the scene is like a cross between Starship Troopers and Jarhead - both of which received a 15 rating from the BBFC. The rest of the film is filled with a great deal of violence. I understand it is classed as "fantasy violence" but it still involves people being blown up and lots and lots of shooting! Many scenes made me jump, and I'm not squeamish. Harry Potter had less "violence" but was psychologically far more scary.

12A was originally applied in 2002 (to The Bourne Identity, dear God who would want under 12s to see that (excellent) film); replacing the 12 rating that had been brought in in 1989. Apparently it had been under consideration for a while but was prompted into use by Spiderman, as parents were complaining that their kids were desperate to see it but a 12 rating would mean they couldn't. So 12 was scrapped and 12A came in. But despite the fact that the BBFC policy for 12A indicates that this rating means that they think it is suitable for 12 and over only, but they leave it up to parental discretion to judge whether under-12s should see it I don't think this message gets across at all..... I guess the problem comes down to the fact that these films are made for and heavily marketed at kids.... and they don't include much sex or swearing or gritty person-on-person violence but that doesn't mean that 12A is a good idea as it sends a mixed message, and leaves parents open to pester power.... "No, I won't get scared Mum!"

In the words of a senior examiner from the BBFC when asked if she ever feels she has made a mistake in an interview in The Guardian, "I think every examiner goes home and thinks that....With me it was The Others." The Nicole Kidman horror film was passed uncut as a 12-certificate. Later, during one of the board's public consultations, Bates discovered that the film had scared the wits out of its younger viewers. "The problem with that film was that there was nothing onscreen; everything was implied. So within the letter of the guidelines I got it right. But it bothers me to this day."

I think the same is true for some fantasy films like Harry Potter, it is the viewer's imagination that helps make the film really scary or not - but for Transformers... how more "on screen" can you get! I'm generally not in favour of censorship for adult films - no matter how horrible I think it is, if it doesn't commit a crime in showing it, then it should get an 18 or an 18R if necessary. But come on BBFC, give the parents a break and help them look after their kids!