Thursday, 6 December 2007

Gigging hell

In a desperate attempt not to talk about more emotional subjects, I'll instead ask this: what do the following music acts have in common: Scott Matthews, The Jam, Travis, The Happy Mondays, Ed Harcourt, Ray Davies, The Wedding Present, The Good Shoes, Squeeze and The Electric Soft Parade? Nothing, other than that they were the headline acts of all the gigs I've been to during 2007. Lucky (skint) me, eh? Noteworthy support acts included Josh Pyke (supporting Scott Matthews), Rosalita (supporting The Jam), Milburn (at the Mondays-headlined Electric Gardens festival), the wondrous Astrid Williamson (supporting The Wedding Present) and the mind-blowing Ida Maria (supporting The Good Shoes), all of whom I recommend to you.

Wonder who I'll see next year? Am already eyeing up tickets for The Cribs...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Ave (Ida) Maria

I went to see a gig last night, The Good Shoes. They were alright - loud, fast, lively... always a good combination. There were two support acts on: The Mules, who I'm sad to say left me cold, and Ida Maria... who completely staggered me! Ida is Norwegian, and has a voice that reminds me of early (Sugarcubes-era) Björk or Bellatrix. And she really gives it some on stage! In addition to the amazing singing, she plays guitar (though lead duties are left to the equally hard-rocking Gustav) and, thankfully in a time of so much bland music, she has genuine stage presence. Or maybe I am just easily impressed... but at the end of one song, as she up-ended a litre bottle of water over her own head and tossed her hair about, sending droplets of water flying everywhere and make-up running down from her heavily köhled eyes, well, it was quite a sight. The intensity of another song was such that she threw herself to the ground afterwards, finishing the number flat on her back with her legs in the air. I think it's safe to say she was feeling the music.... Oh, and the drummer (Ulle?) can really play too.

So, Ida Maria... my favourite new band, and an unreserved recommendation. Their debut single "Oh My God" was out last month, and their next release is in December. Search Amazon for these releases, or check out Ida's MySpace.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Home is where the heart is

I moved house over the weekend. Well, 'house' is a bit strong. I moved from the flat I've shared for most of the last six months into a rented mid-terrace box. My new place is the sort of typical new house where space is at a premium, the walls are thin and from my bedroom window I can see dozens of identical houses...

But it's not the architectural blandness of my new dwelling that drags me down. And it's not living alone, rattling around like a pea in a drum, as I quite like my own company and can always find lots to do. No, what has made this move feel sour is that it means I've left the person I'd previously been sharing a flat with, and I miss her terribly. Home is where the heart is, so the old saying goes... in which case, this new house will never be my home, for my heart is with her.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Ray Davies... a well respected man

Ray Davies, photo © BBC
I went to see Ray Davies in concert last night as part of the BBC's wonderful Electric Proms. Yes, he's 63, a veteran rocker, but that didn't stop him bringing the (Round)house down. An amazing mix of Kinks and solo work kept the broad cross-section of fans and newcomers alike happy and, much like seeing (two thirds of) The Jam live a few months back, this was a rare and welcome opportunity to hear classic old tracks, in this case by The Kinks, that I never thought I'd witness performed live. Watching Ray perform "Waterloo Sunset", complete with angelic choral backing, is something that will live long in the memory... who knows how many more such shows there will be?

If you missed the edited highlights that were broadcast on BBC2 last night, you can watch the gig, unexpurgated, online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/electricproms/2007/artists/raydavies/.

Just one minor gripe, and it has nothing to do with Ray or the Roundhouse but some of the crowd - if you're going to go to a gig, why on earth would you spend the whole time talking loudly and boorishly to your drunken mates. Don't you want to hear what is being said on stage? Have you even thought that others standing near you might want to hear, at least? Ray is pretty softly spoken between songs, and the three buffoons standing in front of me babbling on with their droning voices became very tiresome, very quickly... proof, if proof were needed, that you can't have everything in life...

Friday, 26 October 2007

Monday, 15 October 2007

Interstate 5... and relevant lyrics

Some songs are just catchy, others meaningful, others throwaway trash. But now and again, a song comes along that strikes a chord, if you'll pardon the pun, with the listener because of the relevance, the salience of the lyrics. One such, for me at least, is Interstate 5 by The Wedding Present, which I present here as a poem.
I should just get out of here,
And start driving south on Interstate 5.
But I need to stay near,
In case you suddenly remember that I'm alive.
But I have this nagging fear
That sex was all you needed.
I've tried to persevere.
I guess I've not succeeded.
And is it sexist to say
That I thought just boys were meant to behave in this way?
And though you seemed quite sincere
Will you even recognise my face this time next year?
Well I'll remember how your eyes
Sparkled in the moonlight.
You can surely sympathise,
I just wanted more than one night?
And yes, there was one particular glance
That made me afraid,
You were just seeing me as a chance
Of getting laid.
Apologies to all fans and aficionados if I've got the lyrics wrong, they're from memory and drawn from many listens in the car, as I drive south, though not on Interstate 5.

As an aside, The Wedding Present are currently touring, performing an anniversary rendition of their classic 1987 album George Best in its entirety. I urge you to attend if you can, it should be a good night.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Pip, you're playing catch up

Last month I wrote about the shocking situation in Burma. That turned out to be quite prescient, as it has all kicked off over there this month, with great acts of monkish resistance and people power challenging the oppressive junta there. At last! But will the Western world stand up and be counted, and finally show some support? Only time will tell, but so far, not really. In the meantime, shots are being fired, tear-gas is in use and, most worrying of all, huge numbers of monks have been rounded up into the back of vans and 'disappeared'. How I hope a peaceful resolution can be found. How I fear it will not.

But re-reading my post from last month, I had a sudden urge to check back over everything I've written here, and maybe give an update on some of the other stories - to close a few loops, if you like. I'm sure you're not interested, but I am, so here goes:
  • In February 2005, in one of my first posts, I discussed the absurdity of trying to identify "the greatest films ever"... and then went on to list a few of my favourites anyway. I'd like to add Amélie, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Fight Club to that list.
  • In April 2005 I reported on buying a digital camera, but assured my lone reader that the trusty old film SLR would "come out of retirement any time I need to take 'proper' photos." I've only used it once since, and that was whale-watching in Canada when I needed the benefit of a 300mm zoom lens. Think it's time to sell all that old kit whilst it still has at least some monetary value.
  • In May 2005 I expressed shock on hearing that Kylie Minogue had breast cancer. Happily, she has been treated successfully and has made a full recovery. Excellent.
  • In December 2005 I wrote about the difficulty in settling down. You will be unsurprised to learn that I'm still not settled. In fact, I'm less settled than ever.
  • In May 2006 I bemoaned the way we, as consumers, are given plastic carrier bags for everything. It's gratifying to see, then, that retailers are starting to wake up, and are making the act of not taking a carrier bag a positive thing. About time too.
  • In June 2006 I recounted the tale of 'Ed' and 'Jenny' and how my advice to Ed may have helped them get together. Last I heard, they're now getting (or may have already got) married. A happy ending then!
  • In July 2006 I suggested Danny Wallace as a candidate for 'greatest living Englishman'. Since then he's hosted the latest run of the execrable Castaway, and is Anne Robinson's lackey on Test The Nation, so you'd think I might want to reconsider that... and I do. But he also hosts School's Out... so all is forgiven, Danny.
  • In November 2006 I lamented the fact that the talented, intelligent, attractive Myleene Klass had lowered herself by appearing on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!... but since then she's been on our TV screens and magazine covers more than ever, so maybe it wasn't such a bad thing...
  • In January 2007 I posed the admittedly dumb question "why are there no beautiful women in IT?" I have had no proof to the contrary, and so can only conclude, sadly, that there are none. The sole woman under 50 in our IT department looks like the back end of a bus. Q.E.D.
  • In May 2007 I bitched about Jose Mourinho being a bad loser. Well, Chelsea have given him the boot now... a shame, in a way, the Premiership will be a lot less interesting without him.

I promise I won't do this kind of boring review again for another couple of years, okay? Good.

Friday, 31 August 2007

What is going on in Burma?

With thanks to Miss P...

There can't be many countries in the world with a worse record of repressing democracy than Burma, yet so little is said about it in the Western world. Is this because Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world? Is it because the increasing numbers of tourists that are being encouraged to visit by the state (and even some pro-democracy campaigners) are kept from seeing the hidden truth? Whatever the reasons, it's criminal that the situation there is so ignored.

Here are some facts:
  • In 1990, or thereabouts, Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party scored a massive landslide victory in the Burmese national elections, but were denied their place in government by the ruling military junta.
  • Since then, the junta have kept Aung San Suu Kyi under almost continuous house arrest.
  • Other members of the NLD have been imprisoned for supposed political crimes. Even singing a pro-democracy song can get you three year's hard labour....
  • ...and it is this hard labour that is being forced to build new infrastructure to support increasing tourist numbers.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi advocates economic sanctions against Burma, and discourages tourism, effectively saying 'come to my country when it is free.'
  • The junta, and other factions in the NLD, actively encourage tourism on the basis that bringing the outside world in to see what's happening in Burma can only spread the word. They also argue that sanctions hurt the poorest most, not the junta such sanctions seek to penalise.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's blend of Buddhist philosophy and Gandhian non-violent protest is reliant on national unity for success... yet different ethnic splinter groups are pulling in different directions, demanding freedom through their own independence rather than through democracy for the whole nation.
There's a lot more to it than this. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts way back in 1991... but she's still under house arrest, and the Burmese (or Myanmar, as they prefer) junta are still in unelected power. I know that such change can take time but have we learnt nothing in recent years? If this was still happening in South Africa, where apartheid postulated similar suppression but on racial grounds, the world would be up in arms. Something has to change in Burma too!

For more information, lots of background reading and ideas on action you can take to support the call for change in Burma, check out The Burma Campaign. I can also recommend Amnesty International. Go on... let's do something about this...

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

What I would like...and what I have

I don't have much to say, to be honest, and am only writing this so as not to miss a month. I'd like to be writing about the joys of being in love. Instead, all I can think of is the pain and terrible awkwardness, the difficulty of unrequited feelings. It's difficult if you're the object of someone's unwanted love. It's even harder if you're the one who is smitten and is powerless to do anything about it.

I've said it once and I'll say it again... life is hard.

Monday, 4 June 2007

A thought for the heartbroken

"Better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie." From The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Friday, 1 June 2007

I've got a pocket full of Pretty Green

I saw a real live Jam gig last week No, really, I did... sort of. Because whilst The Jam split up when I was still at school, bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler have reformed with a stand-in Weller in the form of Russell Hastings and a supplementary guitarist/keyboard player whose name escapes me. And they're touring as "From The Jam: Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler". Now some would tell you that The Jam without Paul Weller would be like Starsky without Hutch, Laurel without Hardy, Dr Who without the Tardis, or Wimbledon strawberries without cream... and that this partial reformation would be nothing more than a caricature, more akin to a tribute band than the real thing. Maybe, artistically, such people would have a point, and so it was that I went to the gig with more than a little trepidation, half-expecting my twenty-five year old musical memories to be soured by a half-hearted, half-baked rehash...

...except "From The Jam..." were bloody brilliant! Maybe the fact that the audience - mainly men in their late-30s and early-40s - had been waiting so long to hear these songs live, and knew every word, contributed to the amazing atmosphere. Maybe the small venue - capacity under a 1000, I'd estimate - played a part too. But most of all, I think, the fact that the songs have stood the test of time so well, and still sound fresh and vital was the key to the success of the night. And they didn't just trot out a "greatest hits" style set, there were old album tracks a-plenty (never thought I'd get to hear "Pretty Green" played live) and even a cover of The Who's "So Sad About Us" which The Jam had only ever done as a B-side back in the day (and which went down a storm with all the old Mods in the crowd). Russell is a skilled guitarist who recreated the crackling Weller riffs with ease and accuracy. Crucially, he didn't try to sound like Paul singing though, he just sang them as himself, but with all the intensity and passion the original recordings deserve. I think Bruce and Rick made a smart choice in recruiting someone who is clearly a fan, rather than a sound-alike, because when Russell was singing, he looked like he meant it. And speaking of Bruce and Rick, it was amazing to see them play live. Bruce is as dexterous a bassist as I have seen at such close quarters, and still has a lot of energy on stage (though his mid-riff leaps into the air were a little lower than in his heyday), whilst Rick's drumming was mind-boggling at times - quite how he could drum so quickly and powerfully with apparently so little effort (seeming to barely touch each drum-skin and cymbal) was beyond me.

I see that The Police have also reformed for a summer of gigs - I'll be going to see them if I can get tickets. Of course, Sting is on board for this, so they will only be playing enormo-domes, not the sort of intimate venue I saw The Jam in. Should still be a good night though. What worries me ever so slightly is that both reformed acts are talking about new material! Maybe The Police will be able to pull this off, with Sting on-board and if they can refrain from arguing long enough, but new Jam material without Weller to pen the bulk of the songs? I have more than a little trepidation about this... but at the same time, this old closet Mod hopes he is wrong.

"From The Jam..." are coming back here in December, and I'll be going again. I would recommend you do the same if you get the chance. For details of how and where that chance awaits you, including autumn/winter tour dates, take a sneaky peek here.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Sit down Mourinho!

Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho is clearly a talented guy, and good at what he does. Okay, many will say that Chelsea have bought success through their (dodgy) Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich. But it takes skill and shrewd management to mould any group of players, let alone precocious world-class players, into a team, and Jose has done that. Certainly it was more than his predecessor, Claudio Ranieri, another talented football manager, could achieve. Success has followed: Premiership titles, the League Cup, and more, probably.

All of which makes it even more disappointing that when things don't go right for the self-proclaimed "chosen one" of European football, rather than be gracious about it and accept the slings and arrows with the same good grace that he accepts the plaudits, Jose starts carping about anything and everything. Witness last night's "we were the better team" rant after Chelsea's exit to a visibly superior Liverpool team in the second leg of their Champions' League semi-final. Clearly not, because if they were better Jose, you blinkered fool, it would be Chelsea that were in the final, not The Reds of Anfield.

So sit down, Mourinho, and pipe down... it's time the chosen one learnt to be a good loser.

Monday, 30 April 2007

The carbon debate - irrelevant?

Much has been written about the carbon debate, specifically the way that man's carbon dioxide emissions are either contributing, or not contributing to, global warming, depending on which group of experts you choose to listen too. Famously in recent years, Al Gore's excellent documentary An Inconvenient Truth has left viewers in little doubt as to the inexorable effect our modern industrial lifestyle is having on CO2 levels, and how that is throwing the planet's delicate environmental balance out of sync, with devastating physical and social implications. Equally, Channel 4's recent Great Global Warming Swindle paints a very different picture, suggesting (with evidence every bit as compelling as Mr Gore's) that rising CO2 levels are a consequence of global warming, rather than the cause, illustrating this with a Goresque graph showing an 80 year lag from temperature rise to carbon dioxide increase.

I'm not an environmental scientist. I haven't studied meteorology since S-level Geography at school. I don't know whose graphs to believe, Al Gore's or Channel 4's. Whatever the cause though, there's no denying that global warming is happening and redefining the landscape at an alarming rate - just recently I read how maps of Greenland need to be redrawn. Of course on the same day, and in the same paper, there was an article on how corporations are hijacking global warming for commercial gain which, in its own way, is almost as alarming.

What I do know is this: whether carbon dioxide is a cause or side-effect of global warming is, in a way, irrelevant. Because even if it doesn't cause the problem, why would anyone want to pollute any more than they could help? Surely it is common sense, both ethically and economically, to cut down on consumption, re-use materials and recycle whenever possible anyway, regardless of any carbon debate motives for doing so? One undisputed fact from Gore's documentary is that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are going off the chart, higher than any level discernible from any ice core samples for hundreds of thousands of years. So why should anyone in their right mind want to make it even worse, regardless of their view on the relationship between carbon emissions and global warming? Other than to justify, to themselves at least, that it's okay to jump in their gas-guzzling 4x4 (which, incidentally, only ever goes off-road if they park on the pavement, but don't get me started on that) and drive past the bus-stop on their way to the airport for their fourth overseas holiday of the year...

And just think of the air quality! Burning less fossil fuels through greener practices, and switching to cleaner renewable sources of energy, surely means less pollution... hence cleaner air for us all to enjoy. Makes sense, doesn't it?

So... the carbon debate. I leave that decision to your own conscience. But living a greener, more environmentally friendly life is surely a must, whichever side of the fence you come down on. I've mentioned them before, and I'll mention them again no doubt, but for advice and guidance on ways that you can do your bit, take a peek at CRed.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Do more with less

In the week that it was revealed an employee of Barclays earned £22m last year, I offer this simply told tale, forwarded on to me by a quite extraordinary friend.
The industrialist was horrified to find the fisherman lying beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
"Why aren't you fishing?" said the industrialist.
"Because I have caught enough fish for the day," the fisherman replied.
"Why don't you catch some more?"
"What would I do with them?"
"Earn more money. Then you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough to buy two boats, even a fleet of boats. Then you could be rich like me."
"What would I do then?"
"Then you could sit back and enjoy life."
"What do you think I'm doing now?"

Monday, 5 March 2007

By Gorge!

This morning, a local radio station announced that George Michael will be playing a gig at a local sports ground in the summer. And that station - let's call it Radio Bland - then offered listeners the chance to win tickets: all they had to do to be in with a chance was text the word "George" to the station. So far, so simple... except that two songs later, the inane breakfast DJ had to spell out that George is spelt G-E-O-R-G-E as they had been swamped by listeners texting in "Gorge"... Oh how I wish I was making this up.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Top, top gear...

I hope you saw Top Gear tonight - Billie Piper was the "star in a reasonably priced car". Now I haven't seen her interviewed before, so I was more than pleasantly surprised. Not only did she come across beautifully (so well spoken, and so far removed from the vowel-mangling character she portrayed in Doctor Who), she seemed intelligent, funny and engaging. Top gear? Top girl!

Blood moon and enlightenment

Lunar eclipse - how, © BBC
Lunar eclipse - wowDid anyone else see the lunar eclipse last night? Please say it wasn't just me standing outside freezing my proverbials off to watch the Moon turn red. In case you're wondering what causes this phenomenon, the picture to the left kind of explains it - the Moon falls into the Earth's shadow, and is only lit by the frequencies of light that can skip through the edge of the Earth's atmosphere. Those frequencies are at the red end of the spectrum, so the Moon takes on a reddish-orange hue, as can be seen in the photo to the right. Well I think that's right - it sounds plausible anyway. It might not have quite the wow factor of a solar eclipse but it was pretty impressive nonetheless, and certainly worth standing out in the cold for. Some of the people I was stood watching with remarked that you could quite understand why people in days gone by worshipped moons and stars, and how they would view this as a sign of an angry god. How they chuckled at this, and patted themselves on the back for being so enlightened. Sure, worshipping celestial bodies is patently ridiculous... but no-one thought to ask why it is any more ridiculous than worshipping an omnipotent, omnipresent being who apparently created the world and everything in it in six days? Who's enlightened now?

Friday, 2 March 2007

More on Saturn 3...

Just a couple of days ago, I rambled for a bit about the relative merits of Saturn 3, a British science fiction film made in 1980, starring Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett and Harvey Keitel. I even went so far as to speculate that if it were remade with modern effects and a more appropriate cast it would be a huge hit, rather than the flop it turned out to be all those years ago.

Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that a remake actually is being discussed, with director James Cameron at the helm. There's even talk of the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, providing the voice of Hector, the robot with more than a few screws loose. This is all quite promising - I enjoyed Cameron's Aliens (though I preferred the Ridley Scott-directed original) and I like all three Terminator films for wildly different reasons (before you write in, I know Cameron only directed the first two). I worry though that the dark themes at the heart of the original Saturn 3 - insecure and unrequited love, getting old, mental illness, loss and isolation - will not be preserved. All the more reason to seek out the original before it gets buried beneath the Hollywood behemoth - you can find it here.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Saturn 3

Saturn 3 was a British science fiction film made in 1980 in a flagrant attempt to jump on the Star Wars/Alien bandwagon. Despite its Britishness (low budget, poor effects) it boasted three bona-fide Hollywood stars in the shape of Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett and Harvey Keitel. Here are some other facts you might not know about Saturn 3:
  • At the time it was the only place you could get a glimpse of Farrah Fawcett naked, even if only for a second (this was long before career desperation brought about ill-advised Playboy shoots).
  • The film's screenplay was written by a certain Martin Amis, later to find fame as a serious novelist and author of The Rachel Papers, London Fields and more. Whether Steve Gallacher, author of the film tie-in book of Saturn 3, is a nom de plume of Mr Amis, who knows?
  • Inexplicably, Harvey Keitel's dialogue is dubbed by someone called Roy Dotrice.
So why am I writing about such an obscure film? Because it belongs to a select band of science fiction films that have been criminally overlooked (see also Logan's Run, Westworld, Capricorn One, Silent Running and, more recently, Event Horizon). Just because a "sci-fi" film has bad special effects (and occasionally laughable dialogue, in the case of Saturn 3) doesn't mean it's a bad film. Imagine "3" being reshot, let's say by a somehow-resurrected Stanley Kubrick, with decent CGI effects instead of wobbly models made out of leftover Airfix. Now let's cast Pierce Brosnan as our ageing hero, Keira Knightley as his much younger love interest and, let's say, Clive Owen as the menacing interloper with a psychotic giant cyborg for a friend. Find some decent dialogue from somewhere instead of the Amis corn, submit to the inevitable tie-in PlayStation game and you've got a blockbuster... but none of that is going to happen, so instead look at the late-night listings of the more obscure satellite and Freeview channels, or in the bargain bins of your friendly neighbourhood DVD store. If you stumble across Saturn 3 in either of those places, watch it, you're in for 88 minutes or so of interesting film.

And even if you don't like it, you get to see a young Farrah Fawcett with her top off...

Sunday, 18 February 2007

The danger of whim

There's an old saying: act in haste, repent at leisure. As you might have guessed from the fact that it has become an "old saying" there is a lot of truth in those simple words. Because, my friend, whims can be dangerous, oh yes.

You see, it doesn't matter how good an idea seemed at the time, or how good your intentions were, or how much you saw things going differently in your head. The tragedy is that, more often that not, actions carried out on a whim, particularly when that whim occurs late at night and after way too many beers, by which time the moral compass is utterly demagnetised and the foot has come off your mental brake, it's those actions that you later desperately wish you could undo. Of course you cannot and, like me, you are left with no choice but to face up to the consequences, however unpleasant.

Those of you who have read this blog before might be remembering some posts from this time last year and hypothesising that this "whims are bad" rant is somehow related to Valentine's day. Well you might think that - I couldn't possibly comment.

Friday, 26 January 2007

The trouble with ID cards

Be afraid, be very afraid... for identity cards are coming to a United Kingdom near you!

Yes, unless something quite dramatic happens in the corridors of power, like Labour losing the next election, it seems that ID cards for every individual in this "great" nation of ours are inevitable... indeed, the first cards are due to be issued in 2008, although being a government-led, IT-based project the actual implementation date will almost certainly be somewhat later. Whatever the timescale, I have a problem with ID cards; it's not the civil liberties argument concerning Orwellian powers monitoring us and knowing our every deed (although if you want to find out more about the impact of an ID card on you I can recommend no2id.net). It's just that I'm concerned about the practical application of the scheme, how secure it might be (or not) and how much the whole thing is going to cost.

Here are some quotes that should concern you if you live in the UK:
"I give it six months before someone replicates it perfectly. Everything you need to clone an identity is in one place." Frank Abagnale, former identity thief and subject of the film Catch Me If You Can, on the UK ID card scheme.
"It would not be realistic to rigorously test everything before the scheme goes live." The Home Office, in a report on ID cards.
So what do these quotes suggest? Well, on their own, not too much, I admit. But if you factor in the fact that the planned use of iris recognition biometrics in the cards has been scrapped because of cost and technical uncertainties (more), it starts to look, to me at least, like a scheme that is not as secure or robust as it could be, and that further corners might be cut as project costs spiral, to the extent that the cards themselves could end up little more than a fraudster's dream. And of course, government IT projects are notoriously poorly managed, with phenomenal cost and time over-runs, the regional fire service control system project being the latest in a long line of such disastrous undertakings (more).

Now let's leave the security and cost concerns aside for a second - I know that's not easy, it's like trying to ignore a couple of elephants in the corner of your living room - but why do we even need such a card? Proof of identity, maybe? Err, my passport and/or driving licence seem to tick those boxes, thank you. Unique person-identifying reference number? Well I already have one of those too - my National Insurance number.

The more I think of it (and it's not like I lay awake at night pondering identity cards, I promise), the more this just seems like someone had an idea which, without being thought through or properly costed, got so far through the machinery of government that it cannot now be discarded without bLiar and others losing face. I can almost hear the words "it seemed a good idea at the time." And for all phoney Tony's protestations that there will no Big Brother-style "super database" containing everything the government knows about everybody (more), what else is going to underpin an ID card system if not a huge database?

So we don't need it, it's not going to be secure, it's going to cost British taxpayers (you and me!) an arm and a leg, it has Orwellian overtones and it'll be yet another card to cram in our already-overstuffed wallets (between your Tesco Clubcard and that cheaply-laminated sports club membership one). If the great and the good thought the public deserved a referendum on the subject, I would urge you to vote against it. As it is, just be prepared to grin and bear it... and don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

There's no accounting for taste

Whilst trawling the web to identify a decent RAM upgrade, I happened across a blog written by a guy who, it transpires, has the same laptop as me. As is common, I found this serendipitously stumbled-upon website to be a much more interesting read than many of the sites I had deliberately gone looking for. Unusually for a blog it was consistently amusing and (gasp) showed at least several instances of semi-original thought. Blimey, I thought, this is maybe good enough to warrant a recommendation in my humble blog. Except then I read his précis of the gigs he'd been to in the last year, in which he described Rancid as "incredible" and Morrissey as "awful"...

I guess there's simply no accounting for taste. I do commend his choice of laptops though...

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Why are there no beautiful women in IT?

Okay, so it's hardly the riddle of the Sphinx, I know, but it's a valid question. Why are there no beautiful women working in the field of IT? Or are there? Certainly they are few and far between. In a computing career now in its thirteenth year, I can honestly say that I can count the number of women working in IT that I have found genuinely attractive on the fingers of one hand, and that's only by using the broadest definition of IT... of those five, one was a saleswoman, two were more data management than IT per sé, one was the IT department's secretary, and the fifth was pretty rather than beautiful but is included, to make up the numbers, on the basis that she had a nice personality, doe-like brown eyes and a spectacular pair of, ahem, routers...

So where are the beauties in IT? The law of averages suggests that there must be at least some. Naturally I seem to have eluded all but five of them. If anyone would like to suggest themselves, or a colleague, as a computing fox, the missing honey in the IS/IT world, then please do use comments to send a nomination... but I suspect I won't get many candidates. There are, of course, two reasons for this: firstly, there are no beautiful women in IT; secondly, no-one reads this 'blog.