Sunday 24 April 2016

The longlist

Last year, I managed to arrange a screening of Pulp Fiction at my local art-house cinema. I did it under the auspice of a birthday celebration, and lots of friends turned up, plus lots of people I didn't know but whose ticket sales were vital for making the screening happen. The bottom line is, it was a great night, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I had a better time than if I'd tried to organise a birthday party. Thinking back, I blogged about it afterwards.

Anyway, it was such a success that I'm thinking about trying again this year. Once more, I'm constrained by the films offered by OurScreen, so I can't stage Cape Fear, Goodfellas, No Country For Old Men or Reservoir Dogs, however much I might like to. But they do offer plenty of good films to choose from. I had a look yesterday, and drafted the following longlist. Maybe you can help me choose - which one gets your vote?

Friday 22 April 2016

The reaping of 2016

Here's a non-exhaustive list of deceased persons of note thus far in 2016:

  • Natalie Cole - singing daughter of unforgettable Nat
  • David Bowie - starman
  • Alan Rickman - Hans Gruber or Snape, depending on your age
  • Glenn Frey - the heat is off
  • Colin Vearncombe - led a wonderful life
  • Dale Griffin - young dude, behind the scenes of Peel sessions
  • Frank Finlay - Porthos, Casanova
  • Sir Terry Wogan - Pudsey-loving, long-putt-holing, blankety-blanking airwave-master
  • Maurice White - earthy, windy, fiery
  • Harper Lee - killer of mockingbirds
  • George Kennedy - Cool Hand Luke's right hand man
  • George Martin - wrangler of seismic music genius
  • Richard Davalos - east of Eden, but central on Smiths sleeve art
  • Nancy Reagan - Rappin' Ronnies' better half
  • Cliff Michelmore - combined Holiday and the moon landings (sadly not simultaneously)
  • Paul Daniels - we liked it, more than a lot
  • Keith Emerson - a keyboardist in need of a Lake and a Palm(er)
  • Sylvia Anderson - your actual Lady Penelope
  • Frank Sinatra Jr. - slightly less Blue Eyes
  • Garry Shandling - comedian of two shows (eponymous and Larry Sanders)
  • Johan Cruyff - total football before total football
  • Ronnie Corbett - it was goodnight from him
  • Doris Roberts - Raymond's mother
  • Victoria Wood - beloved comic polymath
  • Prince - sexy purple MF
  • Percy Sledge - woman-loving (soul) man

That's a lot, by anyone's standards. And before you comment that I have omitted X, Y and Z this is simply a least of people I can remember dying this year that I also consider "of note". It's not meant to be inclusive, or dovetail with your definition of noteworthy, it's just illustrative. If you want exhaustive, the Telegraph maintains a celebrity death montage.

Anyway. Social media is awash with comments in the manner "what gives, 2016?" and rightly so - celebrity deaths are through the roof. So what's going on? What does give?

The simple answer is ... er ... nothing. Yes, this year seems an excessively grim year for the reaper, but it should be expected, and this trend will continue. Why? It's a numbers game, by and large. The post-war baby boomers are all getting old. The bulge in the population curve that they represent is now hitting old age. In other words, there's simply a glut of people who are now the right age to die, and this crosses all socio-demographics groups - however rich and famous they might be, the rich and famous are not immune from this. Equally, the growth in new media, social and otherwise, means that every death and every obituary is reported far more and far wider than at any point in human history. So not only are there more people to die, there are more ways for you to hear about it.

Typically, the wonderful BBC website has a terrific article on this. If the numbers are right, 2016 will continue to be a career highpoint for the Grim Reaper, only to be surpassed by 2017.

And for the morbid amongst you, Deathlist gives an idea of who might be next. Me, I still can't believe that Victoria Wood and Prince went in the space of 48 hours.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Surprising facts of modern life no.2481

Your toothpaste contains sweetener.

Sorbitol, to be more precise. And not just contains it but, more than likely, it'll be the second or third biggest ingredient by volume.

I don't understand why this must be the case. Anyone?

Saturday 16 April 2016

Full disclosure

It's full disclosure time. I use StatCounter's excellent free visitor tracking code to provide analytics for this and other websites that I am involved in. I don't pay this data much attention - I am mostly only interested in how many visitors I have, how they get to me and which pages are popular. In the past, I've looked at the percentage of visitors who have JavaScript enabled before deciding to do something JavaScript-y. But that's essentially it. Here's a detailed look at a recent visit to this very site:

So what does this tell us? Some boring stuff first - the user in question was browsing with Firefox on Linux, with JavaScript enabled and a pretty high screen resolution. And before you think StatCounter and I are wizards for working this out, your browser tells all that stuff to every website you visit.

Other stuff is more interesting. IP address and location for starters. Now I've obfuscated these, to preserve the anonymity of the visitor. And if you're sat at home browsing through your domestic ISP, whether that's BT or Virgin or whomever, well, the ISP is pretty accurate but the location isn't always. The right half of the right country is about as accurate as it gets. However, and here's the full disclosure bit, if you're surfing from work, and your employer is big enough to act as its own ISP (as is the case in this example) then the location is accurate. So I know where you are and who you work for (also obfuscated in this example).

Fear not though, I'm not stalking you. I don't care who visits these little websites of mine - they're just a hobby, after all, and my only real concern is that there aren't enough of you. The only time I ever look even this deeply (and that's still pretty shallow) is when something unusual catches my eye... as in the example above. Someone geographically very close to me is having a good read, not just of this blog but of another I maintain too. And looking at where they work, that's only 800m from where I work, as the crow flies (according to Google Maps) ... but to the best of my knowledge, I don't know anyone that works there. So maybe I'm the one being stalked? Or maybe we have a mutual acquaintance? Or maybe it's just coincidence? (And for those who don't have much time for coincidence, read the lottery anecdote in this excellent interview with Stephen King.) Who knows, or cares? Not I. But at least you now know what I know and what I don't. Please don't let that stop you visiting, mind!

Right, enough. Time for bed.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

The room of requirement

To continue the theme of making myself feel old, here's a reminder that the undergraduates of today were mostly reared on Harry Potter:

Not sure about having a room number there though, sort of makes the room a bit too easy to find, doesn't it? Still, the spy-hole and fire door seem like good ideas...

Monday 4 April 2016

It's like the Nineties never ended...


  1. The Breeders - Cannonball
  2. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
  3. Pixies - Monkey Gone To Heaven
  4. The House Of Love - Shine On
  5. The Happy Mondays - Step On
  6. The Soup Dragons - I'm Free
  7. The Prodigy - Charly
  8. The La's - There She Goes
  9. Sugar - If I Can't Change Your Mind
  10. Sultans Of Ping F.C. - Where's Me Jumper?
  11. Suede - Animal Nitrate
  12. Morrissey - Speedway

If you like the sound of that lot, here's the download.

Friday 1 April 2016

Fool me once...

I'm not doing an online April Fool this year. I did one last year, about which precisely no monkeys were given, so really, what's the point?

A lot of the music blogs I read are posting The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again instead, which seems like a much better idea. But this is New Amusements, not Same Amusements, so here's a different version to the one you know and love.