29 March 2009

A sexist dinosaur at the Daily Telegraph - who'd a thought?

A sexist
These days I don't bother remembering why I've formed an opinion about anybody or anything. I've done the work, and I don't want to do it again. So I'm quite clear that I can't stand Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and I know it's something to do with her being greedy an evil denier of human rights who panders to the Daily Mail view of the world and expresses no sign of independent thinking or any self-doubt (in spite of massive reasons to doubt herself) but beyond that it's just laziness on my part that prevents me from considering any reaction other than a contemptuous laugh to the news that she's been caught out making an expenses claim that includes the bill for her husband watching two porn films. Details are here, for example, on the Guardian site. I'm sure there's more opinionated reporting elsewhere in her majesty's press.

But I made the mistake of trying to remind myself of what she's done to annoy me so much, so did a search. Unfortunately, I found this article, which is one of the most sexist things I've read in a long time. Clearly the writer thinks Linda Papadopoulos is too pretty and her website is too pink for her to be a serious academic. Damn it, she's a woman! He even - shamefully, given his name - makes a hilarious mistake in spelling her name. Oh my sides!

Read her website, you moron:
She earned her B.A. (with honors) in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada, an MSc in health psychology from the University of Surrey and a Ph.D. in psychology from City University in London.
An accomplished academic psychologist, Dr. Linda is published widely in peer-reviewed academic journals on counseling and medical psychology, and she is often invited to give specialist lectures at universities and medical schools in England and throughout the world. Founder and director of the successful Programme in Counselling Psychology at the London Metropolitan University, Dr. Linda was appointed Reader in psychology in 2001 - a great distinction for such a young age
That all sounds pretty impressive to me.

Although almost anything is good reason to criticise Jacqui Smith, this simply isn't. It feels horrible that I share any views with this man.

To make this comment on the Telegraph's website, I'd have to register with the Telegraph. Readers, should I?

27 March 2009


In my continuing quest to give the whole world the opportunity to ignore me, I have now set up twitterfeed to notify twitter automatically of any new posts on this and the other blog. This post is by way of a test, then. But I will just mention that this morning a woman got in the lift with me who was going to the first floor. A walkable distance, surely, but not so uncommon. What made this special was that she had a Fitness First gym bag on her back.

24 March 2009

Counterpoint final - no spoiler

I went to watch the recording of the Counterpoint final tonight. I won't give away the outcome, but it was a good contest. Also saw the third semi-final. Some interesting specialist rounds: the Wagner family; Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; overlooked European composers; Daniel Barenboim; Gracie Fields and George Formby. And actually, now I think about it, not a single bleeding question the whole evening about Gilbert & Sodding Sullivan.

The winner got an engraved silver salver, and the other finalists a decorative goblet. If I'd known there were material goods in prospect, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps I'd have bitten the bullet and studied the unlistenable. Nah - what would I do with a silver salver anyway?

Anyway anyway, the first semi-final was the best contest in the history of Counterpoint and you can hear it on Radio 4 on 11 May. After that, you may as well stop listening. To anything.

23 March 2009

Counterpoint semi-final spoiler alert

I'll be going to the final tomorrow night, but I won't be in it. Which is a pity but I feel OK because the semi-final was unbelievably close and a slightly different set of questions could have changed the outcome. Also, the winner of the other semi-final looked unbeatable.

The other good feeling was caused by the fact I had a specialist round that was proppa classical music: classical songs und Lieder. Half the answers were in German, um Gottes Willen! (Die schöne Müllerin, Beim Schlafengehen, Am Abendrot, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) So that felt like I'd earned my right to be there after the "British pop music before the Beatles" in the last round. Australian classical musicians came up again, and was easier than expected: Joan Sutherland of course was the first answer; others included Nellie Melba, Percy Grainger and Charles Mackerras.

Other answers I was proud of: Freddie Hubbard, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch. (I only got one point for the last five! Outrage!)

I thought I had escaped the curse of G&S. Alan, to my right, had a question about Sir Arthur Sullivan (the answer being Box & Cox), but then my question was a musical extract: some prats singing about a sausage roll in G&S's last opera; what's the name of the opera? The question bizarrely both confirmed my dislike of G&S and showed that I should have done my homework. Even without having to listen to the crap crap crap music, I could have known what G&S's last opera was. Actually, I've forgotten the answer already.

Honestly, though, surely the rest of the world (apart from America) totally ignores the music of G&S. It's what led Germans to regard England as a country without music. Is there any equivalent elsewhere - a music that is only honoured (but massively honoured) in its homeland? Zarzuela, perhaps, or the French chanteuse Barbara.

What's next?

22 March 2009

Charlton 0 Preston 0

A really dull first half. Charlton, for some reason, playing like the away side, with Kandol alone up front. Huge numbers of empty seats, the rugby internationals probably proving a better draw than a meaningless game. But it was a lovely sunny afternoon and the game picked up towards halftime.

Darren Ambrose was in the starting team. He shouldn't have been. I'm not one of the many Ambrose haytas. In fact, I think a succession of managers at Charlton have wasted his talents, largely through sapping his confidence and criticising him for not being a hard tackling player, which he never will be. At his best, he's one of the most creative players in the squad. But he needs to be allowed to play that way. Lately, he's hardly played at all, and must be feeling fed up. He looked it. At halftime he was replaced by Lloyd Sam, who clearly should have been on the pitch from the start. Charlton's attacking play gained a new attacking dimension. But still no goals. Preston were just as ineffective, but HUGE. After an injury to Mark Hudson the game ended with Matt Holland at centre half, marking Parkin, a man roughly twice his size.

Oh, one thing I'd never seen before. A couple of times in the first half, the ballboys threw on a replacement ball too quickly, so there were two balls on the pitch. The ref's remedy? He sent off all the spare balls.

21 March 2009

15 years

It's exactly 15 years today since I started working at my current employer, so it's fitting that today's the day I received my formal dismissal letter. For those who haven't been paying attention, this is good news. The more I think about it, the better it is. It's like a gift of many thousands of pounds, and even more important, of a lot of time. As well as the redundancy cheque, I'll be able to draw an unreduced pension. If I had just retired early, my pension would be reduced by around 40%. So my employer has had to make a fairsized contribution to my pension fund. And the even better news is that all this lovely money is coming from the institution formerly known as evil govt. I have five days in which to appeal (as if) and then roughly six months' notice, with my final day being 30 September.

My intention to go back to University is stalled at the moment. I found out last week that I need a transcript of my academic record, and have sent to Cambridge for that. Their website warns that it can take four weeks. The other potential problem is that with graduate unemployment so high, it's possible more new graduates will be applying for a master's, so by the time I can get my application in, it may be too late. That would not be the end of the world. I can wait a year, and in the meantime prepare myself better. Over on the Ezra Pound blog you can see my critical powers coming back to life. Some of what's there is really pretty naive and certainly lacking much theoretical thought.

Last night we celebrated the first departure - Jill, one of our team admin staff, is off at the end of March. Her dream is to buy a property in Sligo, and spend her retirement there. Currently the exchange rate and the dead property market make it difficult but she made it sound so attractive! It's years since I've been to Ireland, but I feel tempted by the thought of somewhere like Galway - a lively town with a lot of charm, as I recall.

20 March 2009

Well, exactly

Short entry, from work, because it's too good not to share, but too big for twitter.

It was June 1944 in Hitler's Germany and Richard Strauss's 80th birthday was approaching. He was the greatest living German composer, and so there ought to be some kind of celebration. But although Strauss had been reasonably loyal, Hitler found him annoying and so he proposed to ignore the birthday. The conductor Furtwangler talked him out of it, saying that "international opinion might turn against Germany if Strauss's birthday were ignored". Obviously, no-one had a bad word to say about Germany otherwise.

This is from The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which I'm still (still!) reading.

14 March 2009

My knees have gone all trembly

Wembley Park Station
In Wembley on Thursday to train the good people of Brent. Do any men work there? The delegates once again were entirely female, which is OK by me, and I was joined by my former colleague Vivienne in leading the course. This time we were in Brent's own training centre on the 12th floor right outside Wembley Park station. It's like fate's mocking me, by sending me to Wembley so often. It's the first time I've been to Wembley Park since the stadium was completed. On a Thursday morning the vast array of steps looks like too much, but on a big match day it must be an impressive sight.

The group wasn't quite as good as last time, but the feedback's good and we finished at 4, which always pleases people.

I used a new element this time for the post-lunch session. Three photos of alleged lookalikes from some agency in the north, and asked people to guess who they were meant to be. They are really-ropey looky-likeys so it wasn't easy. Nothing to do with the course but it got people back paying attention really well, and I'll use it again.

Something I've learned while editing this post: there's a road called Olympic Way in Kettering. One thing I've haven't: why?

07 March 2009

Charlton 2 Watford 3

Division 3
When you're losing 3-0 and fulltime is up but the ref insists on playing 4 minutes extra time, you wonder why the game can't be ended with a little dignity. It's like that with Charlton's season - if only someone would pull the plug.

At least, after today's latest reversal, there can't be any hope. We're hospice patients, in palliative territory. But the pain keeps coming and there's no relief (damn you, alcohol in grounds ban!). Unlike life, however, there is a kind of afterlife: bad little football teams, when they die, go to the third division. I've been there before, I survived, but I didn't like it.

Don't want to talk about today's game. I'd want the statistics: how many times have we lost at home? Is this the worst ever? How many times have we been winning at halftime, then lost? But briefly, it was a game of two poor defences, with ours being slightly the worse. Again, lots and lots of very bad football from both side. When we got relegated from the Prem I thought that although the football would be worse, at least I'd see us winning on a regular basis. Division three is going to be an even worse spectacle.

Oh well, I will use my new impov'd status as justification for not getting a season ticket, and maybe turn up when the opposition is interesting. But not Millwall.

04 March 2009

I shall be released

Finally, so many months later, the news is in that I can take voluntary redundancy/early retirement. Not quite yet, though. At the end of September, in fact. So it will have taken about a year from decision to departure.

There was a feeling of happiness among the four of us today, though certainly for my part tinged with fear. I think it will be hard to live on the reduced income. But if I'm successful in getting onto an MA course, at least it'll be more than a year before I go mad with loneliness and boredom.

Here's the course I'm probably going to apply for. Really full details of the progamme there. A lot of it is fairly familiar to me from my first degree, but I only really got into theory towards the end, and after. Some of it, like post-colonialism and queer theory, was still very new then. On the whole I'm a bit surprised that the main approaches don't seem to have moved on that much. It doesn't look as if anyone with the impact of a Barthes or a Derrida has appeared in the last 30 years or so.

Exciting times ahead, probably.

03 March 2009

After Counterpoint

After the programme, my claque & I went to the nearby pub. Last time, it had been quiet and a bit dozy, a perfect geezers' pub. This time, after 9, it was invaded by young people, possibly from the Univ of Westminster, just around the corner. God, they were shrill, but shortly before I left, I had to make way for a very attractive young woman on the stairs. She thanked me, politely, and I found myself thinking, If I were twenty years younger ... but then completed the thought I'd still be much too old for her. As (pretentiousness kicking in) Jacques Brel said, mourir, cela n'est rien, mourir, la belle affaire, mais vieillir, o, vieillir ...

02 March 2009


pic of Paul Gambaccini
Went to Broadcasting House this evening to record my heat of Counterpoint. I'm probably not supposed to give away the result. You'll have to wait until 13 April to hear how I got on. Which I see is Easter Monday. Don't know if that means more or fewer people will listen.

I can remember very little of the evening to be honest. No, not pissed, just very keyed up. The rehearsal was a dummy go at the buzzer round, which I won! I was a little bit tactical, not buzzing on every answer I knew. I'm not sure that's a good tactic though. Probably would have been better to go for everything I thought I knew. But I don't deal in intimidation and my two opponents (a consultant haematologist and a retired university lecturer - posh, much?) were nice guys.

My heat was the second one on, so I watched the first one from the stalls. Two very quizzer-looking men and a frail-looking woman, who did better than I expected. One of their special subjects was "Australian classical musicians", which no-one chose. Unsurprisingly. I'd have been reduced to saying "Joan Sutherland" until it was the right answer. There was an awful lot of silence in the first heat. It'll be interesting to see how they cut it for broadcast.

In my heat, the specialist subjects were musical knights, conductors, British pop music before the Beatles, and Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. If I mention that two of my answers were Tommy Steele and Helen Shapiro, you'll guess which subject I went for. If you're old enough. Anyone could guess which subject no-one chose.

I was really happy that my sister and her husband came along to the recording. But even with a lot of friendly faces in the audience, I was tense beyond belief. It's now 11:30 and I'm still coming down. So tense that I completely forgot the name of the club in Liverpool where the Beatles first performed.

Paul Gambaccini (above) was a great host - relaxed, funny, engaging.

Inevitably, Gilbert & Sullivan raised their unmusical unfunny undramatic uninteresting heads again. Once again, annoyingly, I knew the answer, but didn't get the chance to give it. The cons. haem. and I agreed we both can't stand 'em.