Friday, 28 October 2005

Platform Moccasins

Listening to 'Many A Mile' by Buffy Sainte-Marie for the first time in what seems like ages, but it's probably only a couple of months or so. It's quite a rare CD and not generally available in this country (I got it on It's great to hear her voice swooping and diving on 'Los Pescadores' and then moving into traditional folk mood for some old ballads, the love song of 'Until It's Time for you to go' and the stripped-down spiritual of 'Lazarus' (sampled by Kanye West, the thief) . There's no pow-wow singing on this album (she was still a '60s folky in those days) but it's one of my favourites. Click on the album cover to go to a Buffy site where you can hear samples of the songs (click on discography and select the album).

I was thinking about Buffy this morning and what a nice person she is. I heard Donovan talk about her in an interview about his new biography and how she introduced him to other people at the start of his career - she gave him his first big hit as well ('Universal Soldier'). Later she got her manager to manage Joni Mitchell and get her recognised (Buffy also recorded some of her songs, presumably to get her a wider audience and some money, as well as being good songs). She helped lots of people find and develop their own voice, their own talents. I saw yesterday that a CD is being issued next week from Patrick Sky who wrote 'Many a Mile' and, I think, had a thing going with Buffy. I wonder if she's on the CD at all...

She's still helping people find their own voice through her educational work and developing digital curriculum materials through the Cradleboard teaching project. I love (but also deeply regret) that she turned down playing at Morrisey's Meltdown in 2004 because she was busy with her curriculum work.

A very admirable person with high principles and a heart big enough for the world, but with a great sense of fun! She can wear her black leather platform moccasins anytime she wants to! If I meet her again I think I might be able to have a proper conversation with her rather than the excited babble that I'm sure came from my lips in Belleville... I really hope there is a next time.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Does it confuse you?

Digital telly, I mean. I get confused on a regular basis.

Take this moment in time as an example. I'm watching 'Lost' on E4, that is, the episode that will be screened next Wednesday on ordinary telly while I'm on holiday. Great, so I won't miss an episode. Now I'm trying to work out when I'll see the next episode - not next Wednesday cos I'll be away and not next Sunday cos I'll be on a plane, so it looks like I'll have to see the next episode when it's actually broadcast on terrestial telly. How boring is that?

Unfortunately, I'll definitely miss Noddy Holder's new show on Wednesday evenings .... it's not repeated. >sigh<

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Rosa Parks

I heard the sad news about Rosa Parks dying on the 'Today' programme this morning while in the shower. My first thought was 'who?' and then they talked about sitting on a bus and it suddenly all made sense. What a brave woman and what a world she lived through and helped change.

I've never understood racism or discrimination in any form. What's that about? And what's the point of getting all worked up just because of skin colour, gender, age, haircut, wearing flared jeans, whatever. I can understand not liking individuals for whatever reason, but groups, communities or entire races? No, that's beyond me.

I grew up in a little pit village in north Durham outside Newcastle, a fully white community except for a girl who was adopted by her parents and she happened to be black. She was my friend in my mid teens before we left school and we went our different ways. Then at college in Oxford and Cardiff I met all sorts of people, and even more variety when I moved to London - that's part of the quiet joy of living, meeting different people and, if you're lucky, seeing the world through their eyes.

Rosa Parks was a brave woman who was the catalyst for change, for seeing the world afresh. Others stood up for human rights before her and other continue to do so today in different parts of the world. Let's not forget them.

Monday, 24 October 2005

Lights... Camera... Action!

Sadly, I've arrived home sort of enthusiatic for work after a meeting this morning at which a contractor said something that sparked some ideas and I've been developing them in my mind ever since.

We're holding an international seminar in January and hadn't really thought about "launching" it, just a low-key opening. That's totally inappropriate given that we're hoping it's bigger and better than the last two years. The contractor inadvertently talked about that champagne cork popping moment... that's a mistake with me!

Now I want whiteboards all over the venue switching on at the same time, glowing bright with clour and music swelling, a spinning globe controlled by a schoolkid, swooping views up and down the Thames and diving into a classroom to see lessons using ICT, swoop back out to Parliament (where we're having an evening reception), etc, etc, etc...

Now, I realise we're not developing the Eurovision Song Contest or anything, but why not adapt some of the ideas and have exciting visuals and make people feel it was worth attending? Let's see how far I can push it!

Friday, 21 October 2005

Shit Week (o yes)

O yes I have, I've had a shit week. It feels like it. I'm really not sure why that should be, but it is.

And - even more important - one of my Buddhist blessings round my right wrist has snapped and I've lost it... I knew it was imminent and was going to cut it off tonight when I got home but fate did it instead. O dear, what am I to do now?

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Suzanne Vega - Small Blue Thing Behind Blue Eyes

My new DVD is Suzanne Vega 'Live at Montreux' recorded in 2004. Saw her on that tour at Shepherds Bush, so it brings back nice memories. She's got such a lovely, pure voice and a very understated personality - I love listening to her chat to the audience, very dry and droll indeed. And such lovely songs, clever lyrics and catchy melodies, a worthy leader of modern 'folk' (if that's what her music is).

The extras are three songs from when she did Montreux in 2000, and they include 'Small Blue Thing', one of my favourites. During the main set she also sings 'Behind Blue Eyes' - yes, The Who song! She didn't sing that in London, but it works very well.

When I saw her over the summer she played a lot of new songs so let's hope there's a new CD next year.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Noddy Holder's (Lord and Great God) New Telly Programme

The Great God Nod presented the first in his new series this evening:

Dumber and Dumberest on Channel FIVE (Wednesday 20:30 - 21:00)
"Rock legend Noddy Holder presents a new series of caught-on-camera accidents and hair-raising incidents borne of human stupidity. If it can be fallen off, bumped into or crashed, then you'll see it here. Tonight, a fisherman wrestles with a blue marlin, a sky diver crash lands in an aircraft hanger and we meet a man who holds the world record for kicking himself in the head."

O WOW! OK, so it's another version of a format that's been used in a dozen other programmes over the last 10 years about people making fools of themselves, but... it's presented by Noddy! That makes all the difference!

It is, of course, a great programme and everyone ought to watch it. That's an order.


I've spent the last few days at the XChange conference in Birmingham - all about ICT in education. The conference was at the National Motorcycle Museum but I didn't actually see any motorcycles - I was stuck in the conference bit of the museum.

An interesting few days with some excellent speakers including Angela McFarlane and Stephen Heppell, both of whom always make me think but my mindset is closer to Angela, possibly because I've worked with her on and off for so long. She's an excellent speaker and I can't help but think that her students are very lucky. My boss was also a good speaker but I'm ashamed to realise I only spotted one thing wrong with his presentation - it's a sort of ongoing game for me and my team to find factual inaccuracies in his presentations. He's obviously learning!

Had useful chats with Don Passey and Anna Rourke who are both doing good work worthy of support, and, of course, Valerie Thompson and the e-Learning Foundation (now, where did I put that orange and white wristband...). The highlight for me was seeing and listening to two of the ICT in Practice Awards winners, both of whom were very inspirational and quite brave as well, standing up on stage in front of 300 international (so-called) 'experts'. Well done on them! I like the Awards - I was on the judging panel a few years ago and really enjoyed it (I sort of miss that hands-on involvement). That section was all very well managed by Vanessa Pittard who's really grown into her role as a Becta Director - good on yer, lass!

I'm in two minds about the event, though. It could (possibly) turn out to be an important conference and the start of something big but it might also just be another version of the same old talking shop with the same old people and nothing changing as a result. It continues next year in Belfast so I should think that'll be the real test.

It's nice to get it over with. I've been involved in the margins of it for months now so it's a relief that it's actually happened. It's a core UK Presidency event so that gives it some status, but ...

Still, I heard some interesting speakers, did some useful business and networking, arranged to talk to regional colleagues about funding and was asked to speak at a seminar in Manchester in December, so it was worth the effort.

Home now, of course, and listening to Public Image Limited so I'm pleased to be here rather than there!

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Mary Tyler Moore - more is not enough

Imagine my delight at receiving the box sets of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' series 1 and 2 DVDs. Nothing for it but to watch all 48 episodes one after another. And I'm so pleased I did - what an excellent show it was!

It stands the test of time in terms of the humour and the issues it deals with, only the clothes let it down (at times, badly!). The first episode is an excellent scene-setter, giving the viewer a really good idea about what the show is about, touching on each of the main characters to get a feel for them and lots of humour.

I like the character of Mary and would love to meet her, Rhoda is someone I'd love as a friend, Lou is a boss I'd hate to work for but very comedic, and Ted, Murray and Phyllis are very well crafted characters.

Has it ever been repeated? I can't recall. It ran from 1970 to 1977 - I'm sure I didn't see the later seasons (if they were even aired in this country) but I did watch 'Rhoda' and 'Lou Grant'. What a great little company MTM Enterprises, Inc was and a great stable of programmes. They all ought to be repeated at a time we can watch them - lets face it, programmes made last week seem to be endlessly repeated over the various digital channels so why not throw in a few MTM shows as well?

I've had a delightful few days working through all 48 episodes of the show and can't wait for other season's to be issued on DVD (if they ever are, but I'm not holding my breath).

As an antidote to excessive niceness I just *had* to watch the Sex Pistols 'The Filth and the Fury'... and very educational it is too!

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Barcelona, City of Gaudi, Art and Life

Back from a long weekend in Barcelona, a wonderful city with a wonderful relaxed feeling. Been there in different years in April, July and now October and it's nice to see different sides to the city. Visited some of my favourite places and ate at some of my favourite restaurants. Had a 'half'n'half' pizza and beer at a lovely little pizza place on the Street of a Thousand Ceramic Shops in the old town (don't know what the street is really called, but that's how I think of it, just down from the Picasso Museum) and bought some more incredibly cheap ceramics.

Had a lovely meal at the delightful Citrus Restaurant overlooking Passeig de Gracia, just opposite Gaudi's house of dragon bones, excellent views over the street from the big first floor windows, excellent and attentive service and the best puddings ever! Washed down with a teasing Rioja and cava was sipped in celebration. A high class noshery (a banana signifying the gents toilet and two lemons signposing the ladies) that I happily eat at on every trip to Barca so far and hope to again.

Lots of walking on the sunny Sunday, seeing new things (the Ceramics Museum inside Palau Reial) and old favourites (Parc Guell) and even managed to get inside the 'gingerbread house', one of the gatehouses to the park with a roof that looks like the icing on a cake topped off with a magic mushroom chimney, courtesy of Chris spotting a ticket booth I'd walked past in my excitement at seeing it open for the first time. Signor Gaudi is called 'God's Architect' for his astonishing Sagrada Familia but it's Parc Guell that does it for me. It's on a much more human scale for my little sensibilities.

There's a small exhibition inside but I didn't look at it at all (no idea what it was about) - I revelled in the feeling of space in the small, organic rooms, painted blue on all three floors with no straight lines (other than the floor). Even the views of the Parc from the windows were new since I'd never seen it from that direction or elevation before. The ceiling in every room was ribbed, almost like being inside the ribcage of an ancient dragon at that moment between breaths when the ribcage is still and you can imagine it will expand any second with a slow, stately intake of air. A definite high point of the trip!

The Parc was less crowded than I've seen it before - the crowds waiting to have their photo taken beside the water-dragon (Gordon) on the steps leading to the hypostile hall (planned as a market) were noticeably less frenetic. I don't know what it is about that little dragon but he draws the crowds! He didn't have water splooshing from his mouth, though, and all the fountains were turned off (not just in the park, but seemingly everywhere in Barcelona).

A trip to Barcelona wouldn't be complete without strolling down Las Ramblas through stalls selling flowers and birds, the street artists inventing even more intriguing things to mime and be painted up as statues, and buy packs of fresh fruit from the colourful market. The narrow, winding streets of the Barri Gotic and the grand boulevard of Passeig de Gracia, the latter leading to La Pedrera, the Casa Mila of Gaudi and what will always be, to me, the wibbly-wobbly building!

I love climbing up to the roof and reveling in the oddity and wierdness of the multi-level roof, almost like waves crashing on the shore, with the knights-in-armour chimneys. A group of chimneys was covered in scaffolding for renovation (of which I heartily approve). It was late in the afternoon by the time we got there (having walked from Parc Guell rather than get the subway) so it was viewed with a different light as the sun weakened and the clouds drew in - always seen it in full sunshine before and the light and clouds made it almost sinister at times. In one direction lowering, grey clouds and in the other lovely blue sky with whisps of white cotton-wool. The large attic underneath the roof is, as you'd expect from Signor Gaudi, ribbed inside with massive wooden beams, arcing from floor to ceiling to floor again ... more dragons! It must be both wonderful and odd for the people who live there. If I win the lottery, that's where I'd buy a flat.

So that's a wonderful weekend over with and Barcelona put to bed for 2005...

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

The Best of British £1 Notes - The DVD

Got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night, and it is fab. I hadn't seen any of the Sex Pistols, PiL or John Lydon videos or extras before so it was all fresh as a daisy to me and I love it.

It starts off with a video of 'Anarchy in the UK' and Mr Lydon looks *s0* young it's impossible to imagine him as the scourge of capitalism and destroyer of civilization when he looked so cute and naive.... if only! I was entranced looking at the different images of him over the years and the way he projected his own brand of music - a very consistent approach, not twisting and turning with the latest fad. He's a very charismatic artist.

The extras are well worth it as well. Three live tracks of the reformed Pistols playing live, including 'Pretty Vacant' and 'Silver Machine'. Wonderful stuff!

If only I could watch it for the first time again...

Monday, 3 October 2005

The Best of British £1 Notes

I am now the proud possessor of 'The Best of British £1 Notes' by John Lydon. A great retrospective covering the first 29 years of his musical career. It starts off with the glorious 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'Public Image', two of my all-time favourite songs and they really stand the test of time. Both are songs that most of today's crop of top 10 ditties would be terrified of if they came across them in broad daylight let alone in a dark alleyway. Fearsome and loud and rebellious and young and angry and challenging and, well, just plain fab! But why doesn't it include 'Pretty Vacant' I wonder?

Of course, despite being released on Virgin the Virgin store on Victoria Street didn't seem to have realised there was also a DVD to go with the CD. Never mind, I've got the double CD and will pick up the DVD at the first opportunity when I go into a proper record store. I can't wait!

I'm playing the CD LOUD!

"I do not copy, steal or imitate. But you are more than welcome to procreate" sayeth Mr Lydon.