Monday, June 27, 2011

When She Finished Her Laundry, She Was All In A Quandry

Glastonbury, eh, dear blog reader? It's a laugh, innit? Four days of almost constant rain so that everyone ends up knee-deep in clarts and suffering from a variety of complaints which were last seen, medically, during The Great War. And then, just when you think it can't possibly get any worse, bloody Coldplay come on. Trenchfoot and Coldplay. God really must want some people to have a rotten life. Anyway ...
Sadly, there was another reason that Glastonbury will be remembered this year apart from Coldplay, U2 and Beyonce and the fact that we had over a hundred thousand stinking lice-ridden hippies in one place at one time and no thermo-nuclear ballistic missile to hand. A senior member of David Cameron's constituency party was found dead at the festival. Christopher Shale, chairman of the West Oxfordshire Conservative Association, was discovered by police officers in a backstage toilet just after 9am on Sunday morning. No official cause of death has been given although following a post-mortem examination, officers said they are not treating the death as suspicious. The prime minister said that the news of Shale's death had left him and his wife 'devastated.' He said that he had lost 'a close and valued friend - a big rock in my life has suddenly been rolled away.' Cameron, MP for Witney in Oxfordshire for ten years, said that Shale had been 'a huge support over the last decade. Christopher was one of the most truly generous people I've ever met - he was always giving to others, his time, his help, his enthusiasm and above all his love of life.' Speaking at a press conference, Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis said: 'I'm told it was a suicide situation in the early hours of this morning. It was in the Winnebago area. It's very, very sad. I can't say too much about it.' Shale helped run the Prime Minister's Witney constituency office and is believed to have been in his fifties. Inspector Chris Morgan of Avon and Somerset Police told BBC News: 'A male was found down by the press office in the toilet area. At the moment we are working to establish the cause of the gentleman's death.' Shale features in an article in the Scum Mail on Sunday published just hours before his death, which portrayed him as being critical of his Conservative association. In what the newspaper calls 'a strategy document' looking at how to increase association membership - which Cameron is said to have been aware of - Shale says that at present there was 'no reason to join the Conservatives [and] lots of reasons not to. We've come over as graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take.' He concludes that people don’t join because they ‘think we'll beg and steal from them. And they're right. When we are together we are not always a group of people to whom many of our potential members are going to be magnetically drawn. When we come together as a group we sometimes morph into something different, less attractive. Our environment alters us.' In the document, he presented a scathing assessment of the social skills and fundraising efforts of his association. More than one hundred and thirty seven thousand people are thought to be attending the festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton, which ends on Sunday. The hospitality area where the body was found on Sunday lies between the rear of the Pyramid Stage and the Other Stage. The area is off-limits to most festival-goers with gates manned by - usually rock hard skinhead - security staff who enforce a strict no-pass no-entry rule. The backstage bar, which opens until the early hours, is usually teeming after the main stages close. For example, U2 stayed for a few drinks after their headline set on Friday night. The bar area was cordoned off by police after the body was discovered early on Sunday morning. It is believed that the mobile toilet in which Shale was found, was in the field opposite the bar.

Although unconfirmed, there are rumours that ITV's Scott & Bailey has been recommissioned for an - extended - second series in 2012. The crime drama starring Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones has proved a very popular addition to ITV's Sunday night line-up with consolidated ratings for its first four episodes averaged a very impressive seven million plus.

Rachel Tarley's Metro review of the new series of Top Gear makes a refreshing change. Somebody writing for a British newspaper who, it seems, wants to insult the show and its millions of viewers. For God sake nobody tell the Gruniad or the Scum Mail, they'll be outraged that someone else is muscling in on their territory: 'Top Gear returned for its seventeenth series, testosterone oozing from its every pore and loathsomeness oozing from its Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson joined his usual partners in crime James May and Richard Hammond to suck up to rock stars and test-drive cars all over the world in an effort to gain as many man points as possible. Hammond driving a military Marauder around Johannesburg before blowing it up a bit and then driving it some more: man points. May racing around snowy mountain paths in a souped-up Mini: man points. Clarkson measuring boot size in child capacity: man points.' Oh, for God's sake, it's a radical feminist deconstruction of Top Gear. Praise the Lord, we haven't had one of those in the national press in, ooo, at least six minutes. 'Jeremy Clarkson can divide opinion like few other television stars. Some believe he's a greatest anti-PC icon of our era; the rest of us know he's a knob.' Well, thank you for electing yourself to speak for 'the rest of us' Rachel, you ignorant self-important individual, you. Ah, but there's a sting in the tail just when you were ready to give Millie Tant here a damned good talking to: 'Whether we like it or not, he's back. And he's on typical Clarkson form, polluting the air with his petrol fumes and self-importance and comparing driving a car to "the feeling you'd get if someone suddenly gave you permission to set fire to Piers Morgan."' And, the problem with that statement is ...? 'It's remarkable really, that after sixteen series presenting Top Gear, the man hasn't run out of things to compare cars to. But then, the programme itself doesn't appear to be too clapped-out either. Top Gear continues to be a little bit too staged; a little bit too try-hard, but the opening episode of its series showed that this is a programme that hasn't yet run out of ideas.' Not even close, Raych. Not even remotely close.

James Bond star Daniel Craig has married the Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz, Craig's publicist has confirmed. Danny, forty three, the sixth actor to play the 007 role, is reported to have married Weisz, forty one, at a 'secret' ceremony in New York. except that it's not secret now. Weisz won best supporting actress at the Academy Awards in 2006, for her role in The Constant Gardener. The British actors, who play a married couple in new film Dream House, have reportedly been dating since December. Publicist Robin Baun, representing Craig, confirmed the pair had married, but did not offer any further details stopping just short of telling everyone that it was none of their business. Which, to be fair, it isn't. Good. Glad we got that one sorted out. According to reports, they married Wednesday in New York, with only Craig's teenage daughter, Ella, Weisz's five-year-old son, Henry, and two family friends as guests. The News Of The World reports a 'source' - anonymous, of course, and therefore likely non-existent - as saying: 'Daniel and Rachel insisted on having a small, quiet wedding. They are madly in love and couldn't wait to be husband and wife - but they wanted minimum fuss.'

Pippa Middleton is reportedly being 'targeted' by Strictly Come Dancing 'bosses' who want to sign her up for the next series. At least, according to those ever-reliable purveyors of mendacity at the Sun. So, we'll file this one away with their 2006 report that Zoe Lucker had been signed up to play The Rani in Doctor Who, shall we? The younger sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge hit the headlines around the world when she served as maid of honour at the royal wedding in April. And, everyone ogled her arse quite a lot. Particularly the tabloids. According to the Scum, the BBC 'believe Middleton could help the show take on ITV's The X Factor' in the ratings battle between the two. 'Pippa has become almost as famous as Kate since the wedding. It would be a huge coup to get her and give the show global appeal,' a 'source' - anonymous and, in this particular case, almost certainly fictitious told the paper. A 'friend' of the twenty seven-year-old allegedly commented: 'She's a bit overwhelmed by all the attention and considering her next move very carefully. She is conscious that her sister is going to be Queen one day and is determined not to do anything embarrassing.' The 'insider' then added, claim the tabloid: 'But she loves Strictly and if she was sure her appearance would be handled correctly she'd be keen to slip into sequins.' No, I don't know anybody real who talks like that either, dear blog reader.

The ONE Show almost drowned as rain forced the delay of Andy Murray's third-round Wimbledon match on Friday evening. Chris Evans and Alex Jones's hour-long show was shunted onto BBC2 in favour of the sodding tennis and was watched by a mere 1.92m, its lowest ever audience. Meanwhile, over on BBC1, Murray's victory over Ivan Ljubicic, by contrast, scored 6.45m between 7pm and 10pm, peaking with a hugely impressive 8.1m as the match drew to a close. BBC2's normal programming was also affected. The Kennedys at 9pm drew a modest 1.35m, a far cry from its opening audience last week, whilst Mr Bonio out of U2 at Glastonbury was watched by 1.14m at 10pm - collecting a further eight hundred and eighty eight thousand viewers on BBC4 from 10.30pm once the tennis had finished. With EastEnders also moved to BBC2, averaging only 5.4m, A Question of Sport had 1.57m in its 8.30pm slot. Over on ITV, Love Your Garden was watched by 2.98m at 8pm and the tennis also hit Paul O'Grady Live which slipped to 2.75m in the 9pm hour. So, a good night for BBC1 and for ginger Scotsmen everywhere. All of which will, of course, be rendered utterly pointless when he gets beat in the semi-finals. Again. I hate tennis, me.

Weeds creator Jenji Kohan has explained her decision to move the new season three years into the future. The show returns on Monday for its seventh season, set three years after the main character Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) turned herself in to the authorities for murder. 'It was a huge decision,' Kohan explained to Entertainment Weekly. 'We usually start the next minute [after the last season ends], and everyone yells at us because Shane's grown eight inches and it's technically only two hours later.' Kohan reasoned that as they weren't keen on the idea of exploring a prison storyline with Nancy, the producers made the decision to skip forward in time instead. 'There's a lot of references [to prison] and certainly people from that time will come back and inform us as to what she might have been doing when she was off-camera,' Kohan continued. 'We had to sort of bring our whole audience up to speed, so that's kind of what the first episode's about.' Among the show's new guest stars are Martin Short and Aidan Quinn, as well as the returning Jennifer Jason Leigh as Nancy's long-suffering sister. Kohan also said that fans can expect some past characters to return at some point in the new season. 'Maybe some faces from the past, I'm not at liberty to say,' she added. 'People can always come back. Unless they're dead, which happens.'

Dannii Minogue is reportedly 'in talks' to join This Morning. Oh, jeez. Has it got that bad, Dannii?

EastEnders character Ryan Malloy will leave Albert Square after murdering Whitney's pimp, it has been reported. Following a showdown on Southend Pier, Ryan will kill Rob Grayson (Jody Latham) as revenge for forcing his sister into prostitution. Ryan, played by Neil McDermott, will say his goodbyes to Whitney (Shona McGarty) before disappearing into the crowd and going on the run from police. 'Ryan's been involved in some big storylines so we wanted him to leave in typically dramatic fashion,' a 'source' told the News of the World. Probably not the same 'source' who was Copper's Narking them details of Danny Craig's wedding I think it's probably a fair bet to assume. 'Neil felt it was time for him to spend more time with his family. However, he has not been killed off, so there is always a chance he could return in the future.'

Scientists have named a newly discovered species of mushroom after the popular cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants. BBC News - who seemingly haven't got anything better to do with their time - reports that the new species of fungus has been named Spongiforma squarepantsii, and is one of only two species that exist in the rare genus. Researchers at San Francisco State University made the discovery in Lambir Hills National Park, Malaysia, during an expedition across the forests of Borneo. The new discovery's sea sponge shape and musty smell are thought to have inspired researchers to name it after the Nickelodeon character.

Melanie Sykes and Gino D'Acampo will host a new ITV1 programme together during the summer. Which sounds like two very decent reasons not to watch it, in that case. The duo will present Lunch with Mel and Gino on weekdays throughout August as both This Morning and Loose Women go on their summer break. Sykes previously hosted Today with Des and Mel with Des O'Connor for the broadcaster. However, the chat show was scrapped in 2005. Because it was crap and no one was watching it. Lunch with Mel and Gino will see the pair joined by two 'celebrity' guests each day on a show which the broadcaster described in an official press release as 'a fast-paced, live lunch hour centred around having fun with food.' 'Gino and I are going to have an absolute blast. Bring on the summer!' Sykes said, while D'Acampo added: 'It's going to be fantastico!'

Comedienne and actress Carol Burnett will make a final appearance on ABC soap All My Children this September before the series comes to an end. Burnett played Verla Grubbs on the show from 1976, and has made several return appearances since leaving, most recently in 2005 to celebrate the show's thirty fifth anniversary. She will share her scenes opposite All My Children regulars Susan Lucci and Jill Larson when she makes her return. 'It is our honour and pleasure to welcome back Carol Burnett to Pine Valley,' Executive Producer Julie Hanan Carruthers said in a statement. 'Verla Grubbs is a beloved member of the All My Children family and we look forward to reprising her character.' Burnett recently had a guest-starring role on FOX's musical series Glee as Sue Sylvester's Nazi-hunting mother, Doris. Transformers star Josh Duhamel recently confirmed that he will return to the soap this August to reprise his role as conman Leo du Pres for the last time. ABC announced the decision to cancel All My Children in April after forty one years on the air. The final episode of the show will air on 23 September.

The BBC has published sixty years' worth of audio archive and transcripts of The Reith Lectures. First broadcast in 1948, the lectures were created to advance public understanding of 'significant issues of the day' through high-profile speakers. Past lecturers include the philosopher Bertrand Russell, 'father of the atomic bomb' Robert J Oppenheimer and pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. More than two hundred and forty Reith Lectures are also available to download as podcasts. The Reith Lectures were named in honour of Lord John Reith, the BBC's first director general. Lord Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which would enrich the intellectual and cultural life of the nation, as well as educate, inform and entertain. The Reith Lectures were created as a 'stimulus to thought and contribution to knowledge.' Andrew Caspari, the BBC's head of Speech Radio Interactive said: 'The archive is a journey through the great names and thinkers of the last sixty years. It includes Bertrand Russell, Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Hoggart, AH Halsey and JK Galbraith. At Radio 4 it is always slightly daunting to commission people to follow in such footsteps, but in recent years the likes of Onora O'Neill and Daniel Barenboim have maintained the Reiths as one of the UK's most significant intellectual stages.' The inaugural lectures were given in 1948 by the philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. His series, entitled Authority and the Individual, explored the relationship between individuality, community and state control in a progressive society. However, Lord Reith was not impressed, writing in his diary: 'Listened to the first Reith Lecture by Bertrand Russell, forsooth. He went far too quickly and has a bad voice. However I wrote him a civil note.' Earl Russell's lectures triggered a considerably more angry response from the Soviet Union, where they were interpreted as an attack on Communism. The BBC archive documents a Radio Moscow broadcast which said it was 'a pitiful world that Russell praised, where packs of wolves would kill for a piece of flesh' - a result of 'the philosophy of capitalism in decay.' During the Cold War era, the Reith Lectures were frequently a source of political antagonism. One of the most controversial series was delivered in 1957 by the former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan. Alarmed by the growing nuclear arms race, Kennan supported negotiation with Russia and suggested American, French and British troops should be withdrawn from Germany. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev cited the lectures when he told reporters that Russia would withdraw from East Germany, if NATO troops did the same in the West. Back in Washington, Kennan's former Democratic colleagues denounced him as 'out of touch.' Throughout eight decades, the lectures have regularly highlighted issues long before they were widely discussed, many of which still resonate today. In 1952, the historian Arnold Toynbee examined the impact of westernisation in Muslim countries and the 1962 Reith Lecturer, the anthropologist George Carstairs, outraged the British press when he suggested 'pre-marital sexual exploration' might be healthy for relationships. The 1969 lectures, given by the ecologist Frank Fraser Darling, are considered a landmark in the debate surrounding the protection of the environment as he warned of the onset of global warming. However, the lectures have been criticised for largely being an all-white, all-male affair. The first female Reith Lecturer was Dame Margery Perham in 1961. A writer and lecturer on African affairs, she examined the impact of colonialism. Robert Gardiner of the UN Economic Commission for Africa was the first non-white lecturer. Speaking in 1965, his broadcasts discussed how how economic inequality affects race relations. The youngest lecturer was the neurobiologist, Colin Blakemore, who was just thirty years old when asked to deliver the lectures in 1976. His series, Mechanics of the Mind, explored the human brain and consciousness. The archive has been made available on the Radio 4 website, and via two podcasts Reith Lectures Archive 1948 - 1975 and Reith Lectures 1976 - 2010. Lecture transcripts are also available. While compiling the archive, Radio 4 discovered several of the older lectures were missing, and is appealing to the public to contact the Reith Lectures team if they have audio copies of any of the missing recordings. The 2011 Reith Lectures, entitled Securing Freedom, will be delivered by the Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and the former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller. Aung San Suu Kyi's lectures will address the themes of liberty and dissent, and will be broadcast on Tuesday 28 June at 0900 on BBC Radio 4 and at 1100 on the BBC World Service. Baroness Manningham-Buller's lectures will be broadcast in September to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and will reflect on the threats to freedom and the means of countering them in the post-9/11 world. The Reith Lectures archive is the latest development in Radio 4's plan to make more of its archive available to the public. The recent publication of the Desert Island Discs archive has garnered more than three million downloads since its launch two months ago.

In a story that has major significance for just about everybody who posts anything on the Internet but which has, so far, escaped much media coverage, a blogger has reportedly been threatened with a libel action by the disgraceful lice at the Daily Scum Mail. Ironically, the Daily Scum Mail is, you may remember, one of the newspapers which has shouted loudest and longest against the current UK libel laws because of their 'chilling effect on press freedom.' Oh, the irony. Kevin Arscott, the author of a blog called The Angry Mob - which I must admit, I hadn't previously come across - reports that he and his webhosts have both received letters from lawyers acting on behalf of the Scum Mail's parent company, Associated Newspapers. It concerns an item posted on his former blog in November 2009 which attacked the Scum Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre, over a story about the number of babies born in a London hospital to non-British mothers. (Needless to say, the Scum Mail's story was extremely 'economical with the truth' as noted by several media outlets. See, for instance here.) Arscott - amid much anti-Scum Mail posturing in the Twittersphere, not that this is, particularly, a new thing, all the cool kids are doing it - has now taken down the post. But it can still be read via Google's cache if you know what you're looking for (though, if you do seek it out, be warned that it does contain some pretty strong language). The legal letters, Arscott states, claim that the material is 'seriously abusive and defamatory of Mr Dacre.' Now, I'm no legal expert but I believe most of what Arscott wrote actually falls under the category of 'low and common abuse.' It's not big, it's not clever, and it's the sort of thing your mother probably wouldn't like very much but it certainly isn't illegal either. Being rude about someone does not equate to breaking the law. The piece is clearly rude, though one  supposes that Dacre himself wouldn't worry to much about the bad language which it contains. But, it seems, it was a combination of the headline - 'Paul Dacre must die' - and the fact that it appears at the top of the Google search engine for anyone doing a search on Darce's name which spurred Associated's lawyers to act. The conclusion to Unity's posting on the Liberal Conspiracy blog is as follows: 'What we have here is, on the face of it, an extremely wealthy media organisation trying to bully a lone blogger and his hosting provider just because – two years ago – he said something about a newspaper editor that the editor has taken umbrage with.' Clearly, what the legal letter has accomplished - and this posting is proof - is to draw unwelcome extra attention to the original article. One senses that Dacre himself will greet this unwanted publicity with a word that rhymes with the name of the lack of culture secretary. Personally this blogger loathes the Daily Scum Mail, all it stands for and everyone who works for it (mind you, as often noted on this blog, it is not alone in this regard, I have an equal level of contempt for its polar opposite in political terms the Gruniad Morning Star as well as most of the other sleaze-rags that masquerade as newspapers in the United Kingdom these days). As noted on the side-bar of this page, of course, this blogger encourages everyone 'to use those freedoms - which many brave men and women have struggled, suffered and died to attain and then maintain over the years - to express your opinions upon whatever subjects you desire and whenever you see fit in a public forum. Within - of course - the boundaries of the law as it currently stands.' And that last bit is important. Because, whilst I consider that the Daily Scum Mail is a hateful, spiteful, mean-spirited, bigotted, thuggish, dangerous, wretched agenda-soaked hate-rag written by and - for the most part read by - the most despicable pond-scum ever to have crawled out from under a rock, this belief would appear to fall under the legal heading of 'fair comment.' Disliking something, and saying so, forcefully, is not against the law. Not yet, anyway. Aren't you beyond glad you live in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of expression is everyone's right, dear blog reader? Thought so.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day returns us to 1976. And, as far as I'm aware, the only band to be named after a Southend amusement hall ever to have a top twenty hit. Nice quiff, mate.

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