Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The future is a foreign country: they do things differently there

I went to Big Tech and the Future of Democracy at the RSA last night.
Roger McNamee was the ultimate Silicon Valley insider. A long-time tech evangelist and legendary investor, he had been an early Facebook shareholder and advisor to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
But from early 2016, his concerns about the company’s business model, culture and priorities became ever graver, leading to a crusading new role that turned him from fervent champion to fierce critic. In the years since, as tech-driven scandal and crisis has hit countries from the US to the UK, from Sri Lanka to Brazil, McNamee has become a leading light in the fight against the existential threats posed by Facebook and the big tech giants to our privacy, democracy and public health.
It was very convincing (and an lot more nuanced than I was expecting). I've added his book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, to my - admittedly long - reading list.

It was strange to be there on a day when Facebook announced a Supreme Court. There's also an upcoming Facebook currency called Libra.  That doesn't leave many boxes to tick before Facebook becomes its own country.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Greek to me

I would have been tempted by this if I'd known about it earlier. It would be a simple trip up the Northern line the Embankment as far as I can tell.

Monday, September 16, 2019

JImmy Rodgers on the Victrola up high

In 1933, the US country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers died of tuberculosis. Just 35 years old and at the peak of his career, his demise left a legacy of a life and career unfinished. This instalment from the US animator Drew Christie’s Drawn & Recorded series, which tells little-known stories from the annals of modern music history, recounts the improbable story of how, in death, Rodgers would go on to inspire not just luminaries of American music, but also the Kipsigis peoples of the Rift Valley in Kenya.
Drawn & Recorded tells the stories that fell through the floorboards of music history and brings them to the light of day via unique, hand-drawn animation and the raspy, baritone voice of T-Bone Burnett. Sometimes hilarious, occasionally tragic, always compelling - these anecdotes show a side of people behind the melodies that you may never have known. Darned if I can work out how to watch the series though. Any ideas?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Don't hate the iPlayer hate the game

A week or so ago I gave you Cardiff's Jim Driscoll and Bruce Lee. Last Wednesday, S4C (the Welsh Channel 4) showed a documentary Jim Driscoll: Meistr y Sgwâr (Master of the Square).

I don't know quite how, but S4C's programmes are on the BBC iPlayer, so I watched it with subtitles yesterday on where it will be available for another 26 days.

27 minutes in, when discussing Driscoll's famous fight with Abe Attell in New York, we learn that:
The sheriff turned journalist Bat Masterson, Marshall of Dodge City and once deputy to Wyatt Earp declared to the crowd, "If I was asked to name this performance, I would call it peerless. So I give you Peerless Jim Driscoll."
So that's how he got the nickname was have always known him by. Could it get any better?

24 minutes in we get:
Kitty Flynn was one of Jim's great nieces. She ran the Royal Oak pub in Cardiff which became a shrine to Driscoll's memory.
Which is where the story started for me.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On the Laish

As a rule I don't do twee, but I heard the new-to-me song University by the new-to-me band Laish via Absolute Radio's Frank Skinner show as I was on my way back from yoga this morning and thought it was rather sweet. Perhaps "on my back from yoga"  is the key. After a bad day at work the same track could well have reduced me to teeth grinding outrage.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Postmodern Jukebox

Prodnose: Most people don't notice the clown.

Myself: What do you mean, "most people don't notice the clown"? The guy is about eight feet tall, in white clown makeup and costume.

Prodnose: Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is an event where the effected person doesn't see new and unexpected things that suddenly appear within their visual field. This phenomenon is believed to be a side-effect of excessive stimuli in the visual field (too many things to keep track of at the same time) and can cause a person to miss important, but unexpected, items in their vicinity.

Myself: I can see the clown already! Who are you today? Jordan bleedin' Peterson? Can't we just take moment simply to recognize the fact that we now live in a culture where a small band with a clown in a suburban house can get 7 million YouTube views and it is in no way considered odd.

Prodnose: Habituation is a form of non-associative learning in which an innate (non-reinforced) response to a stimulus decreases after repeated or prolonged presentations of that stimulus.

Myself: And we'll never be royals......

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Entente Cordiale

Both the French and British courts handed down important rulings yesterday.

BORIS JOHNSON is facing furious demands for the immediate recall of MPs to Westminster after the suspension of parliament was ruled unlawful by Scotland’s highest civil court.
In a dramatic judgment, the Court of Session in Edinburgh found ministers had stopped MPs from sitting for the ‘improper purpose of stymying parliament’.
It said advice given by ministers to the Queen which led to the five-week prorogation was therefore ‘unlawful and is thus null and of no effect’.
The government immediately announced it was lodging an appeal against the ruling with the Supreme Court, with a hearing set for Tuesday.
A MARRIED man who died of a heart attack after having sex with a ‘complete stranger’ he met on a business trip was the victim of a ‘workplace accident’, a French court has ruled.
Mr Xavier — as he was referred to in court — had been posted to the Loiret département in central France by his bosses at railway construction company TSO when he met a local woman on a night out.
The health and safety officer, whose surname was not given, went back to the woman’s house and they had sex.
At about 10pm on February 22, 2013, he was found unconscious at her home, with police concluding he had suffered a cardiac arrest.
The appeal court in Paris has now backed a ruling made at the time that the death was an ‘accident du travail’, entitling Mr Xavier’s family to benefits from both his employers and the state.
You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


In better off countries like the Bahamas I would think twice about giving money in response to a natural disaster. Although the Red Cross movement is generally your best best in such countries, I *would not* suggest supporting the American Red Cross. The Bahamian Red Cross or perhaps the IFRC would be a better bet. Odds are though that the BRC has all the money it needs in the short term and although some funds will be needed in the longer term recovery they will probably put quite a bit into core funds.
The text above is the meat of this Facebook post by Brendan Paddy. (I am too dim it appears this morning to work out how to embed it.)

Back in 2010 (Icons passim) when I was helping out with the Disasters Emergency Committee Haiti Appeal, Brendan was their Director of Communications. In short he knows his onions. I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but I will pass his on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Who is the Speaker and why does he shout order?

We couldn't get a quorum for the pub quiz last night, so I fell back down the rabbit hole of the BBC Parliament channel as the House itself recursively fell down the rabbit hole of prorogation.

When I told my friend Rebecca over the weekend about my strange new hobby she told me that one of her boys (Charley or Harry? I can't remember) has been watching it too. I messaged her last night to say that I had fallen off the wagon again, but knew that at least one other person in the world might be with me and she replied with this article from the Grauniard.
BBC Parliament: the ratings hit that's Big Brother meets 24 – with added Bercow
As our politics has become a perpetual bin fire, the wonks’ TV channel has attracted record viewers. Can it replace reality TV in the nation’s heart?
Last Tuesday (the first evening I sacrificed on this peculiar video altar) it turns out I was only one among a million and a half viewers.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Class Act

Dan Biggar against Ireland this weekend tells the referee not to bother with the TMO as he didn't ground the ball. Class act.

Speaking of class acts I was disappointed to see Nigel Owens go off injured in the Cardiff Pontypool game. Just by setting the example of refereeing with a smile on his face, he has transformed mini-rugby. When Ben started playing at under 9s, refs always seemed very pompous, by the time he moved on to the next age-group they would usually have a laugh and joke with the spectators and do their best to keep the mood light. I think it is down to him.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Another life

I have been linking the titles of these daily posts to last year's equivalent for a while now, so I am reminded this morning that today is the anniversary of me going back to Cardiff because mum had broken her hip. Neither she nor dad has been able to live in Bronwydd Avenue since.

I've been going back every four weeks since she fell down the stairs and broke her arm before that. The same blog time machine technique gives me this link, which in turn shows me that first accident was fifty months (over four years) ago.

I don't have any great conclusion or insight. It just wears me out.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

From the Plaza to the Monico

How old would my posse and I have been when Enter the Dragon was released? It has been on my mind since yesterday's post.

I can remember we all bowled up to the Plaza in North Road one afternoon to try and see it, but - unable to convince the concierge we were 18 - couldn't get in. What would be have been? 13 or 14?

After that, we second-bested over to the Monico in Rhiwbina and saw The Day of the Jackal.

I have a very clear memory of the Monico's manager locking all our weaponry (catapults, sheath knives etc.) in his office for the duration and parcelling it back out again at the end of the show.

Police and social services would probably be called today if a "gang" turned up at the Odeon packing that sort of heat.

(Both Cardiff's Plaza and Monico cinemas are long gone I am sorry to say.)

Friday, September 06, 2019

Knowing is not enough, we must apply.

Take a look at the video above. Just over five minutes in (where I have teed it up, just press play) Cardiff's own Jim Driscoll (Icons passim) is revealed a a huge influence on, and hero of, Bruce Lee.

My cup overfloweth.

Dharma transmission vehicle: The Straight Left and How to Cultivate It.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

the mother of parliaments

I have been pretty much glued to the debates over the last couple of days as the House has bloodied Boris Johnson's nose.

You can get the Parliament channel on YouTube (above), the BBC iPlayer, and on Freeview Channel 232.

I found the early courteous exchanges, when the chamber was half empty and MPs "gave way" to each other much more impressive than the bear-bating finales.

Yesterday, Ken Clarke and Bill Cash (both 79 and in opposite Brexit camps) were by far the best briefed and most eloquent speakers.