December 5th, 2016
Nominations for the BBC Sports Review of the Year Sports Personality of the Year Award are out. Who have the BBC's panel of the great* and good* selected?
Looking at all the nominations, and why they might win
In the words of the citation, which is the sportsperson "whose actions have most captured the public's imagination"? We will confine discussion to those six.
Murray is the man to beat. His two biggest wins – Wmbldn and the season-ending championships – were on the BBC, and it's clear that he's producing superlative athletic performances, week in week out. He's held back because he won this title in 2013, and again in 2015.
Farah and Adams are also unbeaten in their seasons, and neither has won the award before. Both have public profiles, and evidence to say they've inspired others to take up their sport.
Crucially, all three have the media on side. BBC coverage of tennis and athletics, the dead-tree press has an obsession with boxing that Adams can use. Peaty, Storey, Whitlock all suffer from how the media ignore their sports for most of the year.
November 22nd, 2016
First in a series of brief engagements with stations up and down the Gold Coast radio dial.
(Here's what we heard)
The second half-hour was rambling: they've got a big name who wants to promote something, three big egos "interviewing" him, and the whole segment came across as a disjointed and quite painful mess.
They'd been ramping up the big announcement, made the big announcement, and in the next link they forget about it. Signal to the listener – that's done, we've moved on, nothing more to hear here. If they wanted to keep momentum going, recap the news, throw in some of the stats they've prepared, and then throw forward to the interview in ten minutes.
The music side appeals greatly: these six records were a bit more modern than overnights, still explore the station's depth. The news was enough for a pop station, we felt sufficiently set up for the day. But the presentation wasn't actually much good. We can't grade this above C+.
October 22nd, 2016
Some brief words on the LSE's "what the hell do we do now?" conference on 8 October.
Ash Sarkar and Zoe Gardner provided a one-two speech on how borders are futile. That was worth the price of admission. Owen Jones spoke with his usual passion, his usual eloquence, and his usual complete lack of substance.
Lots of politicians gave lots of speeches, long on bluster and anger, lacking in concrete ideas.
It became clear that the meeting was to plot for a socialist nirvana. This blog would rather take tactical steps towards a broad consensus goal, and shift that goal by small and imperceptible increments. The strategy worked well for the isolationists.
October 5th, 2016
The theme for September was rats. It produced a solid Second Class set of puzzles, and we found them all enjoyable. No particular weak spots, and a few highlights.
September 22nd, 2016
Cursed Child. What's it like for people who don't know much about the Harry Potter canon? We'll answer that question. We'll also give some sizable spoilers, so if you don't want to know anything about the production, look away now.
Cursed Child is a "short" story by Jack Thorne. Like any number of fan fictions, it draws on the characters created by JK Rowling. Unlike any other fan fiction, it has been written with input from Rowling.
The story claims to be short. This is not true. It is, in fact, very long. You might think it's a long way to the end of the universe, but that's naught compared to the length of Cursed Child. Across its various parts, the play runs for over five hours.
More: We consider the production from all angles: effects, plot, stagecraft, acting, all the business of show. (2000 words)
September 2nd, 2016
Star Trek the theme with puzzles of very mixed quality.
August 19th, 2016
In this half-year: we remember the So Solid Crew, pass judgement on Bob the Builder versus DJ Ötzi, and describe someone as "wants to be Donna Summer, but is more Done Autumn". But who?
With number ones for Roger Sanchez, Robbie Williams, Atomic Kitten, So Solid Crew, Five, Blue, Bob the Builder, DJ Ötzi, Kylie Minogue, Afroman, Westlife, S Club 7, Daniel Bedingfield, Nicole Kidman.
August 18th, 2016
The seven sacraments of Harry Potter, life in a glass jar, punctuation,
Romeo + Juliet, the Crass Spectacle, and which way is due up?
August 12th, 2016
Secret Societies was the theme; we reckon it was a Third Class set of puzzles, experiments don't always succeed.
July 28th, 2016
"More United", Paddy Ashdown's campaign group, was launched on Andrew Marr's show last weekend.
As we see it, "More Utd" asks candidates to support some milquetoast ideas. Nothing on the sample policy lineup is going to trouble a Sensible candidate from any tradition. Indeed, we can almost say that any candidate supporting these principles is a Sensible candidate, and anyone opposing them is a Silly candidate.
(Behind the cut: Useful contributions from Andrew Hickey, Caron Lindsay, Yellow Submarine, and Nick Barlow.)
Nick Barlow concludes with a "what if" argument,
Let's be prepared to reach out and play a role in building the common ground, instead of standing on the sidelines and complaining that we weren’t included when someone else builds it without us. The old ways of doing politics are dying all around us, and we need to have the courage to try and shape the new.
Stand about while other people speak for us? Down that road lies an unrepresentative group, Labour's problems.
The barrier to entry is low, and the possible gains are great. So this blog's supporting the group, in a nebulous "we support this group" way.
For now, that's all we expect to do.
July 18th, 2016
Reflecting on Danny Finkelstein's claims that It was simply right to ask people whether they assented and This was a reasonable way to make a difficult decision and A referendum is the right way to decide a narrow constitutional question, but not to determine broader national policy.
We don't believe that all three can be true at once.
July 16th, 2016
How many number one singles have there been this year? Depends how you define "number one single".
Are there any number ones on the new Now album?
Why were there none on Now 16, and where was this claim false?
What do they say about a can of worms?
July 9th, 2016
About a month ago, there was criticism of "RadioX". This station is owned by Global. It used to be the home of fresh alternative music, but changed last September to "blokes with guitars".
Stella Creasey (Labour, Walthamstow), noted that Radiox didn't promote its women presenters. Chris Baughen (music director at Radiox) didn't address Creasey's points, but indulged in ad hominem attacks.
(More: Recapping the argument between Creasey and Baugher. Then we bring in some facts, and compare against another alternative station.)
Radiox is the sound of Wetherspoons, bland and unoriginal and the proprietor is dodgy and we just know we can do better.
July 2nd, 2016
After eighteen years, Paul Gambaccini plays his American hits for the last time tonight. "America's Greatest Hits" was influential in its day. Here's how we'll remember the show.
June 30th, 2016
The final set of points.
"I make no apology for expressing anger, lamentation and naming sin as sin where I see it."
"The nation state is not natural, it's not inevitable."
"Cameron knew his background. Even before it was fashionable, Cameron would check his privilege."