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29 May 2006

The truth about MySpace and the Arctic Monkeys

So, the Arctic Monkeys came from nowhere to number one due to their clever self-promotion on a lifestyle website called MySpace.com? Right? Wrong. The truth is, as ever, far more interesting.

Nottingham, defended

If you keep up with UK news, you will have heard early last week about Nottingham being declared "the capital of crime" in the UK. Jon McGregor is a brilliant young writer (first novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things reviewed by Deborama's books two years ago) who happens to live in Nottingham. He has published an article defending his city which is well worth reading. Deborama works in Nottingham and can testify that it is a very vibrant multicultural city which has a lot going for it. However, McGregor says he has never seen a gun there, even in the the hands of the police, and I have to say I have seen armed police around the train station numerous times. Also, there was a gunshot murder just across the road from an office I used to work in in the city centre, on the doorstep of a popular night club (since closed).

23 May 2006

Hallelujah - it's a dud!

Historian Martin Kemp rejoices for history-lovers in the fact that the film everyone is reviewing, dissing or discussing (The da Vinci Code, of course) is so preposterous, un-hip and boring that it can't do much damage after all. It's a similar theme I have heard from others, including a Catholic who says her church has nothing to fear from such a silly attack. So, dear readers, if you have seen it, please comment. Even if you haven't - go on, you probably have an opinion. I am probably going to see it at some point, even though I found the books so childlishly and poorly written that I could barely make it to page 2. (And I didn't try to go any further. But I already know the story, having read Holy Blood Holy Grail years ago.) I was also moved to note, when I saw a short TV feature about Rosslyn Chapel and its over-running by da Vinci code groupie tourists in recent months, that I was very glad to have been a Templar-chaser back when it was a more solitary past-time, and to have had the opportunity to visit Rosslyn in relative peace.

Independent booksellers in the UK

The Guardian Unlimited Books section's Stephen Moss discovers that maybe it isn't all doom and gloom in the world of independent bookstores after all. Perhaps the news of their demise is premature. Perhaps the supermarkets and huge chain bookstores are cutting their own noses more than they are spiting the face of UK bookstores with their insane discount schemes.

21 May 2006

Bollywood, call centres and the 35/10 rule

The Observer story "Hi, it's Bollywood calling" gave me a rich vein to explore to get back to my blogging. There is such an overwhelming number of call centre jobs (and so few better ones) that a vast majority of India's young, highly educated men and women are now employed thus, and so of course, it has become a major cultural reference, giving rise to soap opera plots, hit movies and novels. What I found especially fascinating is that a recurrent theme in these works, and therefore presumably in the interior lives of the hapless call centre workers, is the idea that they are structuring their lives around the customers mainly in the US, working night shifts to coincide with the American clock and tutoring their excellent and educated speech to be more American-friendly, all in the service of a people whom they find to be vastly inferior to themselves in intelligence (if not in other ways). This has given rise to the 35-10 rule, which call centres teach their workers, which is expanded to explain that the language, understanding and world-view of the average 35 year-old American help desk customer is about equal to the average 10 year-old Indian. So just think about that the next time you find you can't program your microwave and when you get India on the phone, try to be a better national example, OK?

09 May 2006

An Inconvenient Truth (a film)

I am not sure what this trailer is trying to say, except that it concerns a film called An Inconvenient Truth. I am not sure what the "41,974 people" thing is or why it is in "selected theatres" or if it will later be in general release or if anyone is trying to found a movement around it. But anyway, there it is. An inconvenient truth indeed.

04 May 2006

Barcelona in words and links

I got back from Barcelona yesterday at noon. The trip was a success, in that I have always really wanted to go there, and I did not have a bad time. Having read Alain de Botton's excellent book The Art of Travel, I was primed for disappointment, or rather not to have absurd expectations so as to avoid disappointment. Also I went there determined not to do what Aimee used to call "tweaking" and which I am prone to anyway by temperament, and of course it is expected of me, as a middle-aged upper-middle-class woman travelling alone. I took only two changes of clothes and my toothbrush and of course my credit card (I'm not crazy) and I stayed in a hostel in the dead centre of the city. I flew EasyJet and I did not rent a car; it was a break on the cheap. Much Gaudi architecture was seen and inexpertly photographed (see next post) and I did a lot of walking, including the 92 stairsteps up to and down from the hostel. Also Sangria and both red and white Spanish wine were drunk. The wine was great, though very pricey in restaurants. Sangria - hmm. I guess it's OK as a mild tipple in the hot weather. The one paella I had was almost inedible, one of the worst things I ever had. Tapas on the other hand, was a great success. I had one posh (ish) seafood meal down by the harbourfront and felt massively ripped off. At least the seafood was fresh, but my God, you expect at least that as you sit right in front of fishing boats and pay a small fortune for a late lunch. But then there were no side dishes, no garnish, measly portions and they even charge you for the basket of plain french bread like from the supermarket, with butter or olive oil or anything. But I won't go on about it.
Barcelona is lovely, like a sort of older, wiser New Orleans. I had the Paul Simon line about "angels in the architecture" playing through my mind as I rambled around, planless, clueless, slightly intoxicated by the sunshine and wishing I could speak and understand Catalan. I tried but failed to pierce the veil of time and see it as it might have been in the Civil War with George Orwell mooching about in his curious mix of nerd and action hero (a little like me in my own head.)

Barcelona in snapshots

So, here are some pictures of Barcelona, mainly architecture and people-watching scenes:

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