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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

General Election 2010: Den of Varying Websites

So, another General Election is taking place on May 6th in the United Kingdom (out of interest, is it catching much attention in other countries?)  They say that with the rise of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter since the last election in 2005, this is the first "internet election".  It kicked off in January with the launch of the Conservative party's poster presenting David Cameron's shiny face to the public next to a slogan about the NHS, which quick as a flash, sparked mockery and a popular website providing users with a template with which to make their own versions.  Tory supporters inevitably retorted with a similar website when Labour launched their own posters later on in the year.  And Twitter has, like it or loathe it, garnered a large amount of attention in the press given its status as a tool adopted on a large scale by political actors as well as a way of gauging instant reaction to events like the Leader Debates and today's "bigot-gate".



I have also been interested by some of the websites that Parliamentary candidates have set up.  My parents' constituency on Mid-Suffolk and North Ipswich has previously been held by Conservative MP Michael Lord.  He has left Parliament and now the Tories have a Doctor called Daniel Poulter standing for election.  His website - http://www.drdanielpoulter.com/ - isn't bad, but has one glaring error on its front page:

"Eleven years of Labour failure have saddled us with serious challenges..."

Labour were elected to power thirteen years ago, or does he think 1997-9 were quite good? 

Another feature of his website that I find frustrating is his photographs.  From these pictures, Dan appears to never open his mouth, a problem which would hinder every MP.  The photos themselves are tiny, and in general the website seems very home-made.  Websites don't have to be super-complicated, but a badly constructed website immediately projects the wrong image.  Try doing a simple wordpress blog or Google page.  They're not difficult.  The Labour candidate for the same constituency, for example, looks clear, professional and to the point - http://www.votejoshi.com/.



Greg Knight

The oddest website for an MP that I have seen so far is that of Greg Knight, who is the sitting Tory MP for East Yorkshire - http://62.149.36.33/~gregknig/ge.php (note immediately that the url is complex!)  This website was highlighted on Twitter as having awesome music, and if you have a visit you will have to agree.  Someone has composed a campaign song for Greg, the lyrics of which are:

"Conservatives work for you,
Vote for Greg Knight and you'll never lose,
Conservatives will work for you,
And Yorkshire tooooooooo."

Amazing!  It really is quite odd.

Upon entering, Greg's website looks like it could have been made in the mid-1990s.  There are awful graphics, Greg's booming voice welcomes you, and rolling text trundles across the screen.  Some of the pages feature Youtube videos that all feature some brilliant amateur incidental music.  My favourite is the guitar solo at the end of this vid about a hospital in Greg's constituency:


I do hope that these shoddy websites continue to be made by politicians.  It's such good fun to stumble upon them.

Have you come across any terrible, funny or even brilliant campaign/MP websites?  Let me know.

Edit - It appears that I did Greg a mis-service.  I believe that he wrote his songs himself and is a drummer in a band called MP4!  Fantastic.  All hail King Greg. 

Seinfeld Clip of the Day - Frank and Kramer Play Pool

Cosmo Kramer and Frank Costanza are two of the more bizarre characters in the Seinfeld universe, and their relationship is encapsulated in this scene from Season 7, Episode 17 - The Doll.


Kramer often enters into scams and deals with George and Jerry's respective fathers and is generally very friendly with them, which always strikes me as odd.  In this episode, Frank has converted George's old bedroom into a billiard room.  The room is just that little bit too small, which is demonstrated when Kramer and Frank have a game of pool and some marvellous slapstick ensues.


The scene is quite delightful and surreal.  I particularly enjoy the lack of music.  When I was young, my parents bought myself and my brother a pool table.  Our pool room wasn't quite as tight for space as Frank's, but seeing them struggle to make certain shots does make me nostalgic for the hours I spent at the baize as a lad.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Panini Odyssey Part 1: We're Off!

Panini.


Panini, Panini, Panini.... Panini, PANINI!


For a lot of people, that word does not equal "sandwich".  For us football loving chaps, Panini evokes childhood memories of swapsies, shinies and mullets.  For every World Cup year a wondrous booklet is launched onto this very Earth which contains hopes and dreams and much much more.  It is of course the Panini Group's Official Licensed World Cup Sticker Album.


The premise is simple.  Buy the sticker book, packed with statistics and facts to keep your average football obsessed lad occupied, buy packets of stickers to be put into the album, stick 'em in.  There are stickers of players, crests, squads, stadia, everything related to the World Cup.  It is a great way to get to know all about the tournament, and best of all it helps you familiarise yourself with the most obscure Slovenian midfield enforcers and Honduran reserve goalkeepers.


As a football crazy youngster, I loved the idea of completing the album but never managed to do so.  It took a lot of effort and scrounging from family friends, begging them to look out for any rare stickers and save them for me.  I would spend many a lunch time trading duplicate stickers with school friends and enemies, adhering to the strict rules like a "shiny" sticker being equal to two player stickers.  I loved poring over the details of the venues and comparing how ugly the different Eastern European squads were.  After a few months, however, I would naturally get  distracted by a new rope swing and my once-loved album would begin to gather dust, never to experience the joy of Carlos Valderrama being added to its vaunted arsenal.


Today, I found a link to pictures of the completed Italia '90 sticker album.  Glory glory glory, it is beautiful.  I struggled to decide which is the ugliest team.  I am going for USSR, what do you think?




Well, this year I am going to make amends for my previous failures.  I can't promise that a rope swing won't distract me but I am determined like never before to finish the 2010 Panini World Cup sticker album.  I will find the official Mascot sticker.  I vow to possess the North Korean striker Hong Yong-Jo.  Nothing will stand in my way.  By fair means of foul, I... will... do it, and I will document my mission right here on Hi diddly dee...



My album and I.
Last Saturday (17th April), I saw an advert for this year's sticker album featuring ITV's much-disliked commentator Clive Tyldesley waxing lyrical about the fun and frolics to be had completing the book.  I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists and became determined to win.  So that afternoon I visited my local high street newsagent and purchased my album.  To my unbounded joy, I was informed by the beautiful typeface that the album came with 21 stickers to start my collection.  When I got home, eager to tear the transparent plastic bag asunder to get to the football themed delights, I saw another advert on the TV, one that made me dance a jig.  It turns out that none-other than the Big Dog, Lowestoft's favourite son, the king of UK Hip-Hop Tim Westwood was advertising the News of the World's Panini sticker album give away.  If he is in it with me and expressing his excitement in such eloquent tones then I know that I am in good company:





Inside my album, I perused the layout and noted some potential rarities (a space split into two stickers for the "Official Logotype" is bound to be in-demand).


The album and free sticker packs.



With the album came six stickers:
Starters.



#580: Fernando Torres, ESP.
#43: Steven Pienaar, RSA.
#116: Javier Mascherano, ARG.
#186: Rio Ferdinand, ENG.
#325: Michael Essian, GHA.
#542: Didier Drogba, CIV.

In addition, 3 packs of five were included:

#97: Alou Diarra, FRA.
#100: Franck RIbery, FRA.
#92: Eric Abidal, FRA.
#580: Fernando Torres, ESP (my first swapsie).
#320: Eric Addo, GHA.
#111: Walter Samuel, ARG.
#146: Lee Woon-Jae, KOR.
#79: Sebastian Eguren, URU.
#123: Diego Milito, ARG.
#503: Luis Fabiano, BRA.
#327: Sulley Muntari, GHA.
#456: Andrew Boyens, NZL.
#363: Daniel Jensen, DEN.
#119: Angel di Maria, ARG.
#281: Lucas Neill, AUS.

So far no fabled shinies, and one duplicate, Torres.  My favourite one was probably Lee Woon-Jae, because of his age (born 26-4-1973) and fetching jersey.  My least favourite was Angel di Maria.  He looks shifty.



Today, I bought 2 more packs of five from a friendly newsagent who was clearly puzzled by my interest in the stickers.  To my utter delight, I found two shinies in amongst my new additions:


#4: World Cup Logo, shiny.
#373: Japan Emblem, shiny.
#97: Alou Diarra, FRA (swapsie).
#605: Victor Bernandez, HON.
#569: Joan Capdevila, ESP.
#560: Liedson, POR.
#342: Mark van Bommel, NED.
#255: Valter Birsa, SVN.
#228: Hassan Yebda, ALG.
#45: Thembinkosi Fanteni, RSA.


My first two shinies.

A good mix.  One duplicate (always useful for inevitable having to negotiate big deals with fellow collectors) and those all important shiny stickers.  My favourite is obviously my first shiny, the Japanese Emblem.  My least favourite is Liedson, because of his pretty horrible hair.


Liedson
Stay tuned to see what the next set of stickers holds.  If anyone out there should happen to come into the possession of some unwanted stickers, please let me know via here or on Twitter (@El_Nacnud).  Or else if you are interested in doing some swapsies then do give me a shout.  I have a spare Torres and Diarra waiting for a good home.

In the words of Westwood.  Pow!


Shiny.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Pheasant Bullies Former Ornithologist

Like any submissive and loyal subject, I always enjoy heart warming stories of cutesy animals.  What I love more are stories of very average animals causing havoc.

I was visiting my Grandfather today, and saw his copy of the Sun.  In it was the usual one-sided political sentiments that put me off ever buying it, but one story did make me chuckle, that of retired ornithologist Jack Tucker, who is being terrorised by a pheasant in Devon.  Oh the irony!  What I particularly like are the photographs of Jack being mauled.

Upon further investigation, it seems that this is not the only recent instance of such an attack.  In February of this year the Daily Mail reported that the North Yorkshire village of Newsham had been the victim of a campaign of violence and terror for months:

Eyes of a killer.

"Men, women, children, prams, bikes, dogs and even cars have all fallen victim to the psychopathic fowl, which some believe is out to avenge its dead relatives".

Where will this spate of pheasant rampages end?  Can anything be done to protect the Sovereign against the feathered menace?  I for one am emigrating if one of the major parties does not propose stringent measures.

Be wary, people of Great Britain.  If former ornithologists are not safe, what hope for the rest of us?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Seinfeld Clip of the Day - George Saves a Whale

Seinfeld often features magnificent monologues with characters using outlandish and archaic language and turns of phrase (see my first "Seinfeld Clip of the Day" entry with Kramer's speech to Jerry about family).  This is a prime example from Season 5, Episode 14 - The Marine Biologist.


To bring you up to speed, George has begun to see a girl who he and Jerry were infatuated with at college after Jerry had bumped into her and told her that George was a marine biologist.  George is in fact unemployed, yet continues the charade to impress her despite his annoyance at Jerry's failure to paint George as an architect - his favoured false occupation.  Meanwhile, Kramer has been visiting the beach to drive golf balls into the sea...





Jerry Seinfeld apparently counts this episode as one of his favourites.  I agree with him.  The pace of the episode is perfect, as is the way strands of the story knit together to this conclusion.  It is one of the finest final scenes to any episode of a television programme I have ever seen.  I love the Jason Alexander's delivery, the other cast members' facial expressions and the audience's clear delight at the sight of the golf ball.  But above all else, Kramer's "hole in one" line is sheer genius.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bad Science

I implore you, I beseech you, I beg you. Read Ben Goldacre's Bad Science. It will shatter what you thought you knew about a whole glut of topics such as moisturisers and "brain training".

One subject in particular that I now realise I was ignorant about is Homeopathy. I used to think this was a semi-creditable medical practice using natural extracts rather than chemicals. I was an idiot.  There are too many jaw dropping revelations about homeopathy for me to list here but one stood out to me:

Homeopathy's inventor - 18th century German doctor Samuel Hahnemann - decreed that during 'succussion' (a special dilution process which he claimed is needed to give homeopathic remedies their medicinal
properties) "the glass vessel containing the remedy is shaken by ten firm strikes against 'a hard but elastic object'. For this purpose Hahnemann had a saddlemaker construct a bespoke wooden striking board, covered in leather on one side, and stuffed with horsehair. These ten firm strikes are still carried out in homeopathy pill factories today, sometimes by elaborate, specially constructed robots."

Insanity. And Goldacre was accused of deliberately making homeopaths sound stupid in a Guardian article on the subject for NOT mentioning the hitting of the vessel on the horsehair striking board!!!

That is the tip of the iceberg. Go get a copy of Bad Science. You'll be shocked.

Friday, 2 April 2010

2 Spotify Playlists... innit!



I love Spotify.  It is such a superb application and I hope it continues for epochs to come on its march towards world domination.  I for one will welcome our Swedish music peddling overlords when we are toiling in their salt mines.

For those not in the know or just plain thick, Spotify allows you to stream music for free (if you want to put up with awful adverts for Iggy Pop's insurance firm and Shockwaves) or for a monthly fee (which allows advert free streaming, the ability to download playlists, the chance to use the Spotify app on your smart phone, and better quality audio).

As mentioned above, you can easily make playlists, which can be shared with your friends and enemies.  This is what I've had a go at this evening.  The first one is 20 songs which, off the top of my head, I adore.  The second (again, 20 tracks) is based on my Last.fm record of the choons I've listened to the most.  Last.fm is a similar program to Spotify.  With Spotify, you have to listen through its player (like iTunes) and with Last.fm you can download their player or listen through their website.  It is more focussed on artist "radio" playlists that allow you to pick an artist and let the website take you on a musical odyssey through similar acts.  I use it more to "scrobble" - record - what I have been listening to on my Spotify player, iTunes and iPhone.  It is also a fantastic place to look for live music near whichever salt mine you happen to be toiling in.  So yeah, try Spotify and Last.fm out.  They're splendid.


I have limited myself to one song per act in both playlists, and have deliberately not duplicated any tracks - the favourite songs playlist was created before the Last.fm one.

(N.B. Some stuff is not on Spotify, hence why I have no Arcade Fire, Beatles or Bob Dylan.)

Playlist 1 is very much a spur of the moment thing so if I came back to it tomorrow I would probably choose some different songs, and Playlist 2 has some inclusions which surprised me.  Have a listen and let me know what you think!


1. Van Morrison - Madame George.
2. David Bowie - Heroes.
3. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
4. Neil Young - The Needle and the Damage Done.
5. Leonard Cohen - So Long Marianne.
6. Phoenix - 1901.
7. Pixies - Where is My Mind?
8. Bon Iver - Skinny Love.
9. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart.
10. Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone.
11. The Libertines - Tell The King.
12. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends.
13. Sigur Ros - Staralfur (Live).
14. Stone Roses - Waterfall.
15. Kings of Leon - Arizona.
16. The Velvet Underground - Rock and Roll.
17. Radiohead - Karma Police.
18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps.
19. Nick Drake - Northern Sky.
20. Roots Manuva - Witness.


1. Kings of Leon - The Bucket.
2. Bon Iver - Creature Fear.
3. Leonard Cohen - Suzanne.
4. Van Morrison - Sweet Thing.
5. Pixies - Here Comes Your Man.
6. MGMT - Time To Pretend
7. David Bowie - Queen Bitch.
8. Arctic Monkeys - Teddy Picker.
9. Flaming Lips - Do You Realize??
10. Outkast - So Fresh, So Clean.
11. Sebastien Tellier - La Ritournelle.
12. Simon and Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy In New York.
13. The Cribs - Men's Needs.
14. The Libertines - What Became of the Likely Lads.
15. LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk is Playing at My House.
16. Soulwax - E Talking.
17. Sigur Ros - Hoppipolla.
18. Scott Walker - 30th Century Man.
19. Beck - Lost Cause.
20. Radiohead - The Bends.