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BBC 6 Music to close?

According to The Times and a hell of a lot of rumours for quite a while. I just wanted to state on record that 6 Music is a fucking brilliant radio station, showcasing fantastic new music and old music. It must be relatively cheap since so much of what they play is BBC archive. It bridges that gap between Radio 1 and Radio 2 - welcoming older listeners and basically not playing pap. The presenters (for the most part) love what they do and are hugely knowledgeable. It is, to a huge extent, what GLR was when it still existed in that form. Don't marginalise music with a bit of brains behind it (please note, I don't mean white guitar music. Radio 6 plays all sorts of music that is realistically far more interesting than the stuff on the pop stations).

Please BBC decision making folk: I don't listen to Radio 2, Radio 1, Radio 1 extra or my local station. I don't want to hear pop music. I want my Radio 3, my Radio 4 and I love my Radio 6.

Don't close it!


Er - hello, search engine visitors. This daft wee piece seems to  be top ranking or very close to the top on a large number of search engines (er, why?). So in the spirit of being nice, I'll place a bunch of update links here to give you a history as this thing plays out. Murdoch sponsored links above - BBC (ironically) mostly sponsored links below.

Feel free to leave comments if you want to. It's what it's here for.

I would link to the petition but

a) there seem to be about 20 of them, and

b) Don't put your name on one of various petitions, people. Put a statement together for the consultation document. Go on, you know you want to.

Link to the BBC Strategy paper with consultation exercise

BBC Trust says er, oh, wow, we didn't know 6 Music etc was so popular

An aside pulling together a few things related to the DRC

What the hell is the DRC? Or, should I say, DR Congo which let's face it, we all read as "Doctor Congo" at some time or other.

I was telling some friends about a graphic novel I was given for my birthday that goes by the name of "Unknown Soldier: First six comics, reads very well, although it is basically the classic anti-hero 'modern' reading of the superhero. Bulgy bloke wearing some kind of facial impediment/mask; a bit moody, a bit attractive, carrying moral ambiguity and a great big fat weapon; goes in to wargasm at the slightest opportunity, thus affording lots of chopped off heads, blood sloshing around the page like an abattoir... you know the sort of thing? Transfer that identikit character to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the African World War. Lots of research, lots of DVD's of Congolese natural surroundings, villages and stuff used as reference material for the illustrator. It's really not bad (just formulaic, which you can say about a hell of a lot graphic novels), and I read it on the way to work.

That then got me interested in finding out a bit more than the stuff I already knew about the DRC ie: rape of the land, the Belgian King Leopold, absolute rabid lunatic leading the Lord's Resistance Army, unbearable *unbearable* human consequences... the injuries to those left alive by the Lord's Army are and were so unbelievable, I'm sure that many of them wished that they had been the ones that died. 5 million people died, and yet the western media only really talked about it on specialist 'foreign correspondent' news programmes. I remember listening to "Our correspondent" on Radio 4, and, similar to the appalling horror the Haitian people went through recently, I found that the radio left so much for your imagination to fill in, it was actually far more horrific than watching news footage. Not that there was much of that with the DRC wars. I had to switch the radio off because the story a little boy was telling, about him having to watch his sister raped and killed, then have to kill his best friend with a machete (because if he hadn't, he would have been killed himself)... I felt weak for turning it off, so later read his story on the Beeb news website. I'm sure I mentioned it on here at the time (can't find the URL now, annoyingly, but search for Congo and there's a ton of Foreign Correspondent stuff on the Beeb).

So. The story of the DRC up to where they are today is worth an investment of time, if only to think - surely this must be the very worst experience of colonialism and post-colonial breakdown on the planet. Surely? Surely they're over the worst? In Africa, it can be difficult to sort the wood from the trees. Here's a couple of links to whet your appetite:

The Wikipedia DRC page gives a potted history which makes clear what the country was like before, and after colonialisaton. If you're not scraping your jaw from the floor, I'd be amazed. 

And here's a brilliant blog by a Congolese bloke called Alex Engwete. Firstly, to take you right up to date after the Wikipedia history, here's Alex talking about the military/political deal that took place between the DRC and Uganda at the beginning of 2009, which has succeeded in annexing part of the country, and made the violence worse, in Alex's (and many other Congolese' opinions): "Two African Scumbags of the year 2009". He's not mincing his words, and he backs up his argument with good sources. And in case you want some more of Alex's great, rambling writing, here's the front of his blog which, joyously at present features front page a trip he recently made to Edinburgh. His descriptions of his, and his fellow countrymen/women flying are excellent.

Whilst I was noodling around Google I came across a few links discussing Congolese graphic artists and the possibility of some home grown graphic novels about the African World War. Tantalisingly a little out of reach for a cursory search, I'll do my best to come up with something, they're bound to be well worth surfacing. Meanwhile, the interesting news is that "Unknown Soldier" is now painted by a Congolese artist, Pat Masioni, so the later copies, from about 13 onward, will be even more authentic looking than the early ones.

Turning 40 #2 Fighting the 5 visible signs of aging

So I got old.

At Christmas, my Mother bought me a tube of the new wonder miracle thing from Boots the Chemists. It's called "Protect and Perfect" serum (I *always* think it's called "Protect and Survive"). It supposedly has an active ingredient in it that actually reduces your wrinkles.

So my mother's buying me wrinkle cream. Ayeesh. No, hold on. It felt like a good idea at the time. I have a frown line between my eyebrows because for some reason, I'm rather serious. I clench my eyebrows together in intense concentration. So much so that last summer, when enough sunshine left its mark on my skin for me to go brown for the first time since I was a kid, the depth of my frown was such that some kind of shadow appeared along it, making a *white line* along the frown line. What horror!

I have been applying said serum carefully and humbly, like a good daughter, and I have to say, several weeks later it does look less creased. this puts me in an insidious position. It's like crack addiction from now on. Boots the chemist are holding me to ransom, for which I will have to pay protection money. You'd better buy the serum, bitch, or your face will start creasing in to a fault line deeper than San Fernando! GIVE US YOUR MONEY!!!

Hmm. Which of course I will.

I am also acquiring a bit of a Dicky Davies. Not too badly. Frankly to anyone else I wonder whether it's visible at all but *I* know it's there. A  slowly growing crop of colourless hair, threatening one day to go beyond mere salt and pepper, to become an all encompassing "grey". Now some might argue that I am the opposite of vain. Despite what my wardrobe might tell you, I don't really have that many clothes, they tend to all be very functional, I have a pair of shoes and a pair of sandals, I don't wear makeup and I don't dry my hair in to flouncy shapes. I wear two rings. One is my wedding ring to The Beloved, the other is a 'remembrance' ring for friends, relatives and miscarried babies past. It's my idle thoughts ring and I rub its lovely oversized silver hallmark around with my thumb. I don't always think of absent friends but it's always there as an option. I have my ears pierced but I no longer wear earrings in fact frankly, 'accessories' of any sort leave me cold. A hat - is it functional? Gloves - do they keep your hands warm? Scarves: are they long enough? Sigh... I think the style gene was somehow exchanged at birth for the 'practical' one.

Myself, I sneakingly suspect I'm actually vain in that classic rejectionist "anti-vain" way. My vanity comes in how different I look to those who frivolously look fashionable, at the expense of comfort and practicality. Let's face it, I do love really good, and some might even say 'cool' practical clothing. My new found adoration for the gorgeousness of howies clothes I know has nothing to do with fashion  but the sheer practical loveliness of their super-eco-friendly clothes. That just happen to also look rather good.

...anyway to get back to the point - I am acquiring grey hair. The question now arises. To dye, or not to dye? That really is The Question. My anti-vain vanity imp tells me Of course not, for God's sake! You'll look cool with your dark hair as it goes greyer, and you'll look even more like a college lecturer (this is how stupid my imp really is. I get embarrassed, to be honest, I can't take her in to shops anymore) which is *way cool* obviously. Because there's nothing more cool than the aging teacher look. Obviously. My other imp, the somewhat sickly, barely audible fashion/style imp tells me that women who want to be company directors get their hair dyed. That's it. I told you my style/fashion gene was faulty. That is seriously the only reason I can find to dye my hair. Because I might want a job where it would pay to look younger. Until you end up looking like some kind of old crow, presumably, with a strangely uniform coloured barnet, or even worse, one with home 'lowlight' streaks in because you can't afford to go to the hairdresser. The practicality imp has muscled too far in to the decision making process. Won't it be a pain in the arse to keep redying the roots all the bloody time? Won't you look stupid with a ruddy great line of grey sticking out where your hair is parted?

So it looks like my anti-vanity has won the day, and I'll be not dying my hair, and gradually looking older, and older. And when I'm 60 I'll suddenly get scared of my own mortality and go for the old crow with a monocolour helmet look. Hey, works for me!

Turning 40

I am old.

I am told that your 40's are no longer considered old, but I am 5 years older than the average life expectancy in the 17th century, three years older than the 19th, aha! But I've still got 9 years to go before I peg it, if I were to be transported to 1901.

In the olden times, I mean really olden, way more than 40 years ago, women survived long enough to take care of their daughters' babies for the first few years whilst their daughters had more of them. Women didn't even reach the menopause, for the most part, partially, I suspect, so that they could still partake in breastfeeding. In those really olden times, Nora would now be around 26, have two or even three surviving children of her own, and I'd be becoming something of an added burden to the family group. Presumably I'd peg it after a festering wound wouldn't heal as quickly as it did when I was young, or losing my teeth meant I could no longer eat properly.

Instead here I am and feeling intensely joyful that I had a lovely four days of celebration featuring a glorious bunch of much needed positive affirmation and also featuring me drunkenly telling my mates how much I wuv them, then admitting later I'd probably do that anyway, albeit in a slightly more awkward and shuffling fashion.

Celebrations: McK, my old friend Riley and I went to see the mighty Richard Herring holding his own for nearly two hours (madness!) at the Leicester Square Theatre doing "Hitler Moustache", at which I got to feel very smug about my anti-BNP leafleting (and also my technique, which was no so much "Fight the fascists" because I am not a member of the SWP, but more "Here, have a leaflet, vote for *anyone*, I don't care just don't vote for the BNP". A remarkably successful, moderate approach. Had a Chinese meal with Riley which was a cut above average and delightfully ran in to Phil and Mary afterwards who knew we were there thanks to Twitter.

Phil was in attendance again on Thursday night for what I thought would be a small gathering but turned out to be a medium one, despite people canceling late because of my chronic inability to organise anything. That was a lovely evening, and completely the best part was introducing two good friends in to my other group of friends for the first time, and everyone getting on perfectly. Some bestest friends were missing, being as how they live in other countries, and I let them know forcefully via email that this excuse simply wasn't good enough. And Phil's Mum was guest of honour, which was a delight.

Saturday (my actual birthday) we went on what was a mammoth journey (when it should have been remarkably easy) to Whipsnade Zoo. Various weird hassles , particularly on the way back, and instead of the promised 7 degrees, it was near freezing with weird pinhead snow swirls constantly. But we saw elephants, rode on a steam train, saw the Siberian tigers (woof, talk about astonishingly beautiful), the Cheetahs (swoon - I felt honoured to have been given the opportunity to see them, which is exactly the right attitude with such amazing creatures, I think), and then had an attack of the willies when a giant sized lioness sat atop a ridge and James ran a little bit too far away from me. Everything in my instinctive body was in Panic mode, despite the thick fencing. I know it's all a bit dubious, but I do really love decent zoos. The opportunities for excitement and amazement are huge. A date movie in the evening, which inevitably became Avatar, which given that my expectations were on the floor, I was pleasantly surprised by. It's not great, or anything, but it's certainly not bad. It's very immersive, it drifted horribly at the beginning of the last third, but  if you were looking for a candidate for biggest grossing film of all time, I'd rather that than Titanic. It wore its soppy, money making, manipulative heart on its sleeve. I did feel like I watched nearly three hours of fantastical, airbrushed science-fiction paperback covers, though.

Sunday, my ridiculously lovely Aunt Majella came, as did Shelagh, and a decent afternoon of slightly alcoholically challenged political discussions was had, whilst the kids kindly played with train track and looked at the delights of the CBeebies website. An overcooked home delivery Chinese meal to accidentally celebrate Chinese New Year and that was that.

I am now, officially 40.

My official comment on that comeuppance is: Bloody hell!

Google can be accused of gross negligence

I don't think anything I can say about how much I personally dislike Google Buzz can be quite as shocking as the experience of this woman, whose post-abuse safety has been compromised by the stupidity of Google using an indiscriminate absorption of email contacts in to Buzz to make it work: Fuck you, Google. do read it, I'm not going to  just reburble what is a strong and clear account of the failings of this GMail extention.

My question to Google is: how much do you earn? Do you have a safety, privacy and abuse section linked to your legal department, which must sign off everything before it goes live? Do you have QA testing which takes privacy-heavy use cases in to its remit? If you do do those things, then something has gone badly wrong. If you do not do those things, then Google should be even more ashamed of itself. 

Of immediate concern to me is: how many people now use gmail who are not early adopter types? Who won't 'get' the privacy implications until Buzz has been on for weeks and their privacy is chronically compromised? How many gmail users are children?

Hey, Google - how many gmail users are children? Did you put any under 18 use cases in to your picture? Are you really this reckless with the safety of your customers?

Turn the damn thing off. Fix it, and apologise.

Stupid, thoughtless, idiotic behaviour for a company of this size and stature. A month ago, Google was riding high on a cloud of good will based on their up front attitude with regard to Chinese hacking. Now this has pissed away that goodwill in droves. Idiots.

Am currently trying to decide which email client to switch to (groan, after 8 years with the same client. are there any good ones?).

Quick update: this is the best "how to turn it all off" article I've seen thus far, in case you were suckered in to playing too: Buzz off: Disabling Google Buzz.

Quick, obvious update:

You guys all know this anyway, but sizeable proportion ofGoogle's users being extremely vocal in their disgust seemed to institute an abrupt sea-change in Google's attitude toward their new baby. Two useful links are the"Whoops, we screwed up" post in the Gmail blog, and this BBC News article in which Google pretty much apologises twice but... honestly. The first half of the article is just embarrassing. They obviously have little to no sensible sign off procedures which take in to account safety and security, which for a company their size, who want to do so much is pathetic. Trust is the most valuable things you can build with your customers, and I just don't trust them with my privacy now. Unless they publicly announce they've changed their release procedures to take the lessons learned here in to account, I won't be automatically jumping on *anything* they release from now on until everyone else has had their fingers burned and they've updated.

Quick life update

James is beginning to read small words (when he wants to). This is particularly because of a C-Beebies thing he looks at on the website, Alphablocks. They're utterly fabulous, and well worth passing on.

The bike is currently screwed. Sob. The winter has taken its toll at last and my diagnosis is a complete lack of grease in key areas, on top of a season full of gunge, and a serious rust problem on the chain. The huge difficulty has been lack of space to clean it. Freezing cold outside, and pitch black, versus pitching it upside down, and I don't know, wrapping half the front room in tarpaulin so I   can cleanse it and grease it... impossible. At present I'm thinking I may take tomorrow afternoon off so that at least it's daylight, and I can then take it to have a service at the fantastic Apex Cycles, in Clapham, who are just about the only bike shop who have never been surly, assumed that because I'm a female commuter, I can be patronised or ripped off quite extensively... they're a good bunch.

Nora is devouring her way through the "The Worst Witch" sets of books, which seem fairly light on jeopardy, have an illustration about once every four pages but nevertheless, don't patronise. I saw the word "retorted" this morning and made sure to ask the beloved daughter if she could guess what it meant. i promised that when she's finished all of them we could have a look at the first Harry Potter together, if she wanted - she looked excited in a 'scary film' kind of way. I'm not sure... she's a tender little thing. Anything fearful sends her in to a shaking, flaking worryball. I thought about Northern Lights, but that isn't so much super-scary in terms of anything fantastical happening, but it is more practically frightening. Children disappearing, torture... it's grim stuff. Such a wonder of a novel though. So *maybe* she'd like Phillip Pullman's "Ruby" series instead.

Ack, I don't know. The usual worries. I must buy her Pippi Longstocking. She already has the glorious "Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf" which is my battered old copy... what else could she read that's exciting, that puts girls centre stage but where jeopardy is handled with a light touch. All ideas greatfully received - seriously.

Lastly, I just wanted to let you know how much I love McK, my long suffering husband. That is all.