Friday, 23 October 2009


Me and Mubeen went along to the UAF demo against inviting Nick Griffin on to the BBC's Question Time. Not the hugest turn-out in the world, but it was good to see that people cared enough to protest. The debate around has been annoying me so here's what I think about the arguments put forward as to why he should be on...

Free speech means he should be on there - there's nothing stopping Nick Griffin from exercising his right to free speech (apart from the existing laws on libel, slander, conspiracy, incitement to racial hatred, etc). That doesn't mean you have to extend an invite to him on to a programme which is based on a shared recognition that the contributions of people are valid (even if you disagree with them) and that the debate is based mainly on reasoned arguments. A anti-democratic party mired in violence and lies and which denies the right of a large part of the population to contribute hardly meets the standards you'd expect and which you can debate with.

The BBC had to invite him on as it has a duty of impartiality - the BBC has a duty to ensure impartial coverage of news and current affairs, and can do by fairly reporting on the BNP. It doesn't have to invite Nick Griffin on to Question Time given the nature of the party and that his presence would act against other of the BBC's duties (including to avoid unjustified offence or likely harm). And surely the very nature of the programme which was all about Nick Griffin and what he has said or not showed that they couldn't in practice be impartial in this instance?

Question Time exposed Nick Griffin for what he is - the point of the BNP's appeal is that it's racist and everyone knows that (that's why people vote for them because they can blame a scapegoat for things they don't like about their lives or the society they live in). Having a racist on Question Time just helps to legitimise racist opinions. And no-one was making the case to expose the lies the BNP put forward about black or Asian people or "foreigners" being the reason for unemployment or long waits to get housing. That's why people vote BNP, and questioning Nick Griffing on what he might or might not have said about the holocaust or gay people is not going to change that.

The parties can't say that the BNP's voters are racist because they want their votes for themselves and it's why organisations like Unite Against Fascism are far more valid on this than, sadly, either Labour or the Lib Dems.

What Ken Livingstone said after the 7th July bombings could be applied to the BNP now: "I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

"In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

"They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do...will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you will fail."

Saturday, 25 July 2009


From the Observer Music Monthly article by Paul Morley on studying composing:

"I waited to see what difference it would make to me as a writer, as a listener, as I got used to the idea of bars, and how you fill bars with the notes and, indeed, lack of notes that you definitely desired, and let the bars dissolve, and how you structured a piece so that it didn't seem like an arbitrary collection of sounds but a considered piece that accurately reflected not understanding of technique but the mystery of thought and the strange fluctuations of feeling. A change did start to happen. I began hearing music in a new way; it was as though the music expanded into and beyond itself, and with my favourite music, my listening to the music as pure abstract sensation formed in distant, unknown ways merged with appreciating how it existed as the result of a calculated but uninhibited series of spontaneous, experienced and surprising decisions that both accepted the limitations of arbitrarily arranged rules and strived to stretch outside them."

Friday, 24 July 2009

Content of religion

From review of Keith Thomas' The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England in the LRB of 23.7.09 by Eamon Duffy:

"The sterner kinds of Christian preacher and ascetic had indeed a perennial tendency to present Christianity as largely otherworldly, to see this world as nothing but a vale of tears. But that has never been the whole content of Christianity, or indeed of any other religion. For most of its adherents, most of the time, Christianity has been just as importantly a 'road to fulfilment', a motive for hopefulness about the world, and a call to the love of God and neighbour."

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

July 7th

From The Room of Lost Things by Stella Duffy, which I've just finished

"...that Australian girl got his goat first thing this morning...she'd infuriated Robert no end...looking at the front page of Robert's newspaper, saying how scary she found all this terrorist stuff. Robert told her London had lived with terrorism for years, floods, riots, bombs, the lot. It wasn't news...
'Of course it was terrible for the people actually hurt, the bombs here...But how many did that actually affect? In their day to day life? The families, friends or injured, I grant you, but not everyone, not really. Look, after those bombs up in town, half my bloody customers were in here, carrying on about how it was all different now, but at the end of the same time they were picking up nice clean clothes for a do somewhere, or a job interview, and getting on with it all just the same. If it was true that everything had changed, they wouldn't be haring off for a fancy weekend away, would they? They would have been as changed as they said they were...
'And then you get some kid...going on about someone else's grief as if it's her own, but it isn't. She's stealing other people's grief. Like there's not enough to go around.'

Friday, 29 May 2009

Principles of good design

Visibility - user can tell what state the device is in and the alternatives for action

A good conceptual model - designer provides a good conceptual model for the user with consistency in presentation of operations and results and a coherent, consistent system image

Good mappings - it's possible to determine the relationships between actions and results, between the controls and their effects, and between the system state and what is visible

Feedback - use receives full and continuous feedback about the result of actions

From The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.

Thursday, 28 May 2009


From this week's LRB:

", to a remarkable degree, seem to have internalised those norms, playing at a 'dominant' role that forced them to do pretty much what their wives wanted.

"'Cecil explains that..back then 'the man was always the governor', while his wife agrees and then interjects, seemingly out of nowhere: "Pardon me, but piffle'".

From review by "Going up to heaven" review by Susan Pedersen.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Pics from the Ots

Pics of Third sector minister Kevin Brennan performing with Cabinet Office civil servants for red nose day, and view from Admiralty Arch during the snow earlier this year.