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Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Purpose of Blogs II

The name blog comes from a contraction of the words web and log. It is a personal diary made public. So maybe the definition will adapt as more professional writers see blogs as an opportunity to promote other websites. However my public log for today should include a note about You Tube. I managed to upload my first video today, with a little help from my brother and it can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6iMmWw_2qU&feature=youtube_gdata

I am a member of two music groups. One is attached to More Music in Morecambe and we play traditional music which is similar to The Lancashire Miller as per the You Tube video. We meet on Monday evenings between 7pm and 9pm and learn a couple of songs each week. The second group is the Morecambe Ukulele Club which meets at the Trimpell Club in Morecambe on Saturday mornings between 10am and midday. Here we tend to take it in turns to lead a song. All styles are welcome but I have not heard many songs by George Formby.

I am sure both groups would welcome new members.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Purpose of Blogs

I used to write a blog each day and sometimes more than one per day. I know that I don't publish blogs as often as I used to, but maybe that is why I received an email yesterday from a 'professional writer'. She was willing to write blogs at no cost to me. All she wanted was a link in the blog to a company. This might be fine for blog writers who aren't interested in writing their own content. It would also be fine for people who wanted to call a blog theirs when it was written by someone else.

Ghost writing may be good for lazy bloggers who don't want to write but do want ownership. The trouble is that I don't see the point of publishing a blog if that is the case - just read another blog. The ghost writer will never be able to write a personal blog as well as the owner because only the owner knows his or her opinion. Blogs are essentially written to highlight personal concerns, not to create links to American companies.

Change the world

Monday, 7 May 2012

Checks and Balances

Democracy gives us checks and balances and stops power being held by a few people - or at least it should because if power is held by small groups or individuals then it has a different name like oligarchy or dictatorship. One check is to make sure that the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government are independent. Another method is to make sure there is at least one choice for voters. Another method is to give power to larger groups of elected individuals who do not have to follow party lines. In the opposite direction you would give power to a cabinet or an individual like a prime minister or a mayor.

Yesterday, in the Sunday Politics from the North West, the new mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart was asked about engaging the electorate as so few had voted for a mayor. He said that actions enthuse the electorate, but his actions can come back to bite him. I presume he means that if he goes against the wishes of the voters then he will not be elected next time. I don't know if this comes as news to Ian but he should go to the bookies and see if they are taking bets on a non-Labour mayor - ever. He doesn't have to persuade the electorate, he just has to keep the core Labour activists happy.

So if you want to make democracy weaker and think that an oligarchy or dictatorship may be better for society then maybe it's time to vote for a mayor. Even better, let the councillors in places like Liverpool impose their Labour mayor.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Choosing a political subject

If you remember the early days of 'That's Life' with Esther Rantzen then you may just remember a singer called Jake Thackray who supplied the musical interlude. He played guitar in a similar style to me (or should that be the other way round) and one of his great influences was a French singer, Georges Brassens. I have also been inspired by Georges and although I am not keen on singing in English, I do manage to sing in French and in a broad Yorkshire accent à la Jake.

Both of these singers were raconteurs and both were politically aware and Jake even translated one of Georges' songs about opposition to the class system which is called Le Gorille or in English Brother Gorilla. It is not the sort of song that you would sing to your mother because of its quite obvious innuendo (if that is not a contradiction in terms) and because of their use of strong language.

What they were both doing was challenging the Mary Whitehouse brigade. They wanted their songs to be crude and shocking because they wanted to show that there were much worse things in life. How could people complain about the use of a rude word but not complain about going to war or the class system or capital punishment? They were presuming that the listener held the same views but even if they didn't then the singers would still get noticed.

I think we should hold strong views about things that are important to us. It is easy to get involved with subjects like a new link road or how often the bins go out or how often the grass gets cut but there are many other subjects that are significantly more important. However let's not forget the little things like bypasses even if my guitar heroes prefer more significant subjects.

Change the world

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Does anyone support Trenton?

I don't particularly like sports in which the winner is decided in the first few minutes, e.g. motor racing, but I can appreciate that there are many who do not share this opinion. The boat race is fairly similar, in that the only action is in the first minute or two and then the race is over - except for yesterday.

Why would Trenton Oldfield, or anyone else for that matter, decide to put themselves at risk and stop the race? Well Trenton tells us that he was protesting against elitism. I suppose there is something in that. I have read that Oxford and Cambridge are not the best teams in the country but they get all the publicity. It may be that these two universities have the best two teams this year, I don't know, but this race isn't between the best two teams. Every year the race is between the same two elite universities.

Is it worth complaining? Well some would say yes but I say no. Accept the race for what it is and then watch it if you wish. On the other hand, if you believe it is worth protesting illegally then what is your defence if somebody wants to protest against you? The answer of course is the rule of law but Trenton has decided to break the law to make his point. However I also read that he was researching a book. Maybe it was a publicity stunt. However you view it Trenton doesn't come out in a good light.

Change the world

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

More Stretching Required

This morning I was listening to an interesting debate on Radio 5 about the standard of education relating to A level results. Some listeners were saying that university students only had a basic knowledge of English and they struggled to write essays. Some were a lot more derisive. As with all good debates, there were those who supported the students too. They were brilliant at writing essays and did not lack a basic knowledge of English. These listeners should know because they marked the essays.

The subject came up because Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, had expressed concerns that A levels did not stretch students and he suggests that universities should decide the content of A level courses. Well students aren't stretched are they? Every year we hear of more and more of them are getting top marks in everything and if this is the case then it will be hard to differentiate between students who are all getting equally good marks. Also, if there are many who get top marks then how do they improve?

It is easy to say that no system is perfect and improvements could be made. My anecdotal evidence suggests that our students do struggle with English and few people know the difference between who and whom. I see errors everywhere including blogs written by A level students. Lynne Truss is definitely in the reform camp. Do you still see supermarkets with signs for ten items or less, or is it now ten items or fewer? Which is correct? You can find the answer in her book "eats, shoots and leaves". Have I written the title correctly? If you are not sure on either of these points then you can safely say that you agree with Michael (Gove and Gradwell) and Lynne.

I have A levels, a degree and quite a few other qualifications, but it was only as an adult that someone told me how to write essays, and that was while I happened to be studying French. So it may well be the case that there are many at university who do not know how to write essays and it is definitely the case that more stretching needs to occur. But how can those who mark the good essays be wrong? Maybe their vested interest means they have to say that their students are good. Maybe they are lucky. Maybe their students are good. I am sure that the debate will continue.

Change the world

Friday, 30 March 2012

Who are these good people?

I know I have just written about a question on Question Time but I have to write again about party funding. Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP is under the impression that any donor to a political party may have no influence over that party. I find this incredible. If anyone had funded her personal campaign then there would be no question that she would be influenced. She admits that she would like to meet large donors but if they want to influence her then they would be "sent packing".

Anna needs to know that we all influence each other by our words and by our actions, not just by saying "here is some money now do as I say". If someone is kind enough to support me then doesn't it make sense to see how my further actions may lead to further support? Of course it does. The Tories know it and this includes Anna Soubry. It's just a pity she doesn't say it.

Sarah Teather is also of the opinion that money should not influence policy. If this is the case then why do Liberal Democrats criticise Labour for being funded by the unions and the Tories for being funded by big business? Edmund Burke said something about all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Who are these good men? It sounds more and more like you can only be good if you are an MP.

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