Review of 2011: Favourite Posts

And here’s the second post in my review of 2011. This is a list of my favourite posts from the year. In 2010 I said it was harder to choose posts from that year as I had blogged less than in previous years. Well, I actually blogged even less in 2011 so it was even harder this year.

As usual I’ve tried to pick one post from each month, but because of the scarcity of posts I’ve had to bend the rules at times. Usually I don’t include posts that have already been mentioned in the list of most popular posts, but that has proved impossible this year so there is a small amount of repetition.

  • Boothill Foot-Tappers. The Boothill Foot-Tappers were one of my favourite band from twenty-five years ago. I thought I’d never see them play again, so it was great that they got together for a one-off reunion gig.
  • Leaving LoveFilm. I cancelled my LoveFilm subscription early in the year. This post explained why.
  • Genealogy Primer. A friend on Facebook asked for help starting his family tree. I wrote a quick braindump in reply. Later I thought that other people might find it useful so I turned it into a blog post.
  • Daily Mail on Google and Adele. One of the most ridiculous articles ever from the Daily Mail, debunked easily with the aid of Google.
  • Watching the Press – Notes. In May I gave a talk at Opentech about the nonsense published by the British tabloid press and how a group of us try to bring this to the public’s attention by blogging about it. This post contains the notes from that talk.
  • Free Web Advice: TalkTalk. TalkTalk really annoyed me by phoning me despite my phone number being registered with the TPS. They then annoyed me even more by making it next to impossible to discuss the matter with them. This post enumerated the many ways that their web site made this hard. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I finally just gave up.
  • Reading the News. A post about how I read the news these days and why a Kindle subscription to a newspaper doesn’t really fit into my life.
  • Hating Gnome 3. My favourite Linux distribution switched its default interface to Gnome 3. This made me very sad.
  • The Birth of a Meme. Some people writing in the Daily Mail claimed that the BBC had banned the use of the terms BC and AD and had forced broadcasters into using BCE and CE instead. This was completely untrue but that didn’t stop it repeated all over the media. Even now I suspect that a large proportion of the public think that it’s true.
  • Dorries on Humanism. Nadine Dorries was nominated for the New Humanist’s annual Bad Faith Award. She responded with a trademark closely-argued explanation of why Humanism is an extreme belief that no-one should admit to holding. Her reasoning obviously impressed New Humanist’s readers as she went on to win by a huge majority.
  • Winterval. More nonsense from the Daily Mail. But this time they’re admitting that it’s nonsense. When they started to publish a “Corrections and Clarifications” column I don’t think that anyone would have predicted that it would be used to undermine their core beliefs so quickly.
  • The War on Christmas Cards. Another Mail article to close with. They claimed that there was an atheist plot to keep religious Christmas cards out of the shops. They also complained about the increased numbers of “obscene” cards – whilst, in another article, praising the work of Donald Gill from a hundred years ago.

It was only while writing this review that I noticed that four of these twelve articles are about the Daily Mail. Looks like the blog might, finally, be developing a theme.

Last year was my lightest year for blogging. In fact every year has seen fewer post since I joined Twitter. Tweets are, of course, far less effort than blog posts. But nevertheless I shall, once again, endeavour to blog more often in 2012.

Thanks for reading in 2011.



Review of 2011: Most Popular Posts

As I’ve done for the last few years I’m going to spend a couple of days looking back at the year on this blog. Firstly, here’s a list of the ten most popular posts on the blog this year.

  1. Winterval. No surprise here. Because I monitor the Mail’s Corrections and Clarifications column, I was one of the first people to see that they had finally admitted that Winterval wasn’t the atheist/muslim plot they’d always claimed it was.
  2. Leaving LoveFilm. This has been a bit of a slow-burner. It’s only so high because it was published early in the year. I explained why LoveFilm’s rental model no longer fitted in with the way I want to watch films. Still waiting for them to offer streaming-only subscriptions.
  3. Hitchen’s Last Laugh. A look at the nonsense that took place on Twitter a couple of weeks ago following the sad death of Christopher Hitchens.
  4. MPs and Facts. Not much politics on the list this year. This is a reaction to Nadine Dorries’ appearance on Any Questions where she (unsurprisingly) talked nonsense about drugs.
  5. Chuggers. I’d been meaning to write something like this for at least a couple of years. Surely everyone hates being stopped by chuggers, don’t they? This was probably the longest comment thread of the year.
  6. Daily Mail on Google and Adele. I’m rather pleased with this one. The mail published some nonsense about how Google is deliberately encouraging piracy to bring down the British music industry. It didn’t take very much research to disprove their claims.
  7. Independent URLs. I’d forgotten this one. Back in April someone discovered a tiny flaw in the way the Independent’s web site automatically cleaned up URLs. Much hilarity ensued. This post explained what was really going on.
  8. Alternative Vote. An attempt to explode some of the myths used by the No campaign to stop people voting for the alternative vote. It apparently didn’t work.
  9. Message to ADT. Surprised to find this on the list to be honest. The ADT web site annoyed me so I wrote a post about it. Ten days later I got a reply from someone at ADT saying that my suggestions had been implemented. Which was nice.
  10. MPs on Twitter. A review of the number of MPs on Twitter and how it had changed over time. I even drew a nice graph. I need to revisit this project.

So that’s what you’ve been reading on the blog this year. At some point in the next couple of days, I’ll post a list of my favourite posts.



2011 in Gigs

One of my pet hates is all that “review of the year” stuff that appears before the year is over. But I’m not planning to go to any gigs in the next three days, so I feel justified in reviewing the gigs I’ve seen this year before the end of the year.

According to Songkick I’ve seen exactly fifty gigs this year. That’s over twice as many as I saw in 2010.

There are two artists that I saw four times – Stealing Sheep and Martin Carthy, but as Carthy was a guest star on two of those appearances, I guess that Stealing Sheep are the band I saw most. Not bad for an act I first saw in August. There were two acts that I saw three times – Antonio Lulić and Ed Sheeran. I also saw Amanda Palmer twice – and as they were on a Friday and the following Monday, I expect she was the artist I saw with the shortest gap between performances.

I’ve seen gigs in rooms above pubs and one gig at Wembley Arena. Judging by my attendance at venues, my favourites are the Union Chapel and the Barbican Centre.

So what did I like? Actually let’s start with what I didn’t like. I walked out of two gigs halfway through the main act. I went to see Other Lives purely because Hannah Peel was supporting. She was great, as always, but they were terrible. Later in the year I decided to go to see Emmy the Great purely because lots of people I like say how she is. Unfortunately I chose her Christmas party gig with Tim Wheeler and it was horrible. I left after half an hour. In both cases I took a chance on liking an act and in both cases I was wrong. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot less of that next year.

There were a lot of nostalgic gigs on the list this year. Eddi Reader at the Union Chapel was great. Ian McCulloch a week later at the same venue was less great. I think I would have been better off seeing Echo and the Bunnymen instead. Later in the year I saw two great nostalgic gigs at the Bush Hall – Roddy Frame and Michelle Shocked.

I also saw some stuff from even earlier than that. Van der Graaf Generator were really good, but I didn’t really enjoy Yes that much. I even saw Hawkwind for the first time since 1982.

I’ve trying to work out what my favourite gigs were. But there such a wide range of stuff that it’s hard to compare them. Here, in purely chronological order, are ten highlights of my live music year.

  • Antonio Lulić, Jesper Ejrup, Trevor John, and Tess and Dibs at the Bedford. Didn’t see enough stuff at my local pub this year, but this was a brilliant night. All of the acts were top quality but the mad Danes in Jesper Ejrup’s band were particularly brilliant.
  • The Boothill Foot-tappers at the 100 Club. This was pure nostalgia. I’ve written before about what this band meant to me. It was great to have the chance to see them again.
  • Billy Bragg at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Hadn’t seen Bragg play for far too long. This gig proved he still has it.
  • Rain Dogs Revisited at the Barbican. Various artists playing songs from Tom Wait’s album “Rain Dogs”. I love these nights at the Barbican. There’s always someone fabulous playing that I’ve never heard of. On this occasion, that was St Vincent. As soon as I got home I bought both of her albums.
  • Pulp at Brixton Academy. I never saw Pulp in the 90s and I was seriously considering going to the Wired festival to see them in the summer. Glad I didn’t though as this gig in Brixton was very nearly perfect.
  • Amanda Palmer at Heaven. An Amanda Palmer gig is always a treat, and this was no exception. Certainly one of the maddest nights I’ve had this year. Saw her again (at the British Library of all places) three days later for a rather more subdued (but equally brilliant) night.
  • Kal Lavelle, Ryan Keen, and Antonio Lulić at the Bedford. Proof (I hope) that I don’t just enjoy seeing old farts play. Kal, Antonio and Ryan are part of an informal group of incredible singer-songwriters who are constantly playing around London (and further afield). At the time of this gig all three of them had recently supported Ed Sheeran at various gigs.
  • Roy Harper at the Royal Festival Hall. Someone else I should have seen years ago but never got round to. Plenty of interesting guest stars – including Jimmy Page.
  • Zappa Plays Zappa at the Barbican. Sadly, I’ll never get to see Frank Zappa play, but this is about as close as you can get. Dweezil Zappa plays note-perfect renditions of his father’s music. And at some points they had film of Frank playing which the live band jammed along to.
  • Stealing Sheep at the Old Blue Last. Must include Stealing Sheep on the list. This was probably the best I saw them play.

All in all it’s been a good year for live music. I’ve ticked off a few more old favourites that I hadn’t previously got round to seeing and I’ve seen a lot of new and interesting bands. I’m already booking tickets for next year and hopefully it’ll be just as interesting as this year was.

What did you see that you really enjoyed this year? Did I miss any absolutely essential shows? What’s going to be great next year?