Hello Monster

It's a good idea to put your microphones in a safe place. But not if it's a hidden safe place. That way you won't spend an hour looking for them before you can do any recording. Noted for future reference.

I recorded a vocal guide track, trying to get the timing right and letting the autotune correct the pitch, then three 'real' takes - one for the main vocal and two harmonies for the choruses.

Individually they sounded okay, but in unison didn't quite fit. There was a slight rhythmic confusion - they kept drifting marginally out of step at odd moments.

Anyway, I've still got the recordings, but I'll probably record again from scratch.
Simon M is thinking of putting on a Shite Nite. A marathon showing of really bad films, with equally bad freeflowing alchohol. Most likely dedicated to the cinematic catastrophe's of Ed Wood, but possibly including some John Waters.

I know Plan 9 from Outer Space with it's flying saucers made of paper plates, but have yet to see Divine raped by a giant lobster (in Mondo Trasho?), or the 'confessional' Glen or Glenda.

I can't really compete, though I might suggest a Nob Nite, composed of the recent slew of "documentaries" all about the male pride and joy. There's The Man Who Ate His Lover, The Perfect Penis, The World's Biggest Penis, and - on last night - My Penis and I. All of which I have recorded purely in the interests of scientific research.

Oh, and speaking of really bad films, I have discovered The Horror Channel. Wooden acting and wooden stakes, fake blood and fake endings - a great way to spend a night alone in the dark.
The forum on Islamophobia and "those cartoons" was quite a success. 30 people, including five muslims from the mosque, and maybe 10 students. The muslims, after initial reticence, contributed eloquently - with a lack of sectarianism some of us on the left could learn from.

I'm taking an indefinate break from chairing and helping to organise the forums. Joe R wants to be more involved with left politics and is quite capable, so I've handed over to him.
My presentation on art fraud was well recieved, and the discussion was of the friendly and unsurprising type. Unsurprising to me that is - the iconoclastic motivations of fraudsters, the financial aspects of selling and collecting, and the ideological notion of "unrepeatable genius" came as small revelations to the students.

Globulous Maximus

Updates on my life and music when I'm somewhat less tierd. In the meantime, another post has appeared from the utterly mysterious and definitely-not-me Eight Tons of Geese.

Extract from the memoirs of Madeupname Notreal

I first realised I was blessed when, one day stepping out of the shower, I noticed what I took to be a birthmark on my left buttock. Upon closer examination with the help of some mirrors and my neighbour's young daughter, we discovered that it was actually the face of Mother Teresa.

We thought little of it until, several days later, I was sitting on a horse riding to the local stoat polishers convention. Imagine my surprise when the elderly horse suddenly developed great youth and vigour, running and jumping in fright at the sight of a UFO landing.

I thought it might be the flying saucer having the rejuvenating effect upon my equine steed, but Jesus appeared to me in vision when I fell off the horse and landed headfirst on a passing police car.

Jesus told me (in a Texan accent) that my buttocks were blessed with the holy sign of Teresa, and that any living thing - such as the horse - coming into contact them would be healed with the quantum energy of the Lord.

That night, I experimented by placing my buttocks on the chest of my asthmatic mother as she slept. A holy light flowed from them into her, and the next morning she awoke, magically relieved of her malady.

Over the next month, I healed many people in the same way, by the laying on of buttocks, and soon aquired a reputation. One doubter challenged me to sit upon his nose to cue his cold. Although the symptoms persisted, the deeper sickness was cured when, after just one face sitting session, he pronounced himself spiritually enlightened and rushed off in great haste to spread the news.

All that was mere months ago, and now I help millions by having them send their problems to me by email, and for a small charge I effect a healing by sitting on the computer, pouring forth my energy therefrom into the internet. Personal sittings can be arranged, and I have placed my orbs at the disposal of many famous politicians and film stars.

Just Like the Real Thing

In marshalling my thoughts for the art fraud seminar on monday, I've written this essay, which I'll probably read out:

Back in 1973, an art critic called Carol Duncan tried an experiment. Writing under the name Cheryl Bernstein, she wrote a glowing review of an exhibition by Hank Herron, whose entire catalogue was composed of meticulously hand painted duplicates of paintings by another artist, Frank Stella.

Years later Herron still had defenders and detractors, and there were some very enthusiastic debates about what his repaintings added to Stella's originals. There was just one problem: Frank Herron didn't exist. The exhibition, gallery, artist and critic were all ficticious - though Frank Stella is a real artist.

Herron's commentators sometimes claimed to have seen the work, even though the only source of all the information about him was that one article. If nothing else, this should tell you something about the art world, and about fraudulence in general.

But just imagine Herron's work had existed. Would we have called him an art forger? No, we wouldn't. Because although he supposedly was making copies exact enough to be taken for the originals, he wasn't claiming that his paintings were the originals.

There's plenty of people who have prints of famous painting hanging on their walls, and some richer people have specially commissioned hand painted copies. But there's (usually) no pretense that they actually have works of art worth millions of dollars hanging over their fireplace.

For a painting to be called a fake, it has to be presented as the original. So it's not a question of the actual paint, canvass and frame - it's a matter of the art object being given a fraudulent history.

This means that in legal terms, art fraud is often document fraud - where the document is not the painting itself but the signature in the corner, or the word of the person trying to sell it.

It's been estimated that maybe 10% of the paintings in the national gallery are fakes or forgeries, and that a further 30% are misattributions - which means thousands of the gallery's paintings are not by the people who's names they hang next to. Fakes and misattributions are obviously not the same thing but they do have something in common.

when a painting by Rembrandt turns out to be by a student of Rembrandt, it's market value suddenly goes down. And when the reverse happens it suddenly becomes a lot more valuable - and the more pretentious kind of art viewer finds that's it's suddenly become a much better painting.

Likewise when a genuine goya is discovered to be really a fake, it becomes almost worthless - though it may get more talked about as a scandal. And when a goya of disputed provenance is proven to be the real deal, it's market price shoots up.

It seems that it's not the painting itself that's worth all that money. It's obviously not the physical material, or the man hours spent working on it, or the 'aesthetics' - whatever that actually is. It's the artist's name that has market value.

I should say, there's a distinction sometimes used between a fake and a forgery. A fake is a copy masquerading as the original. A forgery is a new painting masquerading as a newly discovered old painting by another artist. You might say paintings get faked and artists get forged.

Another small complication is that a sixteenth century fake of a thirteenth century painting can be prized as a valuable and beautiful work in it's own right, and this can even happen with modern fakes.

The forged Breugal sketches of Eric Hebborn are now much sought after by collectors, and the forged Picasso's of Elmyr de Hory can sell for more than Picasso's own minor works.

Now, if it's true that the history - the provenence - of the painting is the important thing, would that mean that mediocre forgeries could pass for the real thing if the historical documents relating to them could be faked?

The answer is yes, and it has happened. There was a duo of art fraudsters in the 1990s called John Drewe and John Myatt. Myatt was a good but not great pastiche painter - he did work 'in the style of' a range of well known but not very famous artists. He painted on modern canvass, using modern brushes, and his paint was actually a mixture of Duluxe emulson and KY jelly. So if any of his paintings had been subjected to chemical analysis, or even looked at closely by experts, the game would be instantly up.

But they weren't examined, because there seemed no reason to do it, because the documents in the British Museum and other prestidgious art research libraries gave them long and plausible histories. And that was because Drewe had gained access, stolen some books, filleted them, inserted new pages of fictional history on artificially aged paper, rebound the books and put them back in the libraries. So when routine checks were done into the background of Myatt's forgeries when they came on the market, they had a convincing history.

In fact, we still don't know how much expert documentation and research is Drewe's work.

It's a large area, and I haven't said anything about the motivations of fraudsters, art dealers who might go bankrupt if they didn't knowingly sell fakes, the cult of celebrity that forgers often enjoy, cultures where artists train by copying the work of past masters, or the fact that experts are sometimes employed to prove a painting is genuine, even when it obviously isn't.

Over to you.

Home Alone 3

The parents will be off visiting relatives for most of sunday, and I'm left to look after the dogs, answer the phone and "hold the fort". which means I have several hours alone to record some vocals - and no worries about offending nearby ears with my vocal stylings.

Assuming it's one of those days when (a) I'm awake and (b) I can actually sing.

In the evening I'll be chairing a forum on islamophobia and those cartoons. One of the nice things about being chair is I don't have to say anything intelligent - I just shut people up if they twitter on for too long.


Right, what's happened over the last few days? Most of it seems to be politics.

There was a Stop The War seminar, aimed at attracting students to a 'relaunch'.
STW has become tierd and despondant, due to three years unsuccessful campaigning against governments who seem adamantine in their committment to a stalled war (Iraq) and an unstable occuption (Afganistan). Demos get smaller, petitions get to seem routine, the whole exercise feels as pointless and stuck as the war iteslf.

Some vocal resistance is necessary, just so the government can't claim the entire nation is on it's side, even if we're just going through the proverbial motions. It was a surprise therefore that a meeting of about 30 should be mostly students, and half of those new faces.

They seem switched-on and up-for-it, which is a pleasant surprise - even though plans for a 'die-in' with white sheets and fake blood aren't exactly my scene.
Oh yes, Alan was there too. He's our mole. That is, he's an infiltrator from the RCPBML - Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) - trying to edge STW towards the painfully convoluted politcal analysis of that tiny party. He also has no idea that we've all been on to him from the start.

What is it with entrism? It didn't work when the RCG tried to take over the SWP by infiltration, or when Militant tried to influence Labour from the inside. In fact, I don't think it ever works - it's more likely to destroy the entered group by generating infighting than anything else. And it's not like we'd have turned him away if he'd been honest, so it's completely unnecessary.

Actually, I think Alan's quite sweet. Vulnurable and bookish [cough].
A year ago, I was asked to sit in on a student seminar on art fraud, and contribute whatever I could remember from my BA thesis on the subject. Well, there's another one on Monday, so I'm doing some revision becuase I've been asked to this one too.
I've just come back from helping leaflet the main local mosque. All quite easy - half an hour of handing out A5 sheets printed with antiwar messages of solidarity. There were at least 500 muslims, mostly from Bangladesh and parts of Africa, but including maybe 10 white faces - one of which belonged to an off-duty policeman who's far too clued up and thoughtful to be in the force.

They're a friendly bunch, happy to chat about the burning political issues of the day in the freezing cold with a group of overweight atheists. But they're almost invisible - you rarely see them on the streets or in pubs.

Ticking Over

I'm still around - it's just that over the last few days I've been having some health problems, and have been tied up in myriad political issues. Here's a selection:

More Abu Graib torture. Horrific, barbaric and completely unsurprising. There ought to be a word to describe that familliar sensation of disgust coupled with monotony. Child rape, self harm, corpses - I can't bring myself to watch the full video.

Danish cartoons. Published by a far right rag as deliberate provocation. Tiny demos by mad groups are given high media coverage while appeals and big rallys for tolerance and calm are ignored. Most of the left is still caught in the red herring debate with itself about whether freedom of speech is an absolute right.

ID cards. Will prevent identity theft - to the same extent as existing credit cards. And will help catch terrorists - but only those with bad fakes. You'll also need to pay UKP90 for a new card every time you change home or your biometric data is changed by severe illness or age. But not to worry, because implementing and maintaining the scheme properly is nearly impossible.

Iraq. Memos have surfaced proving Bush and Blair had agreed to invade long before weapons inspections or UN resolutions.

Iran. In ten years they might possibly be able to build a nuclear bomb. 'Nuclear Installations' have been identified for possible bombing. Here 'installation' means any lab or factory researching nuclear power or building power plant componants - which are of course in all the major cities. Most still think the US isn't desperate enough to attack.

Iran again. It turns out the unpronouncable prime minister never talked about wiping Israel off the map - it was a misquote from a speech against zionism. Is he still a holocaust denier? Probably.

Unemployment is up, university enrollment is down, and military recuitment is through the floor. So where are all the young people who aren't in work, a classroom or a troop ship? They can't afford to leave home, because house prices obsinately refuse to become affordable ('crash') and fuel bills are rising by 22%.
The Portsmouth Respect site is redesigned but not up yet. I'm still a great believer in handcoded HTML, but having to use multiplely embedded tables to format text and images feels like having to use Powerpoint for accounting.

In spare moments I've been rewriting lyrics and inventing a form of shorthand.

Write About Now...

You may remember, many moons ago, I was asked to help run the Portsmouth Respect website. Then we all became too busy, not least with trying to run a Respect by-election campaign with minimal funds and a dozen people.

But tomorrow we actually do it - that is, Gareth E asks me to teach him Dreamweaver or HTML, and I try to teach him what I learned an hour before writing this entry, and he decides it's all much too complicated and he's too busy so please can I do it.

Nick says I could be a columnist - or possibly communist. With luck I'll soon be both, of a sort. Not that we Respecters are terribly optimistic about the future of the party. The ghost of Galloway's Cat is still haunting us.
I'm trying to get back into writing short stories, having given it up 10 years ago. I've got some pages of notes for something about the outbreak of an interplanetary war. A lot of science fiction is about trying to avert conflict by finding common ground between humans and aliens - some shared values or goals. But what if there isn't any? What if neither side knows what they're doing to aggrivate the other?

Other ideas which have been floating around in my head:
* A murder mystery among a group of hostages tied to a radiator.
* A philosophical manuscript of undecidable authenticity divides followers of the philosopher. Some need to prove it's genuine, some that it's fake.
* A spy finds there is no longer an alternative world power to which he can betray his masters. So he betrays them anyway.
* A business department where no one knows what the department does.
* A elderly woman's thoughts obsessively return to a day in her youth - even after she discovers the events could not have occured.

Which is More Absurd?

A night in with Simon M. Tonight's menu was roast chicken with vegetables, followed by a second helping, followed by a third helping, served with red wine. And for dessert, coco flavoured ice cream covered in cream, followed by...er, a second helping.

All consumed while watching Shaun of the Dead and Vaults of Horror. The former is probably the only romantic comedy I'd recommend - certainly the only romantic comedy about flesh eating zombies. Later there was tea and cakes.

You may have seen the 'egg' credit card commercial featuring two bon viveur guinea pigs with camp northern accents. A credit card marketed at gay men isn't quite the kind of equality we campaigned for many years for but anyway, we two did slightly resemble the cute cuddly animals.

The other gay event of the day was the News of the Screws leading with a story about two unnamed soccer players (and a 'music industry' friend) being filmed (by someone unknown) having an 'orgy' and committing 'an act too obscene to describe' with a mobile phone. Odd how a newspaper so obsessed with what celebrities do with their mouths and their genitals feels the need to asterisk out the words 'Blow Job'.

In any case, the soccerboys were then relegated to inside pages by the breaking story of British troops beating up teenagers in Iraq. 4 boys in early teens were kicked and hit with batons by 8+ uniformed men, encouraged by a corporal filming it. The film, it seems, passed for entertainment back at the barracks.

The MoD issued a hasty stock response - 'serious allegations' etc - and the cable news channels followed the line that this was exceptional behavior.

Torturing prisoners, randomly shooting, attacking civillians - is anyone still remotely surprised at this? Does anyone seriously think 'interrogation' means 'asking questions' and 'keeping order' means 'preventing looters'? You can't have a war without war crimes, or an occupation without terror. I mean, it's what soldiers are for.

Elsewhere, the US is considering military action against sites of nuclear development in Iran, whose government is bizarrely conflating antiamericanism with holocaust denial, while someone has managed to persuade hundreds of thousands of muslims that 12 peurille cartoons constitute genocidal intent.

You may well wonder why I prefer to think about northern guinea pigs and soccer players with vibrating phones in their underwear - it seems more comprehensible.

Goose Abuse

Today, the internet was enriched by two posts from the mysterious 'Eight Tons of Geese'. First to the pleasantly silly Trouser Quandry Resolution blog.

Dear Sir and/or Madam,

I was looking forward to a quiet day masticating the fellini when I was shocked - shocked, sir - out of my reverie custard when I stumbulated upon your murdulous so-called "Blog".

Imagine my surprise when you mentioned my home town of Pwntfoas (in Upper Wales) in what can only be loosely described as a trundle of gloatwurd. This glaceful little villiage, only a mile from the pig factory and famous of it's 'Mr Sheen' brand of cheese, is a decent, honest, hardworking, godfearing little shithole and I and my surviving grandmothers must protest in the strongest possible terms.

Pwntfoas (in Upper Wales) is unusened to such frandulous renuncitation. You have slanderised our goodly name and you - you, sir - shall briefly be hearing from my solicitator.

Yours enclosedly,
Psilocybine Floncington-Smythe (Mrs)

PS. Fancy a shag?

Second, to the even sillier but not remotely pleasant Delusion Resistance. A christian site against belief in UFOs and evolution, found at the ever useful Crank.net.

i no the bibal is tru becos it ses it is. and i want to go to heven not to hel becos of al the devils with red hot pitchforks poking it up the evil gays even tho they lik that sort of thing any way. they must be sik these perverts taking it up the bumhole oh dear god in heven they make me feel so mad an hot angree.

eviluton is disprooved by the sientific fact of five persent of a wings. a creeture with no wings cant becom one with wings without first having five persent of a wings an then ten percent and then fiftin persent but it can only fly with a hundred persent of a wings so wots the five persent good four huh? huh?

the sily eviluton men dont think of that did they! any way ther probly al homersexul any way making bad noizes with each other in the bushes going groan oh oh give it to me harder big boy lik siko pervs. i dont lik to think about all the stuff they do.

I wonder who it could possibly be?

Monkey is Funky

An evening with Paul T and Anna F, aka the more vocal two thirds of Strict Machines. Three and a bit new songs, plans to enter a 'battle of the bands' type of competition, and a strange disinterest in doing more recording.

We sat on the floor and ate Paul's food, discussing canibalism, serial killers and necrophilia - good wholesome subjects.
Anna has secretly been learning to play guitar and is writing songs in her own right. 'Secretly' because, if Paul found out, he'd throw the kind of hissy fit that goes on for months, makes him debilitatingly ill, and bores the pants off everyone else.

I've offered to help her out with recording, and anything else that might be useful.
It looks like the great British public are in for another spate of Diana conspiracies. The investigator John Stevens (both of whose laptops were 'suspiciously' stolen in seperate burglaries) is dropping hints about new findings and a new witness.

Personally, although the Paris crash looked a little fishy, I can see no real point in having Diana killed simply to prevent her marrying a muslim and having a dark baby. It's not like it would bring down the monarchy, let alone the state, or even be a significant embarassment.
Abu Hamza, the Islamic preacher who loudly advocated killing 'enemies of Islam' - presumably to scare everyone else into becoming like him - is in jail. This is a good thing.

He is being presented as representative of devout muslims everywhere, and anyone who isn't anti-muslim is being presented as a supporter of him. This is of course the entire point of putting him in jail, and is a bad thing.

In related news, Gordon Brown (prime minister in waiting) says laws against religious hate speech aren't tough (=extreme) enough. Because propagandists of islamism are subhuman fanatics, beyond reason or understanding. Oh, wait - that's hate speech isn't it.
I could talk about last night's highly entertaining research into tiny ultra-leftwing sects, featuring such infighting luminaries as Arthur Scargill, Hillel Tickten and the wonderfully named Harpal Brar.

But instead, I'll mention that 'Monkey' is on ITV4. That's the Japanese serial of a Chinese legend, set in India and dubbed into English with more ham than a bacon factory.

Where else would you see an indestuctable simian flying on a pink cloud, an incredibly beautiful boy-priest traveling with a pig and a fish, and people everywhere changing into animals in a world populated by demons and really bad kung fu?

It forms much of my small cluster of childhood memories, and I'm going to savor it all again, no matter how loud everyone else groans.

Apples and Pears

I tried to post the 12 cartoons which have swept away all the interesting news for the last week. But Blogger has been having some of it's increasingly frequent trouble. I may try again later - in the meantime you should be able to see them here.

Personally, I think Dilbert is better.
Ah well. In personal news, I've come to suspect over the last year that sleeping 14 hours a day, being rather overweight and getting out of breath climbing the stairs might possibly be an indicator of poor health.

So I've got myself a big bag of fresh fruit (from a wholesaler who sells at roughly half what a supermarket would charge), put the neglected stepping machine in the basement next to an mp3 player loaded with hours of techno music, and made sure the only chocolate in the house is 'Good Boy (TM)' treats for the dogs.

Whether the cause of my condition is diabetes, high blood pressure, or simply being an utter slob for 20 years, these measures should help.

Unless it's Myalgic encephalomyelitis, of course. If it exists, of course.

Oh Look, Another Panic

Is it me, or are the media and the blogsphere suddenly full of high-octane opinions about a nonevent? I speak of a cartoon, a piece of very mild satire in a French newspaper, which has apparantly offended 'muslims'.

Actually, it's offended a few mad little sects in the muslim world, but people who don't know their Tawheed from their Talib feel obliged to turn it into a major (but completely vapid) debate on freedom of speech.

It's as though the British media had decided that the spectrum of British politics was best represented by Robert Kilroy Silk. Which, come to think of it, they did.

Oh well, here's a comment I left on a supposedly skeptical blog, about one aspect of the issue:

Who exactly are the Muslim Council of Britain? And why are they in the news so much lately?

Could it be because their name sounds a bit like the Muslim Association of Britain? The MAB are large, respected and sensible, wheras the MCB are small, powerless and a bit mad.

The MAB is by far the most influential muslim body in Britain, speaks out clearly against terrorism, and is a major force in the anti-war movement. Which means they're a thorn in the side of the Blair government. Which means Blair and his cronies want to discredit them.

How better to attack the MAB than by extensively reporting a negative non-event concerning the MCB, hyping it as referring to all muslims?

How many nonspecialists do you think are even aware of the difference between the MAB and the MCB?


So, how did the performance go?

Well, I've said it before, that it's often those who lead a project to success are those who later kill it. The kind of person with the determination and courage to create, often also has the ego and arrogance that makes it all go sour - the determination and the ego are two sides of the same coin.

In this case it's Herr Direktor who made it happen, and almost made sure it didn't happen.

Although there was a paying audiance (65 people paid UKP5 each) who presumably expected to see a cast who had memorised their lines, none of us had had time to do so. We all read from scripts, which limited our physical acting.

The four drama students did an absolutely sterling job, despite being 20 years too young for their roles. Duncan T clearly relished his part as mass murdering camp guard, playing it as a slimy moustache twirling villain - camp in the other sense.

Christine R has minimal acting experience, but has buckets of instinct for it - her softly spoken survivor confronting her former torturers across a courtroom was actually moving. Our one professional actor, a man called Stuart, manages the dignified description of horrors personally seen very effectively.

I was apparantly quite good, playing the Defence Counsel as a beaurocratic pedant, trying to trip up the witnesses with sneaky questions.

Three days before the performance, Max introduced a new actor to play a major role. Her name is Berit - she's German, with a good but imperfect grasp of English, she's a midget with no acting experience at all, and very nervous about public speaking.

And she has the longest speech in the play, a ringing declaration about how perpetrators and victims of genocide are chosen not by fate, class or past but by random and absurd chance. There's no way to tell in advance who will be on which side of the gas chamber door.

Max was making cuts, reinstatements, recuts, movements and changes to the script until the night before the performance. Sometimes forgetting to tell the relavent actors that he had done so.

I found two instances of lines from cut exchanges that had somehow got left in, and were therefore meaningless. I told the actors and we patched it up, and I'm sure there were others doing the same.

Then, an hour before we were due to go on, he decided some more changes were absolutely vital. He went through the modifications with each actor alone, ensuring that we were all reading from somewhat different scripts.

Sometimes passages the rest of us thought had been cut were unexpectedly performed. And sometimes there was frantic rustling of notes as entire pages were omitted with no notice.

Oh, and I think Max, playing the Judge, decided to make a few ad hoc cuts during the performance itself, expecting the rest of us to compensate on the fly. It's amazing there were only about a dozen missed cues.

All this, given okay or good performaces (and a few very good ones), plus a tolerant audiance who were politically on our side, failed to derail the play.

Then right at the end, after the 'curtain' point, the director got off his judges podium and spoke to the audiance directly. One of his long, slow speeches, full of pregnant pauses and extravagent care taken in word choice.

I confess I was not the only cast member to sneak away backstage in the dark as he began. We knew he'd finished when we heard him bellow something about living together in peace - "PEACE! PEEEEAACE!!!". Perhaps he thought the play couldn't speak for itself.

Afterwards, some us went for a celebratory meal in a chinese resteraunt, and talked about putting the play on in one of Portsmouth's two larger theatres, or even one of the small theatres in London that cater to amateur groups. In my opinion, this is pure fantasy.

If we put the play on again, it has to be done properly, which means adaquate rehearsal, a fixed script, and in general a lot of professionalism. We're not going to get that from the current director, so if we want to take this further, either his role will have to be downsized - which his ego will never permit - or we ditch him, which is probably not possible.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this project is over and done with. It was enjoyable, if frustrating, the message of the play got through and I cirtainly don't regret getting involved.

Dahling You Were Wonderful

Our performance was not an unmitigated disaster. I will report more fully when not hammered.

Hugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew

It was an achingly cold day, and I spent far too much of it outside.

25+ of us - mainly students - gathered with our antiwar banner and placards at 1430. We walked the half mile to the WW2 memorial, made a few short speeches, read out the names of the 100 British soldiers killed so far in Iraq - mentioning the 2000+ American soldiers and 100,000+ Iraqi civillians - and laid a wreath at the centerstone.

The local news media were there, and we appeared briefly on the BBC, together with others doing the same thing elsewhere in Britain. It was a national event - lots of simultainious small local events - called by Families Against The War.

A successful event, for what it was, marred only slightly by Richard L. He's a good ethical man, with admirable political devotion and knowledge. But he will insist on coming to every single outside event with his clattery old guitar and belting out his self-penned songs with a voice like a wounded sealion.
Later I visited Simon M as arranged, and we went through our parts in The Investigation. It may be that he as Prosecution and me as Defence will be the two best rehearsed parts tomorrow.

Speaking of which, we don't have a map, but have been assured that the arts centre is easy to find from the train station. We will presumably recieve the final version of the script in time for a quick runthrough before the actual performance.

And we just have to hope everyone turns up and doesn't miss their cues. And dear uncle Max doesn't bore everyone rigid with one of his interminable speeches. And basically the paying audiance don't mind that we're crap.

I'm not easily embarrassed, and I don't usually drink alchohol, but I suspect I shall be crimson with shame and keen to obliterate the memory with vodka tomorrow night.
More politics in the evening - this time local not global. A Respect meeting with a representative from the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) about protest action against the government's planned closure of a fire station.

Portsmouth has 2 remaining fire stations, in the areas called Copnor and Southsea. If you have a fire in Copnor, the delay between calling the fire service and the fire engine arriving is roughly 1 minute for the station to be informed, plus 1 minute for the fire crew to scramble, plus an average of 4 minutes for the engine to get to you.

The council plan to close Copnor station and retain Southsea station 'with no loss of service' - meaning 'arrival time within government target of 10 minutes'. It takes 8 minutes to get from Southsea to Copnor, plus the 2 for processing and scrambling. Barring the traffic jams for which the city is infamous.

It takes on average 2 minutes for a fire to spread through 1 room.

The council have held a 'consultation' with local people, informing them that rapid response wasn't necessary because most people who die in fires do so within the first 6 minutes. Which isn't even true.