Showing posts from December, 2016


I stopped looking back on 2016 about three months ago, when I stopped keeping a regular diary. I like to keep a diary, because I like to have a sense of my own history. Just as everyone uses (and should use) history to make sense of their present, a diary is something I can use to keep track of how I think, what I make of events as they occur, and to trip myself up when I realise I could have approached things in a better way. I had stopped keeping a diary because the events of this year became a bit, well, overwhelming, as I am sure it did for many. Numerous reviews of the year centred on the political world events – Brexit, Trump, increasing nationalism, Syria – and the deaths of people who were not done with life, like George Michael and Carrie Fisher, to name only two from just the last week. There is sense of, “I’ll come back to this later” – needing that bit of distance, to have the right perspective of things, before you can start to make sense of them. What you can


One of the few songs to which everyone knows the words, “Happy Birthday to You” is a song we are seemingly stuck with now, being a very quick and easy way to mark a moment in time, and which can be sung in exactly the same way no matter how much you like or dislike the person to which you are singing. The song began as “Good Morning to All,” written by two teacher sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill (yes, it took two people), to be sung in class at the beginning of the school day. The “Happy Birthday” appeared organically when people wanted to use the tune for other things, and were eventually written down – the piano arrangement, with extra verse (“How old are you now?”), credited to two further people, was published in 1935, over forty years after the Hills published their original. The song entered the hands of music publishers Warner Chappell Music in 1988, who enforced their copyright to charge millions of dollars in royalty payments. To make it clear, yes, you can use “Ha


Allow yourself to feel incredibly old and terrified for a moment – TWENTY-SEVEN years ago today, the first episode of “The Simpsons” was broadcast on American television. This means there are people who born since the show began, that now have their own children. In Britain, for those not willing to pay for Sky TV, the BBC began showing “The Simpsons” in November 1996, at just the right time for the teenage me. For years, I dutifully taped every episode I came across, laughing at its subversive humour, marvelling at its feature film-scale storylines, and identifying with its fully rounded characters. For the record, my favourite episodes of the series came early in its run, like Lisa winning an essay contest and uncovering political corruption in “Mr Lisa Goes to Washington,” the awful musical “Streetcar!” in “A Streetcar Named Marge,” and the disaster movie plot of “Marge versus the Monorail.” There was once a time where no show could do the two things the “The Simpsons” cou


Saying you have done something week in, week out, for twenty years, is usually restricted to essential tasks, such as breathing, eating and sleeping - and yet, when I bought the latest Christmas issue last Monday, I have now bought the “Radio Times” every week, without fail, for twenty years. In an online age, you would have thought that having to go somewhere to buy a magazine, to tell you what programmes are on the television and radio, would be something that died out a while ago, but there was not much of an internet back in 1996, and broadcasters were only starting to open their own websites. As recently as 1991, programme listings were actually regulated in the UK: BBC TV and radio was covered by the self-styled “RT,” owned and published by the BBC, while ITV, Channel 4 and the rest were in the “TV Times” - if you wanted the full picture, you had to buy both magazines. For this reason, the “RT” sold its advertising for more than any other magazine, and continues to do i


Everything I am about to tell you happened before nine o’clock this morning. I had arrived at work a good hour before my day was due to start, so I could go through my usual warm-up process – reading through e-mails, stretching, continuing to wake up. Meanwhile, two of my managers were talking about the latest of their Christmas dinner out from the previous night. One manager then told the other about a faux pas they had apparently perpetrated, where they had referred to putting something away as stuffing it in their “glory hole.” This admission had already started waves of laughter, of both recognition and embarrassment. Sitting across from the conversation, I had missed the cause of the laughter. One manager looked to me, and said I didn’t want to know what they were talking about, like I had stumbled across an awkward situation, while the other, who had made the faux pas, walked to my desk to explain, clearly still wanting to get the issue off their chest. They started


When I last created a CV, I knew I had to use the correct font. I chose Futura, a precursor to Gill Sans, which is clear and easy to read, especially when any human resources person may scan it for only a few seconds before making a decision. If I chose the wrong font, any split second of confusion in the reader could have threatened my future career prospects. So, when I come across forms at work that use COMIC SANS, that a company has asked us to fill in, and which could be used in a court of law, you do question the decisions made by both the designer, and by those that said, “yes, that looks OK.” The company concerned does not use these anymore, so they must have realised what the forms look like. Comic Sans exists to look child-like, but its misuse has made it look childish. Designed for Microsoft Bob, a 1994 program to make navigating screens easier for novice computer users, it was intended to solve the problem of having a cartoon dog having speech bubbles that used Ti