Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Ska

Soulful vocals, shaky trumpet, paramilitary drumsteps - what's not to like ? From 1964 or thereabouts, Marguerite :

The lovely Ms Mahfood was murdered a year or so later by boyfriend and trombonist Don Drummond, after she came home at 3 am.

While we're 'down yard way' this blog has a list, not of Huntingdonshire cabmen, but of Jamaican buses.

"As the bus travels from Kingston to Ocho Rios, and it approaches FlatBridge and takes that "leaning" motion, you can only pray that God is listening to your prayers".

Fancy getting on a bus emblazoned with the name "Skank Special" ? Or "Expendable" ?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ancient Music ....

Early proto-metal ... The Gun :

In the same vein and the same year, more high-speed classical guitar from a young Dave Edmunds :

I don't know how my children discovered this (aha - it was featured in a Simpsons episode) but they went through a stage of singing it every day - until I was moved to seek out the source. The ski coach to Sauze D'Oulx isn't like this :

And some wonderful, classy slush which you'll either love or hate. Literate lyrics.

Love this guitar opening. 44 years ago. Beware of the loud volume :

Back to the roots - great song and great delivery by Jerry Butler. I'll have to get Randy Crawford's incendiary version onto Youtube :

The Best Educated Generation In History ...

The "Blair generation" will be the best educated in history, the school standards minister, David Miliband, promised yesterday.

Alas, our well-educated young people are finding that their lives are being ruined by a despotic tyranny.

STUDENTS who failed to understand the words “despotic tyranny” have been complaining about their history A-level exam.

It is claimed the question “How far do you agree that Hitler’s role 1933-45 was one of despotic tyranny?” was too confusing for some students to understand.

A protest group called Despotic Tyranny Ruined My Life has been set up on Facebook.

So far 1,151 people have joined the group, leaving comments such as “My life is DESTROYED because of this exam. Seriously” and “This exam made me sad”.

The essay question featured on an Edexcel A Level exam paper sat last week.

A number of teachers have also posted comments on an online history teachers’ discussion forum, claiming that their students would not know what the words “despotic” and “tyranny” meant.
To be fair, I'd find difficulty in describing exactly what distinguishes a despot from a tyrant (aren't despots a bit more capricious than tyrants, and tyrants more cruel than the average despot ?), but I get the general drift of the question well enough - and I imagine most people who did their A-levels more than twenty years go will get it too.

What's at once impressive, pathetic and sad are the self-righteous complaints of the students. Look and despair. These are next year's university intake. And I'm sure they have worked hard, and are no less bright than previous generations. I seem to remember that the Brave New educational world was going to be skills-based, not facts-based - that students would be 'taught to learn' and then they'd be self-powered, self-motivated learners, 'accessing and evaluating a range of sources' etc etc, instead of all that dull rote stuff, those dates and Kings and Queens. Yet here they are shouting 'it wasn't in the book'. Don't tell me that it was all a load of leftie cobblers dreamed up by the Institute of Education the month after some particularly good Colombian arrived ?

What's happened to education ?

"... in all the wider reading I did in preparation for the exam, written by leading Historians, I did not once come across the phrase "despotic tyranny" when describing Hitler's rule ..."
"This exam was not intended to test our knowledge of the English Language; it was a test of our knowledge of the Third Reich in the years 1933-45. As a higher ability student, i did a considerable amount of background reading leading upto this exam, and not once did i come across the phrase "Despotic Tyranny"."
"... in our wider reading which I assure you myself and other students at my sixth form completed, the focus was not on Hitler as a despot but on how the system of government impacted everyday life and how it operated. Perhaps if we had have been learning about tyrannical leaders whereby we drew comparisons as you describe then we would have read the necessary materials to enlighten us as to what the term despot meant in relation to Hitler. As it was we did not and it is elitist quite frankly to assume every history student is going to have come across such a term."
"I do not, however, think it is right for Edexcel to use it in a question without giving a definition. All it has achieved is the alienation of thousands of students who, despite having a more-than-adequate grasp on the history of the Third Reich, have been left helpless. I agree that marks are given for the use of specialist vocabulary, but a student's grade should not hinge on his or her understanding of one "specialist" term, which is effectively the situation Edexcel have created. Even a brief definition in brackets would have been sufficient."
"My daughter sat this Edexcel History exam last week and like most pupils in her sixth form left the exam in tears. Only a couple of students actually got the correct answer and one of those was a lucky guess. Many of these high ability students will now probably loose their places at Uni because of this one very badly worded question.
This was an exam on on Hitler and history...not on swallowing a dictionary. What is more distressing for students like my daughter is that facebook is claiming many schools were either read the meaning before the exam or were allowed to take a dictionary into the exam with them!!"
"To say that our revision was not done properly is insulting. I don't know about other colleges but in our lessons we didn't study this term or come across it in any text books. As for wider reading there was a very slim chance that we would come across this term and those who did were lucky. The exam board should consider the syllabus and text books better before writing questions and it is a shame that peoples work over the two years may not be properly awarded."
"Edexcel has a responsibility as an examining body to create an exam for the broad spectrum of students who sit the paper. The use of the term 'despotic tyranny' excludes students of a lower ability."
"I am a student who achieved 5 A grades as AS level last year (including full marks for two out of three of my history modules) and have been predicted 4 As at A2 this year. I have been offered a place at Cambridge to study English literature and I was not familiar with the word 'despotic' at all despite intensive revision and reading around the topic."

"People who say they knew the word "despotic" when they were young must be about 40 or 50. Unfortunately, schools don't place that much emphasis on learning terms anymore, exam styles change. Times change. We don't sit exams in the same style you may have done. So get off your high horse and stop criticizing younger people."

"After revising solidly for weeks before this exam i feel completely let down by the fact that my misinterpretation of an extremely confusing phrase appears to have made all off my efforts void. I understand that to be an A level history student you need to have a wide grasp of specialised vocabulary but can i realy be blamed for never hearing the word despotic before? I have never read it, let alone had it taught to me and i was under the impression that exams should be based on a student's knowledge of a topic not on their knowedge of a word."

"... having just read some of the outrageous comments above, some of which I presume are from the older generation of today, I feel totally disappointed at your lack of compassion and general attitude to this whole scenario ... The question was totally unfair, students had learnt everything from propaganda to women's roles in the Third Reich, slaving hours over textbooks and sources, all knowledge that we expected to use to our own advantage in the exam. The word despotic as said by many others has never cropped up in our textbooks - maybe if the word autocratic was used students like myself would have been able to grasp the full concept. The word tyranny is easy to comprehend yes, but there was no need for the word 'despotic' to be used - no need at all"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What A Shame ...

It's being reported that Michael Jackson has died of a heart attack.

The Boy Who Never Grew Up, or the Man Who Never Was A Child ?

It Is Nothing Short Of Criminal

That nowhere on Youtube can you find The Tours classic 'Language School'.

A Few Grass Clippings From The Curate's Lawn

I thought they'd come over here to do the jobs the lazy natives wouldn't do ? Not if this is correct.

Almost a quarter of children in London live in families where nobody has a job, far above the UK-wide figure of 15%, new figures show. North east England has the highest rate of child poverty, but London has many of the most deprived areas, according to the Office for National Statistics. Nearly a third of children in London live in lone-parent families (31%) compared with the UK-average of 25%.

I'm still trying to reconcile that last 31% with the fact that London has the lowest bastardy rate in England and Wales. I guess it may well be that the people without jobs and the people without husbands may not be the same people. I surmise there might be higher unemployment among London Asians, but lower numbers of single parents, for example. The ONS pdfs are here. Of course the doleys could be the remaining natives.

The Mail picks up on the fact that 40% of young Londoners are non-white. I'm surprised the figures are that low. Maybe another 10% are Polish.

The Nightjack fallout continues as another police blogger bites the dust.

Stressed Out Cop’s post here and this story in the Times, and then this one, scares me if I’m honest.

Life is too short and I worked too hard to get here.

Although I am a Police officer, I am still a regular bloke. I have a family, a mortgage, car payments and a pension to think about.

The Times pathetic justifications for their action are roundly dissed by commenters. I do wonder if the fact that editor James Harding, who must have approved Patrick Foster's disgraceful piece and the decision to defend it in the High Court, came from the FT and before that the EU, is relevant. Not a guy who worked his way up from the subs desk at the Glossop Advertiser, to put it mildly - or don't journalists do that any more ?

British jobs for Indian workers - they've come over here to do the jobs the natives do want to do.

'Hundreds' of Indian contractors are being brought to the UK by state-backed Lloyds Banking Group, which is using them to slowly replace British IT workers.

The Mail has obviously been in suspended animation for the last few years. This is not a new issue.

To make matters worse, the bank's British IT contractors were told just last week they must accept a 15 per cent pay cut, or leave. The whistleblower believes the government should use its 43.4 per cent stake in Lloyds (up 2.57p at 67.57p) to stop overseas contractors taking British jobs. Lloyds, which rescued rival HBOS at the height of last year's banking crisis, admitted it is bringing overseas workers to Britain. It also admitted to cutting rates for existing contractors by 'up to 15 per cent'.

A spokesman said: 'We continue to outsource areas of IT work to companies based overseas. At any one time some of the staff from these companies will be based in the UK to deliver aspects of our IT projects. We monitor all of our projects and keep a close eye on quality and delivery.'

Does your local council have a Violent Persons Register ? I must say I'd never heard of them.

A woman labelled "potentially violent" after complaining to a council about a vandalised flowerbed has won £12,000 in High Court libel damages. Jane Clift, 43, sued Slough Borough Council and public protection chief Patrick Kelleher over their reaction when she complained about the vandal.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Ms Clift, said the former care worker had been following the council's own poster campaign about reporting anti-social behaviour and was "understandably furious, frustrated and angry" with Ms Rashid. After talking to Ms Rashid, she then sent a letter, in which she wrote: "I felt so filled with anger that I am certain I would have physically attacked her if she had been anywhere near me."

The court heard the council and Mr Kelleher had argued that a November 2005 entry about her on its Violent Persons Register and an email informing people about it were "substantially true".

Maybe someone in Slough Council needs to get a sense of proportion.

Travellers Tales - how Warwickshire police are spending your money :

Shock at police's gypsy party

Ian Hughes
25 June 2009

BEMUSEMENT has greeted the news police are planning a gypsy party this weekend in a bid to build bridges between travellers and residents.

Illegal camps set up by gypsies have long been a source of problems, with recent ones set up on Myton Fields in Warwick and on Abbey Fields in Kenilworth.
They have made life a living hell for neighbours, and often leave the taxpayer to foot the bill for clean-ups costs when they move on. The regular Horse Fair, held on private land in Kenilworth, brought a mini crime wave to the town last summer, with reports of shoplifting, intimidation, and pubs being forced to close their doors.
In a bid to promote "understanding" police chiefs to organise the Family Day of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History and Culture, which takes place at the force's Leek Wootton headquarters on Saturday (June 27).
But Kenilworth councillor George Illingworth told the Observer that news of the party had “made him wonder” what side police were on.
He said: “You have to assume they know what they are doing, but I am very intrigued by the whole thing. The police move in mysterious ways sometimes.”
He added the town had been “taken over” by travellers during a chaotic horse fair on the outskirts of Kenilworth last summer, but said police had their improved their efforts since, quickly evicting a group of travellers from Abbey Fields before the most recent fair in April.
Warwickshire Police Asst Ch Con Bill Holland, who heads up the Association of Chief Police Officers group that leads on Gypsy and Traveller issues, believes the event will offer residents and travellers the chance to get to know each other.
He said: "This is set to be a really new and engaging event which we would welcome all members of our communities to attend. As well as having something on offer for everyone to enjoy, the event is a step in the right direction to improving relations between police and the travelling community.
"Unauthorised encampments have become a source of friction. We know education is at the heart of some of these contentious issues. Hopefully this day will be the start of building relationships with the aim to better understanding and learning about the different cultures and societies we all live in."
The free event, which runs from 10am to 4pm, will feature activities including traditional music and dancing display; storytelling; a collection of traveller memorabilia; plus children's arts workshop, graffiti project and competitions, together with refreshments.

Graffiti project ? It must be said that graffiti is not a prominent part of traveller culture.

Interesting to see that the Lib Dems former planning spokesman makes his money advising travellers on planning law.

A former parliamentary spokesman on planning matters has earned thousands of pounds advising gypsies on illegal camps. Matthew Green has been involved in around 250 planning disputes involving travellers through his company, Green Planning Solutions. Mr Green won the Shropshire seat of Ludlow for the Liberal Democrats in 2001 but lost it to the Tories at the last general election.He was party spokesman on matters involving the Deputy Prime Minister's Office, which had major responsibility for planning and housing.His company, Green Planning Solutions, advises gypsies on how to contest efforts to evict them as a breach of their human rights.Neighbours of the illegal sites refer to 39-year-old Mr Green as the "Gypsy King", according to the Daily Mail.His business partner is Ruth Reed - the next president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and also an expert on planning law.On her website she describes Green Planning Solutions as a company which "specialises in winning planning permission on difficult sites, usually rural locations including the green belt". Among those employing the expertise of Mr Green's company are the gypsies who set up camp last year near the £1million Warwickshire country retreat of Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and her estranged husband David Mills.Mr Green's company is also representing a group of travellers who have set up camp in the village of Weeley, near Colchester in Essex. After buying a plot of land for £90,000, the group arrived there in June 2008, laid hardcore and built fences.Mr Green said that all the travellers and gypsies pay him privately. "About a third of our clients are from gypsy or traveller backgrounds," he said.

Swine flu heads south - to Worcester secondaries.

A school which closed after a confirmed case of swine flu will remain shut for an extra two days to try to stop the virus spreading. A year eight pupil at Nunnery Wood High School in Worcester was diagnosed with the virus on 12 June. It closed on Tuesday after the virus spread, with four cases now confirmed and 17 students awaiting test results. It will now only be open to GCSE exam students on Monday and Tuesday before opening to all pupils on Wednesday.

And Worcester primaries :

The cases were confirmed in pupils at Stanley Road Primary School in Worcester today. But health experts have decided to keep the school open as the pupils have not attended school since being symptomatic. Dr Richard Harling, Director of Public Health at NHS Worcestershire, said: “We have written to parents at the school today to explain the situation to them fully. “Two cases of swine flu among pupils at the school were confirmed last night. However, these children did not acquire the infection at school. In addition, they have not been to school whilst symptomatic and there is no evidence at the moment that there has been any further transmission within the school.

It seems the Asian community (Stanley Road is in the Wylds Lane area of Worcester, once an Italian enclave and now a Muslim one) are most affected.

Officials have blamed the extent of the virus in the West Midlands on an outbreak at Welford Primary School, Handsworth, Birmingham.

It shut in May, with nearly 200 people connected to the school diagnosed with the virus. It has since been reopened.

Welford is the school featured on the BBC last year. It had two white pupils at the time - out of 480.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not Thought Of It Like That ...

When I heard that Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was booed in London by ex-pats when he urged them to return and rebuild their shattered nation, I'd assumed they were people who, not surprisingly, didn't trust Mugabe one inch. IMHO Tsvangirai is responding not only up to the call of duty in his speeches, but perhaps beyond it. This is a man whose wife was killed in a probable assassination attempt only a few months ago - and now he's saying that things are on the mend. Maybe he's right - but one can't but be wary.

But he's in a difficult position - as Prime Minister, he can hardly go around calling his country a hell-hole - even if it still is.

Not so, according to CoE Bishop Tom 'It's What I Do' Butler, on this morning's BBC Thought For The Day (I paraphrase):

"No wonder the audience booed. Morgan Tsvangirai's appeal to them to return, and his implication that things were getting better, had the potential to seriously impact their asylum claims."