Sunday 31 January 2010

light with the material

There have been some good comments about Salinger, notably from Slate, a reader in the New York Times, David Lodge, Lillian Ross and Adam Gopnick. One of the best came from playwright Polly Stenham in today's Observer, who suggests that you need to be quite a sophisticated and diligent reader to catch its various levels:

It reads as a coming of age thing when you are young; when you get a bit older, it's about sexuality and being lost and later you see that it's about an epic breakdown following a death. But he's so light with that material – he dips it in a tiny bit and you have to really concentrate to see it.
more ...

Saturday 30 January 2010

at last, two intelligent thoughts about salinger

Among the torrent of lazy commentary about J. D. Salinger that has appeared in the last two days (last night's Late Review discussion, for instance, was appallingly slack), this blog has so far managed to find two really intelligent comments about his work.

The first, by Stephen Metcalf, appears in Slate and puts Salinger's work in the context of his war-time experience:

He was the great poet of post-traumatic stress, of mental dislocation brought upon by warfare. Salinger himself broke down under the strain of Utah Beach, and all of his best, most affecting work gives us a character whose sensitivities have been driven by the war to the point of nervous collapse. That very balance - between the edge of sanity, and a heightened perception of being—is echoed formally in Salinger's best writing, his short stories.

The second is a reader's comment that appears in the New York Times. The comment was posted by Xapulin and concerns Holden Caulfield's character and the subtleties of the first-person narration. Whoever Xapulin is, he/she is a lot smarter than most people who've written about Salinger. No wonder Salinger valued the private reader so highly. Xapulin writes about Holden:

He’s approaching the critical point of a breakdown with an arc years in the making, but recognizes it only dimly, and is able to express it much more clearly to the reader than to himself.

It is this quality - not some agenda for deception - that makes Holden an unreliable narrator. He is not a liar, he is simply a young man - so recently a boy - overwhelmed by a great loss. He is completely engaged in trying to survive it, with little capacity left over to help him completely articulate to himself why he’s going through what he’s going through.

See chewing the fat and horsing. more ...

Friday 29 January 2010

chewing the fat and horsing

The reactions to J D Salinger's death have focussed, predictably enough, on the character of Holden Caulfield and Salinger's invention of the teenage point of view. The standard line from people has been that they read the book as a teenager, usually they loved it, but of course they grew up and grew out of it. The book had been part of their younger selves.

A typical example was novelist Will Self appearing on Newsnight last night, clearly not much of a fan (why not get someone on who can speak with interest about the work?) who said quite unapologetically that he hadn't read Salinger's work since he was a teenager.

But Catcher in the Rye is much more than a book for teenagers. The central character Holden Caulfield is a boy whose brother has died and who has no way of dealing with his grief. In comparison to these overwhelming feelings, everything else seems phony.

Catcher in the Rye was written in 1951, six years after the Second World War, during which Salinger had served with Fourth Infantry Division, from D-day to the end of the war, including the Battle of the Bulge in which 19,000 Americans died. Anyone who reads his pre-war stories and his post-war stories will see that, though the settings may still be familiar, there's a remarkable new depth of feeling.

The other aspect that's underappreciated in Catcher in the Rye is the influence of Eastern philosophy and Zen Buddhism. Holden seems to challenge the Western way of looking at the world, dominated (as it so often is) by instrumental reasoning. Holden is trying to look at the world in another way. This comes out strongly in Chapter 22 when Holden visits his sister Phoebe and she complains that he doesn't like anything anymore. They argue:

'Anyway, I like it now,' I said. 'I mean right now. Sitting here with you and just chewing the fat and horsing -'
'That isn't anything
'It is so something
really. Certainly it is! Why the hell isn't it? People never think anything is anything really. I'm getting goddam sick of it.'

Chewing the fat and horsing is not exactly the American Dream. more ...

Thursday 28 January 2010

ultimate early green

The Guardian's report on the Top 50 Sustainability Books, published by the University of Cambridge's Programme for Sustainability Leadership, has led to numerous comments from readers suggesting other titles. There are many straightforward suggestions, such as:

Rob Hopkins' Transition Handbook,
David MacKay's Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air,
Thoreau's Walden
Edward O Wilson's The Biodiversity of Life.

There are also some more unusual choices:

Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class and
Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Perhaps the most surprising is Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, recommended because it is

the ultimate early green statement of how we are all responsible for what happens to all of us.

pic: Gustave Dore's Rime of the Ancient Mariner more ...

Wednesday 27 January 2010

spring arrives at three times the speed

Two days ago this blog noted that Stephen Fry had said on the TV show QI that spring advanced in the UK - from the south to the north, obviously - at a speed of a third of a mile an hour.

Turns out things happen more briskly in the United States. The 4th/5th Grade class at the Paideia School in Atlanta measures the progress of spring - as defined by the first daffodil blooming. They do this, as my colleague Kellie reports,

by writing to post office directors from the tip of Florida to the top of Maine, and asking them to mail back a postcard with the date of the first sighting of a daffodil. The class follows it all on a map with colored pins, etc, and finds the speed of spring on the East Coast.

The research has shown that:

The southernmost daffodil arrived in Alma, Georgia January 21, and the northernmost daffodil arrived in Ft. Kent, Maine April 7, 2009. The distance was 1780 miles in 76 days, 23.4 miles per day or 1 mile an hour.

That's three times the speed that spring moves in the UK.

(Big hat-tip to Peter Richards.) more ...

Tuesday 26 January 2010

the switch in the last few months

After each edition of Radio 4's Today programme, the presenters reflect for a couple of minutes on how that edition went. This review is only available online.

The final item on today's programme was a discussion between Mike Hulme and Tony Juniper about the melting glaciers, the IPCC and the calls for Dr Pauchuri to resign.

The controversy over the melting glaciers - following, as it does, the hacked emails, the disappointment at Copenhagen, and the unusually cold winter - has provided climate contrarians with yet another talking point to hijack the debate.

In the review after the programme John Humphrys reflected that:

The whole climate change debate has really switched around over the past few months. A lot of people who were - I think this is fair to say - entirely persuaded of the argument are a bit dismayed (putting it mildly) at the way the argument is being called into question.

Not that they necessarily no longer believe that climate change is man-made, and the rest of it, but the debate is not going the way many people had expected, and hoped.
more ...

Monday 25 January 2010

spring forward

On Saturday night's edition of QI, Stephen Fry asked what takes eight weeks to travel from the southern-most part of England to the northern-most part of Scotland.

The answer, it turned out, is the spring as it advances north at about a third of a mile an hour. (One of the show's guests, Hugh Dennis, suggested that if you timed your walk correctly daffodils would keep popping up all along the way.)

Spring is traditionally defined in the Northern Hemisphere as the three-month period of March, April, and May. An eight-week difference within a three-month period (just in the UK) is fairly sizeable.

But it's more extreme than that. Fry didn't go on to discuss how the dates for spring have shifted (as season creep leads to earlier springs and longer summers) or how those dates might continue to change.

When Shakespeare writes in Sonnet 98: 'From you have I been absent in the spring ...', modern readers could find themselves imagining a time of year that's two months' adrift from the April mentioned in the poem. Phenologists have observed primroses, snowdrops and frogspawn in the first week of January. more ...

Friday 22 January 2010

the climate change building

Diplo developed a picture (Version 1.0) that would people "navigate through the complex maze of climate change issues". The comments and suggestions that were received led to this new version (above). The Climate Change Building is a work-in-progress. Comments are invited via e-mail ( or through the CC Building discussion forum. more ...

Thursday 21 January 2010

anything but simple

A higher percentage of people in Central and Eastern European countries grow their own vegetables than in Western European countries, and this applies to people living in the city as much as the countryside.

But this isn't merely a hangover from an agrarian culture or peasant traditions. Plenty of middle-class people in Prague (pic), for instance, grow their own food and one of the motives (interviews show) is that it can be a reaction to the neo-liberal values that swept the country since 1989. Acting sustainably, however, was not a priority.

This blog was attending an open space seminar on self-provisioning at The Open University yesterday where two lecturers, Dr Petr Jehlička and Dr Joe Smith, were sharing their recent work on informal food production.

One slide from a study by Alber and Kohler detailed the level of self-provisioning in each European country. The Western European country with the highest amount of grow-your-own stuff was Luxembourg.

In a discussion that followed about voluntary simplicity, one participant asked: "Why is it called voluntary simplicity. My partner grows his own vegetables, and it's anything but simple." more ...

Wednesday 20 January 2010

brand value

The environmentalist and iconoclast Stewart Brand spoke at the RSA last night. He's on a book tour at the moment promoting Whole Earth Discipline.

It won't have surprised anyone in the RSA audience who has seen Brand online discuss four environmental heresies to hear the self-styled ecopragmatist say he is pro-nuclear, pro-slums (as a route to prosperity), pro-geoengineering and pro-GM. But there were plenty of surprising details and slides along the way.

This blog boiled down the 60 minutes at the RSA into six tweets:

Stewart Brand's voice had gone, so hard sometimes to hear the details. But it was awkward stuff, in the best sense.

At #rsa this eve, Stewart Brand also said: Amish use GM crops, wildlife in Chenobyl doing great, and Teddy Roosevelt was greenest prez.

At #rsa, stewart brand says: judge longevity of a civilisation by quality of its soil.

At #rsa, stewart brand says: there is now a blue rose.

At #rsa, Stewart Brand's refrain: more science needed, more science needed ...

At #rsa for Stewart Brand talk: the approach I'm taking is #climate change changed everything more ...

Tuesday 19 January 2010

ants move centre stage

Two years ago this blog noted that the great biologist E. O. Wilson was writing a novel about ants. Reports said that his publisher had wanted him to include a few more details about humans, but it didn't sound as if his publisher was winning the argument.

Next week's New Yorker carries further proof of that. The New Yorker is publishing an extraordinary short story about ants by Wilson, which dramatises the life and death struggle of a, well, community would be too tiny a term, civilisation, perhaps too grand, but certainly a very sizeable collection of mutually co-operative ants.

Anyone who has read E. O. Wilson will recognise the way he overturns the reader's perspective by dramatising the lives of creatures most people barely notice. His story in New Yorker (this blog assumes it's only an extract) points to a book that will be quite unlike any other. more ...

Monday 18 January 2010

the state of the arts in 30 tweets

A reader asks for more details about about the plenty of good contributions at the State of the Arts conference. So here are 30 moments that ashdenizen tweeted during the day:

The arts in UK cost 1% of the NHS [overspend]; £1 invested brings £5 return; and cuts lead to a spiral of decline.

Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England: The pool of talent is not finite. It is endless. Grow the pool, grow the talent.

The Tate's Nick Serota: unless we recognise climate change as a major issue we will forfeit respect.

Other tweets are reporting the 7 cultural rights just being outlined by Tate's Nick Serota here:

The Tate's director Nick Serota names 7 cultural rights. Number 1: the right to engage in the arts from the earliest age.

Tom Morris makes his own point, that art should not be predetermined, by changing his mind about what he was going to say.

A US perspective.: Bill Ivey from @curbcenter outlines six "cultural rights "because the expressive life is worth fighting for.

C4's Kevin Lygo: audiences for arts events going up, audiences for traditional arts coverage on TV going down.

Whitechapel's Iwona Blazwick: there's only so much shopping people can do. we have all these arts institutions that are free.

Whitechapel's Iwona Blazwick: media often talks about arts with nervousness and suspicion.

On arts media - BBC's Will Gompertz: I still sense people think of the internet as this little thing on the side.

RSA's Matthew Taylor asks: why is arts policy in the "fluffy" bits of the news?

Can artists change society? John McGrath, NT Wales: It helps us imagine how we live in a society to which we're already stepping.

John Tusa: Contemporary plays about politics doing things that journalism doesnt do. Artists inform, clarify and maybe, even, change.

'Can artists change society?' Turner prizewinner Jeremy Deller: We havent yet found our Warhol. The Warhol of the internet.

Good question: in this interactive immersive fastmoving new arts world, is there still space for silence and contemplation?

Disc on convergence of digital and live perf. Eko Eshun: dont fetishise tech stuff. It's there to form closer links with audiences.

In "what's new?": it's up to the artist's imagination to harness the audience's imagination in the best possible way.

In 'what's new?': art forms as hybrid, immersive, interactive, cumulative ...

in 'what's new': multiplatform activity, free content, serial arts encounters, drip-feeding, audiences co-creating, live-blogging ...

Sorry, Peter Brook. Andy Field: there's no such thing as empty spaces. they are never a blank canvas. they are always full.

In 'what's new?' panel: Andy Field from Forest Fringe: I don't want to predict what's new. I want art to be unpredictable.

RT @artsandecology Art is the perfect vehicle for looking ahead re: climate. Alison Tickell

In 'what's new?': ICA's Ekow Eshun on move from vertical relats to horizonal one. Open, porous. Audiences talk back.

In 'what's new?' panel: Colette Bailey from Metal on creating critical conversations. Slide shows herd of cows in Toxteth.

Jeremy Hunt MP: wants grant distributing organisations to keep their admin costs down to 5%.

The RSA's Matthew Taylor: the fact is that an awful lot of things that go on in this sector have nothing to do with govt.

Jeremy Hunt MP: Tories committed to getting rid of many of the targets that arts orgs have + strengthening arm's length principle

The RSA's Matthew Taylor asks: Does this sector know what it wants? Alan Davey, ACE, offers slogan: "don't mourn, organise." more ...

Saturday 16 January 2010

changing state of the arts

There were plenty of good contributions at the first-ever State of the Arts conference this week, which was attended by more than 500 people.

There's the Guardian's report of Jeremy Hunt's speech here; and you can read the RSA's chief executive Matthew Taylor blogging here, Andy Field's speech here, Marcus Romer's slide show here, Jack Hutchinson's tweets here, and a pdf of all the day's tweets here. [Update: Charlotte Higgins blogs in the Guardian about the Tory arts proposals and the Arts Council's Mark Robinson gives his take on ArtsCounselling. 18 Jan.]

Quite a few people spoke about the changing dynamic between artists and audiences (more hybrid, immersive, interactive and cumulative). But the event itself demonstrated very little of that shift.

The organisers have asked for feedback. First off, it was a very rewarding event. Well worth doing again. A number of people have said that if there's one next year, it should be outside London. This blog would also add:

- distribute some key speeches in advance, so some sessions become Q&As.

- cut promo films from TV execs

- encourage chairs to frame each session, pursue key points, and insist contributions are brief and focussed

- livestream main sessions

- take more questions from audience (but no speeches)

- keep intros to minimum (we have the biogs)

- get panellists to interact earlier

- appoint moderator for whole day to draw themes together

- make Wi-Fi available everywhere

- encourage online debate in days before conference

- take questions from Twitter

The anthropologist Grant McCracken blogged usefully a couple of years ago about reinventing the conference.

Our world has been decentered, flattened, destabilized, distributed, and made participative, anarchical, elite indifferent, cloudily networked, self organizing, and concatenating. So it’s natural that we’re having to rethink entertainment, information, elites, experts and especially speakers. Who now wants to sit in a room and hear someone hold forth?

This weekend's conference Science Online 2010 went a lot further down this road. more ...

Thursday 14 January 2010

play for today

This blog will be at the State of the Arts conference today: programme here; speakers here. The blurb says:

The State of the Arts Conference, organised by the RSA and Arts Council England, brings together a wide range of creative voices to debate the value and purpose of the arts at a time of significant change.

We recognise that arts and cultural experiences are more diverse, disruptive and fast moving than ever before. The conference will explore with artists, entrepreneurs, cultural leaders and policy makers what kind of arts landscape we need and how we might get there.

Follow the tweets at this hashtag: #sa10. more ...

Wednesday 13 January 2010

when a sacred concept misleads

A new report published today on science journalism makes a point this blog keeps making about the BBC's misconceived idea of 'balance', so noticeable in Radio 4's Today and BBC2's Newsnight.

The report, titled Science and the Media: Securing the Future, points out that 'balance' is (in effect) unscientific:

A classic example of the disjuncture came with the issue of journalistic balance, a sacred concept in neutral, objective journalism but problematic for science. Tom Fielden, science editor of the Today programme (himself a former general news reporter), explained how interviews on Today are often grounded in the UK’s distinct form of adversarial politics where two sides are invited on to thrash out policy differences. However, applying this model of reporting to science stories like MMR and climate change has produced seriously misleading reporting. more ...

Tuesday 12 January 2010

highest value

Well, Avatar is throwing up some interesting perspectives: anti-American, Jungian and now free-market. is a libertarian website that brings together, it says, libertarians, pacifists, leftists, greens, and independents alike. It's a welcome mix. All too often libertarians take a right-wing anti-environmental stance, when as this blog has argued (see ps below) many libertarian issues are green issues.

On, the economist and academic David R. Robinson provokes the right-wing critics of the movie by arguing that Avatar is a defense of capitalism and property rights.

... the defense of property rights in Avatar is so clear that, at one point in the movie, when the bad guys are justifying their war on the grounds that they need "Unobtainium," I turned to a libertarian friend and said, "This is the Kelo decision." Recall that the Supreme Court, in Kelo v. City of New London, decided that it was all right to take Suzette Kelo’s property from its low-tech use as a house so that a major corporation could use it for a "grander" project.

... to the extent that it makes any statement about capitalism, Avatar is a defense of capitalism. Capitalism is based on property rights and voluntary exchange. The Na’vi had property rights in the crucial tree and various other properties surrounding it. Did they own it as individuals or as community tribal property? We can’t be sure, but probably the latter. They had refused to sell the property to the outsiders. There was nothing the outsiders could give them that would make it worth their while. What should we, if we are good capitalists, conclude? That, just as in the Kelo case, the people currently sitting on the land value it more than the outsiders. The land is already in its highest-valued use.

h-t: Tokyo_Tom

PS. From just asking 31 March 2008: No libertarian is going to rally under a banner saying 'coerce now!' There are many millions of people in the world for whom 'liberty' is a more powerful idea than 'sustainability'. To be effective, the green movement has to win them over on their terms. As the wiki entry on green libertarianism puts it, pollution can be introduced into the classic libertarian argument: 'your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins'. Or as the philosopher John Locke said, 'Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.' more ...

Monday 11 January 2010

in or out of tune

The new Renault commercial called 'Drive The Change' aims to prepare the public for Renault's zero emission cars. Most car ads emphasise speed, freedom, comfort and sexiness. This one appeals to our sense of social justice.

It starts off by saying what an amazing invention the car has been and how it has revolutionised society. And then it takes an interesting direction. The voiceover asks if this amazing invention is still in tune with society today. (In the ad, we approach two road signs: one says 'yes', the other 'no'.)

The film footage juxtaposes images of wealth and poverty, as the voiceover goes on:

Is it still acceptable that some of us are able to drive while some of us barely have the means to get around? ... Does enjoyment for some have to cost the lives of others? Do you still have to be one of the lucky few to reap the benefits of progress?

(There are pictures now of alarm clocks going off.)

At Renault we think it's time to change things. For us the pleasure of driving doesn't just mean pleasure for the driver. It's a pleasure we share with everyone around us. For us global warming is an issue that goes beyond the emissions coming out of the exhaust ... more ...

Saturday 9 January 2010

best of the bars

One of this blog's favourite critics, John Lanchester, writes in the current issue of the LRB about the prospective takeover of Cadbury by the American food giant Kraft.

The takeover bid captures our interest for several reasons. Chocolate is a powerful reminder of our childhoods. Chocolate is 'inarguably' the only food which is better because of industrial manufacturing. And nearly all the great chocolate bars are British:

the first of them, and still my favourite, was Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, invented in 1905. Other great British bars appeared in a burst of heroic creativity in the 1920s and 1930s: the Flake in 1920, Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut in 1928, Fry’s Crunchie in 1929, the Aero in 1935, then in 1937 no fewer than three masterpieces, the Rolo, the Kit Kat and Smarties. more ...

Friday 8 January 2010

degree of expertise missing

No, no, no: all this snow doesn't change the scientific consensus on climate change.

In this clip the BBC's David Shukman explains why weather is what you get day by day and climate is what you get over a 30 year period. Not everyone understands this. Lots of TV weathermen, for instance, don't understand this.

An excellent piece in the Columbia Journalism Review shows that only 24% of weathermen (the article always refers to them as men) believe that humans are responsible for most of the change in climate over the past half century. So three-quarters of TV weathermen think that the great majority of climate scientists are wrong.

Except that, climatology isn't their subject. Meteorology is their subject. And very few of them took that very far. Only 17% of weathermen have a graduate degree.

But that's only half the story: the people who don't know about climate science are the people taking a 'rejectionist' position and they are the people who appear on TV every day who the public have got to know, to like and - yes - to trust. more ...

Thursday 7 January 2010

the snow job

A representative from a large ski company goes on The Weather Channel to give an upbeat account of widespread snow in Colorado.

A local reporter in the area writes that on his side of the Rockies it's warm, dry and sunny. He can't see any of this snow.

The ski company threatens to withdraw its advertising from the local paper. It doesn't have to. The reporter gets fired.

With its tension between the local tourism industry and the reporting of the facts, this reporter's story has shades of Dr Stockmann in Ibsen's Enemy of the People, telling the town that the water for the new public baths is poisoned, or the Roy Scheider character in Jaws, telling the citizens of the Amity beach resort that there's a man-eating shark in the area. No-one wants to know.

In another way, it reflects the mainstream media's support for big business over empirical evidence, reflected most conspicuously in its reporting of climate change. more ...

Wednesday 6 January 2010

the roar of the empty seats

Shortly before 5pm yesterday this blog got a retweet from @JohnPrescott saying he was going into the chamber to listen to Ed Miliband report on Copenhagen. The former Deputy Prime Minister said you could watch at BBC's Democracy Live.

Sure enough, there was the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change reporting on one of the most significant conferences that has ever taken place and one in which the Secretary of State had himself played an important role. Thanks to Twitter and the web, this blog watched Miliband's statement and the questions that followed from a laptop at home.

There were good intelligent questions from John Gummer, John Prescott, Colin Challen, Simon Hughes and others. There was also a really stupid question from John Redwood, who didn't appear to understand the difference between climate and weather.

But the most eloquent aspect of the live broadcast was the rows and rows of empty green seats. There must have been about 20 MPs dotted around the chamber. That means 626 other MPs thought they had something better to do than discuss Copenhagen and climate change. That spoke clearest. more ...

Tuesday 5 January 2010

it's still what it is

Two articles have already appeared this year that deal with climate change and the imagination.

In the New York Times, the libertarian philosopher Denis Dutton connects the sensationalist tone that predicted disaster over Y2K with the current warnings about climate change and sees a 'morbid fascination with end-of-the-world scenarios'.

In the Guardian the film critic Ryan Gilbey writes that climate change is a godsend for the disaster movie. As a plot device, it provides 'the right blend of terrible plausibility, comforting distance and chastening subtext'.

There are two things going on here that need untangling. One is climate science. That is, the great mass of evidence that tells us what has happened to our climate, what is happening, and what is very likely to happen.

The other is the reaction to climate science. That is entirely different. Some of the reactions are lurid and apocalyptic, even gleeful, and some commentators, understandably enough, see signs in this of a familiar human trait (in Dutton's words, 'our inner demons'). Throughout history there have been doomsayers telling us that the end of the world is nigh.

That may well be the case with some of the current reactions to climate change. There may be plenty of people who find in the climate science a vehicle for expressing their own anxieties or prejudices. In another age, they would have found another vehicle. That's human nature.

But what that doesn't do is invalidate the science. It's quite separate from it. You couldn't say, for instance, that a disease doesn't exist, just because it's been contracted by a hypochondriac.

However much you dislike the doomsayers, and the fevered tone in which they speak, the science is still what it is. more ...

Monday 4 January 2010

confusion in the middle classes

When Dominic Cooke took over as the Royal Court's artistic director, he made some widely-reported remarks about wanting to represent the middle class audience on stage.

His comments were interpreted (semi-humourously) in terms of class and manners. But Cooke's point was that many plays concentrated on the dispossessed. He also wanted to see plays that explored the lives of those with wealth and power.

In yesterday's Observer, he went further in describing what it was he was after:

There's a deep, dangerous confusion in the middle classes at the moment ... How do you square the fact that you live this very comfortable life with the fact that we are destroying the planet? How do you square your life with the fact that you can only live like that if there's a whole load of people the other side of the world who have nothing? There's a huge problem in the project of liberalism, and I'm interested in probing that and its effect on the middle classes.

A play about the contradictions of liberalism, then, is also a play about climate change. more ...

Sunday 3 January 2010

the show was

Several twitterers immediately helped out by telling me the name of the programme. It was BBC1's Bang Goes the Theory - The Human Power Station. (Thanks @carboncoach @bigbuzzard @dc325 and @bridgetmck.)

The programme was broadcast 3 December 2009. In the documentary, one family, the Collinses (pic), didn't know it but they had their electrics supplied to them by a team of cyclists on exercise bikes in a warehouse. The Independent review describes the state of the cyclists:

As the day wore on, they dropped like flies: faces red, foreheads sweaty, eyes rolling, they yelled discouragement each time anyone got near a switch. more ...

life cycle

Last night someone told me about a great-sounding programme that had been on TV a couple of weeks ago, where a family moved into a house, but what they didn't know was that the electrics in the house were supplied by pedal power.

Out of sight, a team of cyclists provided all the energy the family required. When someone turned on a light or opened the fridge door or switched on the kettle, the TV audience could see exactly how many cyclists it took to meet that extra demand. The best bit, apparently, came when the wife put a cold chicken in the oven.

Anyone see this programme or know what it was called? more ...

Saturday 2 January 2010

longer delays for some truths

This blog has noted before that in its selection of articles about climate change the aggregator site Arts and Letters Daily reveals a persistent anti-science agenda. It's good to see where this comes from.

In the New York Times, the right-wing philosopher Denis Dutton, who set up the site, compares fears about climate change to YK2 and UFO cults. Climate Progress quotes a good letter of rebuttal here.

Arts and Letters Daily carries the motto veritas odit moras or 'truth hates delay'. But the website prefers to delay those scientific truths that unsettle its libertarian bias. Perhaps indefinitely. more ...

Friday 1 January 2010

new year's resolutions

In 2010, this blog resolves:

a) not to use the phrases 'saving the planet', 'wake-up call', 'science says', 'scientists tell us' or 'last chance'.


b) to unearth more climate-change jokes. more ...