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User pages for Helen:

Liberal Conspiracy want articles

by Helen
Thu Oct 4th, 2012 at 07:23:34 AM EST

Liberal conspiracy is a leftish UK Labour Party-supporting blog which I consider is pretty good and deserves support. It is, necessarily, focused on UK politics with just a hint of US colour, but very little european coverage.

However, the editor and principal contributor, Sunny Hundal, has gone off to volunteer for the Obama campaign and those left in charge, recognising that footfall will be reduced if there isn't a decent turnover of diaries, have requested input from the readership.

Read more... (16 comments, 290 words in story)

Cologne and Kolsh

by Helen
Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 11:48:15 AM EST

I have wanted to visit Cologne for a long time. Sure, it's a famous city with a famous cathedral da dee dah etc etc, (see next diary) but for a dedicated beer hound it offers something far more important; a beer style which, while related to the Dusseldorfer Altbier style, is unique to the area.

I was going to do Cologne in one diary, but thought I should spread it onto two. So, touristy stuff in the nest one.

Read more... (10 comments, 580 words in story)

Is the UK Coalition about to implode ?

by Helen
Mon Jul 16th, 2012 at 04:14:23 AM EST

Now that the fallout from the failure of the  Lords reform bill is being assessed, things are definitely becoming interesting in Westminster at the moment. There are too many strands for a comment or even a series of comments, so I thought I'd start a diary to see if the various plots can add up to a whole narrative.

front-paged by afew

Read more... (88 comments, 1274 words in story)

Ronnie Montrose : In appreciation

by Helen
Wed Mar 14th, 2012 at 11:54:32 AM EST

[This diary began as a comment first published 4 years ago. On hearing of Ronnie Montrose' death recently, I felt it was appropriate to re-visit it in his memory. Parts of it have been  re-written to correct inaccuracies.]

America may have invented rock and roll, but for 15 years after the Beatles came on the scene it had more or less belonged to the British. Even the great American Guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, had to come to the UK to be recognised as a god and conferred with honorary "Englishness".  With Cream and Jimi showing the way, psychedelia evolved into heavy rock, allowing such creatures as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath to emerge from the primeval swamps of the English midlands and begin their reign over the 70s (and the rain of televisions from hotel windows).

Heavy Rock was British : Nobody was as loud, nobody was as rowdy and nobody rocked as hard for longer.  American rockers just didn't have a clue. Or maybe it was just a case that they were there, but nobody was paying attention.

Read more... (2 comments, 1005 words in story)

Desert Island Discs - Helen's distortions

by Helen
Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 12:05:38 PM EST

For those unfamiliar with the radio show, DID is a radio institution which has been running for 70 years and each week the invited "castaway" is asked to nominate the 8 pieces of music, a book and luxury which they would choose to accompany them to a desert island. You also get the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare.

So, I wondered if we might extend this venerable institution to ET. Whenever anyone feels the urge they can nominate the tracks of their years, put together a blurb on why they matter and so on. The only thing I can suggest is in comments can we try to stay on the subject of the author's choices and put their own in their own diary

So, here's mine. The narrative could have been very messy, so many choices, so many options. I wrote down a few dozen tracks I could have chosen, and even then I was leaving out so many others. Yet, once I decided I'd just mark the ones that had to be in, I found that the selection of eight had made itself.

Read more... (50 comments, 1620 words in story)

LQD - Small is beaufiful (allegedly)

by Helen
Mon Sep 26th, 2011 at 03:01:52 PM EST

This essay appeared today in the Guardian

This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness' by Paul Kingsnorth

Living through a collapse is a curious experience. Perhaps the most curious part is that nobody wants to admit it's a collapse. The results of half a century of debt-fuelled "growth" are becoming impossible to convincingly deny, but even as economies and certainties crumble, our appointed leaders bravely hold the line. No one wants to be the first to say the dam is cracked beyond repair.

To listen to a political leader at this moment in history is like sitting through a sermon by a priest who has lost his faith but is desperately trying not to admit it, even to himself. Watch Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Ed Miliband mouthing tough-guy platitudes to the party faithful. Listen to Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or George Papandreou pretending that all will be well in the eurozone. Study the expressions on the faces of Barack Obama or Ben Bernanke talking about "growth" as if it were a heathen god to be appeased by tipping another cauldron's worth of fictional money into the mouth of a volcano.

In times like these, people look elsewhere for answers. A time of crisis is also a time of opening-up, when thinking that was consigned to the fringes moves to centre stage. When things fall apart, the appetite for new ways of seeing is palpable, and there are always plenty of people willing to feed it by coming forward with their pet big ideas.

But here's a thought: what if big ideas are part of the problem? What if, in fact, the problem is bigness itself?

Read more... (14 comments, 386 words in story)

American Odyssey - US Bellydance History

by Helen
Mon Sep 12th, 2011 at 02:28:11 PM EST

AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY - A History of Modern US belly dance (1)

Early Days, Golden Years

Middle Eastern dance has probably been enjoyed in the USA for as long as widespread immigration has existed, indeed we have documented evidence of public performances since at least the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876 as well as at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 (where, incidentally, no dancer called Little Egypt was recorded as having performed (2) ). However, despite several flurries of interest brought about by the activities of Orientalists such as Ruth St Denis and La Meri (3), for most of the first half of the Twentieth  century the dance has been largely confined to those ethnic groups to which it was indigenous.

There were large Greek & Turkish groups in most major cities of the USA and their cafes and clubs naturally featured singing and dancing amongst the entertainments. Marliza Pons, the doyenne of Las Vegas dancers from the mid 60s through to the late 90s, wrote of learning her first moves as a young girl through the windows of such an establishment in Chicago in 1948 (4).

Whilst some of them would be locals, there was also a long tradition of hiring singers and dancers directly from Turkey. The singers would be the stars and would be the best-paid entertainers. Such was the pecking order that they would try to deny being able to dance to avoid the "shame" of being just a dancer (5).

Read more... (9 comments, 6825 words in story)

Britain's Strange Housing Priorities

by Helen
Tue May 31st, 2011 at 04:34:20 PM EST

Following on from a story posted in Salon today, I felt obliged to write a few comments that have grown into a diary (as requested by ceebs)

Indpendent - Britain to become a nation of renters

A generation of young British adults is close to giving up hope of ever owning their own place to live. A startling new survey reveals that while the great majority of young Britons from "Generation Rent" would like to become homeowners, most believe they will be unable to raise the mortgage they require to get on to the property ladder.

A combination of continually rising house prices and pessimism about the future is threatening to send into reverse the explosion in home ownership stimulated by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago, making Britain more like Europe, where living in rented property is the norm.

Read more... (154 comments, 532 words in story)

Yesterday once more

by Helen
Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 06:13:59 AM EST

Since last year's rejection at the polls, the British Labour Party have been in a gradual (glacially slow) process of re-invention and re-evalution. They have a new leader and now every policy stance is up for discussion, after all, with the coalition in popularity-freefall the future of the country is theirs to grab. Labour has broken its traditional habit of responding to defeat with introspection and division. Partly spurred on by the common purpose of its coalition opponents, a sort of unity has broken out in the party.

Paradoxically, while contributing to the party's current poll lead, this sense of unity may also be related to the perception of many voters that they don't quite know what Labour stands for. Although this carries obvious risks, in the short term party unity creates the space for constructive argument through which political definition can be forged. So now in furious bursts of activity various groups are coalescing around differeing themes for this argument, all neatly colour coded; there's Maurice Glasman's Blue Labour, there's Compass's Purple Book Labour and..  and.. well err, that's it.

Yes, one year on and there's only two significant groups discussing where Labour goes next and both seem to be, well a little bit backward looking.

front-paged by afew

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Ed's First Shadow Band

by Helen
Tue Oct 12th, 2010 at 09:25:50 AM EST

Well, Ed Miliband has created the Labour Shadow Cabinet and viewpoints are still all over the shop.

Don Paskini has a good point to make;

When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left

Which kind of makes the case for Alan Johnston. He is definitely of the Blairite Right. Both Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are of of the left and both are perhaps too steeped in the minutiae of economics to really tell the wood of Opposition from the trees of individual policies.

Plus there appears to be a widespread (ie all journalists agree anyway) that Ed Balls would be too bombastic facing Osborne, which probably says less about Balls than it does the trite cw of the media. and Cooper isn't trusted to be independent of her husband.

Read more... (16 comments, 878 words in story)

Are The Producers remaking Bob Roberts ?

by Helen
Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 04:06:46 PM EST

Politics is an expensive business and nowhere is it more expensive than in the USA. Indeed, so expensive that the methods of raising money are legion and accepted. To some extent, it is similar to putting on a play in a major theatre; so many of your costs are upfront and have to be paid far in advance of any possible income. Most plays lose money, but the hope of striking it rich drives people on. As Clive James once wrote, "there are two types of money in pop music, less than you'd think and more than you can believe".

However, there is another way of making money. As was the premise of the film "The Producers"; over-sell shares so that the play was massively over-capitalised, but for a production that will close on Opening Night. No one audits the books of a play presumed to have lost money, thus avoiding a pay-out and leaving the crooks free to walk away with all the seed money.

Read more... (19 comments, 1357 words in story)

The Unbearable Disappointment of Obama

by Helen
Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 04:35:52 PM EST

Last night, in the OT, I linked to some pithy criticisms of the perceived lack of achievement by the Obama administration. This led to an interesting discussion and Izzy kept coming back to a single question, "What good does it do to keep criticising Obama personally ?". It's a fair question and deserves a considered answer.

Of course, I have form here dating back to 2007 where I warned;-

But it's different for Obama, they believe in him: And he can't deliver on those expectations; nobody really could, but he won't even try. Items already announced, such as a bigger military really will make things worse. And where do progressives go then ? It isn't despair that hurts; you can live without expectations. It's hope that will break you, every time.

Fran noted at the Paris meeting that ET-ers are mostly all of "an age", not necessarily how many growth rings are in our heads, but a seen-it-all-before, won't-get-fooled-again attitude that looks at politicians with a hard-eyed reality. It was her observation that, conversely, Obama supporters, those who truly bought "the audacity of hope", are the ones who are most fired with enthusiasm and are consequently the ones must susceptible to disillusion.

Maybe I'll be wrong and Obama will confound our Old-Europe cynicism, but if he doesn't then it may be the progressives, the one real hope for America, who disintegrate under the burden of disappointment. And that, not another failed Presidency, will be the real disaster for America


Read more... (108 comments, 1167 words in story)

The Great British Beer Festival

by Helen
Fri Aug 6th, 2010 at 11:33:13 AM EST

Not so long ago I wrote about the London Drinker beer festival to give some idea of what goes on at a regional festival. So it was inevitable that I document something of the big one, the Great British beer festival. To give you an idea of the scale, the American bar had 100 different US beers on draught (that's draft in American) from the cask. With the exception of the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, that makes it the largest selection of American beer anywhere. And that's just one of the bars.

Read more... (75 comments, 646 words in story)

World Cup Predictions

by Helen
Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 03:52:11 PM EST

Okay, seems it's time to create a mothership blog to contain our ravings and predictions.

Everything kicks off with the hosts, south Africa playing Mexico on Friday June 11th and the hysteria continues until July 10th.

So usual procedure. Your predictions of who wins the groups and who makes semis and final. FIFA rankings in brackets

Read more... (60 comments, 295 words in story)

Desert Island Beers : Top Ten 11

by Helen
Fri May 28th, 2010 at 02:42:23 PM EST

Following my diary about those beers we have loved and lost, it seemed only sensible to carry on and discuss my favourite beers I can rush out to enjoy today.

With two exceptions these are British beers; this is not due to nationalistic chauvinism but, however much I appreciate Czech, German and Belgian beers, I simply prefer the beer style which I first learnt to love. Also, I must note and I hope it's not bias, but four of the beers are from my own county of Essex.

And I know it's supposed to be a top 10, but ... I'm greedy

Read more... (15 comments, 1165 words in story)

Desert Island Beers : Those we have lost

by Helen
Fri May 28th, 2010 at 12:09:17 PM EST

The local Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) magazine in London has an occasional feature called "Desert Island Beers", named in honour of the radio programme, Desert Island Discs, where celebs are invited to discuss the music they would wish to have with them if they were marooned on a Desert Island. Thus, in the mag, we have the beers the writer would choose to have available if they were cast away.

I was talking with a senior CAMRA person about beers that are no longer available and he suggested I put together a list of beers we have loved and lost. So here they are. Obviously this will not mean much to anyone else here, but I thought I'd write about why these beers mean so much to me  and hopefully that will be a bit more interesting.

So here's 10 Beers I wish were still around

Read more... (8 comments, 1844 words in story)

Are Christians being Persecuted ?

by Helen
Wed Apr 7th, 2010 at 07:00:49 AM EST

This was the title of a tv programme on BBC just recently. I assumed from the title and the presenter that it was framed to present a stance hostile to secularism and, in this I wasn't wrong. The President of the British Humanist Association (Polly Toynbee, billed by BBC fact-checkers as head of the National Secular Association) was afforded just a 3 - 4 minutes on screen, the rest of the time was given over to various religious leaders and commentators to give their views on the issue.

So we were treated to what is now becoming the familiar parade of isolated anecdotes being trotted as proof of systematic oppression, a nurse and a teacher sacked for praying for their charges, (re-instated at local tribunal) the British Airways woman sacked for wearing a cross (re-instated at industrial tribunal, supported by human rights group, Liberty) and the Marriage Registrar, a non-religious position, who was sacked (and deservedly remains so) for refusing to officiate at Civil Parnerships for gays, apparently, because her god hates fags.

Additionally we saw the usual subjects complaining about the conflict in Law of differing rights, where Christianity is painted as always coming off worst. Dissent within Christian ranks was minor, suggesting an implausibly consistent outrage across the religious sphere, while non-religious voices were kept carefully at arms length. There was an obviously dodgy use of statistics where a questionaire showed 44% of people felt x-tianity was being persecuted, failing to notice that 56% disagreed with that proposition. Even in my ignorance of religious affairs, I couldn't help but feel the programme was working to an agenda and that another, more useful discussion of the issues was being kept off-screen.

Seems I was right.

Front-paged by afew

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A British Beer Festival (photo diary)

by Helen
Thu Mar 25th, 2010 at 05:15:47 PM EST

Given that I'm always going on about beer, I realised that most of you have probably got no idea of what a British Beer festival is.

So, this is a photo diary of the recent London Drinker festival I helped at. A couple of pictures from the balcony

Read more... (7 comments, 263 words in story)

UK election : Straws in the wind

by Helen
Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 07:40:29 AM EST

Sometime between now and May Gordon Brown will announce the next General election. Most people assume that the date will be May 6th but, depending on which polls you choose to believe, the date could even be brought forward to March 25th. The advantage of the earlier date is that it avoids what will probably be an embarrassing set of budget announcements.

Confusingly, the polls are going in different directions. Two released this weekend show the problem;-

One in the Times shows the tory lead over Labour reducing to 9%

Today's YouGov poll for the Sunday Times puts Labour on 31%, just nine points behind the Tories, who are on 40%. The Liberal Democrats have fallen two points to 16%. Only last weekend the Conservatives were still enjoying a comfortable 13-point lead.

while another, in the Independent shows the lead increasing to 17%.

David Cameron's party is up two points on last month, on 41 per cent, while Labour has slipped one point to 24 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are up four points on 21.

The ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday also exposes how Gordon Brown's strategy of attacking Mr Cameron's Etonian background has fallen flat with voters.

frontpaged - Nomad

Read more... (15 comments, 853 words in story)

Apparently, Bob's my Uncle

by Helen
Wed Nov 4th, 2009 at 01:35:06 PM EST

Over the wekeend during a quiet moment, Sven suggested the following;-

Helen, why don't you just start that beer and beef website, attract a huge audience and get 40K a year from the ads and reviews ;-)

After he'd managed to reassure me it wasn't a complicated leg pulling maneuver he continued;-

I really believe that with the right kind of site, marketed smartly, you could create a large audience. I am not sure how big, but you'd be amazed what people are earning by blogging. All the skills required for this are right here in this room. All you need is an LLP and.... Bob's your uncle. Which, come think about it is one possible name for the site.

Read more... (43 comments, 437 words in story)

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