mcgillianaire: (Football player)
When Roger Federer stepped onto Centre Court on Tuesday 30 June 2015, it marked his 63rd consecutive Grand Slam singles appearance, a record-breaking streak (for men and women) dating back to the 2000 Australian Open. If it wasn't for his losses as a qualifier in the preceding US and Australian Opens of 1999, he might easily have been playing his 67th consecutive Grand Slam tournament. Trailing him in second-place are Japan's Ai Sugiyama for the women with 62 and South Africa's Wayne Ferreira for the men on 56. Sugiyama and Ferreira never reached a Grand Slam final. In fact of all the players (men and women) who have made at least 45 consecutive appearances, only one other has played in more than two Grand Slam finals: the Swede Stefan Edberg, rather fittingly Federer's present-day coach.

On top of this injury-free consistency, can be added a record 17 Grand Slam titles (for men), a record 26 Grand Slam finals, a record 37 Grand Slam semi-finals and a record 45 Grand Slam quarter-finals. He also became the first man to reign supreme at the top of the rankings for more than 300 weeks, that included a record (for men and women) 237 consecutive weeks between February 2004 and August 2008. Even Novak Djokovic, with 154 weeks and who has dominated the men's game for the past four years, trails Federer by 148 weeks overall as world number one. While Rafael Nadal was number one for 141 weeks.

Supplant onto these: the record 10 consecutive Grand Slam final appearances between 2005 and 2007, followed by the second-best 8 consecutive appearances between 2008 and 2010 (Nadal is third-best with 5 consecutive finals); the 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances (Djokovic is second-best with 14); the 36 consecutive quarter-final appearances (Djokovic again second-best with 25, and counting); the first man to appear at least 5 times in each Grand Slam final (the next best is 3); one of four men in the Open Era to achieve the career Grand Slam (along with Rod Laver, Andre Agassi and Nadal); an Olympic singles silver-medalist and doubles gold-medalist; 86 ATP Tour titles, surpassed only by Jimmy Connors (105) and Ivan Lendl (94); 131 ATP tournament finals (surpased again only by Connors and Lendl); the only man to win at least one ATP Tour title for 15 consecutive years (one ahead of Lendl, two ahead of Connors). And you get the picture.

As if that wasn't enough, he has won the most prize money in the history of the sport (although Djokovic should surpass him soon enough), earned the most through endorsements (which few will ever surpass), is by far the most popular player in the world, is multi-lingual, has a beautiful supportive wife and two(!) sets of twins. All this before turning 34. And yet, when Federer stepped onto court yesterday afternoon to play Britain's Andy Murray for the umpteenth time, he delivered a performance that was at once clinical and majestic. One for the Gods to savour, and the mere mortals amongst us to cherish for all-time. Many others have written more eloquently about the aesthetic pleasure derived from watching the Swiss maestro in action, so let me end simply by saying, we are privileged to be living through a period when two of the greatest players ever to wield a racquet (Federer and Serena Williams) are still willing to put themselves through the grinder, in order to satisfy their own love for the game - and by extension, ours. Long may this continue!
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
0700 - BBC Radio 4             - Today
0900 - BBC Radio 2             - Sounds of the 60s
1000 - BBC Radio 6 Music       - The Huey Show
1300 - BBC Radio 2             - Pick of the Pops
1500 - BBC Radio Asian Network - Official Asian Download Chart
1600 - BBC Radio 1             - Dance Anthems
1800 - BBC Radio 6 Music       - Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show
2100 - BBC World Service       - Newshour
2200 - BBC Radio 2             - Sounds of the 80s
mcgillianaire: (Default)
For about the next four weeks, depending on the episode, five excerpts of this fine book read by the author himself, will be available to listen anywhere in the world. Each episode is a delightfully compact fourteen minutes, so there's no excuse to miss out on any of them. Apparently, it was originally broadcast in 2010, repeated in 2011 and again in 2012, but I seemed to have missed them all. I guess it doesn't help that all these broadcasts, including this one, have been on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I've blogged one of my favourite quotes from the book. I bought it many years ago but unfortunately I never finished it. Then I lent it to an Irish lass who was just getting into the sport and had quite taken to the longer forms of the game. She kept it.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
2015 - 24.4% - T
2010 - 38.5%1 - T+LD
2005 - 21.6% - L
2001 - 24.2% - L
1997 - 30.1% - L
1992 - 32.5% - T
1987 - 31.8% - T
1983 - 30.1% - T
1979 - 33.4% - T
1974 - 28.6% - L
1974 - 29.3%2 - L
1970 - 33.1%3 - T
1966 - 36.2% - L
1964 - 34.0% - L
1959 - 38.8% - T
1955 - 38.1% - T
1951 - 39.3%4 - T
1950 - 38.6% - L
1945 - 34.9% - L

Although one shouldn't compare apples and pears, it is worth noting that this government intends to impose a 40% win threshold on balloted strikes affecting essential public services. In addition to this, a majority of the union's members would have to participate in such an action, unlike the present situation in which there are no participation thresholds and a simple majority of balloted members is sufficient to carry out a strike. Such proposals have form on both sides of the political divide, as the then Labour government under Jim Callaghan imposed a 40% win threshold on the Scottish referendum of 1979. Even though a majority voted in favour of implementing the provisions of the Scotland Act 1978, they fell 7.1% short of the threshold. Soon afterwards the Scottish National Party withdrew its support to the government, resulting in a vote of no confidence, a general election and eighteen years in the wilderness for the Labour Party. And by how many votes did the government lose the no confidence motion to trigger the general election? Just the one (311-310).

1 This is a combined figure for the Tories (23.5%) and Lib Dems (15.0%).
2 Labour secured the most seats and formed the government, but the Tories won the popular vote.
3 The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.
4 The Tories secured the most seats and formed the government, but Labour won the popular vote.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
This is what I wrote on Facebook yesterday afternoon:

"Gutted about the result but congratulations to the Tories for an extraordinary victory. Did not see that coming at all. An absolute bloodbath in political terms for the opposition. A country divided unlike ever before. A broken electoral system. And an impending escalation to the austerity programme. I do hope the vanquished dust themselves off quickly and work together in every way possible to fight for the cause of social democracy. Unfortunately, the voices of liberalism are all but dead in this Parliament and worse still, perhaps for another generation."

Douglas Alexander, Danny Alexander, Jim Murphy, Charles Kennedy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, David Laws, Ed Balls, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. It felt like the political equivalent of that climactic scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone ordered all those assassinations while attending his nephew's christening. Lynton Crosby, like Clemenza before him, had carried out all the dirty work, leaving Don David Cameron to take all the credit and assume absolute control.

Five years ago I voted for the Lib Dems and I did the same again on Thursday night. We've gone from our first stint in government since the War to the edge of obscurity. There will be a lot of soul-searching in the years ahead. The legacy of Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy lies in tatters. The rise and fall of Nick Clegg feels like a modern adaptation of an ancient Greek tragic hero. Yet, the optimist in me believes our day will come again. I sincerely hope so, particularly for the cause of British liberalism.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)


It's not often an English pop song is a copy of a Tamil film song, but one example is American hip-hop artist will.i.am's "It's My Birthday", a UK number one hit single last year. It's surprising how this song escaped my notice, but it's always a pleasure to make such discoveries. Wikipedia confirms the connection between the two songs. Indeed there is a reference to the Tamil original in the opening lines of the English song. To come across this while listening to piano renditions of English pop songs on Spotify was especially gratifying, because I had just wondered whether Spotify also stored piano renditions of Tamil and Bollywood numbers. I still don't know the answer to that question, but you could be fooled into thinking there was at least one in the database.
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)

The documentary banned in India. If this video is removed then I will try and replace it with one that works.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
You may remember this entry from about a year ago. I've updated it with today's news of Jeremy Thorpe's passing and added a couple other names that were missing from the original list: Peter Lilley, the Tory MP, and Winnie Ewing, the SNP MP who shot to prominence in the 1967 Hamilton by-election. I've also bumped it to the top of my journal by post-dating it. Hopefully that should make it easier to find and edit.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

And wot would an entry about the British fourth estate be without one of my favourite comedy moments making yet another appearance on this blog:

#NailedIt

Nov. 12th, 2014 09:15 pm
mcgillianaire: (Bedouin in Desert)
mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)


mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)

I never knew such a memorial existed in this country. Seems obvious now. I hope to visit it one day.

According to Wikipedia, "Over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war."
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)


Keen listeners of this delightful programme would not have been surprised to hear the contents of the recorded conversation between Thatcher and Reagan from 1983 that has just been released. The Radio 4 programme was broadcast in August last year, and we learnt from it via the Downing Street note of the conversation, that Reagan initially tried to defuse the situation, by suggesting he would first throw his hat into the room if he was in London, before walking in. We also learn that Reagan used the phrase 'zero hour' before he could do anything about it. Exactly as it is in the recording. If you've got 8 minutes, it's worth listening from about 3:40 to the whole section on Grenada from the UK Confidential episode. It includes a brief interview about the declassified documents with Lord Owen (former British Foreign Secretary) and an American diplomat who was working in the US Embassy (in London) at the time. It is rather instructive that the American diplomat had dinner with Geoffrey Howe (the then British Foreign Secretary), the night before the invasion, and yet neither knew anything about it! It is also worth noting that the American diplomat refers to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, that killed nearly 300 American and French servicemen just a couple days before the invasion, as a tragedy so severe that it may have resulted in the invasion as a diversion.

On the recording, Reagan says he wanted to inform Thatcher of the invasion before some rogue informant did, but in an interview with the US President's authorised biographer on the wireless last night, this was quickly dismissed. The biographer was convinced Reagan was fibbing and had intentionally delayed informing her before it was too late (about 8 hours). However, the biographer also added that on two counts, Thatcher was somewhat embarrassed. One, was not responding to the situation in Grenada, having been requested (along with the French) to do so by their government, and two, she found herself in a similar situation to that of Reagan after Britain's own invasion of the Falklands, a year earlier. Yet despite these two foreign policy setbacks, they still seemed to share a politically intimate relationship. A point driven home by the biographer's final anecdote about a poster* Reagan kept in his stable, recreating the famous Rhett Butler-Vivien Leigh pose from Gone With The Wind, with the two of them on it instead. The biographer asked if he had shown it to Thatcher, to which Reagan said no-way, she'd get upset. The biographer apparently told him, on the contrary, I think she'd rather like it, mischievously adding that it was probably her ultimate fantasy... 

I also found it interesting that the biographer seemed to suggest that the Americans were justified in their actions on the pretext of protecting the 500 or so American students on the island. In contrast, Lord Owen suggests that the students didn't seem worried at all, lending credence to alternative theories. Either way, the release of the recording has thrown further light onto an important episode in the history of Anglo-American relations. One just wonders what else will be released to us in days, weeks, months, years...even decades to come, 

(* I don't think the picture above is the exact poster. This seems to be some anti-war poster from the 1980s, but I suspect it looked something like this.)

mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
This makes for morbid reading.

(HT @LondonHistorian)
mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
1590s, originally cole florye, from Italian cavoli fiori "flowered cabbage," plural of cavolo "cabbage" + fiore "flower" (from Latin flora; see flora).

First element is from Latin caulis "cabbage" (originally "stem, stalk") which was borrowed into Germanic and is the source of cole in cole-slaw and of Scottish kale. The front end of the word was re-Latinized from 18c.; the back end was influenced by flower (n.). The boxer's cauliflower ear is from 1907.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary

----

I was inspired to make this entry after I saw an intriguing tweet which said that the introduction of cauliflower to England could be dated to a dinner given to the Privy Council in November 1590 (Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads and Fashions 1500-1760 (2007) p. 289). A subsequent Google search produced another interesting tidbit from the author's note of Ian Mortimer's historical fiction work, The Final Sacrament (under the pen name James Forrester):

"I stated in my Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England that the cauliflower was introduced to England at a dinner for the Privy Council in 1590, but subsequently I noticed one in Joachim Beuckelaer's painting in the National Gallery, Four Elements: Fruit and Vegetable Market (1569) and another in a work by the same artist dated 1564, so clearly they were available in the Low Countries in the 1560s."

While Wikipedia offers a short excerpt into its origins and journey through Europe before its arrival in This Sceptred Isle:

"For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. The oldest record of cauliflower dates back to the 6th century B.C. Pliny wrote about it in the 2nd century after Christ. In the 12th century, three varieties were described in Spain as introductions from Syria, where it had doubtless been grown for more than a thousand years. It is found in the writings of the Arab botanists Ibn al-'Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar, in the 12th and 13th centuries when its origins were said to be Cyprus. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV."

And there you have it, the etymology and history of the beloved cauliflower. If you're anything like me, you'll never look at another cabbage flower (or the next one, at any rate) the same way again... bon appetit!
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Tamil Nadu area     - 130,058 km2
England area        - 130,395 km2
Uttar Pradesh area  - 243,286 km2
United Kingdom area - 243,610 km2

Tamil Nadu population 1951     - 30 million
England population 1951        - 41 million
Uttar Pradesh population 1951  - 60 million
United Kingdom population 1951 - 50 million

Tamil Nadu population 2011     - 72 million
England population 2011        - 53 million
Uttar Pradesh population 2011  - 200 million
United Kingdom population 2011 - 63 million
I think the 'kippers will find, that there is rather enough room for at least a fair few more Romanian neighbours to move in next door.
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)

Paul Dacre, speaking passionately against press regulation in October 2011.

A fortnight ago, I couldn't even picture the man running Britain's second biggest-selling newspaper, The Daily Mail. I knew who Paul Dacre was, and I had (irrationally) grown to dislike him, but beyond that, I didn't know anything about him.

I had absolutely no idea about his life, what he sounded like, or whether his own views coincided with the controversial ones propagated by his middle-market tabloid. He was an enigma. A hidden sort of satanic figure, an imaginary Norman-Tebbit-Spitting Image-like-puppet machinating in the background. Now, a fortnight later, and the devil has been unmasked.

It began with BBC Radio 4 profiling him, as a response to the furore caused by a Daily Mail article written by Geoffrey Levy at the end of last month, provocatively headlined "The Man Who Hated Britain", referring to Ralph Miliband, the late father of Labour Party leader - and Daily Mail bete-noire - Ed. Then, yesterday, Dacre ventured into the dark side himself by writing in The Guardian, his rag's arch-nemesis in the eyes of his mob, sorry, readers. Sound a bit dramatic? It certainly felt surreal.

Throw into that mix a running feud between The Mail and Auntie, the post-Leveson repercussions, the Snowden revelations, and you have the perfect ingredients for a box office blockbuster. And best of all, we still don't know how it'll end yet.

For what it's worth, I'm with Paul Dacre on press regulation. I do believe that along with certain other things, such as: parliamentary privilege, free, fair and secret ballot elections, and an impartial judiciary wedded to the rule of law; a free press, warts and all, is essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy. Dacre is right to point out the disproportionate coverage by the BBC over the Ralph Miliband story, in comparison with the Guardian's revelations of the Edward Snowden documents.

As much as I am Auntie's cheerleader and part-time Guardianista, I would rather live in a country that allowed all views to be aired freely, even ones that disgust me. That does not mean the press can publish whatever they want. Nor should they be limited by a Royal Charter or even self-regulation. The solution lies in the application of existing laws on defamation, contempt and other relevant crimes as and when necessary. Some of the existing laws are already too stringent, particularly those relating to the freedoms of expression and privacy as embedded into English law by the Human Rights Act, via the European Convention. Even so, I would still prefer judges to recalibrate the imbalance on a case-by-case basis, rather than a regulator.

In any democracy worth its salt, there needs to be a clear separation of powers between the legislature, executive, judiciary AND (especially) the press. Many constitutional law textbooks do not include the press as an organ of government, and perhaps rightfully so, as it does not directly partake in the law-making process. However, it is precisely because of that unofficial status, it should be able to remain independent and hold the State to account. The last thing we need is for an official branch of government to interfere with a centuries-old institution, that has done more good than harm. Let those who break the law be held to account by the courts, and let the Great British public decide for themselves who deserves their readership or not.

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