Thursday, 29 January 2009

Logan hearts kiddiccinos

This would be the vaguely amusing logan pic.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Revoke Prop 8" call from UAE

Also of note in OK! Middle East was the short paragraph devoted to Ellen DeGeneres and her shortlived marriage to Portia de Rossi. For those of you who aren't so celeb-minded, the pair got hitched last year when California legalised gay marriage. As well as voting for a new president last November, the good people of California also voted on Prop 8, a proposition to overrule the decision, and sadly the result was not good, meaning Ellen's wedding was invalidated.

The campaign to revoke Prop 8 is ongoing - many straight couples in the state (hi Kait and Ben!) are choosing domestic partnership ceremonies over marriage until the ban is overturned.

Anyway, what surprised me about the story was that OK! was supportive of Ellen's gay marriage. Odd from one of the more conservative regions of the world - last time I checked, homosexuality was illegal in the UAE.

child custody and Dubai

Mark was away in Dubai with work last week, and while he couldn't afford anything from the designer stores he did bring me the next best thing - OK! Middle East magazine.

It's much glossier than the UK version, slightly less salacious, and the On the Town section at the back plays more to the arty ex-pat community than the faux-scruffy rock offspring set, but it's main focus is still minor celebrities and their doings.

The cover story was Britney and her ongoing dilemma of juggling motherhood with her relaunch as a global pop star. The angle seemed to be that Britney would be much better off staying at home looking after the kids than reclaiming her pop crown by going on tour.

While this smacks of sexism towards working women (why shouldn't a mother be the main earner and a father the main carer?), it also strikes me as hypocritical considering the case of Marnie Pearce, whose conviction for adultery was upheld in a Dubai court last week.

Ms Pearce's guilt or otherwise is not the main issue (although if the UK brought adultery cases against everyone who found a new partner before their marriage was officially dissolved our jails would be a lot fuller). The court's decision to deport her once she is released means she is unlikely to see her children again unless their father (who brought the charges in the first place) deems it acceptable.

While I don't support the call for the children to be forcibly brought to the UK (the father still has rights, and if the case was reversed I don't believe many would support children being taken from this country), it is shocking that the courts in Dubai have assisted Ms Pearce's ex-husband in his quest to remove her from her children's lives.

A joint custody agreement would surely be best for the children involved, but I'm not holding my breath. Both Ms Pearce and Mr El-Labban are playing out their dispute over Facebook.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The legend that is Bruce Campbell

I thought I'd found the perfect way for Mark to entertain himself while I party it up in, um, York over my birthday weekend (did I mention that it's my birthday soon?). Sadly, it's sold out. But if you're a fan of B-movies and film trivia, the movie looks great!

We are the champions, da da da da da

This blog seems to be taking a library turn, now the inauguration of he-who-shall-not-be-named is out of the way. Not necessarily a bad thing but I'll try to mix it up a bit (probably next time Logan does something vaguely amusing).

Anyhoo, last week was the annual SLA pub quiz. AUKML's team, the imaginatively titled Team Gav, came third last year so I was feeling the pressure of being the newbie. You know when you wonder whether you'll have anything to contribute other than, "Shall I get the beers in?"

We had a shocking TV themes round (I got Bargain Hunt, to my eternal shame - come on, what else am I meant to do while Logan's throwing his dinner at the walls?), and with two rounds to go we were trailing the Oliver Postgate Appreciation Society (I kid you not) by eleven points. Fortunately we aced the lyrics round so we knew we were in with a shot (I'm rubbish at remembering song titles but ask me to sing When I'm 64 or anything from Mary Poppins and I'm there).

Faced with a list of 20 cocktails and tasked to identify the ten vodka-based ones (where was Linda when we needed her?), our nerve faltered. What we needed was strong leadership; luckily Gav was there with a steady hand and a do or die attitude. "Sod it," he said (I might have made that up) so we gambled on the ten we hadn't eliminated and, remarkably, it paid off! When the final scores were revealed we had triumphed by one point. Bottles of Sue Hill champagne (and some delicious pizza) all round. Hurrah!

Mrs Stoddard arrives

I finally got my first married byline today, a lovely little box on the financial crisis in Iceland. Fascinating, I'm sure you'll agree.

I still haven't got round to changing my name on anything official other than my passport, I have to sweet-talk the postie whenever I collect parcels. I'm never sure which signature to use, either. One of these days I'm bound to get arrested for identity fraud. Ho hum.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Open government (for now)

Following the trend of mentioning Obama in every blog this month, it's nice to see the White House plans to be more open than the previous administration; for the moment they've opened up the vast majority of the site to search engines (Bush's blocking software ran to 2,377 lines, Obama's runs to 2 so far).

Wonder how long that'll last?

Library blog of the month

Free Range Librarian is written by Karen G Schneider, a prolific writer who deals with the technical side of librarianship and has long been involved with the American Library Association.

She's currently blogging her sister's inauguration day experiences (I will get away from Obama at some point this month, I promise!) but she's also written on the need for caution when jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, and how to run a good tech-based discussion panel.

Obama hearts librarians

My colleague Holly just sent me a link to a speech Obama gave to the ALA a few years ago, extolling librarians as the "guardians of truth and knowledge". Laura Bush may have gone back to the ranch (and she wasn't always popular with our creed anyway) but it seems librarians still have a champion in the White House.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


Jeremy Piven is being investigated by producers of Speed-the-Plow, the play he pulled out of because he had mercury poisoning. Seems they're a little dubious about his excuse (come on, if you were going to pull a sicky surely you wouldn't choose something so outlandish?).

David Mamet, the play's author, had the best response: ""My understanding is that Jeremy is leaving showbusiness to pursue a career as a thermometer."

Word clouds

Today's souvenir issue of the Guardian is interesting for more than the obvious reason (11 pages of Obama ephemera, what more could you want?): it's the first time I'm aware of that word clouds have been used in the paper.

Word clouds are increasingly common on the web; basically, they count the number of times each word is used in a given text, then map out the data into a nice little graphic - the bigger and darker the word, the more times it appears.

The Guardian have applied this to Obama's inaugural address, and to those of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D Roosevelt and George Bush. The results are interesting - Obama's most used words are nation, new, must, every, people, less, today and America. It's not hard to recognise that Obama's message is one of renewal, of starting over (change, the major drive of his campaign, doesn't feature, perhaps reflecting the reality he faces now he's in office). Peace and liberty come much further down the list.

Comparisons with former presidents are also interesting - Lincoln's key words were war, God and Union (it was delivered before the end of the civil war in 1865), whereas Roosevelt, speaking at the peak of the New Deal era, focused on government, democracy, people and progress. Perhaps surprisingly, Bush is the one who spoke of freedom and liberty (one flaw of word clouds is that there's no context - in this case, Bush used American freedom to stand for waging war abroad).

So far, so good, but the Guardian's graphic has one major drawback. Word clouds really come into their own when they are interactive, when each word is clickable so you can access the full body of data behind the image. This isn't possible on the printed page, so the full functionality of the graphic is lost.

You can read about word clouds at Wikipedia, watch an instructional video on YouTube or make your own courtesy of Wordle (the one above is a cloud of this blog).

Something that is nothing whatsoever to do with that Obama guy

I volunteer as a reader at a local school once a week, so I know more about children's books than adult ones these days. This week we picked up a copy of Chris Riddell's Ottoline and the Yellow Cat; while my six-year-old friend was less than impressed (it was "boring" - that word was banned in my junior school - and anyway, she wanted to read books with big pictures and no words) I have found my new fiction hero.

The style was familiar from Riddell's political cartoons in the Observer, but I'd never encountered his children's stories (over 100 at the last count!). The book has a totally bizarre storyline (Ottoline lives in a New York apartment with Mr Munroe, a small hairy thing from a Norwegian bog, where she curates her parents' collection of random objects (four-spouted teapots anyone?)) and quirky line drawings (there are so many images it's a bit like a graphic novel), which are tagged to provide extra snippets of information; there are hidden joys on every page.

In short, it's everything I love in a storybook. I'm smitten.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

This is the last one, I promise!

Courtesy of Spith, thank you!

Obama in our office

I will talk about something completely different tomorrow, promise!

make you own Obama poster

And if you're getting a bit carried away (like me!) you can create yourself in the man's image (or if, also like me, your Mac doesn't support the software, you can peruse the gallery instead).


Crowds gather on the Mall in Washington this morning.

My American optimism is still holding so here are a few more Obama links.

I know I posted's Yes We Can video a few days ago but I just watched it and it made the hair on the back of my neck metaphorically stand up, it's such a powerful message so I'm unashamedly repeating myself.

The BBC have interviewed Maya Angelou, author of one of my favourite books, as part of their Notes to Obama series: click here to read or watch her explain why America needs Obama. Other Notes... include Wynton Marsalis and John Waters.

Check out part one of Diane Sawyer's interview with Obama from September last year (there's a link to part two on the page, worth watching if only for the Saturday Night Fever photo halfway through!).

The Huffington Post coverage is as excellent as ever - everything from straight reports of the day's events to Michelle's inauguration day outfits and Legoland's recreation of the inauguration.

More Obama memorabilia from the Inaugural store - I like the Obama colouring book best of all!

Wonder if Obama will be updating Twitter from the podium? Let's hope so!

Watch the inauguration live on the Inaugural Committee website.

And for a nostalgic trip back to election night (the donuts! the beer! the appalling Time Square party!) you can't beat a bit of Vidal versus Dimbleby.

Monday, 19 January 2009

This week I will be mostly eating...

Spotted these at my local Tesco, loving the photos on the box! Looks like they're planning a whole range, but are there enough American Studies alums out there to keep them afloat?


Once in a while I lament my north London existence (close enough to town to feel the buzz of the city, not close enough to be a part of it). I read about film premieres and exhibition openings in the paper, but never get round to booking tickets or organising a babysitter. Since we had Logan even going to the cinema is a luxury!

One event I really regret not booking in advance is Bristol's Slapstick festival, on next weekend and now in it's fifth year. As Mark will attest, there's nothing I find funnier than someone falling over - you can't beat a good pratfall, can you?

Buster Keaton was one of the best, and his 1923 film Our Hospitality will be shown on Saturday, accompanied by Prima Vista Social Club, one of the best silent film orchestras in Europe (apparently).

Also on the bill are The Goodies (minus Bill Oddie, who's probably holed up somewhere watching big cats/badgers) chatting to Phil Jupitus, Eric Sykes chatting to The Goodies, films by Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin and a new project from The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain (did you know Marilyn Monroe played the ukelele?). There's even an event wholly given over to finding out why falling over is funny.

I have a whole year to organise a weekend babysitter for the next one, any offers?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Starter for ten

Not among the elite invited to Obama's inaugural luncheon on Tuesday but want to join in the fun? Got a taste for traditional American cuisine? The JCCIC, who are hosting the luncheon, have provided a handy recipe pack so you don't have to miss out.

Take 6 Maine lobsters, 20 sea scallops, 36 large shrimp (and that's just the starter...).

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


This isn't a rant on the unbalanced nature of the Israel-Palestine war, honestly, but the latest comments from Hillary Clinton, America's almost-foreign secretary, make me fume.

"On Israel, you cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence," she told a Senate congressional hearing.

Should you not apply the same theory to Israel as well? Or is the horror Israel has unleashed on Gaza in the past three weeks, causing the deaths of nearly 1,000 Palestinians and the wounding of 4,500 more, somehow legitimate? Not to mention the months of blockades, power and medical shortages Gaza has endured.

I don't believe Hamas is justified in firing rockets at Israel either, and even though they've only killed about 20 people ever, that's still 20 dead people. But one or other of the sides is going to have to step up to the plate and be the big man, and Israel, with its firepower, its manpower and its international standing should be the one to lay down arms first. The longer the bombardment continues, the more innocents are killed, the worse its standing will be in the international community, even with the Obama administration unlikely to change tack.

I lied about it not being a rant, sorry.

Katy hearts Obama

I've been doing tonnes of work on the presidential inauguration events starting this Sunday - how much do I wish I lived in Washington, D.C. right now? Or even in the US, so I could organise a Neighbourhood Inaugural Ball and hook up with the main Obama one by text message.

As it is, I'm going to have to content myself with buying the official inauguration CD/DVD box set, Change Is Now: Renewing America's Promise, available from the Presidential Inauguration Committee online store.

It includes tracks from Wilco,, Ozomatli (who blew me away at Glastonbury a few years ago), Stevie Wonder and India.Arie, while the DVD contains eight of Obama's most rousing speeches, including this one from Philadelphia last March. It's $30 but shipping is only an extra $8.50, which is a small price to pay for a little bit of history in the making.

And if that's a bit pricy, check out the Shephard Fairey stickers and pin badges instead (I wish I could afford the $100 poster!).

Did any of us really believe what could happen when released his "Yes We Can" video last year? Show's you what positive change can be brought about when people really believe; for once the cynic in me can't help but be swept away by some good old-fashioned American optimism. Until next Wednesday at least.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Book of the week 1

It's not a grown-up book I know, but I've been reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt at least ten times a day of late. Like many people, I know the rhyme from childhood but I hadn't realised it was written by one of Britain's best contemporary children's authors, and the current Children's Laureate. Logan loves it - the rhythm of Michael Rosen's story and the actions that go with it but also the wonderful illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.

YouTube has a wonderful video of Michael Rosen's personal rendition; buy it here, your toddlers will thank you.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Golden Globes - it's all about the frocks

Poor Anne Hathaway, losing out to Kate Winslet at the Golden Globes after a computer error had named her best actress the day before. Just to rub it in, Kate won for best supporting actress too, for her part in The Reader. And Kate definitely won in the style stakes - Anne looks like she's disappearing before our eyes with that severe hairstyle and tight bodice.

Best dressed: Drew Barrymore looked amazing, and Vanessa Hudgens looked great in a vintage-style frock that was a world away from her High School Musical gear.

Highly commended: Melissa George stood out in a sea of glitter and oversized dresses, and Rumor Willis proved she scrubs up well (how hard must it be when your Mum is still a red carpet regular?).

Best dressed man: No one else could pull off such a bizarre look, but Mickey Rourke looked fab compared to the bland black suit/tie combos of all the other men.

Worst dressed: Renee Zellweger seems to have forgotten her top half, Heidi Klum should stop dressing like a twelve-year-old and Penelope Cruz had a rare off-day.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Logan finally got a haircut

There's this cool barbers in Muswell Hill, barbers is definitely the right word - it opened in 1906 and it's a walk-in place, no appointments and the cash goes in a box in the corner. Anyway, we couldn't get an appointment at the swanky kids' salon in Crouch End so we stopped by on the off chance we wouldn't have to book.

45 minutes later - Logan was surprisingly happy listening to the footy on the radio and watching the action - he was sat in the barber's chair, having his hair trimmed by the silver-haired Italian owner.

All went well until the comb snagged on a knot in his hair - I secretly suspect it was snot - but he didn't try to escape the chair or wriggle so much he got stabbed by the scissors, so I think we can call it a success. And he got a lolly for his trouble so he soon cheered up.

Even if he does look less like a surfer dude and more like someone who might nick your dinner money in the playground, at least he won't be mistaken for a girl any more!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Fridge magnets in Neals Yard




Out and about in London Town

The fun fair in Leicester Square, last weekend

Seven Dials Christmas lights - very fancy!

This is what happens when you tell logan to smile for the camera

I think we need to work on that one...

The inaugural happy news story of the week

Heaven knows we need some good news at the moment. Step forward Mika and Anna-Bell, two German youngsters who decided on New Year's Eve to elope to Africa.

Oh, and they're five and six years old. Bless!

If Logan pulled a stunt like that in a few years though it wouldn't be so amusing...

blogging for beginners

So, after something like a decade, I finally got round to starting a blog. Kind of missed the boat on that one huh?

I've lost count of the times I've sat on the bus, mind wandering, and thought of something earth-shattering to tell the world, if only I had a blog. And what do you know, now that I've got one I can't think of a single interesting thing to say.

Hello world. That'll have to do for now.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Mark's birthday jaunt

Breakfast at Chorak

The jukebox at Big Red rocks, but I suck at pool, boo

Big Red toilet graffiti

Sake bomb! Dinner at Charuwan, just what we needed after an epic movie and a snow storm

Mark's folks AKA The Babysitters