Author Archives: Tim Hall

100 Years Ago Today

Quintinshill Today is the 100th anniversay of Britain’s worst even rail disaster at Quintinshill in Scotland, where 226 people perished in a double collision and fire, a result of criminal negligence by two signalmen.

Most of the dead were soldiers of Royal Scots en route to Liverpool bound for Gallipoli. Their troop train, composed of elderly wooden-framed coaches, collided head-on with an early morning local train. Moments later a northbound sleeping-car express ran into the wreckage. Fueled by escaping gas from the gas-lit coaches, the whole wreck caught fire.

The National Railway Museum blog has a piece about the disaster.

While the disaster is well-known in railway circles, it’s rather disappeared down the memory hole with the general public. It doesn’t loom nearly as large as the second-worst disaster at Harrow & Wealdstone in 1952, or even the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. Probably the fact that it happened during wartime and the vast majority of dead were soldiers is a major factor.

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Not So Alternative Comedy

In a Guardian comment thread that was actually far more entertaining than the nasty mean-spirited blog post it was attached to, somebody linked to this joke from Alexei Sayle:

I was at a Motorhead gig when after an 8 hour number entitled ‘I’ve got a dick the size of a Ford Cortina, someone called out “sexist shite” and they thought it was request …

If you laughed at that, it’s very likely that you know little or nothing about Mötorhead or their music.

Alexei Sayle could be a very entertaining comic actor, but I never rated his act as a stand-up comic in the early days of his career. He presented himself as an “alternative comedian”, eschewing the sexism and racism that was a staple of so much second-rate comedy of the 70s.

But his act was actually nowhere near as radical or as funny as he liked to think it was, and tended to be laced with a lot of smug self-rightousness. The example above showed, just like the racist Bernard Manning, he was willing to get cheap laughs by punching at his audiences’ designated out-groups without needing to put in any effort to be genuinely funny.

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This very moving and personal blog post on acceptance and grieving by Reading-based musician John Mitchell is wel worth reading.

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The Eurovision Song Contest

I’m at a gig this Saturday, so I’ll be missing the Eurovision Song Contest. But here’s Lithuania’s entry for 2006, the same year as Lordi won for Finland.

The brief instrumental break with the dancing William Hague look-a-like is the best bit.

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First World Problems

Terrible lunchtime news in London, where a fire in Charlton savaged Sainsbury’s sandwich supplies in London.

There were scenes of misery across the city.

A Sainsbury’s shopper told News Shopper: “When I went there at lunchtime for a sandwich there was nothing, nothing at all, the shelves were empty like they’d been cleaned out.

“It was me and a small crowd of people, all standing there, disappointed and confused.

“When I asked one of the staff what had happened she said it was because there had been a fire at the depot.

“It was quite sad, how can one fire bring everything to a standstill?

“It might sound ridiculous but it ruined my day a bit, I had to go to Morrisons but they don’t have a £3 meal deal.”

If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, these people are not going to survive….

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Panic Room confirm Dave Foster as permanent guitarist

Dave Foster of Panic Room at Bilston Robon 2

After the successful “Wildfire” tour, Panic Room have now confirmed that Dave Foster is joining the band as a full-time member.

Panic Room had not previously appointed a permanent replacement for founder member Paul Davies, who had left the band at the end of 2012.  Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood stood in on a temporary basis for the tour in Spring 2013, and Adam O’Sullivan performed with the band throughout 2014 as well as playing lead on the band’s fourth album “Incarnate”.

Dave Foster, who also plays with Mr So and So and The Steve Rothery Band, had previously been announced as playing with the band for 2015, contributing to the soon-to-be-released acoustic album and playing live on the Spring tour. The band had decided to wait until after the tour before making a final decision for the longer term.

Anyone who saw the recent tour will have seen how well he fits into the band. Not only was he adept at playing all of Panic Room’s varied styles from sophisticated jazz-flavoured sounds ro classy hard rock, but just as importantly the chemistry was right. In the end it can’t have been that hard a decision to make.

The band are now planning further tours in Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016, and will be working on a new studio album in the second half of this year.

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White Males Behaving Badly

Nigel Sad-HaircutA reminder that when it comes to stupid bigotry, it’s difficult for anyone to beat conservative white men. Meet Professor Nigel Piercy of Swansea University.

Professor Piercy, whose time at Swansea has been marked by a series of conflicts with staff and students, had written that among those “claiming the right to censor and veto” academics’ pronouncements were “unpleasant and grubby little people, who purport to represent others because they have persuaded a tiny number of people to elect them to office in trades unions and the like”.

Such “creepy little people” were “usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”, he wrote. Another characteristic was “straggly beards”, “half-way between designer stubble and a real beard” and “probably indicative of a hormone deficiency”.

When the university’s pro-chancellor has to apologise for the bollocks he’s been spounting, you wonder if he should move to Goldsmiths College in London. I’m sure he and Bahar Mustafa would get on really, really well….

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Culture Wars Battle of the Week

Bahar MustafaThis week’s social media outrage is all about Bahar Mustafa, the Diversity Officer for the Student Union of Goldsmiths College in London. First there was some controversy surrounding a diversity event from which white men were excluded, which quite probably got blown up out of all proportion. Then there were some allegedly offensive posts on Twitter using the #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag.

Now it’s all over the media, and she could end up losing her job.

Her defence of her behaviour isn’t helping.

She then defended her position on camera, saying ethnic minority women cannot be racist as they “do not stand to gain” from inequality.

Now I know that the American-originated Critical Race Theory redefines racism as “prejudice plus power”. But that not what the word means in common everyday usage in the wider world. Not only that, Britain’s laws on racial discrimination use the older and more widely understood definition.

But she added the uses of hashtags such as “kill all white men” on her personal account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

Ah yes, the old “It’s just banter” defence. That worked so well when used by racist footballers. My own use of social media follows the principle “Never say on Twitter what you can’t justify to your employer or your mum”. That would have been good advice for Bahar Mustafa, or indeed anyone in a highly visible public position.

At this point it would be easy to paint Bahar Mustafa as a bad actor in the same vein as Lutfur Rahman or Benjanun Sriduangkaew. But a more charitable explanation might be that she simply lacks the self-awareness to realise how her remarks could be interpreted outside the self-referential bubble of academic leftism.

If there is a genuine need for so-called “safe spaces” for minorities at Goldsmiths College, then surely it ought to possible to articulate the reasons for them without using risible canards that play into the hands of white racism.

On the other hand you do wonder whether the middle-class identity politics that constantly casts white men rather than the wealthy elites as the villains actually achieves much when it comes to tackling serious structural inequality. When taken out of academia into the real world, it certainly won’t be terribly effective at winning over the traditional working-class vote that progressive forces need if they are ever to win elections and form governments.

Still, calls for Bahar Mustafa to be prosecuted are utterly ridiculous. As to whether she gets to keep her job is a matter for her employer, Goldsmiths College Student’s Union, not a mob of random people on the internet with virtual torches and pitchforks.

And nobody deserves death threats, no matter who they offend.

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Zero She Flies – Small Mercies

Zero She Flies new single is now released as a download from Bandcamp, CDBaby and Amazon.

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There are some questions for which “Ziltoid the Omniscient” is the only possible answer. Because bonkers prog-metal sci-fi concept album about the daydreams of a bored barista.

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