Jo from English Pen
writes, "Thanks to Edward Snowden's leaks about the secret surveillance of all our communications by intelligence services in the UK and US, privacy is one of the biggest stories of the day. None of us can be sure now that our emails or phone calls are ever confidential, so this is something we should all be worried about. At English PEN there's a discussion next Wednesday 11 December at 630pm
, with some experts on the subject and it should be a lively debate - with writer Alan Judd, former MI6 director for operations Nigel Inkster and Ian Brown, director of the Oxford Internet Institute. It's chaired by English PEN's director Jo Glanville at the Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA."
Tom writes, "Subterranean London is a strange and fascinating world, a labyrinth of underground tunnels that range from Victorian sewers to wartime bunkers. Among them is the famous London Underground network, known as the Tube due to the shape of its deep level tunnels. The network boasts around 40 ghost stations, from including entire stations that closed decades ago as well as disused platforms hidden behind iron gates in still operational hubs. This article looks at 13 of London's most impressive abandoned underground stations."
If you like this, check out Peter Laurie's classic Beneath the City Streets, a comprehensive list of subterranean shelters, bunkers, tunnels, and tubes (I drew on it heavily for Pirate Cinema).
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A British teacher and artist named Guy Tarrant has assembled two cases' worth of toys confiscated from London schoolchildren, soliciting them from fellow teachers. The collection represents items from 150 schools and 30 years, and is on display at the excellent Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The Childhood Museum is very close to my home, and it's one of my favourite London museums -- I like it better, even, than its enormous parent institution, the V&A down in South Kensington.
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Spotted this morning at London's Giddyup Coffee in Fortune Park (near the Barbican): this terrific Venn diagram/grill menu. Haven't tried Giddyup's grill, but it's my daily morning coffee, and it is spectacular.
Ed writes, "The Betrayers' Banquet is an experimental dining experience from London, where guests play the iterated prisoner's dilemma to win a better or worse meal.
Each of the 48 participants is served eight different courses over two hours; two starters, four mains and two desserts. While all dishes are edible, their allure differs considerably between the top and the bottom of the table; those at the top will enjoy a fine dining experience to match any in London, while those at the bottom will grapple with pickled walnuts, chicken's feet soup, lumpy gruel, and worse."
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Economist Tim Harford answers my question: How would you short the London property bubble? in a column that also asks the important question: should you?
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Here's a finance riddle: how would you short London's property bubble? House prices are up GBP50K in the last six months, our freeholder is making noises about either buying or forcing us out in order to build a giant tower, and they sold off Scotland Yard (!). They say the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, and I've been marvelling at the irrationality of London's property market since I moved there in 2003. Just for the sake of argument, if you wanted to put a bet down on a property value crash, how would you make it?
Miss Cakehead writes, "Feed The Beast, the world's most extreme cake sho,p is open. Guests coming along will be able to see, and feast on the 'flesh' of, this showstopper cake by The Tattooed Bakers - a Devil Horse cake dripping in rum, literally. The beast has Kraken Rum pouring from its nose into a skull-surrounded font. It was cut open by the mighty Kraken Hunter and guests at the opening party who wanted a top up could simply place their glass under the stream for an instant supply of The Kraken Rum. It took The Tattooed Bakers over 200 hours to complete, shown in the stunning attention to detail, and anatomically correct detailing. The cake flesh was of course made from red velvet."
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The WaterstonesOxfordSt Twitter account is staffed by someone pretty darned funny, as evidenced by The Call of Cthulhu, a series of tweets describing what happened when a patron read aloud from the Necronomicon and unleashed an Elder God.
The Call of Cthulhu
An "Academy School" (like US charter schools) in south London has banned "slang" from its student body, under the mistaken apprehension that English has a language academy that determines what is and is not correct speech. The argument is that privileged British people look down on people who talk "poor" -- using words like "woz" and "ain't" -- and that the inability to code-switch into rich-person's English makes it harder to get a job. There is some validity to this (that is, rich people are indeed bigoted against poor people), but my experience in my own neighbourhood is that people are perfectly capable of code-switching to formal registers if they want to.
In the meantime, the school is throttling the expressive potential of their kids' English (as a writer, it's totally obvious to me that "I wasn't doing nuffink" has a totally different flavour from "I did nothing" or "It wasn't me").
Academy Schools have a lot of freedom to diverge from the curriculum, to hire unusual instructors, and to try variations on school meals and other conventions. In theory, this makes room for schools that are freer and more student-oriented. In practice, many of them are run by Young Earth Creationists who teach that the universe is 5,000 years old; or sell sugary drinks and candy bars as a source of profit for the school's investors; or do sweetheart deals with preferred suppliers for mandatory, overpriced school uniforms that include some form of kickback for the school; or hire totally unqualified ideologues to teach the kids.
Academies are "selective schools," meaning that they can suck all the high-scoring kids out of the local state schools, which brings down the average performance of the state schools, costing them budget and ensuring that parents will try to keep their kids out of them. And Academies are only accountable to the national government, instead of the local council, so if your local Academy is screwed up, your only real remedy is to ask your MP to raise a question about it in Parliament.
It's great if your neighbourhood Academy is a progressive hotbed of exciting educational ideas that uses community-based experts in its instruction and grows a garden to supplement the school dinners. But if it's a rent-seeking hotbed of loony Creationism and dumb ideas about policing language, it's still likely to be the only game in town for your kids, after the state school has been drained of any kid with the chance to go somewhere else, and then punished for failing.
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Hey, Londoners! A reminder: tonight is the launch for the UK edition of Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother) at the Forbidden Planet Megastore on Shaftesbury Ave, from 6PM-7PM. This edition includes the novella Lawful Interception, which continues the adventures of Marcus, Ange and friends (for out of towners, don't forget that Forbidden Planet will mail you a signed copy if you order online).
Hey, Londoners! I'm launching the UK edition of Homeland this Wednesday at the Forbidden Planet Megastore from 18h-19h. This is the sequel to Little Brother, and it includes the novella Lawful Interception, which follows on from the action in Homeland.
If you're not a Londoner, don't despair! Forbidden Planet has a great mail-order service and will ship signed copies anywhere.
Noemi sends us a Kickstarter campaign: "to help re-imagine education and establish an Art Circus for the Kids of Canning Town in East London run by the good folks at The House of Fairy Tales. International art stars Sir Peter Blake, Marina Abramovic, Jeremy Deller, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Rachel Whiteread and other high-profile art world names are collaborating with The House of Fairy Tales and Gavin Turk to create the world's first permanent Childrens' Art Circus, opening in East London in Autumn, 2013."
Today's post brought some early copies of the UK edition of Homeland, the sequel to my novel Little Brother. Officially, Homeland isn't out in the UK until the 20th of September, but attendees at this weekend's Nine Worlds Geekfest in London will be able to score their own copies. I'm doing a ton of programme items there (including a launch party on Saturday at 1PM!), and if you catch me before or after one, I'll even sign it!
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In 2009, passing through a protest march, Ian Tomlinson was beaten and pushed to the ground by London cop Simon Harwood. He subsequently died of his injuries, but it took four years for the police to apologize to his family. Matthew Taylor, in The Guardian, reports on how London's Metropolitan Police finally admitted culpability after years of extraordinary efforts to avoid it.
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