Here’s a google map I’ve put together of my recommendations for tourists spending a few days in London, including great walks, pubs, restaurants, tourist attractions and museums. I have lived in London for six years, and these are my highlights.

Michael Jackson died of a suspected heart attack in the night and the spike in Internet traffic slowed down the web.  By 10 in the morning the Internet’s most established search analytics tools had around 8 hours to log the change in search patterns, how well did they perform?

Yahoo Buzz’s Top Searches

Yahoo Buzz 26 June 2009

Yahoo Buzz 26 June 2009 10:00am London

The top search term is ‘Dead Sea’. Well they got one word right but Michael Jackson doesn’t appear anywhere.  Not good.

AOL Hot Searches

AOL Hot Searches 26 June 2009 10:00am London

AOL Hot Searches 26 June 2009 10:00am London

They’re stuck two days ago with their Stig story. Surely Jacko
has to top the story about a cougar?  Very poor show.

Bing USA got it – just.

Bing US June 26 2009

Bing US June 26 2009 10:00am London

Michael Jackson was top of the ‘Popular Now’ bar which appears on the bottom right of the search engine portal in the US.  But next to UCLA medical centre.  Surely those aren’t in order?

And the winner is Google Hot Trends

Google Trends June 26 2009

Google Trends June 26 2009 10:00am London

Michael Jackson is all over the top 25. All over the top 100 actually. Responsive and thorough. Credit where credit is due.

You don’t have to pay to enjoy art in Islington because internationally renowned street artists like Banksy have turned our streets into a living gallery.

I am currently blogging, podcasting and vodcasting about the European Union at www.threeeuropeanswalkintoabar.wordpress.com

hpmouseThe walls are bare in her meagre office, the furniture is cheap and MEP Jean Lambert is right about what she calls the “supposedly comfortable chairs”, they aren’t comfortable at all.

“This is our second office,” she tells me unabashed, other than that she makes no apologies for her down-at-heel surroundings. A green poison bait box sits next to the skirting board on one wall. Yes, they have a rodent problem.  

But in this tiny room on the second floor of an office building on Borough High Street, Green MEP, Jean Lambert, is planning her campaign for the European Parliament elections in June. 

She looks harried, and it takes a moment for her concentration to settle on me, as though always needed elsewhere.  She has been an MEP since 1999, and a member of the UK Green Party since there were just 50 members in the whole of London, 31 years ago. 

“We’ve been the vanguard on so many issues,” she says. 

A woollen cardigan hangs off of her shoulders, comfortable and well-worn.  For a politician she seems refreshingly unconcerned about appearances.  Before becoming an MEP she worked as a French and an English teacher at a school in Walthamstow, East London, and she would be well cast on Grange Hill.

“The new member states still have politicians who haven’t taken the environmental agenda on board,” she says, as though discussing an unruly class,  “And Italy have a regressive government and don’t give a monkeys.” 

Then, as though exasperated by a particularly naughty schoolboy, she says, “I’d put Berlusconi well up there.” 

Balancing life commitments with parliamentary work is difficult and Jean acknowledges that as an MEP her family life has suffered.  “It’s difficult for almost anybody in some ways, but that’s also true for MPs.  My husband and I have to try hard to remember who it was we married.” 

A committed MEP’s workload can be considerable, especially when combined with party campaigning and establishing a constituency presence. 

“I think you need a willingness to take things as they come at you,” Jean says, “If you’re the kind of person who gets highly stressed under pressure or when things don’t go your way this is not the job for you.” 

I get the impression that she’s putting a brave face on it. She feels stress like anyone, I can see she’s feeling the burden of a heavy back-log even as we speak, perhaps she just has a higher tolerance than most. 

“I take it very seriously,” she says.  “Even if there’s something we don’t support, if we think it’s an important piece of legislation we will work hard to get it changed and to rewrite it so it’s the best that it can be.”

Being an MEP is not a glamorous job, struggling always for compromise, between parties, between nations, struggling to get the attention of a petulant national press.  Jean has spent much of the past seven years trying to change the public perception of the Green Party as a single issue party by developing a progressive human rights agenda.  She was named Justice and Human Rights MEP of the year in 2005, but her message has barely registered with the British media. 

She is a work horse, peculiarly suited to the grey job of legislation, primed by long-held ideals for the endless disputes of a collaborative parliament in a media vacuum. 

“One of the things I love about the European Parliament is you’re working beyond borders,” she says, “It’s why I want to be in Europe and not Westminster.” 

But Jean Lambert could be lost on the backbenches of Westminster, a lone green drowned out between larger parties.  She’s not very showy, she doesn’t seem to have the front or the self-interest. 

As Vice-President of the 43 member Greens/European Free Alliance in the parliament she is twice as influential as the majority of British politicians and she gets a fraction of the recognition. 

She’s a rare kind of politician, an efficient one whose efficiency doesn’t depend on who happens to be watching.

The decision by the European Parliament’s Bureau to put “all data” regarding attendance of MEPs in plenary and committee meetings was timed perfectly, coinciding with the closure of independent web resource How MEPs Work which fulfilled the same function until financial problems forced its closure.

Visiting the site returns the message “Project offline”.

The report, put forward by Italian MEP Marco Cappato of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, aims to make information on attendance available to the public through the Parliament’s website before the 2009 election.

Cappato’s report said that, “Accessing information relating to the EU institutions still remains an obstacle-strewn path for ordinary citizens, due to the lack of an effective citizen-oriented inter-institutional policy of transparency and communication.”

An article on Schuman Square suggests The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee may not not have passed the measure with such a majority had they read the fine print closely. 

 In addition to the attendance figures mentioned in the Euractiv article, Shuman Square reports that disclosure “Would include their participation in roll call votes,” and would be “Searchable by the MEP’s name, plenary, committee, delegation, vote, day or term.”

Reading the report I notice it also calls for information to be made available on MEPs allowances, spending and financial interests, and for National Parliaments and elected bodies to be invited to do the same “by establishing a Register of parliaments’ and parliamentarians’ activities”

This is an opportunity to throw some light on the inner workings of the EU, on the activities of MEPs and go some way towards encouraging transparency in member states. Cappato is right, there can be no real Democracy without transparency. If this measure makes it through the Plenary it can only improve the credibility of MEPs and the European Parliament, much as the excellent They Work for You has for MPs in Britain.

 The idea has its critics, Euractiv quoted Statewatch Editor Tony Bunyan’s response:  

“Under the Commission’s proposal, only the final document would be a “document”. All the draft proposal documents would not be ‘documents’, which means that all the changes, options, discussions would be secret and hidden from public view and scrutiny. The lifeblood of a democracy is the ability of parliaments, civil society and citizens to know what is being discussed and to make their views known before the final ‘document’ is set in stone.”

Mr. Bunyan is right to point out the shortcomings, but in practice the majority of voters will only dig so deep. A list of final votes should be fit for purpose in the run up to the June election, after which further transparency can be sought.  Cappato makes this aim clear in the report, which states, “The EU institutions should now take further steps towards greater transparency, openness and democracy by moving towards an “EU Freedom of Information Act”.  

The move was welcomed by London’s Green Party MEP Jean Lambert who said that generally attendance was a good sign of engagement.

“I’m willing to bet,” she said, “That when that info comes out there will be people who hardly ever set foot in the place.”

Discussing the usefulness of attendance figures in measuring an MEP’s engagement James Stevens posted the following on Jon Worth’s blog.

 “Plenary attendance is indeed a very crude measure of MEP effectiveness and in some cases probably more related to collecting daily allowances than anything else.”

1896oklahomanWhilst interning at The Oklahoman I received some sage, if tongue-in-cheek, advice from veteran Oklahoma City bombing reporter Nolan Clay

1) Always collect your paycheck
2) Take all the free food you can get unless you’re on a job, in which case accept nothing.
3) Check the archives, but don’t believe everything you read, some writers are inacurate.
4) Dress smart but always have a change of clothing in your car in case of emergencies (see blue jeans exceptions).
5) Be accurate, especially with names.
6) Never flip anyone off on the way to a meeting, you might be meeting them.
7) Keep your cool.

The five blue jeans exceptions (when it’s okay to dress casual):

1) When interviewing country music stars Brad Paisley or Garth Brooks.
2) When you pay into an office collection for the privilege.
3) When the University of Oklahoma football team are playing for the national championship.
4) When covering a farming event.
5) In the event of a tornado.

If you ever find yourself reporting in Oklahoma you’ll be way ahead of the curve.

Voters by county

Results by County Nov 4 2008

Christian Pastors across America broke Federal tax laws to endorse John McCain’s presidential bid, now that the results are in it’s clear that their congregations ignored them.

Barack Obama attracted 8 per cent more votes from regular church goers than John Kerry did in 2004, up to 43 per cent

There are blue churches as well as red, black as well as white. Michelle Obama’s appearance at the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, during which she made an appeal for votes on behalf of her husband, may also have been a violation of Federal tax laws, according to campaign group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Some Catholic bishops warned congregations that voting for pro-abortion Obama would be against their faith, yet there was a 9 point jump in Catholic support, up to 54 per cent.

Faced with the choice between an eternal conservative administration and eternal damnation they chose damnation. They may fear for their souls, but in the current economic climate they fear more for their jobs.

docWhen you watch a British documentary you expect cynicism, especially when it’s about a controversial American sub-culture, all the more so if there’s a religious link.  The recent Cutting Edge documentary ‘The Virgin Daughters’, about the American purity movement, actually manages to overcome its instincts and seem sympathetic.

The program is structured around families who attend an elaborate annual purity ball in Colorado Springs, where fathers pledge to be loving and honourable, and their daughters pledge their chastity until marriage.

 From the father’s perspective, if their daughter feel loved they won’t need to go looking for male affirmation outside the home.  The daughters just seem happy to be loved, all be it in a somewhat overbearing way.

These are well-meaning people trying to clear a pathway for their children through a morally turbulent world.  There is no damning by editor, there’s hardly even any sinister music, the whole experience was quite refreshing.

As bonkers as the idea of kissing your husband for the first time on your wedding day may seem to some, and as tightly controlled as these children are, I couldn’t help but be won-over by the big-hearted sincerity of these terribly earnest Americans.

The interviewees were given just enough rope to hang themselves, and to the frustration of Times critic Tim Teeman, none of them did:

“It was not as savage as it could have been, nor as insightful. It didn’t investigate, it observed almost without any perspective – as if the camera had no one holding it. A depressingly wasted hour.”

The Tent is an architectural statement of intent, a speck of peace within the swirling business of London’s financial district.

 

Made in Saudi Arabia it boasts Moroccan tiling, British stained glass, and rugs woven in places of conflict throughout the world. 

 

The Tent at St Ethelburga'sThe brainchild of Simon Keyes, Creative Director of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Rehabilitation and Peace, the Tent was designed to facilitate inter-faith dialogue within one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities. 

 

It has no religious adornment, instead designer Keith Critchlow drew on the universal languages of astronomy and “sacred geometry”.

 

Inter-faith co-ordinator Justine Huxley says: “The centre itself was founded by the Archbishop of London, who stood in the rubble after the building was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993, and decided that this 12th Century church should be rebuilt to house a place tasked with considering the link between religion and conflict.” 

 

Huxley says their basic currency is dialogue, and that they’ve had success in codifying how best to facilitate that dialogue: “We’ve learnt a lot about religious etiquette, participation, and creating an inclusive space.  But we’ve gone beyond finding out about each other now, and we’re learning to collaborate. 

 

“Of course there are areas of theology that are irreconcilable, a Christian will say, ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ a Muslim will say, ‘One God’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate with each other.  We want to create a space where people can disagree without violence.” 

 

Members of different faiths are encouraged to pray and meditate together at St Ethelburga’s.  Some fundamentalists consider shared devotion abhorrent.  Huxley says: “We haven’t got to the point yet where we are actively seeking people who are anti inter-faith, but by standing up for our own values we can open people’s minds.

 

“We have had evangelical Christians come here, and from the outset they were very hostile towards what we do.  But after spending time with us they suddenly got it, it was heart-warming, and they left changed.”

In case you’ve missed it Roy Greenslade and Jeff Jarvis have been debating whether journalists are to blame for not anticipating the technological changes threatening to close newspapers.

 

Jarvis took Greenslade to task for saying that journalists “cannot be held responsible for either the financial woes of the industry nor for the public turning its back on the ‘products’ that contain their work”.  A view broadly supported by City University’s Adrian Monck and Paul Farhi from the Washington Post.

 

Both agree that new media is bringing new opportunities to the industry at the expense of irrevocable changes.

 

The brass facts are that people continue to consume news, and that the internet is enabling them to consume more news, more efficiently, with more bells and whistles, than ever before.  I personally don’t see how this constitutes a threat to the journalist’s trade. 

 

News fulfils a basic need for information.  Newspapers have refined their product over hundreds of years in line with ferocious market forces.  The internet doesn’t threaten the creation of quality information or the commoditisation of that information, it is a medium which exists to order and present information.  The presentation of information is the building block of every webpage, the primary function of HTML, the internet’s DNA.

 

Print media is experiencing a seismic shift, newspapers are becoming untenable, whilst the online alternatives remain unproven and underdeveloped.  The resulting instability threatens journalists who have hitherto existed in illustrious print institutions, but it doesn’t threaten the wider role of journalism within society. 

 

Online news generation is stunted by the sheer volume of news circulated online by unprofitable print newspapers.  Their business models look increasingly archaic, but by the great generosity of their patrons they remain a lumbering barrier to entry for online ventures with potentially profitable business models.

 

The internet is changing the news business, but not the essential product, the written word.  A few papers will go bust and others will consolidate, but newspapers will survive.  Fresh information will retain its value, people will seek it out and companies will pay to advertise alongside it, whether by the pixel or by the inch.

 

For regular updates on the slow death of the newspapers try Newspaperdeathwatch.

 

The collapse of global markets is generally considered to be a bad thing, but I pride myself on being able to spot a silver lining. 

 

However badly markets fare, we in the west are unlikely to slip into absolute poverty, we’re not going to starve.  Our notion of poverty is a relative one, relative to those living around us, and so is our measure of wealth.

 

I count myself amongst the hapless winners in this global economic downturn.  I own no stocks, I own no property, I have no assets to speak of, just my own human capital.  From my perspective a reduction in asset prices is a good thing.  If the markets really tank I might even be able to afford a house. 

  

In anticipation of a global recession petrol prices are falling, food prices are off their highs.  Every time a jobless banker is forced to sell his Porsche I get a little richer, if only comparatively.  Compared with Britain’s richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, who has lost £20bn in the past four months, I’m smelling of roses.  My only concern (I concede it is a sizable one) is securing future employment.

 

The 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day are also getting richer, compared with the global average; but then relative wealth is a hollow measurement when you’re living in absolute poverty.

 

There was a time when skateboarding didn’t just stand for cool, it was cool, back before Tony Hawk made a million dollars and Bart Simpson made a billion.  Sports have their underground glory days when heads get bust, when communities are small enough to be cohesive, equipment is cobbled together and rules are fast and loose. 

 

The second annual London Bike Film Festival’s Bike Polo Tournament played out today, despite a hell of high-water.  Tournament organizer John Hudson was full of enthusiasm: “It’s going to be a great day, we’ve got 22 teams down to play, although they probably won’t all come now.”

 

Put simply, urban bike polo is played on a concrete or asphalt court (usually tennis or basketball) in a fenced in area with cones placed at either end for goals.  Two teams of three score by hitting a hockey ball through the opponents goal with their (usually home-made) mallets.  Contact is like-for-like, mallets can touch mallets, bikes clash with bikes, and people with people – which makes for a very physical game, with the bikes usually taking most of the punishment.  If a player’s feet touch the ground they have to tap their mallet at a designated spot court-side.  There is a referee but he’s usually not paying attention so players keep an eye on themselves and each other. 

 

Tomastito plays for the ‘Mallet of Cocktail’ team, he said: “To start a game you put the ball in the middle, the teams start in their semi-circles, shout 3, 2, 1 and then charge for the ball.  Which is fine when it’s two right handed players, but at the last tournament we had a leftie and a right handed player going for it and there was a nasty head on collision and one guy fractured his skull.”

 

 

 

A lot of the sport’s early adopters were cycle couriers, hence the courier’s cut-off handlebars, a customization that enables them to squeeze through tight traffic, but reduces stability.  

 

The scene has a charming DIY mentality: any rider can ride any bike and wield any mallet.  Serious players usually ride racing bikes with fixed gears, meaning they have only one gear combination.  The wheels only move when the pedals move, so riders apply the brakes by stopping the pedals, often locking the back wheels in a controlled skid.   

 

“It’s all homemade,” Thomastito said: “The mallets are made from ski poles or golf clubs with water or electrical piping for heads, and the disk wheels are old estate agents signs – they stop your spokes from getting messed up.”

 

Today’s tournament took place at the Three Corner’s Park in Clerkenwell.  22 teams were down to play, mostly from London and across England, although returning stars “The Fabulous French F***ers” from Paris remain a dominant force. 

 

“Each time we have a tournament,” Tomastito said, “More teams show up out of the woodwork.  They’ve been active on the message boards and then they just show up one day.” 

 

Thomastito plays at Brick Lane every Sunday: “It’s a really social game there, anyone can come and you all put your mallets in, six are chosen and away you go.” 

 

John Hudson said: “The London leagues are only just kicking off locally.” 

 

 

Bike Polo was an exhibition event at the 1908 Olympics, but declined in popularity during the second world war.  It’s very recent surge in popularity, notably the urban “hardcourt” variety (as opposed to the field variety), has led to excitement at the sport’s potential professionalization, but also dread at it’s standardization and possible corporatization. 

 

The London Fixed Gear and Single Speed website www.londonfgss.com provides an online gateway to fixed gear cycling, with blogs and message boards about the bikes and bike polo.   

 

One of the most contentious issues under discussion is the sport’s impending standardization.  Many don’t want to see their sport lose it’s alternative edge, the freedom of casually arranged leagues and tournaments, of home-made equipment and an ethos that welcomes newcomers no matter what their skill level.   

 

Mike (Tramps Paradise) posted: “If you push for hardcourt to become a ‘proper’ sport and it gets in the hands of Nike and co., raped and pillaged for all it’s worth you lose the DIY community aspect a’la skateboarding and it will become about as interesting to watch (and play) as doubles table tennis. 

 

“[There are] two positive things to gain. Financial abilities such as sponsors, paid players, managers, owners, etc etc. And a big party which is f***ing selfish to risk ruining something for the sake of instant gratification of a few out of many.”

 

 

 In response Skoota posted: “Really we’re talking about trying to get a sport we like into the Olympic games. Can you imagine that? Here in London in four years time seeing people that we have met and supporting teams full of people we know, for an Olympic medal!”

 

Bike polo is still a tiny sport, with perhaps a few hundred devotees in London, but it’s becoming more popular, notably in France, Germany, America and Canada.  For now at least it is what it is – a vibrant and open community of customizers, bloggers, organizers and riders.

 

 Find out more about bike polo in London at: http://londonbikepolo.wordpress.com.

 

I’m now blogging fresh at davidmichaelchristopher.com.  It’s long past due time for me to have my own domain name and to step off of the wordpress.com site.  Please visit my new site where I plan to share my writing, blogging, publications and reviews.   As always I continue to be interested in the arts, politics, internet marketing and current events.  Please come along and comment, no need to be shy.

Thanks for finding me.

I’ve created a new website called Tulsa Restaurant Deals and here’s the lowdown…

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