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Essays 04/04/2006

Art as a political tool in revolutionary France

Essays How was art used to establish and maintain political authority in revolutionary France? Just a few years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, Diderot had played a key role in the writing and editing of the Encyclopedie. Contained inside its many pages could be found comments by the Enlightened thinkers on how education should be used "to mould desirable citizens" and how art itself was a form of education. Diderot himself believed in the "artist's duty" of using his art to perpetuate the memory of noble deeds, vindicate virtue while stigmatising vice and strike fear into the hearts of tyrants. However, within the broad title of 'art' fall many sub divisions ranging from paintings to songs, drama to novels. The Enlightened thinkers believed that all kinds were valuable tools of education since they could be easily diffused throughout the nation as a whole through word of mouth or the rising number of pamphlets that began to appear within France towards the end of the eighteenth century. However, the fine arts - the visual arts on canvas and in stone - were deemed to be of an importance so great that no self-respecting political authority could dare to govern without them. They "could convey its message to the human heart much more directly than language ever could…" - a comment on the philosophes theories of the ears being closed unless opened by an interest while the eyes always remained open. Furthermore, The visual arts were "better weapons for spreading ideas ...

Everything that starts with M ... 13/02/2006

Maggieedwa's Childhood Challenge

Everything that starts with M ... Maggieedwa's Childhood Challenge I saw that Fazel had done this and really liked the look of it. Here goes! ~~ What Era were you born in ~~ The 80's ~~ Name 3 songs you can remember from that era ~~ 1) Wham! - I Don't Want Your Freedom. One of my Top 10 Songs of all time, this song is brilliant - but the Wham! song I really remember (and therefore the second song of my 3) is Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, because it was the first time I was allowed to stay up until 7.30pm to see if it did well on Top of the Pops. I remember being really disappointed when it got to number one, because I thought 100 was the highest you could go... 3) Cliff Richard and The Young Ones - Livin' Doll. I vividly remember dancing round the dining table at Christmas one year when this was on the chart show. It had been recorded for the very first Comic Relief, and although I never saw the Young Ones TV show (because I was only 5), I can remember the video filmed on a rec somewhere. ~~ What is your first Good memory as a child ~~ Somehow, I remember being 2 years old and visiting the Goyt Reservoir. It was an incredibly hot summer, and there was a dreadful drought that had depleted the reservoir. The reservoir itself was made by floodign a valley that once housed a village, and so during the drought it was possibel to see the derelict houses and roads because the water was so low. It was very surreal. ~~ What is your first Bad memory as a child~~ There used to be a ... 06/02/2006

Cheaper than chips, better than BT! is an independent telecom company that provide low call rate to national, mobile and international numbers from UK landlines. Signing up to the company is a simple matter of filling in a few details online, and using the company is done by easily dialling 1899 before the number you're calling from a BT landline. It is also compatible with non-BT lines, but uses a different - freefone - access number. Their headline-grabbing call charge is 0p per minute to UK landlines (that's right - ZERO PENCE PER MINUTE!), for which you are only charged a 3p connection charge irrespective of how long you are on the phone. So...a 6-hour call to a UK landline will cost you just 3p pence. Similarly, a 6 second call will. HISTORY ------------- was the brainchild of two friends who met each other by chance after spending time together at college in the 1980s. At their chance meeting, they found that they had both ended up working in the telecommunications industry but wanted new challenges. It was as a result of this that they decided to go into business together in a bid to provide no-frills telecom services throughout Europe. They wanted to allow people to pay for the cost of a call with as little profit on top, in order to make call charges as affordable as possible to both business and home users. Having secured a team of investors after creating a business plan, they began trading in April 2000, and by 2003 had launched their British wing, which runs in ...

Top 10 Concerts 30/01/2006

Nothing beats live music

Top 10 Concerts When I was nine years old my dad took me to my first ever live concert. It was my musical hero, Rick Wakeman, playing at the Opera House in Buxton - my home town. I vividly remember the experience, as the concert started late and was rather confused. The reason for this was that although the drummer and vocalist had turned up, the guitarist hadn't. Apparently he'd gone off to Buxton in Norfolk, rather than Buxton in Derbyshire, and so was about 250 miles away from where he was meant to be. Always the professional, Rick continued anyway - making up a set list on the spot and basically turning what could have been a nightmare into one of his greatest triumphs. Since that day, and getting the chance to meet Rick after the concert, I've been a firm fan of going to gigs. Indeed, it's something I list as one of my "hobbies" and, while I don't get to see as many bands as I once did, I still make a point of getting to as many as I can. Over the next month, for example, I've got tickets to see Goldie Looking Chain and The Ordinary Boys. Ironically, considering Celebrity Big Brother currently houses a member from each of these bands, I'd already got the tickets before the show was announced. So, please, don't claim that I'm a glory supporter! Reading through my other music reviews, you might find that I have an eclectic taste. As a result of that, a lot of my "top 10 gigs" are from a variety of different styles. I should also mention that they are not necessarily here because the ...

Everything that starts with S ... 30/01/2006

Strange Questions Challenge (by SnowiestElf)

Everything that starts with S ... I picked up this challenge from SnowiestElf. IF you decide to do it, make sure you let him know! *1* List five things that you would consider hobbies or pasttimes of yours. ***** Collecting shopping lists - I find them in trolleys in trolley parks, scan them in and write comments about the potential person who wrote it. I then post them on my website at and have been featured in The Sun, Radio 4 and ITV1 because of it! Going to gigs - I don't go as often as I used to, but I still pay to see a live band at least once a month. Nothing beats the energy of a live band. Playing guitar - I keep two acoustic guitars by my desk (one on each side) so that I can grab it and strum away when I get restless. It's a brilliant sedative! Walking/hiking - my girlfriend and I go walking reasonably regularly. We walked and camped along Hadrian's Wall last year, and did the same along the length of the Thames Path which was beautiful. We're now doing the Capital Ring around London and are planning to do the Ridgeway later this year. T'internet - can't beat it. Online communities, games, email, music. It's all there for the taking. *2* If you had to choose two animals that you could keep as pets (not standard domestic animals) what would they be? ***** Polar bear - they're fantastic. So enormous yet both gentle and ferocious. A sloth - simply because if something around the house needs to be done but I can't be bothered to ...

Safe as F*ck - Goldie Lookin Chain (PA) 29/01/2006

Oh son, miss it you're a nutter

Safe as F*ck - Goldie Lookin Chain (PA) With Maggot's recent appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, I decided it was time to go back to this album for another listen, and a potential edit of my review. And here it is... ---- As outrageously offensive as their debut offering, GLC are back with another album full of clever samples and even cleverer lyrics. Their unmistakable Newport twang has produced another bucket-load of catchy tunes, splattered with the odd disappointment. Beginning with a distorted drum sample in Track 1 "Intro", the album properly gets going with "Your Missus is a Nutter" as Track 2. Recounting the exploits of a night on the town with a friend's drunken, brawling girlfriend this track features loads of cultural references to bouncers, binge drinking and ladettes. It's backed by a slow but busy sample of screeching guitar riffs that occasionally feel too oppressive. Track 3, "Bad Boy Limp" is an hilarious take on the 'No Win, No Fee' insurance company adverts. Underlined with funky drums and organ, the track has the band making observant references to a range of promises from these firms. GLC discuss the kind of activities that could land you a successful claim from Claims Direct and their competitors. Surely the best sample comes on Track 4, "Charmschool". Directly lifted from the 1970s 'Grange Hill' TV show, the sample reflects the tongue-in-cheek nature of the track. Adam, one of the GLC members, has a bit of reputation of being "easy" - and this track tell of his ...

All About Me 15/01/2006

Is it me?

All About Me Name: Scotty What time is it: 22:42 The Fruits of Your Labour (things you can't live without): My family, music and the enjoyment I get from my job Something important on your desk: My PC. It's hooked up to my Audigy soundcard. I've also got a couple of WereBears, a plectrum for my guitar, some planning for work and a big pile of blank CDRs and DVD-Rs. When you sleep you wear: Well, bedtime stuff. Boxer shorts. If you could afford it at the moment, you would buy: Tickets to see Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds show at the Albert Hall Something you don't have a lot of: Contact with my friends from when I grew up. They're still very special and close to me, but I live in London now and barely ever get to see them any more. If your house was burning and you could only save 3 items what would they be: Fang the WereBear, my CD case with my DJ CDs in it (which also contains the masters to the songs I've written and recorded), and one of my guitars. Morals: --------- If there were no side effects, you would enjoy being addicted to: Choice. You can't beat it. A time when you purposely hurt someone emotionally: Once. I had a girlfriend who I was very close to, and after being hurt very much by her I decided to move on, even though I knew it would hurt her too. A time you accidentally hurt someone emotionally: My close friends a few times probably. We all do to each other. It's the coming back, despite being hurt by ...

Lost Sides - Doves 14/01/2006

Perfect for followers, bad for first-timers

Lost Sides - Doves Doves' double-album release of b-sides, remixes and oddities originally came out as limited edition in 2000, but in 2003 was given a full distribution. It's this second imprint of the album that is the one now selling in stores - the original being a single disc release and now being worth upwards of £50 in the collectors' market. This first release was a promotional compilation, which was limited to 1,250 copies and contained only 4 tracks. In addition to expanding the number of tracks the new release also has a second disc, and this features remixes of tracks taken from the Last Broadcast album. You'll also be glad to know that it doesn't cost as much as the original limited edition version - you can pick this up for as little as £4.99 from However, to begin at the beginning... WHO ARE DOVES? --------------- ----------- Doves (note there is no "The" before their name) are a group of three Mancunians (Jimi and brothers Andy and Jez) who originally existed as experimental acid house group Sub Sub in the 1990s. Their most notable release in this guise was "Space Face", a track the band still occasionally play as an encore at their live shows. After Sub Sub lost their recording studio in a fire, the band effectively went on hiatus until reforming as a broadly focussed "indie"-style band to release their debut album, Lost Souls, in 2000. Their music has been likened to New Order due to its experimental approach to the use of guitars and synthesised ...

My 10 Musical Memories 11/01/2006

Soundtrack of my life

My 10 Musical Memories MattC devised this challenge.... HOW MANY CDs DO YOU OWN? Ummm. Somewhere around 400 albums, plus gazillion singles from when I used to DJ. I've still got about 80 vinyl albums that haven't been doubled up onto CD as well, so they still sit at the side of the stereo as well. CDs IN YOUR COLLECTION: MOST EMBARASSING ~ I'm not embarrassed by ny of my stuff. I could claim Black Lace and all that crap party stuff, but the reality of the situation is that it serves its purpose :) MOST RECENT ~ "Everything You Want For Christmas" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I've mentioned them in loads of my other reviews, and they truly are one of the best bands out there considering they play swing. I've also got hold of a limited edition, Japanese only imprint of Rick Wakeman's "No Earthly Collection" which is my current pride and joy. FIRST ~ First CD was, I think, Pulse by Pink Floyd. Came in a box with a little flashing LED that pulsed at the avergae human heartbeat. My first single was "Doctorin' the Tardis" by the Timelords (aka KLF) and my first 12" album was "Roland Rat's The Cassette of the Album". My very first album was Madonna's "Like a Virgin" on cassette. MOST RELAXING ~ Eric Serra's soundtrack to "Joan of Arc". Although it's quite aggressive, I find it incredibly relaxing. Oh, and "O" by Damien Rice. MOST THOUGHT PROVOKING ~ Beth Nielsen Chapman's "Deeper Still" album, which is truly beautiful and inspiring. "Every December sky must lose its ...

Everything that starts with H ... 10/01/2006

Heartbreakers and honky tonk

Everything that starts with H ... This is the first time I've decided to take up a "challenge", and this one was apparently started by Janej47. I'm a bit of a music fan, and having battled through my top 10 songs I decided to give myself another three hours of hell while I try to whittle down all the pieces of music I've ever heard to 5 that conjure significant memories. Oh dear... "You know those pieces of music, songs and party tunes that - every time you hear them - make you remember a certain person, place or event. Choose your five fondest songs and the memories that come with them." Every December Sky - Beth Nielsen Chapman --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- --- A beautiful song at the best of times and, despite him dying 4 years before I ever heard this song, this is the song that makes me think of my brother. It's a song about how, from the deepest despair and visions of desolation, something beautiful always grows - as long as you keep hoping. Knowing that this was written by Chapman shortly after she lost her husband to cancer only adds to the depth of meaning. I've tried performing this song dozens of times, but am glad to say I've never been able to. I'd never be able to do it justice. You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- ------------- My partner and I are ardent "gig goers" and have seen dozens of live bands in the time we've been together. ...

Do you believe in life after death? 08/01/2006

Solid evidence, or a feeling in the soul?

Do you believe in life after death? KNOWELDGE vs. BELIEF --------------- --------------- ----- I'm a history teacher. My job dictates, and my life follows, that we can only discuss things of which we have firm evidence. Now, whether that evidence comes from a "biased" source or not is by-the-by. After all, isn't knowing that someone has a certain interpretation of facts actually more useful than hearing only hearing a vague comment from someone of whom we know very little? However, I am a teacher who strongly believes that my purpose is to encourage students to develop in the world around them. Learning facts for exams is only part of my job - I'm more interested in the life skills that students develop while they are growing up that will allow them to take a mature and active role in the world around them. Thus, my job encourages students to question. The reason I've opened by talking about the need for evidence vs. the need to question is that this is at the root of any debate on life after death. Are we seeking knowledge, or belief? I don't think that we will - or can - ever find conclusive proof either way for life after death. However, we can seek to find evidence from those who believe in it, and those who don't. More importantly, though, is the debate that goes on around such a question - the debate that is taking place in the cafe right now - that helps individuals to form their own opinions. MY BROTHER --------------- ----- I'm a bit of a sentimental soul. My family is, without ...

Smarties Ice Cream 08/01/2006

So that's where crushed Smarties go...

Smarties Ice Cream One of my friends is a pedantic fellow. When opening our tub of Smarties ice cream he commented, "ahh, so that's where crushed Smarties go!" I enquired what he meant. "Well, it's very clever," he responded. "Rather than waste product that doesn't pass quality control, they bung it all in the ice cream and claim it was meant to be like that." Whether he's right or wrong is really beyond the pail. I'm more interested in how this product tastes, and whether it's actually worth buying. THE TUB ------------ Although it's possible to get Smarties ice cream in single-portion, cardboard "pop-up" style bars, I opted for a great big tub of the stuff. With a quantity of 950ml, this circular ice cream tub is about 15cm high and 10cm in diameter at its widest point. The tub is made of blue plastic, with a full-colour label around its girth. The front of the label is flashed with the Nestle ice cream logo, and a photo of three perfectly boules of the ice cream. A large Smarties logo is also sprawls across the front of the label, and is surrounded by multi-coloured Smarties. The reverse of the label describes the product as "Vanilla flavoured ice cream with whole, mini and crushed milk chocolate in a crisp sugar shell. 12% Mini Smarties, 5% Crushed Smarties". Quite where the full Smarties fit into these percentages I'm not entirely sure! The size, shape, and construction of the tub also makes it perfect to use as a pen pot once all the ice cream has been eaten. Desk workers, ...

Samsung SyncMaster 172V 17 in 07/01/2006

Bigger AND smaller?

Samsung SyncMaster 172V 17 in BACKGROUND --------------- ------ For years I ran a 15" CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor hooked up to my PC. It went everywhere with me. Well, okay, not quite EVERYWHERE, but any time I moved from one student abode to another it was hauled out to the car and hoofed into the new place. It was heavy. And it took up a phenomenal amount of space on my desk. It was nearly half a metre deep - barely small enough to fit on some of the desks I used. And then, one day, it made a strange fizzing noise and fused all the electrics in the house. It had to go. I'd been eyeing up a flat screen monitor for some time, but having read stories of TFT (thin film transistor) monitors that had occasional "stuck" pixels. This could mean that you risked buying a monitor that had a pixel stuck on one colour in the middle of your screen - not what you really want when shelling out hundreds of pounds on a piece of kit! My previously monitor had been a Samsung and, other than it's slight attempt at burning down the house, had performed brilliantly for years. Thus I checked out their range of flat panel monitors, and found that Samsung have a very low threshold for stuck pixels when they do quality control checks on their monitors - which basically means they don't sell monitors that are badly affected. In fact, they won't allow monitors with even 0.01% of dead pixels to be sold! I decided to go for one. PRICE --------- send me emails every week containing their special ...

Pro Luxe KT727 07/01/2006

Loud enough for me, quiet enough for you

Pro Luxe KT727 BACKGROUND --------------- ------ As a DJ, I used to look for the very best quality equipment I could find. However, after my kit bag (containing half my CD collection, my headphones and microphone) was stolen after a gig, I needed to restock quickly and cheaply. Maplin regularly have special offers on short-supply stock, and the Pro-Luxe KT727 were on offer at just over £20. Some people may feel that this is not a "cheap" pair of headphones, but rather mid-range. In fact, I'd probably agree. The specification for these is, really, more than most casual listeners will need, but they were cheapest I could get without going for a truly dreadful model of headphones at the time, so I got them. CONSTRUCTION --------------- --------- They are full-size, closed back headphones, which means that the pads completely cover your ears (rather than the speaker going inside), and the closed back stops outside noise interfering with what you're hearing. The sound insulation on these really is excellent, and this would make them great headphones to use at home if you're in the room with other people as not only does the insulation block out the noise from the outside world, but also the noise from the headphones so you won't disturb others. The headphones come in a vacuum-moulded plastic case (I think it's called a blister pack), with a blue printed cardboard backing with the technical specifications. You need to cut the plastic case open to get at the headphones, where the ...

Labtec Spin 45 05/01/2006

Loud little monsters, but a bit growly

Labtec Spin 45 As a teacher, I'm always looking for new ways to engage my class. It's not an easy task! However, help is at hand from strategic use of "popular music" in the classroom. It's amazing how it's possible to settle a class, or ensure they remain on task, by using specific styles of music matched to the type of work they're doing. The key thing with all this, though, is to ensure that the music I'm playing them is of a high sound quality. Teenagers are, above all, highly critical if music sounds bad! I requested a set of mid-range speakers from my school's IT department, and they soon came up with the Labtec Spin 45s. While they undoubtedly bought them from a specialist industry supplier, I have seen the same speakers for sale in a range of high street shops including Dixons and Maplin for around £10. The speaker themselves are surprisingly small, and stand just over 15cm high. They are beige in colour, with a grey speaker fabric over the front of them to stop dust getting onto the cones. Under the "main" speaker is a bass port, which allows air to move around the speaker. This has a distinct advantage over speakers without, as it means the air come rush out of the speaker easily when a lot of bass is played, rather than rattling the speaker casing. Installation of the speakers is very simple. They came with a manual, but I didn't bother looking at it. A stereo jack lead goes from one speaker to the computer's speaker socket, and the second speaker plugs into the ...
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