Thursday, 29 March 2012

The man who invented the Daleks

The man who invented the Daleks - the strange worlds of Terry Nation
by Alwyn W. Turner Isbn 978 1 845136093

Terry Nation was one of the most prolific and successful writers for Tetelevision that Britain ever produced.

He started as a comedy writer - working for Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock and many others before getting a big break when he invented the Daleks for Dr Who. Dalek mania swept the UK and he probably ensure the success of  Dr Who  when otherwise it may have been a short run show.

As well as Doctor Who he wrote Blakes 7, Survivors, and for the Avengers, and many others.

Sometimes labeled a science fiction writer - he was more a writer of adventures.  Although his main work was for TV, he also did a few films.

This is a great book that covered both his work and life and the times he lived in.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The necessary aptitude - Pam, Ayers

Pam Ayres  shot to fame after appearing on the TV talent progame opportunity knocks in the early 1970's.  Since then she has branched out into other things like radio 4 comedy shows just a minute and her own shows; Ayers on the Air and Potting On.

This book is a memoir of her time before she was famous. It is fascinating insight into life in the 1950's and 1960's.  Poverty and hardship are mixed with tales of the excitement of simple things and the joys of a simpler age.

Whereas some memoirs are a bit onesided and self serving, this is very honest about some of the cruel things Pam did as a child, usually to other children and her incompetence at her many jobs before she found her calling as  a poet.

It was interesting to find out that the Album the Free wheelin Bob Dylan, was hugely influential in sparking her love of words which led to her career as an entertainer.

I may be biased as I like her poems and stories - but in would recomend this book as a great read.

Monday, 19 March 2012

influencing elections - how not to do it

It is reported that many Doctors are to stand for Parliament in the hope of unseating coalition and particularly Liberal Democrat MPs.
I am all in favour of people getting more involved in democracy - but don't think this is really the best way.    Firstly, this is the single issue campaign - so where does that leave the candidates on all the other issues ? If you vote for one of these candidates - even if you 100% agree with them on the NHS bill chances are you disagree with them on other issues. Conversely, even if you 100% disagree with an MP on the NHS bill, chances are you will agree with them on many more issues.   Can life be reduced to one issue ? 
Even on a single issue - politics is rarely (never ?) black and white.   Inevitably, politics involves compromise - even dictators have to compromise when they run up against reality.   
Politically, it is also naive. The people most likely to vote for a GP against the NHS bill is most likely not voting for a sitting coalition MP anyway.  So the effect is to "split the vote" of the opposition candidates.  Say a Conservative MP has a majority of 2,000 over their Labour challenger, every Labour voter who switches to a GP against the NHS bill makes Labour less likely to win  and increases the likely Conservative majority - the opposite effect of what is intended.   That is why Conservatives tend not to mind if socialists and greens stand, because they feel that in their absence, many of their supporters would instead vote Labour.  Similarly, Labour tend to be relaxed about UKIP and  independent candidates, as although some people may switch form Labour, they assume that overall it means fewer people voting Conservative.

Thirdly, the NHS bill is long and complicated and is open to many different interpretations - from what I have read, there are something that I would support and others I wouldn't and much that frankly I don't understand.  To me the worse thing about the bill is it seems very similar to what Labour did in Government and not that radical at all.  

So as always the question is what would the GPs do instead ? Leave the NHS exactly as it is ?  How will increased expenditure be funded - what taxes will be raised or other expenditure cut to pay for it ?  Choice choice choices and all politics. Some might even say party politics.  If it is, I believe that is no bad thing.  So instead of standing themselves, I would urge the GPs and others to get involved in party politics. Join the debate, deliver leaflets, go and camapign with party candidates - take part in the process of forming policies.  Make your views know but  strengthen the political process - don't step outside it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

50p Tax rate

There is a debate underway about the 50p tax rate. People in the UK on high incomes are meant to pay income tax at 50p for even £1 of income above £150,000.    In theory that is, as in practice, very few people do pay income tax at 50%.    Partly that is due to tax avoidance and tax evasion - but partly it is because there are a myriad of tax allowances that people on high incomes can exploit to reduce their tax bill.   Perhaps the most enormous of these is pension tax relief - so anyone on the 'higher rate' of income tax - 40%, can effectively claim back that money if they pay their income into a pension.  

This si very expensive for the tax collector.  It is also a very bizarre system - the people who have the most money to save for pension get the biggets tax breaks ! The people with the smallest amount of money to save towards a pension get the smallest tax breaks.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Davy Jones of the Monkees RIP

Is it a confession to own up to liking the Monkees ?  One might get the impression that they are a guilty pleasure - to be liked 'ironically'

I was sad to hear of the death of Davy Jones.  I have seen the Monkees twice - once at the Royal Albert Hall in the late 1980's and once in 1997 in Bournemouth - with all four Monkees on tour for the first time since 1968.
Both were great shows.

It saddens me that even in death, the media is still misreporting the Monkees.  I suppose as a fan, I know a lot about them, but even the much derided wikipedia has been more factual than some of the write up of their history.

The Monkees were essentially 4 actors who became a band. That is rather strange - as if Hugh Laurie in House  became a real Doctor.  Or David Jason became a real police detective. 

All four members had some musical background - Mike Nesmith as a folk singer, Mickey Dolenz  as a guitarist and singer in a  band, Peter Tork was a skilled multi-instrumentalist and friends with people like Stephen Stills, Davy Jones could draw on the great british musical hall/west end show tradition.

Not only did they all play well enough to perform their own concerts, all four Monkees became song writers - think about that - how many proper bands have even one song writer - let alone four.

That the music of the Monkees is still played and recognised 45 years on - is testament to how good it was.  Long after more hipper respected acts have faded or been forgotten, the Monkees were still entertaining people.

Admittedly, some of their most popular songs were written by others with the Monkees just adding vocals - but the same is true for really revered bands like the Beach Boys and The Mamas and Papas  - and goodness knows how many boy and girl bands since the 60's.    What I would say is that some of the Monkees most interesting and rewarding music was written and performed by themselves.  The albums Head and Justus in particular standout as strong albums any band would be proud of.