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Monday
Feb022009

Twitter

Hmnn...interesting. Everybody is currently talking about Twitter the way that we all went on about Facebook a couple of years ago. Even though Twitter's been around for a while, I think it's only now that widespread take-up of it is starting to happen. Maybe it's something we've all got to do in a recession.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is basically a way of telling people what you're up to at a given point in time. It's pretty much like a Facebook status update, but I think what makes it a little bit more interesting than that is the way you can syndicate your twittering quite easily across the web. One status update can be broadcast across a wide range of networks - say what you're doing on Twitter, and it can appear on your Facebook page, website, blog and so on.

I'm not sure what the advantages of this are yet, compared to syndicating other content, but more and more people are twittering, so there is probably something in it - at the very least, some sort of market. As such, I'm going to find out how musicians can use Twitter to flog albums and gig tickets. If I come up with any interesting 'learnings' (to use a horrible management-speak word that should be banned) I shall think about letting you know.

If you are arsed, my rather uninteresting twittering can be heard at http://twitter.com/chrissingleton.

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Wednesday
Jan212009

Special guests at the Troubadour show

Hello all,

Would just like to draw your attention to the special guests at the Troubadour show.

They are the fantastic Silverfall and John Gibbons.

Silverfall are racking up great reviews and some nice airplay too. Their musical influences encompass David Bowie, Coldplay, RufusWainwright, Jewel and others too numerous to mention; you can check out their melodic acoustic sound at http://www.silverfall.info/.

John Gibbons - who will also be doing vocals during my set - has one of the most soulful voices I've ever encountered. He regularly gigs with the likes of The Killers, Razorlight and Cat Stevens and I'm really delighted he's doing a set for me. You can check him -and his multiple influences out at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=53284211.

Look forward to seeing you there.

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Get Chris Singleton's acclaimed 'Twisted City' album entirely free at www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum/

Monday
Jan192009

George Bush, in numbers

Years in office: 8
Elections stolen: 1
Gore's majority over Bush in the 2000 popular vote: 543,895
Civilians killed in 9/11: 2,974
Civilians killed in Iraq: 98,731 (Iraq Body Count website - others estimate it higher)
Total violent deaths in Iraq: 151,000 (World Health Organisation)
Wars launched: 2
Civilians killed in Afghanistan: 8,000 - 26,873 (various)
US soldiers killed in Iraq: 4,229 (iCasualties.org)
Poodles: 1 (that would be Blair)
Global credit crunches sparked by US subprime mortgage crisis: 1
Cost of Bush bank bailout plan: $700bn
Number of people in US currently without healthcare: 45 million (BBC)
National US debt: $11.3 trillion
US carbon emmisions: 6,049,435 thousand metric tonnes (CDIAC)
Current Bush approval rating: -33 (ABC)
Weapons of mass destruction found: 0
Days left in office: 0

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Wednesday
Jan142009

Facebook friendship

Time to revisit what stills seems to be the social network du jour, Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook, I am now 'in touch' with a hell of a lot of people that I haven't seen in a very, very long time. Old school pals, former band mates, general weirdos I don't know particularly well - the list goes on. There's even the odd ex-girlfriend in there, and, hardy har, some normal ones too (if you're reading this in Facebook, you can try to work out which category you belong to).

I'm not sure why, but I tend to accept most friend requests, and befriend most people I see popping up as 'somebody I might know'. It's probably fair to say that I am a textbook example of what is known as Facebook Sluticus - that weird specimen that adds literally anyone, including a friend's friend's milkman, as a Facebook friend. Part of that, no doubt, is due to the fact that I am just nosey about your life, and I want to sell you a CD. (Sorry if I've just devalued our Facebook friendship, dear reader, but there you go).

But despite being reacquainted with all these figures from my past, I don't really have a relationship to speak of with most of them. I occasionally comment on somebody's status, or write a bit of crap on their wall, but that's about it. With one or two exceptions, the only Facebook friends I ever see in real life are the ones I hang out with anyway.

That's not to say for a moment that I don't want to see my 'virtual' set of friends. It's just that, well, it never seems to happen. Plans are made to meet up, but we never get round to it; somebody's pet rabbit dies, they bail out, we don't catch up. I'm not sure why this cancellation nearly always occurs - unless my Facebook friends are trying to tell me something - as everybody involved always seems very keen on meeting up. It just never seems to happen.

I'm not alone in observing this: lots of other Facebook users I've spoken to have described Facebook friendship in exactly the same way. The phenomenon generally consists of getting back in touch with somebody that you lost contact with (and being very pleased to be reacquainted with them), only to then never really meet up, or to have very little contact with them afterwards - online or offline.

The sentence I usually hear straight after this description of Facebook friendship is this: "Oh well, you lose contact with people for a reason, don't you?". And that sentence is usually followed up with an implication that the reason contact was lost was because the friendship wasn't all that anyway.

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that you lose contact with people because they're a pain in the ass. I like many of the Facebook friends I never see just as much as those 'normal' friends that I see all the time. But I do agree with the idea that you lose contact with people for specific reasons. In my case, there are two reasons: geography, and lack of time.

With regard to geography, there are plenty of Facebook friends who I would like to go for a pint with. But they are scattered around the globe. And even when the Facebook friends in question are London-based...well, London's so big that a round trip to see some of them can take three hours.

The other reason I've lost contact with (sometimes dear) friends is because the older you get, the less time you seem to have. Part of that is down to the fact that as you age, you tend to acquire more responsibilities every year (kids, high-maintenance partner, more work - delete as appropriate) and less time for that pint with, say, the Facebook friend. And time seems more precious, because psychologically, the years seem to fly by so much faster. An old work colleague of mine (who incidentally I've yet to encounter on Facebook) maintains that this is due to the "telescopic effect of ageing" - numerically, every year is a smaller fraction of your life to date, and is perceived as being shorter as a result. Anyway, it certainly feels as though the closer you get to clog-popping time, the more everything in your life starts competing more heavily for your minutes...and my guess is that the Facebook friends who you haven't seen in aeons get pushed down the priority list in favour of a curry and Newsnight.

Interestingly, if geography and "time-poverty" are the drivers behind friendship loss, they are the engine of Facebook friendship gain - and explain, to an extent, the success of this social network. Facebook is so good at reunfications (however superficial) precisely because it is accessible globally, and because it saves people time: it would take ages to ring everybody up to see what they're doing. Why bother when it all comes up in a news feed?

Facebook certainly satisfies my curiosity: it is intriguing to see what the class babe looks like ten years on, or to see if the school bully's children look resemble him. Or if that pet rabbit makes it through the night. On paper, though, there's lots of reasons to dislike it - it's clearly a nosey parker's paradise; it trivialises friendship; it was designed for advertisers as much as for individuals...

...But do I like it? I don't know why, but I do. Maybe it's because without it, chances are you probably wouldn't have read this.

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Thursday
Jan082009

Losing a war

It's a slightly odd coincidence that the BBC's dramatisation of The Diary of Anne Frank is being broadcast this week, as the Israeli army intensify their attacks on Gaza.

Both stories have dominated my TV viewing this week, and both deal with the same thing: innocent civilians, from minority groups, hiding from death meted out by a powerful war machine. Both are horrendous to watch unfold.

In the Middle East, it's bewildering that a people who were the victims of such injustices during the Second World War are now treating another minority group so badly. This is not to equate what Israelis are doing in Gaza with the Holocaust, but it's hard, when hearing some of the news coming out of there right now, not to experience similar feelings of horror and disgust.

Two incidents in particular stand out: the deliberate bombing of UN schools full of civilian refugees, and the news that emerged today about Israeli soldiers finding but not helping four starving and injured children who were clinging to their dead mother. When these kind of events occur in a location which is often described as a 'ghetto', they evoke a horrible irony.

This is not for a moment to suggest that Hamas are a force for good in the world, or that Israelis have not been victims of horrible attacks too. But Israel's response to the Hamas rocket attacks has been of such a ferocious, brutal and indiscriminate nature that it is hard not to draw the conclusion that this is not, in any sense, a fair fight.

And that's why Israel has lost this war, even if a military victory is secured and no more Hamas rockets are fired. The horrible pictures being beamed around the world of injured, dying or dead civilians in Gaza tell a powerful story: that Israel is using its overwhelmingly strong military force to hurt innocent, vulnerable people. Israel has little to gain from this story, and certainly not the thing it waged this war to protect: security. The terror Israel is unleashing on civilians is not going to go unnoticed, sadly, by terrorists.

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