Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Seven songs in seven days - music from my mate Phil

This week my friend PhilPub has been doing '7 songs in 7 days' on Facebook where he posts a YouTube link, says something about the music, and does so every day for seven days. I thought it was rather brilliantly done and asked if I could pinch it and post it here (edited for blog format and removing tagged friends etc).

He said yes - so here are his seven posts plus the videos, on one page. He doesn't have a blog himself (I always think this is a shame but his choice of course!)

In my email to him (suggesting his posts should have a wider audience) I mentioned the new series of Toast (which stars actor and musician Matt Berry) and Phil replied "Matt Berry was on my short list actually, along with Kate Bush, Jefferson Airplane, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Diamanda Galas."

He can play Genesis's Suppers Ready on guitar and taught me to play a bit of a Radiohead song (can't remember which one) but my hands are too small so I gave up ;)

I've included the band name and song name below the video just in case the video is removed and it's not obvious from the text what song it is.

Day One

ELO - Mr Blue Sky
Phil says: "Right, here we go. I've been nominated to share 7 songs in 7 days. Could be worse, there are no ice buckets involved! Think I'll make it vaguely biographical, so here's a classic from my childhood. My brothers helped shape some of my impeccable music tastes, and this would often be blaring from the "back bedroom". I think it primed me for the later Prog-y tendencies."

Day Two

David Bowie - Quicksand
Phil says: "Some albums have been with me so long that they've probably laid down epigenetic markers in my DNA. David Bowie's Hunky Dory is one such album - released six months before I was born, so there might even have been some pre-birth conditioning going on. One of my all-time favourites."

Day Three

Genesis - Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
Phil says: "I couldn't pass on including some Genesis. (Prog's COOL now, honest!) So I might as well go with the opening of my favourite album of all time, a track which epitomises so much of what I love about the band at their strength, when Mr Collins was a bearded wonder behind the drum kit. Banks's Mellotron (the choir-sounding bits) never sounded so majestic. I'm still taken back to my teenage days, having the album playing in its entirety on the internal jukebox as I'm riding my bike through the North Downs of Kent."

Jo says: Phil has a perfectly ordinary remote control for his hi-fi system. I remember chuckling quite a bit when I spotted that one of the buttons had PROG on it. Explained a lot ;) I was already into early-Genesis before meeting Phil but he's introduced me to loads of other cool stuff and we've seen some amazing Genesis cover bands too, hooray.

Day Four

PJ Harvey - Rid of Me
Phil says: "John Peel died 11 years ago yesterday. I had the pleasure of meeting him precisely once, when he presented a rare Radio 1 gig - Echo and the Bunnymen supported by PJ Harvey, whom he championed from her early days. He signed my ticket and introduced me to his wife. Lovely man!

Peej played a stripped down set accompanied only by John Parish, but also performed this song completely solo (just her and her big Gretsch guitar) and it was one of the best things I've ever heard/seen. She is my favourite artist of all time, and particularly performing live, absolutely mesmerising."

Day Five

Fairport Convention "I Don't Know Where I Stand"
Phil says: "Continuing on the theme of my favourite female vocalists (I'm a bit of a sucker...) I was torn between Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell, so I thought I'd cheat and go for a Fairport Convention cover of a Joni Mitchell track! For the original, check out Joni's 1969 album "Clouds" which takes top slot for my fave late-night listen after a sherbet or three."

Day Six

The Fiery Furnaces - Chris Michaels
7 songs in 7 days, day 6.
Phil says: "Moving into the noughties, no one had really excited me as much as PJ Harvey until the Fiery Furnaces came along. A bit of a Marmite band I think, but when Matt Friedberger directs his ADD in just the right way they're just brilliant. Here's a crazy little mini-rock-opera from possibly my favourite album so far this millennium."

Day Seven

Field Music - The Rest is Noise
Phil says: "And on the seventh day... I said I'd left the '70s behind, but my favourite band of the last few years can't help summoning up the spirit of times past, and putting a fresh, jangly spin on things. This starts off sounding like the theme tune of something I would've been watching just before Match of the Day, drinking hot chocolate in me jimjams, and ends with some brilliant guitar-duelling. I love Field Music!"

Friday, 30 October 2015

How to make a Google Fusion table map (ie a zoomable map of addresses) for Sherlock special cinemas

Note: be careful if you are using this mapping tool when dealing with people's addresses - it is easy to make their data public (uploading to web, sharing with others) without meaning to. In this example the data come from already-public cinema addresses. 

I'm looking forward to seeing the Sherlock Special ('The Abominable Bride') at New Year, it's going to be shown on BBC One on New Year's Day but also in cinemas around the world - in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States and here in the UK. The Sherlockology website has a meta-list of country pages and more cinemas, and countries are being added (this is the current UK listing).

I thought it would be fun to take the alphabetic list of UK cinemas and put them on a map, that looks like this.

You can zoom in and out of the map and click on any of the red dots to see details of where each cinema is. For the next update I'll add some colour to mark cinemas that have Dolby Atmos sound systems (the Sherlock special is apparently mixed for Dolby Atmos). Most of the cinemas don't have Dolby systems and of those that do most have 3D or 7.1.

There are four stages to this
a) gathering the data
b) using Google Fusion tables to create the map
c) Troubleshooting
d) ongoing updates and improvements

A) Gathering the data
- make a table that has, at minimum, a list of postcodes or addresses - that's all you need to start
The raw data was here, each line consists of a town or city, the name of a cinema, sometimes a web address and a phone number. These data need to be put into a table which can be done in an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Drive spreadsheet (you can use your Gmail account to log in, there's no requirement to download anything you can do it all online). If you don't want to use either of these then you can upload correctly formatted data in a plain text file: .csv (comma-separated variables), .tsv (tab-separated variables), or .txt (text). I used Google Drive spreadsheets for this. 

My current spreadsheet looks like this (click to make it bigger)

I put the cinema name in one column and copied the name of the town / city into another then searched for the cinema's postcode and added those in another column. Postcodes alone are sufficient to create a Google Fusion map (it just takes address data and locates on a map ('geolocated' data)) and anything else you add means that when people click on each point they'll have more information. 

It took me an hour and a half (I was having breakfast and watching Frasier at the time so not rushing) to get all the postcodes and have a ready-to-map table, this is really the longest part of the process. Of course you can spend hours tinkering and improving but once you've got to this stage you're ready to go to the next stage, the rest of this section is about 'finessing' the data.

I've added some extra info about the cinemas' websites in two columns. For example there's a generic Odeon websites address but each Odeon cinema also has its own website. There's a column for the Dolby Sound system that the cinema has and I found the information from Dolby's own website. Some cinemas in London are listed under their local name, eg 'Covent Garden' or 'Greenwich' so I created a second column called 'area' and put those locations in there and changed the city to London.

There's also an 'icons' column which I added after making the map above (note that all the dots are red). In the next version the cinemas with Dolby Atmos will have green map-pointers, those with 3D or 7.1 will be blue and the rest in yellow, bit more colourful. It's a work in progress so there'll be more stuff added or refined.

When filling in information that's currently missing use the filter icon (looks like a funnel) to show only the rows where your item of interest is currently missing. Clicking the filter icon adds to all the column headers a small downward arrow - if you click on it it will present you with a single copy of everything in that column (eg in the 'City / Town' column London features several times but will show up just once in the filtered list). You can then select, or deselect to show only what you're interested in and the rest will be temporarily hidden. Just click the filter icon again to turn filtering off.

B) Using Google Fusion tables to create the map [About Fusion tables]
- this is the probably the quickest part of the process
Once your raw data is in a tabulated form you can go to Google Fusion tables. You will need to be signed into Google to do this (or you can send your file to a Google-using friend and ask them to make the map but note that if you want to amend it later you'll have to repeat the process).

You are presented with a screen that looks like this

 1. Click on Google Spreadsheets to use a file on Google Drive, or on Browse... to choose a file on your computer. I used Google so the next screen I saw asked me to choose from my spreadsheets.

2. Just click the spreadsheet you want and press 'Select'. Then wait for the sheet to load.

3. This is the point at which you can pick 'Sheet 1' or another sheet within the spreadsheet, depending on where your data is. In most cases you'll probably only have one sheet but be aware if you're uploading a file from your computer that although it will process the data from Sheet 1 (if you choose that) I think it uploads all of them so be careful if you have sensitive data in the other sheets.

4. This is the bit where it asks you to confirm what column it should use to map addresses onto the Google map. In my case it's Postcode but it could equally be something else.

5.  This screen lets you finish importing the table by adding some information. Because the data came from Sherlockology I put their website in the Attribution page link and wrote a more detailed description that what is currently here. You can add more detail later once the map is made. Press Finish to get the data properly formatted in Fusion tables style.

6. This is what the final fusion table looks like - there are three tabs each presenting the same data in a different way. In 'Rows' you can see each row as in a spreadsheet, in 'Cards' you can see the data from each row presented as it would look on a business card - this is what's shown when someone clicks on a location pointer (the red dots) in the 'Map of Postcode' in tab 3. 

The map isn't ready though - you need to click on that tab to bring up the 'begin geocoding' options which looks like this, below.

7.  Clicking on the third tab will start the process of geocoding automatically, and once done you will see something like the map below. It's best to zoom out first to see if there are any obviously wrong map points (see the one in the US). You can click on that red dot to see its card which will tell you which row caused a problem - you may need to add in some extra detail. For example there's a Greenwich in London UK as well as one in Connecticut US.

8. Zoomed out to show that while the majority of the UK postcodes are correctly positioned at least one is in the wrong place. On a real map you can click any of the red dots to see what data point it's meant to be.

Making the red icons different colours (depending on properties)
If you've added an Icons column with different coloured icons to reflect differences in your data (in my case I've used colours to denote different types of sound systems) you will need to click on 'Change feature styles' (visible in Picture 7) and then select the Column option (basic red dots = fixed, column lets you select which column you put your icon names in, eg large_green or small_blue etc and buckets is for continuous data that you want to segment, eg Low, Medium, High).

9. Using the map feature styles option and the marker icon options to change their colour. Pick whichever column has your icon names in (you can call the columns anything you like by the way).

And here's the most recent example of the map - and I've also just spotted that yellow map icons don't work well when zoomed in though they're fine at a distance. I'm going to change them back to red! 

10. Green icons show cinemas with Dolby Atmos. Blue icons show those with Dolby Surround 7.1 or Dolby 3D, yellow ones show cinemas with no Dolby system in place (according to the information from Dolby's own website, which could be out of date of course - I need to check!). I've clicked on an example and you can see that data point's 'card' with relevant info. In the next update of the map this data point should also have its own local website too, and a tidy up of the original list text (last line) where the phone numbers have got a bit mangled.

Sharing your map
At the top right of every map (or Google document in fact) there's a bright blue Share button which lets you share a link for people to view only, or for them to edit, or gives you the option of inviting people by their email addresses to view (or, in the case of the originating documents, edit the data).

C) Troubleshooting
After my first map I spotted that one of the Dublin addresses was mistakenly in Poland and the NE28 postcode of the North Shields cinema appeared in the US. Limerick doesn't use postcodes but when searching for the name of the cinema on Google it showed up fine on Google Maps. So for those ones I added 'Ireland' as a location clue, or used the name of the cinema instead. Whatever works.

D) Ongoing updates and improvements
I'll write this section when there are some :)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

My first film music concert, in 1993 - Space Spectacular at Wembley Stadium

For ages I have been trying to find information about my first film music concert (in London, some time in the 1990s) by searching (in vain) for Wembley and orrery (the event took place at Wembley Stadium and the promo material in the papers of the time made a bit of fanfare about a specially built 'thing' (not technically an orrery but a nice display piece). The orrery was a suspended curved bar with lights in it which rotated up and down over the stage adding lighting effects.

I've also been wondering, particularly after recently returning from an excellent film music concert from David Arnold, if I might have heard his music performed at the concert. He wrote the score for the films Stargate (1994) and Independence Day (1996) but I couldn't remember them being on the programme (music from Superman and Star Trek was played). 

Yesterday I suddenly remembered that I can search old newspapers at work and plugged my terms in, and eventually discovered that the concert had been in 1993 (so too early for David Arnold's music).

The concert was called Space Spectacular and I went with my friends Simon and Valerie and some other friends of theirs. We were all really into Star Trek: The Next Generation (enthusiasm remains undiminished) and I remember us spending an evening trying to play one of those murder mystery games which was based around the series. Of course, no-one actually got murdered by anyone from the noble and non-murdering crew (I think I might have been Guinan and I remember helping a friend make a fairly amazing Worf costume). The game involved some sort of mysterious object that made people behave oddly. There was a lot of wine, which is another object that can make people behave oddly, and I don't remember the outcome as I think we all fell asleep before it had concluded.

Simon discovered the existence of Space Spectacular and we all thought how amazing it would be to hear the music of Star Trek performed live (yup) and went along. From reading the 1993 Sunday Times review ('Lost in space') by Cosmo Landesman it turns out that the event included music from space-themed films but the larger section was actually Gustav Holst's The Planets. A quote in the article from one of the producers, Harvey Goldsmith, highlighted the idea behind it of getting new audiences in to hear classical music and perhaps, at 23, I was one of those new audiences though I grew up with and enjoyed classical music at home, school or at concerts - but I don't remember film music featuring in them.

Amazing, to me, to think how ridiculously popular film music concerts are now on their own terms. I have also been enjoying Jon Burlingame's 2013 article on their popularity -

Score One for Movie Maestros: Audiences Grow for Film-Music Concerts
Screenings of classic films accompanied by a live orchestra also selling more

- which highlights audience enthusiasm for film music concerts, and particularly orchestra enthusiasm for them
"[Conductor John] Mauceri finds the reason some musicians love playing movie music is that it’s what they grew up with. “They’re actually playing the real notes of the first orchestral music they ever heard as kids,” he says. Older musicians have come around more slowly, he adds, because many “were trained in conservatories to hate this music.”"
How could anyone hate this music! I'm glad that people are recognising and cherishing it as a distinct art form which has inherent musical 'value' even when separated from the screened images for which it was originally created.

Details of the 1993 Space Spectacular
Or at least the details that I can uncover from that one review (Sun 10 October 1993 in the Sunday Times 'Lost in space' by Cosmo Landesman). It took place in Wembley Stadium, was produced by Harvey Goldsmith and Raymond Gubbay (orchestra: The Philharmonia, conductor: Adrian Leaper, lighting designer: Patrick Woodroffe) and billed as 'where Hollywood meets Holst' with The Planets forming the major part of the event, covering the second half. The first half included music from 2001 (Blue Danube Waltz), Star Trek, Superman (Symphonic Suite) and Thunderbirds Are Go!

Film music concerts
If you want to keep an eye on future film music concerts I recommend two websites in particular -
• Movies in Concert: - if you know of a concert you can add it here yourself (I've nothing to do with the website but I did set up the RSS > Twitter @moviesinconcert)
• FilmConcertsLive: - a commercial organisation which puts on these concerts

There are several kinds of film music concert, and related entertainments, and this isn't an exhaustive list
  • an orchestra plays music from several different composers - an example is Mark Kermode's 50th birthday celebration concerts which included some of his favourite scores from a variety of films
  • an orchestra plays music from one composer and the composer is usually present - last year I went to hear concerts with music from Clint Mansell, David Arnold and Alexandre Desplat (who also conducted if memory serves) playing their own music and talking a little bit about the pieces and the films for which they were written
  • playing live-to-projection (aka live-to-picture) in which an orchestra performs the original score live while the film plays on a massive screen - you can hear the dialogue fine though they do usually include subtitles, just in case, and the special effects soundtrack is usually preserved too (ie it's not a 'silent film' plus orchestral music, the orchestra performs live all the bits that would normally be on the 'score' soundtrack. Utterly incredible, totally immersive though sometimes it's difficult to decide which bit to look at - the orchestra or the screen! Examples include Titanic Live and Star Trek Into Darkness at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • orchestra playing clips from a variety of movies live to picture - I've not come across one of these in the wild, but I would definitely enjoy this
  • interviews with film music / screen composers who show clips of their films with the music (sometimes at various stages) and talk about the processes involved - the 'Art of the Score' panels at the Sundance Film Festival in London were particularly good for showcasing the development of a film score at different stages and I enjoyed hearing Harry Gregson Williams show successive stages of picture, special effects and soundtrack building up to the final result for the film Unstoppable and the following year David Arnold taking us through a similar process for his 'African Rundown' section of Casino Royale.

    For interviews with composers where clips are shown from the film (ie the final result) and discussed, before or after showing the clip, I recommend the Royal Albert Hall's 'Conversations with Screen Composers' series with Tommy Pearson (who also produced Mark Kermode's concerts mentioned above).

My review of David Arnold's utterly amazing concert in Lucerne

Enchanting and beautiful Lucerne

 Up Mount Pilatus, bit of a climb, fortunately they have a cogwheel railway train to take you

Lucerne, in German-speaking (technically Swiss German-speaking) Switzerland, is GORGEOUS. I walked around it in the mild-weather twilight on arrival and swooned at the buildings, the bridge, the delightful electrified buses (they have those pantograph things that trains have, but on poles in the road).

Buses have two poles on top which connect with the wires and form an electrical circuit

The next day I gawped at the lake and mountainous terrain on a 20m train journey from Lucerne to Alpnachstad in order to take the 45 degree red cogwheel 'Pilatusbahn' train (it uses a Locher rack and pinion mechanism to grip tightly onto a rather slender-looking track and haul itself up mountain steepnesses the likes of which I'd never seen or really believed before) up Mount Pilatus.

The lovely Pilatusbahn rack railway, using the Locher system which appears to be a horizontal version of the Strub system (I am not an expert!).

We climed the 2,000m in about half an hour and it was absolutely breathtaking. I'd gone along more interested in the train mechanism and experience of going up a mountain at an odd angle and hadn't really clocked that the scenery was going to be as stunning as it was. There was some general touristy chatter and a bit of oohing and aahing as we went up and up and up, and then stunned silence as we noticed just how massive and awe-inspiring the vista opening before us was. There was a particularly magical bit where we went through clouds (I'd just done this in an aircraft the day previously, that's always fun) but the clouds were an eerie magical blue (just the sky above them, the clouds were quite thin) but the effect was of a misty blue wispy smoke curling round a forest of fir trees. It was like something out of Tolkien and I tweeted that I was 100% convinced that he'd shimmied up Mt Pilatus on the cogwheel train (it was built in 1889 so timing would work). It turns out I wasn't too far off as apparently he was inspired by a different bit of Switzerland (including the Lauterbrunnen Valley) which is every bit as ridiculously beautiful.

The blue sky peeps through the cloudy mist as we ascend Mount Pilatus. Oooh!

Anyway I was in Lucerne specifically for 'The Music of David Arnold' which was an evening of music composed by David for film, television and the Olympics 2012 closing ceremony. Despite loving the music for Stargate for years I didn't actually know who he was, or that he'd written that, until I went along to hear a composer talk about their work at the Sundance Film Festival in London a couple of years ago and it turned out to be him. And he does film music concerts! My favourite thing ever! It was an amazing concert and I heartily recommend that if you get a chance to go to one of his concerts that you should take it. There are other wonderful film music concerts too of course (plenty at the Royal Albert Hall) and for worldwide readers the best sites to find out more are Movies in Concert (I've nothing to do with that film site but took the RSS updates and turned it into this Twitter feed - @moviesinconcert) and FilmConcertsLive.

I wrote the following review on Songkick and decided to pinch it and put it here too.

David Arnold's magical and friendly film music concert - twinkly music & amiable chatter
This was a spectacular evening with a full orchestra and choir (the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Ludwig Wicki) performing a range of film and television music composed by David Arnold, who performed along with them in the beautiful KKL Luzern.

Of course he wrote all of the music in the first place but he also played keyboard (sometimes playing a tune, sometimes cueing a sound effect), guitar and sang a few of his songs on the night. He has a great voice and did a fantastic rendition of Bjork's Play Dead and an absolutely astounding one of kd lang's Surrender (which are songs that he wrote for, respectively, The Young Americans and Tomorrow Never Dies) - he's a talented chap!

Hearing his music from the film Stargate performed right in front of me was pretty magical and it closed the first half of the concert (we'd also heard themes from The Stepford Wives, Godzilla and Paul, which is one of the Simon Pegg & Nick Frost films David has scored (the other one is Hot Fuzz)).

The second half showed off his work on the James Bond franchise - he's written scores for five of the films, most recently Quantum of Solace from which the orchestra played 'A Night at the Opera'. Lovely stuff. We also heard music from the BBC's Sherlock, which he co-composed with Michael Price. Given we were in Switzerland I'm not certain how many in the room would have heard of or seen Sherlock before (I suppose it will depend on their television channel package!) but I'm quite convinced everyone enjoyed hearing the music.

And then we had the finale (though David explained in entertaining detail how concerts always pretend it's the finale but it's not really, and everyone laughed) the end titles to Independence Day. Seriously awesome and quite a visceral experience to be in the presence of all that wonderful noise, brass, organ, all the other bits. Amazing.

Not surprisingly we all leapt to our feet to clap and cheer as David and Ludwig (the conductor) left the stage only to be clapped back in for another couple of finale pieces. Things finally ended with David on guitar playing that James Bond theme followed by several minutes of clapping. It was all rather wonderful.

The packed auditorium (behind me) - the capacity of the sold-out venue is over 1,800 seats!

There's a 30s clip of the audience clapping embedded in this tweet (assuming it works on the platform you're using to read this blog)

David Arnold thanking everyone for attending and supporting live music. The 21st Century Symphony Orchestra is behind him (conductor Ludwig Wicki's just left the stage) and the 21st Century Chorus are in the balcony behind the orchestra. They were all fantastic.

As I'm sure you can guess I'm a big fan of David Arnold's work but I think even if you're not particularly familiar with his music (you might not know his name but I'm sure you'd know some of the films he's scored) you'd enjoy one of his concerts as he's also very entertaining. One of my favourite tweeted comments about one of his earlier concerts said, of the first half:
"Really enjoying the music of @DavidGArnold this evening - and we've not even heard any pieces I know yet! #amazing"
Which is spot on, really :)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

ASA / CAP are taking positive action on live blood analysis advertising

by @jobrodie //

CAP = Committee of Advertising Practice
ASA = Advertising Standards Authority - CAP develops the advertising code which the ASA upholds.

It's five and a half years since I first submitted a complaint about live blood analysis to the ASA. It took quite a few months for the adjudication to be completed but all points were upheld and, to the best of my knowledge, the leaflets were removed from circulation. Since then several complaints have been made by many other people and a few live blood practitioners are now on the ASA's non-compliant online advertisers list. Two live blood analysts have also been fined several thousand pounds and each has a criminal conviction after Trading Standards began legal proceedings against them under the Cancer Act 1939.

Let me be very clear. Live blood analysis is nonsense and utterly without merit. I'm sure commenters will come along and tell me their usual tropes about how I haven't tried it, how it worked for them, how it's helped umpteen thousand people etc.

Since nearly all live blood analysis experiences seem to involve some vague recommendations to eat more healthily I'm not that surprised that "it" has helped people. You might as well argue that this blog post has helped you - eat more vegetables, move about more - there you go ;)

My advice is free and so is the advice from an NHS dietitian or GP. Save your money, let's see an end to live blood analysts ripping people off and selling them unnecessary supplements while telling them that their blood is misbehaving. From looking at a lot of their material they haven't the faintest idea what they're talking about. Sadly they follow a programme of study that's wrong and confused from the outset - it doesn't matter how assiduously you read a book if the book is full of misinformation. I feel almost sorry for the people who've spent considerable sums getting trained and buying a microscope and learning the patter.

The Good Thinking Society has been actively monitoring live blood analysis websites, in particular those that have previously agreed to amend pages but where misleading claims may have kept back in. This week the CAP has written to a number of practitioners giving them a month to get their websites in order and, if not, a range of sanctions may be applied. The CAP sending a letter to an entire 'sector' of live blood analysts is relatively uncommon I think, they have previously done similar for homeopathy.

The worst potential sanction is obviously referral to Trading Standards, as they are able to begin criminal proceedings against a company, but it usually doesn't come to that. To be fair anyone can report to Trading Standards a company that's practising unfair trading, or breaking the Cancer Act, it doesn't have to be just the last step in an ASA investigation. I can't imagine that an ignored ASA recommendation or adjudication would look good should matters come to court.

Nearly all LBA advertising that I can think of breaks the regulations relating to medicinal claims, defined as "a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings" and practitioners are not real healthcare practitioners: "Marketers who are not suitably qualified should not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of, or treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought."

If we can't see an end to live blood analysis (no objection to anyone selling microscope photos of blood samples only to the unwarranted health claims) let's at least make it safer, where people aren't given misleading advertising or advice and then charged for it.

This is the letter that CAP / ASA have sent by email: Live blood letter for AOL (I think this means 'Advice Online') - 21 October 2015

Sunday, 11 October 2015

'The music of David Arnold' w 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in Lucerne - 23 Oct

Tonight (Sun 11 Oct) you can hear one of David Arnold's film music scores accompanying the James Bond film Casino Royale. He also co-wrote and produced the film's ace opening song - You Know My Name. Here's the beautiful 'City of Lovers' music from the film


Ludwig Wicki is the conductor of the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and the 21st Century Chorus (together, the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, based in Switzerland) and they perform my absolute favourite thing in the world - film music.

I've been lucky enough to see them play - live to picture! (when the orchestra performs the film's score right there in front of you) - the music from Star Trek Into Darkness while the film unfolded on a massive screen above us. And just beforehand they also played the 20th Century Fox studio logo ident intro thingy which was a delightful and unexpected bonus. I am a bit emotional just thinking about it :) Amazing.

Later this month (on Friday 23 October 2015) they will be joining forces with one of my favourite composers, David Arnold, in their home country Switzerland to perform his music from his film scores, in the massive concerthall in Lucern's KKL venue. He's scored five James Bond films, Stargate, Independence Day, Paul (Nick Frost has a new book out by the way) and he might be even more famous for being half of the composering duo for BBC's Sherlock. Not to mention being the Musical Director for the closing ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics. And he also wrote the feem toon for Little Britain. Plus he's good fun on Twitter too.

The next few concerts peformed by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra
(and in some cases with the 21st Century Chorus too)

I've not been to Lucerne and I have to say I'm rather tempted. Apart from a lovely evening of music (I've been to a couple of David Arnold's other concerts and everyone agreed they're fantastic) it's got a nice mountain and a vertiginous cogwheel railway (steepest in the world apparently). It's also got a transport museum that for some reason has a chocolate-themed dark ride in it. Dark rides are also one of my favourite things.

It would be fantastic if David, Ludwig and the orchestra / chorus did a live-score version of Stargate or Independence Day at the Royal Albert Hall. Fingers crossed for that! 

The Music of David Arnold
Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
half-price tickets | regular-priced tickets, see also ArtProductions website for tickets [concert flyer]
7.30pm, Friday 23 October 2015, KKL Luzern

Lucerne's less than one hour from Zurich by train, more info at Seat61.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Yesterday I screened Forbidden Planet & got a colleague to do a talk on robotics

I have been wanting to put on a film festival, or at least screen a film and have it accompanied by a research talk FOR EVER and yesterday, with the help from my friend and colleague Prof Peter McOwan of QMUL I finally made this happen! Couldn't be happier! About 20 people arrived which was a pleasant surprise (tickets were free so I was expecting people to be less invested in coming along) and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. And they didn't leave a mess. It all went like clockwork :)

Whenever I'm on bus journeys I tend to ponder film festivals I'd create / curate and there's nearly always one in there for Brendan Fraser films, also something that would showcase different types of music and sound design used in composing for film. I'd also rather like to screen an outdoor showing of Jurassic Park.

My most work-related film 'festival' idea centres on films where a colleague can link their research to some aspect of the film. I'm hoping to get my boss Prof Paul Curzon to do a talk about human factors, as it applies to medical device safety, linked to a film like The Dish or Apollo 13 which highlight the importance of human factors / ergonomics and human-computer (or device) interaction in achieving complex and risky tasks. I'm a big fan of the 'film plus science talk' or more generally 'film plus talk' genre.

Peter's talk before Forbidden Planet was lovely, he talked about Robby the Robot and how he looked like a robot while being roughly humanoid-like. We're largely indifferent to devices and robots that support human beings in industry (remember the advert with the robotic devices that repaint a line of cars?) but as they start to become more human-like, or more animal-like, we begin to imbue them with emotions and start to respond to them quite differently, with affection. We think they're cute. What we don't find cute are robots that move from being humanoid to becoming much more visibly, and almost behaviourally, like humans. Almost, but not quite. We find that a bit creepy.

Peter's research with colleagues has looked at finding ways of getting robots to be appealing and engaging without unnerving us. He gave an example of not giving a robot ears to avoid trying to explain to people that they couldn't just talk to it in normal English, or instead getting people to use iPads or other touchscreens to interact, instead of trying to communicate with a spoken language where the robot might miss nuances.

The film was also lovely and even though I've never seen it before it took me back to being a small child, enchanted by the music from The Clangers. It was a charming film, quite dated in places - Peter highlighted the damsel-in-distress trope and pointed out that the poster (see below) bears very little relation to the film!

I pinched the film poster from Wikipedia and added a bit of info.

Learning points
It's much easier than I thought to get a 'single title license' from FilmBank. True their website is fairly baffling but once I worked out that you first have to pretend you're screening a film to get an example license before you can register (why? why!) all went well. I registered, then booked the license. You can get a DVD sent to you, or use your own, license is the same.

I put posters up around campus (license means I can't advertise beyond it) but I think I need to make it clearer that getting a ticket is what I want people to do. My poster below probably implies that anyone on campus can just turn up (which is sort of true, but better to have an idea of numbers).

The building where I had the screening shuts at 6pm and the event started at 6.30pm. While I have card access many of the new students wouldn't, and they might not know about the main entrance which is very open and has a porter to sign them in, so memo to self is to highlight the entry point as well as the general location and the need for tickets.

I was happy with the advertising, though we didn't tell a soul about it until the Monday afternoon before the Wednesday evening event. It would be interesting to see what effect a longer advertising time has - I suspect it wouldn't make a huge difference and a few of those attending had only heard about it on the day or had been dragged along (willingly!) by a colleague.

It was initially aimed as a 'thing' to welcome new students, to highlight that we do lots of cool research where I work and that we also do outreach where we tell people about our research in interesting ways - however other work got in the way and I just told a bunch of people about it.

Also, I genuinely had no idea how proud of myself I'd be for sorting it all out. It's not particularly difficult but there's a bit of a psychological barrier / faff in dealing with licensing, sorting out security / porters, advertising - even though I do plenty of that sort of thing for work this was for fun so felt a bit different - but everything worked well.

Next time I'd quite like to see if one of the English department might like to give a talk about men playing women in the theatre in Elizabethan times alongside Shakespeare in Love, or something like that. And Paul's talk of course.