troubled diva  
 

My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.

On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sorting out the archives.

Prompted by Beleagured Squirrel's difficulty in finding posts from the beginning of the month, I have finally addressed myself to the long-standing issue of the incomplete archives.

Back in the olden times, Blogger used to auto-generate a handy little page, with links to all of my weekly archives, stretching back to Day One of this blog. In early 2007, for reasons best known to itself, it ceased to do so - meaning that once posts dropped off the bottom of the front page, it was almost impossible to retrieve them.

Having just finished hand-crafting archives for the past three years, in a simple calendar format, I have updated the sidebar accordingly.

Boring, but necessary. Yes, I know you'll never use them. But I hate loose ends.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

When bloggers blog about blogging, Mike is always interested.

Now, here's a curious thing: two "whither blogging?" posts in two consecutive days, from bloggers who I've been following ever since they started up - and they share the same title:

Hydragenic: The Seven-Year Itch.
Diamond Geezer: Seven year itch. (Title only visible through RSS.)

As I have been blogging for seven years and just under ten months, you could argue that my recent extended radio silence has been another manifestation of the same complaint, and that my current September Challenge represents an attempt to address it head on.

Or you could simply shake your head, and tut at all the meta. And who could blame you?

Oh, and for those of you who have spotted parallels between the development of blogging and the development of Twitter, this post from Meg Pickard should cause much vigourous head-nodding. (Click here to view Meg's graphic in full size.)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Yet another new section on the sidebar...

Inspired by Gordon's "live blogroll", I've added a recently spotted section to my sidebar, just below the recent comments section. This is designed to flag up blog posts of interest from my regular reads, by making use of the "share" facility within Google Reader. As adding a new item to the list basically involves a single click on a single button, I do intend to keep the list frequently updated. (But we shall see.)

Unfortunately, I'm still saddled with Google Reader's default layout, which makes the section a bit of a jumbo-sized eyesore. I've found details of a hack which will let me customise the design to my usual colours and fonts, but it's a bit involved (eek, Feedburner!) and so I'm going to leave it for now.

Anyway, happy clicking and all that.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ADMIN: Those pesky comments.

Now that YACCS (my comment providers of over five years' standing, who stopped accepting new subscriptions nearly five years ago) have gone into winding-down "zero support" mode, the cracks are starting to show, and there ain't nothing I can do about them. Except for installing a new comments system, of course. It's something which I may do while we're off on holiday - but frankly, I can think of many more worthwhile leisure activities, so it's going onto the Things To Do On A Rainy Day list.

In the meantime, here are a couple of useful tips for those of you who might be getting exasperated with the existing regime.

1. The spam filters don't mind wordy waffle.

If your comment is falling foul of the YACCS spam filter, then try making it longer, wordier, wafflier and generally more discursive. If in doubt, chuck in a few extra adverbs. (Come on: this is Troubled Diva. We're not exactly a home to linguistic economy.)

2. Feel free to blog-pimp.

As you'll probably have noticed, the "homepage" links have been borked for a few weeks, meaning that anyone trying to access your blog via your comment will be thwarted. This hardly seems fair. So please feel free to paste the URL of your blog at the end of your actual comment. There's no need to wrap it up in HTML; YACCS will sort that all out for you. The only possible danger is that the spam filter might smell a rat, but we'll have to play that one by ear.

A few days ago, I received my 20,000th comment since installing YACCS in the early summer of 2002. A quick check reveals that the historic comment in question was left by local lady Tina of Your mind and we, on one of the cushion threads; indeed, Tina embedded her own link, to a rather dramatic cushion suggestion from the John Lewis site. (Interesting, but perhaps a tad ornate for our butch tastes.)

Congratulations, Tina!

No, you can't have a mug.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Finally, a workable solution to Blogroll Angst.

From now on, my blogroll will be set to display exactly 40 blogs, ordered so that the most recently updated appear at the top of the list (according to blogrolling.com, who provide the service).

Every time I read something particularly good on a blog that's not listed, I'll add them to the list, removing the site that's currently at the bottom. Now that I'm subscribed to blogrolling.com, this will be a quick and simple operation, which won't require messing around with the HTML in my template.

When today's initial list of 40 blogs has been completely replaced, I shall continue by removing the site which has been resident on the list for the longest period of time.

Of course, there's then nothing to stop the deleted blogs being reinstated, the next time that I read something particularly good on them. In fact, I'd expect it to happen a good deal of the time.

In this way, my blogroll will actually work like, goodness me, a roll. It will act as a snapshot of what I'm currently enjoying, which will inevitably be a mixture of old favourites, nifty looking newcomers, occasional pleasures and passing fancies. It will be more interesting to monitor on a regular basis, and more useful in terms of providing a manageable set of up-to-date recommendations for curious readers. And best of all, no-one need feel offended ever again when they drop off the bottom of the list, as this will inevitably happen in turn to every site that's listed.

It has taken me five and half years to come up with a blogrolling policy that I actually feel comfortable with - so phew for that, eh?

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Get thee behind me, SiteMeter.

After five and a half happy years of stats-watching, I have just ditched SiteMeter from this site.

The reason? The SiteMeter Javascript has started serving calls to specificclick.net, which attempts to place site-tracking cookies (a.k.a. spyware) on your machine. Not only is this Bad and Wrong - it's also Dead Slow and A Bit Crap Really. Especially if you're still using Internet Explorer, which has been noticeably slow in loading this site for quite a while now.

(As always, Firefox users would appear to be safe from such threats, with no noticeable degradation in response times. Look, I'm just saying...)

I'm going to see how I get along with Google Analytics instead. In the meantime, if you have SiteMeter installed: my strong advice is to ditch it, now.

Thanks to pete.nu for the heads-up, which confirmed my growing suspicions. Oh, and if you want more proof... here it is, and here again.

(In the interests of balance, here's SiteMeter's "privacy statement".)

Update (1): Suburban Hen has more juicy insider gossip on this, although she has enough tact not to mention the culprit by name. Looks like StatCounter is another viable alternative, then...

Update (2): Eric Odom: Did Sitemeter sell out to Spyware?

Update (3): StatCounter Says NO! This is what we call "Maximising a Competitive Advantage".

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We listen: sidebar update.

Good grief, has it really been two months since I last updated the "We listen" chart on the sidebar?

Ah well. 'Tis updated now, with all the latest Happening Sounds that are currently Rocking my World. Remarkably, there are only three survivors from two months ago; further evidence, if any were needed, of the eternally fickle nature of my listening habits.

Clicky on each piccy for the relevant Amazon page.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I have a new strapline!!!

Eyup, my cryptic crossword comments thread has yielded a right gem of a clue from The Overnight Editor:

Without a doubt, drivel is Mike's forte (8,4)

I'm nicking that for my sidebar, so I am.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Troubled Diva Capsule Collection.

Thanks to the wonders of New Blogger Labels, and following exhaustive research, I have plonked twenty-five of my favourite stand-alone posts of all time on their own dedicated page.

(I say "stand-alone", because the various serialisations are in the process of being assembled on their own separate label-enabled pages, and linked from a suitably elevated position on the sidebar.)

Take a look and see what you think. Are your favourites included? And if not, which posts would you have marked for inclusion? I might be tempted to do a supplementary page, incorporating some Readers' Choices.

Mike loves ferretting about in his archives.

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Showing my workings: an explanation for the feed readers.

Blessed are the RSS watchers; for they shall see the "inappropriate humour" posts, slapped up on a whim and hastily withdrawn. Context is key, and I sometimes forget that not all who pass though these doors are necessarily equipped with that context.

Cursed are the RSS watchers; for they shall be burdened with scores of old posts, re-published in order that New Blogger "labels" might be added. My apologies for the intrusion.

I'm loving these new-fangled "labels", though - as they are helping me to bestow retrospective order upon the more unkempt areas of my archives and sidebar. For while most people - normal, sensible people with a sense of perspective and a functional set of priorities - are happy to let their archives grass over, I like to tend to mine, keeping them neat and clipped and accessible, with their more prominent features clearly marked.

It's a time-consuming process to be sure - but there's something about grinding monotony in the service of neatness and tidiness which appeals to something deep and primal within me. In Neolithic times, while others were out a-hunting and a-gatherering, I would have been the one stuck back in the cave, ranking mammoth tusks by size, or age, or curvature, or pointiness. Or maybe organising a "Mammoth Tusk of the Week" poll amongst my fellow Neanderthals.

Anyway. Before the SHEER UNADULTERATED JOY of Which Decade Is Tops For Pops kicks off again on Monday, I'm having a behind-the-scenes Maintenance Week.

And interviewing pop stars. And getting some order back into the Nottingham house, after the kitchen refit. And sourcing a 20-second "walk" interlude for the dressage music (thank God for BPM analysing freeware, and iTunes smart playlists). And keeping a watchful eye on Post of the Week. And savouring home-grown leeks, donated by lovely fellow bloggers. And purchasing the word "bottom", twice. (More explanation here.) And enjoying exceptional posts written by good friends. Busy busy busy!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Spot the million, and WIN A MUG!

It is 11:10 on Sunday morning, and my stats counter is currently showing 999,804 page views. This means that Troubled Diva will be passing the one million mark later today.

To mark this intensely ego-gratifying occasion, I'm going to run a quick little competition.

The first person to e-mail me with a screenshot of this page, showing a Total Page View count of 1,000,000, will win - what else? - a Troubled Diva mug, in any one of the three popular designs: Classic, Novelty or Personality.

On your marks... get set... CLICK.



Update: We have a winner. Congratulations to Lindsay, who grabbed a screenshot of the millionth page view at 13:42.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Things that I am enjoying more than blogging.

1. Writing lengthy e-mails defending the manifold virtues of Lionel Richie's All Night Long (All Night), (my second favourite single of all time), with particular reference to West Berlin in late 1983. I am enjoying this more than blogging, becuase I can be as detailed and rambling as I damn well please, without worrying whether my words are "good enough", or of sufficiently general interest, for Troubled Diva.

Here's the bulk of it, slightly re-jigged. Engage at your peril.
...when it came out, I was living outside the UK for the first time, and was immediately struck by the sheer internationalism of West Berlin, with its three occupying armies (UK, US, France), its foreign students (at the Freie Universität where I was “studying”, yeah right), and its sense that just about everyone was a temporarily nesting visitor from somewhere else.

My radio dial constantly flicked between the German language Berlin stations, AFN, BFBS and the BBC World Service, all broadcasting on FM. I was following the UK Top 40 (Paul Burnett on the World Service, who was to sniffily say when excluding Relax: “We really don’t think it’s suitable” – exact quote!), the US Top 40 (Casey Kasem in full stats-geek flow on Sunday afternoons), the German Top 75 (Laidback, Trans-X, Boytronic, Nena, a bunch of cod-sci-fi jokers called Deutsch-Österreiche Feingefühl (!) at #1, the final sputterings of Neue Deutsche Welle), the Billboard soul chart (which had its own show on AFN), the Billboard dance chart (detailed rundowns on an incredible Berlin dance show on Saturday nights called Studio 89 – there’s a tribute website to this day – electro megamixes direct from NYC radio, Double Dee & Steinski’s Payoff Mix, the works)... and then there was Pop Over Europe on BFBS, which tracked the Top 10s in half a dozen other European countries, most of whom seemed to be buying Gazebo’s I Like Chopin in vast quantities...

...and, for a couple of months that Autumn, All Night Long (All Night) was everywhere, riding high on all of the above charts and radio shows, blaring out of every shop and café down the Ku-Damm, shunned only by the regulation-black hipster bars in Kreuzberg. You got the clear sense that this was a truly international hit – that moment of total shared access, as someone once put it – and as a piece of musical internationalism, it worked superbly well.

I don’t hear a “watered down” version of anybody – I hear a blended fusion of varying styles, all mushed together into a beige (pace Julie Burchill) soul-pop stew, served with the kind of lavish mega-production that had worked so well on Thriller. I love the teasing dynamic, building up and exploding into joy with those glorious, exultant brass runs and stabs towards the end. It feels like a travelogue. It feels like the whole planet is either partaking in its construction, or getting on down to it, from America to Africa to Asia, one nation under a groove, a glimpse of Utopia.

But, yeah, naff old Lionel Richie with his jacket sleeves rolled up, darling of the suburban barbecue set... If I’d been elsewhere, then maybe I’d have responded differently, but you can’t divorce pop from its subjective associations, and mine were wonderful ones.
2. Getting back in the gig-reviewing saddle. I am enjoying this more than blogging because the sheer urgency of the task precludes any dithering, and because the exercise forces me to be economic with language, and because I am forced to abandon the first person... because, hey, it's not all about ME for once.

Since it hasn't gone up on their website, and because I like to park these things for posterity, here's the review which ended up in yesterday's Nottingham Evening Post. (And yes, now I know that "Love Hurts" didn't originate with Gram Parsons, but I didn't know it then.)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Rock City, Tuesday January 23.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, aka Will Oldham, is an infrequent visitor to these shores. Indeed, this is only his third UK tour in eleven years. Although some later dates will be performed solo, we were treated to a full backing band, who fleshed out Oldham’s sparse and mournful alt-country stylings with a surprisingly muscular, rock-based sound.

Oldham cut an arrestingly singular figure, with a demeanour that combined the whiskered wooliness of Bob Harris, the brooding solemnity of Clement Freud, and the gangling eccentricity of a Victorian gentleman explorer – all topped by an immense, protruding forehead that looked ready to explode from the rest of him.

Opening with a sprightly cover of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, Oldham turned in an epic two-hour set, peaking at around the 40 minute mark with a spellbinding rendition of John Martyn’s John The Baptist. At this point, it seemed he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, the momentum proved impossible to sustain – particularly when support singer Dawn McCarthy joined him to perform some awkward, ragged duets from his most recent album.

For the encore, the rapidly tiring audience were rewarded with a stunningly intense New Partner and a good-natured lurch though Gram Parsons’ Love Hurts.
3. Interviewing THE STARS!!! for the self-same organ; an experience which might well have peaked yesterday with the double whammy of Shayne Ward and Joan Baez. God, but the temptation to swap their questions was almost irresistable.

"So, Shayne Ward: is there room in 2007 for a civil rights movement?"

"So, Joan Baez: can we expect to hear more of a Justin Timberlake influence in your new material?"

As a comparative study between Ancien Régime and Tin Pan Alley Nouveau, you couldn't have hoped for two more starkly contrasting examples. While Shayne Ward - affable if a tad over-defensive, and clearly media-trained to within an inch of his life - parrotted the sort of stock answers which I could have written myself, Joan Baez - bright, articulate, thoughtful, committed, occasionally funny and entirely her own woman - gave a dream of an interview, which left me in a state of dazed euphoria for most of the rest of the evening. I'd say "living goddess" - but you know how we queens can over-pedestalise our divas.

I am enjoying this more than blogging because it's a new challenge, forcing me to acquire new skills and learn on the job - and because, at heart, I'm such an easily impressed little star-f**ker. Hey, know thyself.

(And speaking of self-knowledge: I've never heard myself "in conversation" before, and it's proving painful to listen. Christ, do I always sound like Marvin the Paranoid Android?)

4. Keeping a close paternal eye on Post of the Week. I am enjoying this more than blogging because, once again, it's not all about me me me. And because I find that I have enjoyed the experience of micro-managing a new creative project. And because it's fun to collaborate; something which I don't often get the chance to do, in either my professional or in my blogging lives. And because I'm delighted that the sometimes complex design concepts behind POTW have been represented in such a deceptively simple way. And because I genuinely think this has the potential to contribute something useful and worthwhile.

5. Keeping a close paternal eye on my referral stats, as Troubled Diva rapidly approaches its one millionth page view, probably at some time over the weekend. I am enjoying this more than blogging because, somehow, stats speak to me in a way that words never can (and let's face it: compared with the arid deserts that many of my comments boxes have become, stats are sometimes all I have). One million! What a beautiful number that is!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yes, it's everybody's favourite subject: Blogging Awards!

The steady trickle of hits that I have been receiving from a password-protected "panelist" page on the 2007 Bloggies site can only mean two things. Firstly, that the judges are working through the "long-lists" (typically between 20 and 30 sites in each category, if memory serves correctly), and voting on which sites should make it through to the shortlists. Secondly, that Troubled Diva has made it onto one of the long-lists, most probably in the World's Best Poof category.

At the risk of sounding complacent and blasé, this doesn't come as a huge surprise, but for one very simple reason: unlike the majority of "gay" weblogs, the readers of Troubled Diva are mostly straight. Thus, when it comes to making nominations in the World's Best Poof category, they are more likely to think of TD. It's a cute enough little loophole, but not one to which any great measure of ego-stroking self-importance should be attached.

In any case, as anyone inside our cosy little loop would tell you, this year's Bloggies have been overshadowed by two vastly more important blogging award shebangs: the First Annual Insignificant Awards (who announced their winner yesterday), and the Second Annual Swampy Awards, which came out on Monday.

Now, since last year's "Swampy" (for Best British Blog; pictured left) constitutes the only accolade I have won since picking up the school Scripture prize in 1974 (always the chuffing bridesmaid, story of me life), you can imagine my horror at discovering that this year, I have been deposed by some upstart newcomer called Little Red Boat.

Well now. If that Anna Pickard thinks I'm going to graciously hand over my tiara without an unseemly scuffle, she's got another think coming. Frankly, she's going to have to prise it out of my jealous little fingers with a sharp instrument.

I'M STILL BIG!

IT'S JUST BLOGGING THAT GOT BIGGER!

I AM READY FOR MY HYPERLINK, MISTER KOTTKE!


Sorry. Just trying to maintain some Brand Consistency here.

(But sincere thanks to everyone who nominated. I'm no Ungrateful Diva.)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Now that we've all got nice big screens to play with...

Having grown tired of squinting at the screen, I am experimenting with larger font sizes. Better, worse, or couldn't care less? Your opinion is important to us.

Also, do any of my regular readers still view this site on 800x600 monitors? My Site Meter tells me that 2% of you still do, but they may just be passing Googletrade. I'd quite like to expand the width of the layout beyond 800 pixels, but shall refrain if this is likely to cause inconvenience.

(Yes, I know all about relative-width tables - but I still prefer fixed-width, thank you all the same.)

Update: Oh, what the hell. Let's breach the unbreachable, and expand to a daring 870 pixels. Goodbye, teeny-tiny typefaces!

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Friday, December 08, 2006

I've been updating the sidebar this week.

Yes, I know that my sidebar is basically one great big pimpfest for the archives, and I know that you stopped looking at it months - if not years - ago, but I still adhere to the principle of keeping as much material as possible just one click away, rather than burying it away on never-visited sub-pages. The theory being that as newer readers scroll down the posts, something or other in the sidebar will catch their eyes, luring them into a bout of speculative clicking. (Judging by my stats, this would seem to happen reasonably often.)

Anyhow, I have added a new section which might be of interest, as it will lead you to EXCLUSIVE NEW SELF-PENNED CONTENT! (of an uncharacteristically "Web 2.0" nature for Little Old Luddite me, but it's the old-school "Spirit of 2002" aspect which hooked me in).

Let's see how long it takes for you to spot it. And once you have spotted it, do feel free to join in...

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

ADMIN: An embarrassing oversight regarding e-mail.

I received an e-mail from my hosting company the other day, telling me that I had exceeded my 200mb space limit. To my surprise, 107mb of those 200mb were taken up by my mailbox.

Butbutbut, I didn't know I had a mailbox for this domain! I never asked for one! Nobody ever told me I had one!

After much ferreting around, I finally managed to open my mailbox via webmail. Jeepers! There were over 7,700 unread e-mails waiting for me, all addressed to something-or-other at troubled-diva.com!

What's more, on the very first page of results, there was an incredibly kind and thoughtful e-mail from a reader of this site from over two years ago, and - haha! - an invitation to Belle De Jour's book launch party, would you believe. Who else had I snubbed? What else had I missed? How many BOOK DEALS and MAGAZINE COLUMNS had I unwittingly thumbed my nose at? What GILDED EXISTENCE had my ignorance cost me?

Obviously, I couldn't delete any of these e-mails until I had read them. Every last one. Via a clunking webmail interface. With a strict limit of 25 e-mails per screen. Hey, that's only 308 screens to wade through. Piece of piss.

Two hours and endless spams later - and not having unearthed one other e-mail of any interest whatsoever - I gave up and hit Delete All.

So, if you have ever e-mailed me at troubled-diva.com and wondered why you never received a reply - my sincere apologies.

I have now tweaked my settings such that all future e-mails to the domain will be automatically bounced - and I have moved my real e-mail address up to the top of the sidebar.

(That's the one with the absolutely top-notch, super-duper, ultra-efficient webmail service - honestly, it's brilliant, I haven't touched Outlook in yonks - and the kick-ass spam filter to match. BT/Yahoo, I kiss you.)

Oh dear. They don't teach you this sort of thing at Blog School, do they?

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Let's play Guess How Many Comments (Excluding Spam) Mike Has Received Today!

It is now 8.45 in the evening.

So go on, hazard a guess.

Bearing in mind that I have made no fewer than SEVEN new posts to this blog today.

Any ideas?

Shall I tell you, then?

Shall I tell you how many BASTARD comments I've received since midnight last night, brackets excluding spam brackets?

ONE. That's how many. Bastard ONE bastard comment.

(Thank you, Alan. You're a gent.)

Am I doing something WRONG?

Have you all had a meeting behind my back? Are you all trying to teach me a lesson? Have I been sent to... wait for it... BLOGventry?

Blogland can be a bleak and lonely place at times like this.

And I can pout for England, I'll have you know.

You don't DESERVE me.

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