Monday, January 30, 2006
Why I'm not doing one of those "Seven Things" memes
Ireland, land of blogs
Friday, January 27, 2006
Is it just me?
...or is Blogger seriously ****ed today? I mean, last night there was the scheduled outage (which caught me in mid-post: well, how the hell am I supposed to remember how many hours behind us PST or PMS or BSE or whatever it was, was?). And then, like the repeat of a TV series, we had the same outage (if you believe the message) twelve hours later. And it had certainly been back in the meantime, as several pages of my busy posting demonstrate. And now, not only is my access to EKN v..e..r..y.....s...l..o..w but access to other Blogger-mediated blogs varies from poor to non-existent. And it isn't my Telewest broadband for once, as I can get at other sites. Pah!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Hot off the virtual press
Yee. With a big side order of Hah.
Don't try to out-weird me, Three-Eyes, I get stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal.
OK, so here's the thing. I was browsing Naked Blog, which has made it into the final list for a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Bloggies. As on previous occasions, I found I enjoyed the blog, but not excessively (hence it's in my Division 2 blogroll). Still, some interesting posts. One on the whole Ruth Kelly/paedophiles/teachers business, regarding which my regular readers will be aware I take a rather different view from Peter's. No harm in that though, and his post was a good one. It was the comments on that post that brought me back in here for another post tonight, especially a couple of ooh-matron double-entendre ones (yawn) about this site.
Which reminded me of some other wonderfully they-have-a-site-devoted-to-what???? websites:
Pylon of the month sadly hasn't updated for a few years now. But check out its links page, where you can find this, this, this and this. Even I think the Dutch one has some super pictures on it, and pylons aren't really my thing.
I'm pretty certain that when I first discovered it, POTM had a link to this equally wacky site (though I found it less wacky in actuality than when I knew it only by its title).
I have a picture of my own somewhere of a bus shelter in Unst (Shetland) which had been furnished with a sofa, standard lamp and potted plants by persons unknown.
These are equally unlikely, I feel...
...or yet another great post from someone else. Bugger.
Great stuff from other blogs part 3
More from Meg:
A really funny post with a great picture, and is it just me or would you think it had been written by Anna if you didn't know it was actually by her big sis?
Observation well up to Meg's usual standard.
This one is what got me started on linking to Meg's blog tonight in the first place. If you think of any good ones, send them in to Glen Whitman (but post them here too!). Five personal favourites: Project Management, Binary Systems, Software Engineering (Tim Lee's one), Blogging, and Being a House-Husband.
Great stuff from other blogs part 2
A few years ago there was a spate of charity quizzes of this kind going around Edinburgh, with a lot more questions than the one you've just seen. My personal favourite was
111 S in B
No prizes offered, but I wonder who will be first in with the answer?
Great stuff from other blogs Part 1
I don't think I've visited meish.org, the blog of Anna Pickard's big sister Meg, since the start of 2006. Mind you, Meg had been a bit inconsistent about posting, so I hadn't thought I'd have missed much. Well, quite apart from her Gits Music Awards, she has taken to posting regular round-ups of interesting stuff from all over the place. For example, this ad for a blanket with sleeves. And a couple of others which deserve posts to themselves. And will get them in a minute.
Boing Boing (shortlisted in so many Bloggies categories it makes my head ache) also has a heap of good stuff.
Like this wonderful Valentine present for the one you love.
This heartening tale from the USA, showing that whatever one may say about lawyers, law students can't be all bad.
And this recipe which I fully expect will have been tried out by Clare, Lisa and Joe almost as soon as I hit "Publish Post".
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Immortal Memory
Tonight (January 25th) is Burns Night, when Scots (including adopted ones like me) celebrate the birthday of our National Poet Robert Burns. Not just in Scotland, either: partly because of the Highland Clearances, Scotland's principal export over the years has been Scotsmen and Scotswomen, so there are bands of expatriate Scots everywhere from Boston to Bombay. A lot of Scotch is drunk (and so are a lot of Scots), and haggis is consumed along with neeps and tatties (that's mashed swede and mashed potato for the non-Scots out there). Burns's poetry (some of it) is read, invariably including "To A Haggis". The haggis is brought in in procession with a piper. Someone or other makes a speech before proposing the toast to The Immortal Memory.
Funny thing, haggis. It seems pretty ordinary to the Scots, but the English are often unsure what to make of it. Literally, sometimes: I once overheard someone in a London pub discussing with her friends what on earth she should do with this haggis she'd just won in a raffle. Well, you can steam it, boil it, or in these high-tech days you can remove it from its skin and microwave it. Actually, in Scotland most haggis isn't eaten as a main meal with neeps and tatties but as part of a Full Scottish Breakfast (especially in hotels), or in hot rolls; in both these guises filling a similar role to black pudding (which Scots are also very fond of). Inevitably, it can also be obtained battered and deep-fried in any Scottish chip shop, though I may disappoint my English readers by pointing out that the haggis supper (= haggis and chips) is in fact yummy and has a long tradition behind it, differing in both respects from the gimmicky deep-fried Mars bar. You can buy haggis in tins, which is handy if the sheep's-stomachiness of it bothers you, though nowadays the skin is as likely to be plastic of some kind. And of course if it's a vegetarian haggis it won't be wrapped in a dead sheep. (What, you didn't know about veggie haggises? I think the first ones were made by MacSweens, just along the road from us in Morningside. Mushrooms and lentils seem to be the main ingredients. Very palatable.)
To get back to Burns. I have always thought it rather cool to live in a country which has a national poet, and which celebrates his birthday. OK, England has Shakespeare, but hands up who knows his birthday without Googling it? And Burns's poems are pretty much as widely known as Shakespeare's plays, though of course the annual dose of "Auld Lang Syne" helps there.
To finish, here's one of my favourites (and before Little.Red.Anna dives for cover, it isn't the mousie one):
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee!
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.
I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy;
Naething could resist my Nancy;
But to see her was to love her,
Love but her, and love for ever.
Had we never loved sae kindly,
Had we never loved sae blindly,
Never met—or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!
Monday, January 23, 2006
If British Airways sponsored opera do you think its cultural baggage could be lost forever?
This post started life as a comment in reply to Anna Pickard's comment on my post about her post about opera. Then it grew, and I felt like giving it more air. With me so far?
So: Dear Anna,
Whoa! I didn't think you disliked the music itself, though I thought maybe you disliked the artificiality of having people singing what they could perfectly well be speaking. That's a far from uncommon criticism, and not by any means only from idiots, philistines or whatever.
I've never bought into the "opera as a closed club" idea. I never had any trouble getting tickets at affordable prices when I lived in London, either to English National Opera (where I mostly went) or to Covent Garden (where I went seven or eight times). The most I paid for a ticket was £22.50 in about 1989 (Covent Garden, Der Rosenkavalier). I'm can't be arsed converting that to 2006 prices but I doubt it's as much as it's costing me to see the Rolling Stones (£70) this year. And mostly I was paying much less than half that.
Yes, opera is expensive to put on, though at the top end so is theatre. The National Theatre has always been criticised for soaking up subsidy that should be going to edgier small companies. While I like adventurous little drama groups, I like large-scale drama as well, like the National's Wars of the Roses. It shouldn't have to be either/or; nor should it have to be either/or for opera and theatre. If successive governments hadn't decided to spend their money invading places and buying fucking great missile systems we don't need, they could afford to subsidise a few dozen more opera companies and a few thousand more theatres. In any case, opera doesn't have to be hugely expensive any more than theatre does. I've seen amateur and semi-pro productions that were thoroughly well-done and enjoyable and whose budget would just about pay for the bar staff at Covent Garden. Or even sticking to professional opera, I've seen Carmen and Pelleas et Melisande in Peter Brook productions, with cut-down orchestration and using a company that had worked together for months rather than having the lead singers parachuting in at the last moment. Practically no scenery in either case, and I would guess the budget wasn't any greater than most of Peter Brook's straight play productions. Carmen especially was one of the best things I've ever seen on a stage.
And opera as a "select club for those who can afford to understand it"? Bollocks. Do you imagine that everyone who goes to see Peter Grimes sits around afterwards wittering about Britten's symbolic use of key-relationships and the brilliant polytonality of the final chorus? Mostly they respond to the story, and in the same way that the sugar in rehydration packs enables your gut to absorb the water and salt, the music enables them to take in the story (which in the case of Peter Grimes involves a lot of water and salt). It's no more necessary to belong to an elite in-group to 'get' opera (even Wagner) than it is in order to appreciate Shakespeare. An ex-girlfriend of mine is a Shakespeare anorak, and I dare say she gets a different sort of pleasure from a production of As You Like It from mine. In the same way, I'm something of a Wagner anorak. My brother OTOH has always been completely opera-resistant, but when Channel 4 broadcast the Bayreuth Rheingold about twenty years ago he caught the beginning by accident and was totally hooked. He wouldn't know a Leitmotif if it chewed off his butt, but he responded to the story, and the story had more impact because of the music. You don't have to speak German or Italian: there are surtitles to deal with that, and sometimes operas are sung in English anyway.
Who the hell made you feel opera wasn't for people like you? The idiots who put on dinner jackets and evening dresses to, duh, sit in the dark? The ones who'd sooner pay £150 for a 'VIP' ticket than buy £50 tickets and see three operas? The ones who probably haven't a clue what opera they're about to see anyway? The ones who don't think "The Marriage of Figaro" is about them?
Who the hell are "people like you" anyway? Journalists? Women? Bloggers? Former residents of New Mills, Derbyshire?
Sorry you're in a foul mood. I'm not in a foul mood, I just get annoyed by people who think there's some kind of entrance exam before they can begin to enjoy opera. When I started going to operas I knew absolutely. Sod. All. About opera. Magic Flute was my first, at age sixteen. I knew it was by Mozart. I knew one tune from it, which I'd played very slowly on my violin when I was nine. I didn't know it was mostly a very silly comedy (hell,it's very nearly a panto). I didn't know it had spoken dialogue. I didn't know you could get performances of operas in English. I didn't know it was full of masonic symbolism. I didn't know none of that mattered one bit. And I didn't know how much I was going to enjoy it, from first note to last note.
I really hope you enjoy Figaro.
This one's for Joe
Blaze, You is my Woman now
I’ve been reading Anna’s comments on opera over on little.red.boat. Leaving aside her strange conviction that Mozart is a cymbalist (see my comment on her post for that), I have to spring to the defence of opera. Well, I don’t really, ‘cos it was doing perfectly well before I was born, and shows no sign of flagging now. OK, then. What I want to respond to is this:
In an opera the sentence "I don't want to marry you, Blaze" could last anything up to 38 minutes. The word "don't", by itself, might plausibly be stretched over 8,496 syllables, and be repeated more than 630 times at nose-shattering pitch and bladder-popping volume.
Now I’m sure she’s been listening to Rossini, though if that pops her bladder she’ll need industrial scale incontinence pads if she ever tries Wagner or Richard Strauss. (Actually, given the hour and a half or so between intervals in the average Wagner opera she might find them generally handy.)
Wagner is of course the Main Man, the operatic Ubermensch. (Naysayers can sod off now to some other blog and come back when I’ve finished.) And if Wagner wished to set “I don’t want to marry you, Blaze”, then that is precisely what he’d set. Though to the best of my knowledge he never did set those words. Probably the closest he came was in Twilight Of The Gods, where Gunther points out that he couldn’t go and wake Brunnhilde and claim her as his wife because he’d be too scared of the wall of magic fire that protects her. Actually, that IS pretty close. Scary….
However, while Wagner was pretty straightforward about getting singers to sing their words, he was anything but simple when it came to orchestrating them. Typically, a Wagner character singing “I don’t want to marry you, Blaze” might be accompanied by music that makes it plain that he does, actually, have an enormous stiffy at the very thought of Blaze. And possibly at the same time another part of the orchestra might be playing music that we’ve already associated with violent death. So the straightforward words could actually come across to the audience as “I don’t want to marry you, Blaze, but a spot of rape followed by chopping you up into small pieces would go down a treat”. He could even play themes associated with the Rhine to let you know where those small pieces were going to end up.
And that’s the thing. You can’t do all that that with plain ordinary speech in a plain ordinary play. You can do fiendishly clever stuff with words and double meanings, so that the audience suspect all is not as it seems (“None of woman born shall harm Macbeth”). But you can’t take a plain unambiguous “I don’t want to marry you, Blaze” and load it down with umpteen meanings completely independent of the words themselves. OK, you can use body language: but so can opera singers, so they still end up ahead.
And of course you’ve got more sheer wattage to play with. If an actor wants to express utter fury he can do so, of course, but if he gets too loud he’ll just sound strained. But a big orchestra is a WMD in an understage silo. Listen to Alberich putting his curse on the ring in Das Rheingold: malice crackling out of every note of both singer and players, and while the volume is mostly kept down so you can hear the words easily, the climax tells you as much about the power of that spell as the blast of heat that passes by Harry Potter when Dumbledore is fighting Voldemort (near the end of HP and the Order of the Phoenix)(not by Wagner).
Of course it isn’t realistic to be singing everything. But then, it isn’t realistic to have two thousand paying punters sitting gazing though one wall of your living room either. Not where I live.
So Anna - go and enjoy the opera. Unless it’s crap. It might be a crap opera (you never said what you were going to see) or a crap performance. But it won’t be crap just because it’s opera.
I doubt whether it's what the EU had in mind
This article on the Israeli Campaign Against House Destruction website serves to demonstrate that just because Palestinian wells have been dug with money provided by the EU, that's no guarantee that the Israeli authorities won't destroy them as part of the "Separation Wall" land grab.
A Google search on Wadi Fuqeen (or Foquin) showed that the story is reaching the parts other stories don't reach, however. Good article, I thought, and demeonstrating that local newpapers can be far from parochial in their concerns.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
La Donna e Mobile
Yes, my daughter Vanessa passed her driving test at the first attempt. Just.
It was a strange feeling waving her off for her first solo trip......
And she wants to borrow the car in a minute....
These two bloggers walk into a bar....
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Old Possum's Book Of Anatomist's Hats
How did it get to be Thursday? Ages since I blogged, and not much to say now I'm here. Through to Glasgow for a two-day meeting on Monday and Tuesday, then took Vanessa out for some driving practice on Tuesday night. Her test is tomorrow and boy, is she getting nervous. Which is silly, since as far as I can see the only way she can fail it is if nerves get the better of her.
Wednesday night was an orchestra rehearsal devoted entirely to Richard Strauss's Don Juan, after which I was knackered. Curled up on sofa, watched anatomy programme, watched programme about Pulp's Common People (on BBC3 - did you see it, Lisa?), zzzzzzzzzzzzoh, it's four o'clock.
Have any of you been watching Dr Gunther von Hagens doing his anatomy series? I suspect they're the kind of programme that either you can't tear yourself away from because of a deep fascination (like me) or you can't bring yourself to watch at all (like Vanessa and Hilary). I suppose I was hooked in the very first programme last year, when Gunther did his party trick of removing the entire skin from a body in one piece. OK, maybe I go to the wrong parties. A little medieval, perhaps, but a cool piece of skill. Hell, I can't skin a chicken leg in one piece.
Looking at his website (linked from the Wikipedia page), I have to say the Body Worlds exhibitions look rather tacky. But the Channel 4 programmes aren't. And not being a doctor, I've found them very informative.
The winning entry from an old New Scientist competition just popped into my head. It was about the time that Andrew was writing Cats, and the competition was to write an Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats parody for a mummified cat. The winner had the cat waking up in the afterlife and feeling around its body only to discover that its insides had been removed. Hence its complaint:
My cavity, my cavity,
There's nothing in my cavity.
Whoever took my innards out
Is guilty of depravity.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Friday, January 13, 2006
My new linking technique is unstoppable
Goodbye Blue Sky
A moving post from Riverbend. I found the quotation from "The Wall" especially moving, even though it's not my favourite Floyd.
On a cheerier note, I had to laugh at this from the Guardian. Not just because it's always nice to see Pat Robertson being dumped on (though of course it is), but because of the wonderful irony of a supposed Christian being cold-shouldered by the Israeli government after accusing them of not being hard enough on the Palestinians. As they say, you couldn't make it up.
Pat has a track record of antagonising countries he's trying to do business with. In 1999 the Bank of Scotland applied to start a bank in the United States in a joint venture with him, but withdrew at an early stage owing to the resulting bad publicity. (See this 1999 article from the Observer.) Funnily enough, Robertson's description of Scotland as a "dark land run by homosexuals" seems not to have endeared him to the population, and in particular to the bank's stockholders.
I wonder where he'll try next?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Of straw men, heartless women, wicked witches and moral courage. Not forgetting Marietta Higgs, the Paediatrician of Oz.
The news today is full of Ruth Kelly (the Education Secretary) and her decision to approve a registered sex offender as a school PE teacher. OK, I admit it is a strange decision on the face of it, especially for a minister in a government so driven by public perceptions rather than matters of principle or fact. It must be said, though, that if the police had had any evidence with which to charge Paul Reeve they would presumably have done that rather than simply cautioning him and placing him on the register (for which practically no evidence is required). It is hardly surprising, then, that if her advisors were telling her that Reeve was an excellent teacher who deserved another chance, she decided to give him one. I don't think Ms Kelly (or whoever actually took the decsion) should be ashamed of doing her job on the strength of the evidence available; and I don't feel that the present witch-hunt shows the British media in a good light. On ITN tonight someone said that "Everything has changed since Soham", which sounds like George Bush using 9/11 as an excuse for every kind of governmental abuse. Actually, nothing has changed since Soham except the arrival of another label for lazy journalists to use in crime reporting, like "9/11", "Dunblane", "Jamie Bulger", "Fred West", "Harold Shipman", "Moors Murderers". Dreadful crimes all, but none of them set any kind of precedent: they were what they were, and every new murder is different. In the present case, we aren't dealing with a murder at all. We aren't even dealing with a sexual assault.
Reading the report in the Education Guardian I was struck by the phrase "Campaigners yesterday called for a change in the system so that child protection experts rather than politicians decide who is prevented from working with children". Especially after reading this in today's Guardian. Now I'm not saying that all social workers, or even all "child protection experts" are slavering bampots. But consider. This Rochdale farce was played out in 1990, after a seven-year-old boy said he'd had a dream about ghosts. Leaving aside mere matters of common sense, had these people learned nothing from the 1987 Cleveland fiasco? Had the idea not sunk in that making up your own evidence when you lacked any of the real stuff was, you know, frowned on by the courts?
They may have learned something from the Cleveland case, as the "Not One More Child" conference series described here was clearly an influence on their thinking, and was addressed by both the (discredited) doctor and the (equally discredited) social worker responsible for the bogus Cleveland allegations.
In any more positive sense, clearly not: see here and here. Indeed, as some of you may remember (and as the links above demonstrate) the "child protection experts" in Rochdale were eagerly copied by equally unscrupulous peddlers of rubbish in Orkney and elsewhere. Yet the social workers at the centre of the Rochdale affair (Susan Hammersley and Jill France) are according to the Guardian article still employed in child protection. The article doesn't say whether Rochdale council was brazen enough to retain their services, or whether they have moved on to continue their great work elsewhere. But as long as people like that are being employed in the child protection business, then if I have to choose between trusting "child protection experts" and government ministers, well then, I'll go with the government ministers. Hell, I'd sooner trust Paul Reeve with my children than people like that.
To reiterate: I have nothing but respect for the many thousands of social workers in Britain who perform what must often be a very grim job (however intermittently rewarding) with tremendous professionalism. One problem is whereas in most other countries social work is a recognised profession, in which you do your degree and your professional training, for too long in Britain it was just a career you drifted into. Which is why, in contrast to the stringent controls over who may or may not enter the teaching profession, control over suitability of prospective social workers is very lax.
I wish the Rochdale families the very best of luck in screwing Rochdale Council for everything they can get. They won't, of course, get back the lives they had before the "child protection experts" mugged them. But at least this time when they are in court, someone (on the council, even) will have to pay some attention to what they have to say. And councils may take more care in future about the "experts" they employ.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
What Not To Wear
On my way home from work on Monday I looked in at the supermarket to get a couple of things. As I was waiting to pay, my attention was drawn to a woman standing in the adjacent queue. She was wearing a white top which was covered in...not sequins exactly but little irregularly-shaped pieces of mirror. Slightly odd in any event as weekday-going-to-Asda wear, but as she was well into the third trimester of a pregnancy and shaped appropriately, the abiding impression was that a disco glitter ball had fetched up in the checkout aisle.
Downhill all the way
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Blond (or blonde) joke
Monday, January 09, 2006
My heart's in the Highlands
To Ballater at the weekend, mainly to get the Christmas decorations dismantled and packed away. Just me and Hilary this time: Vanessa was working on Saturday and Ruairidh stayed with her. The weather was extremely cold but otherwise fine, so we got plenty of walks in (and I’ll list them to make Lisa jealous):
Saturday morning - climbed Craigendarroch with our friend Sue.
Saturday afternoon - walked from Glen Gairn up to Morven Lodge, which was a terrific outing.
(See map - we went along the track you can see running from the A939, and came back along the one that just vanishes off the top of the map). Morven Lodge was built by the Keiller family (famous for jam) and demolished about thirty years later for its stone to be re-used to build a new Morven Lodge closer to Ballater (now the Craigendarroch Hotel, which tells you the kind of scale we’re talking about). Now there is just a pair of gateposts (and gates) on a track out in the middle of nowhere, accompanied by some more or less ruinous outbuildings (laundry, stable, etc.), which is a little creepy. A very present absence…… Further very present absences were provided by the dozens of grouse who had left their tracks in the snow, along with rabbits, hares, deer and dogs. Grouse prints are sweet: a line of big convict arrows marching across the track.
Sunday morning - climbed small bump on East side of Glen Muick (haven’t got a map map handy to know what it’s called, but you start from the cattle grid on the Glen Muick road). Splendid view of Lochnagar and the Coyles of Muick, as well as the Eastern Cairngorms (Beinn a Bhuird, Ben Avon) which were very snowy. More grouse tracks. OK, ptarmigan ptracks would have been nicer, but we didn’t get that high.
I shan’t be back up for a few weeks, more’s the pity. Hope to get up there the weekend before Clare’s blogmeet.
Friday, January 06, 2006
How To Avoid Rape
(Reposted in full from Rachel From North London).
A lot has been said about how to prevent rape.Women should learn self-defense. Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark. Women shouldn't have long hair and women shouldn't wear short skirts. Women shouldn't leave drinks unattended. Fuck, they shouldn't dare to get drunk at all.
Instead of that bullshit, how about:
If a woman is drunk, don't rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don't rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don't rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don't rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don't rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you're still hung up on, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don't rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don't rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don't rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don't rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don't rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don't rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching tv, don't rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don't rape her.
If your friend thinks it's okay to rape someone, tell him it's not, and that he's not your friend.
If your "friend" tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there's an unconscious woman upstairs and it's your turn, don't rape her, call the police and tell the guy he's a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it's not okay to rape someone.
Don't tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don't imply that she could have avoided it if she'd only done/not done x.
Don't imply that it's in any way her fault.
Don't let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he "got some" with the drunk girl.
Don't perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions.
You can, too, help yourself.
If you agree, repost it. It's that important.
Say Hello to Hermione
Sometimes it gets lonely in here when nobody posts any comments. So I have adopted a virtual pet: Hermione the hedgehog. She lives down at bottom right, under the list of my guest posts. Go and introduce yourself. She's rather sweet.
Delightful as ever.
Why not leave this blog and read something more interesting?
Things are beginning to get really exciting over on Vitriolica's collaborative novel-writing blog.
Well, what are you doing hanging around here? Go and read the latest chapter.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
TUM tickety TUM tickety TUM TUM TUM tickety TUM tickety tickety tickety TUM.....
What pieces of classical music do most people know even if they're not fans of classical music? I'd be prepared to bet most of them would recognise Ravel's Bolero if they heard it, even if (like me for many years) they didn't know what it was called or who it was by. Quite apart from the whole Torvill & Dean thing, or Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in 10, it has an insistently memorable quality, repetitive to the point of obsession but with enough variation to keep your interest up as you listen.
If you're a music anorak (or, I suppose, an acoustic physics anorak) there's a great bit where you think "What the heck is that instrument?" Then you look at the score and find that actually it's something like a trumpet doubled by a piccolo a twelfth higher, and the weird instrument you thought you were hearing has been cleverly faked, in much the same way that old-fashioned Moog synthesisers produced their 'oboes' and 'trumpets' by adding together cunning combinations of very basic waveforms.
OK, before you all fall asleep, the point to all this is that there is an interesting article in Wired (via), all about a deaf guy whose obsession with Bolero led him to a fairly radical software upgrade of his cochlear implant. An extraordinary story.
We're off to see the Wizard....
...the Wonderful Wizard of Blog. Aka Clare, who is having a blogmeet in Manchester on Saturday 11th February. Be there or be pear-shaped. Or be, I dunno, someone who doesn't want to meet Clare, me, Lisa, cast of thousands including Dipsy the dog, plus Mystery Guest (woo-ooo!).
Just follow the Yellow Brick Road (aka the A6)......
Posts win prizes
It's time for the Bloggies. Which is to say, the Weblog Awards. Not to be confused, obviously, with the Weblog Awards which I posted about recently. And which I called the Bloggies (don't bother looking, I've corrected the post now). I'm still confused, but wotthehell.
This time you can be in on the ground floor at the nomination stage. Why not nominate some of your favourite blogs? Lisa, perhaps? Or Anna, or Clare? And Mike: you mustn't omit Mike. You can do three per category, and there are lots of applicable categories.
Who knows, you might even find room to nominate me...
You've got until 5 p.m (GMT) on 10th January to get a form in.
OK, this is scary.
Also, read this from Counago & Spaves. With a name like "Oytoys" at first I wondered whether the site was a spoof, but it clearly isn't. Now I'm trying to imagine a doting Jewish parent actually putting the finger puppets to use. ("This little piggy got locusts....")
Actually, I don't suppose Orthodox Jews play little piggies; leastways, it would seem a bit odd if they did. Little goaties, maybe?
This toy will no doubt appeal to all those Intelligent Design fans out there. And at the right intellectual level too.
P.S. For those of you not too well up on your Biblical plagues, you can look them up here. The picture showing the finger-puppets mounted on their display card seems to have them in sequence, though why something resembling a lion represents the plague of flies I'm not sure. I rather like the animal with an ice-pack on its head and the red-haired bloke with ear-protectors. Still scary though....
You must read this from Tiny Pineapple. Very funny, and very, very true.
And the only kind of cough medicine I've ever liked was one made back in the 60s and 70s by a Manchester pharmacist my mum used to work for. It was called "Norcoff" and was basically liquid Victory Vs. Awesome. I'm pretty certain you could get high on it if you drank enough.
P.S. When you read Tiny Pineapple's post, be sure to follow the link about polar bear liver.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
You could die laughing.
I found this piece in Friday's Guardian (OK, so I'm a bit behind) depressing. I always used to think of the LTTE and Sendero Luminoso (the "Shining Path" bunch in Peru) as the terrorist groups you really, really didn't want to come into contact with, on the grounds that if you were lucky you'd end up dead. In recent years the shine has been taken off Sendero Luminoso, as their leader and inspiration, Senor Guzman, was captured. The LTTE, however, remain undented. Let me give you a flavour of these guys. Some years ago, they hijacked a passenger ferry. Did they want to extort a ransom? Have some prisoners freed? Far from it. They waited patiently until the Sri Lankan navy despatched a warship to recapture the ferry. Then they sank the warship with an anti-ship missile, released the passengers, and went home. I am in awe of any group who can be that calculating (and whose planning, not to say firepower, is that good). That, and the offhand way they turned a murderous act into a sort of punchline.
I can think of two other examples of that kind of queasily murderous humour. One was during the siege of Beirut, when several UN resolutions were passed condemning Israel's attacks on Lebanon. I can't remember exactly which of them Israel picked to exercise its black humour, but let's say it was resolutions 313 and 425. Every day, then the Israeli artillery opened up on Beirut at 3:13 pm and 4:25 pm. Ha. Ha.
The other was during the apartheid era in South Africa, when BOSS, the South African secret police, were being accused of murdering campaigning journalists. One such journalist received a parcel containing a cassette player and a tape labelled "Evidence of extrajudicial killing of journalists by BOSS". He put in the tape, pressed "play", and the headphones exploded.
Let's be thankful that, AFAIK, they don't write them like that any more.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Wee sleekit cowrin' tim'rous beastie (and that's just Anna)
Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters....
MBEs today for the Beverley Sisters (Joy, Teddie and Babs). Which is cool for those of us old enough to remember them. Actually my kids probably know most of the words to "Sisters" as a result of years of "Hello Children Everywhere" nostalgia tapes from me.
I knew Teddie and Babs were identical twins (and the photo demonstrates it) but hadn't appreciated that they were born on their big sister Joy's birthday. That must be rather weird.
Anyway, congratulations, ladies. At least you got one each so you needn't share.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Happy New Year
Not that it's been very exciting so far. I'm back in Edinburgh as I'm on call for work from Hogmanay until breakfast time on Tuesday. The rest of the family stayed in Ballater and then decamped to Braemar to stay with our friends for New Year. Just after midnight, as the windows began to rattle from the fireworks outside, I rang them all to wish them a happy 2006. Then back to Jools Holland.
I've been called a couple of times, not (so far at least) with weird date procesing errors as so often happens at this time of year, but with people forgetting that end-of-year runs tend to be bigger brutes than normal everyday ones. A clutch of failures with overflowing files on Hogmanay, and a program running out of memory today.
My good intentions of getting the remaining software reinstalled on my PC didn't bear fruit, though there's always tomorrow. At least I got some anti-adware software installed, even if I'm still lacking a few basics.
Think I'll go and watch Return of the Goodies now.