Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, July 31, 2006

Twenty-five more first lines

Rules as before. Guess song and artist, and put your guesses in the comment box. Soon I'm going to have to start repeating artists, but not yet....

Middling difficulty this time, with only two that you couldn't cheat by Googling (but you wouldn't do that, would you?)

1. It's a fact, at the most uninvolved unexpected moments,the most inopportune,some see the flesh before they see the bones
Stereolab: "Super Electric" - Phil
2. It's true that all the men you knew were dealers who said they were through with dealing
Leonard Cohen: "Stranger Song" - Sam
3. She came without a farthing, a babe without a name
Queen: "All Dead, All Dead" - Gordon
4. He's the kind of guy puts on a motorcycle jacket and he weighs about a hundred and five
5. She sits alone, waiting for suggestions
Rod Stewart: "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy?" - Gordon
6. Sun so bright that I'm nearly blind
Spiritualized: "I Think I'm In Love" - Phil
7. Cast your mind back ten years to the girl who's next to me in school
The Move: "Fire Brigade" - Phil
8. And the slightest confrontation was dissolved before the start
9. LA's fine, the sun shines most of the time, and the feeling is laid back
Neil Diamond: "I Am...I Said" - Phil
10. And the night comes again to the circle-studded sky
Phil Ochs: "The Crucifixion" - Lisa
11. The coat she wore still lies upon the bed
Gerry Rafferty: "Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway" - Sam
12. When I was a young man I used to dress so neat
Mr Fox: "The Hanged Man" - Ted Amos
13. Her new name was tattooed to her wrist; it was longer than the old one
14. I was just sitting there, eating a salmonella sandwich
15. Another suburban family morning, grandmother screaming at the wall
16. Me no bubbleicious, me smoke heavy tar
Robbie Williams (with Kylie Minogue): "Kids" - Gordon
17. I used to wake up in the morning, I used to feel so bad
The Who: "Pictures of Lily" - Phil
18. I used to have a notion, I would swim the length of the ocean, if I knew you were waiting for me
The Only Ones: "The Whole Of The Law" - Phil
19. You've seen life through distorted eyes, you know you had to learn
Black Sabbath: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - Tim
20. There's no point in asking, you'll get no reply
Sex Pistols: "Pretty Vacant" - Phil
21. When I was a young man I carried my pack and I lived the free life of the rover
The Pogues: "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" - Gert
22. On a night like this I deserve to get kissed at least once or twice
Boomtown Rats: "Someone's Looking At You" - Kate
23. My, my, the clock in the sky is pounding away
24. The sky is crying, the streets are full of tears
25. You are drunk and you are surly in Latino lover mode

Friday, July 28, 2006

And sometimes, of course, it really IS anti-Semitism and not criticism of Israeli foreign policy

Here is a link worth reading (via) .

Speaking as an educated European: er, no, actually, that wouldn't be quite my reaction....

The piece dives downhill in a wonderfully accelerating manner, from the polite "not what we're looking for" beginning, to the solicitous if personal "probably not a good idea to stress the national service" (and indeed I wouldn't think making a big thing out of one's military service - in whatever force - would play particularly well in a CV here, because to British eyes it would seem irrelevant and slightly tasteless bragging, unless the application was for a defence-related job) and on downwards via the "refugee camps!!!!" and "helotised" (when did you last read that word?) to Israel having no right to exist, and " a large section of believing Jews" viewing all the rest of us as "unclean" and "not chosen by God". And of course all dissenters in Israel are murdered or mutilated. But "this has nothing to do with anti-semitism". By the end I swear you can hear the carpet being munched as the men with butterfly nets and strait-jackets close in. He even leaves punctuation behind as he reaches escape velocity: it begins to resemble Molly Bloom's monologue as read by someone with Tourette's Syndrome.

Moments like these.....

....are why we play music, whether we're highly talented and trained pros like Ruth or mere Art-Of-Coarse-Violin-Playing amateur types like me. I remember playing the Elgar Enigma Variations with Alasdair Mitchell about 18 years ago, and he was having trouble getting just the sound he wanted for "Nimrod". Eventually he just put aside his baton for that variation and conducted it barehanded: and the difference in our sound was immediately apparent. Or playing The Rite Of Spring the following year with Scottish Sinfonia, an orchestra most of whom had never played it before and were a little in awe of the piece. Neil Mantle stopped just before the "Danse Sacrale", told us just to relax, then started us up, put down his baton, and wandered off for five minutes, leaving us to play it like chamber music. And we played really well, because we just listened to the tunes instead of worrying about downbeats.

By the time the music gets out of your head and into your hands the difficult stuff is all done.

The souvenir thing of a snapping turtle is abundant in the reverse side approach.

A few links from Meg at meish.org:

First this one, explaining which countries drive on the right and which on the left.

Then this set of pictures of the world's most dangerous road, in Bolivia between La Paz and Coroico. Having just read that they drive on the right in Bolivia, the sight of a large number of big trucks driving on the LEFT on a windy mountainous road makes me less surprised than I might be about the danger.

And finally, this absolute joy from Japan. Every sentence a gem.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Now all we're waiting for is Zaphod Beeblebrox's peril-sensitive sunglasses.

In view of Heather Armstrong's experiences with sunshine, maybe we should all get these. Well, the women at least.

The unspeakable citing the unreadable

Kesher Talk (Alcy again) cites Melanie Phillips, author of the ludicrous "Londonistan" which no reputable British publisher would take (and whose title tells you all you need, or want, to know about it, and her). If you can bear to read a piece of ill-written drivel by a self-styled journalist (she writes right-wing tosh for the Daily Mail), go ahead. A few examples:

A reader writes to say that on BBC TV’s Hard Talk, the ex-Lebanese Prime Minister was allowed to say that the problem was ‘the occupation’ by Israel and nothing could be done until it ended. But Israel pulled out of Lebanon six years ago — a fact not pointed out at all by the presenter. (Possibly because the Lebanese prime minister was referring to the occupation of the, er, Occupied Territories. But Phillips probably hasn't heard of Palestine.)

The crucial point about the casualties in Lebanon is that the Hezbollah is using the civilian population as human shields, deliberately siting its rockets and other weapons in the basements of apartment blocks, schools, mosques and so on. It is therefore impossible to destroy these weapons without hurting some civilians. Even a UN official hostile to Israel has now admitted this. Jan Egeland, head of the UN’s humanitarian effort and who has criticised Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ response — a claim given ‘disproportionate’ coverage on the BBC — acknowledged:

‘Consistently, from the Hizbollah heartland, my message was that Hizbollah must stop this cowardly blending… among women and children,’ Mr Egeland said. ‘I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don’t think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men. We need a cessation of hostilities because this is a war where civilians are paying the price,’ said Egeland as he headed to Israel.

Don't you love the fact that the quote from Jan Egelund says absolutely nothing about the deliberate siting of rockets in civilan areas, or the deliberate use of "human shields", though Phillps cites it as though he does? And then this:

As of this evening, the BBC News website story reporting Mr Egeland’s criticism of Israel did not include one word of his acknowledgement of Hezbollah’s use of civilians as human shields

(possibly because, as we saw, he made no such acknowledgement). This of course is all part of the well-known "anti-Israeli bias" of the BBC:

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the cumulative effect of the BBC’s poisonous distortions is to incite hatred of Israel in anyone who knows little about the region and is exposed for long enough to its TV and radio bulletins


The BBC in particular has turned into the Beirut Broadcasting Corporation, reporting the war almost entirely from the perspective of a Lebanon that is entirely innocent and victimised (as opposed to Sky which is far more even-handed).

Mmmm, the famously even-handed Rupert Murdoch.

A small anecdote from today illustrates a trend which I had been noticing since the current crisis developed. On a bus in London, I was accosted by a middle-aged, West Indian gentleman on the adjacent seat. Recognising me, he congratulated me warmly on what I had been writing about Israel. He had wanted to attend last weekend’s Israel solidarity demonstration organised by the Board of Deputies but had been unable to find where it was being held. But friends of his had attended and shown him photographs they had taken of the event.

Maybe they got the details off the BBC's website, which had them in one of its news stories (originally it also had details of anti-Israeli demonstrations as well, but after protests from "members of the public" these were removed, leaving only the pro-Israel demo still being advertised.

The Israelis are leafleting Lebanese civilians in advance of their raids to ensure that as many as possible leave the zone of fire. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work, but the intention is patently there to avoid killing civilians because this is a war of self-defence against a terrorist army. The Hezbollah, by contrast, is firing its rockets tipped with ball-bearings — designed to murder and maim as many as possible —in order specifically to kill Israeli civilians.

I like the contrast there between the Hezbollah rockets tipped with ball-bearings (come now, they're professionally made, it will be proper shrapnel, not your Iraqi IED junk) and the Israeli barrage of leaflets (er, followed up by the, er, shrapnel-filled bombs). Given a choice between being blown apart and having to read noxious filth like Melanie Phillips' article and then be blown apart, I'd take option one every time.

Further evidence that Britain just doesn’t get it was shown by the silence which has greeted this story in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday:

Border guards seized a British lorry on its way to make a delivery to the Iranian military - after discovering it was packed with radioactive material that could be used to build a dirty bomb. The lorry set off from Kent on its way to Tehran but was stopped by officials at a checkpoint on Bulgaria’s northern border with Romania after a scanner indicated radiation levels 200 times above normal.

The lorry was impounded and the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NPA) was called out. On board they found ten lead-lined boxes addressed to the Iranian Ministry of Defence. Inside each box was a soil-testing device, containing highly dangerous quantities of radioactive caesium 137 and americium-beryllium.

The soil testers had been sent to Iran by a British firm with the apparent export approval of the Department of Trade and Industry…Last night a DTI spokesman confirmed: ‘Exporters do not need a licence to transport this sort of material to Iran. It is not covered by our export controls.’In August last year there was a similar incident when a Turkish truck carrying a ton of zirconium silicate supplied by a British firm was stopped by Bulgarian customs at the Turkish border on its way to Tehran, after travelling from Britain, through Germany and Romania, without being stopped.

What on earth is the British Department of Trade doing, giving the nod to radioactive material to be sent to Iran– twice? And where is the outcry?

And where in the second case is the radioactive material? According to Nature's Building Blocks by John Emsley, Zirconium is regarded as "completely non-toxic and environmentally benign". Apparently Zirconium-96 (which makes up 3% of Zirconium) "may be radioactive but this has been difficult to assess because its half-life is reputed to be more than 300 quadrillion years, or around 60 million times longer than the age of the Earth)."

(Note from me for Phillips and other illiterate oafs: this means your outcry may be experiencing a slight delay. Please take a seat and shut the fuck up for 300 quadrillion years.)

And what the Department of Trade is doing is showing that it can tell the difference between a soil tester and a nuclear weapon even if the Daily Mail cannot. You get americium in smoke detectors, you buffoons: does that mean that every pensioner in Britain with a smoke detector is under suspicion by the Daily Mail of making a "dirty bomb"?

Note for Alcy - when you cite stuff from the Daily Mail, don't get the idea that they have fact checkers like US newspapers do. They print any old rubbish, which is why they employ junk journalists like Phillips. The more you quote it, the further out of touch you appear and the more ludicrous seem your squeaky assertions that the BBC is a wicked hotbed of anti-Israeli sentiment (the same BBC that always refers to the IDF's 'targetted killings', and 'retaliatory strikes' and Palestinians' 'terrorist attacks', and where Israeli deaths are 'civilians' and Palestinian ones are 'suspected terrorists'). Maybe you should try reading this, that is if so much exposure to the Daily Mail hasn't caused your reading age to regress too far.

Moral: read articles thoroughly before citing.

Over on Kesher Talk "Alcibiades" links to this piece by Zeev Avrahami, a freelance journalist who writes for the Israeli paper Ha'aretz (a good source of regional news, incidentally - far more balanced than American "friends of Israel" generally are). Alcy cites it because he supports the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. While I agree that Israel has right on its side (the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers in Israel is a terrorist act under international law, no question) I feel that they've played into the hands of their opponents by their ludicrous and pointless over-reaction.

Anyway, I liked this quote from Mr Avrahami's piece:

Like an experienced shepherd, Sharon sensed exactly which way the herd wanted to go. After his election, he led Israel into confrontation with the Palestinians -- the Second Intifada. He also forced Israelis to take the next step, that of turning their backs on their Palestinian neighbors. For my generation, this represented a huge defeat, and we felt betrayed when the younger generation agreed to Sharon's policy. It is this betrayal -- and this complete rejection of the idea of peace with the Palestinians -- which fills me with sadness when I follow the news today.

How refreshing to see a well-informed Israeli nailing the lie (forever being trotted out by Israel's supporters) that Israel has always wanted peace and it's the Palestinians who are the rejectionists. You know that's bollocks. I know that's bollocks. But it's lovely to see a blog which exists mostly to support Israel's foreign policy citing with admiration a patriotic Israeli who says it's bollocks. Link to Avrahami's article, copy it, throw it in the face of anyone who blethers on about the Palestinians "never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity". (Ha, ha.)

Claerly Alcy didn't read that far, as he introduces the link with "The last several years, since Arafat launched the second intifada...." even though Avrahami is clear that it was Sharon who "launched" that confrontation.

How long, do you think, before we see posts from the American right describing Zeev Avrahami as an anti-Semite, or (my favourite) a "self-hating Jew"? You know, like Noam Chomsky (apparently both of those things) who has been making exactly the same point about Israeli rejectionism for years.

Life Experiences Meme

The way this meme works - copy the list, highlight the ones you've done, add comments ad lib.

Can't remember where I nicked this one from, though I think it was Lisa.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain - various Scottish ones plus Mont Velan and Pigne d'Arolla in the Alps
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
- though not all that well
15. Gone to a huge sports game (Hiberian v Rangers at football, Scotland v Italy at rugby)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
(rhubarb, soft fruit)
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars (on the deck of a small and very sick-making ship in the Atlantic)
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip on a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Got drunk on champagne

24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse (not quite total - 70% at Edinburgh in 1998 or so?)
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales (killer whales, in Hebrides)
45. Stolen a sign (the map from Trevelyan College, Durham; also a South Shields railway station sign re-liberated from the original thief)
46. Backpacked in Europe (though living here helps...)
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach (on St Kilda!)
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken for longer than when you were in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
(define "posed" - I've appeared naked in fromt of strangers in spas in Germany and Austria)
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class (unarmed combat class in Air Training Corps)
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight (just about, when I was a student and D&D was still on its first edition, A5 books in a cardboard box. I've still got the books.)
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music (not commercially, but I've recorded music for revues, and had gigs taped)
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents (both - cremated actually)
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
(Jeff Beck, for a couple of gigs in 1974)
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (I had a job fixed first)
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone (little toe!)
114. Gone on an African photo safari (notAfrica, but a couple of days each in Corbett Tiger Reserve and Bharatpur Bird Reserve in India)
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (Air Training Corps for the rifle, pistol shooting at college)
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse (strictly speaking a pony, several times)
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states (with a score of zero US states this isn't hard)
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read their work
(Jane Austen)
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language (in Yemen)
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

25 Answers

.... to these questions.

1. I don't feel safe in this world no more
The Kinks: "Apeman" (You Really Got Me) - Phil (despite my screwing it up - the actual first line is "I think I'm sophisticated 'cos I'm living my life like a good homosapien".)

2. This dog is no puppy dog, she's strange as the trees
Incredible String Band "God Dog" (The Chelsea Sessions) - band guessed by Judith

3. Talkin' to myself again, wonderin' if this travelling is good
The Everly Brothers "Stories We Could Tell" (Stories We Could Tell)

4. I only met you just a couple of days ago
Brian Hyland "Ginny Come Lately" (Brian's 24 Big Ones) - singer guessed by J.J

5. Heigh ho! who is there? No one but me, my dear
"Willow's Song" - The Wicker Man original soundtrack - Kate

6. I've got your picture of me and you
The Vapors: "Turning Japanese" (Reunited Vol. 2) - Jason

7. I left my heart in San Francisco, it's at some motherfucking disco
Scissor Sisters: "Music Is The Victim" (Scissor Sisters) - Gordon

8. You could hear the hoofbeats pound as they raced across the ground
Benny Hill: "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)" (The Ultimate Collection) - Mike

9. Breaking my back just to know your name
Killers: "Somebody Told Me" (Hot Fuss) - Rachie

10. I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook
Nick Drake: "One Of These Things First" (Bryter Layter) - Phil

11. Shiny shoes, he runs to catch the train
Premiata Forneria Marconi "Mister 9 Till 5" (Photos of Ghosts)

12. Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins
The Beatles: "She's Leaving Home" (Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) - Gordon

13. All alone, I didn't like the feeling
Beth Nielsen Chapman "Sand and Water" (Sand and Water)

14. So I told him that he'd better shut his mouth and do his job like a man
Peter Paul and Mary "The Great Mandella" (Album 1700) - band guessed by Judith

15. Well you're dirty and sweet, clad in black, don't look back, and I love you
T.Rex: "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" (The Essential Collection) - Phil

16. I left alone, my mind was blank, I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind
Iron Maiden "The Number Of The Beast" (The Number Of The Beast) - band guessed by Rachie

17. Mary-Anne and Wanda were the best of friends, all through their high school days
Dixie Chicks: "Goodbye Earl" (Fly) - Jason

18. Lay a whisper on my pillow, leave the winter on the ground
Roxette: "It Must Have Been Love" (Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus - Roxette's Greatest Hits) - Rachie

19. Ein Jahr ist schnell vorüber, wenn der Regen fällt, ein Meer voller fragen
Münchener Freiheit - "Solang Man Träume Noch Leben Kann" (Fantasie) - Gert

20. I can tell, like the ring of a bell, a chime that is clear and true
Soft Machine: "Hope For Happiness" (Soft Machine) - Phil

21. You can call me a sinner, you can call me a saint
Madonna: "Like It Or Not" (Confessions On A Dance Floor) - Gordon

22. One night Farmer Brown was taking the air after locking up the barn with the greatest of care
Phil Harris "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (His Original and Greatest Hits)

23. There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
Boney M: "Rasputin" (single) - Gert

24. Don't write a letter when you want to leave
Marti Webb: "Tell Me On A Sunday" (Tell Me On A Sunday) - Gert

25. Cripple Sam and Joo McGoo will join you at the subway
United States of America "The American Way of Love Part 1: Metaphor For an Older Man" (United States Of America) - band guessed by Judith

Pretty good effort, everyone (though I'm surprised nobody got Beth Nielsen Chapman).

Agenbite of blogwit

Now that I've read The Life Cycle of a Typical Blogger (the first section of this post) I'll get all self-conscious and start counting my posts.....

Seriously, though, I found it rang very true.

Mr Orlowski, there's a Jim Maxwell with a Scots accent on the phone who wants his demon back

I was puzzled recently when one of my comments boxes (protected by a text-recognition random junk type-in) got spammed by a comment linking to a wide variety of Italian porn, financial services, pharmacies, etc etc. I was impressed that someone had stealth spam, that could type its way past my Magic Fire and awaken the comment box.

Well, Latigo Flint doesn't have Magic Fire, but he sure as heck gets funnier spam than I do. Read this post which is funny in itself, and then go down the comments. Yes, Latigo has got his own Polish nutter. The land of Nicolas Copernicus and Marie Curie has produced Zygmunt Orlowski and his METOZ perpetual motion machine.

One has to ask what part of "conservation of energy" Mr O slept through in school.

I liked "Baise Pascal" best (not forgetting his Communist sidekick Inoff the Red....).

UPDATE: while I'd recommend a visit to Latigo' blog anyway, Mr Orlowski has kindly posted his strange comment right here, in the comments to this post. SO now I get the same nutters as Latigo spamming me. Yay!

One tiny flaw, because perfection is for God alone

I couldn't resist this, could I?

So it came as a relief to get these scores on this quiz:

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%

Spelling: 100%

Vocabulary: 100%

Punctuation: 80%

And the 80 was only because I reckoned both answers were OK for #6, so picked the one I was fairly sure was the "wrong" one.

Hells' teeth, I'd never have admitted it to anyone if I'd done any worse on a test set by Americans! (Or maybe Canadians - people who talk about "flavors", anyway.)

Sunscreen Superwoman

Dooce isn't always funny. Read, people, and take care when frolicking in the July sun.

And, yeah, sometimes she's still funny.

OK, who read my mind when the kids were little?


EKN Advertising Supplement

If any of my readers has not yet acquired a copy of this wonderful book, its even more wonderful author has a copy or two for sale. Ask her nicely and she might authograph one for you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You Americans are all yellow

Let's hear it for Floyd Landis!

Now Aaron Sorkin would NEVER name a character Kevin

On the matter of proportional response, I see Judith has a link to a post where I am reminded that one of my other fictional heroes has something different to say.

Though I still think he'd approve of my "taking the moral high ground" suggestion.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Though I do wish he hadn't named his great Wizard High Lord "Kevin"...

Do you remember Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant? There was a race in them called the Haruchai, whose honour and duty was to provide personal defence (in the form of the "Bloodguard") for all the wizard lords. The Bloodguard were taciturn, blond, fiercely loyal and invariably worked unarmed because, as they explained, a weapon can be turned against its owner. We'll come back to the Bloodguard later.

In a comment on this post on the reckless killing of Lebanese civilians by Israeli forces Judith Weiss came up with the following metaphor:

I and everyone I know hope Israel only kills verified Hizbullah members. it would be great if Israel were brain surgeons and could put Lebanon on an operating table for hours and carefully excise the Hezbullah tumor. Everyone would be grateful. Unfortunately no one has that kind of precision and the tumor has metastasized and the only option is chemo. So Lebanon is going to feel nauseous and her hair will fall out, but eventually she will be healthy.

I am sure you think my metaphor is callous, but that's what's going on.

Well, Judith, it may be callous though I've heard worse. The Nazis used to compare the Jews to various kinds of disease, and the late Rehavam Ze'evi referred to Palestinians as a cancer. No, the trouble with metaphors is that they can be turned round on their owners, as can be seen if we push this medical one just a little further.

If we look at the whole of West Asia it is clearly an extremely sick region, with terrorism, violence, hatred of all kinds. However, a competent clinician would look at where and when these outbreaks of sickness have occurred and would find the common factor that they are all in or around an organ transplanted into the area in 1948. Since the transplant, this organ has suffered massive rejection causing constant and widespread inflammation. Following an especially severe bout of rejection in 1967 the organ began to swell alarmingly, and all attempts to reduce this swelling have so far failed. The swelling has hampered the organ's proper operation and caused immune system responses in areas remote from the transplant site. As the organ's own function has become compromised and its value to the region reduced, the only sensible clinical option is to remove the organ. Normally this would be done with a view to replacement with another transplant, but in view of the damage caused by the swollen organ to its surrounding this is no longer viable, and restoration of the organ's function will need to be carried out externally. (In this case not so much dialysis as diaspora.)

If I wished to push the metaphor further still I could point out that a transplant replaces an existing similar organ that has failed, and that in the case of Israel no such organ existed prior to 1948. A better analogy might therefore be a cosmetic insert with no medical value, such as a silicone breast implant, where malfunction and leakage into the surrounding tissue has caused dangerous inflammation necessitating immediate removal.

No more callous than Judith's metaphor and with no less logic. Not a very agreeable conclusion, though, for me any more than (I assume) for the Israelis.

Metaphors are great, aren't they? They enrich the language. But you really wouldn't want your life to depend on one.

Of course, there is in fact still treatment short of excision which could reduce the rejection (OK - / metaphor), and I'd like to see it tried. Some move toward implementation of a few of the hundreds of UN resolutions which Israel has consistently ignored would be a start, specifically a withdrawal to its 1967 borders. Everybody except Israel and the United States (and Blair the honorary - though not honourable - American) seems to see that this is the essential precursor of any solution with Israel surviving in peace. Hezbollah, Hamas and their pals also obviously must stop attacking Israel, for good. Once the IDF are out of the OT there won't be any occupiers to attack, and international sympathy would evaporate overnight if attacks on Israel continued or resumed. Well, I suppose Iran and Syria would still cheer them on, but not the rest of the world. (And even Syria might be too busy gloating over getting the Golan Heights back.) Remember the enormous popular sympathy there was for Israel all through the wars with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and continuing up to and beyond the peace deal with Egypt. They were the plucky underdogs, the heroes, the poor sods whose athletes got shot. When I was at college my fellow-students went to work as kibbutzim, not to stand in front of bulldozers. All that goodwill was only lost because Israel refused to withdraw from its captured territory. Why is that so hard to understand?

"But we can't withdraw while they're still firing rockets at us!" say the Israelis. Why not? They're already firing all the rockets they've got: killing your people, putting holes in your navy. How can it be worse? Israel could actually use its "Defence Force" to defend Israel instead of invading its neighbours, which might be a good thing for its citizens. (How many more suicide bombers could they have stopped if the soldiers wasting their time in the West Bank were patrolling in Tel Aviv? And the infamous wall - that would have been a terrific idea if they'd only built it around Israel's border, instead of on someone else's country.) For the first time in Israel's history since the mid-1970s it could take the moral high ground; surely somebody in the Israeli government can remember what morality is. As C S Lewis said of Christianity, the trouble isn't that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and not tried.

And so back to the Bloodguard. They had a saying:

Do not hurt when holding is enough.
Do not wound when hurting is enough.
Do not maim when wounding is enough.
Do not kill when maiming is enough.
The greatest warrior is he who does not need to kill.

Stephen Donaldson, at least, understood the meaning of "proportionate response".

Parental Pride Alert

Here is a review from the (Edinburgh) Evening News of last weekend's productions by Lyceum Youth Theatre. My son Ruairidh was the bus driver (a medium-sized part) in Willy Russell's "Our Day Out", and my daughter Vanessa's great mate Philippa Mannion was B (one of the three main parts) in Liz Lochhead's "Cuba". And they were both ace. (Vanessa overheard someone in the audience after Saturday's show saying she thought the bus driver had been brilliant, which rather pleased us all.)

Here are Philippa and Ruairidh, photographed on Vanessa's birthday.

The Willy Russell was done throughout with appropriate 1997 music, and opened up with the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" accompanied by a torrent of schoolchildren running through the auditorium and up onto the stage. i went on the Friday, and the senior LYT cast were all watching from up in the circle, with the result that instead of a few seconds of music followed by a rising crescendo of schoolkid noises we had a wall of yelling teenage humanity the instant the guitar riff kicked in, which certainly enhanced the shock effect. (Not as loud as when I saw the Beach Boys in Manchester in the sixties when audiences screamed, though.......)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A celebration of diversity

It's very easy to portray American neo-cons as one-dimensional fruitcakes. May I say, with delight, that Judith, who has been the (fairly) patient butt of my satire over a number of recent posts, is clearly not at all one-dimensional, as she's just guessed three of the bands (though not the tracks - come on, try harder...) in my current 25 Lines quiz. I shall now be unable to shift the thought of her sitting there in NY typing her pro-Israeli blog posts to a soundtrack of "First Girl I Loved" and "The American Metaphysical Circus" (and possibly "Puff The Magic Dragon").

It's funny. I used to post regularly on the Compuserve Religion Forum before I started the this blog, and had several run-ins with a couple of American "friends of Israel" over matters Palestinian. Some of them ran at a much higher temperature than my exchanges with Judith, though as Compuserve forums are rigorously moderated there was no danger of meltdown. Both guys, however carpet-munching their posts on Palestine could be, were perfectly agreeable correspondents on other topics such as Lance Armstrong, families, music, and creationist-baiting.

There is a line (Lisa probably has it by heart) from the recent Doctor Who series where the Doctor say something like "People are great" and then goes on to champion diversity even when it leads to illogical views (it's in the Cybermen story). Hear hear. How could I dislike a neo-con nut who likes Joseph Byrd, or atleast likes Portishead enough to have heard of him?

I suppose the crosses make them easier to hit

Reading this in today's Guardian, one thing leaps out, which is that in what is definitely a new development in IDF tactics they seem to be targetting ambulances (or to put the most positive possible slant on it, have stopped making any effort whatsoever to avoid them). I haven't heard that complaint concerning Israeli actions in the OT (present or past), and there are plenty of people who would probably have made it if there had been a suspicion of it. An ambulance driver quoted in the Guardian article also confirms that ambulances weren't targetted back in the IDF's 1996 incursion:

As they were leaving the coastal city, the three ambulances at the tail of the convoy were driven off the road when an Israeli shell landed 100 metres to the left of them. "I have been an ambulance worker for 15 years and I have never seen it like this before. In 1996, [when Israel launched an operation to destroy Hizbullah, killing 170 civilians] we never had these problems," said Mr Shaala.

A worrying new escalation, then. At least when Hamas and their fellow murderers bomb restaurants and buses in Israel, the victims can be taken to hospital and the bodies buried respectfully. Imagine the outcry if Hamas started to deploy suicide bombers who scattered anti-personnel landmines to kill rescuers before blowing themselves up.

Remember this from Alcibiades? (In this post.)

But why would Israel target a convoy of "civilians" if that convoy did not contain members of Hezbollah? It's against their ethos entirely.

I guess the ethos just got updated, Alcy.

Meanwhile, Britain and the US sit back and cheer while the rest of the world looks on with horror.

The links are greener on the other man's blog. Or something.

More marvels from linkbunnies.org:

The Tesla Roadster, demonstrating that electric cars don't have to be like golf carts.

A step by step guide to joining the forces of darkness.

How to destroy the earth. It's harder than you think.

Judith, who you will recall doesn't like the French overmuch, might enjoy these pictures of Star Wars characters (mostly bad guys) among Parisian architecture. Shot by Cedric Delsaux.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Floyd renaissance even more unexpected than the one at Live 8

Just realised that with all my posting last night I never mentioned the jaw-dropping performance of Floyd Landis in Stage 17 of the Tour de France. See here.

Just to put it into context: on Wednesday, Floyd Landis, who was the holder of the yellow jersey (in other words, he had the lowest cumulative time at the end of the previous day) had faded really, really badly toward the end of the day (a long stage in the Alps). He dropped back from being near the front to being well towarrds the back, and lost about 8 minutes of time against the new leader Oscar Pereiro. He looked dreadful and was clearly not well.

OK. Thursday's stage begins, and not too far out Landis pulls ahead. Normally when riders zoom off early in the day they get reeled back in by the more cautious mass later on, but not Landis. He steadily made his way up to a breakway group of leading riders, steadily passed them all, and continued on ahead. He took the final descent at a speed that had my daughter convinced he was going to peel off and crash horribly, but nope, he went on to win the stage (his first ever stage win in however many years he's been riding in the Tour, most of them as Lance Armstrong's faithful assistant). He is now only half a minute behind Pereiro, with Sastre in between, but the thing is, there's a time trial stage coming up and Landis is a really good time-trialler, far better than either of those two. So he has a real chance now of winning the Tour.

It has been described as the most spectacular individual performance in the history of the Tour, and who am I to argue?

Helpful Hints

Thanks to all the people who responded to my most recent 25 First Lines meme. You got 14 out of 25. and then you all dried up, so here are some hints for the remainder.

2. This dog is no puppy dog, she's strange as the trees

Incredible String Band - band guessed by Judith

ActuallyExistingPhil described me as an old hippie. Well, I saw the (Scottish) band from whose 1967 sessions this comes, back in those far-off days of peace and love, in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. The sessions have only recently been released, though much of the material had appeared on other albums. A couple of splendid songs were previously available only as cover versions: Lover Man by Al Stewart (with Fairport Convention) on the remixed version of his first album; and this one which was on side two of Anthems in Eden by Shirley and Dolly Collins. The title is a palindrome.

3. Talkin' to myself again, wonderin' if this travelling is good

A song by John Sebastian which is the title track of an excellent country rock album by a duo better known for straightforward (and classic) pop in the 1960s.

4. I only met you just a couple of weeks ago

Brian Hyland - singer guessed by J.J

This guy had three British chart hits, of which the first concerned an item of swimwear.

5. Heigh ho! who is there? No one but me, my dear

"Willow's Song" - The Wicker Man original soundtrack - Kate

From the soundtrack to a cult British film of the mid-seventies. The version of the film which made it to the cinema was heavily cut. If I showed you the film clip which accompanies this song you'd only get excited by Britt Ekland slapping her naked body against the walls of her bedroom. One of the other stars managed to appear in two hugely successful recent multi-part film epics. But I bet he had more fun doing this one.

11. Shiny shoes, he runs to catch the train

From a 1973 album by an Italian prog-rock band. Their English lyrics were supplied by the lyricist for a couple of British bands (one of which appeared in an earlier "25 Lines" list of mine). The band took their name from a Milan bakery.

13. All alone, I didn't like the feeling

I believe this is one of the most popular songs at funerals in America these days. A song about widowhood by a female American singer-songwriter. Her most famous song, and the title of her best-selling album (on which there are several songs concerning bereavement, as she had recently lost her husband to cancer).

14. So I told him that he'd better shut his mouth and do his job like a man

Peter Paul and Mary - band guessed by Judith

A trio from the sixties and seventies, who gave a huge boost to the careers of Bob Dylan, John Denver, Laura Nyro and other songwriters. They also wrote songs of their own: the best-known is a children's song which has received the ultimate accolade of a name-check in a Gary Larson cartoon (think of the best-known childrens's songs, ever, and you'll get there). Possibly their best song, however, is this one from the enigmatically-titled album "Album 1700".

16. I left alone, my mind was blank, I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind

Iron Maiden - band guessed by Rachie

Oddly enough this ties in with one of my other recent posts. The vocalist with this British heavy metal band has a second career flying 737s. A classic track.

19. Ein Jahr ist schnell vorüber, wenn der Regen fällt, ein Meer voller fragen

Münchener Freiheit - "Solang Man Träume Noch Leben Kann" - Gert

My CD contains the German original, but this song was later released as a single in English in the UK, with a remixed backing that sounded almost more like ELO than ELO themselves. The first line of the English version: "Tonight the rain is falling, full of memories of people and places". The band took their name from a square in their home city.

22. One night Farmer Brown was taking the air after locking up the barn with the greatest of care

The singer is best known these days for voicing Disney characters. This song's title either quotes a popular saying or (more likely) inspired it. Wondeful boogie-woogie piano accompaniment.

25. Cripple Sam and Joo McGoo will join you at the subway

United States of America - band guessed by Judith

Portishead acknowledge this band as a great influence, especially the very first track from this 1968 album, whose sound permeates "Half Day Closing". This is the start of the final (three-part) track from the album.

Never mind raindrops on roses.....

A selection of wonderful things from linkbunnies.org:

This shows what can happen if you play along with a Nigerian email scammer and take the piss without mercy. God, those guys must be stupid.

George W Bush demonstrating that he isn't fit to be let out without a minder holding his reins. And the Republicans whinge about Clinton's behaviour! At least he never groped Benazir Bhutto or Sonia Gandhi.

"The business of America is business." Evidently.

Remember Judith and Alcy, who think the BBC is biased in favour of Palestine? Well here's where they evidently get their news from.

(Oh My God! I have just read this amazing post by Alcy over on Kesher Talk, accusing CNN of anti-Israeli bias! (While also harping on the neocons' other favourite fantasy, that the Bush administration's response to hurricane Katrina was a marvel of efficiency and promptness.) Surely these people aren't real? Someone will pop out in a minute and announce that they're a hidden-camera spoof. Won't they? Until then, all we can do is keep laughing at the dozy buggers.

The road to Hell is paved with Time Lord technology

If Google is to be believed, not very many other people have remarked on the splendid throwaway line in the last Doctor Who episode. When Rose goes back to the Doctor's universe and asks what she can do to help, she is told to set up the co-ordinates for opening the breach into the void (which the Doctor has earlier described as "Hell"). "Set them all to six" he says.


Animal Magic

A couple of animal posts from the BBC:

This on a python who dined not wisely but too well.

And this on a sniffer dog helping to save bumblebees. I like the thought that he simply points his nose towards the colony (surely "hives" are only for semi-domesticated honeybees?) rather than risking a sting.

You've got to be crazy, you've got to have a real need....

Sorry, those first lines of songs get everywhere! (Anyone get it?)

Here's a meme I picked up from Kate,thought I can't find teh post (I guess it's rolled off into her archive somewhere). Basic idea is as follows:

1) Type "(Your name) needs" into Google's exact phrase search (i.e. I typed "Rob needs").

2) Write down the first 10 Google hits that make sense (and aren't simply links to other instances of this meme!) with your comments.

Here are mine:

1) Rob needs a hero

Actually I'm not that big on heroes. I think I have all I need. There are plenty of people whose ideas and work have influenced my life: my brother Martin; Alan Watts; Noam Chomsky; Richard Feynmann; Compton Mackenzie; Robert Anton Wilson. They'll do to be going on with.

2) Rob needs your support and donations

Well, a few more comments wouldn't go amiss. But please don't send cash.

3) Rob needs a job

I know my deparment is undergoing restructuring right now, but actually my job is safe this time, thanks. There are advantages to being of comparatively lowly (techie) status when the managerial Fly-mo is passing overhead.

4) Rob needs physically restraining to keep him off Vikki

Who's Vikki? I know a Vicky (who has large breasts and the endearing habit of sleepwalking in the nude) and a Vic (whom you may recall from this post) with a pornographic website as well as a fundraising one. The distance from here to (a) Washington DC (b) Bath provides restraint enough, tempting though both ladies' charms might be. Sorry, girls.

5) Rob needs therapy

Ooh, probably. The monsters from my Id would put Morbius's to shame (for the Forbidden Planet fans out there).

6) Rob needs Net Clued Lawyer, urgently

Don't tell me, those pesky New York neocons are going to get litigious on my ass.

7) Rob needs to first go public

Rob does not, however, need any more split infinitives, thanks.

8) Rob needs a home

I thought I had two of them. What have I missed?

9) Rob needs money for reentry

That probably sounds more fun than it is.

10) Rob needs a band

Actually the quartet is going pretty well right now, though I'm sure I'd enjoy a regular folk/jazz/whatever workout.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Freedom Fries for Two

If you enjoyed my recent post on the unintentionally hilarious Judith Weiss, you will doubtless enjoy this. According to her blog, Judith has "a crush on Clifford May second only to my crush on Paul Wolfowitz". Wolfowitz is considered to be one of those principally to blame for the Bush regime's decision to invade Iraq instead of pursuing al-Qaeda. Cliff May is a less well-known figure in Britain, which just goes to show that there are real advantages to living here. This gent writes for a blog called The Corner. Judith doesn't believe in posting actual links, and the archive at The Corner shows May to have written very little for them (all of it, how shall I put this, nuts). She does, however, quote at length from unreferenced blog posts by her hero. I liked this quote in particular, referring to the present Israeli invasion of Lebanon:

Since disarming Hezbollah is what is called for by the "international community" in UN Security Council Resolution 1559, it is hard to see how even the French could call such an action disproportionate.

It makes one wonder what the French would regard as a proportionate response. Forming a collaborationist government in Vichy, perhaps?

From Judith's extract it is not at all clear where the French come into this exposition other than as a convenient punchbag. Whatever. Let's forget World War One, where the French fought alongside the British for the entire war while the USA rolled up in time for dessert and coffee (but hey, thanks anyway). Let's forget the French efforts in World War Two, where the sabotage and intelligence work by the Resistance was an essential precursor of the D-Day invasion. Has this supposedly American oaf ever heard of Lafayette? Has he forgotten that without French help in the American War of Independence he would be living in an backward outpost of Britain?

No wonder Judith loves him so much. He writes even better jokes than she does.

Clifford you're nearly a laugh, but you're really a cry..... (and don't all start posting the source of that line......)

It's funnies all the way tonight

Another gem from Dooce.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A cautionary tail

I'm sure most of us have wondered from time to time what our partners' families (or our families' partners) feel about us, and how they think we feel about them. So we can all, I guess, relate to this post from Dooce. And learn from it regarding the too-hasty response, perhaps.

Alcy and Judith, I salute your indefatigability. Plus, you're a hoot.

The ever-reliable Judith of Kesher Talk posts some more agreeable tosh. (Oh, actually this one is by a clone with the modest handle of Alcibiades. Same difference.) Her blog has that annoying feature whereby any attempt to highlight a section simply gets you the entire blog down to that point, though as I don't suppose people very often want to quote her it won't be much of a problem.

I have no idea what Hezbollah are trying to achieve by their present action except perhaps to distract the world's attention from Gaza (I don't suppose the Palestinians will be thanking them for that), and I couldn't care less how many members of Hezbollah end up dead as a result. If kidnapping Israeli soldiers is becoming fashionable I feel it will be a short-lived fashion. Anyway...

Alcy links to this BBC page and trots out Judith's old fantasy that the BBC is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. (I sense the laughter beginning to build. Hold it in for a moment.) His comment on the BBC's headline "Israel kills Lebanese civilians" (which is there because, you know, Israel killed some Lebanese civilians) is:

But why would Israel target a convoy of "civilians" if that convoy did not contain members of Hezbollah? It's against their ethos entirely.

OK, now we can all let the laughter out in best "Laughing Policeman" manner. Because of course the IDF never, ever, deliberately targets civilians. When your laughter subsides, see my earlier post, where Judith first brought her gift of laughter into my life.

By Alcy's logic, the Palestinian murderers who blow up buses and restaurants in Israel would be totally justified if they were certain that there were members of the IDF in them. In any case, the majority of Israel's "targetted killings" over the past few years have missed the militants altogether and reaped only civilians. If they got some Hezbollah members in the attack on the convoy, super: are we all supposed just to forget everybody else? To say "Oh, they were in the wrong place"? If Hezbollah attack the Patriot missile batteries around Haifa and take out half the town, will its citizens just have been in the wrong place?

I was about to say that allowing Israel to be destroyed (not that there is the slightest likelihood of that, any more than there ever has been) would deprive the world of these richly comic talents. While I want Israel to be left alone and in peace, I must however note that these brave patriots appear to be based in the United States. Alcibiades at least is in New York. (Judith could be anywhere - perhaps Venus.) So they can rattle their anti-Hezbollah sabres secure in the knowledge that it it won't be their house being destroyed, or their kids being kidnapped by Hezbollah. Mind you, they have to put up with GWB as president, which is one worry neither the Israelis nor the Lebanese will ever face.

Don't fret Mr Blair, nobody could ever accuse YOU of being a member of the "decent left". Good God no.

Perhaps those apologists for the Iraq invasion who style themselves the "decent left" (thus devaluing both words IMHO) would care to read this from Riverbend, and explain exactly what benefits the invasion has brought, and what benefits the invaders' presence is continuing to bring, to the Iraqi people?

Well I thought it was funny

My friend Sue Barnard forwarded me the following email, which made me laugh. You may have seen it before, but I hadn't.

Billy Connolly's Chain Letter

Hello, my name is Billy and I suffer from guilt for not forwarding 50 billion fucking chain letters sent to me by people who actually believe if you send them on, a poor six year old girl in Scotland with a breast on her forehead will be able to raise enough money to have it removed before her redneck parents sell her to a travelling freak show...

... and, do you honestly believe that Bill Gates is going to give you, and everyone to whom you send "his" email, $1000? How stupid are we? Ooooh, looky here! If I scroll down this page and make a wish, I'll get laid by a model I just happen to run into the next day! What a bunch of bullshit.

Maybe the evil chain letter leprechauns will come into my house and sodomize me in my sleep for not continuing a chain letter that was started by St Peter in 5AD and brought to this country by midget pilgrim stowaways on the Endeavour. Fuck 'em!!

If you're going to forward something, at least send me something mildly amusing. I've seen all the "send-this-to-10-of-your-closest-friends-and-this-poor-wretched-excuse-for-a-human-being-will-somehow-receive-a-nickel-from-some-omniscient-being" type of thing about 90 times. ...I don't fucking care.

Show a little intelligence and think about what you're actually contributing to by sending out these forwards. Chances are, it's our own unpopularity.

The point being? If you get some chain letter that's threatening to leave you shagless or luckless for the rest of your life, delete it. If it's funny, send it on. Don't piss people off by making them feel guilty about a leper in Botswana with no teeth who has been tied to the arse of a dead elephant for 27 years and whose only salvation is the 5 cents per letter he'll receive if you forward this email.

Now forward this to everyone you know. Otherwise, tomorrow morning your underwear will turn carnivorous and will consume your genitals.

Have a nice day. Billy Connolly

P.S: Send me 15 bucks and then fuck off

Friday, July 14, 2006

And 25 More

Usual rules - guess the song and the artist from the first line. Nothing with the title in the first line, nothing purely spoken word, nothing by artists I've used before (I suppose I'll have to relax that eventually). Answers in the comments box, and I'll score out lines as the songs are guessed. And no feeding the lines into Google! I won't be posting responses until Sunday as I'm going away to a Health & Safety conference in Manchester.

Here you are:

1. I don't feel safe in this world no more
The Kinks: "Apeman" - Phil (despite my screwing it up - the actual first line is "I think I'm sophisticated 'cos I'm living my life like a good homosapien".)
2. This dog is no puppy dog, she's strange as the trees
3. Talkin' to myself again, wonderin' if this travelling is good
4. I only met you just a couple of weeks ago
5. Heigh ho! who is there? No one but me, my dear
6. I've got your picture of me and you
The Vapors: "Turning Japanese" - Jason
7. I left my heart in San Francisco, it's at some motherfucking disco
Scissor Sisters: "Music Is The Victim" - Gordon
8. You could hear the hoofbeats pound as they raced across the ground
Benny Hill: "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)" - Mike
9. Breaking my back just to know your name
Killers: "Somebody Told Me" - Rachie
10. I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook
Nick Drake: "One Of These Things First" - Phil
11. Shiny shoes, he runs to catch the train
12. Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins
The Beatles: "She's Leaving Home" - Gordon
13. All alone, I didn't like the feeling
14. So I told him that he'd better shut his mouth and do his job like a man
15. Well you're dirty and sweet, clad in black, don't look back, and I love you
T.Rex: "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" - Phil
16. I left alone, my mind was blank, I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind
17. Mary-Anne and Wanda were the best of friends, all through their high school days
Dixie Chicks: "Goodbye Earl" - Jason
18. Lay a whisper on my pillow, leave the winter on the ground
Roxette: "It Must Have Been Love" - Rachie
19. Ein Jahr ist schnell vorüber, wenn der Regen fällt, ein Meer voller fragen
20. I can tell, like the ring of a bell, a chime that is clear and true
Soft Machine: "Hope For Happiness" - Phil
21. You can call me a sinner, you can call me a saint
Madonna: "Like It Or Not" - Gordon
22. One night Farmer Brown was taking the air after locking up the barn with the greatest of care
23. There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
Boney M: "Rasputin" - Gert
24. Don't write a letter when you want to leave
Marti Webb: "Tell Me On A Sunday" - Gert
25. Cripple Sam and Joo McGoo will join you at the subway

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Is nothing sacred?

You may be aware that the United States of America has recently had a narrow escape from a constitutional amendment which would have made the burning of an American flag a criminal offence.


I was about to say "Where but in the USA could such a dumb idea possibly be taken seriously?" but of course I realise that there are plenty of other such places, usually those where the government consists of a guy in a snappy general's uniform with an AK47 and a stash of bullion. Actually "dumb idea" doesn't come close, does it? How about "idea so utterly stupid it makes you lose your faith in humanity"?

How shall I put this. A flag. Is. A bit. Of. Cloth. With a pretty picture on it. A bit like a tea-towel, though usually too big to be much use for drying dishes. And often a long way up a pole, which is also a dish-drying deterrent. It's not like, say, burning a person (which used to be popular in parts of the USA if the people were of the wrong complexion, and is still a popular way for Americans to bring freedom and democracy to less enlightened parts of the world, where flag-burning is still permissible).

You know the best bit? Even in the United States, burning flags in order to dispose of worn-out and unwanted ones is perfectly acceptable. The proposed amendment would have criminalised only flag-burning with bad thoughts.

OK, here are a few links. One to a good page of general flag-burning stuff; and if you really want a feel for the swamp from which the amendment's proponents draw their nutrition, read the Flag Flames Page. I think it wonderfully quaint that in this day and age there are still rugged traditionalists for whom the word "faggot" is a terrible, terrible term of abuse, even if they can't get through all six letters without a spelling mistake. Just for them, here is a link to the Burn A Virtual Flag page.

And here's another to a page (actually many pages) of picture of American flags being burned around the world. Gosh, what a fuel shortage there must be in some of these places. (I've never understood the urge to burn flags any more than the urge to criminalise flag-burning, but I assume it only happens because those who do it know that they'll get a reaction from some idiotic Americans.)

Seriously, folks. What is it about Americans that makes them peculiarly sensitive to bits of burning red white and blue cloth? It's unthinkable that any British person would get so excited over seeing a Union flag being burned, or indeed fed to a dog or used as toilet paper. Nor do I know any Scots who would react that way if a Scottish flag was being 'descrated'. (I mean, I can't even refer to flag 'desecration' without inverted commas, because you can't desecrate what wasn't sacred to begin with.) I don't claim that as a nation we're smarter than the Americans,or less patriotic, but I do think we may have a better capacity for distinguishing between things that are real and those that are symbolic.

Let's end on an upbeat note, though, The US constitution has seen off another attack from the ignorant and corrupt, just the way its framers intended it to. You HAVE to love a country whose constitution is explicitly designed on the understanding that politicians are assholes who will line their pockets and perpetuate their grip on power if given half a chance. So it denies them that chance, or at least makes it unattainably difficult. Now that's something real, and if I were an American I'd be much more alarmed about the people trying to mess with the Constitution than the ones quietly trying to light their cigars with the Stars and Stripes.

And the people all said Zidane, Zidane you're rocking the boat...

I've just realised that I never posted anything on the World Cup Final, which is remiss of me as I found it a fascinating game.

You may remember that I said I had no special feeling for one side or the other? Well, before the game started I decided I was leaning slightly towards wanting Italy to win, possibly because I thought it more likely that they'd lose. So: goal, equaliser, half-time. Then came Zidane's moment of madness, and I decided that yes, i wanted Italy to win. Yes, I'm sure Matarazzi provoked him, but as Martin O'Neill said on in the BBC studio, that's difficult to handle because it only occurs every 15 seconds when you're on the pitch.

And as it became more and more likely that the match would go to penalties (because Italy seemd to take their foot off the gas) I REALLY wanted Italy to win. Because Italy's record with penalty shoot-outs is pretty much like England's, except that they have the most famous penalty miss ever to their credit (Roberto Baggio, kicking to lose the World Cup Final).

Well, it went to penalties, Italy scored all theirs while David Trezeguet missed his. He must feel really awful, and probably always will. Fabulous feeling for the Italians though. While I would have backed Buffon against Barthes in any case, neither keeper made a save at all in the shootout, so no goalkeeping heroes. Apart from Trezeguet's bad luck, the strikers all acquitted themselves very well.

Congratulations Azzuri!

And finally, a few more words about Zidane. I thought
Jacques Chirac
put it best when he said (can't find it on Google) something to the effect that whatever one felt about the World Cup Final, Zidane's career had been long and inspiring, and a moment of craziness shouldn't detract from what had gone before.

There's a film about Zidane coming to the Edinburgh Film Festival. If I can find a suitable time I'd like to see it.

Is that a colony of fireflies in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

A funny post on clichés of scientific PR.

When I was a student the university Chemistry Society had a visiting lecturer on chemiluminescence. He told us that he'd once spilled something on himself which glowed bright green; as he said, you do feel a fool when travelling home.

25 Answers

The final round up. 21 of the 25 were guessed or partly guessed, which is a huge improvement on the six or so first time round. You're getting into the swing of it. Thanks to all who contributed. Where people only guessed the artist I've shown a partial guess.

Titles in bold remained unguessed to the bitter end.

1. Hey Mac, did you see him as he cam' doon by Gorgie
Tonight At Noon: "The John MacLean March" (Down With The Devils) - Alan (or Alan's Dad)

2. You can tell the world you never was my girl
Billy Ray Cyrus: "Achy Breaky Heart" (The Best Country Album in the World.....ever) - Gert

3. I awoke this morning, love laid me down by the river
Yes: "Wonderous Stories" (Going For The One) - Alan

4. Zoo time is she and you time
British Whale: "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" (single) - Phil

5. I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday
Meat Loaf: "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" (The Very Best of Meat Loaf) - Jason

6. Oh when the veil of dreams has lifted and the fairy tales have all been told
Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy & Catherine O'Hara): "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" (A Mighty Wind) - Eddie

7. When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful
Supertramp: "The Logical Song" (Breakfast In America) - Udge

8. Just got back from the downtown Palais
Electric Light Orchestra: "Rockaria" (A New World Record) - Kate

9. To Bombay a travelling circus came
Mandy Miller: "Nellie The Elephant" (Hello Children Everywhere) - Lisa

10. Won't you rise for the hangman, his pleasure is that you should rise
Fairport Convention: Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman (Full House)

11. I look at her and she looks at me, in her eyes I see the sea
Captain Beefheart: "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" (Clear Spot) - Jim Bliss

12. Baby lonely crying in the rain
Magna Carta: "Romeo Jack" (Magna Carta)

13. There's a man who's been out sailing in a decade full of dreams
Joni Mitchell: "Cactus Tree" (Joni Mitchell) - Gordon (partly)

14. I felt you coming girl, as you drew near
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: "(Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For?" (The Boatman's Call) - Jim Bliss

15. Tonight you're mine completely
Carole King: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (Natural Woman) - Lisa

16. Hey let's party, let's get down, let's turn the radio on, this is the meltdown
Sheryl Crow: "There Goes The Neighbourhood" (The Globe Sessions) - Gordon

17. Remember when you ran away and I got on my knees and begged you not to leave because I'd go berserk?
Napoleon XIV: "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" (single) - Jason

18. I like beer and I like cheese, I like the smell of a westerly breeze
Mike Oldfield: "On Horseback" (Ommadawn) - Phil

19. A movement is accomplished in six stages, and the seventh brings return
Pink Floyd: "Chapter 24" (The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn) - Jim Bliss

20. From the day he was born he was trouble
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Eddie" - Udge

21. Tu t'en vas, l'amour a pour toi le sourire d'une autre
Vicky Leandros: "Après Toi" (Eurovision Song Contest 1956 - 1999)

22. A perfect education estimating the calculus was all a beastly trauma to me
Stackridge: "Dangerous Bacon" (The Man In The Bowler Hat)

23. Slick Willie was a shoeshine boy working downtown 42nd Street
Neil Innes: "Topless-A-Go-Go" (How Sweet To Be An Idiot) - Alan (partly)

24. Well it's late in the evening and the weather is cold
Kevin Ayers: "Everybody's Sometime And Some People's All The Time Blues" (The Confessions of Doctor Dream and other stories) - Phil

25. Make a wish just before you close your eyes
Joseph McFadden: "I Want Doesn't Get" (Sex, Chips & Rock'n'Roll) - Gert (partly)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wish You Were Here

Syd Barrett has died.

The BBC have some recollections of him by Joe Boyd here.

Nuclear Power? Yes please.

So England (though not Scotland) is to get a new generation of nuclear power stations. Good. Well, good for England.

I liked the comment from the Greens:

Green Party Principal Speaker Keith Taylor said: "Alistair Darling has today led the UK down a dirty and dangerous path, that of a fresh round of astronomically expensive nuclear power stations."

This would be the same Green Party that wants the entire world to sign up to the astronomically expensive Kyoto Protocols. You see, Keith, whether it's expensive isn't the point if you're serious about slowing down global warming. If you're not, fine: whinge about the cost. If you think global warming isn't just a load of media hype, then stop moaning when somebody gets off their butt and does something about it. You may think you have the moral high ground in opposing nuclear power: you'll need it to stay above sea level if you're planning to rely wholly on wind farms.

So if the Green Party could revert to simply being irrelevant and funny instead of actually trying to bugger up the environment further, we'd all be much obliged. Ta.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

25 First Lines, 15 Guesses, 10 Hints

OK, here are hints to help you with the remaining ten lines from the 25 First Lines meme.

2. You can tell the world you never was my girl
Billy Ray Cyrus: "Achy Breaky Heart" - Gert

Neither of my children can understand why nobody has got this yet. Neither can I: it is, after all, only one of the best-selling country records of all time. Are there no Americans out there? Does nobody line-dance? It may not be very cool to own up to recognising it, but hey, I'm the one with the CD on my shelf.

6. Oh when the veil of dreams has lifted and the fairy tales have all been told
Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy & Catherine O'Hara): "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" (from A Mighty Wind) - Eddie

From a film soundtrack, this one was nominated for an award. (Best Song Oscar, though it didn't win.) The film also features a song about catheters. Heck, you'd think it was Spinal Tap or something. (A Mighty Wind was made by Christopher Guest and featured most of the same people as Spinal Tap, Best In Show, etc.)

10. Won't you rise for the hangman, his pleasure is that you should rise

An English folk-rock band of considerable longevity and many changes of line-up recorded this for their fifth album. (Their fourth is the one which changed musical history.) It was dropped from the vinyl issue, but once the vocals were re-recorded it made it onto the CD version as a bonus track. Meanwhile, it had been released as part of a compilation celebrating the career of the group's lead guitarist (and vocalist).

12. Baby lonely crying in the rain

You're allowed not to know this one. From the first (self-titled) album by a trio, one of whose later members would go on to become Elton John's most faithful sideman. This song sent up the sexual exploits of the bloke he replaced. Another track on the album was inspired by the songwriter's experiences as a porter at Stockport Infirmary, apparently. Their next album would feature appearances by not only the Elton John connection but also a still-with-the-Strawbs Rick Wakeman.

13. There's a man who's been out sailing in a decade full of dreams

From the first album by a very famous female singer-songwriter. Her second album would contain her best-known song. Oh, and she did her own cover art, with that second album having a self-portrait on it. This, though, is the last track on the first album. Dave Crosby produced it, while Graham Nash was busy writing songs about the lady herself.

16. Hey let's party, let's get down, let's turn the radio on, this is the meltdown

Not sure why nobody's got this either. A pretty well-known track by a singer who supported the Rolling Stones on their last UK tour. Though the previous track on this album was her biggest hit. Right now she's probably taking a lot of interest in a French sporting event, through force of habit perhaps?

21. Tu t'en vas, l'amour a pour toi le sourire d'une autre

This one wasn't just nominated for an award, it won one, in Edinburgh in 1972. Need I say more?

22. A perfect education estimating the calculus was all a beastly trauma to me

A quirky band from Bristol recorded this on their third album, produced by George Martin. They reformed not very long ago.

23. Slick Willie was a shoeshine boy working downtown 42nd Street

You're allowed not to know this one either. Its author was previously part of a totally insane band, whose one chart hit he penned (and sang). His most famous tune is the whistling bit of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. In between...? Well, he recorded this. The guitarist in the album was also lead guitar on the Kevin Ayers track (#24) - not the live version, of course.

25. Make a wish just before you close your eyes
Joseph McFadden: "I Want Doesn't Get" (from Sex, Chips & Rock'n'Roll) - Gert

Not a film this time but a TV series. Most of its soundtrack was 60s hits, but this one was specially written and had a central place in the story. Cast members singing backing vocals include Gillian Kearney.

An ignorant fucktard given more attention than she deserves

Remember this post on the Gaza shellings? And Judith's comment on it? Here's my favourite bit, which had me rolling on the metaphorical floor:

"Olmert's refusal to enter into peace negotiations with the Palestinian government." What an Orwellian statement. That's what happens when you get your news from the BBC, I guess.

As well as giving poor uninformed Judith a definitive American source for my "Orwellian" statement, I fell about at the thought of the BBC being perceived as pro-Palestinian. because the truth, of course, is quite the reverse. Here is a report from the PSC's site on a recent report criticising the BBC for its consistent pro-Israel bias (not that any regular Radio 4 listener needed the PSC to tell us that). And here is the PSC's input to the same report.

No, the BBC unashamedly supports Judith's own wacky let's-pretend-that-Israel-has-a-perfect-right-to-be-in-the-OT-and-can-do-no-wrong mindset. As she might have discovered had she taken the outrageous step of watching or listening to any of its output before keying her spectacularly ignorant comment.


You say you want a revolution.....

OK, here's an interesting one.

Today at work I received an email from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. My union is affilliated to the campaign, and I receive their mailings. Sometimes I take action on them, sometimes not. Here's one of the NOT category:

Emergency in Palestine

The Israeli government's behaviour at present is to be condemned. The failure of our government to speak out against Israel's oppression of the Palestinian population is complicit with those actions of the European Union, the United States and Israel. It is in effect a coordinated attempt to collectively punish the Palestinian people for electing a government of which they disapprove.

Having lectured the people of the Middle East about `democracy' for decades, our government, the EU and the United States are seeking to trample upon the right of the Palestinian people to exercise their democratic right to elect their own government.

The suspension of aid by the EU and the US, the withholding of Palestinian taxes by Israel, and Israel's illegal blockade, are crimes against the Palestinian people.

They are creating a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the West Bank and have emboldened Israel to sustain an unrelenting bomb and missile barrage, which regularly kills innocent children and other non-combatants in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which protects civilians under occupation.

Israel has bombed the only power station in Gaza, destroying electricity and water supplies to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and forcing tens of thousands to flee from their homes. These are crimes against humanity.

These actions have now culminated in the kidnapping by Israel of a quarter of the parliament elected by the Palestinians, and half of its democratically elected government. They join thousands of other Palestinians illegally kidnapped or imprisoned by Israel, including over 300 children.

We call upon the British government:
1. To immediately work for the restoration of EU aid to the Palestinian Authority.
2. To demand that Israel ends its blockade and restore taxes to the Palestinian Authority.
3. To demand that Israel cease all military action in the Occupied Territories.
4. To demand the release of all elected Palestinian officials held by Israel and the instigation of a programme for the release of all prisoners held in violation of international law.
5. To apply pressure through the United Nations for Israel to respect the UN resolutions requiring its withdrawal from the territories it illegally occupied in 1967.6. To end Britain’s arms trade with Israel until it abides by international law.

Now I have two problems with that. Not with any of the facts presented, because they are all (as far as I know) true. But with an implication and an omission.

The implication is that the "Israeli government's behaviour at present" (i.e. the invasion of Gaza) is simply part of the punishment of the Palestinian people for electing a government of which they disapprove. No mention of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier and the (now murdered) settler, which are the proximate cause of the current action. (Please understand that I am not disputing that the Palestinians were being punished by Israel, the US and the EU for electing the "wrong" government; merely that that is not what the current action is about.)

The omission, of course, is any call for the Palestinian militants (whoever they may be) to release Gilad Shalit, a call which might carry some weight if it came from a pro-Palestinian body. But no, the PSC is disappointingly (though not surprisingly) one-sided in its view of the situation, and thus leaves out the most important points. Once again, I agree with all they say; it's what they don't say that alarms me.

To quote someone with a more balanced view of the world:

"But if you want money for people with minds that hate
Well all I can tell you is brother you'll have to wait..."

But don't hold your breath.