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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Roll up, roll up

Thanks to all both of you who made guesses (correctly) in my Christmassy singles and Christmas carols quiz. We have five carols and three singles still available for guessing. The quiz, as befits a Christmas decoration, will stay open until January 6th, but meanwhile here are a few hints. I hope some of them will have Phil or Alan kicking themselves, or even inspire others to have a shot.

1. When he is king, we will give him a king's gifts.

A carol for choirs rather than congregations, but and certainly the hardest one of the set. But it gets done pretty regularly by King's College Choir, and gets plenty of airtime on classic FM and the like. By a real composer, and for once it isn't John Rutter.

4. Mitten im kalten Winter

Is it the German language that's thrown you? It does get sung in English as a congregational carol, but not often. It is however fairly ubiquitous - in German - in carol services (including this year's King''s College one), and on the radio. Logically it fits pretty early in the nativity story, up there with all the begettings. Another one by a real composer, some of whose other hits have been covered by Mike Oldfeld.

7. The star shines out with a steadfast ray

So think, people. Who followed the star? Another strictly choir-only one, and another mega-hit of the choral repertoire. Its composer was a friend of Wagner, and nowadays is probably best-known for this carol (Op. 2 No. 8, apparently), at least in Britain. Its original German title is "How beautifully shines the morning star".

12. Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife

How you all missed this I have no idea. A hugely popular congregational carol, right up there with O Little Town or In The Bleak Midwinter. Lyrics from New England, tune trad. arr. Sullivan (of G&S).

15. Then why should men on Earth be so sad

Usually done as a carol for choir, but I've heard congregations belting it out lustily too. Like number 8 (The Coventry Carol) this one has a geographical title, though it's often just called by its first line. Again, ubiquitous.

C. Feigning joy and surprise at the gifts we despise

A 21st century Christmas hit. This Christmas I've seen the video on TV twice, and the band's Top Of The Pops appearance on the TOTP2 Christmas edition. You really should know this one.

Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) (The Darkness) - guessed by Lisa

J. Now we have been through the harvest

I'd think it was embarrassment that stopped you guessing this, but Phil got both Mud and the Wombles so that can't be it. This bloke has pumped out many Christmas singles, most of them pretty bad. This one (I think) was his first foray into the genre, and is quite decent. Your Mum probably knows the answer.

L. It was Christmas day in the jailhouse, the old man sat in his cell

This one wasn't strictly a Christmas single despite its first line (it was released in November 1965 so was probably in the very low reaches of the chart at Christmas). It was a comedy record, like all his others, including the one that was a very decided Christmas hit in 1971. The one you're guessing had more of a satirical edge than most of his songs. Of course, when you hear his name it isn't usually songs that spring to mind at all: it's a saxophone piece (played by Boots Randolph). Appropriate music with which to end this post....

Let me get this straight....

First of all, Israel allows a £6 million arms shipment to be sent from Egypt to the Palestinian Authority to assist in the stamping out of Hamas rocket attacks. This shows a remarkable degree of realism and common sense, and if successful will be a step toward peace: good.

Then Israel announces that it will resume its shelling and airstrikes against Hamas rocket-launchers (with "pinpoint" strikes such as the one at Beit Hanoun). If there was a better way to encourage support for Hamas I have yet to hear it. Joined-up thinking? Not.

But Ehud Olmert claims that this won't violate the ceasefire in Gaza. What, he's going to attack the rocket-launchers with bunches of flowers? Hypocrite or fool? Who knows?

And then the Israeli government demonstrates that it was never serious about peace in the first place. Well, at least now we're all clear on that, though this was already a bit of a giveaway.

Fact: there won't be a peaceful settlement until the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist peacefully within its recognised borders.

Fact: there won't be a peaceful settlement until Israel accepts its responsibility to exist peacefully within its recognised borders, and remembers (look at a map, dummies) where those borders are.

Fact: as long as Israel is governed by idiots who refuse to accept the borders it demand everyone else respect, and who keep pushing their unwanted trailer trash into someone else's country, Israelis will keep getting killed. And the longer it goes on, the less anyone outside Israel will care.

The Israeli settlers are civilians (albeit heavily-armed ones with a history of murdering their equally civilian Palestinian neighbours). Killing them is therefore a war crime (unlike killing Israeli soldiers on duty in Palestine, which is legally categorised as legitimate resistance to enemy occupation, however much Israel may disagree and however immoral any individual killing might be). So despite the temptation to wish nuclear death on all the illegal settlers, I shall keep calm, read John Donne again, and ponder the universal sacredness and interconnectedness of human life. However, anyone posting comments on my earlier post as to why Saddam deserved to die should realise that I will read them as equally valid attempts at justifying the killing of Israeli settlers. If one were to believe that some human lives are worth more than others, these guys would surely be alongside Saddam near the bottom of the heap.

The Midlothian Question

I'm going to be away for the next couple of days, which gives me a dilemma.

As a true-born Englishman, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year as I shan't be back until 2007 is upon us.

However, as an assimilated immigrant to Scotland of 25 years' residence, I am aware that Scottish practice is to do the wishing of a happy new year on the first meeting AFTER the new year.

This leads to some cross-cultural amusement, with Scots thinking their English workmates are weird when they call out "Happy New Year" as they leave on Hogmanay, and with the English getting a little spooked by being greeted with a "Happy New Year" (and handshake) in mid-January.

So I'll wish you an English Happy New Year and ask you to forget about it until midnight. OK?

Saddam Hussein 28 April 1937 - 30 December 2006 - R.I.P



De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Chilon of Sparta)

Yes, I know he was an asshole (that's why I didn't choose one of those flattering pictures of him waving to the masses). However, if anyone can suggest in what way his life is worth any less than that of, for example, a British soldier, I'd love to hear it. Or in what way his being dead is an improvement on his rotting in jail?

No doubt I'll get lots of mail from people "opposed to the death penalty almost categorically" who were drooling at the prospect of watching the hanging on TV. These are called hypocrites.

Also from those who support the death penalty. These are called apologists for state-funded murder, but at least they're a sight more moral than the hypocrites.

And unless any of you can do better than this, you 're wasting your time:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Israeli non-combatant deaths halved + Palestinian non-combatant deaths up by 50% = restrained proportional response. Not.

Some disturbing statistics from Israeli human rights group B'Tselem (via al-Jazeera).

Kidnapping Gilad Shalit never was the cleverest of Hamas's notions. (And I note he's still in captivity: about time to let him go, maybe?) However, good to see an Israeli organisation (*) confirming what everyone knows, but Israel's supporters categorically refuse to admit, which is that the IDF uses lethal force against non-combatants, shooting directly at people posing no threat.

Demolition of houses from the air is an interesting development. No more dramatic picture of ISM volunteers defying bulldozers: now it will be just pictures of the smear on the rubble where the volunteer used to be, and any other international or journalists who might otherwise have videoed the confrontation and challenged the official lies will now also be a smear on the rubble. How efficient. Sadly, collective punishment remains a war crime in breach of the Geneva Conventions, whether delivered from a Caterpillar D3 or a Lockheed F-16.

* Of course, as it criticises Israel in any way it is, by definition, composed of self-hating Jews. I'm not sure whether that link is to an Israeli or USA-operated site: revealing either way, though. How many thousands of hours of Hasbara conferences does it take to undo the damage to Israel's reputation one bunch of supposed friends can do?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Help join up the government's thinking on freedom in Iraq

A campaign worth supporting:



Full details and the original (pdf) poster here.

Though let's remember that the government which passed the most recent anti-union legislation (Decree 8750) is the one put in place (at your expense if you're British or American) to restore democracy and freedom to Iraq, at the cost of hundreds of thousand of lives. So that worked brilliantly then.

Nevertheless:

support the campaign;

write to your MP to ask her/him to support Early Day Motion 2145, calling on the government to put pressure on the Iraqi regime to repeal Decree 8750.

If you're American you could try asking your congressman to apply pressure to the same end. You never know.

Thanks to Cloud for drawing this to my attention.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Chimney full of fat bearded guy stop garden full of reindeer dung stop please advise

A joyful Christmas to all our readers!

And as nobody else has taken a crack at the Christmas quiz: Phil - you might as well weigh in with your answers and leave everyone else the toughies.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I have a hoax

Somebody (I thought it was a commenter at Kesher Talk but I can't find it there now so may have made a mistake) recently posted a reference to a leter of martin Luther King's equating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism. I requested (but didn't receive while I could still remember where to look) a reference for the quotation.

Well, here it is.

And just as I was about to start complaining that King treats Zionism (in 1967!) as though its goal were still the creation of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland, rather than the unregulated expansion of that state into neighbouring countries, here is a further post pointing out that the whole thing is a hoax.

Even Nobel prizewinners screw up sometimes: Einstein came out strongly against quantum theory, which now enjoys a higher degree of experimental confirmation than does relativity. Still, it's nice not to have to topple MLK off his pedestal for such egregious bollocks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Temperate he ain't: but he's worth reading

I was directed to this piece by the well-known Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, originally published in the newpaper Aftenposten and kindly translated into English by Leif at Heretic's Almanac.

FWIW I think Gaarder sums up what most people I know feel about the situation, to wit, extreme impatience that Israel has literally been allowed to get away with murder in the Occupied Territories for almost forty years without the world caring. Please note that along with the UN and all the Western governments save the US and Israel itself, he explicitly recognises the State of Israel as defined by its internationally-agreed borders. And he condemns terrorist murders by Palestinians. None of which prevented some of Leif's tinfoil-hatted commenters from accusing him of wishing that Hitler had won WW2 and of being a Jew-hater. C'est la vie.

Of course, Gaarder's remarks went wholly unreported in the British press which supposedly never misses a chance to attack Jews Israel. Aye, right. Anyway, read the article and make up your own mind (both acts will piss off the Herzliyya news-censorship crowd no end).

Jostein Gaarder's rant
Unauthorized translation of Jostein Gaarder's article in Aftenposten, August 5, 2006

God's chosen people

Israel is history. We no longer recognize the State of Israel. There is no way back. The State of Israel has raped the world's recognition and will get no peace until it lays down its weapons. The State of Israel in its current form is history, writes Jostein Gaarder.

No way back. It is time to learn a new refrain: We no longer recognize the State of Israel. Vi couldn't recognize the apartheid regime in South Africa, we didn't recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. And there were many who didn't recognize Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the Serb ethnic cleansing. So now we must get used to the thought: the State of Israel, in its current form, is history.

We don't believe in the illusion of God's chosen people. We laugh at this people's conceits and cry over its misdeeds. To act as God's chosen people is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity. We call it racism.

Limits for tolerance

Our patience has its limits, and so does our tolerance. We don't believe in divine promises as a basis for occupation and apartheid. We have left the Middle Ages behind us. We are embarrassed by those who believe that the god of plants, animals and galaxies has appointed one particular people as its favorites and given them funny stone tablets, burning bushes and a license to kill.

We call those who murder children child-murderers and will never accept that such people have a divine or historical mandate that can excuse their shameful acts. We can only say: shame over all apartheid, shame over ethnic cleansing, shame over all terrorist acts against civilians, whether perpetrated by Hamas, Hizballah, or the State of Israel!

Art of war without scruples

We recognize and accept fully Europe's deep responsibility for the fate of the Jews, for the shameful harrassment, the pogroms and the Holocaust. It was historically and morally necessary that the Jews got their own home. But the State of Israel has with its unscrupulous art of war and repulsive weapons massacred its own legitimacy. It has systematically violated international law, conventions, and numerous UN resolutions and can no longer expect protection from such quarters. It has carpet bombed the world's recognition. But have no fear! The hard times are nearly over. Israel has seen its Soweto.

We are at the watershed. There is no way back. The State of Israel has raped the world's recognition and will not see peace until it lays down its arms.

No defense, no skin

May spirit and words blow Israel's apartheid walls over. The State of Israel doesn't exist. It is without defense now, without skin. May the world have mercy on the civilian population. Because our prophecies of doom are not directed at the individual civilians.

We want the people in Israel everything well, everything well, but we reserve the right to not eat Jaffa oranges as long as they taste badly and are poisonous. We easily managed without the blue apartheid grapes for a few years.

They celebrate the triumphs

We don't believe that Israel mourns more over 40 Lebanese children than they for the last three thousand years have complained about 40 years in the desert. We take note that many Israelis celebrate such triumphs the way they once celebrate the Ten Plagues as "suitable punishment" for the Egyptian people. (In this story the Lord of Israel appears as an insatiable sadist). We ask ourselves if one Israeli life is worth more than 40 Lebanese or Palestinian [lives].

For we have seen the pictures of Israeli girls who write hateful messages on the bombs to be released over the civilian population of Lebanon and Palestine. Israeli girls are not cute when they take pleasure in death and agony on the other side of the front lines.

Retribution of the vendetta

We do not recognize the rhetoric of the State of Israel. We do not recognize the the bloody spiral of retribution of the vendetta and an "eye for an eye." We do not recognize the principle of ten thousand Arab eyes for one or two Israeli eyes. We do not recognize collective punishment or population diets as a political weapon. It's been two thousand years since a Jewish rabbi criticized the ancient doctrine of an "eye for an eye."

He said: "All that you would others do for you, you should do for them." We do not recognize a state that is built on anti-humanitarian principles and the ruins of an archaic religion of nationalism and war. Or, as Albert Schweitzer put it, "humanity is to never sacrifice a human for a cause."

Mercy and forgiveness

We do not recognize the old kingdom of David as normative for the 21st century's map of the Middle East. The Jewish rabbi who claimed two thousand years ago that the kingdom of God is not a resurrection of David's realm, but that the kingdom of God is within us and among us. God's kingdom is one of mercy and forgiveness.

It's been two thousand years since the Jewish rabbi disarmed and thoroughly humanized old war rhetoric. Already in his time there were Zionist terrorists.

Israel doesn't listen

For two thousand years, we have emphasize the curriculum of humanity, but Israel doesn't listen. It wasn't the Pharisean who helped the man who lay on the side of the road because he had been attacked by robbers. It was a Samaritan, today we'd say a Palestinian. Because first we are human - Christians, Muslims, or Jews. Or as the Jewish rabbi said: "And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?" We do not accept the abduction of soldiers. But we do not recognize the deportation of entire groups of people and the abduction of lawfully elected parliamentarians or members of a cabinet, either.

We recognize the State of Israel of 1948, but not of 1967. That is the State of Israel that doesn't recognize, respect, and yield to the legal 1948 state. Israel wants more - more villages, and more water. To achieve this some are enlisting God's help to find a final solution to the Palestinian question. Some Israeli politicians claim that the Palestinians have so many countries, while we have only one.

USA or the world?

Or as Israel's highest protector puts it: "May God continue to bless America." A little child noted this and asked the mother: "Why does the president always end his speeches with God bless America? Why doesn't he say God bless the world?"

And then there was a Norwegian poet [Henrik Wergeland] who exclaimed the following childlike sigh: "Why does humanity progress so slowly?" He was the one who wrote so beautifully about the Jew and the Jewess [two epic poems by Wergeland]. But he rejected the the illusion of a chosen people. He called himself a Muslim.

Calm and mercy

We do not recognize the State of Israel. Not today, as we write this, in our hour of sorrow and rage. If the nation of Israel should fall under its own acts, and parts of its population must flee the occupied areas and into another diaspora, we say: May those around them show them mercy and calm now. It is always a crime without any mitigating circumstances to to lay a hand on refugees and the stateless.

Peace and right of passage for the fleeing civilians who no longer have a state that can protect them! Don't shoot at the refugees! Don't aim at them! They are as vulnerable as snails without their houses now, vulnerable like the slow-moving caravans from Palestinian and Lebanese refugees, defenseless as the women, children, and elderly in Qana, Gaza, and Sabra and Shatila. Give the Israeli refugees shelter, give them milk and honey!

Don't let a single Israeli child's life be lost. Too many children and civilians have already been murdered.

You couldn't make it up (but that's OK, the conference will give you all the necessary training)

As if the reports that we receive from the European and American media of the situation in the Occupied Territories and West Asia in general were not sufficently biased towards Israel's viewpoint, we now have the loathsome spectacle of a conference specifically designed to plug such small gaps in that bias as allow the truth to emerge every now and then. (Love the website name, BTW: "Augean Stables" is about right, though in their uncleansed state, of course. See for yourself: on their website banner, Heracles is busily confronting the Hydra, with his day in the stables still three labours away. See here. So a good name for a site that's full of sh1t.) You can get a flavour of this self-congratulatory gathering of opponents of a peace process from a nauseated (Israeli) spectator here.

One must remember, of course, that Liza is a "self-hating Jew" (i.e. fails to chant the "Israelis good, Palestinians bad" mantra every day). And thank God for such. Here's another in the Jerusalem Post, talking more sense on the reasons for Israel's poor image around the world than you'd hear in any number of days of racist spouting in Herzliyya.

Friday, December 22, 2006

There's even a character in the original called A-Rab

I was over at meish.org reading 'Tis The Season, and found this entry. What fired my imagination was the comment about Maria. It made me wonder why nobody has yet done a parody version of West Side Story as "West Bank Story", the nativity story set in modern day Palestine. You know the sort of thing:

When you're a Jew
You're a Jew all the way
Though you have to give birth
In a trough full of hay...

Dear kindly Ehud Olmert, you gotta understand
It makes us want to vomit that you guys took our land...

I like to be in Jerusalem
Okay by me in Jerusalem
Arab and Jew in Jerusalem
Muddling through in Jerusalem

Anita's gonna make her mark tonight
I'll brighten up the dark tonight
I'll murder some Israelis, that's keen
On al-Jazeera daily my face'll be seen

It's a funny thought, though, that a 21st century updating of the "Romeo and Juliet" story would be more effectively done with an Israeli and a Palestinian than with New York street gangs.

In the beginning was the first line

As a seasonal change from the normal "first lines" quiz, I have two sets of lines for you to identify. First of all, there are fifteen lines from Christmas carols. These are NOT usually their first lines (since most Christmas carols are identified by the first line) but you shouldn't have too much trouble if you know your stuff. Mostly they're the kind of thing you hear outside your door from bunches of neighbourhood children as you pretend you're not in, but there are one or two in there that are more "Carols From King's College" stuff. Here we go then. Titles will do for these, though feel free to show off by quoting composers if you like.

1. When he is king, we will give him a king's gifts
2. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care
Away in a manger - guessed by Phil
3. Strike the harp and join the chorus
Deck the hall with boughs of holly - guessed by Phil
4. Mitten im kalten Winter
5. If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb
In the bleak midwinter - guessed by Phil
6. So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven
O little town of Bethlehem - guessed by Phil
7. The star shines out with a steadfast ray
8. Herod the King in his raging
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child (The Coventry Carol) - guessed by Alan
9. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hark the herald angels sing - guessed by Phil
10. Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place
God rest you merry, gentlemen - guessed by Phil
11. Sages leave your contemplations
Angels from the realms of glory - guessed by Phil
12. Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife
13. Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith appeared a shining throng
While shepherd watched their flocks by night - guessed by Phil
14. Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb
We three kings of orient are - guessed by Phil
15. Then why should men on Earth be so sad

Right you are. And just in case you're not a carol buff, here is a more conventional set of 12 first lines from Christmassy hits. Titles and artists please:

A: Open your eyes, look to the skies when you're lonely
Wombling Merry Christmas (The Wombles) - guessed by Phil
B: When the snowman brings the snow
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (Roy Wood and Wizzard) - guessed by Phil
C: Feigning joy and surprise at the gifts we despise
Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) (The Darkness) - guessed by Lisa
D: It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid
Do They Know It's Christmas? (Band Aid) - guessed by Phil
E: They said there'd be snow at Christmas
I Believe In Father Christmas (Greg Lake) - guessed by Phil
F: Hey Mr Churchill comes over here
Stop The Cavalry (Jona Lewie) - guessed by Phil
G: And so this is Christmas
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John and Yoko) - guessed by Phil
H: It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank
Fairytale Of New York (Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues) - guessed by Phil
I: Try to imagine, a house that's not a home
Lonely This Christmas (Mud) - guessed by Phil
J: Now we have been through the harvest
K: Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Winter Wonderland (Peggy Lee) - guessed by Phil
L: It was Christmas Day in the jailhouse, the old man sat in his cell

Have fun. The last word on carols must go to my daughter Vanessa, whose first carol service included "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night" for the congregation. "I don't know this one, so I'm going to sing 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'", said she. And proceeded to do just that while the rest of us sang the hymn.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Status Quo - Just Doin' It Live - Usher Hall Edinburgh Tuesday 19 Dec 2006

Status Quo play Edinburgh just before Christmas every year, but for some reason we'd never got round to booking. Last year we tried but were too late (it was cancelled anyway as Rick Parfitt was ill). This year we were in luck.

So. There were two supports: The Twenty Sevens from Australia, a Stratocaster/bass/drums trio who did faintly blues-oriented material (including a slowed-down version of "Sunshine Of Your Love", forsooth). Also The Vivians from Switzerland, two Les Pauls, bass, drums, who sounded like a slightly punkier version of the Stone Roses. We were perfectly happy listening to both bands: always good when the support is bearable. I spotted Quo's Francis Rossi out in the audience listening to part of the Vivians' set, which was very nice.

Then we moved into Telecaster country with the arrival of Quo. Just the two originals remain (Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt), supplemented by more youthful bass, drums, and a multi-instrumentalist (mostly keyboards). Rossi and Parfitt have been around the block a few times (they were long-established stars when they opened up Live Aid), and it was nice to note that the music playing while they made their way on stage was a stylised version of the first Quo hit "Pictures of Matchstick Men". (Listening to that now, with Quo having changed style so much, is like hearing Spinal Tap's "Listen to the Flower People".) Francis instructed the audience to fill in the words if their voices gave out, and sing any guitar bits they missed. No doubt most of the audience could have done that, too: most of it was over forty, though there were plenty of teen and pre-teen kids there too (including ours). Down in the stalls (the seats had been taken out) the average age looked to be around thirty-five.

I didn't recognise everything they did; there seemed to be quite a few album tracks as well as the well-known singles (I have a couple of SQ greatest hits CDs but none of their actual albums). The ones I spotted were:

Caroline (the opener)
Something 'Bout You Baby I Like
Paper Plane
Rain
All Stand Up
4500 Times
Creeping Up On You
Gerdundula
The Oriental
Medley: Down The Dustpipe/What You're Proposing
Rocking All Over The World
Red Sky
Down Down
Whatever You Want (the closer)
Encore #1: Burning Bridges
Encore #2: Medley: Rock and Roll Music/Johnny B Goode

And while, yes, their voices were sounding a bit tired and end-of-tourish, we enoyed it all greatly and I expect we'll be back next year. My teenage daughter reckons Francis Rossi is still very sexy despite his advanced years, and has more stage presence than anyone she's ever seen. So there.

Postscript: I was speaking yesterday to a guy at work who goes every year and is in the fan club. He reckoned Quo were disappointing compared with their previous appearances. Definitely having vocal trouble: he'd been for a drink with some of the hardcore supporters who followed the whole tour, and apparently we got two songs and a medley less than at most gigs (about twenty minutes cut). We'd wondered why there were helicopter noises before the first encore: it seems this normally introduces "In The Army Now", which had been their normal first encore. Also, my friend said Tuesday was the first drum solo he'd seen at a Quo concert for very many years. Still, better to rest the voices than bugger them up. He agreed with me that the audience had been surprisingly staid, and thought it was opartly that they picked up on Quo's tiredness, but also the fact that the stalls seats had been taken out. You might think this would encourage activity, but it meant that instead of the front seven or eight rows being taken over by the fan club and therefore being full of bouncy activists (and if they stand, everyone else has to in order to see) the energetic ones were spread around the auditorium, diluting the effect. Though there were still plenty of people dancing on all levels.

Someone on our level was wearing a T-shirt sloganned QUO ROCK LIKE F*CK. Hard to dispute that, even after forty-odd years.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Full of Sound and Fury



Some kind soul (Clare) has nominated EKN for an Insignificant Award. (And did so in embarrasingly fulsome terms, even if she is my blog-mummy!)

The Insignificant Awards is the world's most unheard of blog competition. It's a place for the undiscovered to be discovered.

As the annual weblog popularity competitions begin once more, we at The Insignificant Headquarters wish to praise, encourage and salute the unknown blogs that sit in the unrewarded wilderness. Those blogs that will never be voted for by the masses. Those bloggers who will never be nominated for anything (but should be).


I'm deeply touched and am preparing to do a Gwyneth Paltrow (or more likely a Shah Rukh Khan) if I win. But remember:

Remember the golden rule of The Insignificant Awards: it's the taking part that counts - not the winning.

Do feel free to vote for me when the time comes. Or Clare. Or Lisa. Or Rachie. Or Latigo Flint. Vote for somebody.

Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death - Glasgow S.E.C.C. Friday 15 December

This was the second time I'd seen Maiden, and once again they didn't disappoint, though I wasn't quite as knocked out as I was the first time.

Let's dispose of the support band (Trivium) as quickly as possible.

Q: Who wants to see us when we come back to Glasgow? We're gonna be supporting fucking Annihilator. Fuck, yeah!
A: Fuck, no. Actually.

Moving on....

Iron Maiden still have the very flexible line-up with three guitars (plus bass, drums amd vocalist). This lets them have duelling leads while still pounding out a rhythm, or to have a single lead over the Rhythm Section From Hell. Nicko McBrain is still, as far as I can tell, the best heavy metal drummer on the planet, Bruce Dickinson still sings brilliantly, and every member of the band is bursting with both energy and talent.

This was the "A Matter Of Life And Death" tour, so the set had a World War Two theme including a gigantic tank. Most of the band were dressed in the standard heavy metal band gear: black leather, bare arms, black everything, long hair suitable for headbanging (not that IM do that, in fact). Bruce Dickinson was in black, but there the standard appearance stopped: short hair, suit jacket and trousers, black T-shirt with very discreet white skull motif. If one ignored one's ears and concentrated only on the view, we had Cliff Richard (OK, a very bouncy Cliff Richard) backed by Spinal Tap. I'm sorry, but we did.

Nothing Tappy (let alone Cliffy) about the music though, They played the whole of "A Matter Of Life And Death", in sequence. Presumably they like to think of it as a concept album a la Dark Side Of The Moon. And looked at that way, it works quite well. Listening to it live brought home how complex some of the arrangements are: in places they actually reminded me of Yes back in the "Close To The Edge" era. And Maiden aren't the kind of band to be content with just duplicating the album on stage note for note: while the arrangements were intact, there were many opportunities provided - and gratefully taken - for improvisatory rocking-out by the band. They may be getting old, but they're not getting staid, for sure. The band's mascot Eddie (a large zombie) made his usual appearance, dressed in WW2 uniform (US army but with a British helmet, oddly)

Bruce thanked everyone on the audience for coming (apparently it's notoriously hard to fill the SECC, and even more so for heavy metal gigs) and for buying AMOLAD (which I infer must be selling much better even than their albums usually do).

After playing AMOLAD for over an hour, they did a few numbers from their back catalogue: "Fear Of The Dark", "Iron Maiden", "Two Minutes To Midnight" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name". I was surprised (and a little saddened) that they didn't finish up with "The Number Of The Beast" as they had the time before (it's such a brilliant live number), but I couldn't fault them for value for money, nor for the quality of the music. And I'd go and see them again next time they tour.

Six Books

A meme from Udge. It goes like this.

Select six books randomly from your bookshelf (library books count). If you like, you can restrict it to unread ones (I didn't). Then extract and print the following:

1. Book One - first sentence

A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I's feet and wetting they. (Alan Moore: "Voice Of The Fire")

2. Book Two - last sentence on page 50

The poster won some kind of an award almost the moment it came out. (Neal Stephenson: "Cryptonomicon")

3. Book Three - second sentence on page 100 (I had to take a rather broad definition of "sentence" in what is effectively a list of book titles and descriptions)

The Girdle of Chastity
Eric John Dingwall
George Routledge & Sons, 1931
The definitive book on chastity belts.

(Russell Ash & Brian Lake: "Bizarre Books")

4. Book Four - third sentence on page 150

Only when the heroine moves to London and becomes a call girl does the interest begin to flag.
(William Dalrymple: "The Age Of Kali")

5. Book Five - next to last sentence on page 200

From Rhodes they sailed to the Peloponnese and landed near Lerna, where Danaus announced that he was divinely chosen to become King of Argos. (Robert Graves: "The Greek Myths")

6. Book Six - the final sentence of the book

It is all very well for all of them to pretend that the whole of this story is my own invention: facts are facts, and you can't explain them away. (E. Nesbit: "The Enchanted Castle")

Sunday, December 17, 2006

While You Were Out

Just to round up a few stories from the past few days:

1) Of course Tony Blair was "burying bad news" on the day of publication of the Stevens Report into Princess Diana's death. He wasn't however, burying the matter of his being questioned by the police. A quick look at the tabloids the next day would suggest that he was using both those pop-news itenms to bury his government's shameful political interference in one of the country's biggest-ever fraud investigations; and that it worked very well. Possibly not for long though.

2) Roberto Alagna seems determined to prove right all those who reckons he's over-rated and overpaid. Not that confirmation was needed really. Huge cheers for Antonello Palombi who wasn't expecting to have to understudy the Great Tenor in mid-aria. If I were an opera house director and had booked Alagna I would now be frantically trying to void the contract.... Hope Palombi's career takes off on the back of Alagna's unprofessional idiocy.

3) Well, they're not liquids or gels (unless you sit on them). And I do like the file image the Beeb used for the story.

4) Britain isn't alone in avoiding embarrassing questions about its War On Terror. Here's Arundhati Roy in the Guardian with some background on the Mohammed Afzal case in India.

Oh no it isn't

A little seasonal cheer from the Guardian:

Tomorrow's News Today

From Avant News, a vision of what might be.... I think I like the names of the ships best.

Also this.

And I'm not sure this one's even a spoof.

Part of a conversation this morning in Starbucks

Hilary: what on Earth do you take to wear when you've been invited to stay with a millionaire in Malta in December?

Me: You realise I'm posting that line on my blog, right?

I should perhaps explain that Hilary is heading out to Valletta for four nights on business (and is probably actually staying in a hotel, though she and her boss will be meeting the aforementioned millionaire to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a future project).

Jealous, me? Not a bit. Huh.

The Unanswered Question (times ten)

Well, I'm gobsmacked that even with my hints (and the addition of the second lines) nobody guessed any of the final ten. Arcade Fire! Mud! Cliff! Pink Floyd! Ah well. Clearing decks for my Christmas edition, here are the answers. Thanks to all who took part.

1. John and Mitchy were gettin' kind of itchy just to leave the folk music behind.
The Mamas and the Papas: Creeque Alley - guessed by Lisa

2. What a life it would be if you would come to mine for tea
Oasis: Digsy's Dinner - guessed by
Phil

3. A girl consumed by fire, we all know her desire
The Stone Roses: This Is The One - guessed by
Phil

4. Daddy, daddy, come and look; see what I have found
Tim Rose: Come Away Melinda - guessed by
Tim (artist guessed by Phil)

5. Never meant you no harm, never meant you no harm, yeh yeh
Catatonia: Valerian


6. In the deserts of Sudan and the gardens of Japan
Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick - guessed by
Rachie

7. Une rue les gens passent, les gens comme on les voit
Celine Dion: Zora Sourit

8. Indifference is the hardest blow
Vashti Bunyan: Turning Backs

9. When I look out my window, many sights to see
Donovan: Season Of The Witch - guessed by Jason

10. If you should tell me that I'll always be the one you'll always love so true
Cliff Richard and the Shadows: I Could Easily (Fall In Love With You)


11. You're in denial, you're in denial, and I know
The Magic Numbers: Mornings Eleven - guessed by
Rachie

12. Billy Dalton staggered on the sidewalk
Kris Kristofferson: The Law Is For Protection Of The People - guessed by
Eddie Louise

13. Billy-Ray was a preacher's son
Dusty Springfield: Son Of A Preacher Man - guessed by
Eddie Louise

14. Yeah, said its all right
Love: Alone Again Or - guessed by Jason

15. Somethin' filled up my heart with nothin'
Arcade Fire: Wake Up

16. Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time
Funkadelic: Maggot Brain - guessed by Jason

17. In this dirty old part of the city
The Animals: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place - guessed by
Alan

18. I met her in a club down in old Soho
The Kinks: Lola - guessed by
Phil

19. In the days, the golden days, when everybody knew what they wanted
Portishead: Half Day Closing

20. When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone
R.E.M.: Everybody Hurts - guessed by
Eddie Louise

21. The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime
Pink Floyd: Free Four

22. All night long you’ve been looking at me
Mud: Tiger Feet

23. So far from home, my cry of pain won't ease my longing heart
The Saw Doctors: Midnight Express

24. San Francisco Bay past pier thirty nine
Stereophonics: Have A Nice Day - guessed by
Eddie Louise

25. With your photographs of Kitty Hawk and the biplanes on your wall
Al Stewart: Flying Sorcery

In praise of Christmas traditions....

Thomas Truax is a delight, and if you've never seen him perform you really should. Here's his Christmas message to those of us on his mailing list:


A SPIDER'S CHRISTMAS

by Thomas Truax

'Twas the day before Christmas and school was let out early! It was
that special day of the year when the children of the Huxley family of
spiders rush to the Crickshaw Bridge, off the northeast end of Wowbegon
Lake, to play their forbidden annual game of icicle climbing.

To prepare for the game, first a large patchwork quilt of web was
spun together by all the participants. It was then stretched
horizontally above the frozen river underneath the icicles hanging from
the edge of the bridge, forming a large trampoline. Then the spiders
would take turns leaping from the bridge, bouncing off the trampoline
and attempting to grab hold of and cling to an icicle. If this was
managed, the spider would then attempt to climb the slippery icicle back
to the bridge. At the end of the day the spider with the greatest
number of climbs would be crowned Ice King, or Ice Queen, and all must
bow before him or her. A well aimed, powerful bounce is required, and
most spiders are unable to reach, let alone grab on to an icicle.

Jimmy was a little smaller and tended to be a bit more clumsy than
the other spider babies, his feet were not as sticky and his attempts to
ejaculate a proper web were usually embarrassingly unsuccessful (it shot
out like a spiraling mass of silly string). He was a figure of
ridicule for his siblings, nevertheless it seemed that this was his day
to turn things around, as on his very first attempt he not only bounced
high enough to reach an icicle, he was also able to grab on and HOLD!
Throngs of tiny spiders gasped in awe around him. He could hardly
believe it himself as he clenched his multi-faceted eyes shut, took a
deep breath and told himself "Now, now Jimmy, don't let your excitement
foul this up. Hold on tight!"

He knew he still had to make the climb, and that the most
devastating thing that could happen would be to slip off now, after
having come so close to victory. So he held on tight while he regained
his composure.

This turned out to be a grave mistake, for he held TOO long, and
when he tried to move the first of his eight tiny legs he found it to be
frozen to the ice! He grunted, groaned and strained. He tried each
other leg, one at a time, but each was unfortunately very much as
stuck. The other spiders began to snicker and giggle and nod their
heads back and forth, then went back to the game around him for the
rest of the day.

As it got colder and evening set in he realized he'd probably be
stuck there all night. He would have to wait until morning and hope
the warmth of a new day would be enough to thaw him free.

Gradually his siblings filed off into the night, with an
occasional "Merry Christmas Jimmy!" thrown at him spitefully. And
through his cold multi-faceted eyes he saw a multitude of warm things:
distant webs of Christmas lights began to go on in the nearby town,
candles burned in the window hole of a nearby squirrel family tree. And
then there was smoke coming up from Al the Groundhog's hole, probably
from a lovely fireplace that made him think of the nice fireplace that
must be burning below at his own family's home back in the rafters of
the Tailspin Tavern. There they would be stringing eight tiny stockings
for each brother and sister from the big family web, and they'd all be
excitedly preparing for the arrival of Big Santa Spider later tonight,
with his eight bags of treats, flying through the night in his sleigh
pulled by eight tiny flies stuck to webbed reigns.

Yes he had plenty of time to think up there on that icicle, little
Jimmy did. He shuddered with thoughts about creatures that might swoop
in on him in the darkness and how he was pretty much a sitting duck up
there. But maybe that wouldn't be such a bad way to go, because what
really scared him were thoughts about the anticipated wrath of his
father, Daddy Long Legs Huxley, whom it should be said ruled with
nothing less than an iron spider fist. Once he had even violently
ripped the front two legs off Jimmy's brother Aldous when he was caught
examining a pornographic site on the Big World Web, leaving him to lead
the shameful life of a veritable six legged insect!

Snow began to fall and tiny multiple tears began to drip and freeze
into tiny icicles from all of Jimmy's eyes. Exhausted, he finally
passed out.

In the morning the sun did indeed shine down on a sparkling,
crackling crystal landscape and Jimmy melted free and dropped with a
soft bounce on the web trampoline below. There couldn't have been
another being in all of Wowtown happier about it being a sunshine
Christmas, but he was still very frightened about facing Daddy Long Legs
who would certainly be waiting to deliver a severe punishment. His
fears were unfounded, however. For due to a long standing family
tradition of which Jimmy was too young to be aware, Mommy had eaten
Daddy during the night.

Happy Holidays from all of Wowtown!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A special relationship founded on shared dismissal of all that the UN stands for

I found this interesting. Especially the following quote from Israeli PM Ehud Olmert:

"There is nothing wrong with marking the Green Line," Olmert said. "But there is an obligation to emphasize that the government's position and public consensus rule out returning to the 1967 lines."

O....K.... So we have an overt statement by the Prime Minister of Israel that his government's policy is never to comply with international law by withdrawing its troops and settlers into what the rest of the world recognises as Israel, but to occupy its illegally-seized possessions in perpetuity.

Yet as Tony Blair jets to Israel on yet another pointless mission to try to encourage the Israeli government to take an interest in a peace process they have been obstructing for decades, what does he consider as the principal obstacle to that peace? Why, the refusal of Hamas to recognise Israel, to allow it to be shown on its maps; and its insistence on regarding the whole of Palestine (including Israel) as its own territory. Yet when the Israeli government itself fails to recognise Israel (even when presented with an official map showing it clearly) and lays claim to the whole region including those parts which have never been part of Israel, this is a mere irrelevance that he won't even be discussing.

No wonder the man is a laughing-stock on both sides of the conflict.

While "Pretty Straight Guy" Blair is harping on about the necessity for Hamas to end violence against civilians, his hosts will still be engaged in covering up their own civilian killings. At least we Brits allow at least the appearance of an investigation after our troops fire on civilians; and we don't pretend the guns went off accidentally.

Never mind, while he continues to find excuses to deny the Palestinians aid (they were, after all, foolish enough to believe that free elections meant being able to elect the party of their choice to govern them, rather than one of his puppets), Bliar can discuss this sort of thing with the Olmert government. Maybe Olmert can flog him a few cheap nukes in return, to replace Trident with.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people." (Henry Kissinger 27/06/1970)

Still on the topic of mass murderers, I see that Blair's idol's idol has just died. I'm sad that he now will never be brought to justice for having murdered or caused to disappear at least three thousand of his countrymen (probably far more) , an omission which is at least in part the result Jack Straw's supine failure to have him either prosecuted or extradited when he was under arrest in the UK (because the poor dear wasn't well).



Still to paraphrase a memorable Private Eye line:

"Newsflash.... General Augusto Pinochet of Chile has just died. His condition is described as satisfactory."

Or in the style of one of their covers:

Pinochet's Death: A Nation Mourns



I was amused at the news reports that Baroness Thatcher had been deeply saddened by his death (bless....), and even more so by the very New Labour comment from Margaret Beckett (the Foreign Secretary) which stressed the great strides which Chile had made since Pinochet had ceased to be President. Nicely put.

Ah, let's have a poem to show that some Brits always had their hearts in the right place; and of course that some didn't. The title of this post should remind you that not all Americans backed democracy against dictatorship either. That Arlo Guthrie set a version of the poem to music and recorded it, should remind you that - despite the best efforts of their President - some still do.

Victor Jara of Chile

Victor Jara of Chile
Lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile
With his songs and his guitar

And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

Victor Jara was a peasant
He worked from a few years old
He sat upon his father's plough
And watched the earth unfold

And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

Now when the neighbors had a wedding
Or one of their children died
His mother sang all night for them
With Victor by her side


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

He grew up to be a fighter
Against the people's wrongs
He listened to their grief and joy
And turned them into songs


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

He sang about the copper miners
And those who worked the land
He sang about the factory workers
And they knew he was their man


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

He campaigned for Allende
Working night and day
He sang "Take hold of your brothers hand
You know the future begins today"


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

Then the generals seized Chile
They arrested Victor then
They caged him in a stadium
With five thousand frightened men


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

Victor stood in the stadium
His voice was brave and strong
And he sang for his fellow prisoners
Till the guards cut short his song


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

They broke the bones in both his hands
They beat him on the head
They tore him with electric shocks
And then they shot him dead


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

And now the generals rule Chile
And the British have their thanks
For they rule with Hawker Hunters
And they rule with Chieftain tanks


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

Victor Jara of Chile
Lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile
With his songs and his guitar


And his hands were gentle
And his hands were strong

©1977 by Adrian Mitchell
All Rights Reserved.




Well, I suppose it would save all that tedious lying to Parliament in order to get the Army to go and do his illegal killing

In among all Tony Blair's pathetic posturing in the hope of being listened to by some other country, somewhere statesmanlike grasp of the realities of modern foreign policy over the past week, I chanced to be listening to a CD of Simon and Garfunkel which included the song quoted below. Evidently not everything about growing up in the Sixties has become out of date, even if Blair has.

Incidentally, many people think it's a Paul Simon song, but in fact it was written by Ian Campbell, in whose eponymous Folk Group both the Daves Swarbrick and Pegg, later of Fairport Convention, made early appearances.

The Sun is Burning

The sun is burning in the sky
Strands of cloud are gently drifting by
In the park the busy bees are droning
In the flowers among the trees
And the sun burns in the sky

Now the sun is in the west
Little kids lie down to take their rest
And the couples in the park
Are holding hands and waiting for the dark
And the sun is in the west

Now the sun is sinking low
Children playing know it's time to go
High above a spot appears
A little blossom blooms and then drops near
And the sun is sinking low

Now the sun has come to earth
Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death
Death comes in a blinding flash
Of hellish heat and leaves a smear of ash
And the sun has come to earth

Now the sun has disappeared
All is darkness, anger, pain and fear
Twisted sightless wrecks of men
Go groping on their knees and cry in pain
And the sun has disappeared


It isn't only Mr Blair who is thinking about the legacy he will leave when, unloved and unlamented, he finally has the - I was going to write guts, but that is so clearly not the word for this most gutless of Prime Ministers - decency? honesty? ah, hell, none of them fit: when he buggers off for good. Will he have left one thing of even half the value of that not-especially-outstanding song? No.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Twenty-Five First Lines, Fifteen Correct Guesses, Ten Hints

Here are the lines nobody's guessed yet from this meme. I have appended the next line from each song (except in the case of #10 where that would give you the title), as well as a little background information.

Now off you go.

5. Never meant you no harm, never meant you no harm, yeh yeh
Never spun you no yarn, never spun you no yarn, yeh yeh

From the third album by this successful Welsh band. The band's lead singer subsequently moved to Nashville and left the rest of us playing this strange song. The title is nowhere to be found in the lyrics.

7. Une rue les gens passent, les gens comme on les voit
Juste un flux, une masse, sans visage, sans voix

From the second biggest-selling French album of all time, eclipsed only by the same combination of singer and songwriter on a previous album. The singer has been much derided over the years, but on these albums her performances are outstanding. This single reached number 20 in the French chart, picking up a silver disc on the way.

8. Indifference is the hardest blow
It is the wind and icy snow


The title track from this singer/songwriter's first album has recently been used in a T-Mobile ad. The length of time between that album and the follow-up from which this song comes makes Kate Bush's hiatus look very brief. Once again, the title doesn't appear in this song.

10. If you should tell me that I'll always be the one you'll always love so true
Then I can tell you (lalalalalalalalalalala==song title here==lalalalalalalalalalala)


This song, taken from the musical Aladdin And The Wonderful Lamp, was released at the end of 1964 and was in the charts at the same time as Downtown, I Feel Fine, and The Promised Land. The singer, just as much derided as the singer of #7, has since received a knighthood.

15. Somethin' filled up my heart with nothin'
Someone told me not to cry


How could you not get this track, from an album judged one of the records of the year for 2005 by Mojo magazine?

19. In the days, the golden days, when everybody knew what they wanted
It ain't here today, through the times of lasting love


Lisa knows the answer to this one, as she set it herself only a month or so back. From the band's 1997 self-titled album.

21. The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime
You shuffle in the gloom of the sick room and talk to yourself as you die


The words to this one sort of appear: from the soundrack of a rather pretentious film, they were released in late 1972, only a few months before the band's most famous album was released.

22. All night long you’ve been looking at me
Well you know you’re the dance hall cutie that you love to be


You're allowed to feel ashamed of knowing this one. A staple of college discos when I was a student in the early 1970s, it spent four weeks at number one in 1974. Hit the strobes....
23. So far from home, my cry of pain won't ease my longing heart
I miss you Mam, I miss you Dad, I'm falling apart

An affecting ballad from the most famous band ever to come out of Tuam in Co. Mayo. An earlier single became the biggest selling Irish single ever. Again, not one where the lyrics appear in the song tself

25. With your photographs of Kitty Hawk and the biplanes on your wall
You were always Amy Johnson from the time that you were small

From this artist's biggest-selling album, this song comes from back in the 1970s and is still in the performer's playlist. It name-checks Faith, Hope and Charity, the three elderly biplanes which defended Malta from the Luftwaffe until some Hurricanes could be shipped out there.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Magic Numbers, Glasgow Barrowlands, 4th December

First of all let me mention the two support acts, because both were unusually good. First up were a band called Horsebox, who sounded a little like Blur back in the old days. They're a five-piece who add to the normal vcl/gtr, gtr, bs and drms the more wacky Casio/glockenspiel/vcls. they were all good, but special praise goes to the rhythm section (Andrew on bass, Martin on drums) who were outstanding. No muss, no fuss, just spot-on.

They were followed by David Kitt, an Irishman who sounded like a hybrid of Bert Jansch and Bruce Springsteen. His band were quietly competent, but it was his final solo number with just his own acoustic guitar that swung me over to him: definitely channeling Jansch in style (though not quite at the same level of guitar virtuosity). Michele Stodart from the Magic Numbers joined them on backing vocals for one number, and David later returned the favour by joining the Numbers on vocals and keyboard for one of their encores.

OK, so to The Magic Numbers. I hadn't heard their new album, and had little idea of what they were like live. At the time of their first album they were being compared to The Mamas and The Papas (not that bad a call) so when David Kitt described the previous night's gig as having "f*cking rocked Barrowlands" I was a tad sceptical: TMATP were a great band, but rocking out wasn't their forte. That'll teach me. The Magic Numbers, ladies and gentlemen, did indeed F*cking Rock Barrowlands, and probably half of Glasgow's East End.

Running through the dramatis personae, we have Romeo Stodart, big, bearded, writing most of the material, singing lead on most numbers, and playing guitar far far better than I had expected. Clearly much less studio magic had been employed in the first album than I'd imagined. OK, the guy isn't Richard Thompson, but he could give Simon Nicol a run for his money. Really. On bass we have his sister Michele, she of the very long hair, the infectious grin and the undampable energy. I can't remember when I last saw such a physical bass guitarist: if the Air Guitar championship people ever introduce a bass guitar section, they should get loads of Michele Stodart imitators. She also sings, and you can see where the TMATP comparisons come from as if you squint she could almost be Cass Elliott, with wavier hair. Then on keyboards, percussion and melodica we have Angela Gannon, like a dark-haired Candida Doyle, though she smiles a bit more (and her hair became more and more bedraggled as the night wore on). Finally, the evening's contender for the Charlie Watts invisible drummer prize, Sean Gannon, Angela's big brother, always reliable, never obtrusive (no drum solos here).

So- from my limited prior knowledge of their material, in no special order, and with help from Google, here is a partial Magic Numbers set list:

Mornings Eleven
Forever Lost
Running Up That Hill (yes, the Kate Bush one)
Love Me Like You
I See You, You See Me
The Mule
Long Legs
Wheels On Fire
This Is A Song
Take A Chance
Anima Sola
Undecided

No doubt a true aficionado could have identified several more. Still, this greenhorn came away with two conclusions. One, that The Magic Numbers will never be one of those bands who are content to turn up and dial in a performance. They Perform. They Put On A Show. That Is What They Do. Two, that while the live versions of their songs are prefectly recognisable from the recorded ones, that's incidental to the live experience. They don't set out to copy their records; they simply rock. (Sorry: f*cking rock.) And the world rocks with them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Any resemblance to actual engineers alive, dead, or severely p*ssed off is purely coincidental

Reading this at my desk at work caused walnut pieces to come out of my nose.(via)

Re-reading it now caused red wine to do the same.

You have been warned.

Comments should be in simple, colloquial Arabic

I rather enjoyed this parody, originally written by Gabriel Ash in 2003 and still pertinent today.

The Bloggers United Will Never Be Defeated

Mil Millington has recently had most of his website closed down without reason by Hostingplex, who have been demanding $150 to reopen it. Please post about this, encourage people not to use Hostigplex (a read of the link above should suffice to put them off) and email Hostingplex with a link to your blog post when you've done it.

Update: I emailed Hostingplex, linking to this post, and received the following reply:


Rob,

I would love to hear about your blog post. May I ask where it's currently at?
Please note that intentionally causing someone's business harm is in fact against
several laws. There are laws out there to protect both the consumer and the
producers and in the event that we find material that we deem unacceptable we will
exercise our full rights within the law.

If you have any outstanding issues that you would love to discuss I'm available,
simply respond or open any existing tickets that you may have within the support
system.

Thank you for your time and enjoy your holidays.

David J
Hostingplex Support


From which I conclude that David J (hey, succinct surname!) is either illiterate or a spambot, as I posted a clear and specific link to this very post. Hey, you don't think they're getting a lot of these emails, do you?

I also like the gentle threat of legal action for intentionally damaging someone's business; which is of course precisely what Hostingplex have done to The Weekly. Sweet.

Rejoice, rejoice

While driving through to Glasgow this evening to see the Magic Numbers (review to follow) I caught the radio news headlines, and was moved to cheer out loud by this. Now perhaps the worthless oaf can be replaced by someone with an interest in the UN's continuation rather than its scrapping.

Best news since Rumsfeld was fired. Slowly the dead wood is cleared.....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The acceptable, um, face of primatology

I wasn't going to link to any more posts on other blogs tonight. Then I saw this one on Defective Yeti.

Now I want to know what book this comes from, because someone out there in primatology land has my kind of sense of humour.

Less can be more

Following on from a little exchange about the fact that Brits aren't American (hence don't celebrate Thanksgiving) I though ,this was rather good. The comments dilute the effect a bit, so don't bother with them.

From Meg, of course.

Goodbye, pop-pickers

I see Alan Freeman died recently: as much part of the sound of my growing up as John Peel, Mike Raven or Kenny Everett.

Now I can't get the Pick Of The Pops theme music out of my head. (Da da-da da-diddleiddleum da-da da-da dum....)

Stop all the clocks

I've just been to see Scottish Opera's resplendent production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, and it's hard to find any fault with it. I've known the opera for a long time now; I own the Karajan version on CD, and have seen it once before at Covent Garden. A check of my programme archive tells me that was on 27 January 1987, so some time before there was even a thought of my becoming a parent (and hence shifting up a generation). I wondered why my viewing of the opera this time had changed so much: last time I supposed I identified in some sense with Octavian (I should have been so lucky at 17...) , but this time it was definitely the Marschallin. She's supposed to be 32 and Octavian 17, so when I last saw it I was younger than her while now I've outlasted the pair of them end to end.

Hilary and Vanessa went to see it a few days ago and I re-used their programme, so I don't know whether the Octavian I saw was Sarah Connolly or the stand-in they saw (Catriona Barr). Whoever it was, she sang brilliantly, as did Rebecca Nash as the Marschallin and Daniel Sumegi as Ochs. Lucy Crowe as Sophie made a beautiful if perhaps slightly underpowered sound. The orchestra (under Richard Armstrong) were exceptional: it's quite rare to hear any company in this sort of repertoire where there isn't a single infelicity from the pit to attract one's attention. Not tonight, there wasn't.

Even comparing the evening with my Covent Garden experience (possibly the most perfect evening I've ever spent at the opera, despite my having to leap out of my seat in bladder-bursting desperation as soon as Ochs exited in Act 3, returning to listen in - more relaxed - rapture from a standing position in the gangway to the famous trio) I can find little to diminish Scottish Opera's achievement. Two things only, both concerning production rather than music and both in Act 2. One, the Covent Garden Act 2 set (by William Dudley) was simply stunning. Only (perhaps) the front end of Air Force One protruding on stage in Nixon In China has made a similar jaw-dropping impression in my 35 years of live opera-going. And two, the libretto states that Octavian is dressed in silver from head to toe, and tonight she had brown boots. At Covent Garden she was wearing a satin ensemble rather than stylised armour (though actually I liked the Scottish costume) - more Justin Hawkins than Ivanhoe - but she did have silver leggings and footwear.

Just so you know what I'm comparing with, musically, the Covent Garden performance was conducted by Bernard Haitink, and the principals were Ann Murray as Octavian, Felicity Lott as the Marschallin, Barbara Bonney as Sophie, and Hans Sotin as Ochs. (Also Robert Tear as Valzacchi.) That the memory of what, as I said, was probably my best ever evening of opera did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of the Scottish Opera production speaks volumes for both the latter's music and its production, which was full of nice touches. (For example, the significance of all the doorways as points of transition was played up, particularly in Act 3 when the Marschallin leaves and Octavian goes to call her back and the door slams; and shortly afterwards when Octavian is making her final exit and pauses on the threshold looking back at the now-empty stage as though filled with memories.)

Re the CG production, I was in London for a training course and had read a glowing review of it on the flight down. I headed straight from the airport to Covent Garden and booked a seat at £17.50, the most I had ever paid at the time for an opera seat, and only fairly recently eclipsed - I think by Scottish Opera's Tristan a few years ago - though tonight's seat cost £25. When you consider that in a few weeks I shall be seeing Iron Maiden from a (less comfortable) seat costing £32.50, all this talk about opera being elitist and expensive comes into perspective. The only reason I paid so much for the CG Rosenkavalier was that I was booking only two days before, and all the cheap seats had gone. Normally I would expect to have paid around £12.00 back then.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Still one of the most unwittingly funny blogs I know

I have been posting in a comment stream under this post over at Kesher Talk. Look if you like, but it's one of Alcibiades' posts and with comments mainly from her and Ben, hence mostly wingnut carpet-munching. (Some of KT's contributors are usually worth reading, but A and B: mostly not.)(And C you know already.)

I make no claims of great wit, originality or anything else for my own contributions. But I had to share this hilarious response by Ben to a comment of mine.

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ME:

Despite your assertion, Palestinians don't refer to targetted assassination (unless quoting other people): that's the Israelis. The Palestinians usually call it murder, which is equally wrong: in UK terms it's manslaughter or culpable homicide (not "I set out to kill X" but "I acted in such as way as to kill X when I could have acted otherwise and allowed him to live").

BEN:

Killing enemy troops in wartime is hardly a culpable act in any society, not murder, not even manslaughter. IF you draw such a broad net for manslaughter, I must insist you turn yourself in right now, because in using the internet you increase the demand for power in the UK, which increases the working hours for those in the power and mining industries, which have higher accident rates than other industries. (Well, most other industries- if you eat fish you are shameless) Or do you accept the fact that a number of innocent workers will die as a result of your (collective)and entirely reasonable actions, just like a number of innocent palestinians will die in Israel's entirely reasonable response to enemy rocket barrages? Both functions- provide power, eliminate terrorists- are legitimate, both will result in unintended deaths. Yet, you justify one but demonize the other?

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My daughter, who is a keen vegetarian, might I suppose consider my fish-eating shamelessness in the same light as the casual elimination of nineteen sleeping civilians. But, you know what? I doubt it.


P.S.

It's at time like this that living on Foula where all the power is locally generated and puts no stress on the grid (because not connected to it) would be handy; though moving there to score a debating point would be a tad excessive IMHO. A good place to visit though: I recommend it. It even has a (mostly) solar-powered lighthouse.