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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A new word for missing

Does anyone know what has become of Latigo Flint, quickest of quickdraws??

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No incarceration without representation

A story that has been fairly big news north of the border, less so in England, is the announcement that following last years's ruling that a total ban on voting by convicted prisoners in elections contravened human rights legislation, a legal challenge might be mounted to May's election for the Scottish Parliament. This might result in delay to the election, or to hefty compensation claims fron Scotland's prison population.

Knowing that most other countries don't ban prisoners from voting (or at least, not all prisoners), I can't say the ruling greatly surprised me. I was surprised that despite having had plenty of warning the British government had taken no steps to comply with the law so as to safeguard the election. But that's Westminster for you, eh? May elections? What May elections?

Anyway, this column in today's Glasgow Herald seems as good a summing-up of the situation as I can imagine.

Upside-down flowers remind me of that bit in "The Lady and the Tramp"

With my liking for bad puns, Buddhism and the music of Shoukichi Kina (especially Hana), I could scarcely resist these creations, found here.


Daijoubu, kyou, Daijoubukkyou?
Is it all right today—Mahayana Buddhism?


Abangyarudo no ikebana ryuuha ga souritsu shitai. Itsu no hi ka, itsu no hi ka hana wa sakasa, sou yo! (Warai nasai)
(Kina Shoukichi & Chanpuruuzu no "Hana" ni gomen)

I want to found an avant-garde school of ikebana. One day, one day, the flowers will be upside down, really! (Please laugh)
(with apologies to Shoukichi Kina & Champloose's "Hana" [the lyrics of which are the same as the second and third sentences except for hana o sakasou yo, "I'll make the flowers bloom."])

Don't you wish Britain had a rock with such a cool name as the Vishnu Schist?

A couple of weeks back, Gary Trudeau ran this Doonesbury strip. What a shocking story, I thought.

Evidently so did Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy Blog.

Unfortunately, it's only half true. Yes, the creationist book is on sale in the Grand Canyon shop, which is bad enough when the National Park is supposed to be promoting science. But if you ask the rangers how old the canyon is, they'll tell you that it was formed between 5 and 6 million years ago, and that the exposed rocks range from Kaibab Limestone (230 million years old) at the top, down to the Vishnu Schist (2 billion years old) at the bottom. I found that out by Googling, and Phil found it out from his commenters.

I can understand why Phil is annoyed. The game plan is supposed to be that the creationists tell lies about science, the good guys tell the truth, the creationists slink off amid howls of derisive laughter. It is NOT supposed to be that the creationsts tell lies about science, the scientists tell lies about the creationists, the creationists call them on it, the scientists slink off amid howls of derisive laughter, and everyone forgets the creationists' original lies. Thanks a bunch, fellas at PEER. With friends like that.....

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility should be more, er, responsible. One does not fight lies and myths with more lies and myths; one fights them with the truth.

It's waffer-thin

Ewww(e).

If that is-that-my-foot-up-your-nose-or-were-you-just-pleased-to-see-me picture grosses you out do NOT follow the link on that page to the picture of the python that tried to eat the alligator (hint: alligators are not waffer-thin).

I have visions of the narrator of Le Petit Prince frantically sketching pythons ouverts and pythons fermés.......

I keep trying to imagine the duck-shaped oxygen mask

"Percy the duck has had a difficult couple of weeks."

Ya THINK???

Monday, January 29, 2007

OK, forget the milk, but what about my skinny blueberry muffin?

This from Overheard In New York.

Perhaps I should check with my daughter, but I don't think Barista #1 quite entered into the spirit of the Starbucks Experience, let alone Christmas.

The Pendulum Years

Following my earlier post on ambiguous headlines, I loved the headline from this story "Psychic arrest uncovers drug ring". I had a vision of Strathclyde Police holding a seance to locate a stash of heroin, or maybe doing that trick with a map and a pendulum.

Which has just given me a thirty-one year flashback to my student days, when I and two friends attepted to use a pendulum to dowse for a hidden copy of Private Eye. One of us would leave the room, the others would conceal the magazine, and then the third person would return and attempt to locate it by taking bearings from different positions, pointing with one hand while operating the pendulum with the other. I remember we all achieved (at the first attempt) pairs of bearings which pointed to the correct spot, though this may demonstrate no more than sensitivity to subliminal cueing (and the difficulty for onlookers of not giving out such cues). Nerertheless, I confess that when my turn came I was puzzled that my two bearings intersected in empty space in the middle of the room. At least, I was puzzled until I thought to check under the carpet.

Not one of the green technologies we'll be exporting to India, then

When the Greens talk about producing energy from biomass somehow I doubt whether this is quite what they have in mind. Though one can't fault the logic.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lest We Forget

Having recently read The Diary of Anne Frank as part of my six-books-in-three-months resolution (currently nearly halfway through David Copperfield, thanks for asking) I found this story from the BBC interesting.

With respect to Tony Blair, though, the Holocaust may have been uniquely terrible in terms of its scale and its calculated cold-bloodedness, but it was not unique as a dreadful act of genocide, as the ghosts of any number of Rwandans, Kosovans, Kurds or Cambodians could tell him.

To wear a white poppy in November to honour the civilian dead from the world's wars as well as the military dead (primarily British military dead at that) is not to devalue the deaths of the soldiers, sailors and airmen, but to make one's remembrance more inclusive. In the same way, the replacement of Holocaust Day with a general Genocide Day would be in no way a denial of the horrors of the attempted extermination of European Jewry; merely an acceptance that repeated attempts have been made to destroy other groups on the basis of race or religion. For those of us in Europe the Nazi genocide is always likely to be the one felt personally by the most people: I have spoken to a man whose parents died in the camps, whereas I have never met people directly affected by, say, the Cambodian or Rwandan massacres. But I fail to see why the latter are deemed less worthy of annual remembrance.

Twenty-four hour Paki People

If the previous post suggested that I had become complacent about the level of racism in 21st century Britain, this story reminded me that there's still far too much of it about, and some of it is extremely nasty. I remain, however, cautiously optimistic about the British in general.

This article in the Guardian was very apt, I thought, especially in distinguishing between racist language used deliberately to cause hurt or offence, and racist language simply used carelessly because the speaker effectively never mixed with members of the group who might be offended. I shall put my hand up here and admit to having in the past used the expression "Paki shop" to mean "small general store opening very long hours". There was a time in Britain when practically the only late-evening shopping was to be had in such shops, whose proprietors were in my experience wholly Asian and usually South Asian. So yes, I used the term as a form of shorthand for a specific type of shop, so unconsciously that up to now I'd never considered it. In these days of general late (even 24-hour) opening, of course, the concept for which the expression supplied the signifier is no longer relevant and it has, in my hearing at least, fallen out of use. Now I patronise Asian shops to get urid lentils or moth beans, but those places would never have been, to me at least, "Paki shops". Equally, if a "Paki shop" had had, say, a Serbian proprietor I suspect it would still have been known as a "Paki shop", because of what it was rather than who ran it.

Julian Baggini's book (Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind, due out March 10th) should be interesting.

Entartete Musik, or Is This The First Time Otto Klemperer And Jade Goody Have Been Name-Checked In The Same Blog Post?

I've recently been reading Anthony Pople's Cambridge Music Handbook on the Alban Berg Violin Concerto, which Leanne Alexander is performing with Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra in four weeks' time.

The premiere of the concerto in Barcelona is a story in itself. Anton Webern was due to conduct it but became so depressed with the way the rehearsals had gone that after the last one he locked himself in his room and would only surrender the score for someone else to conduct after the composer's widow begged him tearfully on her knees. Hermann Scherchen took over and did a marvellous job on half an hour's rehearsal. (In fairness to Webern I have to add that he pulled himself together to conduct the second performance, in London, where he was apparently inspirational.)

But it's Pople's description of the first Vienna performance that will stick in my mind. (The soloist in all these early performances, incidentally, was the concerto's dedicatee, Louis Krasner.)

The Vienna premiere on 25 October 1936, under Otto Klemperer, was overshadowed by the worsening political situation, which branded as unacceotable not only Berg's music but also Krasner and Klemperer, who were Jews. Both official pressure and opposition among the orchestral players threatened the performance, but Klemperer held out, saying that if the work were dropped he would refuse to conduct the concert at all and might even leave Vienna for good. The conductor's magnetic personality and box-office drawing power won the day, and the antagionistic voices within the orchestra were countered by the singular decision of the senior concertmaster, Arnold Rosé, to participate in the orchestral accompaniment to a violin concerto. But, in Krasner's words:

"...the direct counterstroke of the Philharmonic musicians - unprecedented, unimaginable, and of historic dimensions - was yet to come. As the Concerto's concluding high tones for solo violin and soft chords for orchestra melted away to an eerie silence - and almost before any applause could be heard - the entire orchestra membership arose as if on command, turned abruptly, and marched suddenly off the stage. Otto Klemperer and I were left aghast and alone to turn and acknowledge the response of the audience. We were alone, but for one notable and extremely significant exception. Arnold Rosé stood up and remained erect, standing tall and solitary by his Concertmaster's chair. He applauded and gripped our hands....."
(Krasner, Louis, "The Violin Concerto in Vienna", The International Alban Berg Society Newsletter, 12 (1982), pp 3-4)

However much Tony Blair and John Reid try to stir up paranoia and antipathy concerning Britain's Muslims, and however enthusiastically they are supported in this noble task by such contemptible creatures as the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips, it will (I believe and hope) be a very long time before anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain reaches the level which anti-Semitic feelings had clearly reached in 1936 Vienna. Mind you, Hitler's policies merely gave the Viennese licence to indulge in feelings which many of them were already harbouring quite openly. In Britain, on the other hand, the public revulsion at the racist abuse recently directed at Shilpa Shetty by Jade Goody and friends on Celebrity Big Brother would seem to suggest that British public attitudes do not yet provide such fertile soil for government-sponsored hatred.

Let's raise a glass with a resounding "Never again!" to continued British resistance to the foul fantasies of Phillips & Co.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Always true to you, darling, in my Flaschen

Thinking of Youtube reminds me of this guy. I feel a new Winter Olympic event coming on (not too much of a drug problem but just think of the amount of drink the champions would have to get through).

Never Mind The Bollards......Keep Watching The Skies

If Blogger hadn't died on me (again) I had intended to post (indeed, I had posted) to the effect that, by the way, the Halle Choir blog had a few more points of interest. First of all, like EKN, it had a "Christmas songs and carols" quiz. Yay!

Secondly, it contains a link to the rather splendid NORAD Santa tracking site, which shows that the US military can still do stuff that isn't all about bombing people or denying political prisoners their mail. I especially liked the description of how the whole thing began.

Thirdly, it contains a link to what must surely be a popular Manchester spectator sport, viz. watching idiotic drivers attempting to go along Cross Street, where only buses (and, apparently, mail vans) are permitted. Jocelyn mentions that signs have now been erected there saying "no tailgating". Watch this to see why.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In which I introduce another blog, confess a weakness for the Tallis Forty-Part Motet, and make a truly appalling pun

Also on a musical theme, I found this blog recently. Rather good fun, I thought. I seem to have missed the BBC's mega-performance of Spem In Alium on TV, which is a shame as it's a piece I'm rather partial to. But it's available on DVD, so I could always get that. (Why they called the programme The People's Chorus instead of Spemalot I have no idea, however. Missed an opportunity there, marketing guys.)

And the post on sight-reading technique holds pretty well for instrumental sight-reading as well, something I consder myself pretty good at. There are a few differences, of course. Normally on a violin you don't have too much trouble locating the note you're supposed to be playing (though anyone listening to me practising the squeaky high-pitched bit in Minimax earlier this evening might wonder about that). On the other hand we do have to work out what position we're going to play in (i.e how far up the neck of the instrument to shift the left hand). That's something definitely worth looking ahead to sort out. Related skills are: being able, at a pinch, to crash through pretty much anything in first position (handy for when that looking ahead lets you down); and the possibly surprising (until you try it) skill of remembering what position you are actually in. That's like when you're driving a car and think "Did I change up into fifth or am I still in fourth?"

Otherwise, what she said.

Who Knows Where The...Oh, There it Is

The missing clock has returned.

Whoever took it, don't do it again.

Spare ribs and waterproofs and string quartets, oh my!

One of the other non-blogging activities I've been engaged in this week is arranging for our string quartet to make its first appearance in public, at the March meeting of Edinburgh Music Club. (Since that earlier post, Elspeth the maths teacher has dropped out and been replaced on viola by Rebecca the psychotherapist.) We shall be playing Minimax - Repertorium für Militärmusik by Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963), a composer generally known for his rather serious and cerebral compositions. However, Hindemith evidently had a WKD side*, of which Minimax is just one example. Here's a description lifted from a CD review, which seems pretty accurate:

Hindemith's Minimax is a suite of six humorous movements encompassing the absurd pride of the German military march (complete with sliding wrong notes), a take-off of Suppé's Poet and Peasant, an intermezzo in which instrumentalists take the role of two distant trumpets, a concert waltz with an ever so slightly sad introduction, a squeakily high dance with a prominent part for the two violins and a pawky march called Alte Karbonaden (a reference to barbecued spareribs) guying Karl Teike's march Alte Kameraden. This is music of light though perhaps time-worn if not time-expired humour. It is an extremely skilled and entertaining cassation rather than a serenade. Think of a sort of modernised Viennese cross between a chamber version of the Toy Symphony, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and a Malcolm Arnold divertimento. Charming stuff and full of in-jokes between the composer and his beloved Amar Quartet.

That misses a couple of things. The take-off of Poet and Peasant (Dichter und Bauer) is entitled Wasserdichter und Vogelbauer (Waterproof and Poultry Farmer). And the "trumpet" intermezzo contains some soulful bits that are gleefully strung out until the listener wants to run in and whack the players around the head (not to mention a cadenza with yodelling effects and quotations from Beethoven's Fifth!)

So now we actually have a performance to practice for, in addition to the playing just for enjoyment. Argh! (Currently for "fun" we're doing battle with Tippett's Second Quartet, and while we may win eventually it's going to be a five-set job. It's quite an agreeable challenge, though, and quite different in style from anything we've tried before.)

We must be crazy.

(*For non-Brits, that's a reference to a series of UK booze advertisements.)

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

Someone seems to have stolen the EKN clock. And Joe's Las Vegas one as well.

And the whole of www.clocklink.com seems to be temporarily unavailable.

Maybe it's procrastination's fault.

Monday, January 22, 2007

No more champagne, and the fireworks are through

One of the things I've been doing instead of blogging these past few days is a chore of a kind, which is partly pleasant and partly sad. Sad in that it's necessary; pleasant in that it gives me a good deal of satisfaction to think of the hoped-for result. I refer to Amnesty International's Greetings Card campaign, which runs each year through December and January. The idea is to send greetings cards to prisoners of conscience, political prisoners, the families of people who have been caused to "disappear", and the like. In general you are asked to send non-religious cards, so "Season's Greetings", or Happy New Year or whatever is OK, but no cribs or angels. This year I sent a large number of partridges in pear trees (bought very cheaply just after Christmas), blank and with my new year greeting and/or message of support written in. (Note to pedants: not real partridges and trees, obv.)

It may seem a quixotic thing to do, to send new year greetings to a woman on death row in Yemen, or someone resting between beatings in a Tunisian jail, or a family of Lao political refugees whose young children have been abducted and deported back from Thailand to Laos by themselves to face proable ill-treatment and possible torture. But Amnesty continues to receive feedback from such people who say that the cards give them hope by showing that they haven't been forgotten; that their plight is in someone else's thoughts. Also sometimes the receipt of large number of foreign cards impresses the authorities and leads to improved treatment for the poor sods we send them to.

This year the recipients were in:

Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Zimbabwe
Brazil
Colombia
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Guatemala
Mexico
Bangladesh
India
Indonesia
Thailand/Laos
Nepal
Belarus
Russian Federation
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan
Algeria
Iran
Syria
Tunisia
Yemen

In addition, there were eight British residents held without charge by the US authorities in Guantanamo Bay. Last year I sent cards to four prisoners (if memory serves me correctly, four of the eight on this year's list), all of which wer returned undelivered by the US military authorities. How sweet: not only do the Americans abduct these guys at gunpoint, torture them and refuse them normal legal process, but they stop them from receiving cards at new year. Some how the pettiness of that is almost more shocking than the waterboarding and the attack dogs. This year I sent plain postcards to Guantanamo, in case the excuse previously was anything to do with doubt about the content (the cards were all returned unopened). Of course, the British government, concerned as it is with human rights and with making its Muslim citizens feel that they have a stake in British society, refuses to lift a finger for any of these men. Here are their names and prisoner numbers:

Jamil El-Banna # 905
Bisher Al-Rawi # 906
Binyam Mohammed # 1458
Omar Deghayes # 727
Shaker Abdur Raheem Aamer # 239
Ahmed Errached # 590
Ahmed Ben Bacha # 290
Abdelnour Sameur # 659

You're not forgotten in Britain, guys. And any visiting apologists for the Bush regime's human rights abuse, or of Blair's complicity with it, can hang their heads in shame until Guantanamo is closed down.

If any of my readers would like to take part in this year's Greetings Card campaign (and please do: even one card would be great) it runs until the end of January, and details are available here.
I think I'll let Abba have the last word on this one, as they had the first (in the post's title):

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

"Excuse me sir, why are you bringing an ironing board into the conference suite?" "Well, it IS a press conference."

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days: I've been up to my neck in other things, mostly musical ones. Not playing, so much as sending loads of emails trying to arrange/rearrange/cancel rehearsals, trying to borrow instruments, engage a harpist, etc etc.

On the plus side, I've read 150 pages of David Copperfield.

Blogger seems to be very slow tonight so I may give it a miss again. I have a little list of goodies to post though.

Oh, all right. I give you: Extreme Ironing. There are some great pictures in there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How True

I found this in one of the comments threads on the Fundies site linked in the previous post. It made me laugh, which was nice after reading all those Neonazis and homophobes:

Welcome to Hell. Here is your Andean flute.

At least, I always imagined that was what they played in Hell (I like banjos and accordions, the usual suspects).

Anyway, these guys will be down there playing something. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Fundies Say The Darnedest Things (via). The Top 100 is particularly amusing/worrying/emetic.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear

Norman Geras prints possibly the worst joke of the decade.

Faint praise need not imply damnation

Astute readers of this blog will know that Oliver Kamm and I are not the best of blogging chums (he has accused me elsewhere of "underhand conduct" and "histrionics"). I've been reading his blog, which is a somewhat assorted experience, as his posts seem to range from the barking to the unexceptionable. (Perhaps, like Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk whose posts have a similar compass, Mr Kamm will turn out to be a musical soulmate, maybe with a stash of Gentle Giant albums or a liking for bravura 19th century clarinet showpieces.)

In any event, he has two posts which are worth reading in my opinion. Firstly an appreciation of Gerald Ford which points out the good things in his presidency while not shying away from the wrongheaded ones. And secondly a good piece on Saddam's execution. He is careful not to say whether he believes Saddam's trial was fair or not, but I suspect he does, in which case I would have to disagree: at the very least it fell a long way short of the standards of either the Nuremberg trials or the impeccably-conducted Eichmann trial. Whether I am right or wrong in my surmise, I can find nothing in his article with which I would disagree.

It is interesting to read the two posts side by side, and realise that the Realpolitik of America and British foreign policy in the 1970s led to their support for Saddam as a bulwark against Iranian fundamentalism, a mistake probably as great as the support for Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in that it sent all the wrong signals to Saddam as to what he would be permitted to get away with.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

So if there's something you'd like to try.....

I must say I like the thought of Morrissey either writing or (even better) performing a British Eurovision entry.

Though with the greatest respect to the author of the linked article, I liked Teenage Life.

A better deterrent to London driving than the congestion charge

Oops.

Actually I find it surprising this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. After all, they have to train traffic cops somewhere (they don't have virtual reality traffic simulators yet) and presumably it has to be somewhere with traffic. Maybe it does happen more often and it only made the news this time because one of the vehicles involved was a £60k Jaguar. Perhaps a couple of slightly bent M-reg Nissans doesn't attract the same coverage?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Under Attack

I liked this post (from last September) over on The Metaverse. I liked the cartoon, and the point which it was illustrating, and I thought the links were interesting.

The cartoon and the paranoia it sends up could have come straight from the pages of Kesher Talk, though of course the map would have to have Israel on it (maps without Israel on them aren't permitted!), tiny and surrounded by vast inimical neighbours (viz. the rest of the planet).

Amusing to see that while Israel was only the fifteenth biggest military spender in 2005 it was the second biggest in terms of per capita expenditure, with almost as much spending as Britain and France between them. "On the ropes and about to be over-run": indeed.

Swami, How I Love ya, How I Love Ya, My Dear Old Swami

Happy birthday (or as happy as it can be when you've been dead for over 104 years) to Swami Vivekananda.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Playing Catch-Up


Having very much enjoyed the first series of Desperate Housewives, I was bitterly disappointed by the second, with which I terminally lost patience after only two episodes. However, everybody has been telling me (by which I mean every blog, newspaper etc. I read, PLUS all the rest of my family, who had all persisted with series two) how brilliant the third series is, and how it's a return to the form of the first series after the glitch that was series two. So a few days ago I watched the first two episodes, and yes, I must say it does seem to be back to the old form. I got my daughter to fill me in on major plotlines from series two beforehand, so I could hit Wisteria Lane running, so to speak. Unlike Mike.

I'm off to watch episode three now (I was at a rehearsal last night until it was half over).

Any other DH fans among my regulars? And do you think it got shoddy last series and is now better again?

Favourite moment from the first two episodes: when Orson is about to go down on Bree to be met with the response "I don't do that! I'm a Republican!"

Accepting cheeses as my personal savoury

I've been catching up on some blogs I've been neglecting, such as Meanwhile Here In France, where Ruth has a wonderful version of the Christmas story illustrated by French cheeses.

"Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler" (A.Einstein)

This post, on the other hand, is via Joel.reddit, which is a technology blog moderated by software developer Joel Spolsky. Don't worry too much about the details of the software products mentioned (FogBugz is Spolsky's). The things that struck me were: firstly the description of Korean Hangul script, about which I had had no idea and which seems unbelievably cool, and secondly the moral of the piece, that Boolean two-valued logic isn't always appropriate for modelling realistic, messy, social situations. Robert Anton Wilson would undoubtedly approve.

My other car is an Grumman A-10 Warthog

...and so did this.

Oh, what I could do with one of those in Edinburgh's rush-hour traffic.....

Happy (but Sore) Feet



This also came from a Dark Roasted Blend link.

Select Required Service: Loss Of Card With Theft? (Y/N)

A cautionary tale from Dark Roasted Blend, another good miscellany site. Always happy to pass on stuff like this, though my heart will always belong to the wholly unlarcenous practical joker who attacked a Clydesdale Bank ATM (in Rothesay IIRC) with green spray paint and masking tape, such that its screen always appeared to be blank. The engineer called to fit an anti-glare visor rather enjoyed that one.

Rough? Yes, I am a little hoarse.

There isn't much that would get me to post a link to the Daily Mail. But this would. (Via)

Oh Brave New World

Cloud has a good piece in which he complains about this post by Oliver Kamm (for a moment I did a double take and thought it was by the German goalkeeper) in response to this article in the Observer. As comments on Mr Kamm's blog are only by email, I sent him the following. His piece was entitled "Caliban's Return", BTW, hence my title.

Ariel Needs Adjustment

"How can you be a curatorial fellow of one of the greatest art galleries in the world and say nothing about the enjoyment and elevation that art provides? How can you have any role connected with arts administration and not regard the love of art as a sufficient - or even a possible - reason for looking at paintings?"

And how can you be, er, whatever it is you are, without being able to comprehend that Jonah Albert was discussing the factors which underly the low numbers of non-white Britons actually crossing the threshold of his collection? They are hardly going to flock in because of their love of the art on display, because they don't know what it is. To them, the National Gallery is just a large building in Trafalgar Square (if that). Let me give you a personal reminiscence that may shed some light on the difference. When I was ten years old, I visited London for the first time,
and being mad keen on science went several times to the Science Museum and once to the Natural History Museum. I didn't visit the V & A(*) because I had no idea of what was in it, and even had someone told me I might not have found it all that interesting at age ten. Now, with many happy visits to the V& A behind me, I suspect I probably would have rather enjoyed it. My first visit, around ten years later, was to see an exhibition about the Festival of Britain, and as I wandered out I happened to poke my nose into one of the casting galleries; you know, the ones with life-sized copies of major monuments. To say that my jaw dropped would be an understatement: it had never occurred to me that any museum had that kind of stuff in it. Now that gallery would have had my jaw dropping at age ten, but I didn't know it was there. Moreover, a description that was merely mundane ("castings of monuments") would probably not have inspired me to enter, as I wouldn't necessarily have thought "Oooh, I bet there are things in there hundreds of feet high" . It's the same with Mr Albert's hordes of black people who would undoubtedly be thrilled by the National Gallery for all the same reasons as you or I, but who don't know what's in it, because nobody has told them in any way that made it sound interesting to them. They need something to give them the "WOW" factor in order to get them through the door; after that the magic of art can take over. Fabulous though its sculptures are, how many tourists would make the non-trivial journey to Khajuraho merely to see the spectacle of (as it were) several dozen West fronts of Lincoln cathedral all lined up together, were some of those sculptures not of an erotic nature? I might not have done so. People go to see art because they have some idea in their heads as to what they will be seeing. If the art is any good, they will rapidly find out that it surpasses their preconceptions; and if it's well displayed, they will find new things they never dreamed existed.

All of which, it seems to me, is summed up in Jonah Albert's article and ignored completely in your response, which I think could be summed up as "If you build it, they will come". Sadly, they won't; which is why I'm glad Mr Albert will be keeping his job, and appalled that you called for him to lose it. Shame on you.


(*) Note for foreign readers: the "V & A" is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is a magnificent collection of all kinds of.....well, I suppose arts and crafts, but that description is exactly the kind of thing that stopped me taking an interest in it as a child, redolent as it is of furniture and embroidery.

Update 11 Jan 2007

I received the following reply from Oliver Kamm (who incidentally turns out according to Wikipedia to be Martin Bell's nephew and the son of Anthea Bell, translator of Three Bags Full, Asterix, Willi Brandt's memoirs, etc.) :

Thanks for your thoughtful comments - appreciated.

I read it as quite patronising for you to say that black and Asian British don't know what it is to love art.


Prompting this from me:

And it would have been, had I said that.

Of course black and Asian British, or any other nationalities and ethnicities, are as capable of loving art as anyone. What I said was that I don't think they currently have sufficient awareness of what there is in collections such as the National Gallery; and if they don't know what's there, or have a wrong understanding of what's there, how can they love it? Of course they can love art, but they can't love what they don't know.

I like to think of myself as a music lover with a broad range of musical tastes, but to take an example, I couldn't claim to love the music of Iannis Xenakis. Not because I've heard it and dislike it, but because as far as I know I have never heard any. Now in my case I know that Xenakis's music is in some ways like that of Boulez and Stockhausen, and I am OK with the first and like the second, so if there were a Xenakis concert on I might go to it. But I don't know the music, and if I didn't have those other referents to encourage me I might remain forever unaware of what might be wonderful stuff. It's not an inability to love music, or even to love Xenakis's music: simply a lack of awareness of what's there to be appreciated.

Other people have, I know, taken up Mr Albert's points about the cultural background of Western artworks, and its relevance to non-white viewers. That isn't my concern: I think we just need to get them in through the door and say "Look at this! Isn't it great?"
Because I think they WILL think it's great.

Update 13 Jan 2007

Oliver Kamm has asked me to point out (both in this post and in the comments boxes here and here which link to it) that he sent his email (the text in red above) without any expectation or indication from me that it would be published, and considers such publication to be bad form. I have apologised to Mr Kamm: normally I would at least have let him know I was planning to quote him, and simply forgot on this occasion. Mr Kamm has accepted my apology.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From Mary to Maori in one post

I suppose my mind was still running on headlines (as per the previous post), so as I hummed my way through some of the tunes from Mary Poppins I recalled the the wonderful headline with which the Daily Record (I think) reported the trouncing of Glasgow Celtic (one of the most prominent football teams in Scotland) in a cup match by the much more lowly Inverness Caledonian ("Caly") Thistle:

Super Caly Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious

Which in turn reminded me of a marvellous football headline from the Guardian earlier this month. A Tottenham Hotspur player, Hossam Ghaly, had received a kick in the mouth during a match on New Year's Day, and the report (with superbly timed photograph!) was headed:

Toothless Toothless Ghaly

Which is not only witty, but implies a certain confidence in the intelligence of one's readership, I feel.

I Googled that headline to make sure I'd spelled the player's name correctly, and found it mentioned (in glowing terms) on a Leyton Orient (a London football club) fan site. On which I also found I also found a link to Topless Haka. How could I resist? Unfortunately the photograph in the link is the only one from the calendar available online, though if you wish to buy the whole thing (10% of proceeds to Breast Cancer Care) you can do so here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Eats, Shoots and Prints

In the same issue of the Guardian that had the Terry Jones and Rebecca Front articles, there was this wonderful headline:

Apartment block ruled too high to be bulldozed

I became rather confused when I read the article and discovered that the block in question was, in fact, to be bulldozed. Then I realised that it should have read

Apartment block ruled "too high" to be bulldozed

Which caused me to recall the other wonderful consequences of unpunctuated headline compression, such as

Heating For Old Bill Fails

Poor old Bill....

Drive to Ban Horse Whipping Mushrooms

Actually it's surprisingly hard to punctuate that in any way that clarifies the (presumed) meaning.

Chinese in Car Clash

No comment!

British Push Bottles Up Germans

Monty Flies Back To Front

and the best of all

Foot To Head Arms Body

Sunday, January 07, 2007

You don't have to have spent an hour this afternoon practising Tippett and Berg, but maybe it helps...

A musical colleague emailed me this list. I don't know where she found it so I can't credit it properly, but here it is anyway. Unusually for such bits of musical humour, most of it was new to me. And, oh yes, it's actually pretty funny. Enjoy.

NEW MUSICAL TERMS

In order to keep you abreast of the ever-developing world of musical terminology, we provide herewith the latest additions to the esteemed Harvard Dictionary of Music.

ALLREGRETTO When you're 16 measures into the piece and realize you took too fast a tempo
ANGUS DEI To play with a divinely beefy tone
A PATELLA Accompanied by knee-slapping
APPOLOGGIATURA A composition that you regret playing
APPROXIMATURA A series of notes not intended by the composer, yet played with an "I meant to do that" attitude
APPROXIMENTO A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch
CACOPHANY A composition incorporating many people with chest colds
CORAL SYMPHONY A large, multi-movement work from Beethoven's Caribbean Period
DILL PICCOLINI An exceedingly small wind instrument that plays only sour notes
FERMANTRA A note held over and over and over and over and . . .
FERMOOTA A note of dubious value held for indefinite length
FIDDLER CRABS Grumpy string players
FLUTE FLIES Those tiny mosquitos that bother musicians on outdoor gigs
FRUGALHORN A sensible and inexpensive brass instrument
GAUL BLATTER A French horn player
GREGORIAN CHAMP The title bestowed upon the monk who can hold a note the longest
GROUND HOG Someone who takes control of the repeated bassline and won't let anyone else play it
PLACEBO DOMINGO A faux tenor
SCHMALZANDO A sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band
THE RIGHT OF STRINGS Manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Violists
SPRITZICATO An indication to string instruments to produce a bright and bubbly sound
TEMPO TANTRUM What an elementary school orchestra is having when it's not following the conductor (also common in municipal bands and community orchestras)
TROUBLE CLEF Any clef one can't read: e.g. alto clef for pianists
VESUVIOSO An indication to build up to a fiery conclusion
VIBRATTO Child prodigy son of the concertmaster

And here are the latest and most up-to-date definitions of traditional musical terms:

ANDANTE A tempo that's infernally slow
ANTIPHONAL Referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall
BAR LINE What musicians form after the concert
CADENZA Something that happens when you forget what the composer wrote
ESPRESSIVO Used to indicate permission to take a coffee break
MAESTRO A person who, standing in front of the orchestra and/or chorus, is able to follow them precisely
OPERA BUFFA musical stage production performed by nudists
PASTORALE The beverage to drink in the country when listening to Beethoven with a member of the clergy
PESANTE An effect distinctly non-upper-class
PIZZICATO Too much coffee -- time to take a break
RUBATO A cross between a rhubarb and a tomato
STRINGENDO An unpleasant effect produced by the violin section when it doesn't use vibrato
VIBRATO A device to assist female performers who have trouble when the music is marked "con espressione"

I think "Allregretto" is my favourite, though the redefined "Vibrato" is pretty good too.

And finally...

Two good columns in yesterday's Guardian, on pages opposite one another. On one side, Terry Jones (yup, he of "I don't like Spam!" and "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!", though these days he mainly writes books on medieval history) on profiteering and waste in the Iraq war.

And opposite, a wonderfully, well, English column by Rebecca Front about the demise of a London landmark I'd never heard of. (On the plus side, Shadbolts do have a website with online samples, though they don't do a weekly pick any more.) And I found the Shadbolts link via a corker of a site, which also has a picture of the famous display here.

Waddya mean, post-hoc rationalisation?

From the ever-wonderful Wondermark:


This only works if you're the King of Gondor, guys.

Who needs Cindy Sheehan when you have the US Army showing such sensitivity regarding dead combat veterans?

A miscellany

Some links from linkbunnies which seem worth sharing while I put together a proper post. Thanks guys.

This is the sort of present I would love to have received as a teenager. As far as the radiation goes, remember that in my youth people still had watches whose dials were luminous because of the hefty amount of radium in them. One of my classmates had one, as we found out when using GM tubes ("Geiger counters") in sixth form physics. In those same physics classes we used little sealed radiation sources, suitably packaged and designed for school use, containing Radium or Americium. The sources in the "Atomic Energy Lab" may not have been so well sealed up against accidental spillage, though; and presumably to keep the shipping cost down there aren't the array of lead blocks for shielding - of us and of the detectors when we didn't want them detcting - that we had at school. I wonder what the alpha source was? Po-210, anyone?

Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant ramen noodles, has died.

A fun list of addictive web games (this post delayed while I threw a virtual paper ball into a basket about 1,000 times).

The hot toy this year in Rl'yeh.

Never mind snakes on a plane, here are goats in a tree. (The big one makes a pretty good wallpaper.)

A headline from the BBC site which wouldn't be out of place in an Indian newspaper (where "villains" are frequently "nabbed" by police in "swoops").

Those not into Christmas songs can skip to the link with Jane Leeves in her underwear

Oops - I meant to post this yesterday (Christmas decorations coming down and all that).

Anyway, here are the collected answers to the seasonal 'first lines' quiz. The ones in red evaded capture:


1. When he is king, we will give him a king's gifts
Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock)
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
Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen (Michael Praetorius)
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
Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar (Peter Cornelius)
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
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
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
On Christmas night all Christians sing (The Sussex Carol)

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
Saviour's Day (Cliff Richard)
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
What A World (Benny Hill)

Not a bad haul, though I am surprised nobody got Cliff and astounded nobody got It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. Thanks to all who contributed, especially Phil!

Before running the closing credits where I'm chased all round EKN by scantily-clad women to the sound of Yakety Sax (and hands up those who remember that Jane Leeves of Frasier was once one of Hill's Angels?) I must share my favourite verse from What A World:

The folk singer came from America to sing at the Albert Hall
He sang his songs of protest and fairer shares for all
He sang how the poor were much too poor and the rich too rich by far
Then he drove back to his penthouse in his brand-new Rolls-Royce car.

It still has a certain resonance (and Bono was only five years old when it was released....)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Music makes the people come together

Just to remind you all that Kesher Talk is more than just right-wing, anti-Islamic and pro-Israeli ravings, here is a splendid post. And in the comments stream Judith Weiss and I sort of high-five each other, which is nice.

Would any of my own readers care to nominate a most dated 60s (or indeed 70s) album? For the latter I would have to rate Pink FLoyd's "Obscured By Clouds" pretty highly.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Freeman Moxy for Africa

And following America's tremendous success in restoring peace and stability to Iraq after years of, er, peace and stability (but now with death squads instead of sanctions), here comes GWB's next foreign policy fiasco.

After all, it wouldn't do to have wicked Muslims (sorry, "Islamists") providing stable government where US-backed puppets had singularly failed, would it?

A genuine question: has US-backed military intervention ever succeeded in installing a government which was in any respect an improvement on what it supplanted? Iraq and Chile are the best counter-examples, and Nicaragua might have been another had the Iranian money not dried up. Any success stories? I don't think we can count South Vietnam, as even though the North Vietnamese government was arguably a slight improvement on its predecessor that wasn't the American intention.

I'll meet you round the bend, my friend

Riverbend is back!

Here's her take on Saddam's execution, and the Islamophobic nonsense being pumped out about it by the BBC, CNN et al.

And here's her round-up of the year. Read and weep for Iraq.

Nunscape, indeed

I was reading this article about Leonora Carrington in the Guardian earlier today and as soon as Peggy Guggenheim appeared in it I thought of Lisa. She has done a post on it, with a link to a wonderful gallery of Leonora's paintings.

I especially like "Nunscape in Manzanillo"



"Adieu Ammenotep"



and "The Lovers"



-------------------------------------------------------------------------

And now thinking about Amenhotep I've started singing this to myself. Which is a bit like one of those moments in Mahler symphonies where some sublime tune or other is rudely interrupted by a passing military band.

Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?

I've said it before and then I said it again: Ariel Sharon wasn't all bad.

As we enter the first anniversary of his crippling stroke, here's Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz explaining how things might have worked out better over the past twelve months if Sharon had still been around.

Another thing I'd never have expected to say: Sharon latterly was showing more genuine interest in a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue than his utterly uninterested successor.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

No one mourns the wicked

Among the long list of reasons why Saddam should not have been executed, here is one I hadn't considered.

As though the thought, when seeing the mobile phone footage of the killing, that creeps like Michael Totten were punching the air in joy while watching the same thing weren't reason enough. "Almost categorically against the death penalty", i.e. until it's being wielded at someone he doesn't like. In the same way, Israel does not use the death penalty, and never has: except for Adolf Eichmann, of course. You see, one can occupy the moral high ground while still standing with blood over the tops of one's boots. Or one can try, anyway.

However, let's be clear straight away on one thing. There is no question whatsoever that Eichmann had a fair and comprehensive trial for his crimes, almost exaggeratedly so. One can only wish, then, that it had been Israel trying Saddam instead of the kangaroo court he ended up with, which besmirched even Iraqi standards of justice. Also, Eichmann's execution was carried out with basic standards of decency, not turned into a public spectacle. His ashes were scattered in international waters. What will happen to Saddam's body? Will it even receive a proper funeral?

Nisus erat portae custos

When I was posting in the small hours of this morning about my collection of unread (or partly-read) French books, perhaps I should have mentioned the odds and ends in other languages. I have, somewhere, a collection of Italian short stories with parallel English/Italian texts. I have a Dutch translation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: a present from my daughter, and all the more cherished because she collects translations of Harry Potter herself and has no Dutch examples (I got her a Polish Half-Blood Prince in Warsaw and I swear she screamed aloud with delight when she opened it). I have a Dutch cowboy comic which I think I plucked from a seat on a metro somewhere. And I have dual English/Latin editions of Virgil's Georgics and Eclogues, and the Odes of Horace (which I'm half-way through right now, reading the odd ode in between other things). Finally, a New Testament in the original Greek, and an Arabic brochure about Yemen.

All good fun, but it's the Latin ones that I want to think about today. I just read this on the Guardian website, and find it desperately sad. I did Latin at school: I had the choice between German and Latin, and (despite having an idolised big brother with A level German and a distaste for Latin) the choice of Latin was a no-brainer. At some level or other I think I realised that I could learn German (I did) from a BBC course or in an evening class, but unless I learned Latin (and subsequently Greek) at school they were probably always going to escape me. (Yes, I know the Open University does a Latin course, but when I was making those subject choices the OU hadn't been founded). Having a pretty charismatic teacher for much of the time undoubtedly helped (tip of hat to Donald J Roberts, late of Stockport Grammar School) but it really is easier to take such things in at that age. I learned the Greek alphabet in an 80-minute double period. Compare with the 'two forward one back' progress of my attempts in adult life to tackle Arabic script or Devanagiri (Hindi). Of course it's doable, but when you're young it's easier.

I did Latin O level, and two-thirds of a Greek O level: I had to drop the last year of Greek because of timetable clashes in order to continue with Music to O level, which was a blow, but hey - priorities here.... Of the Greek I have retained the alphabet which I can still read at a decent pace, a very rudimentary grammar, and more vocabulary than I think I have. More to the point, I acquired an interest in the Greeks and their culture which stayed with me, even if I have to read my Aristophanes in translation. From the Latin lessons I've kept rather more of the grammar, and can amuse myself with my dual-language texts reading the Latin first to see if I can work out what it's on about. (I score about 50% on that.) We did Book IX of the Aeneid for O Level, specifically the "Nisus and Euryalus incident" which was a daring and totally fucked-up raid by a couple of raging queers, or so it appeared to a class of teenage boys. (The phrase at which we began provided my title.) OK, so homoeroticism was more acceptable in early Roman times than in 1971 (with homosexuality only recently legalised); and oddly enough I think, despite the sniggers, we glimpsed even then that these things are socially conditioned. (And then you read the Iliad with Achilles and Patroclus: mm-hmm.) What am I getting at? Well, if travel broadens the mind, time-travel via reading classical literature can sometimes do an equally good job. Think of Aristophanes. The Wasps is all about people who leap into lawsuits at the slightest provocation. The Clouds is about the clash between conservatives and modernisers. The Frogs is all about literary pretensiousness. Lysistrata (his best-known play these days) is about a bunch of soldiers' wives who go on sex strike until their husbands lay down their arms. (No Sex Please, We're Pacifists.) Ooh, no, nothing there that could possibly be relevant in the age of the blog.....

And all that Latin did enable me to enjoy this collection which I got from Edinburgh University library when doing my MBA there. My personal favourite translation was one made into Italian, but using a cunning subset of Italian vocabulary (and probably a warped syntax to match) which enabled the translator to retain the sound and appearance of the Latin original to an astonishing degree.

Latin and Greek are part of our heritage, and letting the whole idea of passing them on to future generations wither is like allowing Stonehenge to collapse. By all means prioritise the learning of modern languages (not that Britain is much use at them either) but let's not abandon the Classics.

Brought To Book

I found a book challenge meme over on Udge's blog, the idea being that he has picked five books which have been languishing unread on his bookshelf for long periods, and undertakes to read them in the first two months on 2007. That seemed like a good idea to me. Despite my new year resolution to read more books (as opposed to online stuff and newpapers/journals) I feel that five books (given the nature of some of the ones I've picked, and given that I shall undoubtedly be reading other books in between) in two months is maybe a tough target, and six books in three months might be more achievable.

Unread books I have a-plenty. Ha! Udge has books unread for a mere 15+ years: the longest that I can date accurately is 32+ (which became number one in the list below). I think the most recently acquired of them is the Grass, which I've had about five years. All significant books in their way.

1. Teilhard de Chardin: The Phenomenon of Man
2. Charles Dickens: David Copperfield
3. Nancy Benvenga: Kingdom on the Rhine
4. Gunter Grass: The Tin Drum
5. Anne Frank: The Diary of Anne Frank
6. Victor Hugo: The Laughing Man

So. I shall do my best to read these by the end of March 2007. I will let you know how I'm getting on, though I certainly don't promise to review them. What could I say about the Dickens or the Grass that hasn't been said? And I have already read a magnificently sweeping disposal of the Chardin- a work of offbeat Catholic theology - by an avowed atheist (P.B.S.Medawar, I think).

I have a number of books in French also awaiting my attention. These range from what I think is a complete set of the Goscinny/Sempe Petit Nicolas stories (some of which I read as a student, and which I believe are finally being translated by the redoubtable Anthea Bell) to a number of the surreal detective novels by San-Antonio. These last will, I suspect, tax my reading skills even with a decent dictionary, as I gather their use of language is somewhat idiosyncratic. These, however, will just have to wait their turn: though perhaps I should undertake to read a couple of my French texts during 2007 . Why not?

As it's not an optical one does that make it a blind mouse?

I've just taken my mouse to pieces and discovered that one of the bits of tape on the tracking wheels had mostly come apart, and that bits of it had wrapped themselves around the other wheels, sticky side out, where of course they attracted so much dust that no amount of blowing would ever dislodge it.

No wonder my mouse had been behaving like a dog (so to speak).

My kids got me for Christmas the boxed set of the various Monty Python members' favourite scene selections, one of which (either Eric Idle or Terry Jones) included Michael Palin as BICYCLE REPAIR-MAN (in a land where everyone was a Superman, he had a mundane secret identity as a guy with a toolkit). We decided I was MOUSE REPAIR-MAN.

Look! he's cleaning that mouse with his bare hands!

Just look at him pull those tweezers!

TUG!

BLOW!

MEND!

Good DVDs, BTW, and included a number of sketches (including that one) that I hadn't seen before, plus several I'd forgotten (Confuse-A-Cat, anyone?)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

...in the Scottish manner. I shall return to work tomorrow to dozens of New Year greetings. At my orchestra and quartet rehearsals next week, the same. A little spooky until you get into the swing of it.

I saw 2007 in in Braemar. As the house was owned by a Bolton-born lady, as the oldest male present I had to go out of the back door bearing a piece of coal at the end of 2006 and re-enter through the front door (with coal) immediately following the bells for 2007. So I saw the new year in on a wet Scottish doorstep with a piece of coal in my hand. Then I dried off with a large 20-year-old Lagavulin. There's cross-cultural for you.

Peace'n'love'n'all that.