Le dessin juste
As we move through Hogmanay, Dilbert has the best comment on it I've seen so far.
Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above
As we move through Hogmanay, Dilbert has the best comment on it I've seen so far.
This would be me......
I presume from the background that this is meant to show an Afghan village after receiving the benefits of freedom and democracy. Apart from the snowy peaks, though, it would fit Gaza or Iraq equally well.
I'm sorry, I couldn't resist dropping back in to share this gem with you.
In our household, we don't watch Dinner For One every year.
I blame the engineer.....
Some of my readers (Udge, for example) will have divined from the title what this post is to be about. The rest of you will have to wait a moment or two.
At around 17.00 on Thursday, Elizabeth I and II (*) overtook her great-grandmother Victoria to become the oldest monarch every to sit on a British throne. Still a few years to go before she's reigned as long as Vicky though (who was impossibly young when she succeeded).
And while on the topic of Eurovision, one of the links along the way to Ms Gall was to this cracking performance by Sarek, taking part in the selection for Sweden's Eurovision 2003 entry. It may not have been picked, but IMO it knocks spots off most years' winners. I mean, how can you resist two miniskirted women (who can sing), and a hurdy-gurdy, and a nyckelharpa? Jings.....
At the end of another silly hyperlink chain, I came across this video of France Gall winning the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest with "Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son" by Serge Gainsbourg. The title is a pun on "Wax Doll, Sawdust Doll" and "Doll of Wax, Doll of Sound", or so I gather. It's sometimes described as the song that dragged Eurovision into the pop era; certainly it was a breath of fresh air after most of what had gone before. (Incidentally, she goes wonderfully sharp on her first note, which at least confirms that they don't mime on Eurovision!)
Some wonderful quotations from Frank Zappa, collected here.
The same site that came up with the Irony T-shirt (see previous post) also had this, which I showed to my daughter who is going out with an engineer. She though it highly apt.
First of all, apologies for not posting for a few days. Work has been particularly hectic (I was in much of the weekend helping to recover from a major system problem) plus I've been writing an essay on various issues to do with aid to Africa for HIV/AIDS treatment. Busy busy busy.
Many years ago, when my wife Hilary still taught clarinet to secondary school kids, she had a particulary apt pupil who decided to enter for the BBC's Young Musician of the Year contest. (In the event, like most entrants, she was eliminated before the bits that get shown on TV.) The BBC provided various stipulations regarding the pieces she was required to play for the elimination round. They didn't specify individual pieces, but required at least one piece from each of various historical periods. The one that interested us was the apparently arbitrary "At least one piece composed after 1962". It was a while before we twigged that this was to prevent people using the Poulenc Clarinet Sonata as their "modern" work. (The Poulenc, while not easy, is hugely popular as well as being fairly conservative in style. It's still a lovely piece, and of course entrants could still play it: they just had to come up with something newer as well.) We scrathched our heads, as Hilary isn't a modern music specialist and disn't have very many things that filled the bill. Then I remembered that I had bought her (as a "thank you for having me" present on behalf of our newborn daughter) a CD of music for solo clarinet (also for solo basset horn) by Karlheinz Stockhausen. There was a splendidly approachable little piece on it called "Sei wieder froh!" ("Cheer up!") , under a minute long. Better still, the CD booklet reproduced the entire manuscript. Yippee! A quick burst of neat longhand copying, and Hilary's pupil was set up. I believe she enjoyed playing the piece.
Here, in considerable detail, is Wikipedia on the man and his work.
By way of a tribute, I have been accompanying my blogging tonight with a Stockhausen soundtrack. First, Kontakte played very loudly through headphones, which is pretty shattering but stopped interference from my son's band who were rehearsing at the other end of the house. Then (and as I type) Hymnen, which contains my favourite example of Stockhausen humour, to wit a section entitled Sumpf-Enten quaken die Marseillaise (marsh ducks quack the Marseillaise). It does what it says on the tin.
Finally, when I saw this picture:
I was reminded of this:
I've just emailed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation what I hope is a pretty self-explanatory email.
An excellent if rather dispiriting post from Craig Murray all about the dwindling level of support available to Brits abroad from their embassies. Two brief samples:
...by the Cocteau Twins of all people. Enjoy.
Those of you who read Clare's blog may have spotted in this post a reference to an "ace book" called The Wooden Overcoat, which turns out to be this one.
Let us celebrate a few of those artists who came and went like mayflies. Or at least, a few of the few that made an impression on me during their brief time with us.
On Tuesday evening my regular quartet, augmented by my wife Hilary on piano, played at Edinburgh Music Club. Rebecca, our usual viola player, switched for the occasion to harmonium (or its digital equivalent) and we played Arnold Schoenberg's Weihnachtsmusik. Schoenberg write the piece in 1921 for a domestic occasion of some kind (one assumes at Christmas time), and it's a fantasia on the two Christmas carols Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen and Silent Night. (Clever of Schoenberg to spot that the two tunes have similar shapes.) It went pretty well, in fact: the piano part is by no means easy, and there are ensemble problems to be overcome at the end. We were a little surprised, then, when we finished and received no applause until Hilary said "That's it!".
As British readers, and certainly Scottish ones, will know, Donald Trump is attempting to obtain permission for a huge golf course and an even huger gated residential community. he is trying to do this on a site at Balmedie, north of Aberdeen, which is (a) a Site of Special Scientific Interest on account of its wildlife, and also (b) one of only two examples in the UK of a special kind of sand-dune topography. The Planning Committee of Aberdeenshire Council threw out his application. (While it has been widely reported that it did so only on the casting vote of its Chair, I understand from a friend of mine who knows people on the committee that in fact it did so my about a 2:1 majority, with the casting vote being used only on one of the amendments, though I assume that would have permitted some kind of development.)
An amusing (but more than that) post from Zinnia Cyclamen. Whose blog you really should read if you're not already a fan.
A propos this story, I'm relieved that Samina Malik wasn't given a custodial sentence. It still alarms me though that somebody can be at risk of being sent to prison for the wicked offences of reading the wrong books and having impure thoughts. No wonder Blair and Bush think the Islamic world hates us because it's jealous of our freedom.(/irony)
Not sure how many times Hilary and I have seen Runrig now, but it's a lot. The first time was at the Edinburgh Playhouse on the Once In A Lifetime tour, which would be 1988: I remember we were on the balcony and the whole structure was gently flexing up and down as an enthusiastic audience leapt around. Then a few more times until the final concert with lead vocalist and founder member Donnie Munro, which was at Stirling Castle on the night the Princess of Wales died. Then (the only other time we've seen them in the Albert Hall) the band's first gig with their new singer Bruce Guthro; then various other times and places, including the band's 30th anniversary gig, also at Stirling Castle.
As a result of taking part in a meme over on LiveJournal, I was reading what various people had been doing last Guy Fawkes' Night (November 5th to you non-Brits). It seems quite a few were watching a TV programme in which Richard Hammond (best known as one of the presenters of the BBC motoring programme Top Gear) set out to reconstruct Fawkes's 1605 attempt to demolish Parliament, with the significant difference that he set his explosion off. He was doing it in a military bombing range, using a full-size reconstruction of the original builiding and 18 cwt. of gunpowder. Oh, and a lot of crash test dummies.
A kind of meme, cribbed from an interview Douglas Adams gave which is reprinted in The Salmon Of Doubt. As I cribbed it from memory I've probably forgotten a few of the original questions, and have definitely added one or two of my own. Basically, DA was asked to list his "Dream XXX...". Here are my own. Anyone else care to have a go?
I was interested to read recently about Google's plans for the future. They're interested in collecting a lot of personal data, which is rather scary, but what they have in mind for it is like a sort of amplified version of what Amazon do. You know, "People who bought Madonna's Confessions On A Dance Floor also bought Frederick Rzewski's Variations on The People United Will Never Be Defeated" . (OK, maybe that's just me.) So if you keyed in a search they could for example order the results according to your perceived priorities. An interesting idea, though fraught with practical difficulties, methinks. Not least that if you take it to its logical conclusion you get fewer surprises when Googling, and they're half the fun.
From my recent blog statistics, I am amused to find that I am the fourth hit for
Your Inner European is Italian!
Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.
From the popular to the downright obscure. I was chatting with Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra's conductor Gerry Doherty last week about programme suggestions for 2008-9, and mentioned that I'd been listening on the radio to James McMillan's Stomp (with Fate and Elvira). I reckoned it sounded fun and maybe we should try it some time (we did his Confession of Isobel Gowdie a couple of years back). Gerry said he'd done a piece called Underground Music with the RSNO, written by "some Russian-born Canadian guy". Like the McMillan, it was full of clever references to other pieces and was great fun. A bit of Googling led me to Nikolai Korndorf, whose 1996 fourth symphony is Underground Music and whose music has been championed by the RSNO's former conductor Alexander Lazarev. Wondering what the guy's music was actually like, I came upon this site where you can stream his 1998 The Smile Of Maud Lewis (about 14 minutes). I commend it to you: it may be obscure, but it's rather good. It took me a couple of minutes to get into it: it starts with a Michael Nyman-like irritatingly repetitive motif (though actually if you check out the extracts from the score on the same site the "repetitions" keep changing in both the sequence of notes and the articulation - one of those "drop your concentration and die" pieces) but before long it reveals itself as actually rather tuneful. It would be fun to do, despite its challenges, if I could persuade the rest of the committee. And, of course, if it doesn't cost our entire music hire budget to obtain (modern pieces can be obscenely expensive, but then composers have to eat). Anyway, have a listen: if you like minimalism at all, you'll enjoy it. And if you don't, maybe this piece will change your mind. Who knows? I'll tell you something, though: I shall be keeping an eye (and two ears) out for (the sadly now deceased) Mr Korndorf''s work.
The Guardian has been running a 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die series. I viewed it with a mixture of unfamiliarity (divided into that-sounds-interesting and wha?), smugness (divided into I've-got-that-one and why-didn't-they-pick-the-next-album), general vague approval and the odd they-have-to-be-joking. One of the that-sounds-interestings, I thought, was this. And before you write off my credibility totally, read the Guardian's description of it.
OK, this has gone far enough. Wannabe novelist Martin Amis (has anyone not paid to do so actually finished any of his books? Even the Booker-shortlisted and heavily derivative Time's Arrow had me ready to gnaw off a limb to escape after two chapters) first of all spouts racist drivel, then when he's called on it, instead of apologising, he blusters and lies. Consider his original interview with Ginny Dougary in the Guardian: