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, December 31, 2008

If I gave her the wool would she make me one too?

As a first treat for 2009, I give you the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art. Does exactly what it says on the knitting pattern.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Gaza

From The Muslim Council of Britain (among many others)

Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Gaza

The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP
Prime Minister
London SW1A 2AA

30th December 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

The illegal and inhumane bombardment of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces has shocked us all. The images beamed around the globe show the horror of death and destruction unleashed against an Occupied People, contrary to all humanitarian standards. The mass outrage expressed on the streets of Britain is yet to be reflected in the actions of our government, and this is unacceptable.

While Gaza mourns its dead the deafening silence of our Prime Minister and government is a source of great bewilderment. Is it not time for a firm intervention that brings relief to the thousands of injured? We can only imagine conditions in the beleaguered hospitals where the most basic medicines were exhausted before the attacks, because of the inhumane blockade imposed on the million and a half inhabitants of the strip.

Since 2006, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated to unprecedented levels. Parents have watched their babies die; 600,000 children now suffer from post traumatic disorder as a result of Israeli state terror and international sanctions. It is time to stop this brutality and allow the Palestinian people to live in peace and dignity.

A few weeks ago, it was notable how you rightly rushed to Islamabad and New Delhi in the wake of the Mumbai attacks in order to calm all parties, avert escalation and further bloodshed. One wonders if you intend to visit Tel Aviv and make clear to the Israeli leadership that nothing can excuse nor justify targeting charities, hospitals, medical stores and pharmacies, mosques and universities, causing maximum casualties. Will you then proceed to Gaza and console the orphans and widows of this brutal campaign?

Prime Minister, this is your hour with history and we urge you to take the first step. We expect nothing less of our government than an unequivocal condemnation of Israel's actions, as it has condemned similar brutalities committed by various states around the world.

We urge you to ensure:
• An immediate end to Israel's military assault on Gaza
• An immediate end to the blockade and siege on Gaza
• An end to Israel's violation of International Law
• An end to Israeli Occupation

• Muslim Council of Britain
• British Muslim Forum
• Al-Khoei Foundation
• British Muslim Initiative
• Council of European Jama'ats
• Friends of Al-Aqsa
• Federation of Student Islamic Societies
• Dawat ul Islam
• Islamic Human Rights Commission
• Islamic Forum Europe
• Islamic Society of Britain
• Muslim Association of Britain
• Muslim Directory
• Palestinian Forum in Britain
• Palestinian Return Centre
• Palestinian Solidarity Campaign
• Sri Lanka Islamic Forum UK
• Stop the War Coalition
• Respect
• UK Islamic Mission
• World Ahlul-Bayt Islamic League

End Israel's barbarity: Free Palestine

National Demonstration on Saturday 3rd January '09 in Central London. Assembly at 12.30pm at Embankment

For further information visit:

Happy New Year

As 2009 rapidly approaches in my time zone, give or take a leap second, I shall get ahead of the game in case traffic buildup makes posting difficult in a little while.

A very happy new year to all my readers. May 2009 prove, if not less eventful, at least less stressful in general than 2008.

UK Government Stamps On The Christmas Message

I didn't see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivering his alternative Christmas Message on Channel Four, but I have read the text (here). It seems to me to be a thoroughly reasonable, and dare I say Christian, message to us all - certainly more valuable than any of the Queen's annual video diaries. Channel Four are to be congratulated on their imagination and sound sense of what Christmas is about.

So why has the British government criticised them? Oh wait: "President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements," a spokeswoman said. maybe so (though the most frequently-quoted one, about wanting to "wipe Israel off the map", is a well-known urban myth). And Tony Blair during his time in office was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Not just "appalling statements", appalling dead children. May we expect the government to ban British television channels from ever again inflicting his smug visage on us?

When it comes to Christmas, Ahmadinejad gets it and Gordon Brown and his toadies, it seems, do not.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Islamophobic nonsense

I was struck by this story - most especially by the comments posted under it when it appeared in the soaraway Sun. Funny, isn't it, that it's these Muslim-haters who pretend to be the defenders of the rights of women?

And this is just beyond belief. When I first posted on the story a couple of months ago I thought it was just an example of insanity from the American religious right. Now we have a group of Muslim-haters calling themselves Moms Ask Mattel for Accountability not only spreading lies about what the doll says (though I notice they've dropped the "Satan is King" complaint now - what, didn't it play well with their backers?) but circulating actively anti-Islamic material to the effect that "an invitation to Islam is a material risk to young girls". And then to cap it all Wal-Mart are so craven that they cave in to it. So God bless America, and thank heavens for Target, Toys R'Us and K-Mart.

Incidentally, I do hope that America's millions of eminently sensible mothers will write to MAMA and start some kind of "Not In My Name" protest. Maybe they should boycott Wal-Mart while they're at it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dead Poets (Playwrights, Singers and Guitarists) Society

More deaths, but closer to home and less distressing. Over the past fortnight I've been noticing the demise of various people I greatly admire. Most recently of course, we've lost the twentieth century's most important British playwright: Harold Pinter, Nobel Prize winner and general national treasure. Tony Blair might disagree, but when even Michael Gove, who disagreed with Pinter on every possible point of politics, can praise the genius of his writing, you know you're deailing with someone pretty special.

When Phil linked (in a comment box) to a clip of Kylie Minogue doing Santa Baby, I couldn't remember who had recorded the original. It was of course Eartha Kitt, who has also just died. Here she is doing a song I remember from my youth.

Staying with musicians, Davey Graham died on December 15th. Here he is in an early video:

And here (audio only) he is accompanying Shirley Collins in a track from the album that is generally held to have kicked off the whole English folk-rock movement.

I was fortunate enough to see him on his last tour. RIP, DG.

Finally, but by no means least, one of my heroes, a poet whom unfortunately I never did get to see live has died. Let's hear it for Adrian Mitchell, "shadow Poet Laureate" and another national treasure. Here is a personal favourite of mine from among his poems. And here is the man himself:

Massacre of Innocence

News of Israel's latest demonstration that the concepts of "proportionate response" and "not targeting civilians" are as alien to its government as they have always been made me wonder how many Israelis have died in the rain of rockets from Gaza we keep hearing about. I knew that as far as the post-cease-fire attacks go, the answer is none (zero, nil, nada) (***see update below***), though of course Hamas did manage to kill two Palestinian girls thus saving Israel the bother. (Before you all yell, I know Hamas didn't claim responsibility for those deaths. Well knock me down with a feather.) I imagined that over the course of the previous campaign of rocket attacks there might have been rather more Israelis killed, even though most of the rockets landed well away from populated areas. (I don't kid myself that that's due to any scruples on the part of Hamas: rather - as the two Palestinian girls discovered - their targeting is either spectacularly bad or completely non-existent.)

Anyway, I went off a-Googling, and so far while I've found several reports of minor-to-moderate injuries caused to Israelis by the Kassam rockets, the only report I've found anywhere of an Israeli fatality is Shirel Friedman, age 32, of Sderot, who was killed by a Hamas rocket which hit his car on 21 May 2007. Do please update me if you have documentation of more recent Israeli deaths or serious injuries (or indeed earlier ones).

***I note that Craig Murray,, who is very reliable on facts and figures, reckons like me that there have been no Israeli deaths from rocket attacks in the past year - that is until the ones in my update below. ***

***Update: I see from today's Ha'aretz that another Israeli was in fact killed yesterday. ***
***Further: another Israeli dead today (29/12). ITN news made a point of telling us it was an Israeli Arab, though why they imagine that would make any difference to Hamas escapes me. ***

It would clearly be anti-semitic of me (/irony) to suggest that avenging the murder of one Israeli over a year and a half ago does not justify the indiscriminate slaughter of over three hundred Palestinian civilians (and I'm sorry, police count as civilians when it's Israeli ones being murdered - or British ones if it comes to that - so Palestinian police in Gaza are civilians). So I shall make no such suggestion. If the Israeli government wishes to argue that genocide is necessary to prevent future Israeli loss of life, and that history will judge it kindly, well, good luck with that. All I'd say is that their illustrious predecessor King Herod didn't find it brought much long-term benefit for his reputation. Though if Herod had had the IAF's ability to bomb all the escape routes into Egypt as well as butchering the locals, he could at least have achieved his short-term goal.

While on the face of it Mahmoud Abbas is quite right to say that the suffering in Gaza could have been avoided if the truce had been extended, one has to view with a degree of cynicism any pronouncements on Hamas (the legally elected government of Palestine) from an unelected puppet "president" installed by Israel. Hamas are equally correct to say that Israel wasn't honouring the truce anyway, but Abbas isn't being paid to remind people of that. Nor is he likely to point out that Ehud Barak was planning this genocide at the same time as he was signing the truce six months ago.

Let us hope that even if the United States is concentrating on blaming the victims and Tony Blair is still whingeing about the fact that Hamas won the last election, more responsible members of the international community may be successful in achieving a resumption of the cease-fire and an end to the slaughter. Let us hope that both sides abide by whatever is agreed. Finally, let's hope that this happens before the last resident of Gaza has been murdered. If Lewis Carroll's Red Queen could believe six impossible things before breakfast, surely I can be permitted three improbable hopes before Hogmanay?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas present for you all

I've just bought a wonderful book entitled Venn That Tune, which consists of a series of UK Top 40 hits whose titles you are invited to guess from Venn diagrams and other similar charts. A few seasonal examples from its originator's blog:

Or for the traditionalists out there:

You can buy these and many others as Christmas cards (for next year!) or as the aforementioned book. What are you waiting for?

Merry Christmas to you all!

A loathsome old man violates the spirit of Christmas

Maggie also drew my attention to this story from yesterday, which makes me very angry. For someone on the pope's position to suggest that gays and transexuals are as much of a threat to mankind as global warming seems not only wholly un-Christian but likely to encourage the gullible and fanatical (and who else listens to the Pope nowadays?) to commit acts of violence against them.

Ratzinger appears to have picked up his "Christian" attitudes during his time in the Hitler Youth rather than from reading the New Testament.

Grooving with Rameau

I've been catching up with one of my other lives over on LiveJournal. Maggie Brinkley (aka Gauroth) posted this video clip (the Rondeau and Danse du grand calumet de la paix, from Jean-Philippe Rameau's opera Les Indes Galantes) with the comment "The music is beautiful; the dancing is very, very French. It's earworming me now, so why not let you lot suffer, too?" A comment which omits only one essential word to describe the music: funky.

You guys are SO going to be humming that for the next half-hour.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Classical music. Rocks.

Music can definitely be a force for good. I was watching BBC's The Culture Show doing its 2008 highlights, and they showed an interview with Gustavo Dudamel. He now conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and just as exuberantly as when I saw him with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. He, and all the SBYO members, are products of Venezuela's long-running programme ("La Sistema") of using musical performance to provide positive role models for street kids who otherwise would have only drugs and violence in their lives. It's rather like the programmes that various places have which use sport for a similar purpose, only with fiddles instead of footballs.
Here they are at the Proms in 2007 doing the Scherzo from Shostakovich's 10th symphony.

I saw them doing the same piece a few weeks before and blogged enthusuastically about it.

Anyway - the point of this post is to mention a similar and much less well-known programme which aims to do the same thing for children in Occupied Palestine, diverting them from violent resistance to the Israelis to peaceful and productive musical activity. Here's the story. (Thanks to Chip for the link.)

Aside from the venomous comment from someone who appears only to have watched the video clip and not actually read the article, the points that stood out for me were (a) that a year when Israeli troops killed only 400 Palestinian civilians counts as a good year, and (b) the final paragraph, which I reproduce below.

"Palestinians put culture aside for a long time because they thought this problem would be solved soon," Aburedwan said. "People who came in 1948 said it was going to be solved in one or two months, one or two years, now it's 60 years and the people say: No more time for waiting. Waiting is just losing time."

And tempting though it must be to throw rocks at the people who brought violent death into your country 40 years ago and are still generously distributing it, playing Bach has to be better than hurling bricks. It's not as though the rocks have proved a significant deterrent to the nuclear-armed invaders, after all. On the other hand, I'm prepared to bet that having a Palestinian ensemble playing Bach to their compatriots being arbitrarily detained at checkpoints annoyed the hell out of the IDF. Oh, I expect some IDF soldiers rather enjoyed the music themselves: they sponsor the Jerusalem Quartet after all. However, as one of the main purposes of the checkpoints is to bully the Palestinians - to let them know who's in charge - anything which alleviates the suffering of those being kept there in the heat for hours at the whim of the IDF must hurt Israeli military morale far more effectively than any rocks.

But you don't really care for music, do ya?

Over on Facebook I am a member of a group called the Katherine Jenkins and Russel Watson Appreciation Society. Actually I need an html tag to bring out the heavy irony in that title, as actually it's a group of people who don't think they're very good. Before the hate mail begins to pour in, may I make it clear that I have nothing against KJ or RW as people, and believe they have a perfect right to make their living by singing whether I like what they do or not. This article in last Friday's Guardian encapsulates the problem I have with them, which is twofold. (1) They're simply not very good at what they do and (b) their type of "classical crossover" doesn't for the most part actually cross over into anything. At least with the Three Tenors or Nigel Kennedy they form a stepping-stone to the wider world of classical music: they genuinely have a foot on each back of the stream, so to speak. If a Katherine Jenkins album can define Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah as a "Sacred Aria" when it is neither an aria nor sacred, something has gone wrong. And as for whether you think she does it as well as, say, Jose Carreras doing West Side Story, here she is. Make up your own minds. Personally, I'm just glad this isn't the version topping the charts this Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Prop 8 - the Musical

My daughter sent me this. As she says, spot all the famous faces.....though of course it does have a serious point.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Classic Rock

While I was waiting for Waltz With Bashir to begin, the cinema were playing some music I thought I rather liked. a little Googling proved it to be the latest album from Oasis, and some further Googling to listen to more of it suggests an overdue return to form. Here is the first track from the new album for you:

I think that's a worthy successor to their (Morning) glory days. As is this (with a nice nod to the Stones at the start of the video):

And while their earlier material seems a little rough-edged now, you can't fault it for sheer energy (and a great riff). One to get the folks on the dance floor:

But for a blast from the past with a great riff (possibly the greatest ever) , we have to end with the Greatest Rock And Roll Band In The World (TM). Here they are kicking off a gig in Rio with Jumping Jack Flash, and it looks and sounds very similar to the first time Hilary and I saw them in Glasgow. The thing that really comes across, both live and in the video, is the sheer enjoyment they are taking on every moment of it. (Well, that and Charlie Watts looking like your Dad on a drum kit. He doesn't play like your Dad though, unless you're Zak Starkey or Jason Bonham.) Anyone who imagines Keef to be a sexagenarian zombie need only watch him bouncing around beaming all over his cake-left-out-in-the-rain face here. The advanced student might care to guess how many times Mick, Keith and Charlie have played this one, then subtract a thousand or so for Ron Wood. But going through the motions? Not these guys.

(If you want to skip the pre-entry bit drop in at 2:15.)

We may forget the past, but the past won't forget us

Tonight I saw Waltz With Bashir, an Israeli animated documentary about....well,, about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; about the effect of war on teenaged soldiers; about memory - what we remember, what we forget, what we remember that didn't happen; and about the massacres in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. It's a very powerful film, and has a lot of memorable scenes, especially the opening which is a dream sequence with 26 ravenous dogs hunting someone (and which is genuinely frightening). There's also a memorable bit with an Israeli tank making its way up a Beirut side-street over the top of all the parked cars, which it crushes flat like drinks cans.

I was interested to read some other reviews, because I wondered whether a lot of Israelis - and non-Israeli supporters - might find the film uncomfortable. It makes it very clear that while the actual massacre in the camps was carried out by Christian (ha!) militias, a lot of Israeli soldiers realised what was happening. However, when they reported it to their superiors, nothing happened. Meanwhile, their colleagues were assisting the Phalangists by firing flares. So the IDF (and Ariel Sharon) don't come out of it well. For all that the film is sympathetic towards the inexperienced and terrrified new recruits, almost the the first we see of them in action is them pouring down fire in a panic on a car which turns out to have contained a civilian family.

One of the commenters on this review is an Israeli who reacted as I'd expected, but mostly they liked the film. (See here for example.) I thought this review was interesting because it was written from a Lebanese perpective, and most of the reviewer's companions felt the film let the Israeli forces off lightly over complicity in the genocide.

I just saw what may well be the film's last screening in Edinburgh for some time, but if you get the chance to see it I recommend it.

The face that launched 1000 ships (of which 999 didn't have the front fall off)

I know I run the risk of this blog's becoming a shadow server for failblog.org, but I'm sorry, this is too funny to resist. Yes, it's obviously a comedy sketch rather than a genuine interview with a real politician, but I laughed all the way through it. (Apparently the "senator" is John Clark, a comedian well-known in Australia and New Zealand.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't try this at home

And to round off a night of video posting, here is one that isn't funny at all.

111 countries recently signed a treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs. Countries refusing to sign were Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the US.

Or to put it another way:

Sinus of the Times

My wife found this and emailed it to me today. No comment is necessary, I think.

Sorry, couldn't resist

fail owned pwned pictures

Every one a winner (or not so much)

I have the Guardian to thank for alerting me to the existence of failblog.org. As I browse its pages, I keep thinking "must link to that one...and that one.....". For example, Ice Sculpture Fail:

Or Safety Fail:

fail owned pwned pictures

Not all the pictures and videos are of failures. Here is PengWIN (though I suppose it could have been called WhaleFAIL:

I especially liked this one:

fail owned pwned pictures

A friend of mine tells me she did a children's book illustration course this year and found a hitherto unsuspected talent for drawing pigs. Someone else clearly had a talent for rabbits, if not an eye for the big picture:

fail owned pwned pictures

Sometimes you can work out what went wrong, other times.....

fail owned pwned pictures

Sometimes, as with the ice sculpture, you're way ahead of the hapless participants:

The next one could sort of apply to the otherwise great hostel I stayed in in Madrid:

fail owned pwned pictures

Let's leave the last word to an anonymous kid:

fail owned pwned pictures

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ooooh! I've gone all Christmassy

Well, a little bit. I've been playing some of my Christmas music rccords, and felt I should put up the decorations here in my virtual shed. So let's kick off with The Darkness doing Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)

A great song and one of the best of the Christmas videos. Of course The Darkness broke up and Justin Hawkins went into rehab, but now he's out and has a new group Hot Leg. They have released the video for their Christmas single (which comes out tomorrow) and I can cheerfully announce that it's just as over the top as anything The Darkness ever did. Also, it rocks. I wonder whether the song may prove a tad controversial, with it's being called I've Met Jesus and all that....

Phew. Follow that, as they say. Well there are a few other Christmas records I like enough to give blog space to, and here are some of them. First Greg Lake:

Then one of my heroes, Roy Wood. I always like songs that go into a different key for the chorus:

We can't omit Band Aid:

Or Kirsty and the Pogues:

But pride of place must go to the best Christmas single of all time, I don't know who did this video but it fits perfectly:

God bless us every one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A couple of things.....

.....on the topic of Israel and Palestine. First of all an excellent article in Ha'aretz by Amira Hass on the counter-productive nature of some of the campaign to free Gilad Shalit (you may have spotted him on my sidebar).

And then an interview with Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky, which completely demolishes the ridiculous notion promoted by nutters like Benjamin Kerstein that Chomsky is anti-Semitic, wants the destruction of Israel, or any other such rubbish.

Both very well worth a read.

A demonstration that it isn't necessary to be a Christian to be Chaplain to the London Stock Exchange

I nearly forgot to mention the letter about Bethlehem Now in the Northern Echo, which contained the marvellous paragraph

"But that wall is there to prevent suicide bombers from murdering Jewish civilians. Israel is a democratic state surrounded by enemy states who have declared many times that their aim is Israel’s destruction. Are the Israelis supposed to take no notice of this threat? Four times since 1948 Israel has fought defensive wars for its survival. Israel has frequently tried to make peace with its enemies, offering peaceful co-existence with the Palestinian Arabs under various “land for peace” schemes. All rejected."

in which every single sentence is a lie. (Well, apart from the one that's a question.)

All becomes clear when the author of this tripe turns out to be none other than Peter Mullen, Chaplain to the London Stock Exchange (look how well that's helping!). Mullen is a notorious loony who was recently disciplined (and had his blog taken down) for calling for homosexuals to be tattooed with "SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH". I'll leave it to the Daily Mash to answer him.

A couple more things. Apparently Mullen is also chaplain to the Freedom Association, a bunch of Europhobic neofascists who became briefly notorious in the 1980s (I had no idea they still existed). And according to a post on Zefrog's blog he has an interesting history:

Page 194 of Peter Vardy’s The Puzzle of Sex (Fount Paperbacks 1997- Vardy is an ethics lecturer at Heythrop College) refers to Peter Mullen as “An Anglican vicar who resigned for committing adultery with a parishioner” If you look him up in Crockford’s clerical directory, he left a parish in Yorkshire in 1989, and did not minister as a priest again until 1997. His resignation would have been obligatory, and he would presumably have been on the Lambeth discipline list for at least 5 years.

One might almost consider his lofty stance on sexual morality to be the grossest kind of hypocrisy, then.

And they palm this worthless goon off on us as an "ambassador"

You may have seen reports of Bethlehem Now - an Alternative Nine Lessons and Carols Service, held in St James's Church, Piccadilly in London. Here is the organisers' press release and here is a letter in the Times expanding on it. I remember as a student taking part in what might be called an alternative nativity play entitled Bethlehem 74 (by Donald Eyre), which interleaved the classical nativity story (updated so that for example the wise men were a group of British and American astronomy professors) with the context of the then fairly recent Israeli occupation of Bethlehem, complete with a couple of PLO bombers and a motley collection of Palestinian refugees. As was usual in those days, the play was fairly pro-Israeli, though Donald Eyre could hardly have expected either that the occupation would have continued for another 34 years or that Israel would have flouted international law and relied instead on mass murder to achieve territorial gains. Having met the writer I feel certain that if he were alive today he would have written a rather different play, albeit still with a message of Christian hope at its core.

Anyway, the Church Times wasn't too happy with the Bethlehem Now service. More amusingly, neither was Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to Britain. Maybe the imbecile doesn't realise that the reason the service "singles out Israel" is that the event commemorated at Christmas took place in Palestine. Maybe if Jesus had been born in Lhasa or Basra we'd have alternative Christmas services attacking the Chinese or American occupations there and not mentioning Israel at all. In fact I'd put money on it. If Tosor doesn't like the focus on Israel, hey, it's his God who chose where to get incarnated. (And if he wants to shoot the messenger I think the Archangel Gabriel packs more than enough firepower to see off Israel's military might all by himself). He says that the service explicitly linked the occupation to allegations of deicide. I'd like to see some evidence of that: a quote, perhaps? Can't come up with one, Ron? Thought not. (The Jews' responsibility for the death of Jesus was last a matter of interest in Britain, I think, around the time of Cromwell. I see no sign of its attracting any more attention today elsewhere in the world, except in the corridors of Israel's Ministry of Making Stuff Up.)

His remarks were also reported here, with a few additions. I especially loved the line 'if Santa Claus turned up in Bethlehem this Christmas, he would receive a "frosty reception" from Hamas extremists'. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ron Prosor, a fool so abominably ignorant that when confronted with this:

he imagines the characters in red cloaks represent Santa.


My wife Hilary and I both had the same reaction when we read this story. We got to the bit about obesity being a problem in zoo elephants and we said:

"I think elephants are meant to be fat."
"I think you're probably right, dear."

That's because of the many happy hours we spent when our children were young reading A Piece of Cake and the other Jill Murphy books featuring the Large family.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Salsa cookies! Windmill cookies!

On a lighter note, here's an amusing Youtube clip. Normally I find that sites showing intentional (i.e constructed) mondegreens aren't very good: certainly nowhere near the calibre of the best examples. (The latter example, from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, is to the best of my knowledge the first ever constructed Mondegreen.)

Mostly the ones you find on the web fail because you can't imagine that anymne would mistake the original for the fictitious version. But this one actualy does pretty well that way. Enjoy:

UPDATE - the video has been taken down (Schott's getting pissy about musical copyright), but here are the lyrics. You'll just need to
hum along to fit them to the music.

Some Men Like Cheese
Hot Temperate Cheese
Vimto Can Taste Of Kidneys

Lukewarm Two Rat
Bet Too Cool Rat
You Don't Get Cheese Or Chicken

Bend Chips All Day
Hot And Salty
Dip Sore Feet, Good Hot Chili

Saucy Codpiece
Get Me Cod, Please
Brought Up Too Full Food In Me

Suck Juice From Moose
Fun With Some Goose
Second These So Rude Big Knees

Open Bra Top
Get Them Loved Up
Leaking Foot When Near Cherries

Look There Look Good
Dogs Sure Look Cute
Farewell To Knees And Berries





(from here.)

Then, one day, the king rose from his seat as if to go down to his castle. The people watching him saw him shake and stagger and fall to the ground.

Oliver Postgate has died, and part of my childhood and teenage years has died with him.

That's Oliver Postgate the creator of Bagpuss, most popular British children's TV progtamme of all time. which I remember watching when it first came out when I was a student. Also - which I had forgotten - of Pogles Wood. However, from my own point of view he was more significantly the creator of Noggin The Nog, and greatest of all, the Clangers. I am glad to say that I have managed to instil a love of the Clangers into both of my own children, aided in this by the videos of all the programmes. Roughly contemporary with the Wombles (on television at least) and decades ahead of Wall-E, the Clangers were recyclers of space junk. This episode is a particular favourite of ours: indeed my son reckons the "Granny Clanger doesn't want that!" line at 2:15 or so is one still of the funniest things he's ever seen. And so it is, though it's hard to say why it's so funny. Perhaps it's that Grannies aren't meant to behave like that. Perhaps its her spectacularly good aim. Maybe it's that that kind of humour is more the kind of thing one is used to in The Simpsons, so seems incongruous in the world of Postgate and Firmin which could hardly be further removed from Springfield.

There is a very funny piece on the Clangers site by Oliver Postgate about swearing in Clangers. So here is the episode which begins with Major Clanger saying - or rather whistling - "Oh sod it, the bloody thing's stuck again!"

It is only now that I realise that the little toy Clanger which I was given as a Christmas present some years ago, and which whistles a phrase, is in fact whistling precisely that one. Tee hee.

Meanwhile, this clip from Noggin the Nog is a time machine to take me back to my distant childhood (my fourth birthday was in 1959). Black and white pictures, primitive animation, but wonderful stories and a memorably lovely voice to narrate them (as with Clangers and the rest, it was Postgate himself).

P.S. Oliver Postgate also had a website full of interesting little pieces of social commentary. Have a read of them.

P.P.S. As a teenager I used to enjoy opportnities for clangour/clanger puns. We used to sing a hymn in school which had a line "And the city's crowded clangour cries aloud for sin to cease" which was generally accompanied by whistling sounds. Following a whim, I Googled "clangour" and "cease" to try to find a post title. Instead I found a poem containing this couplet, which seems to make a decent epitaph for Oliver:

Then shall ye die, untroubled by love or sorrow' s savour;
As on this planet ye have lived, your offspring shall succeed:
The death bell cease bewailing, with iron- tongued clangour,
Folk, to whom e' en old fortune, hath shown her tender favour;
None shall have cause for mourning the dead who lived indeed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And the cellphone network was called Movistar

In case you were wondering, the holiday referred to in my recent posts was a long weekend in Madrid. I had some leave to use up, and although Hilary couldn't come with me I figured that (a) a substantial part of the touristy stuff in Madrid is art galleries and (b) Hilary tends to get fed up after an hour or two with my leisurely and thorough approach to (a). So I booked a cheap Easyjet flight, and there I was. Well, here actually:

where "here" is the International Youth Hostel La Posada de Huertas on Calle de las Huertas, very close to the Prado. I like backpackers' hostels (actual IYHF Youth Hostels are even better, but the ones in Madrid had drawbacks when it came to my need to check out at silly o'clock to get my return flight). This one had none of the "surcharges for the over-25s" nonsense, 24-hour reception, a central location and I could get a bed in a four-bed male dormitory. I figured that by the age of 53 I no longer wished to save money by sleeping in either a mixed dorm or a 16-bed one. And it was great (two of my four nights I had the room to myself, and the other two nights my companions didn't disturb me. I recommend the place and would certainly stay there again.

Of the galleries, I maxed out on Picasso, Dali and Miro on my first evening at the Reina Sofia gallery, and spent most of my last day in the Prado (where I maxed out on damn near everything else). And I never even touched the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
(which has paintings from the 14th century up to late 20th century). Highlights of my own gallery viewing:

The most famous picture in the Prado (The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch), and it didn't disappoint. It still amuses me, though, to see the gallery with Bosch's works signposted as "El Bosco". Sorry, easily amused.

My personal favourite, this one (Scenes from the Life of the Virgin by Dirck Bouts). I love the matter-of-fact way in which these Northern European - in this case, 16th century Flemish - painters deal with religious subjects. The second panel, for example, shows the Visitation. This is where Mary (newly up the duff despite being, you know, a virgin and all that) goes to visit her friend Elizabeth (ditto, despite being way beyond child-bearing age). Now in a lot of Italian paintings they're chatting politely to each other; perhaps going so far as an animated "No wait, let me give you ny news first!" expression. For Dirck Bouts, however, we have exactly what would happen, I think, in 21st century Britain: an inquisitive mutual feeling of bumps ("Oooh! Oooh! I felt him kick!" "Gosh, aren't you big - how many weeks is it now?")

Durer's self-portrait, another very famous Prado exhibit.

A delightfully weird Goya (Witches' Flight).

A very famous Goya, The 3rd May 1808 (also known as The Executions on the Principe Pio).

And in the Reina Sofia:

Dali's Jeune fille a la fenetre.

One of the best-known paintings in the world, Picasso's Guernica. Which is vast: I hadn't realised it was so big. The gallery also has around a hundred preparatory studies and sketches for it, as well as a montage of photographs taken in Picasso's studio as he worked on it. He sketched the outlines, then painted in the various shades afterwards. I can announce that the very last element to be painted in was the light bulb.

Oh, and this exhibition seems to be back. I found it rather moving to see the famous Death of a Loyalist soldier image in the context of a whole set of pictures of the same guys on the same day (which was to prove the last day for at least one of them).

In the world outside (as I emerged blinking) I also found things of interest. An entire Egyptian temple, gifted to Spain by the grateful Egyptian government for help given in shifting (and thus preserving) other temples when the Aswan High Dam was being built:

The Calle Segovia bridge, of which some witty French aristocrat once said "With such a splendid bridge, they really should get themselves a river":

And finally, on a day-trip, the magnificent cathedral of Toledo:

which is right up there with Chartres as far as I'm concerned. It has everything: stained glass to die for, a choir with carved stalls that go far beyond Chester or Lincoln, and baroque excesses as well.

Oh, and thanks to al-Qaeda, the trains to and from Madrid were the only ones I've ever been on where all bags had to go through X-ray machines and passengers through metal detectors.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Who will play Birnam Wood to their Macbeth?

The whole Somali pirate business seems rather weird. OK, they seem to be a thriving business opportunity. On the other hand they do seem sometimes more akin to the pirates in Asterix than the ones in Pirates of the Caribbean.

But Ted Rall, as is so often the case, manages to ask the obvious question. And I have no idea of the answer. Hell, if India can do it, why can't the rest of us? I would have thought for exanmple that the introduction into the marine ecosystem of a hunter-killer submarine would have proved decisive.

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While I was on holiday Wondermark came up with this. It speaks to my condition.....