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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The macabre wife-swapping escapades will make you vomit

And another, full of amusing descriptions of tacky book jackets. This, though, is beyond praise.

A splendid blog

My fellow-blogger Maggie Brinkley (whose labours over on LiveJournal I have been shamefully neglecting of late) has drawn my attention to this blog. And this post on it told me about someone very cool indeed I'd never even heard of.

About the memoirs: what she said (though I can cope with them in French, the price is prohibitive even for me).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Family Matters

I've been a bit distracted from blogging by various things over the past couple of weeks. A couple of work things requiring stays in Glasgow, a visit to my big brother who is seriously ill and lives at the other end of the country (or indeed the end of the other country as he lives on the Channel coast) and a weekend of playing Wagner. So apologies. Normal service, I hope, returning now.

Let's begin with my son, who as I type is in the next room listening to playbacks of his multi-tracked vocals on his digital studio. A cheery little ditty with lyrics, insofar as about fifty hearings have informed me, concerning the rising of the forces of evil to destroy the planet. My son seems to inhabit a musical space somewhere between prog rock and heavy metal, and it's rather strange to hear the playback of those lyrics over a very Dream Theaterish instrumental mix. That's my boy.....

My brother Martin has alpha-antitrypsin deficiency, which is effectively a kind of hereditary emphysema. As far back as I can remember he suffered lung problems which in the 1950s were basically inexplicable. He was born in Dorset and began to have trouble when my parents moved to Manchester. This was before the Clean Air Act, and the proximity of a large chemical plant can't have helped (let me put it this way: by the time I was born it had been fitted with one of Britain's first electrostatic precipitators to suck the shit out of its effluent - and that was before the Clean Air Act!) I used to get bronchitis but grew out of that, and now apart from a mildly chesty cold every couple of years have no problems at all. My brother smoked for longer than I did, which won't have helped. Anyway, I have no problems other than being unfit and overweight, while my big bro is on 24-hour oxygen and doesn't get out much. Right now he doesn't get out of bed much either, though that's a recent development and might not be permanent. He may not be at death's door yet but he is becoming familiar with death's front path, so a visit seemed indicated.

When I was a student, on my returns home we used to play each other the records we'd bought during the term and try to guess what each one was. It's been a couple of years since I'd seen Martin, and we hadn't played each other stuff for a while, so I made up a couple of CDs I thought he'd enjoy (and might enjoy guessing in some cases). His tastes are prety eclectic so I figured he might already own half a dozen or so tracks, though in the event he didn't have any, which was nice. (Track lists appended below for the inquisitive.) He definitely enjoyed them, and was glad of my company for a couple of days, which we spent chatting pretty much all the time he was awake. He updated me on his genealogical researches, from which I gather (to my daughter's joy) that my forebears include a privateer ("Pirates!") and a shepherd who lived next door to the young Thomas Hardy so is likely to be (in part at least) the model for Gabriel Oak. We talked about the Dorset folk scene (in which Martin used to be quite well-known as a singer), friends from our days playing together in Stockport, about books, films, our shared loathing for Tony Blair, and my delightful nephew, recently married, who lives in Leipzig and is currently on a course in Damascus studying Arabic. (I got even more on him from my sister-in-law while Martin slept or while we walked the dog.)

I have to admit the visit was a little weird: it felt very strange travelling down for what might very well be my last visit - odder than going for a funeral. But once I was there the years fell away and carried the AAT deficiency with them, and I was back playing all the silly sibling one-upmanship games we used to play 35 years ago. And at least his mind is as sharp as ever: I think dementia terrifies him as much as it does me, and at least his brain is likely to outlast his lungs.

Ay oop, our kid.

CD #1

1. Björk: Overture: Dancer In The Dark
2. Baba Yaga: Back In The USSR
3. Tarika Sammy: Hana
4. Shock Treatment OST: Little Black Dress
5. Gåte: Knut Liten Og Sylvelin
6. Richard Thompson: Now That I Am Dead
7. Michel Polnareff: L’Amour Avec Toi
8. Nordman: Hon är Redan Här
9. Linda Thompson: Telling Me Lies
10. Tonight At Noon: The John McLean March
11. Martin Carthy: Your Baby ‘as Gorn Dahn The Plug’ole
12. Beth Nielsen Chapman: Dancer To The Drum
13. Alabama 3: Mao Tse Tung Said
14. Steve Martin: Daddy Played The Banjo
15. Martin Carthy: Girls
16. Al Stewart: The Coldest Winter In Memory
17. Richard Thompson: My Daddy Is A Mummy
18. Celine Dion: Vole

CD #2

1. Dweezil Zappa: Stayin’ Alive
2. Stackridge: (Waiting For You And) England To Return
3. The Open Window: Exchanges Of Information (from Oh Calcutta! original cast recording)
4. Jean-Jacques Goldman: Je Commence Demain
5. Alan Stivell (with John Cale): Ever
6. Full Moon Fair: Night Comes In
7. Shock Treatment OST: Duel Duet
8. Steve Ashley: Say Goodbye
9. Danny Burstein & Melissa Weil: Tear Jerk (from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change original cast recording)
10. Hedningarna: Metsyn Tytto (Forest Maiden)
11. Beth Nielsen Chapman: Say It To Me Now
12. The 3 City 4: The Apprentice’s Song
13. Helen Sjöholm: Duvemåla hage (from Kristina från Duvemåla by Benny Andersson / Bjorn Ulvaeus)
14. Richard Thompson: Dragging The River
15. Maire Ni Chathasaigh & Chris Newman: A Sore Point
16. The Decemberists: I Was Meant for The Stage
17. Shock Treatment OST: Anyhow, Anyhow

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Truly it is written that There Is Nothing Like A Dame

A propos a feature in Saturday's Guardian on Dame Judi Dench, Hilary and I were agreeing that we hadn't realised she could sing and dance (as would be implied by her having played Sally Bowles in the original London production of Cabaret).

Well, here's the proof:

Alexander McCall Smith : Edinburgh Book Festival 27 August 2009

Third time lucky for me, as on previous occasions when I'd tried to see Edinburgh's second most famous author (after J K Rowling, but probably ahead of Ian Rankin) he'd been long sold out.

AMS is most famous worldwide for his Mma Ramotswe series set in Botswana, but in Edinburgh he is just as celebrated for the books set there: the Isabel Dalhousie detective stories, and the 44 Scotland Street serial novels which appear in the Scotsman. When the man appeared after a half-hour delay (there had been a power cut earlier so everything at the festival site was running late) one of the first things we learned was that he was due to begin a new series of 44 Scoatland Street in the autumn, and the next was that he is also due to begin another serial novel (Corduroy Mansions), this time for the Daily Telegraph and set in London. AMS read us an extract which sounded especially hilarous, in which an erratic driver ends up driving round a field of wheat and on looking back is convinced he's found a crop circle. Someone asked him if he ever gets characters muddled up between his books, and he said that once his American editor had to point out to him that he'd made Mma Ramotswe speak just like Isabel Dalhousie in one scene (hurriedly corrected!) He was asked what the inhabitants of the places in his books thought of them, and he said that while the inhabitants of Moray Place had been a little sniffy at the suggestion of nudist gatherings there, the proprietors of the Stockbridge floatarium (in which two of his characters - customers of the establishment - appear to have had sex) delightedly pinned the relevant instalment of the story on their notice-board with a large sign reading STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

On the whole, Alexander McCall Smith was delightful. He does have a high=pitched and rather irritating laugh, which becomes the more irritating when one realises that he is laughing at all his own jokes (and of course is miked up). But in general, as much fun to hear interviewed as to read, and I'm glad I kept trying with the tickets.

Ted Kennedy's Perfect Score

Could he have wished to have a better epitaph?

From the Guardian.

How the government wastes our money Part CCXXXII

Reading this wonderful piece of sound sense in New Scientist (probably the only publication that would allow it to appear) I was reminded of this recent piece in the Daily Mash.

Sadly, our government is driven by what appears in the Sun rather than in New Scientist, and if it worried about its policies looking ridiculous it would never have suggested ID cards.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tuesday 25 August: Power Plant (Royal Botanic Gardens)

I have a stonking big backlog of things to review, including pretty much everything I saw in this year's Ednburgh festivals (though I posted notes on most of them to Facebook). So to avoid another day passing by with my doing nothing about it, here is the solitary Fringe event I saw (unless you count the International Exhibition of Photography which I have now visited, I think, for 28 consecutive years: always an inspiration, but nothing really to blog about, with its being wholly visual).

Tuesday 25 August: Power Plant (Royal Botanic Gardens)

Power Plant is a touring installation by a number of artists, mostly in the plant houses but partly in the open and visited at night. You are given a map of what is where and it's then up to you how you visit the pieces, though in some parts there is little choice of route. The pieces themselves vary a lot, and initially I was underwhelmed by for example a sort of wigwam of fluorescent tubes accompanied by loud electrical noises. Though the trees projected onto the outside of one of the glasshouses were quite pretty. I think the point at which I decided I liked this idea (and I had been waiting to get in for over an hour) was when I wandered through a misty pathway and discovered that I was being projected upon, and that the path looked completely different depending on the direction I faced because of the projections (which were of oval shapes rather like the ones atop fly agaric toadstools). And at the end of this path of projections was a small box labelled "Tsunami" which went off every ten minutes or so, shaking the rubber sheet affair inside with low-frequency tremors which forced the sand on the sheet into gradually shifting patterns. After that came easily my favourite part, "Pyrophones". These were vertically-mounted tuned flamethrowers, played by a guy at a keyboard (though at the time I imagined they were automatic). As each emitted a gout of flame it also generated a musical note, a sound best described as a cross between a rutting stag and an Andean flute. The effect was both musically and visually striking, and wholly lovely. Then there were the wind-up gramophones playing sheets of sandpaper, or the vividly fluorescent little electric fans.

In the middle of it all was a little yurt where they were selling herb tea. I gather it was very good though as my ticket was for the last slot of the night, and as I tend to linger over gallery-type things anyway, i thought it wiser to press on rather than indulge.

The whole thing was quite charming, and vey different from anything else I'd ever seen. Everyone I knew who#d seen it, and everyone on the night, seemed hugely impresessed as well.

This guy's response to Islamophobia seems more likely to be a tinfoil hat

If this jackass can blame Barack Obama for something that happened back in 2001 then surely it's only a matter of time before the "Birthers" and the "9/11 Truthers" join forces to blame him for the WTC and Pentagon attacks........

On our own heads be it

Stories from Islamophobia Watch. This one I like: I'd love to see something similar in Britain.

This one, not so much. Where else but in America could an ignorant lying bully be held up as a national heroine? Mind you, there are still people in Britain who miss Tony Blair who was an ignorant lying peculator, so maybe we're not so different. Though in Britain it would be really hard to find anyone who gave a toss about "respect for the flag". American horror at flag-burning tends to be met by amused incomprehension over here.

Too late for its victim of course, but any apology for homophobia is welcome

Some unalloyed good news to follow all the grim commemorations: Gordon Brown has apologised for the way the British Government treated Alan Turing, the man Churchill considered made the biggest single contribution to Allied victory in the Second World War.


I've just been to see Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That it plays fast and loose with historical fact will not come as a shock. Actually slow and loose might be nearer the mark, as a number of reviewers have commented that the film drags and contained a lot of scenes which would have benefited from cutting. While I can see what they were complaning about, for the most part the leisurely unfolding of the story helps to build the tension. As a Tarantino film it contained a lot of his trademarks: brilliantly chosen (albeit anachronistic) music; an obvious love for the craft of film-making (and film-showing); a strong streak of black humour; sudden and extreme violence; strong and well-directed central performances from Daniel Bruhl, Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz. There are some surprisingly moving moments (surprising for a Tarantino film anyway). I look forward to seeing it again when the DVD comes out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

On September 11th, EKN commemorates those who died in a despicable act of state-sponsored terrorism

.....36 years ago today.

On this occasion of course the sponsoring state was the USA. It was after all of Chile that Henry Kissinger said

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves."

Since after that Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, one must assume that the King of Sweden will in due course be issuing an invitation to Osama bin Laden for his own similar contribution to peace and security.

Let Adrian Mitchell's moving tribute to the murdered Chilean poet and songer Victor Jara (later set to music by Arlo Guthrie) stand as a memorial to all the victims of terror, whether in Chile, New York, Spain, Sri Lanka, Peru, Germany, Britain, Zimbabwe.......stick a pin in a globe and there will be someone to remember.

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

He campaigned for Allende
Working night and day
He sang: take hold of your brothers hand
The future begins today

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

They broke the bones in both his hands
They beat his lovely head
They tore him with electric shocks
After two long days of torture they shot him dead

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong

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

And his hands were gentle
His hands were strong