Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Glasgow Film Festival 2010

I've been to a few things in the GFF this year. Not as many as I intended, as one (Corso: The Last Beat) was cancelled, and two (Whip It and Topp Twins) I had to miss through attending my brother's funeral. Still, I got to be one of the first people in Britain to see Micmacs, the new film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Delicatessen). It's a surreal fable featuring Bazil, whose father is blown up by a landmine and in whose own head is lodged a bullet, courtesy of a stray shot during a gangland shoot-out. Left homeless and jobless after his shooting, he takes a bizarre revenge (with the help of a collection of homeless misfits) on the heads of the arms companies which made the bullet and the landmine. very funny, with great performances from Dany Boon as Bazil and also from Julie Ferrier as a contortionist.



Then I saw The Boys - the Sherman Brothers' Story. I must say that while I knew a lot of their songs I hadn't realised quite how much stuff they were responsible for.



(I know, it makes me feel so old.....)



And the best of all (or at least a firm Saunders family favourite):



We toured Neuschwanstein singing that one.... Best bit is Anna Quayle's facial expression just after just being missed by the falling spike.

I also went through last Sunday with Ruairidh to see an interview with James Earl Jones. I'll do a separate post on that though.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EITHER FIGHT IT TODAY BY EXPOSING IT — OR DIE BY ITS MOMENTUM TOMORROW!

While searching just now for a decent version of Phil Ochs's "When I'm Gone" to post, I came across this wonder of the age. Almost as wonderful as David Noebel's craziness (and wayward pronunciation) is the comment about the timeliness of his tirade, recorded as it was in 1968.....

What kind of a world are we creating, where to be against torture is to be a hero?

I have just been listening (courtesy of BBC iPlayer) to David Tennant in David Hare's Murder In Samarkand. This is Hare's adaptation of Craig Murray's memoir of his time as the British ambassador in Uzbekistan, a job he was forced out of because he insisted on complaining about human rights abuses (President Karimov had a political opponent boiled alive while his fingernails were being torn out, to name only the worst example) at a time when Tony Blair's government was cosying up to Karimov as an ally in the "war" on "terror". After all, he allowed the Americans to operate from bases in Uzbekistan. After all, he provided evidence (which both the British and American governments knew to be obtained under torture and therefore unreliable) that some of his countrymen (strangely, they were always his political opponents) were travelling to Afghanistan to meet Osama bin Laden. Though sadly he never seemed to be able to find out where Osama was to be found despite all these people who claimed (after an encounter with the state questioners) to have sought him out and met him.

Tennant, of course, plays Craig Murray, and it is part of the charm both of Murray's book and of Hare's adaptation that he makes no excuses for himself. The guy was deeply flawed, frequenting lap-dancing clubs (where he met his currrent wife, wife number one having eventually found his womanising too much) and being a heavy drinker. However, when it came to the job he was sent there to do he was deadly serious, and put concern for human rights ahead of everything else. Not a popular stance to take when you worked for Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. I saw him at the Edinburgh Book Festival a couple of years back, promoting the book (see review here). His blog can be found on my blogroll, and if you search my blog for "Craig Murray" you will find links to a number of interesting posts there.

(Given his stalwart support for the torture of Binyam Mohamed and his lack of interest in the human rights even of a British resident being tortured by the Americans with British help, it comes as no shock that BlairSupporter has no time for a man who supported the rights of mere foreigners - Muslims, for heaven's sake - not to have body parts torn off to provide a fig-leaf for Blair's hopeless dreams of international significance. I quote: "I am sick of him and his personal crusade against Blair. I consider him a treacherous former diplomat with his disregard for the Official Secrets Act." He doesn't say how he considers Muslim-boiler Islam Karimov, but "strong leader" would be my guess.)

Do listen to the play while it remains available (until next Saturday). It lasts an hour and a half, and every minute is worthwhile. Not just because it's a gripping story, and not just because it's a great polemic from one of our greatest playwrights. Listen to it for those reasons, certainly, but it's also a terrific performance from David Tennant in a role he must have jumped at the chance to play.

Go! Now! Listen!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fancy That

Martin had a 7" single of this Paul Simon song performed by Them, the band fronted by a young Van Morrison. Couldn't find their version online, but here are Simon & Garfunkel:



Until tonight when I was Googling the Dy;an Thomas poem, I hadn't appreciated that the song was an expansion and reinvention from a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. I suspect Martin may not have known either.

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.

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

I have to say I am very impressed with Paul Simon's reworking.

So long, and thanks for all the music

Some music tracks I associate with my brother.

First, a favourite album from a band he turned me onto. His tastes were pretty advanced in a lot of ways.




These guys were friends of his, and I ended up for a few years in the Middlewood Swamp Band with my brother and Joe Beard (the Purple Gang's guitarist).



I was taken to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and also Dylan on his 1966 tour.





My brother's educative efforts weren't confined to me. My parents found themselves the recipients of tickets to see Peter Paul and Mary, and on another occasion Donovan (with Martin and myself tagging along of course). I have to say they enjoyed both evenings very much: the PP&M concert I would say just as much as we did. Here's one they did that night:



Martin used to help organise the Poynton Folk Festival, which meant we sometimes had Stan Hugill staying with us and delighting family and friends alike:



And Martin took me to see Artur Rubinstein in 1972 or 1973. After a punishingly hard programme of Schubert, Chopin and Schumann, he did nine encores of which this was the ninth!



I haven't even mentioned Ravi Shankar, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Eric Clapton, Simon & Garfunkel or Sir Laurence Olivier. Nor The Beach Boys, Ornette Coleman, The Mothers of Invention, Leonard Cohen, Doc Watson, Roland Kirk, The Incredible String Band, Steeleye Span or Dizzy Gillespie, all of whom he took me to see. This at a time when my school contemporaries' musical horizons were mostly defined by Top of the Pops. What with that, his books of Kerouac and the Beats, and his copies of Playboy, my cultural identity in the sixties and early seventies was very largely formed by my brother, and I am immeasurably grateful for his generosity.

Finally, I couldn't find a decent clip of this Phil Ochs one but I can't think of a more fitting memorial for my folk-singing brother, who introduced me to Phil's music and took me to see him in Manchester in 1966 (I think).

When I'm Gone

There's no place in this world where I'll belong when I'm gone
And I won't know the right from the wrong when I'm gone
And you won't find me singin' on this song when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour a lyric line when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't breathe the bracing air when I'm gone
And I can't even worry 'bout my cares when I'm gone
Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be running from the rain when I'm gone
And I can't even suffer from the pain when I'm gone
Can't say who's to praise and who's to blame when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

Won't see the golden of the sun when I'm gone
And the evenings and the mornings will be one when I'm gone
Can't be singing louder than the guns when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

All my days won't be dances of delight when I'm gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I'm gone
Can't add my name into the fight while I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be laughing at the lies when I'm gone
And I can't question how or when or why when I'm gone
Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

There's no place in this world where I'll belong when I'm gone
And I won't know the right from the wrong when I'm gone
And you won't find me singin' on this song when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it
I guess I'll have to do it
I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

P.S. Found this (audio) clip eventually.

So farewell then

MARTIN DAVID SAUNDERS
Born Weymouth, England 14 January 1947
Died Dorchester, England 20 February 2010

If I was the only Dylan Thomas fan in my primary school, I owe that to my big poetry-loving brother. This one's for you, bro:


And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baldemort

Why do I identify with this strip?

Official admission that there is no genuine "war on terror".

If the British government was really serious about its "war" on "terror" - if it were anything more than a phrase to justify any and every restriction on its own citizens' freedoms - we would by now have seen the departing and unregretted backs of the staff of the Israeli embassy in London (and anywhere else we have one) as they clambered aboard the final El Al flight from Heathrow. No diplomatic relations, no El Al landing rights, , a trade embargo and an end to British funding of Israeli research. Maybe the slaughter of a few hundred thousand Palestinians, the breach of a hundred or so UN resolutions and the creation of an unregulated programme of WMDs have never caused the British government to issue even a mild rebuke to Israel: but when its state terror comes closer to home and puts our citizens under suspicion of complicity and thus at risk of retaliation: well in that case, inaction is not just immoral but treasonous, putting the interest of another nation over that of Britain.

Last time Mossad was caught out using faked British passports in its worldwide killing spree, back in 1987, the Israeli government promised it wouldn't happen again. How many second chances do we give an enemy nation to put our citizens at risk by implicating them in its "false flag" state-sponsored murders?

Ae Fond Post and then we Sever (Part Two)

In other news, Uncle Jimmy still hasn't worked out why I found his comment so funny, because he still hasn't the vaguest inkling of why his hero's description of his attempt to promote the tourist industry made him look such an idiot. He's tried posting here again (and been deleted following the RR principle) . Meanwhile on his own blog he demonstrates his usual double standards and hypocrisy. Nobody is allowed to call Tony Blair a criminal because he hasn't been convicted. Yet it's OK for him to call Binyam Mohamed a terrorist despite Binyam's having had no trial, let alone conviction. Uncle Jimmy doesn't need a trial: he has proof (sorry, PROOF). What proves Binyam to be a terrorist is apparently that a couple of neocon nutjobs (Mark Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, and a big pal of Dick Cheney, and Andy McCarthy, who once worked for Rudy Giuliani and is best-known for his contention that waterboarding isn't torture) say so. (You have to love the way Thiessen says "the CIA Inspector General’s report....was supposed to prove a) a pattern of systemic CIA abuse and b) that the CIA program did not work. Instead, it proved the opposite.". Then he cites in his "evidence" that " the night before their departure from Pakistan to carry out the mission, KSM, Ammar, and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh hosted a farewell dinner for the two terrorists — a send-off to America from the men responsible for the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001."

If these worthies say so, then it must be true, right? Wrong.

That "farewell dinner"? Never even happened.

As it happens, one of the confessions that was tortured out of Binyam is so ludicrous that it was soon dropped, but not before Clive Stafford Smith had learnt of it and had been able to use it to demonstrate the extent to which it indicated that all of Binyam's "confessions" were untrustworthy. As he explained in his book The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side, "[T]he U.S. authorities insisted that Padilla and Binyam had dinner with various high-up members of al-Qaeda the night before Padilla was to fly off to America. According to their theory the dinner party had to have been on the evening of April 3rd in Karachi … Binyam was meant to have dined with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla." What made the scenario "absurd," as Stafford Smith pointed out, was that "two of the conspirators were already in U.S. custody at the time -- Abu Zubaydah was seized six days before, on 28 March 2002, and al-Libi had been held since November 2001."

In the comments, one of Jimmy's sock puppets says "We should send him back to Ethiopia or extradite him for trial to Afghanistan if there is the evidence to prosecute", to which Jimmy replies in his own voice 'some of us don’t necessarily accept that he should be treated as “human”'.

There's much more of that kind of thing in his post on 10 February. Headlined 'Britain is NOT Binyam Mohamed’s “home”. A 4th election victory is in the bag.' it goes on to shriek in bold red and black capitals "HIS HOME? NO, IT’S OUR HOME & WE DON’T SHARE IT WITH TERRORISM SUSPECTS".

Apparently "the courts have handed David Milliband and the Labour party an election-winning card". What card might that be, I wonder?



To clarify, he reprints several dozen comments from the Daily Telegraph, saying "These commenters are right". (So he can't pretend this time that he's only publishing the (carefully cherry-picked) comments to support free speech.) And what are they saying?

The man is not British. Resident does not mean citizen or subject. The passport he had was forged. I don’t know why the High Court is wasting time on this.

Oh please do us all a favour, and shut up about abuse of human rights again. Firstly where is the evidence that the supposed torture happened. Secondly this was an Ethiopian, captured in Afganistan, and interrogated, harshly or otherwise, in Pakistan and Morocco. These are both sovereign and Islamic countries. Might I ask what the hell this has to do with Britain, or our pontificating, politically correct judiciary. Where (sic) this a British citizen then he should stand trial for treason, in a British court of law.

Binyam Mohamed is not British, is not a British resident (he may have once lived in the UK) and was strongly suspected of having terrorist links. Why is the UK judicial system getting involved with this man and putting the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement in jeopardy? Thank goodness that the US government has the backbone to take real action in the supression of terrorism. The human rights of the many (us)outweigh the rights of one foreign terrorist suspect. If this man has been tortured, then those now making a fuss should address their concerns to those who did so, not encumbering our courts with this nonsense.

I notice that you didn’t mention that Al-Queda training materials instruct their members to ALWAYS claim torture. Nor, more importantly, did you point out how dozens of those released from Guantanamo have gone back to terrorism! Not that I expect impartiality and fairness from someone affiliated with Amnesty International, of course. How much of your time do you waste attacking democracies, and how little time do you spend going after dictatorships that violate human rights on a far more massive and blatant scale than democracies could ever imagine?

Who cares! These guys are terrorists and deserve what they get. An Ethiopian trying for residency in Britain, caught in Afghanistan where he was “sorting out personal issues” – don’t make me laugh!!!!

I really do not care if this foreign national was tortured on foreign territory by foreign agents. Resident does not equate to citizen. The big question is why was this terrorist allowed British residency in the first place?

As far as the alibi of the traditional Guantanamo inmate, that they wandered away from a wedding in Stepney and then mysteriously ambled into a Guerilla training camp on the Afghan\Pakistan border, that should be a warning to anyone who wants them to live in dangerous britain. Freed on british streets, they seem incapable of finding their way home. Bad idea to house them here then.

The best solution is not to allow entrance to any nationals of Middle Eastern and African countries. Then there will be fewer such anguished moral problems for m’learned friends to debate in our courts for which we, the taxpayers, foot the bill.

Oh, the "send then all back where they came from" card. Of course.

Note that the last commenter I quote, whom BullShitter thought was "right", and of whom he thought sufficiently highly to abstract his pearl of wisdom, makes no distinction between Muslims and Islamic extremists. Nor indeed between Muslims and other "nationals of Middle Eastern and African countries". All niggers, wogs and Jews, innit?

I wonder whether there is any comment too outrageously racist to be fawningly reprinted by Uncle Jimmy, the fascists' friend.

Lucky Tony Blair

Tony Blair must be very pleased with the way the Chilcot Enquiry has gone. Nobody seriously expected that it would expose any new evidence, given that Blair (a trained lawyer) was being interviewed by a bunch of people without any such training. His testimony was the normal self-justifying tosh about how there were obvious links between Saddam and al-Qaeda when it was a case of justifying an invasion (because, y'know, al-Q might get their hands on all those non-existent nukes). However, when it came to planning for Iraq's future following its "liberation", it apparently never occurred to Tone the Drone that al-Qaeda might involve themselves and pose a problem to the occupying forces. I can't decide whether he effectively admitted there that the link with Saddam was made up (it was, but I'm not convinced he admitted it) or whether he just confessed to utter incompetence and an inability to remember who he said he was fighting against.

But that isn't what I meant. Tony must have been overjoyed that with everyone concentrating on the Chilcot sideshow, what could have been a vastly more damaging scandal, one that could have ended his career right there, just softly and silently vanished away.

You may remember British Aerospace? The arms dealers whose conduct in a deal with Saudi Arabia attracted the attentions of the Serious Fraud Office? Attentions which were discontinued on the explicit personal instruction of Tony Blair. Well, on 5 February BAe pleaded guilty to false accounting and making misleading statements. These related to both the al-Yamamah deal (the one whose investigation Blair prevented) and the sale of an air traffic control system to Tanzania which was wildly unsuitable but which, coincidentally, was forced through cabinet by....Tony Blair. These were deals that stank of corruption. In their submission to the US courts BAe explicitly said that one of the things being covered up by the false accountin was the paying of bribes. With Blair's hands in every part of these deals, and with his notorious keenness to involve himself in anything which will add to his personal wealth, one can only speculate as to the identities of those being bribed.

But the beauty of BAe's plea bargain is this. By pleading guilty to false accounting and lying to cover up wrongdoing, they have won permanent immunity from any further investigation into the corrupt deals being covered up. It's as though I were to confess to the police that I had disposed of a dead body in a wood chipper, and were then let off any investigation into the identity of the body, or how I came to be in possession of it. This means that Blair is safe from any investigation into his involvement in all this corruption, investigations which it is safe to say had far more potential to terminate his career (and indeed his freedom) should wrongdoing be uncovered than anything Chilcot could come up with. Tony can easily bluff and bluster his way out of anything to do with the Iraq war because doubt can be cast on so many things. A proper SFO investigation into the BAE deals, though, could have led to much more embarrassing revelations. A dodgy dossier can be wriggled out of: a dodgy entry in a bank account is harder to shrug off.

So instead of whining to the Murdoch media about the Chilcot enquiry and the British in general being obsessed with conspiracy theories (because they had the temerity to ask questions of Tony Superstar), Blair should have been thanking Chilcot and the tabloids for diverting attention from the sordid legal deal-broking that was probably keeping his sorry ass out of Wandsworth.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For goodness sake, he's got the hippy hippy break

On Tuesday I tried to persuade my brother to have a stab at the 25 First Lines meme. I figured he was a shoo-in to gues several of the remaining one. So what does the idiot go and do yesterday? Slip while climbing into bed and break his hip, that's what. I gather he's not in too much pain, and they're going to do an op under an epidural later today. Funny how he gets to have a spinal tap: always thought of him more as a Mighty Wind guy myself.



Get better soon, bro.

O. M. F. G.

Apologies if I seem to be obsessing with my pet neo-loonie, but I really can't resist this. On Tuesday I posted this piece which I thought showed up Blair's dumbness when not speaking from a prepared script. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Uncle Jimmy showed up in the comment box. Now I have previously made it clear that his comments, like Roger Rabbit's escapology, will only be permitted if they're funny. And by golly, this one is funny. OK, the pathetic and irrelevant linkage of some video or other of Cherie Blair's sister and a LibDem I couldn't care less about spoils its perfection, but I believe it will still stand for many years to come as the pinnacle even of Uncle Jimmy's abject stupidity. Behold the intellectual powerhouse that is the British neofascist.

And you may call me cruel, but I have no intention whatever of telling Uncle Jimmy just how he has made such a total idiot of himself. In the event that the penny belatedly drops and he follows up with a second attempt, I shall refer him to rule no. 1 (the Roger Rabbit principle) as I delete his comment. Perfection must be protected.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Straight from the Horse's A**e

In all seriousness, I have to thank BlairSupporter (aka Uncle Jimmy). If it weren't for folk like him and his faithful friend Margaret, faithfully transcribing Tone the Drone's recent interview on Fox News (but where else could he find an audience?) with failed Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, the rest of us would have to watch the whole thing to find the hilarious bits. (I have watched enough to make sure that the bit I'm quoting isn't a transcription error - he really did say this).

OK. Here's the video (I can't bear to embed that vacant grin and sunbed tan: click if you want them). We begin at 2:15 into the clip:

"Here in this room yesterday I met representatives of the tourist industry. Israeli and Palestinians sitting there together, getting on extremely well, talking about the enormous potential of the Holy Land and agreeing out of that that what we do is mount a major promotion campaign for the Holy Land, Israel and Palestine together. And I went a couple of days ago, you’ll be fascinated by this, to a little place called Sebastia in the Palestinian territory. This is a place where there is Greek and Roman ruins actually going back to even before Greek and Roman times, and there is a church which is the Church of John the Baptist, actually now part of it is a mosque, part is still the old church and that’s where the remains of John the Baptist are said to be. So this is a fascinating, fabulous place." (My emphasis.)

Neat trick that. Isn't it funny how when he doesn't have a team of taxpayer-funded speechwriters the Slippery One can't even talk coherent English? I bet the Palestinians and Israelis are overjoyed to have him "supporting" their tourist industry. Perhaps he'll persuade Arabs to come and visit the pre-Islamic mosques....... What a pity he has no interest in persuading the Israelis to revisit their pre-1967 borders and get their sorry asses out of where they don't belong, for example "fascinating, fabulous" Sebastia.

Boom and Bust

Here's another great Hasbara Buster post. You know how we're always being told that Operation Cast Lead (the one that the Israeli government said would bring a bigger Holocaust to Gaza) was a proportionate response to the years of terror that Hamas had inflicted on the poor suffering residents of Sderot by lobbing Qassams onto their waste ground bombarding them constantly with lethal missiles? It would seem the residents are more troubled by the neglect they suffer from their own government than by any airborne terrors.

Well I suppose their egos are the same size as Blair's

OK, now I'm going to wish I'd kept Uncle Jimmy's idiotic recent comment on my Mahmoud Ahmadinejad post, because he posted a link which he seemed to think disproved my assertion that the Iranian President's famous "quote" about wishing to wipe Israel off the map was a well-known urban myth. Actually the piece he linked to came to the same conclusion, but why would that worry Jimmy the neo-loonie?

Anyway, I found a great piece on The Hasbara Buster's blog (a uniformly awesome blog, BTW - every post I read there makes me feel like giving up and outsourcing EKN to him). Not only does it also nail the myth, but he adds a paragraph that Uncle Jimmy would surely agree with. He is, after all, a stickler for the literal interpretation of Tony Blair's words:

Thus the reporting of what Blair says to Fern Britton, or to the Chilcot inquiry next year, is more influential than his actual words. Last weekend, therefore, people did not hear Blair say of Saddam Hussein, “I would still have thought it right to remove him,” which is what he said. They heard him say he “would have invaded Iraq” even if he had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction, which was how it was reported. Him and whose army?
(Buried somewhere in this mound of verbiage.)

So he will be delighted with The Hasbara Buster's analysis of Pres. Ahmadinejad's intentions:

But another question worth raising is whether Ahmadinejad ever said that Iran itself will take care of eliminating the Zionist regime, the state of Israel, the world Jewry or whatever Sela chooses to interpret when he wakes up in the morning. It is not the same to say "John Doe needs to be killed" as to assert "I will kill John Doe," especially when people who combine both the will and the ability to murder Mr. Doe are not exactly in large supply. In other words, wishing for something horrible to happen to someone is itself horrible, but until you decide to harm that person yourself your horrible thoughts are basically irrelevant (unless you can have someone else do the task, which is clearly not the case here).

Of course, one of the problems with Uncle Jimmy's argument is that it was precisely the case for Tony Blair: as he is at pains to point out, "doing the task" was indeed principally the job of the USA.

P.S. In the comment I deleted, Jimmy says that if after reading his link I still equate Tony Blair with either Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad I need to see a psychiatrist. I can safely say that I have never equated Tony Blair with either of those men. I consider him unfit to lick their toilet bowls.

Video Fun: Some of the ones you guessed

Lisa wondered just how confused she was getting when she remembered there being an extra word in the Ferry Cross the Mersey lyrics. Incidentally, there's no apostrophe in the title: it isn't the descriptive phrase "Ferry Across The Mersey" but the exhortation "Ferry, Cross the Mersey (and always take me there, the place I love....)"

Here are the lads themselves to demonstrate:



And for others who were having trouble: Here are Zappa Plays Zappa (Dweezil et al) doing Willie The Pimp:



and Nick Drake doing One of These Things First:



Nobody got confused by this, but it's one of my favourite Hollies numbers (with amazing chords) so let's have it:



And here is the video that has to go with You Never Can Tell:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

25 First Lines (once again)

I haven't done one of these for a while. Here are the first lines of 25 songs randomly plucked from my record collection (where the first line does not contain the title). You have to guess the artist and the song title. Post your guesses in the comments box. As songs are correctly guessed I will update the post itself with the answers. If some defy your guesswork for too long I may give hints.

Here we go:

1. My father is a doctor, he’s a family man

2. Look at them yo-yos: that’s the way you do it
Dire Straits: Money For Nothing (guessed by Persephone)

3. I’ve been caught in a trap I set for myself

4. Turn around, don’t whisper out my name

5. Let me tell you ‘bout the Manfreds

6. See the girl with cymbals on her fingers, entering through the door
The Hollies: Stop Stop Stop (guessed by Persephone)

7. I thought you had passed, but you caught me at last

8. Life goes on day after day
Gerry & the Pacemakers: Ferry Cross the Mersey (guessed by Lisa)

9. Oh the time will come up when the winds will stop

10. Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are
Pink Floyd: Pigs (Three Different Ones) (guessed by Phil)

11. Traffic’s wild tonight

12. As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent
David Bowie: Diamond Dogs (guessed by Phil)

13. You’re so hot, teasing me
Abba: Does Your Mother Know? (guessed by Lisa)

14. Well no one told ne about her
The Zombies: She's Not There (guessed by Persephone)

15. Ooh, my little pretty one, pretty one
The Knack: My Sharona (guessed by Persephone)

16. You went away and left me long ago
I hear You Knocking (guessed by Persephone though she couldn't remember the artist)

17. Her name was Mia from North Korea

18. A place where nobody dared to go

19. Queen Vicky used to sit upon her magic throne

20. Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder

21. I’m a little pimp with my hair gassed back
Frank Zappa (and Captain Beefheart) : Willie the Pimp (guessed by Phil)

22. Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
The Beatles: All My Loving (guessed by Persephone)

23. I was lying in my bed, pull the silken sheets up tight
Bonzo Dog Band: Can Blue Men Sing The Whites? (guessed by Phil)

24. It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished ‘em well
Chuck Berry: You Never Can Tell (guessed by Phil)

25. I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook
Nick Drake: One Of These Things First (guessed by Phil)

Except for #19 which is rather obscure, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Good luck.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nonie Darwish and Pat Robertson condemn religious extremism shock! Oh wait, it's Islamic extremism, not the good kind.

Another piece of filth from BullShitter, aka Uncle Jimmy. Here he links to a video clip by Nonie Darwish, who hates Muslims as only an ex-Muslim who wants to convert them all to Christianity can. She is guesting on a nasty little piece of hate TV by Pat Robertson (who else?)

When I read her list of "Reasons why sharia law is bad for all societies", I want to point out that the Bible (remember the Bible?) mandates death for apostates(Deuteronomy 17:2-5), as well as for gays (Leviticus 20:13) and adulterers(Deuteronomy 22:22). (The state of Michigan only permits life imprisonment nowadays for adultery, while in Wisconsin it is a Class 1 felony. In the US military it can still lead to a court-martial.) In the Bible, the Israelites are instructed to kill every man, woman and child among their (infidel) enemies (1 Samuel 15:3; also Joshua 6:21).

And according to Jesus, all those laws still apply (Matthew 5:17-18).

But, you say, most Christians (outside Michigan and Wisconsin) don't do that kind of thing now. Hmm, well, maybe not. But most Muslims don't go around stoning apostates either. So your point is?

Ah, shoot, Let's leave it to Jed Bartlett in The West Wing to deliver a fitting riposte to Nonie Darwish, another jumped-up member of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club:

A miscellany of stuff about Israel

First up, an article setting out Tony Blair's appalling record in the Middle East, and explaining why he's been such a disaster from the days of his premiership to the present.

Then a response to a New York Times op-ed telling familiar lies about Israel.

A great (Israeli) post about Israeli double standards. Oooh, those wicked Hamas fighters.

Article on bomb planted by IDF outside a Palestinian school, and interview with IDF sniper explaining that they target children over 12.

Brave IDF fighters use Palestinian children as human shields:

Here.
Here.
Here.
And here.

But that's not official policy, surely?

Yes.
It is.

Anyway, the advantage of being the only democracy in the region is that your military doesn't have to obey laws it doesn't like.

(Another advantage is that you can ban opposition political parties you dont like from contesting elections. Though curse that bleeding-heart judiciary that doesn't understand how theocracydemocracy is supposed to work.)

A very interesting article about human shields of various kinds:

One of my own posts, linking the largely-unreported rocket attack by the Israeli settler on a Palestinian village, as well as the brave IDF man who shot a handcuffed prisoner and was allowed to get away with it.

And another reporting not only one of "C**t" Kerstein's more ridiculous spittle-drenched Islamophobic rants but the American Christian fundamentalist bomber (again, largely ignored by a compliant media which likes to see all terrorism as Islamic).

All things to call to mind the next time you hear someone describing Israel as the region's only democracy, with the most moral armed forces in the world, who never target civilians or use human shields. Israel, whose civilian population are impotent victims of Arab terrorism, never machine-gunning mosques, bombing hotels or firing rockets into villages. Just remember that not a single one of those statements is true.

Gulf Wars

Apologies for posting a news story from last August, but I don't remember this being reported in the UK.

Cleavagegate.

We have political leaders here who make tits of themselves, but not as decoratively.

In other aviation news....

....here is a good news story from the USA. I apologise for the deeply unpleasant site it comes from, but somehow their horror emphasises the fact that this is something positive that President Obama has done for peace.

Fly the Flag

As its cabin crew undertake a strike ballot, British Airways seems to be getting more and more intransigent in its dealings with the unions.

Here is a video which tries to correct some of the misreporting that has been going on during the dispute.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ae fond post, and then we sever (Part One)

I have recently been banned from commenting on another blog, and just as with the first time (when I was denied entry to Kesher Talk's hallowed halls after taking issue with Judith Weiss's cheerleading for nuclear genocide) I am delighted. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My attention was first caught when BlairSupporter, the anonymous perpetrator of Keep Tony Blair For PM, posted a comment on this post of mine. It was infantile and full of name calling, and it showed BS to be, well, the kind of guy you'd expect from his blog's title: a True Believer in the Cult of the Great Pretender, and not much in touch with the real world. So, an amusing blog to drop by and giggle at from time to time, which is what I did. I posted on him, he posted on me. Sometimes I posted comments at his site, more often I just gawped incredulously at the guy's naivete. Whatever. A bit like my Kesher Talk experience but without the crappy science fiction and the Hebrew obscenities.

BlairSupporter (actually, in the light of his own propensity for childish name-calling and worship for a compulsive liar, I tend to think of him more as BullShitter. If he insists on a pseudonym, and if the initials fit....) BS can be unintentionally hilarious. Take the following wonderful recent exchange. I make no apology for quoting at length: it's glorious. (And no, I'm not in it.)

We begin with a YouGov poll on Tony Blair's performance at the Chilcot Enquiry. Here it is.

More broadly, which of the following best sums up yourview of Tony Blair in respect of the Iraq war?

Even if some of the details were wrong, Mr Blair was right towarn that Saddam Hussein’s regime was extremely dangerous 31
Mr Blair misled Parliament and the public about the scale ofthe threat from Iraq but did not intend to do so 17
Mr Blair knowingly mislead Parliament and the public, but we should now move on and take no action against him 18
Mr Blair knowingly mislead Parliament and the public and should be tried as a war criminal 23
Don't know 11


So we have 41% who believe Blair deliberately lied, a further 17% who think he unintentionally misled Parliament, and 11 % don't knows. Only 31% believe that Blair didn't significantly mislead Parliament.

Yet how does BS, the scourge of inaccurate reporting, report this (in his usual HUGE CAPITALS and BRIGHT RED)?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
POLL: 77% – REPEAT 77% – SAY TONY BLAIR TOLD THE TRUTH TO PARLIAMENT OVER IRAQ

So – what was that again? Oh yes, more than three-quarters polled think Tony Blair told the truth to parliament over Iraq. In other words the HUGE majority think he DID NOT LIE.

Did you read that headline anywhere this morning? Did the Sunday morning news bulletins lead with it?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Er, well, no, BullShitter, because you simply made it up and assumed we were all too stupid to look at the figures.

And then, even better, when he realised how transparent that lie was, he simply pretended he'd said something else altogether:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
POLL: 77% DO NOT WANT BLAIR TO BE TRIED FOR WAR CRIMES

Just as I said right here. (Link back to the post above)

So, I was right, guys (Lee, cantbearsed, and nn)! (Three commenters.) Your heartfelt apologies are graciously accepted. Next time you try to get Tony Blair into court over the press’s (mis)interpretation of the facts, make sure you understand the FACTS first.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The really funny thing is the comment stream for BS's original post, where Lee picks him up on his lie. BS refuses to apologise or accept that he was talking, well, BS, and he blusters along in his you're-too-stupid-to-understand-grown-ups-like-me manner before changing his tack as per the second post and claiming that was what he'd said in the first place. The best bit is that in his early responses to Lee he explicitly states that he hasn't even read the poll and simply made up both questions and answers out of his head! (Note to self - check his site in a few days time to see whether he has deleted those revealing comments, because he tends to do that if people catch him out.) Here are the relevant paragraphs in case he does:

January 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I have a had a good look around the internet but I cannot find this poll anywhere. Not at YouGov nor at The Times. Perhaps it was TOO embarrassing to leave online! Perhaps you can do better than me, find it and send me the link.

But since there was NO reference to a “don’t know” option intelligent people can assume that it was Yes/No answer options.

At a guess I’d suggest the question was probably put this way:

Q:Do you think Tony Blair lied to parliament over the Iraq invasion?
A: Yes/No.

January 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

As I mentioned – I have not seen the actual poll(s) yet. Have you? But it is clear that there was more than ONE question asked.

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

Which is why I used to find this buffoon entertaining before he began to call for his political enemies to be imprisoned indefinitely without trial (George Monbiot and others) and published the address of the lawyer of another (Anjem Choudary) with a request that his readers tell this "enemy within" - the lawyer, mind, not Choudary - what they thought of him (no doubt with a petrol bomb or a brick through the window). Also before I realised that on 13 February 2009 he posted - actually reposted, not just linked - a seriously nasty article (otherwise linked only from Stormfront, the BNP site, as far as a Google search could show) which purports to give "facts" about Islam. You know, like the way Muslims carry out human sacrifice and are exhorted by Islam to rape women and children. I tried to explain to BullShitter that the latter article rather gave the lie to his declaration, in a response to one of my comments, that he didn't seek a Muslim-free Britain, merely one free from Islamic extremists. When I asked him which moderate paedophiles and non-extreme human sacrificers he was planning to turn a blind eye to, he banned me. Bless. (He claims he reprinted the article to show that we have free speech in this country: then when I complained about it he banned me. ROFLMAO.)

On the bright side, the longer his nasty little site has Tony Blair's name in its title and his picture in its masthead, the worse it will look for Blair.

In a comment that he has since removed (a great one for historical revisionism, our BS, as we saw above) but which is still partly visible via Google's cache, he called for George Monbiot to be arrested, charged and locked up (notice the missing step there?). "For life, preferably, to give us time to get this country back together again with ONLY people who care."

This silly little strutter with delusions of relevance reminds me of nobody more than Uncle Jimmy in the Reginald Perrin books and TV series. In one episode Jimmy told Reggie of his plan for an armed underground movement to wrest control of Britain from the wicked lefties and immigrants. Reggie's response fits BullShitter and his cohort of sock puppets (sorry, "people who care") to a T (or a TB):

"You realise who you’re going to draw to your secret army? Thugs. Bully-boys. Psychopaths. Sacked policemen. Security guards. Sacked security guards. National Front. National Back. National Back to Front. Racialists. Pakki-bashers. Queer-bashers. Anybody-bashers. Basher-bashers. Rear Admirals. Queer Admirals. Fascists. Neo-Fascists. Loonies. Neo-Loonies."

[The Return of Reginald Perrin, by David Nobbs, Chapter 6]

Bye bye, neo-loonie.

P.S. While looking for one of the links above I came across this post which I'd previously missed. Yes, Uncle Jimmy is a Birther! I hadn't realised we had any of those in Britain. I had thought it a uniquely American form of dementia. Still, Uncle Jimmy doesn't like POTUS as this recent post confirms. Funny how anti-American that one is, for someone who has complained about Guardian readers' knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Maybe President Obama just isn't the right kind of American......

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dinner with the President.......

My eye was caught by a paragraph from From this report:

President Chavez's announcement came during the first broadcast of his new radio show, Suddenly with Chavez. He said the programme would always be preceded by the sound of a harp playing folk music.

"When you hear the pluck of a harp on the radio, maybe Chavez is coming. It's suddenly, at any time, maybe midnight, maybe early morning."

I couldn't help thinking of the scene in Woody Allen's Bananas (can't find a clip to show you, unfortunately) where he's just been invited to dinner with the president of a Central American country. He lies back on his hotel bed lost in a reverie "Dinner with the president....dinner with the president...", with swooshing harp music playing. Suddenly he looks puzzled, gets up and opens the wardrobe door to find the harpist is sitting in there playing. "I'm sorry Senor, but I couldn't find anywhere else to practise!"

British Justice 1 : "War" on "Terror" 0

Good news.

The following is quoted from the first judgment of the Divisional Court in the Binyam Mohamed case on 21 August 2008. We have alerted the Court to a typographic error.


"The following seven paragraphs have been redacted
[It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the inter views were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]"

And here's a a true American heroine. Let her serve to remind us all that not all members of the US military are scumbags like the "expert interviewer" and his colleagues who tortured Binyam Mohamed. Some of them genuinely do hold American ideals sacred.

Now I suppose Ayatollah Khamenei will want to punch me in the mouth too

And here's another site I urge you to visit and support.

A message from Amnesty International:

On Monday, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed to deliver a "punch in the mouth" to those who might exercise their right to peaceful dissent today during Iran’s national holiday. But a "punch" is a far cry from the two executions recently carried out for the same reasons.

Don’t let Iran execute any more people for expressing their dissenting views!

The shock is still very much palpable over the two horrific hangings that took place in Iran just weeks ago. The two hanged men became the "fall guys" for the post-Presidential election violence that consumed the streets of Iran last summer. This happened despite the fact that the accused men were nowhere near the widespread demonstrations – they were already in prison!

Now fear mounts again that 9 more men will hang based on similarly outrageous charges. Help focus Iran's attention on its real problem. Urge Iran to stop the executions!

Today as Iranians pour onto the streets once again by the thousands we can't help but fear that their fate may be the same. They are Iranian citizens who gather to peacefully protest and demonstrate against the actions of their own government. But they are corralled like cattle, beaten back with sticks and even dragged away to cages.

But even Iran must answer to someone for these human rights abuses. On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council will conduct an in-depth review of Iran's human rights record and recommend concrete actions to improve its standing. Even Iran, known to be strongly resistant to external parties investigating these issues, has called the Council the most competent body in dealing with human rights.

Amnesty's researchers have recommended to the Council that they include the following points in their final review of Iran's human rights record:

Halt all executions of juvenile offenders
End the use of indefinite prison sentences, torture and other forms of ill-treatment in detention Prohibit the executive use of excessive force by riot police and Basij paramilitaries

Most importantly, we ask that Iranian authorities finally allow independent investigators into the country to observe and report on torture and other human rights abuses directly.

To date, we've relied on the brave reporting being done by citizens in Iran to give us this information. Despite the best efforts of their government to clamp down on all media and communications carrying these stories – even the most recent banning of Google's email service, Gmail – they manage to break through.

We especially can't shake the eerie memory of Neda, a young woman whose brutal death during last summer's demonstrations was captured on video and shared on YouTube – stunning and saddening viewers by the millions.

As we expected, once again YouTube videos, messages on Twitter, and blogs from those participating in today's demonstrations are surfacing – telling the true stories of what's happening on the streets of Iran.

Remember that today we're counting on you to help us raise the voice of those calling for freedom and justice in Iran by showing your support online.

All your messages, blogs, videos and emails are helping to build a stronger case against Iran's human rights record. And Iran will have to answer for it one day very soon.

Thank you for standing with us and the people of Iran.

Please visit the site and send an email to Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Larijani. There is a lot more background material at the sute and suggestions for further action, including action on other issues.

A worthy cause


You may already know about this website. It's worth a look. For anyone who believes Mr B appears to have committed offenses for which he should answer in a court of law, its goal is a worthy one. (I've sent a tenner.) If nothing else, it will remind the Great Pretender that war crimes are not covered by a statute of limitations, and will keep him looking over his shoulder until such time as he does submit to a trial.

To attract payment from Monbiot's fund the attempt must, among other conditions, cause no harm either to TB or to any bystanders. It's arrest we want, not annihilation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Razzle Vajazzle'em....

I had to share this article by Lucy Mangan with you (from last Saturday's Guardian). I loved it all (esp. question 4).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

If the military court finds the "Hamas terrorists" not guilty do you get a refund?


Is this the most tasteless holiday advertisement ever? And it's not even a spoof.

One for Dexter, I think

Re the Hussain vigilante case (see here and here), and Tony Martin's becoming a hero in some quarters a few years ago for shooting a kid in the back with an illegal sawn-off shotgun and leaving him to bleed to death, here's something to lighten the tone:

A man called police to report a burglary in progress in his shed, and was told that there were no police available to deal with it. The same man called back minutes later saying "Don't worry about it, I've just shot them." Within minutes, his house was surrounded by police cars and even a helicopter. The robbers were duly caught in the act. The police said to the man "I thought you said you had shot them", to which the man replied "I thought that you had no-one available..."

Not that I really want to lighten the tone. What Martin and the Hussains have in common is that their victims were running away, and that they made no attempt to call the police but preferred to resort to murder or GBH to assuage their injured feelings.

I can't help wondering whether the Hussains would have been given their original extremely lenient sentences (remember, these guys beat someone round the head with a cricket bat while their mates held him down, not stopping when an onlooker screamed they were killing the guy, but only when the bat broke) had they not been millionaires. I also wonder, given the ease and rapidity with which they whistled up a gang of armed thugs, just what lines of business these "businessmen" are in. Just think: if they'd called the police instead of smashing their victim's brains in, maybe a spot of interrogation could have led to the other burglars' being arrested. Tony Martin didn't call the police because he didn't want his illegal gun to be found, and anyway it was only a couple of gypsies who got shot (TM's uncle founded the National Front, btw). What were the Hussains afraid the police might find out if they were called to their house?

I'd sooner have a dozen burglars walking the street than these vainglorious "heroes" who believe that their money gives them the right to do exactly as they choose and stuff the law. At least burglars admit that stealing is wrong: they just try not to be caught doing
it.

Howard Zinn 1922 - 2010

I see Howard Zinn has died, He was best known for his A People's History of the United States, though latterly in the USA I would guess that The People Speak on the History Channel has raised his profile rather. (Heck, with that cast it would raise his profile over here!) Here are a bunch of links to tributes.

I was all set to say that my favourite right-wing nutjob Benjamin "C--t" Kerstein (see here for explanation) had the dubious distinction of writing the only obituary which did a hatchet-job on Howard Zinn. Certainly his is the only one I've read which compares A People's History to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Can anyone work out in what way they are supposed to be similar? Buggered if I know.) Not that I was surprised by that: Kerstein, never the most original of thinkers (except when it comes to the Second Law of Thermodynamics), used the same comparison in his lazy review of the book on amazon.com. In that instance, BCK only gets one line into the "review" before comparing the book to Mein Kampf, though apparently Zinn's failing was that he was a totalitarian communist. Who knew? and who would ever find out from Kerstein's confused scribblings?

As I said, I was all set to flag BCK as uniquely tasteless. But David Horowitz is clearly on the same wavelength.

Let's leave Benjamin to his dribblings, and Howard to his doughnuts (photograph by Viggo Mortensen from HZ's Facebook wall):



I think I'd like this played at my funeral

And while I'm posting classical music Youtube clips, here's what my quartet are just starting to practise: Fratres by Arvo Part. The clip is of a version for string orchestra, so obviously a richer sound, and the quartet version doesn't have the percussionist: just plunks from the cello. But I hope you like the piece. I've no idea whether we'll ever play it in public, though I'd love to as it's one of my all-time favourites.

Enjoy.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The passion players: amateur classical music in the UK

As an amateur musician who plays in several Edinburgh orchestras and a string quartet, I liked this article in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. Here's an extract:

As he drove me across the chill Co Durham hills, Cobweb ­conductor Andy Jackson said: "Why is it that in our culture doing ­something extremely complex – like playing a ­musical instrument – only quite well isn't really valued? Surely there's something wrong in that."

It's the slur of amateurism, of course. Derived from the Latin verb "amo", to love, amateur, strictly ­speaking, means "one who loves or is fond of; one who has a taste for anything", according to the Oxford English dictionary. But because it also implies one who cultivates a skill as a pastime rather than a profession, it has come to mean a mere ­"dabbler", someone who lacks true ability. Something happened with the rise of recording and broadcast. A century ago, if you wanted to get to know a piece of music, you might well have to play it yourself, especially if you lived outside a major city (this is one reason why there are so many piano reductions of the great symphonies). There's a wonderfully moving, funny example of this in Arnold Bennett's The Death of Simon Fuge, published in 1907, which Margaret Drabble rightly calls "one of the greatest short stories in the ­English language". The ­narrator, a British ­Museum curator, visits Stoke-on-Trent. His prejudices about the uncultivated provinces are dented when he stays with a local (Manchester Guardian-reading) architect, who, with his friend, a Birmingham ­manufacturer, proceeds to sight-read the whole of Strauss's Sinfonia Domestica (1903) in piano-duet reduction – 45 minutes of then bracingly contemporary music. At the end, the manufacturer turns to his friend and laconically enquires: "What dost think of it, Bob?"


Funnily enough, my main orchestra (Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra) - the one for which I chair the committee and do a lot of instrument shifting - are planning to do the Sinfonia Domestica. Probably not next season, but maybe 2011-12: we're currently rehearsing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and his Symphony in C, so we need to pace ourselves.....

Why? Well, here's the last part of the Rite:



And here is the last part of the Sinfonia Domestica:




While I love the Stravinsky to bits, and the Strauss is just my the kind of nail-you-to-the-wall orchestral heavy metal, even I think we'll need a rest in between!

Well, I'm back

Sorry about the blogging hiatus. Last weekend I went down to Portland (Dorset) to stay with my brother and sister-in-law. Martin is a pretty sick chap these days: he has a kind of hereditary emphysema called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. He's just been in hospital because they thought he had a blood clot on his lung. He hadn't, though treating him for one seemed to fix whatever it was (and the whole business was unusual enough that he may well end up as Patient A in a medical journal some time). Anyway, he's home now and feeling pretty positive about things: not bad for someone largely bedridden, on oxygen 24x7, and with quite bad arthritis in his hands as well. Here he is, with his dog Sam:


I came back via Kenilworth, where I stayed with friends I hadn't seen for many years and met some other friends I hadn't seen for even longer. The as soon as I got home it was off again for work, with a meeting at Tower Bridge in London so up fairly early to get a flight. Which would have been OK if my nicely timed (1715) British Airways flight back hadn't been cancelled. (It seems the inbound aircraft had had to divert from Manchester owing to bad weather, hence hadn't ever got to Heathrow. I ended up on a British Midland flight at 2100. On the plus side the replcement flight was business class, so after bussing across the airfield from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 (and boy was I glad I hadn't had any checked bags) I ended up in the British Midland Diamond Club lounge drinking free gins & tonics with a colleague I met there. I had to miss my orchestra rehearsal (which meant I had to make loads of phone calls as I normally lock up the hall) but hey, free booze.

After all that I was too tired last night to blog (I fell asleep watching a programme about the history of chemistry) but here I am now. Not, perhaps, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but awake.

What's that? You want more of Sam? OK.