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

Monday, March 29, 2010

G is for Gaza, Genocide....and GATSO?

I had an interesting and unusual day today. Put it this way, in this post I shall be making reference to Haydn's Symphony No 96, speed cameras, Andy Capp, ethnic cleansing and John Cage. It's a funny old world.

You may remember this post concerning the appearance at the 2008 Edinburgh International Festival by the Jerusalem Quartet, one of whose claims to fame is that they are sponsored by the IDF (the Israeli army). Indeed, the JQ are Distinguished IDF Artists. Of course they have a perfect right to be sponsored by the army in which they all serve as reservists, but I have an equal right to feel rather uneasy about it: hence I added my voice to those calling for the concert to be cancelled. It wasn't, and that was the end of my involvement with the affair. Five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (the organisation to which the pseudonymous commenter on that earlier post took such exception) staged a demonstration during the concert (which was being recorded for BBC Radio 3). As I said, I didn't (and still don't) feel comfortable with that. Firstly because I organise concerts, I play in concerts, I don't disrupt concerts. It isn't what I do, and I can;t see that changing. Moreover, in order disrupt the concert five people must have spent a minimum of £7.00 per ticket. Maybe SPSC felt it was money well spent, but to me that was £35 going to IDF propagandists. Yippee. I could have seen the point if SPSC had bough up all the tickets so the quartet came out to play to an empty hall. That would have been pretty cool. But if they were simply looking to be arrested for breach of the peace, as they were, they would have done better to stay outside, dress up in tails, and wander about with violins (in one hand) and replica Galils (in the other). But that's just the way my mind works, I guess.

So anyway, the five people were charged with Breach of the Peace. Or so they thought, until the Procurator-Fiscal (the Scottish state prosecutor) dropped that charge and brought instead the more serious charge of "Racially Aggravated Conduct". Originally it was claimed that the five had made comments about "Jews, Israelis and the state of Israel", evincing malice and ill-will towards the musicians because of their membership or presumed membership of an ethnic group. That argument lasted as long as it took for the BBC's recording of the concert, and hence of the whole protest, to be made available. No mention whatsoever of Jews. No racist comments: indeed a member of the quartet made a response in terms which made it quite clear that he was viewing the protest as a political act rather than any kind of racial abuse directed at the quartet (or anyone else).

With the word "Jews" duly struck from the charge, one might think that would be the end of the matter, but the Procurator-Fiscal proceeded with the remainder of the accusation. More detail on the whole affair here. Also a good piece by John Pilger on what has now clearly shifted from five guys getting their just deserts for a breach of the peace to a full-blown political trial of the kind one associates with wicked foreign places.

Which is how I came, this morning, to be taking part in what I'm pretty certain is my first public political protest, though I have stood on picket lines and made speeches at trade union conferences. In fact FWIW I was the proposer of the motion many years ago now which caused Unifi - the finance union now subsumed into Unite - to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (not the same body as SPSC but obviously sharing similar aims). We assembled outside the Sheriff Court in Edinburgh, and if it gets reported anywhere I'm one of the ones waving a large Palestinian flag, which unfurled very nicely in the breeze. The rain stayed off; several of the defendants made speeches (some better than others); we got some interest from passers-by and some racist comments ("Go back to your own country") by more than usually unobservant youths who were heading into the courthouse (possibly to stand trial for imbecility). Then just before 10.00 we all headed in and watched the legal fun. As well as my first demo this was my first time in a courtroom: they keep calling me for jury service then standing me down. I made a lot of notes, and here are my (much edited-down) impressions.

This first hour or so was taken up by the fact that counsel for three of the defendants hadn't turned up, which as you can imagine did not please the judge. One had been working elsewhere in the building and didn't think this case had been called yet: when he showed up about 25 minutes late he got an entertaining chewing-out by the boss. I was amused by his wig. barristers in Scottish courtrooms, as in English ones, wear wigs. Mostly, these look as you imagine legal wigs to look. This chap, though, had clearly adopted a personal style: his wig was pulled forward so that it perched precariously on top of his head while completely covering his forehead down to the eyebrows. The impression was of a legal version of Andy Capp, designer stubble and all. The other two had been attending a case at the High Court: the judge called an adjournment until they rolled in at 10.45. He then made it pretty clear what priority they should be assigning to their High Court appearance and what to their appearance in his courtroom. Suitable grovelling was done, and when it was concluded the defendants asked if we could move to a bigger courtroom as there were some 40 folk outside unable to get seats. One had just come free so we moved there.

Eventually we kicked off with the prosecution case. The P-F considered that "race" included nationality, citizenship or ethnic origin, hence remarks concerning the state of Israel were racist. "Israel", he said, "is an independent country and citizens of Israel are of Israeli nationality". Which will presumably come as a surprise to Israelis, whose government always maintains that there is no such thing as Israeli citizenship or Israeli nationality, Israel being a "homeland for the Jewish people". That the only comments concerning the quartet themselves were that they were "Israeli Army musicians" was felt by the P-F to be an evasion, "semantic hair-splitting". He also believed that the protest amounted to harassment of the quartet (which requires more than one instance of the action) as the concert was interrupted five times. His main argument, though seemed to be on the importance of context in establishing malice or ill-will. There was much discussion of the Walls case, where someone had shouted "Fenian bastards" and "Fuck the Pope" at a football match, which had been held to show ill-will towards members of the Roman Catholic faith. (I may be wrong, but I'm guessing this was a Rangers v Celtic match.) The prosecution contended that the repetition of "Israeli army musicians" and "Genocide in Gaza", and the statement that "The Jerusalem Quartet celebrates ethnic cleansing: they're sponsored by the state of Israel" showed similar ill-will (though I have to say the judge seemed somewhat unconvinced by the comparison). Finally, much of the legal arguments involves the rights to freedom of speech and assembly under the Human Rights Act. The prosecution claimed that this was not a "peaceful assembly" in terms of the HRA, not a peaceful protest. The P-F state that while it was normal procedure at a football match or pop concert to signify approval or disapproval during the performance, in a classical music concert the normal procedure is the maintenance of silence during the performance ("an attitude of stillness, silence and concentration").

My notes at this point read "Oh for the John Cage defence!" The composer John Cage back in the 1960s realised that in fact we never listen to concerts in silence: there is always coughing, rustling of programmes, air-conditioning, sirens outside..... We simply choose to attend to the "music" rather than to the rest of the "noise". He thought it would be interesting to draw attention to this unconscious selection, and did so (famously) by the expedient of composing a silent work (4'33"). Of course it isn't strictly silent at all, but acts like an experimental control: the performer(s) carries out all their normal actions except for those involving deliberate musical sounds. So we have piano stool creaks, page-turning (I always liked that one) and so on, plus of course all those off-stage noises I mentioned earlier. Anyway, Cage would have considered the protest merely another part of the sound picture. One might also consider other classical performances famously interrupted, of which the greatest is the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring, disrupted by audience members with motor horns and whistles. Or see here: 'Not only did Mozart expect clapping between movements; he also inserted forte outbursts into the “Paris” Symphony that he knew would provoke a round of applause mid-bar.' Wagner introduced the innovation of darkened opera houses (at Bayreuth) because he had become so irritated by audiences talking to each other during performances of his works. Finally, if the audience at the premiere of Haydn's Symphony No 96 had not all rushed to the front (in a manner resembling a "mosh pit") it might have been nicknamed the "Bloody" rather than the "Miracle" (and yes, I know it's now thought that the event actually occurred with a different piece). All of which is to say that the prosecution's "normal procedure" at classical concerts is a comparatively recently-adopted convention, and one by no means universally followed.

One other piece of egregious straw-clutching by the prosecution came when discussing the question of intent. For a breach of the peace the test is whether distress was caused; for the statutory offense being considered today, it isn't the reaction of the victims that counts but what was in the minds of the perpetrators. Leaving aside the fact that this would seem to render the offence in principle one of thought-crime alone, the P-F reckoned that the law's distinction between "causing or intending to cause distress" meant that the law covered to possibility of distress caused unintentionally. I believe most people, whether laypersons or lawyers, would understand the distinction being made as one between actually causing distress and intending to do so but being unsuccessful.

The defence counsel never mentioned John Cage or Joseph Haydn (even though one of his quartets had been on the JQ's programme). The one in the Andy Capp wig pointed out politely the "repeated instances" held to constitute harassment involved different people, with those involved in the earlier protests being in custody by the time of the later ones. It could not be shown that they had "acted in concert" (no puns please, we're lawyers) unless one took their shared membership of SPSC as sufficient proof of that. There was nothing in the defendants' words evincing ill-will towards the quartet or towards Israelis: indeed one protestor had said she supported all Israelis of conscience such as Daniel Barenboim. The response from the quartet member made it plain that he considered the protest to be a matter not of race or nationality but of political conscience and political rhetoric. He made the point regarding the Israeli army "Of course we have the right to defend ourselves". This was a (controversial) political point, and why should he be allowed to make one and not the defendants? One might say the audience had paid to hear him; but not to hear him talk about Israeli military policy. Finally, when the new and more serious charges had been brought the Crown had alleged that fresh evidence had come to light to justify them, but no such evidence has been laid before the court. The judge did not feel he could have a view on that in itself, but the defence argued that it showed that the present prosecution was not in fact proportionate to the offence committed.

And there it ended, for most of the defendants. The judge had already announced that he would give his verdict on April 8th. But there was one small other matter. Mike Napier, one of the defendants, had originally been arrested and issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for a breach of the peace. This was an on-the-spot fine like a speeding ticket. As with a speeding ticket, if you believe yourself to be innocent you can elect to go for trial in court. Perhaps you had never driven past the GATSO speed camera which had allegedly captured you doing 50 mph in a 30 mph limit. Well, Mike elected to stand trial rather then paying his fine. Now fixed penalty notices cover a range of common law offences including breach of the peace, but do not cover racially aggravated conduct. The law states that he could elect to stand trial for "the offence", meaning breach of the peace, and the current proceedings were denying him that right. Mike's counsel state that as there were no prior authorities in this matter the judge should make a ruling himself. he might also wish to consider referral to the High Court of Judiciary in London as a devolution issue, to obtain advice.

The response of the Procurator-Fiscal struck a chill in this viewer. The law, he said, state that if the accused elects to be tried, proceeding may be brought against him. The law does not specify in which court they will be brought, or on what charge. Once he refuses the fixed penalty notice, in the P-F's words "he returns to GO" and the whole case against him is reconsidered ab initio. In other words, you could in principle be issued with a speeding ticket or a littering fine, decide to protest your innocence in court and wind up in the High Court on a charge of membership of al-Qaeda. The question of whether the SPSC 5 committed acts of racially aggravated harassment is an important one, but the question of whether the law on fixed penalty notices can be interpreted in the way the Crown wishes it to be: that's dynamite.

So....that was my day.

Because I'm helpful that way

Lyrics for the Jean-Jacques Goldman songs in the previous post:

Pour que tu m'aimes encore

J'ai compris tous les mots, j'ai bien compris, merci
Raisonnable et nouveau, c'est ainsi par ici
Que les choses ont change, que les fleurs ont fane
Que le temps d'avant, c'etait le temps d'avant
Que si tout zappe et lasse, les amours aussi passent

Il faut que tu saches

J'irai chercher ton coeur si tu l'emportes ailleurs
Meme si dans tes danses d'autres dansent tes heures
J'irai chercher ton ame dans les froids dans les flammes
Je te jetterai des sorts pour que tu m'aimes encore

Fallait pas commencer m'attirer me toucher
Fallait pas tant donner moi je sais pas jouer
On me dit qu'aujourd'hui, on me dit que les autres font ainsi
Je ne suis pas les autres
Avant que l'on s'attache, avant que l'on se gache

Je veux que tu saches

J'irai chercher ton coeur si tu l'emportes ailleurs
Meme si dans tes danses d'autres dansent tes heures
J'irai chercher ton ame dans les froids dans les flammes
Je te jetterai des sorts pour que tu m'aimes encore

Je trouverai des langages pour chanter tes louanges
Je ferai nos bagages pour d'infinies vendanges
Les formules magiques des marabouts d'Afrique
J'les dirai sans remords pour que tu m'aimes encore

Je m'inventerai reine pour que tu me retiennes
Je me ferai nouvelle pour que le feu reprenne
Je deviendrai ces autres qui te donnent du plaisir
Vos jeux seront les no?tres si tel est ton desir
Plus brillante plus belle pour une autre etincelle
Je me changerai en or pour que tu m'aimes encore


Tout est neuf et tout est sauvage
Libre continent sans grillage
Ici nos reves sont étroits
C'est pour ca que j'irai là-bas

Faut du coeur et faut du courage
Mais tout est possible à mon âge
Si tu as la force et la foi
L'or est à portée de tes doigts
C'est pour ca que j'irai là-bas

N'y va pas
Y a des tempetes et des naufrages
Le feu, les diables et les mirages
Je te sais si fragile parfois
Reste au creux de moi

On a tant d'amour à faire
Tant de bonheur à venir
Je te veux mari et père
Mais toi tu reves de partir

Ici tout est joué d'avance
Et l'on y peut rien changer
Tout dépend de ta naissance
Et moi je ne suis pas bien né

Loin de nos vies, de nos villages
J'oublierai ta voix, ton visage
J'ai beau te serrer dans mes bras
Tu m'échappes déjà là-bas

J'aurai ma chance le jour et mes droits
N'y va pas
Et la fierté qu'ici je n'ai pas
Tout ce que tu mérites est à toi
N'y va pas
Ici les autres imposent leurs lois
Je te perdrai peut-etre là-bas
N'y va pas
Mais je me perds si je reste là
La vie ne m'a pas laissé le choix
N'y va pas
Toi et moi ce sera là bas ou pas
Tout est neuf et tout est sauvage
N'y va pas
Libre continent sans grillage
Beau comme on n'imagine pas
N'y va pas
Ici nos reves sont étroits
C'est pour ca que j'irai là-bas
N'y va pas
On ne m'a pas laissé le choix
Je me perds si je reste là
N'y va pas
C'est pour ca que j'irai là-bas.

Not every rainbow ends in a crock of gold

I was watching the opening round of Andrew Lloyd Webber's casting competition Over The Rainbow the other night (he's looking for a Dorothy for a new Wizard of Oz stage show in the West End). This round was the whittling down from 9,000 aspirants to a long list of 50, so you saw a lot of losers (some clearly losers fromt he outset, and some you regretted).

I liked the one (we didn't find out her name) whose audition piece was sung in French (I assume she was from a Francophone country): it was, as the brief extract made plain, Pour Que Tu M'Aimes Encore by Jean-Jacques Goldman, which was a hit (in French-speaking places) for Celine Dion. Here is her original video for it:

Give her decent material and she's a really good singer.

Of course, Celine D isn't the only terrific female vocalist J-J G has worked with. Here is my favourite of all his songs, a duet with Sirima.

And it was only when I read the comments for that video clip that I realised Sirima was no longer with us. Her wikipedia entry is a short, sharp shock, though.

At first he tried it the other way round and got a spike through his throat

I found this amazing video while browsing around Youtube looking at clips of Cajun fiddlers, would you believe. I believe the name of the gentleman who is playing both parts is Wells Cunningham. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And it's real, and it's real, one more time

Commenting on US healthcare reform over at Joe's blog reminded me that I recently watched a BBC Horizon documentary called Pill Poppers, about our increasing appetite for, and dependence on, medication. They interviewed various people addicted to prescription or over-the-counter drugs, such a painkillers containing codeine. These typically don't contain enough codeine to have any effect on their analgesic power (beyond what the aspirin or ibuprofen in each tablet is already providing) but do contain enough to get you addicted.

Our government may be too scared of the power of the big pharmaceutical companies to take them on by trying to ban over-the-counter codeine, but it's perfectly happy to propose to ban mephedrone (a qat derivative, so I suppose it's like privet in a pill)(yecch). Once again, the sane advice of the chair of the Independent Committee on Drugs - the same guy who when he was the government's own advisor warned them not to recriminalise cannabis use - is ignored. Because who wants independent scientific advice when it's so much easier to listen to political appointees who are constantly lobbied by the tabloid press to fight a "War On Drugs"?

So the government takes a firm line on making legal drugs illegal, but only if they're pleasurable and not addictive. If they reduce you to a dependent mess but donlt make you feel good they;lre OK.

Hands up if you remember this song, which kept running through my head as I watched the Horizon documentary.

While Anna Wayland doesn't have Buffy Sante-Marie's amazing voice, she does the whole song in this clip:

For me, the saddest lines in the whole song are these:

But, if I die tomorrow, still one thing I've done,
I've heeded the warning that I got when I was young.
My one satisfaction, it comes when I think
That I'm livin' my life without bendin' to drink.

Not just sad in themselves, but a perfect analogy for our government's missing the point and warning against all the wrong things through ignorance.


Someone once wrote in to Broadside magazine to say that when he'd first heard the song he'd thought the refrain was "It's real", while the published lyrics (following on from the line "I'll reel and I'll fall and I'll rise on codine") gave it as "It's reel", which he felt was a far less powerful image. Buffy Sainte-Marie said that in fact she'd had both meanings in mind, in a kind of poetic pun, so that it would be more accurate to think of the refrain as "And it's reel/real, and it's reel/real, one more time". So now you know.

The Peter Cook Appreciation Society

Because geniuses deserve to be appreciated.

Also because you can download (free) possibly the funniest record I have ever heard.

Bridge On The River Wye

I think my favourite line may be:

"The raiding party set off, hacking its way through a wall of impenetrable jungle that ran each side of the arterial road."

But there are so many: I've loved this record, owned on solid old vinyl, since I was about fourteen.

OK, the gag about Eccles' new job as sanitary orderly is pretty funny too......

Glenn, Geller and Geert

I was saying in the previous post that Uncle Jimmy's fixation on Glenn Beck (who? - some Fox News presenter apparently) showed him up to be an American, which it does. However, having been scanning round to find who Beck was, I found this gem from Pamela Geller. It would seem that Beck "gets it" with regard to both the loathsome Wilders and the source of the real threat to European values.

An example of Geller's, er, perspicacity:

Beck is out of his depth in this. One cannot get up to speed on Europe in one crash course. He warned about the rise of the “far right” in Europe. The Islamic/left-wing fringe is everywhere, but what far right fringe was he talking about in Europe? He couldn’t have meant French antisemite Jean Marie Le Pen. He is nowhere. Was Beck intending to tar courageous groups that are not remotely racist or fascist, like Stop the Islamisation Of Europe and the English Defence League?

Not remotely racist or fascist? The EDL?

Or this:

It isn’t just Wilders, either. Beck runs videos of the riots in Greece, but he never runs the Muslim rampages throughout Europe.

Which "Muslim rampages" would those be, exactly?

Uncle Jimmy must be really disappointed in his new Fox News guru, as he just lurves Pamela Geller. After all, she's a huge Geert Wilders fan. Here's his intro to a post of her fawning interview with his favourite Nazi:

To those aware of the present creeping Islamisation of the west, this site – Atlas Shrugs, run by Pamela Geller – will be familiar. Bookmark ‘Atlas Shrugs’ for continual information on this issue, as a foreign and threatening culture seeps without let or hindrance into the fabric of our western societies. Our once liberal and eminently sensible laws have been thrown onto the fire of political correctness, and have turned wrong into right, and vice-versa.

Lord Pearson recently invited Wilders back to Britain. I'm sure if Jimmy really lives in the South of England and not in the USA (he claims to have been at the Chilcot Enquiry, after all) he won't have missed the opportunity to turn out with his EDL pals to cheer Wilders. Maybe he was the one reported by the Guardian:

The point of the march appeared to have been lost on at least one EDL member. Spying a Dutch tricolour carried in salute to Wilders, he asked his fellow demonstrators: "What you got a French flag for?"

Sounds like Uncle Jimmy to me.

Glenn Who?

Uncle Jimmy (this one's funny, honest) weighs in against the wicked, wicked Germans for supporting the arts, being able to distinguish fact from fiction, and (worst of all) "stealing the EU presidency.... which was made for (Blair) and no-one else".

Damn these Europeans and their insistence on elections. Damn their disinclination to elect a raving Europhobe to the EU Presidency. Damn their "stealing" the Presidency and then, er, giving it to one of their neighbours. (Mind you, Blair himself probably doesn't trouble with such distinctions between unimportant entities who don't pay him money.)

The "cross-post" from "Julie" is funny too. If you are left in any doubt that Julie is a BS sock puppet, just look at the USE OF CAPITALS. AND EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not to mention the picture at "her" which appears to be of a male transvestite.

Still, whatever Uncle Jimmy' gender, here is the best evidence yet that s/he is American.

Until I Googled them I was thinking "Who the hell are Glenn Beck and Stuart Varney?" Then I found they work for Fox News (and in the case of Glenn Beck, American talk radio. Hands up any Brits who knew that without Googling?

From Beck's Wikipedia entry one can see why Jimmy would eat him up though:

Political views :
Beck has called himself a conservative with libertarian leanings. Among his core values Beck lists personal responsibility, private charity, the right to life, freedom of religion, limited government, and family as the cornerstone of society. Beck also believes in low national debt, and has said "A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence."

Beck supports individual gun ownership rights and is against gun control legislation.

Beck believes that there is a lack of evidence that human activity is the main cause of global warming. He has "tried to do his part by buying a home with a 'green' design." He also views the American Clean Energy and Security Act as a form of wealth redistribution, and has promoted a petition rejecting the Kyoto Protocol.

Blair talks bilge, again

From Blair at AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee):

"Israel is a democracy......Citizens are governed by the rule of law. Men and women are equal before the law."

Hard to believe he's ever been there: but then he moves around in a bubble of taxpayer-funded security (for which we Brits pay £2m a year) without touching the ground much:

"On Sunday, I flew by helicopter from Jordan, crossed the West Bank and landed by the Knesset. It took me less than ten minutes."

If he had to use the buses he might realise what bollocks he was talking:

A parliamentary committee has said that ‘institutional recognition of segregation between men and women… does not comply with the principle of equality.’ But in February, Transportation Minister Yaakov Katz, of the right-wing Likud party, allowed gender-segregated bus lines to remain in operation ‘on a voluntary basis’.

So much for equality. Men and women in Israel -
Separate but Equal

..."human beings are born equal and should live free. It is in striving for that ideal that the state of Israel came into being."

What part of "a homeland for the Jewish people" does this genius not understand? The kind of "democracy" where full civil rights are only available for Jews. The kind of democracy where anti-government protests are met with live ammunition. The kind of democracy where political parties which believe in equal rights for all and government by the majority are banned.

"Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capability."

Even when the most belligerent country in the region, the only one to have invaded every single one of its neighbours, has been allowed for decades to build up an arsenal of uninspected, unverified and totally illegal nuclear weapons?

"Iran’s regime is the biggest de-stabilising influence in the region."

Only if you live in Blair's happy la-la land. Though I'm sure he'd soon change his tune if the Iranians offered him some money.

The really sad thing is that in the middle, between the Israel-can-do-no-wrong twaddle and the Iran-can-do-no-right bilge, he actually made some good points.

"It isn’t that sensible, well-intentioned people could not sit down and negotiate their way through the issues of borders, refugees, even Jerusalem. They could. Most people on both sides have a sense in their head of what the answer would be.

The challenge is not simply about what happens in the elevated heights of the negotiating chamber. The challenge arises from the breakdown of trust. And that is about what happens down in the street, in the daily experience of the people."

And here is a good reason for that sort of breakdown of trust. Sensible? Well-intentioned? Nope.

The future may be bright but it's nae fuckin' orange, pal

The presence of religion in politics isn't necessarily a bad thing.......

Genius at Wondermark

Why didn't I think of this?

Take up the white man's birdies

Here's an interesting idea for an art installation. Fascinating, for the snatches of an extinct language and for the ingenuity and patience needed to train the birds, and sad because no human being had uttered those words for two hundred years.


With the media-stoked lynch mob out baying for blood over the apparent re-arrest of one of James Bulger's murderers for something or other, I thought this story was really interesting.

While this seemed just the ultimate comment on the British tabloid attitude.

Of Saunders, Stravinsky and Sullivan

A busy few weeks, hence little blogging. First Hilary and I had Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra's Stravinsky concert, in which we did (though I say it as shouldn't) a damned good job on the Symphony in C and the Rite of Spring.

Meanwhile, about a quarter of a mile away, my son Ruairidh was playing his first gig with his band The Sound Of Perdition. I couldn't be there but Hilary made it for part of their set as she was only in the Rite of Spring. Here is Ruairidh singing at the gig:

And here he is in his more usual position behind the drum kit:

Then last week Hilary and I were playing in the pit for Edinburgh Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of Utopia Limited. Not the best of Gilbert, but some terrifia Sullivan tunes, and we were being paid which is always a bonus.

Here are a few clips (not of the EDGAS production unfortunately, which from what I could tell was excellent) of Utopia Limited. It has a good love duet:

And an excellent unaccompanied chorus (a bit like the madrigals in Mikado and Yeoman):

And of course the obligatory catchy tune or six:

This one has the tricky passage for the violins which I was very happy to get past each night...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How's My Driving?

This news item from the BBC is worrying, to put it mildly. Apparently nobody was hurt!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

File under serendipity

So there I was on Youtube, thinking about European pop. Those who know me won't be surprised that I started playing Nordman clips. They may be as surprised as I was to find this one though, with Nordman's Hakan Hemlin and one of the singers from Ainbusk. While I prefer the original, I couldn't resist a Swedish cover version:

And while we're on odd cover versions, I have long had a soft spot for this one:

That is all. Thank you.

Your Country Needs You

I've just been watching Your Country Needs You, the TV show in which audiences selected our 2010 Eurovision entry, or more accurately the act who would sing it, the song itself (That Sounds Good To Me) having been written by Pete Waterman. For once I felt the decision went the right way, with Josh - the eventual winner - having been streets ahead of the others in ability, or so it seemed to me.

I was listening recently to an Olivia Newton-John CD in the car, and remembering as a student watching (with my then girlfriend) the show in which the song she would be singing for Eurovision 1974 was picked. I remember thinking the winner (Long Live Love) was the weakest of the bunch, and being interested to discover years later that Olivia hadn't liked it either. The girlfriend in question rather liked it though. Actually it sounds better than I remember it, though the lyrics are pretty weak stuff.

It didn't win, though in 1974 there was little shame in not winning, because of these folk:

The less said the better about those costumes, but that song still comes up fresh as a dasiy after 34 years and several hundred hearings. There aren't too many Eurovision winners that come close to that kind of longevity, though I append a few others, a couple of them British (surprisingly enough) and a couple from Luxembourg (even more unlikely).

France Gall -Poupee De Cire

Glasgow Film Festival 21 Feb 2010 - James Earl Jones

My son Ruairidh and I went through to see James Earl Jones, of whom we are both great fans, being interviewed as part of the GFF. The two halves of the interview were each prefaced by showings of a collection of clips from JEJ's considerable career. These included clips from

Gardens of Stone
Cry The Beloved Country
Conan the Barbarian
The Great White Hope
Coming To America
Field of Dreams

Other films discussed were A Family Thing, Assassination Tango and Dr Strangelove, in which he made his screen debut. he described Staanley Kubrick coming to the theatre where he was working in order to head-hunt George C Scott for the film, and ending up taking Jones as a "buy one get one free" deal (not literally free.... Of course he also mentioned his most famous screen (or rather soundtrack) role, as the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. A questioner asked him if it had made him rich, and he just laughed. He was actually employed as a special effect rather than as an actor, and paid $7000 for just over two hours' work, which at the time he thought was oretty good. It did however lead to his making the break into voiceover work in advertising, so indirectly was pretty lucrative.

His favourite screen roles were those in Cry The Beloved Country and Field Of Dreams. He recently read the book (Shoeless Joe) on which the latter was based and discovered that his character was meant to be another of the dead ones. As he said, it just goes to show you don't have to know absolutely everything about a character to portray him on screen......

James Earl Jones is currently appearing in stage in London in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. He is being directed in that by Debbie Allen, and this led into a discussion about how he feels some plays (such as Cat) work best with female directors. Other plays he felt fell into that category are A Streetcar Named Desire, and perhaps more controversially Measure For Measure and Othello. Jones reckons that it takes a female director to get to the heart of the characters of Desdemona and Isabella (and hence to the dramatic core of those plays). Fans of Peter Brook, Peter Hall and other great male Shakespearean directors may take issue with his statement, though he is surely right that those characters are key and that a woman will bring different things to the direction of them.

Jones had a very engaging manner, and of course a famously splendid voice, and I'm sure all the audience could have happily listened to him for several more hours. Definitely worth travelling through to Glasgow to see.

Zzzzzzzzz tops

Good news for those of us who like to snooze (though not actually at our desks!) I had a (much-admired) physics teacher at school who took a lunchtime nap every day and reckoned his work was much the better for it. Certainly I quite often find ten minutes spent curled up in my car snoozing provides a great boost for the afternoon.

U.S. Christians: making Muslim extremists look good

Do you think this will shut up the people who moan about persecution of gays in Islamic countries while ignoring (or even supporting) the similar persecution of them by Christians in most parts of the world?

Me neither.

And remember that nice Mike Huckabee of Fox News who gave the interview in which TB criticised the upstarts at the Chilcot enquiry who had had the temerity to make him - HIM, Tony Blair, y'know? - answer their tedious little-people questions? (Also the one where he made the hilarious archeology gaffe that BlairSupporter didn't understand.) Well, Huckabee reckons attacks by gays on Christians is a bigger problem than attacks by Christians on gays. After all, "When people stomp on a Christian's cross, they are basically nailing them to a cross, like Jesus." Ooh, bless. I bet he was right in there protesting on behalf of the Muslims whose feelings were hurt when the obscene Mohammed cartoons were published. What? He wasn't? Oh.

And in case you thought it was only Muslims who wanted to burn books these days, it isn't.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Dude, where's my brain?

Daddy, can I be a Highway Patrolman when I grow up?

This story leaves me speechless. Though as it's set in Florida I could probably come up with something about Cubans and Brazilians. IF I wished to wax lyrical, that is.....

Babycare Dos and Don'ts

That last post got me thinking about many things, but one of its effects was to remind me of this rather splendid set of pictures (it's OK, no nursing bras here, honest).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Daddy, can I be a Sheriff when I grow up?

There are folk who'd pay good money to be on the receiving end of this kind of assault.....though admittedly they're mostly male.

More public order offenses here. If you visit the gotopless.org website (for research purposes, of course) you may be amused to discover that the campaign is run by Rael, founder of the Raelians (proud bearers of messages from folk in unimaginatively circular alien spacecraft).

No story is complete without a nod in the direction of the "war" on "terror". From which report:

Closer inspection of the list raises further issues. It's to be applauded that mums are allowed to take a "small amount" of breast milk aboard, but we can only assume that if a heavily-lactating woman turned up at security, a specially-trained operative would be obliged to remove most of the milk from its containers. If any reader knows where we can apply for that job, please let us know.

Which brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to H Cup and Environs.....

Oh, go on, just a little one.....

OK, I can post this because it's funny, right? Uncle Jimmy the neo-loony replies to a commenter critical of his support for Mossad's terrorist attack in Dubai:

What you are suggesting is that the world should try and convict, presumably, politicians of ANY countries which can be proved to have a “kill known terrorists and terror orgnisations’ henchmen” policy. Great! Fine! If we could also do the same with Hamas’s known killers and terrorists. But of course we can’t. They are protected by such as you, little human righters, and a self-destructive liberal legal system which is USED and ABUSED by those whose ONLY aim is to destroy democracy and all those associated with it. That’s you and me, btw. Or maybe it’s not you.

OK, given that the guy apparently isn't British I should probably cut him some slack for getting his clauses in a twist. But when he's just admitted that his only aim is to destroy democracy and all those associated with it (something most of us had already spotted) - Uncle Jimmy to a T - I don't believe I shall. Too busy ROTFLMAO.

Oh, and just below that he links to a post from some weird far-right American blog (posted by a guy who also - I kid you not - contributes to the John Birch Society site, or so he boasts) heaping praise on Geert Wilders. Predictable, much?

Watch this for International Women's Day

Now sign the petition. Please.

Though right now the site appears to be down.

My name is Stack, and apparently I am not a terrorist

A few weeks ago, Joe Stack proved that you can fly an aircraft into a US government building with the express desire of killing the people inside, and still not be labelled a terrorist by the Obama administration. Just imagine if he'd been a Muslim, or had had an Arab name.

Here is a list of Christian terrorist cells in the USA. The link actually goes some way to explaining the US government's reluctance to label Stack a terrorist.

Prosecutors had asked Judge James Cohn to sentence Jordi under a federal terrorism law and sought seven to 10 years. Cohn refused, saying federal sentencing rules require that plots have an international component to be considered terrorism. "This crime was strictly domestic and in no way transcended national boundaries," Cohn said.

So that's OK then.

P.S. Remember our old friend Benjamin Kerstein, who back in 2007 delivered himself of this gem?

(Tony Kushner) lumps together "Muslim and Christian and Jewish fundamentalists" without the slightest understanding of the fact that Christian and Jewish fundamentalists haven't been flying planes into buildings anytime in the recent past.

It would be nice to think that B the C would now apologise to Tony Kushner for his ludicrous assertion. Still, someone who is apparently prepared to disrupt his own brother's graduation in order to satisfy his own swollen ego (and perhaps in resentment at his own failure to get into an American university) is unlikely to be swayed by such minor points as being proved, yet again, to be a loudmouthed idiot.

The only colony of human beings in the Middle East, apparently

As an antidote to all those stories about how Palestinians are all brought up to believe that Jews are sub-human animals, here we have Eliyahu Hai, one of the many illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

"We are not seeking revenge against the Arabs. The difference between us and them is that we are human beings. We won't shoot them in the head for no reason. We are Jews, holy people, human beings."

Admittedly he was speaking at ther funeral of his father, who had been murdered a few days earlier in a drive-by shooting. However, similar sentiments expressed at the funeral of, say, a Hamas member murdered by the IDF would not be allowed to pass without comment by the world's media.

In any case, in the West Bank, the "holy" settlers always have a reason to shoot Arabs in the head. It's that they're Arabs. (Duh.)

Another right-wing Christian terrorist

Are the BBC the only ones covering this story? After all, it shows that there are terrorists out there who are neither Islamic nor brown-skinned.

Oh, the Independent has it now. And describes the guy as a "white supremacist".

So much for the "Maybe all Muslims aren't terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims" line so beloved of the far right.

In another shock development, an Israeli government breaks a promise on peace moves


What? Did anyone seriously expect Netanyahu to keep his word?

And does anyone imagine Biden (or indeed Obama) gives a shit? Nothing Israel does will ever dent their rosy image that it's a peace-loving democracy. I doubt whether more than a finger-wagging would follow Netanyahu's nuking of Tehran (Israel, after all, was allowed to bomb Baghdad - at a time when Iraq was a US ally - and get away with it with no more than yet another UN resolution which it treated with contempt.)

Saturday, March 06, 2010


OK, yes, ranting a bit. But you know how it is: you visit these sites to mock, and stay to expose their vicious neofascism. I shall make a promise and try to stick to it: no more posts about The One Who Wants Tony Blair For PM in future unless they're funny.

Lies, Damned Lies, Hypocrisy,and stuff only an especially dumbass American would consider a revelation

Remember the nasty BNP-inspired hate piece Uncle Jimmy liked so much, he reposted the whole thing - the set of twenty totally false"facts" about Islam?

Well, he's posted a follow-up here. Apologies for linking to this filth but it needs to be exposed.

This hypocritical twat says at the end:

I’ve had e-mails and comments to the effect that Tony Blair would never insinuate that ALL Muslims are terrorists, and that as a supporter of his nor should I.

Let me make one thing clear -

THEY’RE right. Blair doesn’t EVER so insinuate, and nor do I.

I know he's had the emails and comments (not published of course): I sent some of them. But let's look at the evidence, in the post where he makes his CAPITALISED DENIAL, shall we? He posts an enormous list of examples of "Islamic terrorism". So let's look at some of these "examples" (from an American Christian far-right site - where else?).

3 March 2020 Mosul Iraq - "An imam is gunned down in his mosque by Religion of Peace rivals."
3 March 2010 Kirkuk Iraq - "Terrorists stab a man and his wife to death inside their home.

So let's go to the original Iraqi reports:


So "murdered by persons unknown" would be the proper description in each case. Murder, then, certainly (if Uncle Jimmy will allow me to use the term: after all, nobody has been tried and convicted yet, so perhaps he'd prefer "deaths in suspicious circumstances"?) And fairly certainly, given the locations, murder by Muslims. But to treat any murder by a Muslim as an act of terrorism is precisely to insinuate that all Muslims are terrorists. Blair Supporter, Uncle Jimmy, whatever the fuck the anonymous foreign coward's name is, is simply lying, and lying to cover up his racist agenda. And I repeat: Tony Blair may have been the worst PM in British history, a Europhobic Thatcherite who destroyed the Labour Party, a warmongering coward, awash in corruption - but I don't believe for a second that even in private he would go along with any of Uncle Jimmy's white Christian supremacist bilge.

And please note that to prove that I haven't even had to get into the question of whether Iraqis and Afghans who decline to be trampled on by a foreign invader and decide to fight back count as terrorists, though the list Jimmy publishes appears to include military as well as civilian casualties.

P.S. Oh, and here's another piece of racist filth he sees fit to reprint for our edification. Its author (David Bedein) makes up a series of "facts" about a future Palestinian state. There is no suggestion that these "facts" come from anywhere but Mr Bedien's crazed fantasies, but Jimmy laps them up. You know the kind of stuff by now: "Anyone who sells land to a Jew will be liable to the death penalty in the Palestinian State." "Not one Jew will be allowed to live in a Palestinian State."

Bedien runs a hasbara centre in Jerusalem funded by American Zionists. A good sample of his output is a piece entitled "The Big Lie of a Massacre at Deir Yassin". Interestingly he quotes from an upcoming BBC documentary in support of his claim that the massacre was all made up. Memo to budding hasbara-merchants: remember what lies you told yesterday. However tempting it is to make use of the torrent of Zionist propaganda that the BBC spews out, you're supposed to promote the fiction that it has some kind of pro-Palestinian agenda. DOH!

In a lighter vein, Jimmy witters on about another piece of right-wing Israeli junk which contains the gem “Mahmoud Abbas’ new precondition that the international community recognize the 167 (sic) lines in the West Bank as the new Palestinian border bolsters the assessment that the Palestinians have largely abandoned a negotiated settlement and instead are actively pursuing a unilateral approach to statehood.” Um, it's hardly a new precondition: it's called UN Security Council Resolution 242, and dates from 22 November 1967. Since when was it an abandonment of negotiation to hold Israel to the same standard of compliance with UN resolutions as every other country? Finally, with a great flourish, he informs his readers (who he supposes were unaware of the fact) that Iran and Afghanistan are not Arab nations. Gosh - who knew?

If Uncle Jimmy isn't an American (and let's face it, only an American would waste so much time on a busted flush like Blair) then I'm Osama bin Laden. Which - despite my engineering qualifications, my beard, and my hat - I'm not.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Uncle Jimmy?

More recent wingnuttery from the Neo-Loony in chief (if you're bothered, the specific posts are all from the last couple of weeks):

1) Jimmy placed an ad in the Press Gazette for his Sympathy For The DevilBan Blair-Baiting petition. When the editor quite reasonably took the money and published it, rather than feeling the need to crawl on his knees in penance to St Tone, he came on the end of a tirade from what (to judge from its USE OF CAPITALS) was yet another BS alias. Jimmy's final comment?

It seems to me that the commenter has out-classed and out-argued Mr Ponsford. (Jimmy is SO modest...) Co-incidentally a commenter (BS yet again?) at the Ban Blair-Baiting petition site today says:

“Completely agree. The slant of popular media is unhealthy to a functioning democracy.”

Perhaps it is time the press re-considered their place in society.

Socks up, press chappies: publish puff pieces for the far right or come the revolution you'll find yourself locked up for life, along with George Monbiot and all the others who don't "get it".

2) Re Dubai's intention to seek the arrest of Benyamin Netanyahu over Mossad's recent act of terrorism, he foams:

Any time anyone is killed by a foreign government’s spy agencies are we to expect that the police of the country in which the “crime” takes place will be after the foreign country’s political leader for it?

Sorry, BS, we just forgot how keen you and your chums are on death squads. Incidentally, Jimmy's utter silence about the way in which Mossad's fraudulent use of British passports has put British lives at risk convinces me more than ever that he's actually an American.

3) He posts (2/3/2010) a picture of Blair exuding hatred and generally looking like a CIA torturer and labels it "THE PAINFUL TRUTH IS IN THE EYES". Well, duh. In fact, he likes the picture so much he inflicts it on us twice. Bleugh. As in, Tony Bleugh. Here it is if you wish to be violently ill. On the plus side, it may be the only picture in existence of Blair not looking ike a smug git.

4) In a piece about Blair and Michael Foot he says of some piece of John Rentoul arse-licking:
"This is a must-read for anyone who lives under the misapprehension that Blair was once a true Marxist."

WHAT? That could only be "anyone" who has never heard of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher's vicar on Earth. Blair a Marxist? The only people on the planet who could mistake Blair for any kind of socialist, let alone a Marxist, are the American far right. I rest my case.

Seriously: BlairSupporter is a "birther" (a conspiracy theorist obsessed with the idea that Barack Obama is not a US citizen). He is equally obsessed with the idea that Tony Blair was (is?) our "elected Prime Minister" and that "Gordon Brown was never elected as PM" (10/6/2009). Or as he puts it in a sidebar, "he took over from Mr Blair in a subliminal non-election". (See also his description of Gordon Brown on 2/3/2010 as "the man whose every waking moment seemed obsessed with the idea of removing from office our elected prime minister in order that he could take his place".) Somebody needs to remind him that here in Britain we don't elect Prime Ministers, they're invited to form a government by Her Majesty the Queen. When an innocent Brit (Binyam Mohamed) was released from Guantanamo, he foamed at the mouth rather than celebrating. Most of his news feeds come from Fox News or other US-based right-wing sources (he's a fan of Michael Savage, the American "shock jock" banned from the UK as a racist). For God's sake, he took Blair's bid to become EU president seriously: he has to be American! (Note to BS - that last one was a joke, BTW. It makes you a moron, but not necessarily an American one. Just thought I'd spare you the effort of pointing that out). And just this week he republishes a piece by a Daniel Greenfield (a soi-disant specialist on the "War on Terror" and the "rising threat to Western civilisation", whose recent articles include "Obama's Plan To Destroy Israel" and "The Dead Road of Socialism"). Greenfield's piece (from his own blog on 3rd March) rails against the iniquities of The Left ("In their more honest moments, leftists will admit that they do not love America, only its potential....to be changed by them." "This America, in which the Constitution is wielded to protect Islamic terrorists and a man who hates the country can make his office in the White House." "The Left proclaims an endless Jihad against the civilized world." "They cannot love Britain, only a New Britain that agrees to flood itself with so many Muslim immigrants that it chokes and dies under their numbers.") The fact that Uncle Jimmy then asks us if we recognise ourselves in any of this anti-British drivel - the kind that wouldn't even make it into the Daily Mail (oh, and don't forget Jimmy thinks the Mail is a left-wing tabloid) - exposes him as not British. Maybe he came from Mars and was dug up during road works in London as per Quatermass and the Pit (look it up, Jimmy, look it up) but my guess is that he fell to the UK from across the Atlantic rather than across the Solar System. Still, dug out of a sewage-filled trench, from our distant past rather than our present, and with a mind full of crazed fantasies about world domination? Not so very different from those Martians, then.

If the cap fits........

A good larf from Uncle Jimmy over at Keep Tony Blair For PM.

On 3rd March he posted:

"According to the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-Islamic terrorist group in Britain......."

Oh, now, I loathe the Quilliam Foundation as much as the next man, but I wouldn't go so far as to describe them as a terrorist group. Anti-Islamic, though, without a doubt.

Given his trouble understanding plain English when Tone the Drone wss making his ludicrous claims about archaeology, I fully expect the poor dear to turn up here and post a puzzled and incoherent comment missing the point entirely.....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Video Fun - Love Sculpture

Hands up if you remember this one:

The camerawork is awfully 1960s, nicht wahr? An early example there of classical/rock crossover, before ELP and I think even before The Nice did their Karelia Intermezzo. (Actually both 1969 so neck and neck.)

I'd have to say that IMHO the Love Sculpture track has held up better with the passing years. And who can tell me the link between Love Sculpture and my current 25 First Lines quiz? (Hint - it's one of the ones that's been guessed.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


This amused me, and may cause another spike in traffic. Who knows?

I linked to Eine Kleine Nichtmusik and all I got was this wet T-shirt

Thanks to Clark Killick for pointing out my broken (now fixed) link to Clean Clothes. I'm impressed by his attention to detail!

My (temporarily, I'm sure) increased traffic resulting from Craig Murray's kind linkage has reminded me that not everyone who arrives at my site does so because one of my earlier posts was taken up by a popular porn site (though most do). For example, I was recently visited by someone on the basis of a Google search for "neo-Samurai items Southport". So there.

Though I like to think of the wet T-shirt stuff as a statement that, like Craig, I combine serious campaigning with, er, other interests.