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, February 28, 2011

They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad: they may not mean to, but they do

It's been longer than I realised since I last posted, but then various things have been going on. I've been pretty busy at work, despite the sorry-you-haven't-been-successful-in-reapplying-for-your-job business. Last Monday I had confirmation that my application for voluntary redundancy (rather than being slotted in to some random job somewhere in Edinburgh) had been accepted, and I have a leaving date of 31st October (see, I said I was busy).

I had some other interesting news last Monday. Regular readers will recall that my brother died abot a year ago from a genetic disorder called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (A1AD). This means that he didn't produce enough antitrypsin (OK, so you guessed that, right?) whose main job is to mop up leftover neutrophil elastase. This is stuff which the immune system pumps out to get rid of infection-damaged tissues, especially in the lungs. If not mopped up properly it carries on munching and chews into healthy lung tissue as well, resulting in emphysema.

Anyway, my big bro spent some years on oxygen before a final bout of pneumonia took him away. Before him, a cousin on my mother's side met a similar end. So I went to the doctor a few weeks ago to get myself tested: not that I was showing symptoms of illness, but I wanted to know if I was a carrier (you need two bad copies of the relevant gene to have the illness, but one makes you a carrier). The doctor agreed, and a blood test was duly taken.

A week ago last Friday I got a message to ring the surgery, but by the time I picked it up they were closed. On Monday morning I was just about to ring the surgery when the doctor rang me on my mobile, which struck me as odd. She said she had the results back, and did I want to hear them over the phone or come in and discuss them in person? Clearly not good news, then, but I told her to go ahead. Well, as you will by now have guessed, I'm not a carrier: I actually have A1AD myself. As you may imagine, this came as a bit of a shock. Most people getting that news have gone to the doctor because they were ill. Indeed, a little Googling (and I've been doing quite a bit this past week) tells me that most sufferers average seven trips to three different doctors before getting correctly diagnosed. It seems quite a lot of sufferers have only very mild symptoms (and yes, it takes me a very long time to shake off colds; also I quickly get exhausted when skiing, though I'd put that down to "fat and unfit" rather than "lethal inherited condition"). And as the figures above suggest, even when there are symptoms the condition is severly under-diagnosed. Apparently it's the third commonest lethal inherited condition after Down's Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis: but I bet you'd heard of those and not of A1AD. (Or as a Facebook friend put it, "Typical of you to have something common but obscure".)

A friend whom I told about the diagnosis said she thought I should write an article about my reaction to the news, as not that many people are diagnosed without being ill. I'll think about the article (where would it be published?), but expect this to be the first of several blog posts on the topic.

Initial reactions? Well, I suppose faint guilt that my brother died of it and I have it and am surviving so far. (He smoked for longer than I did, which is the likeliest reason for that.) I can't find it in me to blame my parents: clearly the dodgy gene was (is) common in the Portland population, which until a few generations ago was a typical island community with little external marriage. At the time I was conceived the condition hadn't been identified, and I don't know of any elderly relatives who clearly had it. What else? I'm still collecting odd things that are probably connected (my tendency to pick up chest infections in hospital, for example). The first time I read A1AD described as a "lethal inherited condition" I felt a bit like Scrooge being shown his tombstone. Some time later it occurred to me that, barring accidents, I know what I'm going to die from, which is a bit weird.

There's nothing much available by way of treatments, Three drugs are under trial which may prove useful, and a researcher recently reckoned we should expect a cure in ten years. Meanwhile, there's IV antitrypsin infusion if you're ill, and for the rest of us there are flu vaccinations every year and pnuemionia shots every five. Beyond that, healthy lifestyle, more exercise, positive attitude etc.

I'm due to get a spirometry (lung function) test on Wednesday, and am waiting on a consultation at the hospital's genetic medecine unit (who did the blood test). Hilary will accompany me to that, as we want to get her screened (if she isn't a carrier the children can't have A1AD themselves, though they are 100% certainly carriers) and they won't do that without previous counselling. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, today is Rare Diseases Day. Enjoy. Participate. A1AD may only just qualify as rare, but it could take some raising of its profile.

Finally, those familar with both my sense of humour and my liking for sloganned T-shirts will understand why one of my first reactions on hearing the news was to buy this.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ban Paxo-Stuffing

Stan Rosenthal (Stan, Stan, the Tony Blair Fan who turns up in my comments boxes from time to time) has just had a complaint to the BBC about Jeremy Paxman (partially) upheld. At Uncle Jimmy's other blog, The Feral Press, Jimmy is ecstatic.

I attempted to post a comment there, figuring that (a) it wasn't Keep Tony Blair For PM, from which Jimmy banned me, and (b) it was a point of information. Nevertheless, Jimmy didn't allow the comment. Some folk just have trouble with free speech unless they're the ones doing it.

Here it is anyway.

"All that Paxman has to say in this article makes it clear that from this supposedly “UNBIASED” and “BALANCED” source of world broadcasting – this beacon of “truthful reporting” – we are fed LIES ad nauseam"

Point of information - his article was in the Guardian, which has nothing to do with the BBC. He may well have been in breach of his contract obliging him to clear articles with the BBC first, but you can't use it to claim that the BBC is biased. Maybe it is, maybe not: but this is irrelevant.

And re point 5: I thought Remembrance Day was about remembering dead soldiers, not ex-Prime Ministers: so why on earth should Dimbleby have mentioned Blair? No doubt if he HAD mentioned him that would have been taken as an attempt by the "biased BBC" to link him to war casualties. There's just no pleasing some folk.

Oh, I forgot - I'm probably banned from this blog as well, aren't I? Sorry.

I attempted to post a comment on the Daily Mail report on the story. Having thought the Mail to have more integrity than Jimmy I didn't keep a separate copy, but there you go. The main point was as for the comment above. I also said I thought Stan should maybe be satisfied with having had Paxman disciplined for not getting his article cleared, and that demanding more severe punishments (sacking? public hanging?) seemed simple vindictiveness towards someone who, like it or not, was merely expressing views shared by thousands of British people. Stan, of course, as thearticle mentions, is the eminence grise behind the Make All Criticism of Blair Illegal petition.

I also jokingly suggested starting a "Ban Paxo-Stuffing" petition..........

You go for years without any real nuts then two come along at once

It pains me to agree with Uncle Jimmy on stuff, but this guy is simply barking. Definitely up there with Delingpole, and even more unpleasant. (AND he's another climate change denier.)

You may have spotted that I'm not Tony Blair's biggest fan, but this.....just barking.

The LA site does come with a warning that it is mainly about opposition to New Labour, so as New Labour is dead they must all be feeling pretty irrelevant. Evidently it's damaged their heads.

Slightly Worn But Dignified

As promised to Persephone, here is No Hay A Quien Culpar, the Spanish version of Abba's When All Is Said And Done which avoids the excruciating rhyme of treks/sex (dignitad/soledad is much better). Rhyming apart, it's a great song: at least, I think so. YMMV....

No witty title - just listen

I've just been listening to a great radio play Like An Angel Passing Through My Room by Christopher Green, better known as his alter ego, country diva Tina C. It's available on BBC iPlayer until next Wednesday. It's about love, loss, and being a fan: in his case a fan of Abba in general and Frida in particular. It incorporates Frida's first (brief) interview for many years, and it's well worth listening to even if you hate Abba. Go. Listen. It's 45 minutes long.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pond life

Well, you live and learn. There actually is a British journalist more ignorant and mendacious than Melanie Phillips. He writes , if that is the word, for the Daily Telegraph, and his name is James Delingpole.

Delingpole made his name, such as it is, by "exposing" the wicked "scientific fraud" which he named, so originally, "Climategate". Thsi was where he read some emails about the calibration of date from different sources so that they could be used together, undertood not a single word, but decided that because it was STUFF by SCIENTISTS about CLIMATE it was obviously all LIES. Unfortnately it was nothing of the sort, and the scientists at the University of East Anglia whom he slandered so spectacularly have been cleared and, amazingly enough, have not sued his ass off for defamation.

Delingpole, meanwhile, is for some reason still employed as a "journalist" , and yesterday delivered himself of a piece comprising both breathtaking lies and ad hominem attacks.

Let's cut to the chase: if we charitable assume that Delingpole can at least read English, what are we to make of his assertion that Prof. Beddington has called climate sceptics "evil, paedophilic, homophobic, Holocaust-denying, racist"? In delingpole;s own article we can see that he said no such thing: merely that we should tolerate them no more tha we tolerate such people. But why look for truth and accurate reporting from someone (desperately trying to justify his salary) who asserts that

the Climategate emails.....very clearly revealed those “climate scientists” whose expertise Prof Beddington so reveres committing the very crimes he so deplores

The government's Chief scientific advisor is decribed as a "beardie-weirdie": if instead of a beard he had black skin, would Delingpole refer to him as a "nigger-rigger"? And is Delingpole's term intended to convey anything other than the infantile level we may expect from Delingpole's subsequent discourse? Beddington's "generous salary and ring-fenced pension is kindly provided by the British taxpayer": well no shit, Sherlock. What part of "civil servant" is too hard for you to grasp? The salary and pension of the guy who will hand out Delingpole's benefits when the Telegraph editors see through him and dump him in a skip will also be provided by the British taxpayer. I know which I will feel is money better spent.

Last May, Delingpole informed his readers that "only morons, cheats and liars still believe in man-made global warming". Which makes two-thirds of the British population
morons, cheats and liars. Gosh, it's lucky we have Delingpole with his vastly superior intellect (and his degree in, er, English Literature) to tell uys all what to think, having been to the annual camp meeting of the climate change denial cult. (Sorry, you start reading his stuff and you start writing like him. Mind you, he witters on about some mythical beast ManBearPig which apparently is something to do with scientists, so maybe "cult" really is the word.) He seems to believe that "the scientists on our side of the argument have won", which will come as a shock to anyone who can actually read. The scientists, such as they are, on his side of the debate are still barking (in every sense), but the caravan moved on a long time ago, and all Delingpole's invented "scandals" won't bring it back.

In his Wikipedia entry it says that

In a BBC Horizon documentary, Delingpole denounced the scientific consensus about global warming, and said that the very idea of consensus is unscientific. He said that "it is not my job" to read peer reviewed papers on the subject, and described himself as "an interpreter of interpretations". After the interview he reportedly complained about being "intellectually raped" by interviewer Paul Nurse.

Meaning what? Nurse ran rings round him and showed him up for the scientifically illiterate moron he is? Not his job to read peer reviewed papers? Oh, I'm sorry, I was under the mistaken impression that he drew a salary as a journalist, one moreover who continually shoots his mouth off about scintific matters. No, he's an "interpreter of interpretations", i.e a liar, and a lazy liar at that.

The most revealing thing in Delingpole's earlier article is that he is the only person I have seen outside the BareNakedIslam white supremacist site who uses the term "libtard" to refer to anyone on the political left. Not even Mad Mel stoops that low.

Professor Beddington is dead right: we need to be a damned sight less tolerant of this kind of crap masquerading as journalism.

To quote the I Ching: One cannot engage in conflict; One returns home, gives way.

If you thought my puns were bad (even, or especially, my Latin ones) spare a thought for the Chinese. Read all about it here in the Economist.

I think the bit that blew my mind was:

My local noodle shop had a special sheet of expensive New Year’s delicacies to choose from, this week only. A couple of them were even good, but most were perplexing: lots of leafy greens, because “-vegetable” is always going to sound like “-money”, but also the 髮菜, a moss that grows on grassroots and is not very edible at all but does sound like “make money”, and oyster fermented in soya, not for flavour’s sake but so that it can be háochĭ, which sounds like characters that mean “well being”. There must have been 30 items on this menu, and only by dint of the crap shoot were any worth eating. (Local friends warned me.)

I can't fight against that degree of devotion to punning.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bloggering up my comments, again

You may recall that a few weeks back Stan got rather cross at the thought that I'd deleted a comment of his, whereas in fact Blogger had taken it upon itself to do that. Fortunately I had an email copy of the comment and could reconstruct it.

Well here's a thing. Phil posted a comment on this post of mine, but it never appeared. I have just attempted to repost it as a comment under the same post, and it briefly appeared (or at least the count of comments went to 1) and then almost immediately vanished again.

So here is the comment:

Posted by Phil to Eine Kleine Nichtmusik at 07 February, 2011 07:53

I blame the Lib Dems.

No, really.

Mad Mel and Englishmen

(I know, I know, spelling..... )

The Daily Mash is spot on with this piece.

In case you don't follow the ravings of Melanie Phillips, crazy bag lady, it's a response to this comment

Truly, we are fast reaching the stage where upholding Biblical sexual standards will become the morality that dare not speak its name

from this article.

Video fun

One can't go wrong with Abba - or at least not usually. Here are a couple of songs which never seem to make it into people's lists of favourites, which is a shame.

And I'd forgotten all about this song until I recently watched a documentary about Elektra Records which featured Harry Chapin:

..and also featured Carly Simon:

Or as one of the Youtube commenters said, "42 people thought this song was about them".

Tempus fulgit

A couple of thoughts engendered by my sundial musings at the emd of the last post.

1. I remember when I lived in London visiting the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and being mightily impressed by one of the sundial kits on sale. Much Googling has failed to turn up anything similar now, though I suppose it would be easy enough to make one from scratch. Ingredients: a glass cylinder filled with water, and a white scale, suitably calibrated. You mount the cylinder at the appropriate angle for your latitude, and facing in the right direction (!), whereupon it focuses the sunlight (even on an overcast British afternoon) into one of those gull-wing-shaped loops known as a caustic curve. You arrange your (non-flammable!) scale so that the point of the curve lies on the scale, and voila! A sundial. Moreover, the only kind of sundial I have ever known that works perfectly well when it's cloudy. I knew I should have bought one at the time.

2. Hilaire Belloc wrote a few amusing verses on sundials:

I am a sundial, and I make a botch
Of what is done far better by a watch,

I am a sundial: ordinary words
Cannot express my thoughts on birds.

And my favourite:

I am a sundial, turned the wrong way round:
I cost my foolish mistress fifty pound.

3. This must be one of the most stunning sundials in the world.

4. You have to give me a little credit for a half-decent Latin pun in the title, no?

Yay, Blair (again)

In this post on his support for Mubarak and other dictators, I referred to Tony Blair as a "despicable apology for a human being".

As of yesterday, perhaps I find him a tad less despicable, at least with respect to his views of Egypt and democracy. Not only has he accepted that Mubarak had to go, he has been surprisingly sensible in his comments on the Muslim Brotherhood:

Mr Blair said the "sensible" approach to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was "not to be hysterical about them," adding "they are not terrorists or extremists".

But he also said the international community should "not be complacent" about the Muslim Brotherhood either, adding they are "not the type of political party that you or I would recognise".

Perhaps that's why Uncle Jimmy, normally so keen to share with us every detail of TB's statements, has ignored this one and concentrated instead on the Chilcot Enquiry, a have-a-go heroine, and of course a post pointing out that what Egypt now has is military rule. (He's right on that of course, though the Daily Mash is funnier.)

Two consecutive posts being nice about Tony Blair. Jeez, I'm losing my grip. (Mind you, a stopped clock is right twice a day*, so provided I restrict myself to two I probably don't need treatment.) Reader, if you ever find my name on Stan's make all criticism of Tony Blair illegal Ban Blair-Bating petition, please shoot me.

*It's just occurred to me how strange that saying must sound to kids brought up to think of clocks mostly as strings of digits. a bit like "a stopped clock means some sand grains have got wedged in the narrow bit" or "a stopped clock means the sun has gone in".

Eye-catching in Gaza

In a comment on this post, Stan suggested that I should visit the website of Tony Blair's office to read about the relaxation of the Israeli blockade of gaza which TB had negotiated. So I did. Shortly afterwards, as you might expect, Uncle Jimmy covered the story over on his site.

Stan may be surprised, but this story pleases me. So much of the time, Blair's role as Quartet Envoy is all about him and scarcely at all about the benefit of anyone else (not even the Israelis, never mind the Palestinians). But here he is, if we take at face value the description of the deal as having been negotiated by him (remember this is Mr "eye-catching initiatives with which I can be personally associated"......), actually arriving at a packages of measures which may look individually underwhelming but whose combined effect will - if all goes to plan - be a considerable improvement of the lot of the ordinary Palestinian.

Stan refers specifically to the measures relating to Gaza, and on my reading of the package those are the ones that will make the biggest difference. Hard though it is to remember after Operation Cast Lead, Gaza is not under Israeli occupation, but it is under a still-stringent blockade, and anything that alleviates the effect of that will be huge. The energy arrangements alone would be significant, though there is plenty of room for difficulties on both sides in their implementation. Even looking for nagative points (and Stan would expect no less) the only one I can find is that it's the Government of Israel which requires the installation of a dedicated scanner to vet all Gazan exports. It is the GoI which will benefit from the presence of this scanner. Yet who will be paying for it? Yup, us. Ah well. Every rose has its thorn, and that one is more a cause for well-what-do-you-expect-from-the-world's-biggest-subsidy-junkies head-shaking than serious complaint.

The measures relating to the West Bank and East Jerusalem are also worthwhile, yet there is an odd omission there. In his announcement of the package, TB says, quite rightly,

"I would urge an end to all attacks coming out of Gaza. Such attacks inhibit our ability to help the people of Gaza and the absence of such attacks allows us to get on with the job of helping them."

Yet when we come to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he has not a word to say about the Israeli settlements or the military occupation. Let's be quite clear here: the representative of four bodies every one of which considers that Israel's presence in those places is illegal finds time in his speech to call on the Gazans to stop rocketing Israel, but none to mention the policy he is presumably being (in part) paid to uphold. I realise that the Israel-right-or-wrong Zionists (including Jimmy) think the occupation and the illegal settlements are bo-ring, and consider calls for the law to be upheld mere "obstructionism" :

So there we go. Nothing else matters but a settlement freeze and returning to the 1967 borders. I do have to wonder at times why anyone bothers any more with these obstructionists.

Most of the world begs to differ. As long as Israel's army and its settlers (most of whom are little better than terrorists themselves) remain in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (oh, and let's not forget the Golan Heights) any political settlement, even one backed by Tony Blair, will have no more chance of success than a post-WW2 peace with Germany would have had if Germany had been left in possession of Poland and half of France.

Still, politics is the art of the possible, and Tony Blair may have felt that reminding the Israelis that they have to go would spoil his cosy relationship with Mr Netanyahu - not the most tactful thing to do when you've just got the guy to make some useful concessions. So maybe it was just a question of timing. I would like to see some recognition by Blair though, that Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders is his employers' policy.

But hey, glass half full! More please.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Tact and terrorism

OK, nil points for tact go to the Respect councillors in this story (though personally it always bugs me when people just assume you'll join in with whatever celebration/protest/ritual they're enacting and won't allow you to make your own choices).

However, the "ex-soldier" (really?) who wouldn't give his name (how heroic!) but made personal threats against the councillors, claiming they would need 24-hour protection if they weren't sacked? Because it could play into the hands of his Nazi pals in the EDL?

A cowardly disgrace to his supposed former comrades, that's what he is. I hope the police find out who this wannabe terrorist was and bang him up. Failing that, no doubt eventually someone will let his name slip.

Just a phase we're going through

Let's have some music to wash away all that hatred and ignorance. By way of a tribute to actual decent Americans I think I'll go for a couple of pieces which make use of the music of Steve Reich.

First of all we have Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb (a favourite of mine), which samples a few bars from Electric Counterpoint (the phrase starting at 1:13 and continuing under the words "Layering different sounds on top of one another", to be precise).

I can never listen to this without (at 1:35) having a strong desire to make wibbling noises with my fingers and lips.

Then we have the late, great, Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, who sang a snatch of Come Out in Moonlight On Vermont (on the amazing Trout Mask Replica album). (It's at 2:28 and segues into That Old Time Religion!)

If you've never listened to the original of Come Out I commend it: Everyday Things A Boy Can Do With A Couple Of Tape Recorders And A Phenomenal Imagination. (Though be warned: I was once playing it loudly on my car stereo in summer with the windows down, and got some very funny looks from Edinburgh pedestrians. Bah.) Sadly, the only versions I can find online to embed are of pointless remixes by people trying to "improve" it. (Hint: they don't.) Here's a link where you can download it as an mp3 though.

Finally, and only very slightly off topic, here are the first two tracks from an album I played to death as a student (having ordered it from the new Virgin mail order company). I include them because the transition between them (from 3:23) uses exactly the same technique as Come Out, but run in reverse so that the two tape loops gradually (over 30 seconds) come into synchronisation.

A bunch of halal chickens (morons terrified of Muslim food)

I was watching a report on BBC Scotland about a Scottish-Indian fusion restaurant in Glasgow, one of whose signature dishes is haggis pakora, Which reminded me that on Burns night this year the Saunders family, as usual, ate a vegetarian haggis (my daughter having been a veggie now for 13 years or thereabouts). If you've never tried one, I recommend them: the main meat substitute flavour is mushroom but most lovers of the normal dead sheep kind of haggis I know consider it a perfectly decent alternative.

Anyway, remembering my daughter's joy on discovering that in India vegetarian food was the norm owing to the great variety of religions and concomitant dietary restrictions to be found there, I referred to our fare as the "Halal Haggis". Which then reminded me of this post from Uncle Jimmy's pals over at Bare Naked Islam.

You should note a number of things. Firstly that at no time did Ms Hussain request halal meat, nor did McDonald's offer it. Secondly, that she asked for a vegetarian dish and was served meat. It makes no difference whether she avoids meat because she is fussy about its slaughtering, or because like my daughter she is a vegetarian, or whether she does so for medical reasons. McDonald's screwed up and were right to apologise (and I'm shocked that they didn't do so at once - clearly standards have slipped since Ray Kroc's day). Thirdly, most of the pictures posted relate to a completely different story: it's hard to tell whether they've been included in an attempt to maximise the offense should any Muslim be reading the site (yeah, right) or whether the blogger just randomly dumped a load of pictures into the post without bothering with that difficult reading stuff.

I wonder whether my daughter would have come in for the same abuse had she been served a non-vegetarian burger and made a similar complaint. Probably: the clientele of BNI really are that stupid. One of the commenters ("perceptor1") believes that forcing Ms Hussain to eat meat rather than a veggie burger is curbing cruelty to animals. LOL. "Waterwillows" can't even spell "McDonalds". (But I bet he can spell "welfare".) "darrell" tells us "Ironiclly I was fired from a mcdonalds when I was 17 for telling a woman to STFU when she was complaining about food". (What's ironic about a racist knuckle-dragger being fired for giving shitty service and abusing customers? It's as American as this.) And "barenakedislam" herself mouths off about the iniquities of religious dietary restrictions, ritual slaughter and the like, but as soon as someone brings up the subject of kosher food she's all "I am Jewish and do not follow Kosher laws, nor does anyone I know. Only the very Orthodox keep kosher, but frankly, I think it’s an antiquated custom that is irrelevant in the 21st century." So if she ever visits Israel she'll demand to be served ham in cream sauce with a side of shrimp salad, will she? That's right, folks, here we have a New York "Jew" who thinks no Jews nowadays observe any dietary restrictions whatsoever. LOL, with a big side of ROFLMFAO. While "Josiah Heng", who goes round drawing stars of David on his leftover packaging like a small child, asks "How would you like it if all these meats were slaughtered in accordance to Taoist or Hindu practices and labelled as such?" Well done, Josiah, in your ignorant casting round for some non-Jewish religion you'd heard of you picked two whose followers are almost all vegetarians. (Though there are a few exceptions.)

At the end of the day, guys, I hate to break it to you but Newcastle is in Britain. It's our country, and if disgraces to America like you don't like the way we serve vegetarians you can stay in New York eating guaranteed non-halal cockroach sandwiches.

Aperiantur omnes

So David Cameron considers that multiculturalism in Britain has failed.

So that's time called on these enclaves of people who refuse to share in the way of life of ordinary Britons; who follow rituals dress codes which disconcert outsiders; whose attitude to women is mediaeval; whose education is wholly separate from that of ordinary British children; who believe that they are morally superior to the rest of us and look forward to the day when they rule over us; in whose midst doaens of treasonous acts have been planned.

The traditionalist in me will be a little sad, but the time is clearly long overdue for Eton, Harrow and the like to be thrown open and cleansed.

Of course, one might also remark, as G K Chesterton did with regard to Christianity, that multiculturalism has been not so much tried and found wanting as found difficult and not tried.

What a despicable apology for a human being Tony Blair is

Tony Blair gives us the inestimable benefit of his opinion on the current unrest in Egypt.

Basically what Blair is saying is that democracy for Egyptians is a good thing provided that they don't use their freedom to elect a government he and his Israeli employers have not approved in advance.

Israel's attitude to democracy in the Middle East became obvious when it backed a military coup to topple the elected government in the West Bank and install a puppet regime more to its liking. Where backing "domestic" coups was unsuccessful, as in Gaza, it simply resorted to invasion and murder. Israel: the only democracy in the Middle East, and woe betide any upstart electorate which tries to change that.

I'm sure Blair has worked with Mubarak, asd with so many other dictators, "on the inside" and found it an agreeable experience. The question is, who was inside whom?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A health initiative I can get behind (but would prefer to stay in front of)

Apparently a (female) dentist in Munich has hit on a novel way of overcoming her patients' nervousness. I look forward to its wide adoption.

Sadly my own dentist is male. But maybe next time we visit my wife's cousin in Munich I'll need some emergency work.....

Two Men, One Woman, and a Punctuation Mark

Oh, let's cheer up a bit with some more Peter Paul & Mary clips. Here's one of my favourites:

Fantastic brass arrangement. And I love the way at 1:39 we have two harmony vocal lines and the melody has vanished completely!

Anyone who knows anything of my musical tastes will know that I am a sucker for bizarre cover versions. OK, so here are PP&M singing "I Have A Song To Sing, O" from The Yeoman of the Guard by Gilbert & Sullivan (the baton passes from one ampersand to another, so to speak). Not one for G&S purists but a noble effort neatly arranged, and if it created a new fanbase for G&S that can't be bad.

From the same concert, here they are doing Laura Nyro's "And When I Die". I've never greatly cared for Nyro's stuff but I'll gladly make an exception for this.

Here they are from 1965, the year I first saw them.

And here's one they did the second time I saw them. As they were doing songs from the newly-released Album 1700 that must have been 1967 or very early 1968.
(And yes, I know this isn't exactly a song to lift the spirits, but how could I leave it out?)

I make no apologies for posting this next clip again: a truly great song, by Paul this time. And the Youtube comments make interesting reading: I knew the song had been one of the most-requested pieces of wedding music in the USA a few years back, but it's lovely to know it's still doing the business.

And finally, one from a TV programme entitled The Holiday Concert. As this particular song is for Hanukkah rather than Christmas I can forgive the title, especially as the performance is so good.