Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maybe not

Following on from the news that Newmarket sausages have been granted protected status by the EU (like Parma Ham, Stilton cheese and Chambéry vermouth), my daughter reappeared from a visit to our Ballater flat with a new product (well, new for us) from the butcher whose shop backs onto it. The ones she brought were Pork and Irn-Bru sausages, which personally I think sound disgusting. (As she's a vegetarian I assume her boyfriend will be eating them.)

I mentioned somewhat sarcastically that if they were going to put iconic national beverages into sausages they should do a Beef'n'Bucky sausage. As it turns out, neither of us has ever tried Bucky: Vanessa said she was put off it when a school friend who trained as a midwife reckoned that it tastes the way placentas smell. Well, of course, as placenta consumption is becoming more fashionable, I immediately started thinking of new combinations. Placenta and Pepsi sausages? Placenta and Glenfiddich sausages (Womb'n'whisky)?

And now of course it occurs to me that you could have a venison and Buckfast sausage and call it Buck'n'Bucky (or This Buck Wasn't Fast Enough").

I'll stick to more traditional fare, I think.

Are you gonna take me home tonight......

Funny the things you find via iPhone... I was at the bus stop round the corner from my house, and went to disable my phone's wi-fi (it tends to attempt to attach itself to networks even though I've told it not to: the first I normally learn of it is when I have trouble accessing anything because my phone is using a network to which I have no access). Anyway, while in there switching it off I noticed the list of available networks. Bear in mind that these are network names, not websites, and that these are ones whose owners didn't attempt to hide them. So along with all the usual BTOpenzones and the BTHomeHubs, there was (at the top of the list, with the strongest signal) a wi-fi network entitled "Bountiful Buttocks".

I think I have some weird neighbours.....

Hey Anony Anony Mo

When people comment on this blog I receive email alerts to an email account (not my main one). When (as happens at least 50 times per day) a spambot attempts to post a comment (usually trying to sell Xanax, Tramadol or Viagra, though sometimes linking to live sex cams) Blogger's spam filter shoots it out of the blogosphere with a satisfying bang, but not before it has left its digital echo in my email (which is how I know what's in them). I regularly purge the emails, flicking through them quickly. Any posted by somebody other than "Anonymous" I generally look at (though they're frequently also spam), the rest I see only long enough to hit "delete".

This means that occasionally as I hit the delete key I see what looks as though it might have been a genuine comment. If I spot which post it was on I'll go and check, though usually the spam filter has slaughtered it anyway. If not, then some poor soul may never have her/his comment answered or even read.

Thus it was yesterday, when I caught a phrase about "being surprised that you link to Peter Reynolds's blog". I haven't found that comment, but I also hadn't looked at Peter's blog for a while so I went back and did so.

I first came to Peter's blog (IIRC) via one of the many comments he used to post (as did I until I got banned) on Keep Tony Blair For PM, the pompous and sometimes downright racist blog run by "BlairSupporter", the buffoon I nicknamed "Uncle Jimmy" and whose imbecilities I so enjoyed sending up in EKN. Peter shared with Jimmy an admiration for Blair which I find baffling, but he wasn't afraid to criticise Jimmy's send-them-back-where-they-came-from rants. Peter also endeared himself to me by his fervent opposition to Zionist atrocities, and by his even more fervent campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis (and in general for an end to the useless "war on drugs").

I am aware that Peter has enemies and that he has been accused of racism and homophobia. Certainly I have seen statements attributed to him which seem at variance with my own interactions with him. I note, however, that if you Google "Peter Reynolds racist" most of the vitriol which appears is directed at his opposition to Zionism. As I know from personal experience, anyone who fails to tug the forelock and bend the knee when discussing the State of Israel is automatically labelled an anti-Semite, a racist, a Holocaust denier, a supporter of terrorism and god (sorry - "G-d") knows what else. At the end of the day, his blog contains much that I agree with and some things I don't. Hell, I've linked (and not to poke fun) the odd item from Uncle Jimmy and even from Bonni the Nazi: even stopped clocks are right twice daily. I'm never going to see eye to eye politically with someone who can post in all seriousness that "Anyone who can seriously suggest this irrational philosophy (socialism) as a model on which to run a 21st century economy is at least deluded, if not a saboteur." (Saboteur? Really? I think he's put his foot in it there.....)

Anyway, browsing through Peter's recent posts, I found several which I think are worth linking.

One on the hysteria surrounding the Jimmy Saville allegations

One on Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest - another witch-hunt

One on Israel with which I totally agree (as I do with Peter's comments below it)

A real eye-opener on synthetic cannabinoids ("legal highs")

So to return to my anonymous commenter: sometimes I'm surprised myself, but I find enough of interest at his blog to make visits worthwhile, and as much to support and applaud as to deride and disdain. Oh, and if you want your comments to be seen, make sure they don't look like spam, perhaps by commenting under an alias rather than anonymously if you're ashamed of what you write.

Happy Halloween!

This stinks

After this post where I got shouty about what the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is for, here is a sad example of what it's NOT for.

What gets me about this guy is that even with his mother shining a torch he couldn't tell the difference between a real skunk (roughly the size of a house cat) and an eight-year-old girl in a Halloween skunk outfit (roughly the size of an eight-year-old-girl). The police didn't mention it, but you have to wonder whether he was high on something, or simply very drunk.

Also, shooting at a skunk in your garden - even a real one - would seem a pretty stupid thing to do. Skunks are mild-tempered, mostly nocturnal, and will defend themselves only when cornered or attacked. Even when other animals or people are in close proximity, skunks will ignore the intruders unless they are disturbed. Skunks are beneficial to farmers, gardeners, and landowners because they feed on large numbers of agricultural and garden pests. (Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. I suspect a skunk might feel a wee bit threatened by being shot at.....

Now here's a great cause - English Disco Lovers (EDL)

So there we are. The aim, ladies and gentlemen, is to topple the fascist *nglish *efence *eague from their position as the top Google hit for "EDL", and replace it with the more wholesome (and far more British) English Disco Lovers.

I feel some appropriate dance tracks coming on right now.

Now a few that always got me on the dance floor back in my student days.

And this last one isn't disco, but must surely cause the fascist EDL's collective heads explode. And it's a great song.

Zomney Apocalypse

Joss Whedon - one of the USA's national treasures - has made a wonderful video about Mitt Romney.

At least now I know why so many of those right-wing weirdos are hoarding canned goods and ammunition. It's not that they think Obama is going to win: it's in readiness for a Zomney victory.

The Kids From FEMA

Having written, half in jest, that Bonni the Nazi would have blamed Hurricane Sandy on President Obama, I haven't yet found her doing that, but she did recently publish a post about the FEMA Corps, a new youth organisation of 18- to 24-year-old first responders, in which she likened them to the Hitler Youth. (She confuses the Hitler Youth with the SA - Sturmabteilung or "Brownshirts" - but then she thinks Hitler promoted inter-racial marriage and sexual liberation, as well as blaming the Holocaust on wicked Jews, so she's not exactly reliable on the Third Reich.) Now as she recently and quite explicitly said that Germany needed the Nazis today, it's hard to see how she would think this a bad thing. But there we are. It seems that these volunteers are intended to implement martial law now that Obama has suspended the Constitution (a development I seem to have missed). And while of course American 18-year-olds are fighting in Afghanistan, to Bonni even 24-year-olds are mere "children" who must be protected from any naive impulse to want to help others.

Best of all is Bonni's utter outrage that the members of the FEMA Corps will have access to weapons (you know, so as to deal with looters and terrorists trying to take advantage, of, say, New York's being flooded). All together, people: THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SECOND AMENDMENT WAS DESIGNED FOR. "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." FEMA Corps is a "well-regulated militia". "Retired Marines" who keep massive arsenals in their houses in case the American people democratically elect the wrong guy as President - are NOT.

One of Bonni's commenters seems even more confused than the Nazi-in-Chief herself. "NikitaAnne" reckons that Obama plans to "get rid of the military and replace it with a Civilian National Security Force, just as Hitler did". (I believe I also missed the part where Hitler "got rid of the military": who the hell were those guys shooting at our Spitfires and Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain?)

In other comments, "ADHD" recommends that Bonni's readers ready themselves to "kill such traitors" (what, even though they're just naive children? how very Anders Breivik). "Dragonfire01" links this story to the old myth about "FEMA camps that look like concentration camps" (even Glenn Beck on Fox News debunked that story years ago).

One commenter ("Geordie") remarks "What a great idea! Why are you people complaining?Motivating youth to become responsible members of society, trained and appointed to help with disaster relief. I’m sure the people of New Orleans for example would have been very grateful if these trained volunteers had been around at the time. I fully support your anti-Islamic stance but this is just political spin directed against your own elected president. Please get back on track or you risk loosing supporters." Bonni's response is "Geordie, we don’t want supporters who have anything good to say about Obama. We hate Obama. It’s one of the requirements for posting here."  When he responds with "What do you have against Obama? He is the closest the USA has come to a good rational thinking atheist president and that has nothing at all to do with objecting to the spread of Islam. The world has far too many religious nutters, take that Mormon prick with the magic underwear, running for election. Now that is worth objecting too. How can anyone trust a fool who talks to imaginary friends when seeking guidance making important decisions." she bans him. Thus perish all who confuse right-wing crazies with facts....

Still, the FEMA Corps are proving useful right now, as 28 teams comprising 294 members of the Corps were "pre-staged" (put into position ready to provide support when Hurricane Sandy hit the coast. I wonder whether Bonni and her husband will refuse their help if their apartment building gets flooded or loses power? (Silly question really: if they send somebody non-white Bonni will probably shoot at them.)

Blowing In The Wind

Thoughts and prayers go out to all those on America's East Coast as Hurricane Sandy comes to town. Yes, even Bonni the Nazi of BareNakedIslam, who probably has a post somewhere blaming it on Obama and the Muslims. I don't want any thing bad to happen to her or to her family (at least, not until the thing she fears the most: Obama's re-election).

Seriously - hang in there, guys. At least it looks as though FEMA learned some lessons from the Katrina shambles.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Only one clip, however, features "Airplane!" and "Happy Feet"

I linked this on Facebook recently and thought I'd done so here as well, but I can't find it so I must have imagined it. I could imagine worse things: I give you a celebration of dance in the movies. Enjoy. Dance.

And it's a funny thing. When I was looking for that clip I found this next one, which is shorter (but uses the same music). Perhaps inevitably there is overlap between the two clips as far as the films being used, but they both work in their own way.

Taking the Piss

I've been wishing for years that the BBC would release Clochemerle on DVD. It was one of the crowning glories of their output in the early 1970s, with a cast clearly designed by God.

Well, for whatever reason, they still haven't, but I've managed to buy a two-disk set on eBay. Described as being VHS quality, I suspect it's this one which I tried to buy direct from the site a while back but couldn't get the transaction to work. Anyway, with that and The Barchester Chronicles which I've just bought, I have a feast of British acting talent in brilliantly scripted comedy to look forward to.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Support Britain. Defeat the British Freedom Party

Britain's own Nazis, the "British Freedom Party", have on their website a twenty-point plan for the nation under its benign rule. Obviously they are under the impression that there are people who are likely to vote for them who can count up to twenty, even if it means taking off their shoes to do so. Here it is:

1. Introduce a US style First Amendment guaranteeing Free Speech.
2. Leave the profoundly undemocratic European Union.
3. Abolish the Human Rights Act, which benefits only foreign criminals/ terrorists.
4. Halt any further immigration for a period of five years.
5. Deport foreign criminals, seditious dual nationality Islamists and illegal immigrants.
6. Abolish all multicultural and equality quangos.
7. Halt and turn back all aspects of the Islamisation of Britain, including Sharia finance.
8. Drastically reduce crime – criminals should fear the consequences of their behaviour.
9. Repair the damage wreaked by the progressive educational establishment.
10. Promote British values and assimilation, rather than multiculturalism and division.
11. Rebuild Britain’s Armed Forces to 1980 levels.
12. Diminish the public sector and government interference in the private sector.
13. Withdraw troops from all areas where we are not directly threatened.
14. Cancel foreign aid to countries which do not deserve or need it.
15. End welfare payments to immigrants; they must pay for their housing and children.
16. Ensure no elderly person lives in fear, and can afford both heat and food in the winter.
17. Abolish destructive Political Correctness, promote Common Sense.
18. Promote morality, marriage, the family, the community and the nation state.
19. Allow pubs the freedom of operating as smoking or non-smoking establishments.
20. Live by Christianity’s Golden Rule: “Do unto others as thou wouldst be done by.”

A few observations.

#1 - I have no objection to a "U.S. style First Amendment", but that's rather putting the cart before the horse as we don't have a "U.S. style Constitution". Indeed, I was always brought up to believe that the British were very proud that we had never needed a written constitution like these foreign Johnnies (American and French and whatnot). Produce a written constitution if you like, but please don't pretend that you're preserving traditional British values by doing so: you will in fact be forcing alien "political correctness" onto the British people.

#8 - I'm all for drastically reducing crime, but a political plan needs to set out how you intend to do it, not just what the end result will be. Will the BFP reduce crime by making fewer things criminal? By employing more police? By introducing punishments such as stoning and amputation? They might all have that end result, but they're rather different policies. But why am I asking the BFP this? They won't have a clue: to them it's just an empty slogan.

#9 - I agree that the damage which causes the BFP to believe that the past tense of wreak is "wreaked" needs to be addressed. If these people can't even write in what they claim to be their own language why should anyone listen to their views on education (or anything else)?
*** It has been pointed out to me that I'm wrong on this one, and indeed I am:

"It has become common to use wrought, the original past tense and participle for work, as the past tense and past participle for wreak, as in wrought havoc (i.e. worked havoc for wreaked havoc), due both to the fact that the weak form worked has edged out wrought from its former role almost entirely (except as an adjective referring usually to hand-worked metal goods), and via confusion from the wr- beginning both wreak and wrought, and probably by analogy with seek)."

So not wrong then: but as in so much, not up-to-date with current practice either.***

#16 - Another nice slogan with no suggestion of how the BFP would achieve this. Nationalisation of all food and fuel production and distribution? Forced labour? Give us a clue.

#20 - Normally rendered in modern English as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and an excellent idea. However, neither "modern" nor "English" are concepts which concern the BFP's leadership, stuck in their illiterate medieval mindset. Nor do the remaining points appear to bear much resemblance to Christianity's Golden Rule. Indeed, every single one is a strong reason to make sure these clowns never come close to election anywhere, or even to getting enough support to be on the ballot in the first place.

As a famous person recently said, in any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Kick out the Unbritish Slavery Party now.

Molar Eclipse of the Heart

23 October is of course Mole Day - and in my own time zone I missed it! But for my American readers I haven't, which as Mole Day is an American idea is appropriate.

So here is a little video to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just hydrogen and more hydrogen, and a Type II supernova gone by

And far be it from me to contradict the lovely Ms Chapman as to the ingredients of solid stone, but I think xkcd's formulation covers that one too.

Rage On Rage

After posting a couple of songs from Beth Nielsen Chapman's deleted album You Hold The Key, I was listening to the whole thing while blogging tonight, and came across this track which I'd completely forgotten. If Suzanne Vega's Luka is the best song I know about child abuse, this is surely the best about spousal abuse.

Monday, October 22, 2012

But facts are chiels that winna ding, An downa be disputed

Bonni the Holocaust Denier and her fellow Nazi supporters at BareNakedIslam are busy right now whining about poor dear Tommy Robinson (chief thug of the "English Defence League" neo-Nazi paramilitary group) who has been arrested for - I loved this - entering the USA on a fake passport. (See, that's what happens when the immigration people are spending all their time patting down Asian businessmen: notorious Nazis with bogus paperwork waltz in unchecked.) Maybe when he's been extradited the USA will dump him in Gitmo.

But while Bonni is choking back the sobs (and poor Paul Weston of the British Freedom Party was arrested for causing a disturbance outside the prison! and poor darling Tommy may have to share a cell with brown people!) her commenters carry on displaying their usual levels of stupidity and racism. Here is "upaces88" on my favourite topic, Nobel science prizes:

I have looked it up. There are sooo many, many Nobel Prizes given out in everything you can think of TO Scientists Israel. I have NEVER seen anything like that for the Muslims. They offer NOTHING TO A CIVILIZED SOCIETY….

Sooo...you looked it up, huh? Sooooo many Nobel prizes given out to "Scientists Israel". To be precise, since you looked it up, FOUR:

Avram Hershko, born in Hungary, Chemistry, 2004
Aaron Ciechanover, born in the British Mandate of Palestine, Chemistry, 2004
Ada E. Yonath, born in the British Mandate of Palestine, Chemistry, 2009
Dan Shechtman, born in the British Mandate of Palestine, Chemistry, 2011

Four science Nobels, all for chemistry, and the first awarded in 2004.

But: "I have NEVER seen anything like that for the Muslims." Well, if you only looked under "Israeli Nobel Laureates" I suppose you didn't. But people who can actually read writing know that there have been TWO Muslim Nobel prizewinners in sciences:

1979, Abdus Salam, Pakistani, Physics
1999, Ahmed Zawail, Egyptian, Chemistry

Now I'm happy to admit that Israelis have won twice as many science Nobels as the world's Muslims (though if you include other kinds of Nobel - Literature, Economics, Peace - the scores are exactly tied on ten apiece). But do please note those dates: Muslims had won a Nobel science prize quarter of a century before the first Israeli won one, and had notched up two for a full five years before a pair of Israelis shared one.

Or take this gem from "ADHD", regarding the IDF's claim that no humaitarian aid was found on the Estelle, the Finnish ship illegally boarded in international waters by IDF agents who tasered the unarmed passengers (at least this time, realising that they would have trouble covering it up, they didn't simply handcuff the protestors and shoot them in the back of the head as they did on the Mavi Marmara). The IDF claim that only "footballs and musical instruments" were found. "ADHD" writes:

I wouldn’t be too quick to condemn real musical instruments (being a musician myself); however, it’s vital to make sure that they’re used SOLELY for music and NOTHING ELSE!!!

...following it up with:

I say this particularly because Islam STRONGLY DISCOURAGES music (it comes very close to actually forbidding it, which is why the Talibs, Al-Qaeda and their ilk do indeed).

Thus, I’m VERY suspicious about such instruments being on that ship (especially if they’re brass!!)…

Islam strongly discourages music? There's nothing in the Qu'ran forbidding it, and Mohammed seems not to have had a problem with music as such (though he wasn't too keen on the go-go dancers who sometimes went with it). In any case, let's see if we can find some famous Muslim musicians from more recent times. How about Alla Rakha, Indian music's tabla superstar who was Ravi Shankar's right-hand man for decades? Or his son, the equally legendary Zakir Hussain? How about Amjad Ali Khan, Indian music's sarod-playing elder statesman? Or how about the world's most famous composer of Bollywood film scores, A R Rahman? Here is the equally Muslim Shah Rukh Khan dancing to one of A R Rahman's best-known numbers. Discouraged by Islam, my arse. Though the Prophet would probably not have been too keen on this dance (choreographed by a Muslim woman, BTW). Actually, as a former Health & Safety Representative I feel distinctly uneasy myself watching it, knowing as I do that it really was shot on a moving train.

I love the smell of fact-checking in the morning.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wailing at the wall

You have read me, I dare say, complaining about places like France which ban the wearing of the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in public. You may have read me complaining about the equally paranoid ban on the visible public wearing of crosses in Saudi Arabia. And now here we are again, with Jews being forbidden to wear prayer shawls and pray in public.

Except that in this case, it's only women who are so prevented.

And it's happening in Israel.

And you thought enforced segregation of sexes, and little girls being bullied by religious fundamentalists on their way to school, were just a Muslim problem? Dream on.

Good luck to women everywhere in their fight for equality in the face of sexism masquerading as religion. And good luck for all those, male and female, fighting for their right not to have to hide their religious practise from the public gaze.

Whoa, let's back up here a minute...

As Scotland moves towards legislating for full equality for its gays, watch this video.

Back in August, during a Springfield (IL) City Council public hearing on amending the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections, Rev. Phil Snider of the Brentwood Christian Church lashed out at the council for "inviting the judgement of God upon our land" by making "special rights for gays and lesbians."

He went on to invoke the bible and morality and the end of days a few more times before suddenly appearing to lose his train of thought.

And then ..... well, watch the video. But do please watch ALL of it.

Recalculating.....make U-turn and drive to indicated route

Seeing the pictures of the Space Shuttle Endeavour making her final journey to the science museum in Los Angeles reminded me of this wonderful report from Mumbai around five years ago.

As the BBC put it, the driver has not been seen since. However, in Indian journalese this would be rendered as "The driver is absconding", a far more delightful phrase. (Indian newspapers are filled with delightfully antiquated and eccentric expressions. In their crime reports police are forever "swooping" to "nab" "miscreants", villages are terrorised by "bandits" or "Naxalites". This guy evidently enjoys it too. And drivers are always absconding.

Update: it was removed, but nobody knows where it went. Which is even funnier.

Emmanuelle La Morte

Sylvia Kristel has died: probably the best known actress ever in pornographic films, and undoubtedly the best-known under her own name. I must confess that I have never seen any of the Emmanuelle films, but then I haven't seen any of the Godfather films either. Nevertheless, in the same way that horses' heads and offers-you-can't-refuse have become part of the culture even for people like me, Emmanuelle has become a kind of cultural shorthand for pornography with decent production values.

So it goes.

Will we be able to mark our Xs in white on blue?

So we're to get our referendum on Scottish independence, in two years' time. Not only will that give the SNP a couple of years to try to win over the undecideds and doubters (support for independence currently runs at around 33%), but it will put the vote at the tail end of a string of feel-good Scottish events: the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games both in Scotland, plus the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn.

As things stand I intend to vote for independence, but there are still details to be sorted out. Would an independent Scotland join the Euro? stick with the pound (in the same way various places not in the USA use the dollar)? go it alone with a whole new currency? Would we stay in NATO or leave? The SNP seems to be changing its policy there from a straightforward "leave NATO" to "stay in but get rid of the nuclear weapons". The leadership seems to think this will prove more popular, but I don't know: I was speaking last week to someone who said that if we would be staying in NATO he couldn't see any point in voting to separate from England. For him, getting out of NATO and becoming non-aligned was the main selling point for independence. While I'd be disappointed if an independent Scotland stayed in, it wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me. (Update: bugger.)

Of course, there is the question of my nationality. Hilary was born in England but her father was Scottish so there should be no problem for her. Our children were born here. I, on the other hand, have two English parents and was born in Manchester. After thirty-one years here I don't foresee any issues with my residence qualifications, but I wold presumably have to apply for citizenship (and presumably would be eligible for dual nationality, as would Hilary, I guess). Interesting times ahead.

Still, first we have to win the vote, a struggle not helped in the least by people like Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP who is so resolutely set against full equality for gay people (to wit, legalisation of gay marriage) that he is threatening to campaign at the polls against any MSPs who vote for it. Yes, that's right, this clown during whose time as its leader the SNP could at best be described as "irrelevant" is so puffed up with his own importance, and so utterly in hock to a fringe of religious fundamentalists, that he is happy to put his hatred of gays ahead of the struggle for Scotland's independence. He has described progress towards legalisation of gay marriage as "lurching down the road to fascism", which suggests that he thinks Hitler and Franco were bastions of gay rights. It seems that his problems with gay marriage are that schoolteachers would have to "promote" it (though as they are not currently obliged to promote heterosexual marriage I'm not sure which planet that "fact" came from) and that gay unions do not lead to children. So in Gordon Wilson's ideal - and resolutely "non-fascist" - Scotland, all contraception within marriage would clearly also be forbidden.

I was about to hope that the voters of Scotland would put the poor fool out of his misery, but as he's never been an MSP in his life and was last a Westminster MP in 1988, that won't be necessary. The Scottish National Party, though, should give serious consideration to expelling this vile reptile so that he can slither off and join the British Freedom Party or some other body more in tune with his own ideology.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why the hell they deleted this album defeats me

Here's a great song from Beth Nielsen Chapman. While Sand and Water is deservedly celebrated, I think this earlier effort is just as good. I always amazes me that there haven't been dozens of cover versions as there have with S&W.

From the same album (You Hold The Key) comes also this gem (featuring Fairport Convention founder Simon Nicol on dulcimer backing vocals - oops, it's Martin Allcock on the dulcimer)

And to the anonymous and enthusiastic commenter who I think was a real person - at least, his/her comment wasn't laced with links to other sites - but whose effort was killed off in my spam trap - sorry! But glad you enjoyed the songs.

True Wit

And part of my holiday reading this week was True Grit by Charles Portis. The novel seems to be overlooked these days since the film version with John Wayne: I enjoyed it a lot.

Though it did remind me of this wonderful parody from Mad magazine back in 1969:

Try as I might, the recollection of that meant that I was unable to read True Grit with noticing that Mattie does indeed wholly eschew contractions in her narrative.

Gimme that old-time religion

Some of my readers may be scratching their heads after reading about Crimond Airfield in the link in the previous post, wondering why the name rings a bell. Well, Crimond is a very famous hymn tune:

It's one of a class of hymns properly known as metrical psalms. As a child (and well into my teens) I sang in a church choir (Episcopal, in England) and all I knew about these hymns was that the word order seemed utterly bizarre:

All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell -
Come ye before Him and rejoice!

The Lord ye know is God indeed
Without our aid He did us make
We are His folk; He doth us feed
And for His sheep He doth us take!

O enter then His gates with praise!
Approach with joy His courts unto!
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always
For it is seemly so to do

For why...The Lord our God is good
His mercy is for ever sure
His truth at all times firmly stood
And shall from age to age endure!

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore

"Him serve with fear"? "Approach with joy his courts unto"? WTF? To this day I find it hard to read most of the metrical psalms without an urge to giggle nervously.

But the best thing about metrical psalms - and for this I am indebted to my wife who grew up in the Presbyterian tradition - is that the words were long considered too sacred to be sung other than in services on the Sabbath. So how did choirs rehearse? They used sets of made-up nonsense lyrics (practice verses), which in many cases are frankly better than the drivel they replace:

How lovely is thy dwelling-place,
Sir Archie Grant, to me;
The home farm and the policies,
How pleasant, Sir, they be.

I found a lovely "metrical hymn" on a Buddhist topic(!)  here, which would fit nicely to Crimond.

I did wonder whether I should produce a Crimond Airfield: the sort of thing the WW2 airmen might have sung. You know, "The Lord's my wingman, I'll not crash / He helps me down to fly", that sort of thing. No? Maybe not.

A is for Antenna, B is for Bird, C is for Cody

We've just had a kind of holiday-within-a-holiday: we're staying at the Ballater float this week, but last night we bed-and-breakfasted at a place called Maud, near Fraserburgh. (I so want to open a garden centre there, so I could have as my slogan "Come in to the Garden Centre, Maud".) Hilary had had a work meeting at Aberdeen University in the morning, so she did that while I pottered about the old medieval bit of Aberdeen, having great fun in the King's College Museum and looking at all the old gravestones around St Machar's cathedral. (I love the way Victorian graves in Scotland, especially Edinburgh of course, tend to be made grave-robber-proof to foil Burke & Hare types wanting to dig up fresh corpses to sell to anatomists. Sometimes they have great iron cages over the top called mortsafes, but in Aberdeen they mostly either had huge stone canopies like four-poster beds about a foot off the ground, or simply a damned great stone slab (and I mean the size of your car and six inches thick) covering the grave.

Anyway, academic deals done and graves duly inspected, we headed off to get lunch and then to the bird reserve at Loch of Strathbeg to see the pink-footed geese (16,000 or so). We didn't see all of them, but we saw a few thousand as they came in in waves at dusk. Meanwhile we'd been watching widgeon, teal, several hundred whooper swans, cormorants, goldeneye, and one guy with a serious telescope reckoned the distant bird of prey on a post might have been a white-tailed eagle (there was one about all week according to the reserve book so it's quite likely: my binoculars couldn't image it that well, good though they are). There's nothing quite like the experience of seeing - and hearing - hundreds of geese flying low overhead and wheeling in to land. Oh, and we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a feeder.

The RSPB reserve was recently in the news for its plans to install a small wind turbine. Donald Trump of course went apeshit (his big eyesore golf course is just a few miles away and we drove past it on the way), but quite apart from the actual figures which the RSPB had obtained for the risk to birds (as you can see, very small) there are a couple of other relevant facts. One is that that corner of Scotland, because it's so windy, is full of turbines of varying sizes, mostly in ones and twos rather than massive arrays, so any bird that stays in the area will rapidly get the hang of the things. The other is that the reserve is right alongside some Ministry of Defence property (indeed, you have to drive through a disused airfield to reach it). The property in question is a seriously big radio transmitter array (three guyed antennae several hundred feet high). It's hard to see what the RSPB could put up that would even come close to forming that kind of obstacle: yet the birds keep on coming, and avoiding it.

Then today we came back to Ballater via Deer Abbey (a rather good ruin) and Aberdeen, where we did some shopping and saw (and enjoyed) the latest Woody Allen film. It was pouring with rain, and there were three middle-aged guys (one with a tartan umbrella) drinking their Starbucks coffees at a table outside on the pavement. We commented to the barista that they didn't even seem to have gone out so as to smoke, and she said that no, they came every day and sat outside, whatever the weather. Sheesh.

Finally we stopped off in Aboyne where a few days earlier we'd spotted a rather cool set of framed pictures (one artistically-distressed frame, six old photographs) of Buffalo Bill, which we thought would look good in the porch (just inside our front door) in Edinburgh. So a good couple of days.

Oh, the B&B from Mr & Mrs Hepburn of Pond View, Brucklay, Maud, was excellent. And just north of Aberdeen we passed a road sign to a place called Tarty, which prompted me to wonder if they had a Women's Institute, and Hilary to respond that if they did it definitely should do a calendar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bonni the Nazi: hating Christians, the Swiss, Belgians and most of all the USA

Bonni Benstock Intall, the Nazi supporter who runs BareNakedIslam, has got all excited about the way in which Swiss companies like Victorinox (who make Swiss army knives like the one I carry everywhere except in aircraft cabins), Swatch and Tissot have taken to removing the Swiss cross from their logos for products being sold in Saudi Arabia. Supposedly this is to avoid giving offence to Muslims.

First of all, this story is reported nowhere except on Islamophobic hate sites such as BNI and Pamela Geller's "Atlas Shrugs". Nowwhere else is there any reference to any statement by Swatch about removing the cross.

Secondly, there are plenty of example of items by these companies not destined for Saudi Arabia but not featuring the Swiss cross.

A Swatch made for Coca-Cola.

The case for an "Irony" Swatch.

The ads for Swatch on a Spanish website

A Swiss army knife with the Greater Zurich Area logo.

A Swiss army knife with the Stussy logo.

A Swiss army knife with Yukon Jack's logo replacing the Swiss cross. Damn these sensitive Canucks!

A Swiss army knife made for the German army.

Interestingly, the example of a "Saudi" Swiss army knife has an unidentifiable logo over the Victorinox name, but doesn't appear to resemble a Swiss army knife of any kind in its shape. The most likely explanation, lacking any other sightings, is that it's a cheap fake of some kind.

So what does this story come down to? Swiss companies sometimes drop the cross from their logo when making products for hotbeds of Islamic extremism such as Coca-Cola, the Wehrmacht and Yukon Jack's (because nothing pleases Muslims more than that tasty blend of Canadian Whiskey and honey). And sometimes people produce fake versions of their products. Woo-frigging-hoo.

This related story does at least seem to be genuine. Again, though, all it really shows is that some Muslims on Swiss online forums (who may or may not be "Swiss Muslims") aren't too hot at German puns.

Bonni is definitely transmitting hatred on a wider beam these days. Muslims, sure, and Jews, and gays, and women. But now we have the Swiss, and a few posts further on we have British Christians being described as "traitors" for disagreeing with Bonni's Nazi views.

She hates the Belgians enough to bother telling stupid lies about them. "Brussels candidates for local elections are ALL Muslims". This is Bonni's take on a story she posts stating that in ONE district of Brussels all the candidates are Muslim. Sint-Jans-Molenbeek has a population of around 92,000. Brussels has a population of 1.1 million. Yes, a whopping 8% of Brussels residents will soon have a Muslim councillor. But then as Bonni tells us herself, she just pumps out the propaganda she's given without worrying about whether it's true, or even consistent or plausible. She's not paid to read it, just to pass it on.

And of course the main recipients of hatred from Bonni and her fellow thugs are the United States of America: her Constitution, her laws, and above all her elected President, whom they wish to overthrow by force.

Raclettes: I've had a few....

We're up at the Ballater flat this week, and tonight Hilary decided we should use up some Raclette cheese we'd had in the freezer for a while, so I was sent to fetch the Raclette set from the hall cupboard. There it was, on the top shelf, a large yellow box labelled "Elektrischer Design Raclette grill". To get it out, I had to move a few things including a smallish black box. Wondering what this was, I read its label and found that it was a "Maybaum Raclette R2", which on closer investigation turned out to be a two-person electric raclette grill. I asked Hilary which one she intended me to get out, and she had no recollection of having bought the smaller one (paperwork in the box suggests that it came from Amazon or eBay or similar). Back in Edinburgh we have a six-person electric and a two-person meths-burning one (the latter acquired about two years ago in Geneva Airport). But neither of us could recall buying a second two-person one.

We agreed that you know you're middle-class when you can't remember how many raclette grills you own.

Of course, none of these tame and domestic machines are anywhere near as impressive as the big electric grills containing half a cheese which you encounter in restaurants in Alpine resorts.

One of these men ruined the lives of thousands of children, The other was allegedly a paedophile.

I saw this on Facebook:

It was originally captioned

One sick individual, now universally loathed by a nation for shafting the innocent.....seen here with Jimmy Savile.

I suggested the following alternative caption:

Now then, now then... I've got a letter here from Anthony Blair who says "Dear Jim, I think Margaret Thatcher is the best leader this country has ever had. Please can you fix it for me to destroy trade unionism in Britain and have my very own war, just like her?"

Doh! a deer....

Sometimes you find something on the internet which convinces you that however dumb you thought people could be, there's always someone a little dumber yet. The following audio clip from a radio phone-in is just such an item, and is the funniest thing I've heard for a long time.

Best of all, when checked the story out on snopes.com, it appears to be genuine and not a wind-up.

Is that a black pudding in your pocket or are you just really cross to see me?

My imagination began to run wild when I heard the beginning of this report on the radio news today. I mean, what images spring into your mind when you hear that someone was in court, charged with behaving aggressively with a black pudding?

It came as a disappointment to find he'd simply hurled it across a room in a fit of rage. I'd hoped at the very least for something like Bill Oddie's martial arts exploits as a practitioner of Ecky Thump:

Monday, October 15, 2012

We Are All Malala Yousafzai

A great piece here from the Huffington Post about Malala Youisafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot (fortunately not fatally) by the Taliban for exercising her right to an education. If nothing else, it lays to rest the lie that oppression of (and violence against) women is sanctioned by Islam.

The Qur'an is one of the only scriptures that directly addresses women as participants in the process of revelation. Women played pivotal, at times even controversial, political and scholarly roles in the early community. Their voices are clearly heard in hadith literature, often questioning or raised in dissent. The gunman has no place in this story. He spits in the face of the tradition he claims to uphold. Not only did he try and shoot a young girl to death, he did it to prevent every girl from claiming her Qur'anically mandated right formulate her own opinions and act on her conscience. It is so easy to despair in the face of such brutal ignorance and self-delusion. But if we wish to honor Malala, then we must act as she did. Malala understood that every human being, even a young girl, has a moral obligation to respond to injustice. In a CNN interview in 2011, she decried apathy by saying "God will ask you on the day of judgment, "Where were you? Where were you when your people were asking [for] you!"

The Fall of Man

Hilary and I have been watching with amazement the video footage of Felix Baumgartner, first man to break the sound barrier without a surrounding aeroplane (or car, of course). It's rather wonderful that there are crazy folk around prepared to jump out of high-altitude balloons, or walk on high wires between high buildings, or free-climb crazy rock faces, just (as a famous man once said) because they're there.

Here is the footage of Felix's amazing jump (the caption to the Youtube video for some reason reckons he didn't break the sound barrier, but it seems that in fact he did.

And how cool is it that he launched his helium balloon from Roswell?

Actually it's just occurred to me that this guy presumably very briefly broke the sound barrier without an aeroplane shortly before I was born. Perhaps I should describe Felix Baumgartner as "the first person to break the sound barrier without a surrounding aeroplane or car and without requiring seven months of hospital treatment", or simply as having put another 56.9 mph onto the man-with-a-parachute speed record. Anyway, let's have another round of applause for the late George F Smith.

I have stopped the post from ze singing. Zere is no charge.

I noticed that every time I opened up my blog the Vimeo link to This Land Is Mine a few posts back began playing. I figured this would probably irritate the hell out of visitors who had to hunt for the active window to shut it down, so I replaced the Vimeo link with a Youtube one. Result: blissful silence until you actually want to play it. Apologies to anyone whom I irritated.

Glad to be of service!

90 Not Out

A fun Sunday: lunch in the Scores Hotel in St Andrews (overlooking the "Chariots of Fire beach) to celebrate the 90th birthday of Hilary's aunt Dorothy Griffiths. Dorothy's late husband George was the minister who married us back in 1979, and it was great not only seeing Hilary's cousins and their spouses again but also meeting their cousins from Dorothy's side of the family. Hilary's mother has just come out of hospital after a back operation so wasn't well enough to make it in person, but she chatted to Dorothy on the phone after lunch.

Dorothy is an amazing woman, and we were joking that she should rebook the hotel for 2022 to celebrate her 100th. And you know, if anyone is going to make it to their centenary, it just might be Dorothy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This sucks. Let's try to fix it

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist. Not long after the September 11 attacks, Dr. Siddiqui left the United States for Pakistan in 2002. After the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, by the Inter-Services Intelligence, he has stated he gave names of innocent people under torture to "please his captors" and Siddiqui’s lawyers believe her name was one of these. After she was named by him, Siddiqui disappeared for five years. Siddiqui and her children's whereabouts and activities from March 2003 to July 2008 are a matter of dispute. She reappeared in Afghanistan under detention in 2008. Although authorities claimed she was found in possession of bomb-making instructions and materiel (including sodium cyanide) at the time of her arrest in Afghanistan, Dr. Siddiqui was not charged for any terrorist-related activities. Instead she was tried and convicted in U.S. federal court for assault with intent to murder her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan - charges that carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. Siddiqui was ultimately sentenced by a United States district court to 86 years in prison in a trial that critics have called "a grave miscarriage of justice".

The trial lasted for 2 weeks and the jury deliberated for 2 days before reaching a verdict. On February 3, 2010, she was convicted and found guilty on all counts. , despite the following discrepancies:

· The court proceedings were flawed, and limited to the incident in Ghazni, which itself lacked concrete evidence.

· It is still unexplained how a frail, 110 pound woman, confronted with three US army officers, two interpreters and two FBI agents managed to assault three of them, snatch a rifle from one of them, open fire at close range, hit no one, but she herself was wounded.

· There were no fingerprints on the gun.

· There was no gunshot residue from the gun.

· There were no bullet holes in the walls from that particular gun.

· There were no bullets cases or shells in the area from the specified gun.

· The testimony of the government’s six eyewitnesses contradicted each other.

· Aafia’s disappearance, torture and missing children were not at all addressed during the court case.

Please sign the petition for her release here


Every Christmas my wife gives me a New Yorker cartoon calendar (the kind where you tear ff a cartoon each day). I was looking online for yesterday's (a cartoon of "Modern Muses", including Iphonia, muse of apps, Intoxia, muse of flavoured martinis, and Aerobia, muse of fitness crazes). I didn't find it, but I found this instead (also from the New Yorker, by Alex Gregory).

I feel like that sometimes.

For all flesh is as grass

For various complicated reasons I've had this tune going round inside my head for a day or two, and listened to my good old vinyl recording (cond. Otto Klemperer) of the whole piece last night - first time for twenty-odd years. That one isn't online, but this one's pretty good.

I must confess to having a weakness for musical passages which sound as though they have a definite destination, they know where it is, and you'd better get out of the way or be flattened by a wall of sound. The end of Mahler's Second Symphony is like that, and so is the wonderful bit here from from 2:20 until the chorus re-enters with an even bigger wall of sound. Awesome.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bonni Benstock Intall confirms her support for Nazis and calls for their return in Germany

We've seen Bonni the New York Holocaust denier (from BareNakedIslam) ranting on about "vile Jews" while praising the Greek "Golden Dawn" party: the ones who give Hitler salutes, sell Hitler's books and Nazi memorabilia on their website, and who openly deny the existence of Nazi gas chambers.

So it really comes as no great surprise to see her calling for the resurgence of Nazism in Germany:

As in the UK, if you speak out against the growing Islamization in Germany, you are called a Nazi. Well, I’m afraid it just might take a few Nazis to get rid of the Muslim plague in Europe.

So there you are. Let's have no more pretense from trolls that these people are just freedom-loving Christians. Bonni Benstock Intall is indeed, openly and self-confessedl, a Nazi.

Help For Abused Men

Some time ago I signed up to a "Cause" on the web so as to receive email alerts. Actually I signed up to several, mostly around human rights and the death penalty. This one, though, was entitled "A Real Man Never Hits A Woman", which seemed fair enough as I already link via Facebook to a voluntary organisation working for abused men (run by one of our neighbours, in fact).

Well, ARMNHAW has now changed its name to Humanity Against Abuse, and published this excellent piece on the reason for the change.

Help for Abused Men


While the majority of domestic violence victims are women, abuse of men happens far more often than you'd probably expect. Typically, men are physically stronger than women but that doesn't necessarily make it easier to escape the violence or the relationship. An abused man faces a shortage of resources, skepticism from police, and major legal obstacles, especially when it comes to gaining custody of his children from an abusive spouse. No matter your age, occupation, or sexual orientation, though, you can overcome these challenges and escape the abuse.

Help for abused men: You're not alone

If you're a man in an abusive relationship, it's important to know that you're not alone. It happens to men from all cultures and all walks of life. Figures suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male. However, men are often reluctant to report spousal abuse because they feel embarrassed, or they fear they won't be believed, or worse, that police will assume that since they're male they are the perpetrator of the violence and not the victim.

An abusive wife or partner may hit, kick, bite, punch, spit, throw things, or destroy your possessions. To make up for any difference in strength, she may attack you while you're asleep or otherwise catch you by surprise. She may also use a weapon, such as a gun or knife, or strike you with an object, abuse or threaten your children, or harm your pets. Of course, domestic abuse is not limited to violence. Your spouse or partner may also:
  • Verbally abuse you, belittle you, or humiliate you in front of friends, colleagues, or family, or on social media sites. 
  • Be possessive, act jealous, or harass you with accusations of being unfaithful. Take away your car keys or medications; try to control where you go and who you see. 
  • Try to control how you spend money or deliberately default on joint financial obligations. 
  • Make false allegations about you to your friends, employer, or the police, or find other ways to manipulate and isolate you. 
  • Threaten to leave you and prevent you from seeing your kids if you report the abuse. 
Help for abused men: Why men don't leave

Many people have trouble understanding why a woman who is being abused by her husband or boyfriend doesn't simply just leave him. When the roles are reversed, and the man is the victim of the abuse, people are even more bemused. However, anyone who's been in an abusive relationship knows that it's never that simple. Ending a relationship, even an abusive one, is rarely easy.

You may feel that you have to stay in the relationship because:

  • You want to protect your children. You worry that if you leave your spouse will harm your children or prevent you from having access to them. Obtaining custody of children is always challenging for fathers, but even if you are confident that you can do so, you may still feel overwhelmed at the prospect of raising them alone. 
  • You feel ashamed. Many men feel great shame that they've been beaten down by a woman or failed in their role as protector and provider for the family. 
  • Your religious beliefs dictate that you stay or your self-worth is so low that you feel this relationship is all you deserve. 
  • There's a lack of resources. Many men have difficulty being believed by the authorities, or their abuse is minimized because they're male, and can find few resources to help abused men. 
  • You're in a same sex relationship but haven't come out to family or friends, and are afraid your partner will out you. 
  • Denial. Just as with female domestic violence victims, denying that there is a problem in your relationship will only prolong the abuse. You may believe that you can help your abuser or she may have promised to change. But change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for her behavior and seeks professional treatment.

From the Green River to the Mississippi

Mention of the Green River in John Prine's Paradise in the last post reminded me of this wonderful song from the Everly Brothers' under-rated and overlooked album Stories We Could Tell.

Oh all right then, here are a couple more great tracks from the album.

This actually is extraordinary. It's a cover by a tribute band (The Cleverly Brothers) but when I first heard it I was convinced it was ths orignal album track. I only convinced myself otherwise by playing the Youtube clip and my CD a few seconds at a time one after the other: the guitar fills are different, but precious little else. I used to think Bjorn Again (the Abba tribute act) were the most lifelike I'd heard, but I think these guys take the prize.

Words We Can Dance To

My God, have we really been without Steve Goodman for 28 years? I used to have Words We Can Dance To on vinyl, except I didn't know it was called that because the copy I bought was some kind of demo, with blank labels apart from a stencilled "Steve Goodman" on the (blank) sleeve. In the days before Google it took a little detective work to get the track names and album title, but I managed. I'd bought it because I found it in the shop (I'm ashamed to say I can't remember its name) where I bought most of my records as a student: well, it sold new and second-hand, and it was unavoidably on my route from college to the Chemistry Department, so what's a music-lover to do? I took it to the guy who ran the shop (a bit like John Cusack in High Fidelity) and asked him to put it on. He did so, and what I now realise was Side Two sprang to life, thusly.

I knew of Steve Goodman, inevitably I suppose, because of my older brother who had seen him at the Cambridge Folk Festival in (I think) 1973. Now they're both gone. I knew Goodman had written City of New Orleans, which I knew from the Arlo Guthrie hit. My brother had an earlier album of his, which featured this wonderful cover of a John Prine song I found myself singing today (it's been pissing down with rain in Edinburgh all day). A wonderful lyric which only Prine could have written, but sung brilliantly here by Goodman.

Whatever the virtues of Mr Peabody's Coal Train, this was the song that made me decide that I liked John Prine's songwriting.

Wouldn't it be great if after Nov 6th California's motto could proudly brag "Echasa!" (I lost it)

A lot of people on the extreme Right in the USA try to make out that the November election is the most important election ever.

Well, for Californians maybe it is, but not because of any consequences, real or fantasised, of electing Willard or Barack as President. It's significant because on 6th November, Californians have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 34 and thus to end state-sanctioned murder (aka the death penalty) for ever in that state.

If you've forgotten why this might be a good idea, read this post.

The More it Changes, The More It Stays The Same

It's fifty years since Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, whose effects were beginning to be felt as I grew up (in an area with quite a big Catholic population). Our school meals still always featured fish on Fridays when I was in my teens (more than ten years later), presumably in case there were pockets of pre-Vatican-II hard-liners about.

Of course, the most memorable - if not the most significant - legacy of the Second Vatican Council was this:

I love the idea that this is part of a larger project entitled "Seder-Masochism"

This is terrific. It wittily points out that half the people of the Old World have been fighting over Palestine/whatever for hundreds of times longer than Israel has been in existence, let alone Fatah, Hamas or whoever.

Who's-killing-who viewer's guide here.

Cycles of Being and Becoming

About a week ago I started to read this review of Looper, knowing it contained spoilers but not (at that point) knowing anything about the film beyond its poster. However, I stopped after four paragraphs plus a spoiler alert, because Aric's comments (and my trust in his judgement) made me decide to see it.

Tonight saw it, and I agree with Aric: it's a very good, very interesting and very thought-provoking film. Yup, Bruce Willis with an Uzi in each hand. Yup, lots of blood (though I didn't find the torture scene at all disturbing on a scale from one to Michael Madsen hacking off a cop's ear). And yay, one of my my and Hilary's favourite pop songs used in a (mild) sex scene. (Nice to know they still play Richard and Linda Thompson in 2044.)

Do see it for yourselves, even if you have already found out how it ends.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

OK, we're done with thanking heaven for them: now let's do something constructive for them instead

Thursday 11 October was (or still is, depending where you live) International Day of the Girl Child, and here is a good piece by Gordon Brown (our ex-PM) on just one of the problems facing girl children around the world: child marriage.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just another Caen trick?

I'm always rather ion two minds about genetically modified (GM) food. On the one hand I feel that all that the genetic tinkering simply produces a new recipe for a tomato or ear of corn or whatever, and there's no way to tell from the end product whether food is or isn't GM: so what's the problem? Either the resulting food is nutritious, good tasting, and all the rest of it, or it isn't: they should be judged in exactly the same way as non-GM foods. There are arguments in favour of some GM products as being easier to grow in areas where food shortages are an issue. On the other hand, it's hard to suppress the suspicion that the main benefits of GM food flow to the huge pharmaceutical companies who produce and license them.

Don't get me wrong: I'm far from being an organic-only tree-hugger. Indeed, given my lingering doubts over the hygiene of some organic production, I'm pretty selective in my organic purchasing, and certainly don't see why I should pay a price premium simply for the "organic" label. At the end of the day, I choose my food by how I think it's going to taste, and if the organic or GM product wins, it wins.

So I read this report with a little alarm (not too much, as the proportion of GM food on sale in Europe is tiny compared that in with the USA). I also read it with a degree of scepticism: such studies are invariably paid for and conducted by those already opposed to GM, as here. That doesn't mean they can't be valid, but it does mean that my bullshit detector fires up. (I also read it with a slight wistfulness, as I remember the print edition of "The Grocer" always lying about the house when I was growing up, as my father was a commercial traveller for the firmm that made Ovaltine.) Anyway, I read the full report as released to the press, and it seemed OK to my layman's eye.

Anyway, it seems that there are methodological failings in the study which I wouldn't have expected to spot. I suspect the whole thing will turn out to be a non-event, though perhaps we should be concerned. Not so much concerned about health risks from GM food (though one should never be complacent) as by what may turn out to be yet another attempt to falsify or misrepresent scientific research for commercial or political ends.

It's not Islamophobia when you wish you were a Muslim so you could assault women

Nobody ever accused Pat Robertson of perverting Christianity into a religion of love. Here he applauds the (supposed) condoning of wife-beating in Islam and suggests that a husband having what sound to be quite serious problems with his wife should convert to Islam and move to Saudi Arabia so he can beat her up legally.

What was that stuff about civilised men and savages again?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Well, well, well

Did you know that Barack Obama has recorded the lowest government spending of any president since Eisenhower (ie in my lifetime)?

Well you do now.

They're perverting Christianity into a religion of love!

Curse these pesky Jews and Christians with their "love thy neighbour" liberalism. Honestly, with people like these, where can a good honest hater go who wants to protect America's Judeo-Christian values from wicked Muslims? It's enough to make you want to start nailing people to trees.

Bonni the Nazi calls for the USA to provide air support for the Taliban's attacks on American civilians

Oh, and I can't pass by this one, where Bonni the Nazi calls for the U S Government to lend air support to the Taliban to attack (among others) US and British civilians. And why? Because some of them are feminists, for which of course only the death penalty will suit the woman-hating Bonni. I know "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and all that, but for someone who claims to be against Islam (though she spends much more time whining about Jews, women, liberals and gays) to call for the USA to switch sides in the Afghan war so as to join the Taliban in its fight against women's rights is taking it to a whole other level.

Vile right-wing cretins campaigning to sack (or murder) a man for telling the truth

OK - here's a post from Bonni the Holocaust denier at BareNakedIslam that begs a response on so many levels.

Point one, Councillor Aftab Hussain did not "support nine Muslim paedophiles". He gave a character witness for ONE of them (Abdul Qayyum) as this report makes very clear. But then we;re used to Bonni's lying about the stories she posts.

Point two, he has since said (see report linked above) that providing the reference was an error of judgement.

Point three, since when was providing a character reference for someone on trial "standing against" their alleged victim? I have personaally known someone very well who went on trial for manslaughter. I wasn't asked to provide a character statement for him but would have had no hesitation in doing so. Would that have been "standing against" his victim, whom I think I met once and couldn't claim to know at all? To say that someone's crime was out of character, not at all what one would have expected, is not to say that it wasn't committed, or that it doesn't deserve to be punished. It's exactly what it says on the tin: a character reference. If you are one of those weirdos who believe that a paedophile is just that, and only that - a label, not a person - then I think you're as much of a danger to society as any paedophile.

Councillor Hussain said "I provided the reference in good faith as I had known him for a number of years and as far as I was aware he was of good character. People are innocent until proven guilty and I had no reason not to provide the reference. However I would like to sincerely apologise for my serious error of judgement. The disgraceful behaviour of these men who have inflicted this abuse is despicable and I find it abhorrent. I now deeply regret that I became involved and I am as appalled by this case as everyone else. I welcome the verdict, I praise the courage of the young women and I fully support the work of all the agencies involved to tackle this abuse and swiftly bring offenders to justice."

Personally I don't see why he should regret in the least that he gave the reference. He said what he knew to be true: that the guy was a good man. If the skeletons emerging from Sir Jimmy Savile's closet demonstrate anything, it's that (seemingly) good men can do bad things. There must be thousands of people who have praised Savile over the years. Should they now all be beating their breasts and wailing that it was a dreadful error of judgement even though they had no idea that he was (as it appears) a child molestor? Of course not. You have to judge people by what you know of them.

Point Four - why is Bonni picking up on this story now when the trial was five minths ago? Is it to distract attention from this American Christian supporter of child abuse?

Point Five: Bonni has linked to Labour25.com, a British vigilante site which posts allegations of paedophilia against members of the British Labour Party. In this case, despite there being no suggestion of any kind that Councillor Hussain has ever indulged in or supported any kind of child abuse, they have kindly published his photograph, home address and telephone number. Because that's the kind of scum they are. So far Bonni has one commenter who calls for the councillor to be beaten to death.

As I typed the title of this post I was reminded of this exchange from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), starring Errol Flynn.

Robin of Locksley: Come now, Sir Guy, you wouldn't kill a man for speaking the truth, would you?

Guy of Gisborne: If it amused me, yes.

Locksley: Be thankful my humour's of a different sort.

These vigilante types should watch their backs: Britain doesn't like their kind, and never has. (Of course, most likely the people who run the vile Labour25 site are based somewhere well away from Britain, just like Bonni: somewhere where their smears and calls for murder will go unpunished. "Patriots" my arse.)

Monday, October 08, 2012

It would be lovely if this song had dated. But it hasn't.

I was astonished to realise when reading a magazine last week that Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing was released 25 years ago. I suppose that's what it means to be timeless: and Luka is certainly that.

Bang! You're ignored

Read this article on the innocent civilians being killed by U.S forces in Afghanistan, and how little anyone seems to care.

I tell you, if I were an Afghan I would be building IEDs as though there was n tomorrow (because there probably isn't). And cheering every time a truckload of the guys invading my country was reduced to vapour. Not a very Christian attitude, perhaps, but when it comes down to kill or be killed most of us wobble a bit in our Christian certainties. Anyway, if were an Afghan I'd be a Muslim, for whom killing in self-defence brings no moral conflict whatsoever.

It's a privilege to live in a country which hasn't been invaded by anyone since the fourteenth century (by the English). I may be wrong, but I think the last time anyone had a crack at invading what's now the USA it was Santa Anna (who may have kicked ass at the Alamo but had his own kicked by Sam Houston shortly thereafter).

Sunday, October 07, 2012

....and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tyler.

I think the story of Tyler Giuliano's death is the saddest thing I've read for many years. It's also extremely weird, because Tyler's behaviour was so utterly out of character.

It's very easy for British readers encountering a story like this to make disparaging noises about American gun culture, and this-is-what-happens-when-everyone-has-a-gun. While that's true, it's worth imagining what might have happened if a similar scenario had played out in Britain. Suppose a householder had gone out to confront a burglar and had armed himself with a baseball bat or similar blunt instrument. Burglar turns toward bat-wielding citizen and takes a massive whack to the head (because if someone is coming at you with a knife and you're scared, that's what you'll do). The most probable result is the same as for Tyler Giuliano, with the likelihood of massive but non-fatal brain damage rather higher than with a gun. So not much of an improvement. Don't get me wrong, I don't like handguns and I don't like vigilantes, but I can't find it in my heart to criticize Jeffrey Giuliano over this. All I can feel is a desperate sadness and deep confusion as to just what was going on.

As my daughter said when I told her the story (she looked as though she was about to throw up herself), it's just like Rigoletto. (I know what she means, though in the opera only the victim is not morally compromised: it's a pretty nasty opera.)

Meadows Chamber Orchestra (with Hannah Foster, flute)

To the Canongate Kirk tonight to see the Meadows Chamber Orchestra, a local amateur (well, semi-professional would be closer) bunch with whom my wife plays second clarinet. MCO and their Music Director Peter Evans commission a lot of new music from Scottish composers, and this season have a project on where they are doing four concerts, each of which contains two first performances.

Tonight's concert opened with one of the new works, Kernel by Tom David Wilson. I'm sure it's a very clever piece but I didn't warm to it. It had some big noisy climaxes, and Hilary tells me there's a bit in the middle where she had to play the same passage eleven times, shifting up a semitone each time. But I couldn't form a coherent view of it, so null points here I'm afraid.

Next up was the other premiere, Harbour Dreams by Oliver Searle. My wife had switched to her bass clarinet for this, and while she didn't much enjoy playing it I must say I did rather like it. I mean, I didn't rush home and start Googling to see what other Searle masterworks I could purchase, but it seemed comprehensible. It was supposedly inspired by recollections of childhood visits to the harbour at North Berwick, and in its rather odd harmonies (mostly delivered by the wind) one could hear faint echoes of Debussy seascapes, and much stronger ones of early Britten (who after all grew up looking out at the same sea, just a couple of hundred miles further south). Maybe if I'd found a conceptual peg on which to hang Kernel I would have got on better with it. Anyway, I rather liked Harbour Dreams.

Next came the Mozart D major Flute Concerto, the one which was basically a recycling of his oboe concerto (the latter was lost until fairly recently). Peter Evans and the orchestra accompanied beautifully, but were put into the shade by the brilliance of the soloist. Hannah Foster is a student at St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh, and depending on when her birthday falls she is either 15 or 16. Which makes her astonishingly assured and mature playing all the more remarkable. Apparently she played the Nielsen concerto in a competition earlier this year, so she's clearly not particularly limited in her repertoire. (Or as Hilary put it, you feel she could play anything at all really.) I could happily have listed to her for hours, and will keep an eye out for any recital or chamber appearances she makes. A star, I think it safe to suggest, has been born.

In the second half we had Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Not my favourite, but I do enjoy it, especially when (as here) the tempi are kept fairly brisk. The slow movement, after all, is marked Allegretto so there's no excuse for the funeral tempi that were once common. Its tune, based at first around a single note, is sometimes described as the first piece of minimalist music. Certainly it inspired Schubert when he came to write a set of variations on his song "Death and the Maiden" to go into his D minor string quartet.

So an enjoyable concert all round, and a fabby concerto performance. Not a bad way to pass an evening.

Of coffee and commuters

I was in Starbucks yesterday, buying my usual grande skinny latte, when it occurred to me that what I was about to drink precisely fulfilled Tony Hancock's specification in The Rebel, when he goes into one of the new-fangled espresso bars and asks for a white coffee. Offered a cappucino he says OK, but he wants one with no froth. "A cappucino with no froth?" says the waitress, "But we've just spent hundreds of quid on froth-making equipment." Anyway, as I drank my cappucino-without-froth, I thought of the film's wonderful opening sequence, filmed at the now-closed Bingham Road Halt. When I first moved to London I was amazed that the trains arrived (almost always) punctually to within the minute. my previous experience of trains (around Manchester, or in Yorkshire or North-East England) had done nothing to prepare me for timetables which were actually followed. Anyway, that rendered the Hancock gag comprehensible, and I often thought of it when I was alone on a platform opposite a crowd going the other way.

"A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people" (Definition of "Oats" in in Samuel Johnson's "Dictionary of the English Language")

Let's hear it for porridge!

Being a lazy type I generally make mine using rolled oats rather than oatmeal, but I've loved the stuff since I was a kid. Since growing up I've stopped sweetening it (it wasn't because I moved to Scotland - I stopped some years earlier) but sometimes I mix fruit into it (a banana, a pear , a nectarine, or some apricots). I've never tried the savoury variants referred to in the report though (curry powder? seafood? sausages?) Could be interesting: maybe there's a place for the Scottish cooked breakfast ingredients of black pudding or haggis in the porridge bowl. (After all, haggis already contains oatmeal.) If I try it I'll report back.

(UPDATE: I tried it, and you know, porridge (made with just rolled oats, salt and water) with black pudding crumbled into it and some ketchup added tastes pretty damned good. I shall be having it again.)

I suppose there is a precedent for the Porridge-Plus breakfast. The St Kildans (inhabitants of a remote island off the West of Scotland who subsisted mainly on seabirds) used to eat porridge with a puffin cooked in it.

This article lists several variant ways of making it, and the comments list many more.

And this Wednesday, like every 10th October, will be World Porridge Day. Yay!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

If Obama is serious about addressing this problem that seems a damned good reason to re-elect him

I thought this piece on child sex trafficking in the USA was thought-provoking and rather horrifying.

Unfortunately, most child welfare systems have failed to properly identify and assist trafficked and exploited children. The protections, services, and protocols established for abused and neglected children within the child welfare system are rarely extended to trafficked girls. Instead, the girls are relegated to the juvenile justice system, criminalized for being raped and trafficked. This must be the only time in which it is the abused child is the one who is incarcerated for the abuse perpetrated against her.

But that’s the problem—these girls are not considered victims. So while in the United States, we have the very same child sex slave markets as in Cambodia, the Philippines, and India, the girls from here, the girls from Southeast DC or South Central LA, are seen as the “ho,” the bad girl, the teen hooker.


Another good response to the Geller / Spencer hate ads

And you can't even vote them out, because they were never voted in

A good piece here from The Christian Left, identifying the twenty most influential right-wing extremists in America today. Or as we would call them, the Christian Taliban.

As It is In Heaven

I've just been watching As It Is In Heaven (Så som i himmelen) on DVD. It's a strange and rather lovely film whose main theme is all about the transformative power of music. Some of the characters are a bit stereotypical but it's still very moving. It was nominated for best Foreign Language Film in the 2005 Academy Awards (losing out to Les Choristes, ironically enough). It contains a couple of wonderful songs.

First of all here is Gabriella's Song, being sung in the film by Helen Sjöholm.

The version on Youtube with English subtitles has poor synchronisation, so here's a translation of the words:

It is now that my life is mine
I’ve got this short time on earth
And my longing has brought me here
All I lacked and all I gained

And yet it’s the way that I chose
My trust was far beyond words
That has shown me a little bit
Of the heaven I’ve never found

I want to feel I’m alive
All my living days
I will live as I desire
I want to feel I’m alive
Knowing I was good enough

I have never lost who I was
I have only left it sleeping
Maybe I never had a choice
Just the will to stay alive

All I want is to be happy being who I am
To be strong and to be free
To see day arise from night
I am here and my life is only mine
And the heaven I thought was there
I’ll discover it there somewhere

I want to feel that I’ve lived my life

And here is Lena's Song, which is played on a tape in the film and is sung (in English) by a different person from the one who plays Lena. I think this is the version used in the film, but if not it's an exceptionally good cover.

I was surfing about finding various cover versions of these songs, and spotted one of Gabriella's Song in the Youtube menu performed by the "Oslo fagottkor". Now there are various versions out there for brass ensemble (and very good they are), so I clicked on it expecting a bassoon ensemble. Ooooh, no: quite the wrong kind of faggot, dear. This is a Norwegian gay choir, and they do a terrific version of it. Have a listen.