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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How could I forget?

Another classic charity music video, this time from two girl bands:

OK, this time the cover isn't as good as the original. It's still a neat idea though.

OK, a few actual music videos for the heck of it. Here are Girls Aloud. Well, why not? Damned good cover version with an awesome bass line:

And here's another girl band. On this occasion the sisters are doing it, not for themselves, but for charity.

And while Children In Need's inevitable lets-get-the-newreaders-or-weathergirls-to-do-a-dance spot is sometimes only of curiosity value, Fiona Bruce does a damned good job on All That Jazz:

Colour me gobsmacked

A friend of mine just linked to this in Facebook. For all Countdown fans (and sometime competitors such as Clare Sudbery), watch and weep:

I'd just about got to 953 myself.....

.....and Lady Mondegreen

Regular readers will know that I'm pretty fussy about my Mondegreens. In particular, I get very annoyed by the supposedly "misheard" lyrics that pepper most of the sites on the web and which are nothing of the kind, and couldn't by any suspension disbelief be anything other than someone's lame attempt at a pun which they are trying to pass off as a Mondegreen. Sometimes deliberate ones work OK, but they do have to be clever.

This video, it seems to me, is a mix of plausible mishearings and clever inventions, with very few lame ducks. I think my favourites (excluding ones I'd heard before like "Me Ears Are Alight") are the ones by Nirvana, Billy Ocean, Kula Shaker, Eiffel 65 and Michael Jackson.

Have fun.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A better way of commemorating the anniversary than hiring Jon Bon Jovi


I feel old. My children aren't old enough to remember the wall's coming down: I remember its going up (just).

....and an unpalatable Brit

From The Guardian

If only there were some kind of an international spokesperson whose job it was to make representations to the Israelis about this kind of thing. Such a person might be called, I don't know, perhaps a "Peace Envoy". If only we had someone like that. Of course, if such a person existed they would have been heavily involved during Operation Cast Lead (aka Israel's 'second Holocaust' in Gaza).

This man, of course, having been in Israel during all the planning and the genocidal sabre-rattling, took the opportunity to spend some time at home with his money. And where is he now? In London of course, awaiting the glory (and more money of course that he expects as his due for being willing to take time out from his £6,000 per minute public speaking schedule to pretend to be interested in the EU.

There are few things that make me ashamed to be British: Tony Blair is definitely one of them.

An unpalatable truth

A very thought-provoking piece from al-Jazeera on the US reaction to the Goldstone Report.

Monday, November 23, 2009

For my family....

....all of whom use Facebook. My son uses Bebo, I use LiveJournal (though not for some time just lately). I have a blog (admit it, you'd spotted that) and I have a feeling one of the kids has a Myspace page. My wife and daughter have iPhones and I will be following them as soon as I get round to it (I've been getting used to the interface by using my wife's sometimes).

So yeah, this is for us.

At least none of us tweets......

I'm all for encouraging organ donation

No, seriously.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Video fun - Tell Me

In Korea there appears to be a girl band, a kind of fivefold Britney Spears, called Wonder Girl. They have a cult following among teen and pre-teen Korean girls, and a moderately catchy hit enitled Tell Me. Here it is:

Well, that may have been fun, but it was the preparation for this next one. After all, if you didn't know Tell Me you wouldn't appreciate the wackiness of this cover version on the traditional Korean Kayagum.

Definitely the oddest cover version I've heard of anything for a while.

Thanks to The Metropolitician for that. (And he has some interesting things to say on Korea's fixation with schoolgirls in advertising and the like.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

It started with a library catalogue

Thirty-two years ago this evening I had my first date with Hilary, the woman who was to become my wife. We'd known each other at university, but had both been going out with other people then. Now I was in London, working for the Inland Revenue and not long moved into an unprepossessing one-bedroom flat in Highbury, right across the road from the London Borough of Islngton's Central Library.

Ah, the library. As soon as I moved to the flat I got a ticket and started taking stuff out. (I already had a ticket for Camden where I worked.) One day I decided to see what SF by Roger Zelazny they might have, so I went to look at the catalogue. It's hard to imagine now, but in 1977 Islington's catalogue was on file cards. (Mind you, even high-tech Camden only had microfilm.) The file cards were in little labelled drawers: except when they weren't, apparently. I was totally unable to find the cards, not only for Roger Zelazny but for any author whose name began with Z. Flummoxed, I did the obvious thing and asked the librarian, who told me that the Z index was kept behind the librarian's counter. For the life of me I can't remember why, because I was more interested in the fact that I recognised the attractive young lady who was that librarian.

Whoa, stop, you're getting ahead of me. The librarian was Alison Campbell, though by then she'd got married and was Alison Melville. I'd known Alison at Durham as one of Hilary's college pals (I didn't know very many of her friends, as I'd got to know her via her boyfriend at the time). We got chatting, and as we chatted I remembered that Hilary had said she was going to be working in London for Barclays Bank. I thought it would be nice to get in touch, and asked if Alison had her phone number. She did, and neither Alison nor Roger Zelazny will take any further part in our story.

Skip forward via a string of phone messages left with Hilary's fellow-lodgers (I gather they went along the lines of Rob Saunders rang / Rob Saunders rang again / who is this Rob Saunders guy anyway?) to fair Verona, where we lay our tale. No, just kidding: to Holborn Viaduct railway station, easy to find and roughly halfway between our places of work (Hilary at Newgate Street, me in Holborn). We met, and found each other little changed by the passage of, um, about four and a half months. We went for an early dinner at the Tavola Calda in Kingsway. As I realised later, the Tavola Calda was one of a chain of Italian restaurants. What I knew then was that it was an inexpensive place with great food which you collected on a tray from a serving counter. Obviously this kept staff costs low as they were all either behind the counter, in the kitchen or clearing tables. Rather like a Starbucks but serving meatballs and Chianti and tiramisu. Meatballs and spaghetti consumed (actually I can't remember what we ate, but in honour of Lady and the Tramp - released the year I was born - let's think of it as spaghetti and meat-a-balls) we repaired to my flat (four stops up the Piccadilly Line). I must have seen Yes at Wembley Arena fairly recently, because I'd just bought Going For The One which they were touring at the time. I'd also bought Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record: not one of his greatest achievements overall, but with an earth-shaking (even on my unassuming stereo) church organ solo on Judas Iscariot. I remember playing that to Hilary, who described it as a "splendid noise". So we sat, and we listened, and we drank coffee I suppose, and a modicum of snogging occurred. Then I saw her back to the tube station, and that was that.

I suppose it was the next day that it hit me that I'd actually let my hands wander rather more liberally than I would normally have done on a first date, which embarrassed me quite a lot. Not that Hilary had complained or anything, but I began to worry that I really had not made the kind of impression I'd intended. So I wrote (ah, the days before texts, before email....) an apologetic letter thanking her for a lovely evening and hoping I hadn't spoiled it irredeemably by getting carried away. Hilary, on receiving a letter from me, was convinced that I was writing to say "Thanks, but let's not take this any further". Which I suppose neatly encapsulates our respective insecurities at the time. Of course she did forgive me, we did take it further, and voila! we were an item. Thirty-two years on, we still are.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jimmy Webb and the Webb Brothers - Queens Hall, Edinburgh, Friday 6 November

To the Queens Hall to see the composer of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, Galveston and Macarthur Park (not to mention Up Up and Away). Support was from Martin Carr, best described as "Mostly Harmless". Webb himself sat at his piano in front of a seven-piece band, four of whom were his sons. For a recovered alcoholic who was a worldwide success when I was barely a teenager, he looks pretty good, and sounds better. In a set just short of two hours long, he did almost all the hits I listed: well OK, not Up Up and Away (though he did The Worst That Could Happen, another of the songs he wrote for the Fifth Dimension) and more surprisingly not Didn't We. (I'd forgotten he wrote that - for Richard Harris - until I was drafting this review.) He also did plenty of (to me though evidently not to much of the audience) less well-known songs: P.F. Sloan, Highwayman, All I Know , Christian No (not a song about religion, but one written for his son Christian), and If These Old Walls Could Speak (one of the best songs of the night). He had a polite but firm way of dealing with attention-seeking barrackers (there's always one.....). His introductions and anecdotes were delightful, and there was a sense of wonder at hearing him sing the classic songs, even if he's no Glen Campbell (though he sings better than Richard Harris). Incidentally, Glen's son Cal is the drummer with Webb's band. Their new album "Cottonwood Farm" was represented by Hollow Victory and Bad Things Happen to Good People (showing incidentally that his sons' songwriting is pretty good too). Then all too soon he was signing off with MacArthur Park, returning to do an encore of Adios (surely the best farewell song since Robert Burns). It was both a thrill and a privilege to see one of the great songwriters of our time, especially when he turned out to be such a good performer.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Unser Kampf

Today of course is the proper 9/11 (if you're a non-American). It's still a day worth commemorating though: International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism.

So here's an uplifting and appropriate link to the Anne Frank Trust.

And here's Itzhak Perlman playing John Williams' theme from Schindler's List. (We did this in our concert last Saturday, with the orchestra leader Lawrence Dunn doing a very fine job on the solo part.)

You can tell that Schindler's List is a good film. If you trawl through the Youtube clips you can find extreme anti-Zionists complaining that the film is Likud propaganda and an incitement to the genocide of the indigenous Palestinians. Then again, the equally loathsome and immoderate Benjamin Kerstein (the scientific illiterate with the pudenda fixation) described the film as antisemitic ("in that case Jews were quite comfortably victimized, and so we could spend our time pondering the possible humanity of a mass-murdering Nazi officer"). If the Likudniks think it's antisemitic and the antisemites think it's Likud propaganda, it's likely to be on target for an audience of normal folk.

Actually what this is is a homily against taking part in raffles or lotteries....

I was emailed this by a friend:

The current banking crisis explained

Young Paddy bought a donkey from a farmer for £100.

The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

The next day he drove up and said, 'Sorry son, but I have some bad news.

The donkey's died.'

Paddy replied, 'Well then just give me my money back.'

The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I've already spent it.'

Paddy said, 'OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey.'

The farmer asked, 'What are you going to do with him?'

Paddy said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.'

The farmer said, 'You can't raffle a dead donkey!'

Paddy said, 'Sure I can. Watch me.. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'

A month later, the farmer met up with Paddy and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?'

Paddy said, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two pounds a piece and made a profit of £898'

The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?'

Paddy said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two pounds back.'

I had no idea....

...that Gibraltar was such a hotbed of racial discrimination, despite (or perhaps because of) its highly heterogeneous society. My trade union is currently campaigning for the rights of Moroccan workers in Gibraltar, which is how the Guardian article came to my attention. (And yes, I know whoever does Unite's web pages can't spell Gurkhas....)

Someone suggested that we could get real poppies from the Taliban

On Saturday night Hilary and I played in a concert given by Edinburgh Light Orchestra. When the dress instructions were being given out, it was suggested that we should all wear poppies as it was during the run-up to Remembrance Day. This led to a certain amount of debate within the orchestra among those (including Hilary and myself) who don't wear poppies on the grounds that they are commemorating only military dead, only British military dead, and only a subset of British military dead at that (the Gurkhas, for example, never see a penny of the money raised). I didn't organise myself properly this year: usually I wear a white poppy from the Quaker Peace Pledge Union, which commemorates all those who have doed in wars, whether combatants or civilians (and obviously includes those from all sides in the conflicts). However, even if I had been sporting a white poppy I wouldn't have worn it to the concert: wearing no poppy makes the point without attracting undue attention.

So you won't be surprised that I liked this article by Marina Hyde from Thursday's Guardian. Though to avoid misunderstanding I should perhaps point out that absolutely no pressure was applied to either Hilary or myself, or any other non-wearers, over Saturday's concert, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Fired with enthusiasm

Hands up if you remember Tony Hancock's "Test Pilot" sketch. (I think its formal title is "The Secret Life of Anthony Aloysius Hancock".) It used to be a radio favourite when I was small: Hancock is testing some new jet when he hears a knocking sound. He slows down and opens the hatch to investigate, whereupon he encounters Kenneth Williams, a member of ground crew who was maintaining the aircraft when "Whoosh!". Williams climbs in, complains about all the knobs and levers sticking in him, and asks "Ooh, what's this one?", followed by "Don't touch it!" and BANG! in short order. "Oooooh, it's the ejector seat! Where are you?" "I'm out here, sitting on the tail!"

Anyway, I was unavoidably reminded of it by this news story. I especially like the final paragraph.

Actually the guy was very lucky that he was only in a low-speed Pilatus, not something more gutsy. I mean, one can buy trips as a passenger in a MiG-25, or so I believe. That can hit Mach 3 (Gillette were offering flights a few years back as competition prizes linked to their Mach 3 razors). The first guy ever to make a just-barely-supersonic ejection in the early 1950s (from a Super Sabre whose stuck elevators had just pushed him down beyond vertical) received injuries officially described as "awesome". And that was just from the ejection process.

Perhaps this old chestnut from the 1960s is still apt, especially if read in an Afrikaans accent:

Alles touristen und non-technischen looken peepers! Das machinkontrol is nicht for gefengerpoken und mittengrabben. Oderwise is easy schnappen der springenverk, blowenfus, undpoppencorken mit spitzensparken. Der machine is diggen by experten only. Is nicht fur geverken by das dumpkopfen. Das rubber necken sightseenen keepen das cotton-picken hands in das pockets. So relaxen, und vatchen das blinkenlights.