Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

All You Need Is Satellites

And having just been watching In Orbit, the BBC's celebration of satellites and their impact on our lives, I couldn't help remembering Our World, the worldwide television collaboration which took place in June 1967, when for the first time there were enough communications satellites up there to allow global live television. Yes, children, before 1967 if you wanted news footage from the other side of the world (say because the US President had been shot) the film footage had to be flown to the UK, In an aeroplane. Anyway, broadcasters from around the world contributed segments to this programme, which was pretty jaw-dropping stuff for 1967. The BBC got it right for once, and as a result the British segment is why everyone remembers the programme. I mean, what could be more watchable than the Beatles making a recording, live on air?

And yes, the original version was in black & white: the footage was colourised much later for a TV special. I could have linked the original video from Youtube, but it starts some way in and the sound is abysmal.

The Kids are Alright

Having come up with "Cover My World" for the title of the last post, I was reminded of Petula Clark's hit from the 1960s which inspired the pun. Looking for a clip to post, I found this oddity, where a miniskirted Petula is accompanied by a youth band of some kind.

As one of the Youtube commenters says,

Wouldn't it be great if entertainers of today would approach the kids studying music at school and ask them put on a concert with the entertainer singing, what a buzz it'd be to hyave that opportunity, it would inspire so much confidence to acheive more.

And one of the other commenters simply says

My dad is one of the little kids in this video!

And I bet it was a high point of his Dad's life.

P.S. The Youtube sidebar for this clip took me to yet another odd cover version. This time Petula Clark is doing Paul Stookey's The Wedding Song. Now there is a song that one imagines has had a lot of dodgy covers (it's supposedly still one of the most popular pieces of wedding music in the USA). However, Petula Clark doesn't do dodgy, so this one is fine.

Cover My World

Long-term followers of this blog will know that I am a sucker for unlikely cover versions, whether that be a Malagasy cover of an Okinawan hit or a recording of the 44 violin duos by Bela Bartok played on two nyckelharpas.

So when I was looking at Youtube clips of tracks from
The Power and the Glory, fifth album by 1970s prog rockers Gentle Giant, I was first taken aback and then fascinated by the cover versiion of Aspirations I spotted in the sidebar, performed by Esther Ofarim. Yes, that Esther Ofarim. Here it is.

Of course it isn't as good as the original: but then Gentle Giant, like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, did not write the kind of music that lends itself to cover versions. (Though there's this marvel, I admit...) Plus the clip seems to cut off before the end. Anyway, I'm impressed.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Sun: all the news that's fit to fake

What would we do without The Sun, flagship of the Murdoch press? We'd be deprived of stories like this one.

And why would we be deprived of them? Well, because the whole "Brussels loophole" business was exposed as a lie by the by-no-means-pro-Europe Daily Mail back in January. Here are more details from the not-very-Europhile Daily Telegraph.

Knowing that the Sun is happy to print actual fake stories in pursuit of its political objectives, it will be interesting to see how it follows up on this story.

A spokesman for the national chain of 99p Stores said that they had no such age policy in place regarding pencil sharpeners, but defended the actions of the cashier in question. He said: 'Pencil sharpeners are not an age restricted product and if we have refused a sale on this occasion we would rather that our staff are over cautious rather than under cautious.'

OK, we can all have a good laugh, but I bet it will keep being cited by the Sun (and probably the Mail as well) as "evidence" not of a shop assistant's idiocy but of a "safety culture".

The dog it was that died

Just to show that I sometimes peer into other anti-Muslim hate sites apart from BarenakedIslam (and that of Bonni's fellow-traveller Uncle Jimmy), here is a report (admittedly one enthusiastically linked at BNI) from another such, on a spate of dog poisonings in Bradford. Note the highly revealing passage below:

We don't know this was Muslims. But West Yorkshire is one of the most heavily Muslim-colonised parts of Britain. That's where Bradford is, for example. Also the fact that pork was used each time is very curious. Muslims are not prohibited from handling pork, only eating it. And "pork-eaters" is one of their favourite insults for infidels. In these incidents, the pork element could provide both an extra sadistic twist and a kind of justification; as the Muslim would see it, the dog would have died because it made the immoral choice of eating pork and therefore was the author of its own demise.

Ah, right. We have no evidence of any Muslim connection, so we invent one. We and our chums daub pork products over mosques because we imagine it repels Muslims like garlic for vampires, but when it suits us we suddenly remember that these "colonisers" are allowed to touch it. And then we twist logic so that now "the pork element" is a sign of Muslim perpetration? DUH!

How about: a bunch of West Yorkshire racists left poisoned pork around in the hope that a Muslim child might touch it and be poisoned or at the very least rendered ritually unclean? And the meat was accidentally eaten by local dogs? Seems no more far-fetched than the hate-filled loon's suggestion.

I wonder if s/he had anything to do with this?

Meanwhile, a few inconvenient facts.

You Cannot be Serious

I realise their trial is still in progress, but surely these two clowns should be shortlisted for some kind of "Least Convincing Excuse of 2012" award?

Caught on CCTV at the head of a mob on its way from an EDL meeting in a pub to vandalise a mosque, Mr Earl said he didn't know there was a mosque in Kingston. I wonder if such ignorance is widespread among Kingston's EDL members. And I wonder how he could have missed it:

Blair, BlairSupporter, and Lewis Carroll

Mahdi Hasan in the New Statesman on Blair's ignorant hunger for war with Iran.

And here is his brilliant putdown of dense Blairite John Rentoul on the same subject.

Meanwhile, over at lets-pretend-tony-blair-is-still-eligible-to-be-prime-minister, BlairSupporter (aka Uncle Jimmy) - who is one of Rentoul's few fans - is refighting lost battles. And not even his own, but Stan Rosenthal's.

After all, what is the point of having enquiries and tribunals if they don't return the verdict you want? If Paxman wasn't fired from the BBC for his supposed offences, then it is the clear duty of all good little Blairites to besmirch his reputation with all those misdeeds of he was cleared. And if he was cleared then as WE ALL KNOW he is the embodiment of wicked failure to bend the knee to the Sainted Blair, it follows as the night the day that the BBC's investigation must have been corrupt.

Actually, it may be that I've just failed to notice, but I haven't seen Stan himself playing the bad loser over this. I disagree with almost everything I've ever read from Stan (he's turned up here from time to time), but I see him as someone to put defeat behind him and march on to the next fight, all his attention directed ahead. I dare say he's out there demanding war against Iran, but I doubt whether the Paxman affair troubles him much these days. As a read of the BBC Trust's report makes clear, Stan made several attempts at the time to win his argument. He lost every one, and, running out of available appeals, stopped. Stan, unlike Jimmy, seems to have taken W C Fields' advice to heart: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then stop. No use making a damn fool of yourself." Advice that comes too late for Uncle Jimmy even if he were to pay it any attention.

As a lifelong Lewis Carroll fan I was until today too busy wincing at Jimmy's clumsy Blu-tacking of quotations from the Alice books onto his anti-Paxman diatribe to spot that (like so many Americans with a patchy knowledge of things British) he mixes up the Alice books and imagines that Through The Looking Glass is set in Wonderland. (But..but...Walt Disney said so!...what right do these uppity Brits with their scones and their Cambridge common rooms have to nitpick?)

In any case, surely The Barrister's Dream from The Hunting of the Snark would provide Jimmy with a far better fit (ha! see what I did there?) The problem of course is that Jimmy is unlikely ever to have heard of that work, which Walt Disney disobligingly neglected to turn into a cartoon.

He might also appreciate this map from the same work, which not only shows clearly the locations of all Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but those of Iran too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ribbet. Ribbet. Splat.

One for the Forteans and X-Files nuts out there. A series of events....

My wife and I are re-watching
The West Wing on DVD, and a few weeks ago we watched an episode (I forget which) in which Aimee Mann makes an appearance performing one of her songs.

So when picking out CDs for the car a few days later I selected her
Bachelor No 2 or The Last Remains of the Dodo.

While it was my current car CD, but before reaching any of the relevant tracks, something brought to mind the story of the scuba diver found in a tree, and I remembered that I'd seen a film which opened with that story and featured a rain of frogs at its climax. A little Googling showed this to be Magnolia, whose soundtrack features Aimee Mann among others: notably Save Me from the album in my car.

I was discussing this with my daughter in the car, and we were discussing Tom Cruise's role as the guy running "Seduce and Destroy" workshops for men ("Respect the cock. Tame the cunt."

Then this morning, when she gave my wife the Mothers' day card I picture in an earlier post, I stared at her and said I was silently judging her. I couldn't remember what that was a quote from, and she had no idea. But you know, don't you dear reader? It's from Frank T.J. Mackey, Tom Cruise's character in Magnolia.

What males all these coincidences weirder is that Magnolia is a film about, among other things, unlikely coincidences.

Don't worry, I'm not about to get all Fox Mulderish on you. I am well aware of the capacity of the human subconscious to haul stuff into view without tipping us off as to why, and these coincidences can all be ascribed to the monsters from my Id kicking off when I saw Aimee Mann on TV. None of which makes it any less subjectively weird.

Here is the video for that Aimee Mann song, which was filmed on the set of Magnolia. Apparently Paul Anderson got the actors to remain in place at the end of their scenes and she came on and filmed the segments.

My daughter and I were also reminiscing about the "rain of frogs" scene, especially the shot where the camera travels down with a falling frog. I suppose technically this is a spoiler, but I don't think it feels like one.

We don't know what kind of Mothers' Day cards Jesus gave Mary: but if they included this one he was in real trouble

I know you Americans celebrate it at a different time, but here in the UK yesterday (Sunday) was Mothers' Day (or Mothering Sunday as we quaintly refer to it).

My darling daughter gave her mother this card.

I have diarised an appointment with my solicitor to make a small but significant change to my will.....

Meanwhile, here's some music.

Of course, the best Mothers' Day song is this one:

What goes around, comes around

A propos the recent massacre of sleeping families in Afghanistan by the US soldier (and hands up anyone who expects him to get any punishment for those murders), this article connects it to a much earlier massacre about which I knew nothing at all - and I bet neither did you. (Well, unless you're a Mark Twain nerd.)

Nooo, of course it's not because he's black

Perhaps this story should surprise me: but having spent too much time hanging around white supremacist sites like bare Naked Islam, it no longer does.

The Past Is A Foreign Country: and the USSR is both

Mention of Azerbaijan in that Andrew Neil polemic reminded me of where I first heard of the place: in a book entitled Travels of a Capitalist Lackey by Fred Basnett, which my brother picked up in a second-hand bin somewhere and which I read with amazement as a teenager.

When I Googled it I came upon the obituary of Fred Basnett in the Guardian's "Other Lives" section (for the less-celebrated dead). It makes him sound thoroughly delightful: but then TOACL had already given me that impression.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

BBC2 - 14 March 2012 - Andrew Neil - "Rights Gone Wrong"

Anyone who imagines (as Uncle Jimmy clearly does, for example) that the BBC has some hidden (or not) agenda of leftist activism can rest easy in her/his bed. Last Wednesday we saw a polemic by Andrew Neil against the European Court of Human Rights, the Human Rights Act, and the very idea that courts might exercise any kind of jurisdiction over the legality or illegality of a government's actions. In short, the most craven Blairism you could hope for (if the idea of Blairism doesn't make you puke).

Throughout the programme Neil assumed that "the British public" automatically shared his opinions, and those of the Murdoch press in general, without question. He began with by covering a few cherry-picked cases where he seemed to believe that victims should make the law of Britain. For example, the case of of a failed asylum-seeker who ran over a schoolgirl. He was jailed for it as he should have been, but apparently the problem is that on his release the ECHR ruled that deporting him and thus breaking up his family would be illegal. Ooh, wicked judges, implementing the law. Surely the problem, if there is one, is that this POS was given far too lenient a sentence in the first place. He deserves prison, not deportation: harder on him, less so on his family.

The we had an interview with Blair's disgraced (and disgraceful) ex-Home Secretary John Reid, the torturers' friend, whining that the Human Rights Act prevents UK governments from detaining suspects indefinitely without trial the way they do in third world dictatorships, or the USA. Bless. Inevitably, the case of Abu Qatada is brought up, and it is assumed that "the public" believe that we should be able to deport him on the basis of evidence obtained by torture. Just think, if Reid's pals had tortured the informant a bit longer he would have told them that Abu Qatada was the gunman on the Grassy Knoll, as well as telling them where Brady and Hindley buried Keith Bennett. Reid told us that if some totally figmental "atrocity" resulted from ECHR rulings, "the people" would demand to pull out of it. Which he would know, having paid so much attention to "the people" when he was Blair's hitman in Parliament.

Neil went on to describe Strasbourg as the "heart of darkness" before launching into a brief anti-Europe tirade. then we had a brief history of the ECHR, from its foundation by Churchill. Prof. Helen Fenwick of Durham University explained how it was set up, and pointed out that while it hasn't been called on to deal with the kinds of gross human rights violations it was meant for, it has dealt with a lot of minor but significant things. Corporal punishment on schools, government phone-tapping, union closed shops, all banned. The right of gays to serve in the armed forces upheld. Also Neil's own case when the Sunday Times serialised
Spy Catcher by Peter Wright and the Thatcher government tried to jail him: case won in Strasbourg.

So the ECHR would seem to be a good thing. What's the problem?

Neil helpfully pointed out it's nothing to do with EU, European Parliament etc. It's part of the (bigger) Council of Europe. ("more unwieldy than the EU, and less fussy about who it lets through the front door", whatever that's supposed to mean). There are 47 signatories to the ECHR, and each one sends a judge to the court. the problem, it seems, is that some cases involving Brits may be heard by judges from countries with questionable HR records (as though ours wasn't!) He cited Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia. Yes, they have poor records, but since Blair removed our rights to peaceful protest, free assembly, freedom from arbitrary arrest, right to trial, right to privacy and freedom from torture, suddenly they don't look too bad compared with us.

Ah, but when these wicked foreigners breach the convention they just ignore the rulings against them. Right... so should we be more like these wicked ex-Commies and Muslims and just ignore the law then? Because nothing collects the moron vote faster than a race to the bottom on human rights (except one on health & safety, of course)

Ah, it's Tony Blair's fault for enshrining the Convention in British law. One must assume then that he intended from the outset that we would ignore any judgements of the ECHR against us. And we don't, because since the Blessed One fled British politics for easier ways to line his pockets we have taken to abiding by the law again. Bummer.

We now cut (I kid you not) to a picture of the minarets of a British mosque before going to Leeds where "they feel the fallout from our British obsession with taking the human rights rules so literally". We met someone from a charity working for victims of forced marriages. Her name was Jasvinder (not a typical Muslim name), and as pictures of her and her sisters (who we learn were forced into marriages) show not a hijab in sight it's a fair bet that she is a Hindu (or perhaps a Christian). However, the film's editors distracted us from that by showing plenty of footage of hijab-wearing Leeds residents. Jasvinder apparently got the government to raise the age limit for people entering the UK for marriage to 21. She expected this in some way to protect British girls from forced marriage to middle-aged Indians or Indonesians, and Neil happily nodded along as though the way in which this change would protect girls from forced marriage was self-evident. The law was of course challenged by British men and women who wanted to marry a foreigner under 21. Well, duh: did Jasvinder forget that some marriages are voluntary? The law was struck down, and a damned good thing: you don't address forced marriages by banning marriage. So this hard-faced woman now reckons that the court failed to consider the rights of "victims". But that's precisely what they did consider: they stopped her from forcing her criteria on who could get married on everyone else. What next? You can't come here to get married unless you're white? Or rich? (Meanwhile, in the background, we were shown Muslim men watching, in case we were in danger of forgetting that all the evils in Britain come from Islam. WTF?) According to Jasvinder, "the question has to be asked, who is running the country?" Because obviously when a deranged single-issue fanatic isn't allowed to ruin people's lives for dubious reasons, it's a crisis of democracy. (The short answer, dearie, is: not you. Now fuck off home and get on with dealing with FORCED marriages.) "The judges have given power to the perpetrators," PERPETRATORS? Of what? Falling in love? Suppose I went to France and fell in love with a 19-year-old who wanted to come here to marry me. Not if Jasvinder's Law was in force, she couldn't: we'd have to live together unmarried (clearly the idea of forced cohabitation leaves Jasvinder untroubled) or go abroad. And heaven knows there's never been a problem of children being shipped out to Pakistan or wherever to be forced into a marriage. So her lousy law would have protected nobody and victimized the innocent. (Why is this fraud getting airtime? Because the whole thing is being unsubtly spun as a Muslim issue, in the same way all the "victim" examples at the start happened to involved perpetrators who were, or appeared to be, Muslims.)

Neil moaned that this was just one example where our Supreme Court has over-ruled our legislators in Parliament. (That's what Supreme Courts are paid for. I began to expect him at any moment to start whinging that the Americans have the same problem and bring out a Pro-lifer to decry Roe v Wade.....) Actually his whine was that sex offenders won the right to appeal against lifelong inclusion on the Sex Offenders' Register. Once again, duh! They didn't get the right not to be on the register, or even not to be on it forever. They got the right to appeal, so that if there was evidence they no longer posed a threat they could have their lives back. Cue shots of tabloid headlines "Perverts' Charter". Has Murdoch bought the BBC now?

And then we came on to the "human rights industry". (Isn't that called "legal practice"?) Cue shots of Maseratis and Ferraris we were supposed to believe belonged to wicked HR lawyers (though for all we knew they could have belonged to footballers or supermodels). Michael Mansfield, famous human rights defender, pointed out that HR lawyers are no better-off than any others, and that Neil's so-called "industry" is simply one of many legal specialisms. Neil kept interrupting him and finally simply cut him off when he repudiated the suggestion that human rights law is a gravy train. Then Neil suggested that because "the public" (ie the Murdoch press) don't agree with some ECHR rulings they bring all HR law into disrepute. Mansfield, sharp as a knife, asked who has assessed the public's attitude? Because he has had good feedback over plenty of HR issues: protection of journalists' sources and of people tackling government abuses. Who says the public don't like the HRA? So Neil asked whether a poll on Abu Qatada wouldn't support his deportation! (Not from what I've heard, it wouldn't.) Mansfield said he wouldn't want opinion polls governing the legal system: but that is precisely what Murdoch and Neil DO want, of course, because the gutter press can control them, whereas judges on the whole are impervious to tabloid spite.

Mansfield also pointed out that the same day as the Abu Qatada judgment got all its tabloid column inches, the ECHR dismissed an appeal against the British government's right to impose whole-life sentences. And how much tabloid coverage did THAT get?

Finally Neil allowed that there were some HRA good news stories. Breast cancer parents using the HRA to force the NHS to provide Herceptin treatment. Or the couple married for 65 years and put into separate care homes by their council. But let's not cheer: it's all just "judges over-ruling legislators" and challenging the supremacy of Parliament. Which, once again, is what they're being paid for.

We moved on to prisoner voting rights (yawn) and met a campaigner whose name I missed. The campaigner was (surprise!) a fan of the ECHR, which ruled that depriving prisoners of the right to vote was illegal He had also done time for murder, so clearly anything he said could be discounted, right?. We were shown a Youtube video of him celebrating his victory with a drink and a spliff: shock horror. Tabloid techniques again: when you have no argument against something (if we're trying to rehabilitate prisoners for eventual return to society, why would we ban them from having any say in what that society is like?) resort to ad hominem attacks. Neil claimed that the video undermined respect (whose?) for human rights, then showed his own respect by (1) interrupting repeatedly (2) sarcastically repeating the question when he didn't get the answer he wanted (what WOULD have satisfied him?) and (3) blanking the rest of his answer with a voice-over accusing the campaigner him of "wishful thinking" when he simply pointed out that Europe's highest court had ruled in favour of prisoners' votes so the MPs should shut up and implement the law. Damn this democracy threatening rule by tabloid! And if the government continues to flout the law it may have to compensate disenfranchised prisoners. "Cheques to prisoners - for their human rights! That'll go down well in the Age of Austerity. " Spoken like a true Sun(day Times) hack. In any case, so far neither NuLabour nor the ConDems have implemented the ECHR ruling and given prisoners their right to vote, so hey, down there with Russia!

Then we had a Routemaster publicity stunt by Tory Eurosceptic who wants to scrap the HRA and withdraw from the ECHR, relying on Magna Carta. (Because that worked so well to protect us from Blair, Blunkett and Reid.) He doesn't mind that if we withdrew we'd be lumped with Belarus: they're just foreigners who don't have our human rights heritage. (as typified by Oliver Cromwell, the Peterloo Massacre or the Tolpuddle Martyrs....).

A historian pointed out that only 4 clauses of Magna Carta are still in law, and only one (right to fair trial) relates to HR. Plus Parliament has been over-riding it for centuries.

So the problem is that "we" (Murdoch) don't like it when judges foreign or domestic tell us what to do. Bless. Neil had a go at the LibDems, as well as at the Tories in the Council of Europe: no matter what the Tory spokesman said in favour of the CoE and ECHR, he ignored it and went to his tame interviewees. He implied that the HRA protects people who run over schoolgirls (a lie).

Finally he told us that we should withdraw from the ECHR. Gosh what a shock.

Will Jimmy, currently much exercised over imaginary BBC bias against Blair, run a campaign against the anti-Europe, anti-HT, blatant Blairite bias of Neil and the BBC? Of course not.

P.S. "Jasvinder" turns out to be Jasvinder Sanghera, who is indeed not a Muslim but a Sikh. And while I still think her proposed law was a crazy idea, I will happily retract my description of her above as a "fraud": her organisation Karma Nirvana does excellent work helping women - of all religions - escape from forced marriages.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bonni at BareNakedIslam has a Final Solution for the problem of pesky liberal Jews

Over at BareNakedIslam, Bonni explains how the only cure for liberalism is genocide:

...these Jews are afflicted with the disease called liberalism, no doubt inherited
from their parents. Problem is, the only cure for it (Holocaust, genocide, ethnic cleansing) is quickly forgotten by future generations.

You'd think someone called Masterjohn might be chary of acting like a total jerk (:-))

Can anyone explain the flag fetishism of the American extreme right?

"The veterans could have avoided all this confrontation simply by calling them on the telephone." But then they wouldn't have had their fifteen minutes of fame, and couldn't have had all that fun comparing their President to Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung. For that matter, the rest of us would never have known what assholes they are.

Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement, for even the wise cannot see all ends.

...I'm not going to gloat over Andrew Breitbart's recent death like so many others. Any man's death diminishes me, &c &c, and even a homophobic white supremacist liar presumably had someone somewhere who loved him. I couldn't bring myself to cheer over bin Laden's death: I can't cheer over Breitbart's. Hell, I won't even cheer when Ariel Sharon eventually dies, though I consider him to have a good claim to being the most evil man still drawing breath*. In Sharon's case I will be glad, though that's because anything must be better for his family than six years with him in a vegetative state.

Still on the topic of loathsome racist homophobes who love nothing more than ruining lives by telling lies - BNI has been off the air again...awwww. As before, she and her sock puppets are blaming it on those wicked Muslims at CAIR. Last time of course it was nothing to do with CAIR: Wordpress binned her for persistently publishing the email and IP addresses of critical commenters and calling for their harassment. This time her blog was being hosted by a bunch of end times fundies, so perhaps it crashed because the end of the world really is at hand. Or maybe because they aren't too comfortable with any technology newer than fire. But of course it couldn't be down to the nutjobs' technical incompetence, oh nooo. It's wicked Mooslim hackers. Personally I still think if anyone could be bothered to hack such a pathetic site it was probably the world's hackers-in-chief, the Israeli government. After all, they might just take her Holocaust denial and antisemitic attacks personally.

Bonni's death wouldn't make me cheer, but I'd be too busy cheering that something had permanently shut her up for the manner of its taking place to put much of a dent in my good mood. Which I suppose is close to how I feel about Breitbart, though I never had any personal interaction with him.

At least, as we're no closer to finding anyone left to blame for the Rwandan atrocities.

And while I'm on the subject...

... here is a hilarious piece by Mark Steel in the Independent about the loons calling for an attack on Iran.

Here a couple more wonderful columns from the same guy.

You Know Reality Is At Fault When.....

..... you read a statement by Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (aka our very own Nazis), and find that you agree with every word of it. (And yes, I did check it all to make sure there were no hidden calls for Israel to be nuked or for all British Jews to have to wear yellow stars.)

I suppose even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Actually do young people nowadays understand that metaphor at all? ("But uncle, a stopped clock flashes 88:88:88 all the time....")

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Plus ça change.....

I've been catching up with the Review section of last Saturday's Guardian newspaper. Book of the Week was The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, by Paul Preston, an examination of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath (up to the early 1950s). This is an era about which the Spanish themselves are still rather in denial, and not only because during the Civil War the atrocities came from both sides. I've added the book to my ever-growing list of things to read (which if you include unread books I own must have spilled over the available time remaining to me some years ago: but then as Browning said, a man's reach should exceed his grasp).

Anyway. A paragraph in the review brought me up short. Consider:

(Preston) sees two main drivers behind the slaughter. The first was the absolute, and often paranoid, conviction of radical rightists that the enemy was evil. Democrats, reds, Jews, freemasons, Marxists, Muslims, "free" women, trade unionists, socialists, socially concerned priests and social liberals were, simply because of their beliefs, considered to be guilty of crimes against the fatherland, God and the natural social order. Franco believed in an entirely imaginary "Jewish-masonic-Bolshevik" plot against Spain. The Falangist Onésimo Redondo thought "Mohammedan utopias" were also to blame.

If any reader has been tempted to think that I am being too hard on the folks at Bare Naked Islam, or on Uncle Jimmy at keeptonyblairforpm, by calling them neo-Nazis: compare their hate list and fantasies with Franco's. I mean, looking at recent posts on BNI we have a commenter expressing the opinion that if President Obama were proved to be a Muslim he should be hanged, and Bonni herself accusing the Southern Poverty Law Center (famous for their fight for black civil rights a few decades ago, and especially for having bankrupted a chapter of the KKK through litigation) of being "notoriously anti-American". Well, if you take "anti-American" to mean "opposing the lynching of black people", maybe.

Or take this guy:

March 12, 2012 at 1:21 am

Not to disagree with you, dear Ms. BNI; however, I think that Obama is a Muslim in his heart AND a Communist in his brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was secretly educated by the Russians (possibly as part of a correspondence course). [In fact, I vaguely remember a group of Russian Communists boasting that they were about to get one of their own into the White House and identified part of his name (Barack and/or Hussein) to boot!!! No doubt they're rejoicing...]
Regardless: he’s well on his way to destroying the USA – and with it, the entire Western world. He MUST be eliminated from the Presidency, period!!!! Also, virtually the entire Congress (especially ALL “Democrats”, as well as likely anybody who has been in there for over 10 years) needs to be purged!!! Plenty of them are just as complicit in Obama’s Communist make-over as he and his clique (Biden, the Clintons, Napolitano, Panetta, etc.)!!

I rest my case....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rush Limbaugh had this coming....

All this and Douglas Adams too

Also via Facebook, from a friend who runs a London tour company, I received a list of the 2012 nominations for Islington's "People's Plaques". These are local commemorative plaques erected as directed by popular vote. My friend Dave was lobbying for Michael Faraday (successfully in my case). I commented that I thought the only other really heavyweight contender was the Angel Inn (well-known to Tube travellers on the Northern Line, or to Monopoly players using the British board (first of the blue set). His reply was "Agreed. There is already a plaque, but it is inside the Co-operative bank (and only to Monopoly - the London names were finalised in the Lyon's Cafe that used to be here)." Amazing, the stuff you find out on Facebook...

But the really amazing thing for me was the residual nominee from last year: Edith Margaret Garrud, "the Suffragette that knew Jiu jitsu."

Edith Margaret Garrud (1872-1971), Suffragette and teacher of Jiu jitsu - 356 votes

Lived at Thornhill Square, N1

Edith Garrud, a self-defence instructor who taught jiu jitsu, was one of the first professional martial arts instructors in the western world. She and her husband, William Garrud, ran a school of jiu jitsu on Seven Sisters Road, Hackney.

She was also a Suffragette and trained ‘the bodyguard’, the Suffragettes’ own protection unit, which guarded its members from the police and arrest. She was portrayed in a cartoon in 'Punch' magazine in July 1910, single-handedly tackling a group of policemen.

It makes me proud to have been an Islington resident for a few years.

If you ever wondered what Geeks bearing gifts would look like....

I recently encountered a couple of wonderful pieces of musical notation on Facebook. Both decode to give "Happy Birthday To You". Here is the first, which uses accidentals to achieve its effect. In this one (by Makito Hattori) the notes appear to go up and down in ways contrary to the actual tune.

The next one, on the other hand (from Classical Music Humor) consists of notes all of which lie in the same places (over three octaves) on the stave. No accidentals here: what drives out the tune is imaginative use of clefs:

Both are wonderful.

Qinetiq: 21st century technology, 19th century management

Some of my British readers may have watched the recent BBC documentary on defence contractors Qinetiq. I watched it myself: after all, a young lady with whom I had a romantic dalliance when a student (reader: she dumped me...) went on to have a successful career with what became Qinetiq, designing head-up displays for helicopters. (The abstract of one of her papers brought to mind an image of this petite and squeaky-voiced damsel tormenting beefy test pilots by spinning them up to 6g or so in a centrifuge, while getting them to try aiming missiles using various HUD interface options.) The lady has since taken early retirement to indulge her other love, astronomy.

One thing the documentary did
not mention, among Leo Quinn's various smug statements, was that Qinetiq management plans unilateral derecognition from 31st March of all four unions representing its workforce (Prospect, Unite, GMB and PCS). This will make Qinetiq the only contractor employed by the MoD which refuses to recognise trade unions.

There is an Early Day Motion (number 2803) condemning this crude attempt at union-busting. If your MP hasn't yet signed (see here) email him and ask him to do so. mine hasn't, but he has an excuse, as an extract from his email reply shows:

I am deeply concerned about this announcement. As you rightly note, positive and effective engagement by employers with employees is hugely critical. It is not only in the interests of workers, but for business overall.

As you have said, Qinetiq will be the only major MOD contractor which does not recognise trade unions - this is something which the Secretary of State for Defence should act upon. The company is very important to our defence industry, providing state of the art defence technology. However, they cannot be allowed to fail to recognise the work of unions in the workplace.

As Shadow Minister for Employment Relations, I have been in contact with the trade unions on this issue and have offered any assistance I can. I understand that they recently met with senior management at Qinetiq and that discussions are ongoing. I also understand that they are due to lobby the Defence Secretary at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, as a Shadow Frontbencher I am unable to sign EDMs due to parliamentary convention. However, please be assured that I am following events closely and I am fully supportive of our trade unions here.

At least the guy is doing something. This story is being largely ignored by the media (except, unsurprisingly, Socialist Worker), and isn't even that well-known among union activists.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Leave your cranes and your muckle gantries

And I spotted in the Youtube sidebar of that Dick Gaughan video a link to one of him singing Hamish Henderson's great song of praise to the famous early 20th century Glasgow socialist John Maclean. I once shared a platform (briefly) with Hamish Henderson, who was one of my heroes (he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in the same ceremony at which I received my MBA). Apparently he was once asked which of the hundreds of cover versions of his famous song he liked best: he picked this one. Enjoy.

Now Westlin Winds

Another clip of Dick Gaughan, from 19 years ago (!) singing one of my favourite Robert Burns songs.

Look Back In Angus

The head of HR at Angus College in Arbroath (Scotland) had a rather bizarre idea for celebrating International Women's Day: he suggested having a man in a grey suit present a red rose to every female staff member. Not what you might call getting into the spirit of they day (what next - a wet T-shirt contest?) Unsurprisingly, the idea didn't go down very well, and when lecturer Cherry Hopton complained, the head of HR summoned her to a meeting. Ms Hopton not unreasonably asked to know the purpose of the meeting, and said that she intended to take up her right to be accompanied by a union representative. Whereupon she was immediately suspended: told to take her things and leave. You can read the story here. I urge all my readers to sign the online petition in support of Cherry Hopton, and/or to email messages of support to her trade union and of disgust to the college. (Links in the article.)

International Women's Day 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

I'm not sure we're really giving this our best shot

While locating the clip of the British Engelbert Humperdinck for my last post, I discovered that he will be representing the UK in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. At 76, he will be the oldest competitor ever. Scary. I mean, scary that the organisers of Britain's entry couldn't find anyone of the same generation as the bulk of the audience and voters.

A couple of weeks ago I was writing programme notes for Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra, and found the wonderful piece of trivia that Dag Wiren, whose
Serenade For Strings we were playing, wrote Sweden's 1965 Eurovision entry. Here it is:

On the whole I think Dag would have been well advised to stick with the day job, given that he could come up with stuff like this:

What's that you say? Who won the 1965 Eurovision? Well, that was the year the competition was dragged biting and scratching into the pop era by this Serge Gainsbourg song. (Embedding disabled.) I must regretfully point out that a 76-year-old lounge singers is perilously close to the kind of entry that France Gall's wax doll shovelled aside. I dare say he can still sing, but win?

Hansel and Gretel: Scottish Opera, Edinburgh Playhouse 14 February

(What's that you say? A tardy review? Ha! Wait until I get round to finishing off the ones from last year's festival...)

It used to be said that the definition of a cultural highbrow was someone who could hear the William Tell overture without thinking of The Lone Ranger. Well, surely another definition would be someone who on hearing the name Engelbert Humperdinck thinks of Hansel and Gretel rather than The Last Waltz.

I saw the Humperdinck opera for the first time a few weeks ago when Scottish Opera brought their new production to Edinburgh, and I have to say I was impressed both by the opera and the production. I already knew the "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" duet, but that was all. The whole thing though is undemanding fun and deserves to be better known. The production was by Bill Bankes-Jones, who also created the new English translation. The sets and costumes were simple but very effective, the singers all excellent. One review did suggest that the kids - Kai Rüütel and Ailish Tynan - would have been better off ditching their boring mother (only boring as played by Shuna Scott Sendall because she doesn't get much to sing) and switching allegiance to Leah Marian-Jones's far more vivacious witch. I kind of saw the point: the witch is a marvellous character, even if she isn't onstage for long before being baked.

The production looked fantastic, especially the big set piece of the children falling asleep in the forest and being visited by fourteen angels.

All in all, a good evening out.

Minding my Ps

Thanks to Persephone for finding this gem by the late, great, Davy Jones. I posted a Porpoise, she posted a penguin.

Someone needs to teach Rush Limbaugh and Mitt Romney the facts of life.

As a UK resident I have clearly been missing a lot insofar as I hadn't previously encountered MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. sadly, I had encountered all too much of Rush Limbaugh (OK, any is too much).

In the clip below Limbaugh is shown up not simply as an attention-seeking sexist jerk, but as someone so ignorant he doesn't understand what birth control is. And neither does Mitt Romney.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, March 02, 2012

Stand by, Mother....

You know how sometimes nineteenth century composers got carried away with the virtusoic potential of the instruments and players they were writing for?

Well... what happens when you take this glorious tune from Rossini's
Stabat Mater, and make it the basis of a clarinet fantasy? If you're one of those nineteenth century composers? Say, Domenico Liverani?


No, not the Bach family

I was recently in a thread on Facebook talking about Newfies. (Newfoundland dogs, that is. Swimming pools....outsize cars.....) I mentioned that Richard Wagner had had a Newfie, and posted this link in evidence.

Of course, for some composers there are actual photographs of composer and large cool dog. Busoni, for example:

Or Kurt Weill:

A cracking tale of catalytic exteriorisation phenomena, among other things.

A few days ago I saw A Dangerous Method. I'd been eagerly awaiting its appearance in the cinemas ever since it first appeared at the Venice Film Festival. I expected to be interested in the storyline: the true story (though doubtless massaged a little for the screen) of the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and the relationships of both men with Jung's patient Sabina Spielrein. I expected to be impressed by Viggo Mortensen as Freud, and I knew David Cronenberg can be a very good director (though the only one of his films I'd actually seen before was Crash, most memorable to me at least for its beautiful opening credits).

So I was unprepared, to begin with, to see Keira Knightley (recently sent up by Watson and Oliver as "I done a film....pouty face!") actually demonstrating a hitherto brilliantly concealed talent for acting. You have to understand that I have no first-hand knowledge of hysterical neurotics in therapy, nor do I know from personal experience what a woman sounds like when in the throes of a spanking-induced orgasm: but she convinced me that I was watching something pretty truthful. Michael Fassbender I'd never heard of, but he was quite extraordinary as Jung. I didn't know the Sabina Spielrein story but was familiar with the other ins and outs of the Freud-Jung relationship, and the script and performances brought it to life wonderfully. And the score by Howard Shore was a delight. Early in the film there is a discussion of the significance of the Siegfried myth, which makes it quite natural that the film's music should comprise mostly either arranged quotations from Wagner's Ring, or original music based on
Ring leitmotifs.

All in all, I'm very surprised that it didn't receive any Oscar nominations.

And watching the credits of Crash once more I see that it too had music by Howard Shore. Well, well.

As for the title of my post, the film include the bookcase anecdote described here. Though sadly not the Scarab one.

Schlong, it's been good to know you.....

Further to BlairSupporter ("Uncle Jimmy") and his belief that the constellation of Orion is actually a celestial letter "B" (part of Tony Blair's initials, ye ken), this xkcd cartoon may be of interest: if only for the suggestion that Orion had an associated prick before Jimmy made his connection.

A related Yiddish joke. Enjoy.

The Daily Mail: fake news for readers too stupid to notice or care.

Not long ago I posted on the propensity of Muslim-haters to make up fake stories if they couldn't find anything sufficiently damning in the real news.

Now here comes the Daily Mail with another great example.

For the real story see here or here.

Mind you, reading the Mail's obituary notice of white supremacist Ray Honeyford, who apparently can't have been a racist because he had working-class roots (are all EDL members Old Etonians then?) you wonder whether the Mail has any connection with reality at all these days, or whether it exists solely to spit on those who aren't wealthy white Christians/Jews.

Or how about this piece in the Mail from a former UKIP Parliamentary candidate, attempting to rehabilitate Enoch Powell, since Ray Honeyford has now been "vindicated" (in some unexplained manner)?

Multiculturalism is a blessing for any racist who believes that the ability to assimilate and understand British culture is racially restricted. This is a view that would have, absurdly, precluded Professor Powell’s study of the ancient world on the basis that he was not a Roman or a Greek.

So belief that non-British cultures are valuable and should be cherished precludes their study. Eh? Even for the Mail, that is just breathtakingly stupid.

Awwww, bless....

Apparently the reason American neo-Nazi site Bare Naked Islam is currently unavailable is because its host server has been hacked. Maybe it was the Israelis (after all, viruses and hacking are their main exports) expressing their displeasure with her relentless antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

And there I was, hoping it was the FBI taking her down. Oh well: better luck next time.

If you want any more you can blog it yourself

What with Google using a picture of frogs as their logo yesterday for the Leap Day (geddit?), I feel I should have a frog-related post. So for those whose memories go back nearly 38 years....

R.I.P. Davy Jones

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Still drumming after all these years

As you may remember from this recent post, my son and a band of his fellow Stevenson College students played for the Scottish Childrens' Book Awards last week at the Lyceum Theatre. Apparently the running order they'd been given for what would be happening on stage was itself a work of fiction: for example, a presenter for whose entrance they had been told to play a specific jingle actually appeared on stage out of a magicians' chest, to a drum roll. Still, they coped, and indeed were complimented by the organisers for their drum rolls.

OK, so the other guys got compliments too, but they have their own parents to blog about them (:-)>.

Here are a couple of rather splendid photographs of the lads, courtesy of Robert McDougall Photography.