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, September 29, 2012

For any British readers imagining that our justice system is so much better than the USA's

After the last two posts on the treatment on how much justice suspected "terrorists" receive at the hands and feet of US troops, you can see why people worry about what will happen to "terrorists" extradited to the USA. FGS, I've seen Julian Assange accused of "terrorism".

So this story is bad enough in the first place. But as Moazzam Begg puts it:

"The overriding shame in the cases of Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdul Bary, Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad is that they have collectively been held in British prisons for over forty years without charge or trial. Additionally, even Abu Hamza, who most people forget has served his sentence for his conviction in the UK, has been held in prison for several years without charge fighting extradition. Had these men been convicted of crimes they would most probably have been released by now. Instead, their ordeal is about to begin in the US, where with the heightened sense of Islamophobia it is hard to perceive they will receive fair trials."

"The Dark Side" is just about right

Of course, Allen West isn't alone: plenty of US servicemen and women have been guilty of torturing prisoners, simply because they could get away with it. hey did it in Iraq, they did it in Guantanamo, they did it in Afghanistan. I just read this report from 2005, and it's pretty sickening.

"He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Specialist Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny."

cf. Mark 15:35. Just sayin'.

A documentary (Taxi To the Dark Side) was made about the murder of Mr Dilawar. I havenlt watched it yet but it's going on my list.

I'm Allen West, and I approved the torture of a helpless prisoner

Loathsome Teapublican Allen West may have cause to regret his most recent ploy in his campaign to retain his seat in Congress. "Compare and contrast", it suggests: at the same time one guy was being arrested for a drunken brawl, the other was serving his country.

Problem is, the one who was serving his country was charged with assaulting a prisoner and only escaped a court martial because he cut a deal to be allowed to resign instead. And while everyone was being ever so nice and not mentioning the whole Allen-West-unindicted-war-criminal thing, well, since he raised his military record himself it's open season.

So yeah, let's compare and contrast. A guy fighting in a bar, against people who were fighting back: versus an armed soldier, accompanied by other armed soldiers, beating a restrained prisoner and staging a mock execution.

Let's compare and contrast. A kid who takes his lumps and goes to jail: a spoiled army officer who wheedles his way out of a court martial for his crimes by agreeing to "pay a fine" instead.

In most countries there is a name for buying your way out of criminal proceedings, and it's either bribery or corruption. You decide.


Oh, and if it's unflattering pictures you want, there's this one:

No, it isn't photoshopped. And yes, I know it isn't as bad as it looks, but who's the guy using unflattering pictures to try to con the electorate again?

Friday, September 28, 2012

This is sad

I read this story from the Times of India today in a state of total disbelief.

I have little doubt there will be all kinds of criticism levelled at The Casual Vacancy (which I haven't read yet), but I must say that the one linked above definitely blind-sided me. So, if a character in a book (especially one not portrayed sympathetically, as I guess "Fats" might not be) voices a homophobic remark, does that render the book homophobic? Or its author? Davies in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker is openly racist: does that mean Pinter despised blacks? I realise that Ayatollah Khomeini believed that having characters in a work of fiction slandering the prophet Muhammad was unacceptable enough to require its author's elimination, but in The Satanic Verses there was an entire narrative stream of the novel, with no authorial distancing, to complain about. Khomeini's fatwa was disgusting but one can just about understand why some Muslims, especially those unused to Rushdie's multi-layered writing style, might have taken offense. But reviews of The Casual Vacancy have mentioned the "ill-disguised racism" of the society it describes, and Fats - the character whose remarks have caused the trouble - has been described as "mildly sociopathic". So a character we're presumably not meant to like says unlikeable things, and this is a problem why?

Honestly, Sikhism had always struck me as a remarkably level-headed religion: not without its violent fringe (as Indira Gandhi could testify had she not experienced it herself) but on the whole taking even genuine insults in its stride. All the Sikhs I have known personally have been lovely people. I visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar and was made immesely welcome. For fuck's sake, I recently linked Balpreet Kaur's picture and comment on my Facebook page because I thought it showed a terrific attitude. (My comment was "Wow. Just. Wow.")

I don't think Avtar Singh Makkar is showing a terrific attitude. I think he's being a jerk. And I'm not a fictional character.

(Han shoots the intercom) "Boring conversation, anyway"

And just to demonstrate that I have a sense of humour even when it comes to Israel/Palestine, and even when the joke is an Islamophobic one, so long as it's actually funny:

I've just realised a funny thing about that exchange. Bear in mind that we have the identities "Israel = Droid" and "Arab - Wookiee" from the joke, right? Well the Star Wars Episode IV dialogue continues (after a growl from Chewbacca):

C3P0: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.

So in fact while its intent is Islamophobic (or perhaps simply anti-Arab racist). its actual subtext is "Israel, back off if you know what's good for you". And I hadn't even realised that until I was going through Star Wars dialogue to find my post title.

Zionists: shooting themselves in the foot so often that Islamic terrorism against them would be superfluous.

Can't Argue With Any Of That

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grand Old Opera

While doing the last post I was trying to think of Parsifal-related puns for the title (having used "Monty Salvat and the Holy Grail" last time round). I was kicking around Kundry's name, thinking "Kundry and Western?" "Big Kundry?" and for no particular reason found myself humming this song. (Though you'll see the link.) Which I suppose also harks back to the theme of the Karl Paulnack piece I posted.

Percy's Song(s)

A tiring weekend ahead.

It's that time of year once again when Edinburgh Players Opera Group puts on a concert performance open rehearsal of a Wagner music drama, with professional singers and an amateur orchestra, including me. (It's included me for eleven years so far, and this year's Parsifal will make it twelve).

I blogged at some length about last year's Götterdämmerung, and six years ago (gosh, is it really six years?) I did what I still think is quite a witty piece on our Parsifal. No doubt this year's outing will have its ups and downs, but at least this time I don't have to shift instruments. After last year's rather poor showing in the violins it will be interestimg to see how many we've managed to attract this time. I'll let you know.

RIP Herbert Lom

Herbert Lom, best known as Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films, has died

Probably his best-known non-Dreyfus role was in The Ladykillers (the Alec Guinness original, not the Tom Hanks remake). It seems appropriate to see him meeting his end in that one (actually we see Alec G meeting his too). RIP, Herbert.

You know what's even cooler? It's entertainment AS WELL

Gerry Doherty, who conducts Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra, shared the following piece on his Facebook page. It's from a status update by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and is the welcome address to new students by Karl Paulnack, the Boston Conservatory's Director of Music. I thought it was worth sharing. Here it is:

One of my parents' deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn't be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother's remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, "you're wasting your SAT scores!" On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren't really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the "arts and entertainment" section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it's the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

One of the first cultures to articulate how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you: the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940 and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose, and fortunate to have musician colleagues in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinettist. Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the Nazi camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—even from the concentration camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn't just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, "I am alive, and my life has meaning."

In September of 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. On the morning of September 12, 2001 I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn't this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn't shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn't play cards to pass the time, we didn't watch TV, we didn't shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, on the very evening of September 11th, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang "We Shall Overcome". Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber's heart wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don't know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn't know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what's really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

Very few of you have ever been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but with few exceptions there is some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there's some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn't good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can't talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn't happen that way. The Greeks. Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I'll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in a small Midwestern town a few years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland's Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland's, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70's, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn't the first time I've heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: "During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team's planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute cords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn't understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?"

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. The concert in the nursing home was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year's freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

A horse of a different colour

As you will be aware, I frequently have fun exposing the crazy and easily-refuted lies and fantasies of Bonni the Holocaust Denier over at BareNakedIslam. However, for this story I have no need to do so, for the hard-working team at Loonwatch have already done so.

However, their link to the BNI piece is broken, so here's the correct one. A fake story tarted up even further with a fake picture: well, you can't fault Bonni's energy when it comes to hatred.

A rock off the coast of an island whose nearest sizeable neighbour is Tristan da Cunha. Probably not one I'll be visiting in person, then.

I was browsing around the Google Maps interactive map of UNESCO World Heritage Sites after watching my wife doing a kind of virtual tour of a Czech village. I was interested in a lone dot at the south end of the mid-Atlantic ridge, which turns out to be "Gough and Inaccessible Islands", delightfully illustrated with a picture of a Northern Rockhopper Penguin. I liked the sound of Inaccessible Island (Enid Blyton missed that one), so went for a browse.

The pictures on the site are (a) copyright and (b) not labelled with location, so when I found this extraordinary image I wasn't sure even which island it belonged to. Still a little creative Googling not only allowed me to locate it as Church Rock, off the NE coast of Gough Island, but also to find the magnificent image below (from this blog), which is now (suitably cropped) installed as my desktop background.

Church Rock rocks.

Good Morning America!

No Woman, No Anti-Matter

From all the fuss about the Jesus's Wife papyrus you'd think that Baigent and Leigh (despite their not-very-heavily-disguised namecheck in The Da Vinci Code as "Leigh Teabing") had never published The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail all those years ago. You can pick holes in it without too much trouble, but the evidence for Jesus' being married is pretty thoroughly aired in it, and from what I can gather the recent discovery doesn't really add anything new.

Personally I'd love it to be true. It's one of those ideas I'd like to believe in spite of any counter-evidence, like John Wheeler's one-electron universe (which I'd love to think might be saved by some quirk of dark matter straightening out the matter/antimatter imbalance).

Of course, if it were true it would provide at least the start of a riposte to Kingsley Amis, whose New Approach Needed appealed to my teenage iconoclasm when I first read it in about 1970. At that point I knew Amis only from Lucky Jim, and had no idea of the cantankerous and none-too-likeable character behind the fiction (Peter Mannion in The Thick Of It always seems to me to be modelled on KA). But New Approach Needed for the first time led me to understand why Amis was classed as one of the Angry Young Men.

If God Were Me

I was looking at the Youtube clips for Nordman, having just linked one of them (Ännu Glöder Solen) on my Facebook page. Mostly they're either audio clips with added still images, or concert footage, but there are a couple of "official" videos, of which this has to be the weirdest. One of their good songs, and the oddest video I've seen for a very long time.

This video on the other hand has the lyrics and a translation (but nothing else). It doesn't exactly make the weird video clear, though there are a few obvious connections (the amulet, for example).

And as I typed the title into the box up there I had a sudden thought of this famous epitaph. Which made me smile.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RIP Andy Williams

Andy Williams has died at the age of 84, a year after being diagnosed with bladder cancer. May he rest in peace. His voice was part of my childhood.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Puzzle picture: "Warships and the Forth Bridge" by George Washington Wilson

When I saw this picture in a shop, my first thought was "Wow!" Actually, having bought it, my thoughts are mostly still "Wow!". It's a photograph by George Washington Wilson, the celebrated photographic pioneer, showing warships by the Forth Bridge. The legend says that it was taken in the late 1800s, which is easy enough to work out as the bridge looks complete and it was finished in late 1889 and opened in 1890.

The main point of interest, of course, isn't the bridge itself so much as the juxtaposition of a "Ship Of The Line" (the same basic kind of craft as Nelson's HMS Victory) with both a smaller, steel-and-steam warship and the massive steel bridge. With its feeling of the old giving way to the new, the image always puts me in mind of Turner's The Fighting Téméraire, with the steam tug hauling off the ship of the line to be scrapped. However, Téméraire was broken up in 1838, more than half a century before this picture was taken.

Which leaves us with the question: which ship are we looking at here? GWW photographed HMS Royal Albert (which looks very like this) in the Forth, but as Royal Albert was scrapped in 1884 when the Forth Bridge was still mainly foundations that can't be it. He took various picture of ships of the line, but all the ones I've been able to identify were permanently moored on the Channel coast by the time this picture was taken. So - any suggestions, photographic history buffs?

Everyone could have slept after all

I've just got round to uploading my pictures from our recent holiday in Verona, so I expect you'll be seeing more of them soon. Meanwhile, here's an ad for a Verona Opera production. I should explain that all the ads this year feature famous lines from the relevant opera, so the one for Aida had "Celeste Aida" and the one for Carmen had "Si je t'aime, prend garde a toi". All fair enough, but I did think this one for Turandot should have been headed up "CONTAINS SPOILERS". I mean, after all that Nessun Dorma-ing, with everyone trying to find out Calaf's name so he can be executed, then he goes and tells it to her, so she announces that she knows his name and...

I'm sure it was a fantastic production and if we'd still been there when it was on we would definitely have gone. The poster still amused me though.

How about Fraud Rage, Ms Magan?

With self-promoting fraud Ayaan Hirsi Ali's (real name: Ayaan Hirsi Magan) recent collection of lies in Newsweek still rather in the news, this seems like a good time to link to an article by John Esposito in which he takes apart an earlier piece of hers, again in Newsweek.

And here is Noah Fitzgerel criticising the same piece from a slightly different standpoint.

This really shouldn't need saying, but sadly it still does

I've said this so often I'm getting tired. Time for someone else to take a turn.

And be sure to look at the #MySubwayAd slideshow at the bottom.

Further comment would be superfluous

Maybe it's just me, but I can't help thinking that we would have heard a whole lot more about this story had the signs been in Arabic and addressed to American Muslim women.

Or indeed if this story had been about some Imam in Pakistan or Iran telling his followers to burn their iPhones.

Maybe we can't revive him (like Snow White). But we can clean up his reputation.

This one is just for my British (or a least UK resident) readers, so apologies to everyone else.

You know about Alan Turing. Everyone knows about Alan Turing. Computer pioneer, largely responsible for cracking the German "Enigma" ciphers during the Second World War. If you don't already know hos story, it's beautifully told in this play by Hugh Whitemore, with a magnificent performance by Derek Jacobi as Turing (I was lucky enough to see him do it live on stage).

As you will have seen in the play, or knew already, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" (this was 1952 when being gay was not permitted) and required to undergo chemical castration, which caused him to grow breasts among other delightful side-effects. Thus it was that one of our greatest mathematicians (and, in his way, a war hero) was driven to commit suicide.

Nowadays Turing's legacy is rightly celebrated, and homosexual acts are no longer punishable by law. However, Alan Turing's criminal record remains. So here is an electronic petition to the British Government to have Turing granted a posthumous pardon, which would clear that stain from his reputation.

Please - if you're British, or a UK resident - sign it.

Thank you.

Anousheh Ansari - Iranian spacewoman

I've been going through my archive of "stuff I really must blog about", and I found this one from back in March. And it's got even funnier since then.

Anousheh Ansari is an Iranian spacewomen. She might be described as a "Space tourist", having paid to go up (by making a massive donation to the X Prize foundation - in case you wondered why it's now called the Ansari X Prize!) but prefers the designation "spaceflight participant". Anyway, good for her, and I'd intended to put something up as a corrective to all the rubbish out there about how Islam is anti-science, medieval and all the rest of it.

Now here's where it gets funny. Here is Anousheh Ansari's Wikipedia entry. Here is a picture of Ms Ansari on the ISS:

Now the Wikipedia entry currently contains this (down at the bottom):

In 2009, Ansari was featured in the documentary film "Space Tourists" by independent Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei about billionaires who paid to ride to the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft.[39] The DVD of the film was released in 2011.

But back in March when I tagged it for blogging it had a little more on that story:

In 2009, Ansari was featured in the documentary film "Space Tourists" by independent Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei about billionaires who paid to ride to the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft. When the DVD of the film was released in 2011, an animated GIF of her from the YouTube trailer was made and distributed on the limited release social network Google +. The clip, which showed Ansari holding a water dispenser in front of her face and shooting water straight into her open mouth, was instantly popular for reasons unknown.

I think they could could have left off "for reasons unknown", but it's much funnier with the phrase there.

And because I would hate to leave my readers hanging, so to speak, here is the clip in question.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Muslim Rage, and, er, not

We've seen and heard a lot about "Muslim rage" in the wake of the Innocence of Muslims video, so it seems appropriate to link this gentle riposte. Gee, they all look really scary to me: I guess that's why they call it Islamophobia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A tsunami of success?

When I read this report my first thought was that this could be a whole new Olympic event. But then I realised that they've been doing it in Bulawayo for twenty years, so it's likely to be one dominated by the Zimbabwean team. It would take a lot of investment to bring us up to speed. Still, we have some good training facilities.

Politics, real and imagined

Funny how differently folk can respond to the same news story. Here's the story.

Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been cleared for release but are still being held have had their names released by the Justice Department, overturning a 2009 decision to keep their identities secret as their transfers were negotiated.

The names of 55 prisoners who are awaiting transfers to other countries were made public Friday, after human rights organizations lobbied for the information.

Though men listed have been cleared for release, some as early as 2009, they remain at Guantanamo because of difficulties in finding them a willing host country or concerns about their return to their homelands, Agence France Presse reported.

“We did not expect this,” Omar Farah, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Associated Press. “This is an important development.”

“These men have now spent three years in prison since our military and intelligence agencies all agreed they should be released,” ACLU senior staff attorney Zachary Katznelson said in a statement, Agence France Presse reported. “It is well past time to release and resettle these unfairly imprisoned men.”

The Justice Department said it agreed to release the names of the prisoners in question because “there is no longer a need to withhold from the public the status of detainees that have been approved for transfer,” the Kuwait News Agency reported.

There are currently 167 men imprisoned at the Cuba penitentiary, many of them believed to be Yemeni, according to Politico.

So in the real world, we have 55 prisoners, roughly a third of those still held in the Guantanamo bay Gulag, who were cleared for release anything up to three years ago. That means there was insufficient evidence against them for even the minimal standards of the "War on Terror" to justify their continued imprisonment. There is still no sign of their actually being released or anything wiompish like that: they're Muslims after all, so will probably remain political prisoners until they die. But now that their names have been released, overturning President Obama's culture of secrecy over the camp he promised to close but has left untouched, it is clear to the entire world that there are at least 55 (and let's face it, probably 167) wholly innocent political prisoners being kept locked up purely because of their religion. if the embarrassment this causes leads to something decent being done about them, that is excellent. But at least now official religious prejudice has 55 human faces.

In Tea Party world, on the other hand, President Obama is releasing 55 Muslim terrorists NOW. And according to Fox News (!) a released Guantanamo detainee was behind the murder of US Ambassador Chris Stevens. No evidence for that, of course (hey, this is Fox News!).

You have to give these losers credit for trying desperately to shift attention from the disgrace to America represented by 55 innocent people who have been kept shackled in an illegal dungeon for up to three years because their god has the wrong name. Ooh, let's pretend they'd committed some crime. Ooh, let's pretend they're being released. Ooh, let's try desperately to link them to a terrorist attack that took place when they were in jail halfway round the world. Oooh, let's pretend we give a shit about freedom, democracy, law and order, or any other American values.

Some good news

I liked this story from the Huffington Post about American Muslims rallying against the violence arising from the Innocence of Muslims film.

I also liked this, from an American Muslim's blog.

And it sounds as though Ambassador Stevens' death may not have been in vain: it may instead have been the last straw for Libyans fed up with the militias who were hanging on to power after the revolution.

A suitable riposte to the Geller/Spencer hate ads on the New York subway

Enough said.

I reckon every composer's compositions should start with number 0

This evening I'm heading off to a quartet rehearsal, where (barring mishaps) we should be rehearsing this piece. Which is good fun, and not nearly well enough known. If we can get it sufficiently together (the tempo changes and such in the third movement are something of a trip hazard) we might even spring it on an unsuspecting public some time. Which would be nice. Well, nice for us.

Funnily enough

And by a delightful coincidence, after viewing all those early instruments yesterday I read this story on the BBC's news site. Yay! for historic instruments.

The icing on the kayak

One of the items in the Anatomical Museum is a life mask (a death mask clearly not being a possibility) of Sir John Franklin, the famous explorer of the Arctic. So of course found myself humming this song for the rest of my visit.

(The line about "Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe" always captivated me, giving such a vivid picture of the icy wastes.) But it also reminds me of the wonderful Nanook of the North which I saw when I was at school. I dare you not to laugh in amazement at the section from 0:52 to 2:40 here.

Musical anatomy

Yesterday and today were "Doors Open" days in Edinburgh, organised by the Cockburn Association, a local heritage body. You're probably familiar with the idea (a lot of towns and cities have them now): buildings not normally open to the public, or parts of buildings normally hidden away, thrown open, sometimes just to walk round, sometimes with guided tours or information displays. Great fun.

A lot of the interesting buildings are in the suburbs, therefore not so easy to reach until I'm driving again. Plus I overslept yesterday, which didn't help. So I ended up just doing a couple of laces in the centre. But what places!

I started off with the Anatomy Museum and Lecture Theatre at the University Old Medical school. These are still in regular use by medical students, so even though the museum was formally opened to public access back in January it's only on the last Saturday of each month, and not much publicised. The lecture theatre is a lot bigger than the one we saw in Padua: built in 1877 it has a rake of 45-50 degrees and a dissecting table in the centre for a cadaver. I imagine when the table is occupied it still pongs a bit though. The students get to sit down in this one, with normal lecture desks, and indeed all the normal projection screens an such. And while it post-dates Doctor Knox, the anatomist who had his bodies provided by Burke and Hare (and who in any case gave his lectures privately), it's easy to imagine yourself back that little bit further.

The museum itself is amazing. I found it a real "Memento Mori": every time I looked at a body part, or model thereof, I found myself pondering all the various bits of me and how well they work, or don't. Having recently suffered a brain haemorrhage, for example, you can imagine I viewed the brain specimens with more than usual interest. and while A1AD is purely a genetic thing so not amenable to anatomy, I took a good look at the lungs on display.

Like all the best museums, it has a bit of everything. There is an Australain aboriginal burial pole displayed on the staircase, in which the dried-out bones remaining after air burials were placed. This procedure apparently has been dated back 50,000 years, making it the oldest known cultural practise on Earth. there are wax models of hands showing various skin diseases (in full colour!). There is a biggish comparative anatomy display, everything from whales to spiny ant-eaters. Did you know that armadillos are the only animals apart from ourselves which can contract leprosy? (I'm surprised Stephen Donaldson never mentioned that.)

You have to have human skeletons in an anatomny museum, and here we have two, displayed side by side. First we have William Burke, of Burke and Hare, and next to him is John Howison, the "Cramond Murderer", who has the dubious honour of being the last person in Britain to be sentenced to be hanged and dissected. We have casts of the skulls of Robert Burns and Robert the Brice. We have life masks and death masks of famous figures (Carl Maria von Weber's looks extraordinarily like Richard Thompson). Oh, and we have Tibetan trumpets made from human femurs and a Tibetan drum made from crania.

All in all, the coolest museum I've visited in a long time, and one which gives, along with all the trivia, a real sense of Edinburgh's central place in medical history.

Then it was on to the next museum, right next door as it happens: The Reid Concert Hall Museum, which is a terrific collection of musical instruments. Highlights include the original J Arthur Rank gong, owned (and played for the recrdings) by James Blades (the gigantic one you see is a papier-mache dummy: the real one is a couple of feet across), a 1930s drum kit, a "Turkish crescent" (which is a kind of tambourine-on-steroids on a stick, used in the 18th century for "Janissary music"), every kind of old clarinet/basset horn you could imagine, including a walking-stick clarinet and Frederick Thurston's old Boosey & Hawkes 1010s (same model my wife still plays). There are serpents (including the massive "Anaconda" used in one of the Hoffnumng concerts back in the 1960s. There are ophicleides (one of the ones not on display is rolled out occasionally for use in our orchestra when we do Berlioz). There are alphorns, posthorns, a trombone with a dragon's head bell. There are hurdy-gurdies, a Stroh violin (the ones with a metal horn), There is a shofar, a conch, and a Chinese mouth-organ. What we need is for somebody like James McMillan to write a piece using all of them: now that really would be something. Meanwhile, they're there, and you can see them on Wednesday afternoons or Saturday mornings. On the last Surday of each month you could combine your visit with one to the Anatomical Museum next door.

What are you waiting for?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

No wrecks and nobody drownded

You remember the "Ground Zero Mosque", I'm sure: it gave rise to all kinds of protest. Well, actually only one kind: swivel-eyed bitter-clingers who either believed or pretended to believe that there was indeed a plan to build a mosque at "Ground Zero" (as they liked to call the site of the World Trade Center), screaming that this was un-American (as though what they were doing was the quintessence of "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

Here is a clip from HBO's "The Newsroom", in which a fictionalised Pamela Geller clone gets the ass-whipping that sadly nobody in the fact-averse US media dared to dish out to the real one. (In Britain we are less kind to American loons.)

Anyway, you remember all that because it got huge media coverage. But I bet you didn't notice something that happened a year ago yesterday: the Park51 Islamic Center (formerly known as the Cordoba Center, aka the "Ground Zero Mosque") opened. Not with the beautiful planned building but in a renovated exising one. Still, there it is, a fact on the ground: an Islamic cultural centre only a couple of blocks from the building site where a new WTC is going up. You would think that the media would have been all over this story of Islamic triumphalism, of disrespect for the victims of 9/11, of..., of...,...of people getting on with their lives like other New Yorkers. But they weren't, and the reason is easy to see. Nothing happened. there were no hugely amplified calls to prayer. There were no queues round the block of bearded men in skullcaps prostrating themselves towards Mecca. No women in Western dress were being called whores by disrespectful Muslim males. No morality police were confiscating bottles of Scotch from the local drunks. Instead, there was a photography exhibition.

The centre has now been open for a whole year without incident: it hasn't even attracted enough attention for Pat Condell to insult it in one of his pathetic videos. Imagine: Muslim Americans getting on with their fully-assimilated lives peacefully, without disturbing anyone else. Americans can't be allowed to find out about that.

It's A Copt-Out

So what have we discovered on the wake of all the fuss about the Innocence of Muslims film? Well, first of all, as you will already know if you've seen even the trailer, it's a really bad film. I don't mean bad as in hateful, or ill-advised, or anything like that. I mean badly made. I mean, its production values make Ed Wood look like Steven Spielberg. The first few minutes are all in Arabic and seem to be old bits of newsreels. Then we have a very American-sounding Muslim suddenly talking about how many wives the Prophet had, which leads to some totally disconnected and surreal dialogue. (Incidentally, you can tell how fact-based this film is going to be when the very first line in it tells us that "We know our Prophet had sixty-one wives, eleven at the same time". Actual historians seem a trifle uncertain as to how many wives he had: the lowest estimate I've read is thirteen, and a Muslim site reckons he had fifteen, but even an anti-Muslim Christian site (Islam: Truth or Myth?) only cranks that figure up to sixteen. If the film had suggested twenty, or even twenty-five wives, it might have been credible: but sixty-one? Come on....

Then we have scenes of a mob of Muslims with flaming torches burning down the homes of "forsaken Christians" while other very unconvincingly trash and loot a clinic. All the while a bunch of guys in uniform with CIA-type shades watch but take no action. Then we see a doctor telling his daughters that the police had arrested 1400 Christians, tortured them and made them confess to the killings. Then there's a really bizarre bit where he starts writing up equations about Islam as a lesson to his daughters. Then we cut to the "life of Muhammad" part, which kicks off by describing Muhammad as a bastard and doesn't get any better. He's portrayed by a guy who looks like a California beach bum, as a petulant spoiled idiot whose "prophecies" were cobbled together by family members from bits of old Hebrew and Christian scriptures (deliberately choosing incorrect versions, of course) to cast his tantrums in a good light.

The Wikipedia article seems to have good information about the various versions going around on the web. Certainly the one I watched (over an hour long) simply appeared to loop round the film (more or less) a few times. Mind you the whole thing is so confused (and so conducive to fast-forwarding so as to retain the will to live) that it's easy to get confused. I note that Bonni the Nazi has the "full version" up: presumably she hasn't bothered to watch it or she would know it's a loop. (It's an interesting question as to whether there is any moral difference between people who condemn a film without watching it and those who promote one without watching it.)

The Wikipedia article also covers the initially vexed question of who was responsible for this trash. A few thoughts:

(1) Making a "controversial" film as a celebration of free speech is more convincing if you don't feel the need, not only to hide your identity, but to blame it on the wholly innocent Jews

(2) However intentional the effect on Muslim opinion, and however much you may have intended for the blame to fall on the world's Jews, not to give any consideration to the effect on your actual co-religionists (Coptic Christians) - the ones not already equipped with false names and criminal mates with whom to hide out - is not the act of someone simply trying to "tell the truth". It's the act of someone dedicated and determined to cause inter-religious strife of as many kinds as possible, and regardless of the consequences.

(3) Again, your First Amendment flag flies a little more proudly when you don't lie to most of the participants about what you're involving them in.

(Bonni, incidentally, thinks it absolutely terrible that the film-maker has been identified as a Christian (or as we Christians call them, "Christian"), presumably because it suited her so well to have the Jews getting all the blame.)

(4) The film's producers seem to have been a collection of drug pushers, scammers and ultra-right-wing terrorists, which detracts rather from the lofty moral purpose they claimed for the film. It seems more likely that there was some hope for financial profit, which has probably largely evaporated now that so many people have seen the film and know it's shit.

As to the protests, I'm inclined to agree with those who reckon that the film simply provided an excuse for pre-arranged mayhem. at least initially. The film had been around for a while, but it seems there was no Arabic translation online until very recently. Whether that lack was remedied deliberately at around the time of September 11th, who knows? It certainly added a populist element to the riots in Egypt, Libya etc which they would probably otherwise have lacked, especially when the film was being touted as a Jewish-American production rather than an Egyptian-Christian one. The person who publicised the dubbed version, like the original film-maker, was an Egyptian Copt (stripped of his citizenship for advocating terrorism).

Let's be quite clear: there is no excuse for violence over a film, or a book, or a play. I don't care who is dishing it out, or who they're dishing it out to: it's unacceptable whatever your religion. And it IS unacceptable to most practitioners of any religion, whether they're Jews, Christians, Muslims, pagans, whatever. When the violence results in loss of life it's even worse, and whatever justification the world's Baruch Goldsteins, Anders Breiviks and Osama bin Ladens come up with in terms of their religions, they don't hold water as far as the religious leaders or the general public are concerned.

Which is why soon after the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was murdered, there was a massive march in Benghazi in support of the murder victims. Not that it received much publicity in our supposedly pro-Muslim media, all of which preferred to concentrate on the pictures of burning cars and bearded Islamists around the globe.

The American right is just buzzing with conspiracy theories over all this (anything to distract attention from the almost-certainly-terminal implosion of Romney's foot-in-mouth presidential campaign). Taking Bonni the Nazi as a handy example of a fairly typical wingnut, we have in no particular order:

Ambassador Stevens was raped before being killed (a neat trick when you're assassinated with an RPG - did the "rapist" ride on the grenade like the guy at the end of Dr Strangelove?).

He was murdered by Hillary Clinton.

He deserved to die because of his "leftism".

He had no business being a US ambassador anyway because he was gay.

The anti-American protests are the result of the US President's being a Muslim (no, I can't figure that one out either).

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a traitorous terrorist sympathizer.

The US State Department knew about the attacks in advance. (And don't you love the photograph at the bottom of this one? Apparently comforting a bereaved government employee is insufficiently macho behaviour for a US President. But then we know that the right considers President Obama a "girlie man".

The US Ambassador to Egypt was in league with the protestors and betrayed America's interests. (Or as Bonni puts it, oozing hatred as ever of any woman who escapes the kitchen to pursue a career, "It’s times like this when I regret women were ever given the vote".)

The attack on the Libyan embassy was planned by Egypt's President Morsi.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fat fascist gets the finger from the free world

Woo-hoo! Even the Israelis reckon Netanyahu is losing the plot when he starts sounding off against President Obama and near-as-dammit endorsing Romney as his preferred replacement. Not surprisingly, Americans are even more incandescent at Nothingyahoo's blatant attempt to get another country to fight Israel's illegal war for it.

So it's not only because of the collective rise it induced in American wingnuts' blood pressure that Obama's decision not to drop everything and dance at Bibi's beck and call when the fat fraud waddles into New York this week is cause for delight. Netanyahu should count himself lucky the USA let him in at all.

Of course, my headline might just as well have referred to the good news from closer to home, where the Dutch electorate ripped Geert Wilders' fascist party a whole new asshole in the recent election.

I suspect the ones getting killed learned from history a while back: the ones condemning them to repeat it are the ones sitting safely in Washington and elsewhere.

And because it would be cheap to use a picture like that without acknowledging its main character, here are some details on Sgt James J Regan of the 75th Rangers. RIP.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Extraordinary how potent cheap music is

So there I was, Googling French chansons from the 1940s (as you do). I found some of the old Django Reinhardt recordings with Jean Sablon (I wonder whether they thought of them that way round at the time, or as Jean Sablon recordings with Django?) You know, like this one:

And then I found this, which really took me back.

You may think it sounds familiar: well, that's because the redoubtable Flanagan and Allen had a hit with an English version.

Why does that song strike such a gong in my memory? Those of you who have been around this blog from the beginning may remember this piece, which I wrote as part of a game of "Blogging Consequences" organised by Mike of Troubled Diva. Now there's a blog I haven't visited for far too long - hi Mike (waves). My two contributions to that game may be found right at the bottom of the EKN blogroll, over on the right.

The system may have let me down, but my memory didn't: listening to Flanagan and Allen, I was still word-perfect.

From Bicycles to Naval Aviation - a Musical Odyssey

An amazing clip here of Frank Zappa, aged 23, appearing on The Steve Allen Show - playing bicycle. Frank leaves the humour mainly to Allen, with few traces of the soon-to-be-trademark acerbic wit, but already we have the mix of serious artistic intent and general zaniness for which the Mothers would become famous. And I don't suppose Steve Allen's house band often got to play avant-garde aleatory stuff, certainly not on air. A classic which I'd never even heard of before.

And here are a couple of extras mentioned by Frank. First, that new record How's Your Bird?

And then the theme tune from The World's Greatest Sinner:

And here is a clip of Timothy Carey in the film:

A few years later, and FZ was getting Pierre Boulez to conduct his music. No bicycles here though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Once you've REALLY played God there's no going back

Thinking about my latent Dorset accent (less obvious now than when I was a child), I remember one of the last times I was conscious of it, which was when I recorded the following speech (aged 18) for a drama group at university. Listening to the playback (with suitable awe-inspiring reverb added by our sound man) I was still very aware of my Dorset vowels. But then, why wouldn't God have a Dorset accent?

The text itself is as relevant today as when it was first written.

From Everyman:

God speaketh:

I perceive, here in my majesty,
How that all creatures be to me unkind,
Living, without fear, in worldly prosperity.
In spiritual vision the people be so blind,
Drowned in sin, they know me not for their God;
In worldly riches is all their mind.
They fear not my righteousness, the sharp rod.
My law that I disclosed, when I for them died,
They clean forget, and shedding of my blood red.
I hung between two it cannot be denied,
To get them life I suffered to be dead,
I healed their feet, with thorns was hurt my head.
I could do no more than I did truly,
And now I see the people do clean forsake me;
They use the seven deadly sins damnable
In such wise that pride, covetousness, wrath, and lechery,
Now in this world be made commendable,
And thus they leave of angels the heavenly company.
Every man liveth so after his own pleasure,
And yet of their lives they be nothing sure.
The more I them forbear, I see
The worse from year to year they be;
All that live grow more evil apace;
Therefore I will, in briefest space,
From every man in person have a reckoning shown.
For, if I leave the people thus alone
In their way of life and wicked passions to be,
They will become much worse than beasts, verily.
Now for envy would one eat up another, and tarry not
Charity is by all clean forgot.
I hoped well that every man
In my glory should make his mansion,
And thereto I made them all elect,
But now I see, like traitors abject,
They thank me not for the pleasure that I for them meant,
Nor yet for their being that I them have lent.
I proffered the people great multitude of mercy,
And few there be that ask it heartily.
They be so cumbered with worldly riches, thereto
I must needs upon them justice do,—
On every man living without fear.
Where art thou, Death, thou mighty messenger?

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Harrr! Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day, sump'n moi Dorset forebears 'ave made it easy fer me t'do.

Of course, it be necessary ter get the ground rules straightened out first....

Here are a few more pieces of piratical whimsy to keep you amused.

The Tea Party may be the tail, but what it's wagging is no dog

The Teapublicans are forever reminding us of Barack Hussein Obama's middle name, so it seemed fitting to post this when I was reminded today of Willard Mitt Romney's first one.

Rock's Red Glare

I forgot to mark the anniversary yesterday of Jimi Hendrix's death in 1970. Yes, really, 1970. Sorry, Jimi.

Lies, Damned Lies, and.....nah, just lies

Sometimes I almost long for the more innocent lies of Uncle Jimmy, who unfailingly caught the wrong end of any passing stick but who was not, on the whole, reduced to total invention because he'd run out of the merely unintelligent.

Not so with Bonni the Holocaust denier at BareNakedIslam. A quick look shows us this post (OMG! Obama Regime considering release of the Blind Sheikh, convicted terrorist and mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing attack), which doesn't even pretend to be based on any kind of fact. It comes from a nameless "source close to the Obama Administration", and even Bonni has to admit that the Dept of Justice has made plain that it's total bilge. However, Bonni tells us, Rahman "could be considered for transfer as the Lockerbee bomber was transferred back to Libya". Because the Dept of Justice is really likely to change its mind based on a decision by the Scottish government which the Obama government strongly opposed at the time. And the talking head who gave his opinion so freely that this tissue of lies was very plausible? Not just a "former federal prosecutor" (who retired in 2003) but a torture-supporting Rudy Giuliani staffer, with a history of accusing the President of supporting terrorism. Hmm, I'm sure we're all hanging on every syllable of his opinion.  Bonni's commenters, of course, lap it all up, and add their own calls for President Obama to be overthrown by force, imprisoned, murdered... One of them reckons he can't be got rid of by means of an election because of his "built-in illiterate unwashed base" of Jews, women and unions. Spoken like a true lover of democracy..... still, at least "Silverlady" doesn't pretend to be anything but a women-hating, antisemitic neofascist.

Or how about this one? (Somehow words escape me), in which we see a picture entitled "Muslim Youths in Nigeria Crucify a Cat on the Cross to Protest Anti-Islam Film". It's clearly not only words which escape Bonni, but any sense of shame or honesty. The picture, disturbing though it is, dates from 2011 and therefore has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent fuss over the American-produced hate film. Oh, and it's from Ghana, not Nigeria. Here is the original report from a blog devoted to cat protection. If you read through the whole report you will see that it's by no means certain that it was Ghanaian Muslims rather than Christians who carried out the attack, as Catholics in Europe have a long tradition of torturing cats to death (and in some places still celebrate it in festivals). Moreover, in the same post, we read of a cat nailed to a telephone pole and left to die in Illinois. I suppose Bonni, animal lover that she supposedly is, would like us to blame that on Nigerian Muslims too.

Bonni's commenters are not all as stupid as she is, and some of them pointed out that the picture did not show what she said it did. One called "FoxMuldar" commented thus:

Hi BNI, I also posted that photo on my blog. However a Muslim lover informed me that the photo was actually taken back in 2011. (Link included to the blog post I link above.) But no matter when it was taken, its still a sick and evil thing to do to any animal.

Bonni's response? "fox, ban him." Hell, we can't have people going round exposing our Islamophobic lies, can we?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meetings With Remarkable Songs

Just now I was trying to remember which of my (many) Al Stewart records contained the line about "I order chicken and a chilled Chablis", so I Googled it and found this wonderfully cheesy video.

Here's a song more typical of Al these days (or any days, really).

And while this one has no video, it's still my favourite of all his songs. I saw him do it in Newcastle when the album of the same title first came out, and it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

And - hail Serendip! - while Googling to try to find anything substantial by way of back story for that song (wholly imagined? based on a real encounter? I seem to remember Al saying when i saw him in Newcastle that it was based on fact) I found this fascinating set of articles which I shall peruse at my leisure. Al Stewart AND Gurdjieff: my cup runneth over.

Every Inch Of A Good Time

And here are a couple of recent Darkness videos I particularly like. Rock and roll excess, that's the way.

The Darkness - Every Inch Of You from PIASGermany on Vimeo.


The Darkness - ABC Glasgow - Wednesday 12 September 2012

A fourth visit with my son to see Lowestoft's most famous product. This time they were touring in support of their new album Hot Cakes. Gone are the massive stadia of yore, but the boys can still rock. Their volume levels are still stadium-capable though:  my ears took around 36 hours to recover fully (my son betrayed the fact that he's an aspiring professional rock musician himself by wearing earplugs).

First up were local band Gun. No, not a reformed version of these guys, who were THE Gun, and not from Glasgow. Pity: the 1960s band would have made a good foil for The Darkness. Still, the Glaswegians (an energetic five-piece) worked really hard and made a good impression, They have a new album (Break The Silence)but they've clearly been around for a while. Always good to find bands I didn't know (though my son of course laboured under no such ignorance).

So. The Darkness. As always, their appearance onstage was heralded by the strains of Abba's Arrival. (It's a tradition, or an old charter, or something.) They opened up with their most recent single from Hot Cakes, Every Inch of You, which is a killer of an opening song. They then powered off into:

Growing On Me
One Way Ticket to Hell and Back
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us
... a certain amount of banter with the audience whenever they did new songs and got some good-natured heckling about how they weren't as good as the old ones. Justin has a way with hecklers: he's very polite, and passes them a microphone which generally freezes them with nerves. He asks their names, and remembers them later, referring to them jokily and pointing. OK, so the hecklers last Wednesday weren't really unpleasant (I suppose he just ignores those ones).

Get Your Hands Off of My Woman
... Justin standing on his head leading a clapalong by banging his legs together. Also rehearsing the audience carefully in the lyrics ('No, it's "Mo-ther". No "Fu-". That comes in a minute. No, I'm still hearing a "Fu-". Come on, you can do it. "Mo-ther".)

Love Is Only a Feeling
Everybody Have a Good Time
Looking For Love
Friday Night
... great to hear that one again. Justin started it off unaccompanied, just him and the audience.

An old one I didn't recognise (well, JH did say it was one for the hardcore fanbase). ...listening to my B-sides, it may have been Physical Sex, or that may have been one of the others I didn't recognise on the night.

Black Shuck
... at which point Justin changed out of his first outfit (a blue and white thing with a cape which was discarded very early on) and into familiar territory, viz. a black and white striped catsuit.

Three more songs I didn't recognise (got the impression two were new)

Giving Up
Stuck In A Rut
I Believe In A Thing Called Love

One final one I didn't know.

Girl With The Hazel Eyes
... not sure if they make a point of doing that every time they come to Bonnie Scotland or not. Oh, and Frankie's Mum got a name check as she was in the audience once again. On which topic, Justin Hawkins comes across as incredibly...well, nice. the kind of rock star you could take home to your Mum, who would find him charming (at least, mine would have done - she wouldn't have been fazed for a second even if he turned up at the front door in a catsuit).

Followed by a pause for another costume switch, a few swigs of water, and then it was up onto the shoulders of a roadie for a tour of the audience (in a phalanx of security) while playing an extended solo on...

Love On The Rocks With No Ice
... surely one of rock's great riffs. And when doing his solo vocal break, Justin showed phenomenal breath control. I mean, really amazing: I've never heard another rock singer sustain a note that long without cracking or drifting off-pitch.

And that was it. One of the best live bands around, gone until the next time.

See another review here, which agrees: The Darkness kick ass live.

Friday, September 14, 2012

List of Muslim victims of 9/11

Having originally thought I had nothing to add to my own 9/11 thoughts from last year, this post (via Huffington Post) is worth quoting in full.

List of Muslim victims of 9/11

American Muslims bear no collective guilt or blame for the crime of 9/11. We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of, including our loyalty and hard-earned livelihoods. We are not guest citizens, we are not second-rate citizens; we reject marginalization and require no validation. We are equal citizens living and worshipping in our country. (Ahmed Rehab, Huffington Post)

1. Samad Afridi
2. Ashraf Ahmad
3. Shabbir Ahmad (45 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and 3 children)
4. Umar Ahmad
5. Azam Ahsan
6. Ahmed Ali
7. Tariq Amanullah (40 years old; Fiduciary Trust Co.; ICNA website team member; leaves wife and 2 children)
8. Touri Bolourchi (69 years old; United Airlines #175; a retired nurse from Tehran)
9. Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury
10. Abdul K. Chowdhury (30 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
11. Mohammad S. Chowdhury (39 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and child born 2 days after the attack)
12. Jamal Legesse Desantis
13. Ramzi Attallah Douani (35 years old; Marsh + McLennan)
14. SaleemUllah Farooqi
15. Syed Fatha (54 years old; Pitney Bowes)
16. Osman Gani
17. Mohammad Hamdani (50 years old)
18. Salman Hamdani (NYPD Cadet)
19. Aisha Harris (21 years old; General Telecom)
20. Shakila Hoque (Marsh + McLennan)
21. Nabid Hossain
22. Shahzad Hussain
23. Talat Hussain
24. Mohammad Shah Jahan (Marsh + McLennan)
25. Yasmeen Jamal
26. Mohammed Jawarta (MAS security)
27. Arslan Khan Khakwani
28. Asim Khan
29. Ataullah Khan
30. Ayub Khan
31. Qasim Ali Khan
32. Sarah Khan (32 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
33. Taimour Khan (29 years old; Karr Futures)
34. Yasmeen Khan
35. Zahida Khan
36. Badruddin Lakhani
37. Omar Malick
38. Nurul Hoque Miah (36 years old)
39. Mubarak Mohammad (23 years old)
40. Boyie Mohammed (Carr Futures)
41. Raza Mujtaba
42. Omar Namoos
43. Mujeb Qazi
44. Tarranum Rahim
45. Ehtesham U. Raja (28 years old)
46. Ameenia Rasool (33 years old)
47. Naveed Rehman
48. Yusuf Saad
49 and 50. Rahma Salie + unborn child (28 years old; American Airlines #11; wife of Michael Theodoridis; 7 months pregnant)
51. Shoman Samad
52. Asad Samir
53. Khalid Shahid (25 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald; engaged to be married in November)
54. Mohammed Shajahan (44 years old; Marsh + McLennan)
55. Naseema Simjee (Franklin Resources Inc.’s Fiduciary Trust)
56. Jamil Swaati
57. Sanober Syed
58. Michael Theodoridis (32 years old; American Airlines #11; husband of Rahma Salie)
59. W. Wahid

(posted by Wasim)

Every Dog Has His Day

I liked Bonni the Nazi's post on the canine heroes of 9/11 enough that I have linked here to one of the videos she used (on a commemoration of the dogs and handlers) and a slightly better one than hers (IMO) covering 11/9/2001 itself.

I would have enjoyed both better without the faux-Copland music playing in the background all the time. But that's a minor quibble.

And here is the NY Post article she linked.

In which I encounter a few surprises

Bonni Benstock Intall, the Holocaust-denying Nazi at BareNakedIslam, lives in New York. So given her views on all things Islamic (and plenty more that are connected with Islam only in her damaged brain) it's scarcely a surprise that she should obsess more than most Americans over the September 11th 2001 terror attacks. this year she posted no fewer than 13 separate posts on the subject. A quick run-down is actually instructive in many ways, not all of them to her detriment: and of course she;s hardly alone among career Islamophobes in turning a day of remembrance into a (thoroughly un-Christian and un-Jewish) hatefest.

I'll list the posts from top to bottom, ie newest to oldest, as they follow no special sequence. All posts appear on 11 September 2001.

Banned by the U.S. media, this should be required viewing for every adult and child over 12.

Bonni shows here her usual ghoulish fascination with videos of violent death. It's the usual video footage of people jumping from the WTC. If the footage (eight minutes of it) was "banned by the US media" it seems unlikely any of it would have been so widely aired around the world. I expect, though, the even the Muslim-bashing sensationalists who run the likes of Fox News balked at airing footage of people's deaths when the jumpers relatives would be viewing. But who would go to Bonni for good taste or sensitivity?

Palestinians were dancing in the streets on 9/11.

Well, let's see. For the response of American Muslims see here and here. The second of those links also covers responses from the wider Islamic world, as does this one. Points especially worth noting are (a) all the leading groups of American Muslims such as CAIR and MPAC (the ones Bonni always describes as typical) immediately and unequivocally condemned the attacks (b) Muslim leaders all around the world, with the sole exception of Saddam Hussein, condemned the attacks: there were candle-lit vigils in Iran, a minute's silence held in Teheran's football stadium, and even the Taleban's leaders condemned them.

As for the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat (leader of Fatah) and the leader of Hezbollah condemned the attacks. The leader of Hamas didn't exactly condemn them but said he could see no point in them. Meanwhile, at least some of the "street celebrations" appear to have been staged for the cameras in an otherwise deserted part of Jerusalem. Some may have been genuine, but they clearly received no support from the Palestinian authorities.

Islamic Cleric defends the attacks of 9/11 saying, “America Deserved It.”
If the best Bonni can do is find a self-described "cleric" in Britain several years after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, she' not trying hard enough. How about these self-described "clerics" only two days after the attacks, saying that America deserved what it got, that it was God's punishment for its wicked promiscuity, feminism and homosexuality? Or are American "Christians" allowed to say things forbidden to British "Muslims"? And while Israel's Ariel Sharon expressed horror at the attacks at the time, his successor Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2008 that Israel had benefited from them.

I guess Bonni must just have run out of space for all that fact-based stuff.

911 Operator does her best to try and calm a panicked Melissa Doi right before the tower she was in fell.

Nothing to complain about here really: a bit tasteless but I dare say similarly tragic clips were getting a lot of airplay this week.

A tribute to the unsung canine heroes of 9/11.

I realise this just goes with Bonni's obsession with the welfare over animals over that of people (funny, I thought that was supposed to be a British trait) but this is rather a nice post actually. I hadn't seen the clips before, or read the NY Post piece. It seems to take the benign influence of dogs to get Bonni to post anything substantial which isn't dripping with hatred.




A few more clips of phone conversations from those about to die.


Or as I put it the other day, THE BLOODY THINGS FELL DOWN. Good clips here though.

Never Forget: The Islamic world gave us the terrorists who did this and the terrorists did this for Islam.

We have Clydesdales here (hell, they COME from Scotland) but I didn't know what the connection was to New York until the Budweiser logo came up at the end. Don't think Islam gave us Bud though (though whoever turned the decent Czech original into the watery American piss must have been anti-American). And "the terrorists did this for Islam"? Well, that would have been as much news to them as to the rest of us. Obviously horses, splendid though the Budweiser ones are, don't have the tempering effect on Bonni's spouting of egregious bollocks that dogs do.

The full story about the falling man that the media chose to ignore, and still refuse to acknowledge.

Another piece of voyeuristic stuff, though in this case produced by some group rather sinisterly called "Wunderwaffen". I fear that at 73 minutes 48 seconds I shall file it under "The full story of the falling man that nobody especially gave a crap about", rightly or wrongly.

Actually, all this concentration on a guy jumping (though I realise it was only to avoid a more painful alternative) reminded me of the scene in Larry Niven's Oath of Fealty, where prospective suicides who make it to the roof of an eight-mile-high building find that at the only access to the edge there is....a diving board. And I'd forgotten that scene altogether until now. Probably not what "Wunderwaffen" intended.

9/11 BOATLIFT: “A hero is a man who does what he can”
Sadly, not many people know about these unsung heroes of 9/11.



Creating the world from microsecond to microsecond, towers, Pentagon, hijackers, jumpers and all. Where did you expect him to be? Malibu?

Actually, the God in the video, as well as execrable taste in background music (Simon & Garfunkel made far better use of "Silent Night") seems to have been as voyeuristic as Bonni, mostly busy watching people dying (and President Bush of course). It was a nice touch, though, for him to be in every seat of all four aircraft: as a non-judgmental God, just getting on with creating the world, of course he was with the hijackers too. (If one prefers a more orthodox approach, he might have been waiting for the looks of horror on their faces when they emerged in heaven to discover that in fact their sins had been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus and that they're welcome to stick around for a few cold ones: or if they're determined to be assholes about it, to be shown the exit.)

Most of these calls have never been heard by the public. These are the voices of the people who knew they were going to die within minutes. These are their stories and the last memories that the survivors will ever have. God bless them.

There's a reason why most of the calls haven't been heard by the public, not should they be. Bonni may not have noticed, but over here we've had a lot of people getting very cross about journalistic phone-hacking, and this seems perilously close to that. Yecch.

So there we are. Obsessed, yes, but with only one post and a bit of a title actually dripping hatred, a couple of well-deserved tributes, a slapping around for the 9/11 truthers (good to know that there are some conspiracy theories too wacky for even the Obama-is-a-Muslim, Muslims-hate-America Bonni to believe in). Mostly just showing a ghoulish obsession with audio and video of people about to die, like a latter-day tricoteuse knitting as the tumbrils roll by. I must say I'd expected worse: Pamela Geller's blog for 11 September, for example, scarcely mentions the terrorist attack eleven years earlier. Mostly it's filled with advertising for the conference of international neofascists (including Britain's own brownshirt thug Tommy Robinson) which Geller and her cronies were putting on in New York, plus a list of fallen US servicemen (all well and good but not relevant to the anniversary).

Life's like that, isn't it? I started out this post fully intending to skewer Bonni for her 9/11 obsession: but have ended up realising that I'd rather have a Nazi who at least honours the dead (and who in doing so diverts some of her hatred into less harmful channels) than one for whom remembrance just gets in the way of the important business of stamping out divergent opinions.

If I weren't off the booze just now (tooth abscess: antibiotics) I might even raise a glass to Ms Benstock Intall. And how often does that happen?