Friday, 30 October 2009

New favourite portrait

At the National Portrait Gallery I came across this rather AWESOME portrait. You can't really miss it. It is huge. Takes up an entire wall. By Jason Brooks of Sir Paul Nurse. It's a painting of a photograph.
I did a quick (10 mins) sketch of it.

What London looked like on Wednesday

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mixed Metaphors Don't Work

I just heard some 'highlights' (don't laugh) from yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions during which David Cameron said of Gordon Brown "He can't even be straight when he's performing a U-Turn".


Bandits at Six O'Clock

We visited Auntie Zafiro in Tersephanou yesterday evening and I suffered more mosquito bites in half an hour than in the previous ten days. There is a different variety of mosquito there, smaller and greyish white in colour. Zafiro has lived there all her life and she and the Mozzies have learned to peacefully co-exist, plus she's a tough old bird and yer average Mozzie would merely blunt his gnashers if he tried any funny business with her. But the word was out that there was some over-nutritioned English flesh in town and my number was consequently well and truly up. Cue: tactical withdrawal once the diplomatic niceties had been observed.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Ochi! Ochi! Ochi!

Oy Oy Oy.
Sunrise came at about about five past six am in the morning. The drums started at half past, followed by the church bells at twenty to seven. Both continued for about an hour or so and I eventually gave up and got out of bed. Around ten thirty the drumming resumed as a number of bands converged at the seafront for the parade and the generalised rumble and rumty tiddly tiddly tum bum echoed back across the town. And so on till half past noon, when one of the bands came down St Lazaros Street and past our flat, on its way back to base. It apparently comprised the massed ranks of the Sea Scouts and Cub Scouts, herded by various adult minders. It triggered memories of the St George's Day Parade we used to get cajoled into when I was in the 1st Nunthorpe Scouts, although those events were much more dignified and discreet. There was certainly none of this six thirty am business, anyway.

Be that as it may, I suppose we Britishers ought be glad the Greeks said NO to Mussolini back in 1940 because it meant that the Germans eventually had to come to Italy's aid, (the Greeks were winning) thereby diverting troops intended for the Eastern Front and thus delaying the invasion of Russia and reducing the Germans' chances of success in the East.

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Not Jumping

It may look as if I am about to defenestrate myself but no. I am actually in the middle of painting the wooden kitchen window frame, having removed the aluminium window thingy itself. A tricky task, requiring the purchase of a heavier screwdriver to cope with the rusty screws and a nifty bit of handling so as not to drop the blessed thing twenty feet into the stairwell. In the U K, windowmen generally use a hardwood frame which requires little or no maintenance. But in Cyprus any old wood will do, which is consequently subject to weathering thereby causing me more work!

Now You See it, Now You Don't

The cracks in the wall are no more! Tetrion rules! And just to make sure, I have used some spiffing new paint which obliterates all in its path. Developed for the American Military, no doubt.

Front room and bedroom done; hallway awaiting. Or maybe I'll have a day off seeing as it is 'Ochi Day.'

Heavy Weather

The BBC forecast heavy showers for Larnaca today. They weren't wrong. Heres the view from the front balcony of the flat this afternnon.

New Stuff

When we were here in the summer, I agreed with our Mary that we needed a new fridge and that the washing machine was somewhat suspect too. Well, the fridge was second hand when it was acquired in 1985. Likewise, the washing machine. The fridge was apt to make chuntering noises all night long and the washing machine sounded more like a bass coffee grinder. So El Presidente and I have acquired new ones.

In line with our policy to minimise carbon emissions, both machines are 'A' rated for energy efficiency.The fridge includes some technology called a nano-deodorizer. Very Star Trek. I wonder if you can get similar nano-technology for other rooms in the house. Or even people.

I am not at liberty to disclose the cost for fear that we will invite friends and relatives of El Presidente to exclaim that they could have got it wholesale and/or for much less than that. Suffice it to say that we have spent less than the cost of a Gibson ES-339 but more than the cost of a Fender Standard HSS Stratocaster. Both have been bought from Pantasis' shop up the road from here rather than from a major retailer - the proprietor's wife is an old friend of my mother-in-law and gave us a 'special price'.

Spot the difference

Remind you of anyone?

No Day

Tomorrow is 28 October which is a Greek National Day (they seem to have several). This particular one is known as Ochi Day and commemorates the day in 1940 when Greek Prime Minister Metaxas refused to allow the Italian Army into Greek territory, thereby prompting the Italians to invade and thus bringing Greece into the Second World War on the side of the Allies.

So, not only will most shops etc be closed, they'll be having parades and there's nothing yer average Cypriot likes better than a parade of marching bands of drummers. They've been rehearsing for this at the school which is about 100 metres away from us - rum tee tum tee tum tee  tee tiddly tum tum bum bum bum it goes. Interesting at first, but becoming tiresome. No doubt they'll be at it from the crack tomorrow morning, along with the church bells...

Mosquitos United 2 v. Xorg Inter-Galactic 4

We've been here a week now and, so far, I have only two mosquito bites despite sleeping with the windows partly open. Meanwhile I have splatted four of the blighters.

The cool night air at this time of year is quite pleasant and is preferable to the noise and dryness of the air conditioning. Plus we won't be consuming all that electricity. Allowing a couple of the little bleeders to infiltrate the defences seems a reasonable trade-off.

Friday, 23 October 2009

This is what we are up against

I am not here merely to eat kebabs read books drink beer and lie down. It falls to me to undertake the maintenance work on the existing flat. As you will see from these pictures we are plagued with cracks in the walls which are caused by settlement but made worse than they might  be because of the nature of the construction. Most buildings here are built using reinforced concrete pillars with the spaces between filled in with somewhat cursory brickwork. A couple of layers of plaster are then applied. So when the building moves, the plaster cracks along the line where the brickwork meets the concrete pillar or beam. And buildings in this part of Larnanca inevitably move because it is close to the sea and water is less than a metre below. So filling up these cracks is an ongoing task. Fortunately, Cypriot builders have now discovered gypsum board. Meanwhile it's down to me, t'palette knife and t'Tetrion.

Architect Schmarchitect

The architect took away his drawings to correct various stuff, particularly the excessive electrical planning and he's been on the phone today endlessly to check measurements. Prompted mainly because El Presidente came up with another idea for where to put the kitchen, the size of the veranda and the like. Turns out he's got a few measurements wrong and so we've had to be dashing up and down stairs to the roof to double check. The snag seems to be that he's been working from the original drawings for the building, but that ain't necessarily how the builder built it. You'd have thought he would have checked all his measurements at the outset but I guess that's not the Cypriot way.

Meanwhile, the building regulations application has been accepted at the Town Hall which is something - they usually find something wrong with the application before they even consider the merits of the proposal. Any road up, Stavros at the Town hall advised that it would take three months for a decision but if we paid €150 it would get done in a month. As it happens, El Presidente did not have that much cash with her but he said "Oh, you can bring it on Monday." So we find ourselves in a moral dilemma: should we pay this official bribe to get it done, thereby conniving in adding to the delays for other applicants who haven't stumped up the readies. And just supposing everybody pays the extra €150; who jumps the queue then? Answers on the back of a 100 quid note please.

Smash Factor 50 Shower Screen

"Bye!" said an overly emotional mother as she farewelled her children at a ridiculously early hour, "Be nice to each other"
"Yes Mum" answered the semi-conscious children.
"Try not the break anything" added their Dad.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Getting Cultural

El Presidente and myself attended a concert this evening by the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra at Larnaca Municipal Theatre. A programme of Spanish music, including Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez. It was all jolly good although I found the other compositions insubstantial - I'd never heard them before and although they sounded very Iberian I have to say none of them grabbed me. The soloist on guitar was not quite feeling it on the first movement of t'concerto but he really got into it for the next bit. I was a tad surprised to see that he used a little diddy acoustic amplifier, which affected his tone a bit, but maybe this is not unusual these days.

The conductor looked awfully young and he walked like a lanky Groucho Marx. An amusing moment came when he announced they were reversing the running order for the second half. An old lady in the audience responded saying "Embirazi" (which is Greek for "Never mind") in the kind of tone a mother uses when little Jim forgets to post a letter to Grandma.


via j-walk
Next time you have a car crash, nip over to  Accident Sketch for a whizzo device to help you draw a sketch of what has been occurring. Or just have morbid fun sketching accidents.

The Odious Nick Griffin, MEP

I am reluctant to mention this horrible little man because there's nothing he craves more than publicity. But I think it is important that he and his vile cronies in the British National Party be exposed for the excrementious logger-headed fly-bitten fustilarians that they are. It would be a mistake to ignore Griffin in the hope that he will go away.

The BNP is undeniably racist; the Courts have determined its constitution to be illegal on these grounds. Griffin was convicted in 1998 of incitement to racial hatred. The BNP's economic policy is somewhat confuddled: they are apparently opposed to both socialism and capitalism, as well as globalisation. But they are in favour of the National Health Service, a 'socialised' function.They fear a 'federalised' Europe,  but want to invite Ireland to join a 'Federation of the British Isles'. Griffin has blamed Britain's 'drug problems' on Pakistani immigrants. He is 'anti-Islamist' which makes as much sense as being anti-Christian. Not all Christians are evangelical nutters...not all Muslims are suicide bombers...In June 2009, Griffin claimed that global warming is a political hoax perpetrated by the 'liberal elite' as a means of taxing and controlling us plebs. I don't know that such a thing exists but I would rather have a liberal elite than a fascist elite! He denies the Holocaust. Ho Hum...need I say more?

The BNP invoke images of Winston Churchill and Griffin quotes Churchill's views on immigration and Europe. This pre-supposes that Churchill's views were always right or necessarily make any sense sixty years later when  transposed to today's world. (And Churchill did make quite a few mistakes in his long political life). A typical propagandist trick to invoke a mythologised 'national hero' in support.

You might be familiar with the quotation attributed to Edmund Burke : "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Burke was an 18th Century politician and philosopher whose ideas form the basis of modern conservatism, but let's not hold that against him). Do the research. If you encounter anyone fool enough to sympathise with this pestilential jackass put them on the right track. Most important of all, when it comes to election time, get out there and vote and don't let this abominable purveyor of falsehoods and bigotry creep into power through your apathy.

Martin's Blues

Slightly alarming news via The Voice of America that the legendary guitar makers C F Martin are in financial trouble and having to introduce short-time working. Just about everyone who ever played guitar almost seriously will have dreamed of owning a Martin guitar - but if Martin go out of business their guitars will become even more expensive. Anyone who is the slightest bit interested in guitars should browse around the C F Martin website.

I think we all owe it to posterity to order a new Martin guitar right now and save this noble company from oblivion. Meanwhile, if the US Government is considering further financial bail outs then  I reckon C F Martin is a darn sight more worthwhile than General Motors, AIG and so forth!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Building in Cyprus

For New Readers: When this house in Cyprus was built in the early 1980s the roof was never finished properly as the intention was to add another floor sometime. This is a fairly typical approach amongst Cypriots - very few buildings are ever finished completely. About four years ago, El Presidente and myself began the process of doing something about it. Initial plans for a three bedroom flat were abandoned as ridiculously expensive. So we downsized our plans to a one bedroom flat - with a proper roof with tiles and everything. After much to and fro, back and forth, dealing with the bureaucracy and the architect, we have reached the stage where we have a building permit but must now get building regulations approval. Enter Phase 93:

We have spent the morning discussing the detailed drawings with the architect, who was a whole day late in coming. To be fair, he did phone to say he'd be late...

It is now the law that one has to engage an electrical engineer to provide drawings of where the wires and plugs go - so that has cost us another €380. But this chappie has taken it upon himself to include a security system with five fire alarms, integral wiring for loudspeakers, four TV points, four telephone points...etc etc. What's the Greek for 'over the top'?

El Presidente, with her usual eagle-eye for details, took the architect up to the roof and pointed out that his drawings don't match where the concrete pillars actually are. So it's back to the drawing board for you chum! Much further talk followed about where the lights should be, where to put the washing machine, etc; usual stuff I suppose. But do we really need underfloor heating in Cyprus? Any road up, this all went on so long that we've missed the opening hours for the so-called Planning Department at the Town Hal,l so that'll be for tomorrow.  And the next phase of the approval process takes three months. Ho Hum!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


One of the good things about Cyprus is the local beer, KEO, brewed in Limassol. Imagine my surprise to find that my father-in-law who is a Cypriot and was here for a month before me, bought a crate of Bavaria -  a nondescript pilsner brewed in Holland - five bottles of which he left behind.

Now why would a Dutch brewer give his beer a German name unless it is to misattribute its provenance, indicating a nefarious intent?


So here we are, established in our alternate reality in Cyprus. After a considerable amount of farting about and fiddling, one has established a connection via Cytanet to the interweb tubes at last. It was the usual story; the instructions you are given are incomplete and those that you have do not match the actuality. Good job I'm in laid back mode today or I might have become a tad annoyed at some point. I drank six cups of tea during the process, however. Dunno if that's significant or merely an arbitrary measure of time.

Situation Report: El Presidente is at the supermarket procuring supplies and I'm listening to Tapestry by Carole King via Spotify. Bertie Nissington-Nissington March is in fine fettle and the sun is shining, temperature 32 degrees Celsius. One souvlakia eaten, and two beers consumed.

Friday, 16 October 2009

What Me, Worry?

On Feb. 5, 1958, during a simulated combat mission near Savannah, Ga., a B-47 bomber collided with an F-86 fighter. The fighter crashed; the bomber, barely airworthy, needed to reduce weight to avoid an emergency landing.
So it dropped a 7,600-pound nuclear bomb.
The bomb contained 400 pounds of conventional explosives and highly enriched uranium. There’s some disagreement as to whether it included the plutonium capsule needed to start a nuclear reaction.
That’s rather important, because in 50 years of searching the Air Force still hasn’t found the bomb. It hit the water near Tybee Island off the Georgia coast and is presumably buried in 10 feet of silt somewhere in Wassaw Sound. But exactly where it is, and how dangerous it is, remain unknown. (Also reported by the BBC).

Miley Cyrus' new film The Last Song was shot on location at Tybee Island this summer and our Michael and his family, coincidentally, feature as extras.

Eight Middle Eights

The 'middle eight' is that bit in a song where the music changes tempo and/or modulates briefly (usually for eights bars) and then returns to the regular verse. Also sometimes known as 'the bridge' c.f. James Brown, who was fond of taking it to there. The middle eight breaks up the usual verse verse chorus business and provides an extra 'dimension'. Not all music features a middle eight, for example stuff like disco and hip-hop which is often the poorer for it. Well, downright tedious in some cases to be honest. But that's not say that a middle eight is essential. In any case, here's eight songs in no particular order where I think the middle eight is damned fine:

For Your Love - The Yardbirds
She's a Woman - The Beatles
Badge - Cream
I Want To Be Loved - Muddy Waters (Willie Dixon)
Hey Bulldog - The Beatles
Until You Come Back To Me - Aretha Franklin
River Deep, Mountain High - Ike and Tina Turner
Tell Her No - The Zombies

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Big in Japan

This is a meal our Anne cooked for us in March last year. I happened across the photograph whilst trawling through the archives for something else. I can't remember the name of the dish but it's a Japanese recipe from her  Wagamama cookbook.

10 points for presentation and it tasted good too.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

On Monday, BBC7  began re-broadcasting a full-cast dramatisation of P.G. Wodehouse's novel, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, starring Michael Hordern as Jeeves and Richard Briers as Wooster.
Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle's engagement is on the rocks and, due to an old blunder, Bertie is  the next in line for the fair maiden's hand if one or other should default. The prospect is too hideous to contemplate. Something must be done immediately. Bertie must brave Totleigh Towers once more, with the inimitable Jeeves in tow, for a spot of bridge mending...

Also featuring: Stiffy Byng, Stinker Pinker, Sir Watkyn Bassett and Emerald Stoker.


The Cost of the Iraq War vs. The Royal Mail

According to the Financial Times the Ministry of Defence estimates the cost of the war as £8.4 billion, £800 million or so less than my guess. No doubt the Iraq Inquiry will clarify this in due course. This compares with an estimated cost of £2.5 billion, the Government having believed the war would only last six months.

Coincidentally The Guardian  reports that £10 billion is about the size of the Royal Mail's pension deficit, which arose while the Royal Mail took a contributions holiday between 1990 and 2003 (although the employees continued to pay their contributions). Meanwhile, the Government held on to £2 billion of the Royal Mail's profits.

Where Did Yesterday Go

I dunno. It was Tuesday, wasn't it? The day just seemed to go by. I went out walking for a couple of hours in the morning as usual with my chums in The Hartham Walking Group, but I have no idea where the rest of the day went.  We walked across Waterford Heath and along the River Beane, and it was a lovely sunny autumn day. We saw a heron in flight and a horse lying down. Bucolic.

I had an interesting discussion with Margaret and Irene whilst walking, all about The Iraq War and Tony Blair. Irene went on that massive demonstration in London back in February 2003 when over a million people turned out to express their opposition to the invasion and Mr Blair ignored them. Just like he ignored my letters on the subject. We all agreed that the bereaved father who refused to shake Blair's hand at the memorial service the other day made a most eloquent protest. I am hoping Blair took it to heart and is now racked with guilt, but I doubt it somehow.

Thinks: besides the loss of life and the political repercussions, the Iraq War was costing the UK 5 million quid a day so over the course of five years that's over 9 billion smackers for what exactly?

Ho Hum.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


If I were a sausage, I think I would be a Cumberland sausage. Not stuffed with sage like a Lincolnshire and not piddley like a Chipolata.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The world's prettiest bassline

Stratocaster Runs Amok

The Stratocaster is finished! New pickups in and wired up correctly after a couple of attempts, and it sounds pretty darn good - the pickups can be switched between single coil and humbucker by pressing the volume control. Joe seems extremely happy, and Phil is dead chuffed.

The First Time I Met The Blues

When I was about 13 or 14 years old my brother Chris came home with this EP.
We knew Mr Hooker's song 'Dimples' from The Animals' cover version, and other blues stuff from The Rolling Stones' and The Yardbirds' covers. I think it was Fred Yates who had The Animals' album, as well as the first Stones' album. But this is the first encounter with the real thing that I remember. It kind of woke me up to what was what.
Blues records were a bit hard to come by in those days and we mostly learned stuff by 'word of mouth' as it were. Blues didn't get played on the BBC.

The next big thing was John Mayall's Bluesbreakers which led to B B King, Freddie King and so forth. Chris and I subsequently saw Freddie King live at Leeds University and he were fab. But I never got to see John Lee Hooker.

The Crux of the Biscuit is the Apostrophe

The misplaced apostrophe is a popular phenomenon which has brought joy to pedants throughout the English speaking world. We've all got our its and it's mixed up at sometime and who hasn't bought apple's, potato's and banana's? But I recently encountered a new variation:

The apostrophe is not unknown in the field of surnames - step up Lord De'Ath and Winston O'Boogie. But I have not come across this before, especially after having spelled out the name over the telephone to the functionary who applied the sticky label to this particular delivery. What made him think an apostrophe belongs there? Does he apply it to all surnames and words ending in the letter S?

A Confederacy of Dunces

Advice from Madam Q:

I read Confederacy some years ago and thought, "This is a most interesting and peculiar and exciting and downright "Wha'?" of a book".  Well worth a read Xorglebaby  .  .  .  though I can't quite remember what it was all about now, though the protagonist is quite a hoot of a guy  -  well along the spectrum.

I note too that according to Wikipedia the central protagonist is named 'Ignatius J. Reilly' and is an educated but slothful man. One of my favourite things in literature and life generally is silly names, so I have ordered a copy. A review will follow in due course.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


I have just started re-reading 'Cat's Cradle' by Kurt Vonnegut. I can't remember exactly but it must be 35 years or so since I first read it. This is the book in which Vonnegut invents the Bokonist religion which sanctions foma - a comforting lie that has value independent of its truth (or lack there of).

Big Government

We tried to warn David Cameron against revealing too much about his specific policies. But he pretty much gave the game away in his speech to the Party Conference, blaming 'Big Government' for the financial mess we're in. Whilst this is a familiar rallying call to the Conservative faithful, to claim the recession is the fault of too much Government is just plain wrong. It was a lack of adequate regulation that caused it. Moreover, it was the Conservative Government policy of financial deregulation and neo-liberalist capitalism under Thatcher (and Reagan in the USA) that set the stage for the collapse of the financial markets - following the economic theories of Hayek and Friedman. Gordon Brown's mistake was to think that the easy money being generated by the financial sector would go on forever. But once the crisis hit, at least he could see that only Government is  'big' enough to do something about it.

Stratocaster Rises from the Dead

Dr Frankenstein wires up the revived Strat with its Seymour Duncan pickups. Meanwhile, Igor takes a break from cooking a Mole Tart. (Pronounced mollay, and its chief constituent is chocolate - with chilli.)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Literary Laughs

Over at Abebooks:  TheTen Funniest Books According to Abebooks UK Customers

The selection probably reflects the market demographic of Abebooks but nevertheless I am a tad surprised that no Terry Pratchett tomes appear in the list. But I go along wholeheartedly with P G Wodehouse being top of the pops. What Ho, Fink-Nottle!

I have read only six of the books in the list and I've never heard of 'A Confederacy of Dunces' before, so I guess I'll be checking that out soonish.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Phil's drum solo from The Tom Braggins Band gig last Sunday at Deco. The sound quality is not all that amazing but you'll get the drift. Hotcha!


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Mary's Life - Episode One

In 1988 the world saw the beginning of terrorism with planes crashing into buildings and suicide bombers killing innocent people of a different racial background. The Americans elected George Bush SR as their President, Pakistan got their first female Prime Minister and the US Navy blew up some Iranians over the Persian Gulf. Unlucky Iranians. On the third of December of this pivotal year, in somewhat small county town, a thirty-two year old mother of two went into labour.

For the rest of the world, the third of December was not a particularly special day. The editor of the Guardian newspaper may have been happy because it saw the launch of their new weekend magazine, aptly named ‘Weekend’. Other than this, it was a fairly regular day…

Back to the small county town…

The frantic father-to-be (again) grabbed the overnight bag that was waiting expectantly by the door and ushered his bulging, but beautiful wife, out of the house. They drove quickly (within the speed limit of course) to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital where they were greeted by a doctor that strangely resembled a weasel. His elongated neck protruded from his shoulders and his ears twitched with anticipation. After much deliberation of where to go and of how much the doctor looked like a weasel, the expectant mother arrived in the delivery room. Surrounded by the doctor, nervous father and smiley midwife the mother experienced blistering contractions and the father experienced the bones in his hands gradually fracturing with the added bonus of ear drums bursting. An injury which still plagues him to this very day.

With a final push, the baby popped out. There I was, covered in a variety of gunky fluids, screaming my lungs out. Beaming faces looked down on me as I was passed to my exhausted yet ecstatic mother. I fell asleep in the incubator and my parents starred at the chubby child they had produced. I had been through an almost miscarriage, bean bag birth and an almost perfect delivery. My father telephoned the anxious grandparents who were waiting with my older sister, Anne and my older brother, Philip. When they heard they felt like they had just won a gold medal; excited and proud.

My mother and I stayed in the hospital for the night to make sure that I wasn’t missing any vital organs. Oh and so my mum could recover. Dad, also known as Tim, returned home so that the ancestral dudette (my grandmother) could have a break from looking after Anne and Philip. Years later when I ask Anne what she remembers from the time of my birth, all she can tell me is what she ate; spaghetti Bolognese. Typical. Everything relates to food. Always thinking about her stomach. My brother doesn’t remember much, he’s in a world of his own most of the time.
Although he did say that it was raining. Helpful.

Looking back at the photos, apart from thinking that my Mother's perm should have been outlawed, I think that my eyes were really big, like bug eyes. But I suppose I have the old Cypriot ancestry to thank for that. Thanks. According to dad, Anne and Philip were really happy to see me, their new baby sister. All Anne said was “Can I hold her yet?! Can I?! Please…” This was continually repeated, even when she was holding me. Of course, she doesn’t remember this. Probably because it didn’t have anything to do with food.

Written by Mary, aged 16 as part of English GCSE creative writing coursework

Don't Pass Me By

Just listened to The Beatles 'White Album' all the way through whilst thinking about whether or not to buy the 'Remastered' version. As with most albums there's a duff track which isn't up to scratch compared with the rest of it, and in this case it's 'Don't Pass Me By', written and sung by Ringo.

As all you Beatle-nerds will know, Ringo wrote this song at least four years before the White Album sessions and Lennon & McCartney didn't think much of it - at the time, they had 'Can't Buy Me Love' etc in the can. However, during the White Album sessions tensions between John and Paul were beginning to show and this led to Ringo getting fed up with all the arguing and he stormed out. He was enticed back eventually, mostly by George who decorated Ringo's drum kit with flowers to welcome him back.

I suspect that another thing they did was allow Ringo to have his song on the album even though they still didn't think much of it, thus enabling Ringo to get a publishing royalty on every copy sold. The song is published via Ringo's own company 'Starlight Ltd' and was never part of  Northern Songs that is now famously co-owned by Sony and Michael Jackson's estate. Consequently, Ringo still gets all the publishing and composer's royalties, whereas Yoko (as John's heir) and Paul only get a fraction for their songs. Moreover, Ringo held on to his shares in Northern Songs when John and Paul sold theirs in 1968, so he's getting a slice of John and Paul's royalties too (albeit a very thin slice).


Cameron Machiavelli

Nice article by Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Grauniad. He points out that the next election is David Cameron's to lose, quoting Max Weber "...the ideal democratic leader should...inspire in his followers a belief that he knows the right thing to do, without saying what it might be."

Yep. The more the Conservatives have spelled out their specific policies, the more we realise how half-baked, vapid and divisive they are.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Stratocaster in a Skip

Here's Phil working his techie magic on a 1980s Japanese Fender Squier Stratocaster that was found in a skip by Joe Nesbitt's Dad. The guitar is structurally sound with just a few dents. Phil and Joe are replacing all the electrics after having given it a good clean up, new saddles and so forth. They've ordered some Seymour Duncan pickups. Apparently, Squier Strats of that era are of better quality than the American made Fenders.

It's a mystery to me why anyone would throw a guitar in a skip; maybe there's a fraught and anguished story behind its ignominious disposal. Some poor soul who could never get the riff from 'Johnny B Goode' just right; or a wife/girlfriend who got fed up of hearing 'Smoke on the Water' again and again and again.

[Joe is a wizard guitar player and he and Phil are forming a blues/rock trio. And perhaps with keyboards as well.]

Stuff Named After Frank Zappa

A jellyfish, Phialella Zappai.
Prof Ferdinando Boero went to California for two reasons: to study the ecology and taxonomy of the local jellyfish and to meet Frank Zappa. He achieved both when he discovered a previously unknown jellyfish and wrote to FZ asking if it was OK to name it after him, and FZ invited Ferdinando to stay for the weekend.

A gene, ZapA (Proteus mirabilis)
A bacterium that is often found in soil, water, and the intestinal tract of many mammals, including humans . . . [It] is not a common cause of urinary tract infection . . . [but] infects a much higher proportion of patients with complicated urinary tracts, that is, those with functional or anatomical abnormalities or with chronic instrumentation, such as long-term urinary catheterization." Boffin Bob Belas came up with the cunning idea of calling this ZapA (pronounced 'Zappa'), ensuring that FZ's name would be forever immortalised in the world of very small things, as well as very large. In the acknowledgements section of the paper , it says: "We especially thank the late Frank Zappa for inspiration and assistance with genetic nomenclature."

An amphibious fish, Zappa confluentus
Ed Murdy, a post-doctoral fellow studying mudskippers, looked again at pseudapocryptes confluentus fish on the banks of the Fly River at Madiri, about 74km upriver from Toro Pass, Papua New Guinea, and came to the conclusion that this fish was no pseudapocryptes. It was so different, in fact, that it needed a new generic name all to itself and Ed had to choose it. The name he chose was Zappa confluentus because he liked his music,
his politics and principles, and the name itself is a good one for scientific nomenclature.

A pre-historic mollusc, Amaurotoma zappa
This shellfish lived and died some 300 million years ago in the mountains of Clark County, Nevada, about 60 miles north east of Las Vegas. specimens of the long-extinct mollusc were collected. The description of Amaurotoma zappa is long and complex, involving such technical terms as 'whorl', 'protoconch' and 'sutural ramp'; 'very thin parietal inductura’; ‘inner lip slightly reflexed around umbilicus’; ‘apertural lip crenulated’.

A spider, Pachygnatha zappa
In 1981 and 1983 Belgian biologists from the Rijksuniversiteit Gent organized two expeditions to Mount Cameroon and neighbouring ranges. In 1994 Robert Bosmans and Jan Bosselaers revealed the species they named pachygnatha zappa. This species epithet is given in honour of the twentieth century composer Frank Zappa (1941-1993), well known for both his serious and commercial music. The dark grey mark on the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache .

A planet, zappafrank
Discovered on May 11th, 1980, by Czech astronomer L. Brozek at Klet Observatory Named in memory of Frank Zappa (1940-1993), rock musician and composer of innovative contemporary symphonic, chamber and electronic music. Zappa was an eclectic, self-trained artist and composer with incredible energy and a biting wit and his music transcends the usual music barriers. Before 1989 he was regarded as a symbol of democracy and freedom by many people in Czechoslovakia .

A Street in Berlin, Frank-Zappa-Strasse
On the eastern outskirts of Berlin amid empty industrial buildings in what was communist East Germany. The street is home to Orwo Haus , a former Communist-era film factory that now provides practice studios for more than 160 bands. Musicians at Orwo Haus campaigned for two years to have the street's name changed. Eighteen bands, including the tribute band Sheik Yerbouti , celebrated the renaming with an all-night concert for more than 2,800 people .

Brewers Lagunitas started a series of specialty seasonal beers named after early albums of Frank Zappa, each released on the 40th anniversary of the original album.
Freak Out! Ale - "a bright copper colour with a thick, soapy-foamy head and a very citric hoppy nose." (from
Absolutely Free (also called Kill Ugly Radio) - "Very fruity in its aroma, stinking pleasantly of apricot" (from
We're Only In It For the Money - "sweet and yeasty with traces of spicy fruit, cinnamon, apples, grapes" (from
Lumpy Gravy - "Very rich and robust flavour with hints of smoke. Nutty characteristics linger throughout and bring a nice sweetness" (from
Cruisin' With Rueben and the Jets - "Bitter, unsweetened coffee, roasted malt and a little bit of liquorice and black pepper [taste]" (from

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Got Dem Ol' Copyright Blues

I was just listening to Bob Dylan's recent album 'Together Through Life' and there's a track on there called 'My Wife's Home Town' which is basically a re-write of Willie Dixon's 'I Just Want To Make Love To You'. Dylan has done the decent thing and given Dixon a composer's credit and presumably some money will eventually find its way to Mr Dixon's estate.

Willie Dixon and many other blues men have been ripped off by rock musicians for years now. Notable exponents of the blues rip-off are Led Zeppelin whose victims also include Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters (Led Zeppelin Vol.2 has some blatant examples). Dixon led the fight back and set up the Blues Heaven Foundation which not only promotes The Blues but also works to secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who have been exploited.

Led Zeppelin (and others) have been sued succesfully for millions. Maybe Bob Dylan learned by example!

Footnote: Dylan's next release is to be a Christmas album in which he performs various Christmas standards such as 'Winter Wonderland'. He's donating his artiste's royalties to 'Feeding America', a charity which provides food to starving Americans. I bet you never realised there are starving Americans!

On a lighter note...


Did you know that the Theatre Royal Bristol is the oldest continuously working theatre in Britain and has been staging productions since 1766?

Did you know that the Worlds first chocolate bar was made in Bristol by Joseph Fry in the late 1720's? Fry's still make Turkish Delight, although the company was bought long ago by Cadbury.

Did you know this?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Stuff I Have Successfully Avoided

The Sound of Music
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Mr Blobby's Christmas Record
Eurovision 2009
Chris Moyles
Phil Collins' Solo Albums
Big Brother
Susan Boyle
Alan Titchmarsh's TV and Radio Programmes
The Plague

More Pie!

Found at
where popular culture receives a graphic interpretation. Loads more laughs there.