Sunday, 28 March 2010

He's not just bonkers

My OU course has moved on from impressionism to political history with a particular case study of Joseph Stalin. By crikey, he were a right bastard and no mistake. But it's amazing how often in politics people will go along with what some nutter at the top insists on even though they must know there's something not right about it. In Stalin's case there's the 'Red Terror' and the 'Great Purge' (amongst others). Millions denied justice and executed as a result of Stalin's paranoia but all these flunkeys went along with it. We can explain Stalin's behaviour by saying he was a sociopath who although he knew that what he was doing was wrong, he didn't care. But all the people who actually did the killing can't all have been sociopaths can they?
PS. Only one occurence of clichespeak to report from this week's tutorial : thinking outside the box.

Dialectics Part 1 : Thesis v. Antithesis

If a man is alone in the forest and there is no woman there to hear him, is everything he says still wrong?

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Vatican Isn't All Bad

(via The Word)
Them filthy papists do occasionally get some things right. You can enjoy a 360 degree view of the Sistine Chapel at their website, accompanied by some sepulchural choral music.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Chickenshed: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Another works outing for the Xorg Collective yesterday evening to the Chickenshed Theatre to see their production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. My cousin Francis has had a long association with this place and is their sound designer, resident deputy composer and assistant musical person. He very kindly wangled a short-term gig for our Phil as 'sound operator' for this production and got us tickets for yesterdays' performance. The actors/singers are mostly BTEC students and their teachers, plus children and young people from their various 'outreach' projects. Chickenshed managed to get sponsorship from 'River Island' clothiers who provided all the costumes - hence the show was in 'modern' dress, in various degrees of smart casual. Francis and his cronies wrote music to go with Shakespeare's stuff so it kind of ended up like a musical but not, as the dialogue remained in the original Bardspeak. Phil's job is to twiddle the knobs on the sound desk at the appropriate moments, which is something he likes doing, and he gets paid for it too.
Any road up, a very energetic show with some excellent performances and dynamic choreography. A  few of the students have still to learn properly how to modulate their voices when using a microphone, but most of them have just about got it, and a couple were very confident. The chappie playing 'Bottom' was loving it, and they all seemed to having a great time. It's great to see all that enthusiasm!
If you are a rich person who likes the theatre then give 'em a donation.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Idiot of the Week

Stephen Byers. The victim of a sting operation by some reporters, he bragged about his connections with Government and his ability to influence policy portraying himself as a 'cab for hire' at £5,000 per day. Apparently his greed got the better of him and he overstated the strength of his influence over current Ministers. Given the odium under which the silly pratt left government you'd think he'd realise that his claims would not be taken seriously and that he was being set up. What a twit. I expect he's on the Labour Party's hit list for an early demise.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Jimi Hendrix : Valleys of Neptune

Another posthumous Hendrix album Valleys of Neptune is out now. You can hear clips and so forth and a podcast at the Experience Hendrix website.
This is an album of hitherto unreleased studio recordings mostly featuring the original Experience line-up dating from 1967 and early 1969. If you are already a Hendrix fan, you'll love it. If you are new to Hendrix, start with 'Are You Experienced', 'Axis Bold as Love', and 'Electric Ladyland' in that order. Then buy this one. It kind of indicates where Jimi was going and leads up to First Rays of The New Rising Sun which was posthumously assembled from tracks previously released (i.e Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge which are no longer available). So, for newbies, those are the five albums to get.
There are twelve tracks all previously unreleased; six are alternative versions of previous stuff and six are 'new' songs, although fans will notice bits of the new stuff also surface in other songs elsewhere in Jimi's output. The point being that these were essentially demos which Hendrix intended to do a lot more work on. But then many of Jimi's demos are better than take 74 by other people.
Two things hit you straight away - the guitar playing is full of energy, vitality, creativity and originality and Mitch Mitchell was the perfect drummer for Hendrix. Some of the alternative versions are very different e.g. 'Bleeding Heart' and 'Stone Free' and the 'new' songs show signs of how much more there was to come from Hendrix had he and others not allowed himself to die (but that's another story). The introductory riff from 'Ships passing Through the Night' is terrific; he used the melody line later on 'Night Bird Flying'. 'Lullaby for the Summer' foreshadows 'Izabella'. 'Crying Blue Rain' is an an unfinished backing track. 'Valleys of Neptune' is just about complete although I guess Hendrix would have added further lead guitar fills and some backing vocals. 'Mr Bad Luck' was re-worked as 'Look Over Yonder'.
Full marks to the Hendrix estate for putting this together and to Eddie Kramer for engineering and mixing so well.

Selective Reporting

Ho Hum. You can tell there's an impending General Election - The Daily Torygraph has embarked once again on a campaign to demonise the Trade Unions:
Yesterday they reported that Unite had received £17 million of taxpayers' money for training of union officials and claimed that as a result Unite had spare money available to give to the Labour Party. The report deliberately misses the point of the Union Learning Fund which was set up to help and encourage Trade Unions to develop learning and skills in the workplace i.e. to get the Unions to provide workers' education and improve skills and produce a better-skilled workforce. This benefits business as well and relieves the employers of some of the burden . Meanwhile, of course, taxpayers provide millions of pounds of assistance to employers through direct investment grants for start-up, training, tax breaks, Export Credit Guarantee and so forth.
Today, they report that taxpayers are subsidising Trade Union activity by providing 'facility time' in which union reps can go about their work. This is not news; it has been the case since 1975. And the practice is not confined to Government Departments; many private sector organisations do the same. An enlightened employer (if not the Torygraph) will realise that it fosters good industrial relations and, moreover, the employer can use this facility to bring about change more easily. There is a legislative background, and there is advice for employers at the Business Link website, although I don't suppose it occurred to the Torygraph reporter to look into this issue in such depth.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Car For Sale

Her Royal Queenness is flogging off one her Daimlers
High specification, custom-built, full service record.
Low mileage, good runner, one careful lady owner.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


I've not been reading so many books recently as I've had to focus on my OU course, particularly on Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe which was hard work at first but suddenly made sense when I listened to some actors performing it. No surprise there seeing as it was written as a play and not as a book! Any road up, I have managed to squeeze in a couple and have re-read Puckoon by Spike Milligan, and The Best of Beachcomber by JB Morton. Both amusing in their different ways although they do share a tinge of surrealistic weirdness in their approach. Puckoon has dated a bit as it was written in the early 1960s before the outbreak of the troubles in Ireland, and is basically a satire on the absurdity of dividing Ireland up in the way in which it was in the 1920s. Beachcomber is also from another age, when humour was gentler. And I can't imagine any newspaper giving him or his ilk a regular daily column these days. Either way, both books are recommended if you're looking for a pleasant diversion and a laugh or two.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Bulls**t Bingo

I attended a tutorial the other evening for my OU course on t'Humanities. This was a discussion on Paul Cezanne and the Impressionists and modernism in general. Very enjoyable and enlightening. For the most part, people talked sensibly and perceptively about the subject and as always happens in a tutorial group I gained comfort from finding most of my colleagues are almost as in the dark as I am. However, there were three heinous occurrences of bulls**it cliches being used during the session:
* Pushing The Envelope
* Quantum Leap
* Keeping It Real
Thankfully, nobody uttered the phrase paradigm shift otherwise there might have been bloodshed. But vigilance remains our watchword.

Xorg-InterGalactic 1 v. House Mouse (Mus musculus) 1

Late-ish one evening after just having watched the footy on TV, a slight shadowy movement was observed by the bookcase. Erk! A mouse! Leaping to our feet, we pursued the little blighter through the house until it eventually sought sanctuary behind the freezer. There it stayed, apparently secure in the knowledge that I couldn't be bothered to rearrange the kitchen that late at night. Correct. So out came the trap, baited with honey, which worked very successfully last time we were invaded by rodents. But this feller was a bit cheeky - next morning the trap was unsprung but the honey was gone. Nothing for it but to escalate to bacon and bingo! Got the blighter! (Re-enactment pictured herewith.)
The trap has been re-set for a week since, but no further evidence of hostiles has been detected so we're assuming this was a freelancer operating on his own, or perhaps an advance scout. So we'll call this one a score-draw. But vigilance remains our watchword.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Does this represent John of Gaunts speech from Richard II Act two, scene one? Please comment yay or nay.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Keats and Chapman

Members of the cognoscenti will be fully apprised of the humourous writings of Flann O'Brien (aka Myles na Gopaleen and Brian O'Nolan). He wrote a regular column in The Irish Times which, inter alia, featured vignettes concerning two semi-intellectual reprobates named Keats and Chapman,  based around some truly awful pun or jeu sur des mots. Some are a tad obtuse but most are excrutiating. Here's a short example:
  • The poet and Chapman once visited a circus. Chapman was very impressed by an act in which lions were used. A trainer entered a cage in which were two ferocious-looking specimens, sat down unconcernedly, took out a paper, and began to read. "He's reading between the lions," Keats said.
You can buy a second-hand compendium of these scribblings at Abebooks for  a small consideration. (May I also suggest that you venture a couple of pounds on The Third Policeman, which involves a bicycle.) I should warn you, however, that once you become initiated into the Keats and Chapman mode de pensée, it won't be long before you too are inflicting similar agonie littéraire on the world. Watch this space.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Jimi Hendrix

Mr Hendrix might look a bit bored here but this is interesting as he's playing a Gibson SG. Looks like a 1964 Custom, which would set you back about £15,000 these days. The one actually played by Mr Hendrix would be considerably more.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Now That's What I Call Lunch

Barbecued octopus,deep-fried king prawns, grey mullet, sprats, squid rings, chips and a village salad. With KEO beer.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Strangely Pronounced

The English language contains many words which are pronounced differently from the way in which they are spelled. For example, one might expect cough to be spelled koff, and rough to be spelled ruff. So why isn't bluff spelled blough? The same goes for English surnames which can be a tad bizarre. Here's a list of some strange pronunciations of oddly spelled names. See if you can spot the one I made up.

Spelled Pronounced
Belvoir Beever
Colquhoon Co’hoon
Cholmondeley Chumley
Featherstonehaugh Fanshaw
Geoghegan Gaygan
Marjoribanks Marchbanks
Ayscough Askew
Wriothesley Roxley
Bethune Beeton
Vacuous Twit David Cameron

Entanglification Runs Amok

You've probably heard of the Grimms fairy tale The Elves and the Shoemaker in which some elves help out a struggling shoemaker by sneaking in to his workshop overnight and making shoes for him to sell. We seem to have some similar creatures lurking around here who, rather than making us rich, however, mess the place up. We call them Maxwell's Demons*. When I set up El Presidente's computer I'm certain that I had all the wires behind the desk nice and neatly sorted out with everything going to sockets in a logical order. But look at the wires now. You'd have to be a rare talent to arrange wires like this! It would take hours of dedicated unplugging and plugging back in again to get the wires like this. We can only deduce that some unknown entity or strange force is behind it.
* The term Maxwell's Demons was coined by a physics teacher at my school, Doc Standen, who when asked how a perfect vacuum came to be in the bell jar on the lab table as he claimed, replied "Maxwell's Demons put it there." It's as good an explanation as any for something which ought only to exist as a philosophical concept but has somehow apparently come to pass.

Whatever Happened To...

The gentleman on the left is Josh, erstwhile bass player in Hanzo, a sort of jazz/funk/rock band which Josh, his brother Luke and our Phil formed while at school. They played a number of gigs locally and, most famously, at The 100 Club in Oxford Street, London where this picture was taken. They also won the competition for best young band in The Hertford Music Festival. The band split up as everyone drifted off to University or elsewhere, although they have done a couple of 'reunion' gigs since.
Josh is currently undertaking a four-year Phd course in particle physics which involves visits to the large hadron collider in Cerne. He still plays music, although more on the saxophone these days. His hair is even longer and is formed into dreadlocks. His brother Luke (guitar), having graduated in philosophy, is now the manager of trendy bar Deco in Hertford. There may or may not be a connection with Monty Python's Philosopher's Song "Renee Descartes was a drunken fart; I drink therefore I am." Ellie Lovegrove (trumpet & flugelhorn) graduated from The Royal College of Music and is now a professional musician having recently toured Europe with Seal and performed with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, amongst others. Fi Thomas (vocals) graduated in humanites and now sings in a band with her brother Will on guitar. Ellis (saxophone) is studying architecture at Cambridge University. Chris Eldred (keyboards) is in the midst of a degree in jazz piano at Trinity College of Music, London. He is a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and leads his own trio who are playing several jazz festivals this year including Greenwich, Swanage, and the Isle of Wight. He plays in the Tom Braggins Band with our Phil, and many more. Our Phil is playing drums for Acer Maple at the Jazz Cafe in London on 2 April - he engineered their EP Early which is available for download at iTunes. Phil is about to get a proper job so he can afford a new car.

Monday, 1 March 2010


Today I will be moaning mostly about stuff. I don't know about you boys and girls but we got a lot of it. Stuff, by which I mean things that lie around the house cluttering it up. Things that someone is keeping just in case it comes in useful; stuff they don't want to get rid of because it used to something they used. Books and magazines that they haven't read or are never going to read  but they might. Incomplete crosswords. Fifteen different kinds of shampoo and/or conditioner. Old toothbrushes. Trousers that don't fit any more that need mending but which you used to like. Jiffy bags of all shapes and sizes. Cardboard boxes that might be needed sometime, if ever anyone gets round to tidying up. Photo frames. Hand bags. Plastic food storage boxes. Coat hangers, takeaway menus, receipts and scarves. Stuff. And so on and so forth.