Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cover Versions

We were listening to David Bowie's cover of 'I Feel Free' which is on the Black Tie, White Noise album, and reached the unanimous view that he shouldn't have bothered. Bowie perpetrated another howler when he covered 'God Only Knows' on the Tonight album. As far as the Xorg Collective is concerned, cover versions should add something to the original rather than diminish it. Here's my favourite example of How To Get It Right; The Vanilla Fudge cover The Supremes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Mysteries of The Premier League Part 38: Titus Bramble

Here we are in the second week of the season and there have been a few changes, while some things stay the same. Promotions, demotions, 'early contenders for goal of the season', 'bad defending whatever way you look at it', weird choices for away strip (Everton), und so weiter etc. Chelsea off to a flyer, Arsenal looking promising, Spurs under-achieving. But still there remains The Unexplained Presence of Titus Bramble In A Premier League Team. Someone once said of him, somewhat charitably, "Titus's occasional flash of brilliance is heavily outweighed by the total inability to think before attempting what inevitably turns into a hashed clearance, a mistimed tackle, an own goal or a penalty for the opposition." Very occasional flashes, well, maybe once.
Imagine my surprise to find him lining up for Sunderland. They signed him for an undisclosed fee from Wigan - it is not known in which direction the fee went. Relegation beckons.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Miles Davis

My eldest daughter once said to me, a few years ago, "Good grief, Dad, how many Miles Davis albums can a man have?" She had just bought me 'Sketches of Spain'  on CD as a surprise present only to find that I already had it and when I pointed to the Miles Davis section on the shelf she emitted the above query.
Now, thanks to my esteemed friend Lord Trousers von Crosby-on-Sea, I have added a few more so that the provisional total is now fifty two - I might have missed out some on LP that lurk in the recesses of the cupboard under the stairs, yet to be reacquired in digitalissimo formattageness. When I get round to tidying up we shall see what we shall see. Of course, there are probably a couple of hundred Miles Davis albums out there but some of these will be rejiggled compilations and the like rather than discreet albums as such, m'lud. 
Currently listening to 'Steamin with the Miles Davis Quintet'.

Wot I Been Reading

Lord Peter Views The Body - Dorothy L Sayers
Somewhat dated collection of short stories, seventy or eighty years after they were written, and a couple of the tales are a bit far-fetched, but I like the characters Lord Wimsey and his inimitable butler named Bunter.
The Postman Always RingsTwice - James L Cain
Spiffing hard-boiled crime thriller involving murder and adultery. You've probably seen one or other of the several film versions. Interestingly, the story does not feature a postman.
The Burial At Thebes - Seamus Heaney
This a play based on Antigone by Sophocles. I listened to it on a CD while reading along. Not a happy story - it involves incest, fratricide, paranoia, guilt, suicide, betrayal, exhumation, war, lost love and so forth. But it's very dramatic. You need to read/hear it a couple of times to get the full beauty and depth of the thing. It's a bit odd in places where Heaney uses modern idioms mixed in with the ancient Greek stuff. Although it claims to be a translation by Heaney, he doesn't actually know the Greek language. He wrote his play as a kind of synthesis using other people's translations. Typically Irish you might say.
The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett
I might have mentioned this before. It's a favourite - both the book and the Humphrey Bogart film. This book more or less invented the genre of detective thriller featuring a hard-case anti-hero who is not above law-breaking, violence, revenge and theft but who sees 'justice' is done in the end. Some snappy dialogue.

Ho Hum

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Awesome Photographer 2 - Edward Steichen

I discovered Steichen at the Vanity Fair Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery a few years ago. He took photos for Vanity Fair and Vogue int he 20s and 30s. He was like the celebrity photographer. Anywho, really clever work. You could stare at his pictures for ages.

Gloria Swanson

Friday, 13 August 2010

Funk Assessment #2: Arthur Conley

Here's a clip of Arthur Conley performing to an audience in Germany in 1967. The audience is a tad reserved and unsure of themselves. But Arthur and his band sho am funky. So what makes it funky? Apart from Arthur's trousers and the choreography of the awesome brass section, that is? Not surprisingly, Funk Fans, it's the rhythm section of the guitar, drums and bass. The guitarist just keeps on chugging away and the bass player and drummer are aligned in their syncopatoryness, particularly after three minutes in when they get to play 'Sweet Soul Music'.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Cyprus Trips!

So we went to Cyprus. 
Weather - hot, like 47 degrees C!
Food - GOOOOOOOOOD - best beef in the world. More on that story later.
Beer - Good

A tip on how to avoid stupid builders - leave the house. 

So we decided to go on a couple of day trips. Road trip to the mountains and a trip to a very pretty beach. The map shows our rough route. Phil enjoyed driving on the mountain roads and Berty, the car, coped surprisingly well. Several rubble warnings were issued.

Day trip one was roughly 370km. Fun.

Things to remember when going on a road trip:
1. Have a up to date map
2. Have CDs that are not scratched 
3. Don't drive automatic car
4. Take the handbrake off.

It's Him Again!

Alfred the Great, Ethelred the Unready, Edmund the Magnificent, Edgar the Peaceful, Edward the Confesssor. Leaders from the past whose names are remembered fondly. I fear they are soon to be joined in the pantheon by Cameron the Half-Baked, who won't be recalled with any fondness (at least by me).
His latest pronouncement is in support of Greater Manchester's councillors'  idea for local bye-laws to impose a minimum price per unit on alcoholic drinks. The aim is to prevent yobbos from getting tanked up on cheap booze bought from the supermarket before venturing out into the streets of Manchester for a drink-fuelled orgy of mayhem and destruction. Well it doesn't take a genius to figure out where this plan will fail. The yobbos will merely drive along the M62 to Leeds and buy their cheap booze by the van-load! And no doubt meanwhile create a black market in cheap wallop. Before venturing out into the streets for a drink-fuelled orgy of mayhem and destruction.
I always drink responsibly.


Here's hoping for a cloudless sky for the next few nights as the Earth passes through the debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet. It should be visible around about 10 or 11 pm till dawn. See NASA for more information.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Boy Blunder

At the risk of becoming boring, I feel I must point out some of the weaknesses in David Cameron's latest half-baked idea namely, to limit council house tenancies to five or ten-year leases and evict people when their income rises or their children grow up.
First, it merely adds to the so-called 'poverty trap' as it would act as a disincentive to tenants to improve their lot if they know that they might lose their home if their earnings rise above a certain amount. Dave seems to have missed the point that social housing is provided for people who do not have the necessary capital to get going in the private sector. It is also there because the private sector cannot, or will not, provide adequate housing at a reasonable rent.
Secondly, what happened to Dave's idea about creating a sense of community, the Big Society? If social housing is only ever short-term it will merely end up as a kind of transit camp. People might have somewhere to live for a limited period but will it be a home with a sense of continuity and community identity?
We're all in together but some of us are more in it than others, it seems.

Can We Fix It?

Someone who is related to me by marriage is a great one for fixing things. He never likes to just get a new thing if there's some way he can bodge up a repair of the broken thing. And bodge up is the appropriate word - he doesn't buy new parts for things, he improvises. So he saves all the bent nails and used screws, and salvages every bit of wood,  metal or wire in case it might come in useful some time.
Pictured here is the repair to the handle of the spool which winds up the garden hose. The original is plastic and, as often happens with weathered plastic, it snapped off. So what El Bodger has done is wire together the snapped handle bit and fix it with glue to a wooden disk fashioned from some old plywood. Of course, the glue wasn't strong enough so he's going to have to amend the design somewhat and nail the plastic spindle to the plywood as well. I had the privilege of being El Bodger's assistant during the operation, my role being to do the heavy work of sawing the plywood and screwing the screws (of different sizes) through the wired up plastic handle into the plywood  - a task made slightly more difficult because of the lack of decent screwdrivers, the Maestro having mislaid the nice new set I bought him a couple of years ago. I am pleased to say that I also provided some advice and persuaded El Bodger to use a screw through the spindle and not just the glue, otherwise the whole thing would have fallen apart. I have left the Maestro to do the additional nails himself; work having been suspended by the serving of apple pie and a cup of tea.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Yet another works outing, this time to Tolethorpe Hall to see the Stamford Shakespeare Company's  production of Othello.
This is a covered open-air theatre in the grounds of an old minor stately home. Our original plan was to go to Tolethorpe Hall in the afternoon, wander about a bit, have a picnic, and then watch the play. But the weather turned cold and wet so we scrubbed the picnic and had fish and chips instead. But it was still cold sitting in the open-air theatre!
This is an amateur Shakespeare Company, which is apparently well resourced as it actually owns the venue. The production and acting weren't brilliant although overall it was good enough. They were all in 'Shakespearean mode' of course, which is understandable, but it can be overdone with actors speaking in stentorian tones, enunciating. The stage design looked OK but, as it was made out of plywood, and the actors were all wearing big heavy leather knee-length boots, it was all a bit clod-hoppingly clumpy as they moved about. The actor playing Iago was quite good but was about twice as old as the part he was playing, and I think he could have done more to get across the point that Iago does all this evil manipulation for its own sake as well as out of bitterness at being passed over for promotion. Othello himself moved a little awkwardly but was reasonably commanding as befits the role. Full marks for effort; and well done by their own non-professional standards. Shame about the weather!

Konstantinos Marinos Is An Idiot

That's right, you heard right, the secret word for tonight is ηλίθιος
Things are still dragging on with this stupid pillock of a builder in Cyprus. If the wazzocky nitwit had his marbles properly sorted, he could have had this job finished weeks ago but no, he's still faffing about. As of two weeks ago he reckoned he'd be done by the end of July at the latest. El Presidente arranged to travel to Cyprus, therefore, to meet with him and the architect and to complete the handover and make a final payment, and Bob's Yer Uncle *. 
So, last Friday, the site meeting took place but, not surprisingly, it was seen that the job wasn't finished and there is a list of about a dozen things that need doing. Chiefly, he's made a complete balls up of the finish at the front of the building and the railings on the balcony need strengthening - other items comprise what you might call a 'snagging list'. So agreement was reached between El Prez, the architect and Marinos that these things would be put right by today and if done satisfactorily payment would follow.
But come Tuesday, whilst his workers were almost finished, Mr Bonebrain turned up in an agitated state and proceeded to have another of his psychotic episodes, subjecting Madame President to a torrent of abuse. This was in public, in the street outside the house, as various astounded neighbours and workers looked on. It ended with Mr Nutjob telling his workers to leave the site immediately. This was followed the next day by a letter from his solicitor demanding extra payment of €2,600 within 7 days or face legal action (despite only €900 for extras being due as agreed the Friday before). Well, El Prez is not to be intimidated by such actions and, in fact, Mr Plonkerhead had played into her hands by taking this course. If there's one thing Madame President is good at it is writing stonking letters to solicitors and other stuffed-shirt self-important doodahs that will demolish them in a twinkling.
So she wrote to this solicitor, made a couple of phone calls to the architect, and, to cut to the chase, Mr Looneytune has been told by his solicitor to get on with it - which he has agreed to do. However, having lost another week with this latest tantrum he won't now be finished until after El Prez has returned to Xorg HQ, so he's going to have to deal with the architect directly - after the architect gets back from his holidays - and he consequently won't get paid for another month or so. Meanwhile, El Prez has made payment, agreed with Mr Dumbo's secretary, for the 'extras' work done up until this week's mouth-frothing display (about €700). So, he's back where he was last Friday and all this fuss and bother has done him no good - meanwhile he has incurred solicitor's fees. 
What a wally.
* (or Ο Σταύρος είναι ο θείος σας, in the vernacular)

Brampton Pies

If you're in the Huntingdon area and you are feeling peckish you could do worse than procure a scrumptious pie from The Brampton Pie Company. There's steak & ale, creamy chicken, steak and stilton and several more, all reasonably priced at about a fiver for a pie big enough for four moderately hungry persons (if consumed with mashed potatoes and mushy peas with gravy.) Be that as it may,  I would have little difficulty in disposing of one of these splendid comestibles seule, par moi if given the chance. Sadly these pies are not yet available by mail order but the company is looking for partners to take out franchises. And you might have a word with whoever runs your staff canteen to get 'em wholesale.

¡Al infinito y más allá!

Members of the Xorg Collective adjourned to the cinema the other day  to see Toy Story 3.
Quite a hoot. The strength of the film lies in the script which is clever, original, funny, and only a bit sentimental towards the end; but that's Americans for you. Very high production values and the voice characterisations are excellent. And unlike many other films in the genre, there aren't separate jokes for kids and others for adults - all the humour will appeal to everyone. Ostensibly, Toy Story is a children's film but the audience was about 90% adult.
Recommended - but don't bother spending the premium for the 3D version as it doesn't really need the extra special effect.

Another Slaphead Moment

Our Wazzock-In-Chief, Dave the Dimwit, seems set on winning the Dubya Bush Prize for Stupid Comments. First he says that the UK was a 'junior partner' to the USA during the Second World War, which he reckons the Amerikanishers joined in 1940. (Enny fule no that the USA joined  the war in December 1941, after Pearl Harbour, and it was Nazi Germany who declared war on them because the USA had declared war on Japan). Then he shoots his mouth off about Pakistan sponsoring terrorism - of course, elements within Pakistan are doing this but it isn't 'Pakistan' itself, whose people have suffered from terrorism as much as anyone. Now he says, after being questioned about his earlier blunder about WW2, that Iran has nuclear weapons without any evidence that Iran does. Hmm, sounds familiar! - what Iran is doing is generating the threat of nuclear weapons, just like Iraq did under Saddam. Senior officials at the Foreign Office will be grinding their teeth and uttering unkind words.
Cameron's weasels say that he 'misspoke'. I think this might be new-speak for 'He opened his mouth and put his foot in it'.