Friday, 22 April 2011

George Martin

Fans of Bernard Cribbins will want to be in front of their TV sets next Monday at 9:00 pm when BBC2 will be showing a documentary about the highly esteemed record producer Sir George Martin. Amongst Sir George's many hits are Nellie the Elephant, Hole in the Ground, and Any Old Iron. Bernard Cribbins is one of the many artists featured paying tribute to Sir George, who also include surviving members of popular Liverpudlian beat combo The Beatles. More info at the BBC.

You Are Being Followed

Owners of iPhones and iPads may or may not be aware that their device keeps a constantly updated record of its location. As far as anyone knows, this information is not transmitted back to Apple or the CIA, but if someone gets their hands on either your mobile device or the computer that you sync it to, they can track your movements. You can get an open source application  iPhone Tracker here, so even if you don't know where you're going you can find out where you've been.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Top Five Beatles B Sides

Whilst listening to The Beatles Pastmasters compilation t'other day, I was droning on about how generally brilliant the Beatles B sides were. Not merely throwaway rubbish, as B sides had generally been pre-Beatles, but genuine songs/recordings that stood on their own merits. Indeed on several occasions Beatles' singles were released as double A sides because neither they nor t'management could decide which side was better or more likely to get bigger sales (e.g. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out).
Fabmary thus challenged me to come up with the five best Beatles B sides. This is an impossible task and on any particular day I might give you a different list. But here goes, in chronological order, what I think today:
I'm Down - t'other side of Help! (1965). 
A proper rock 'n' roll record reflecting The Beatles' background as rockers influenced by Little Richard, Chuck Berry and so forth. Complete with semi-comprehensible lyrics, manic organ and technically inept but spiffing guitar solo.
Rain -  the flip side of Paperback Writer (1965). 
It was around this time that The Beatles moved on from simple pop songs mostly about being in or out of love. Bob Dylan and marijuana were the principal causes, although I suspect Lennon was always inclined more towards Edward Lear than he was to Shakespeare's sonnets. Excellent drumming from Ringo, spiffing bass, and backwards tape at the end. Recorded at the same time as the Revolver LP.
Baby You're a Rich Man -  hidden behind All You Need Is Love (1967).
John and Paul attended the Technicolour Dream 'happening' at Alexandra Palace, which was a significant event in terms of the development of the hippy culture in London in 1967. All the beautiful people were there. Hey, peace, love and dope, maaan. This song is the result, and was recorded and mixed in one six-hour session. Loads of groovy far out sounds, including a clavioline keyboard slowed down to sound like an Indian oboe, and the bass intro sounds reminiscent of that bit on 'Reach Out I'll Be There' by The Four Tops just before he says "hah!". Originally intended for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.
Revolution -  flip side of 'Hey Jude' (1968).
This is what happens after John Lennon has heard Jimi Hendrix, Cream and others in the blues and rock explosion of 1967/68. Lennon's guitar intro is a direct take on Elmore James' Dust My Broom, brought to everyone's notice by Fleetwood Mac, (see also Yer Blues on The White Album) and the lyrics are a response to the militant hippies who were trying to get Lennon to sign up.
Don't Let Me Down -   B side of 'Get Back' (1969).
Both songs were recorded on 28 January 1969, two days before the famous rooftop concert, The Beatles had been joined by Billy Preston on keyboards and he duly got a credit. John makes a beautiful song from some very straightforward chords, but sneaking in a major seventh for contrast, and he's singing about his new love Yoko who, he hopes, won't abandon him as his mother did. Heart on his sleeve and so forth.

Busy Doing Nothing

(from Accidie)
You've probably heard of the doctrine of the Seven Deadly Sins, set out in paragraph 1866 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. There is no direct Biblical source for this but the concept is apparently based on Proverbs 6:16 and expanded upon in Paul's Epistle to The Galatians 5:19. This is one of the aforementioned transgressions with which the Church berates its followers: 
The deadliest sin, accidie (or acedia) is often mistranslated as Sloth, and interpreted as simple laziness. But the original definition is more complex. In modern terms, it is a combination of depression, distraction and despair which leads to the inability to do anything at all. I find that as St Paul said, I do not what I should and do what I should not. But why? I was reading about fear of failure and fear of success, but the roots are deeper.
Click on the link and read the whole article; it's just a couple of paragraphs and it will only take a couple of minutes. I think most of us have probably experienced this phenomenon to a greater or lesser extent and I doubt if we've got a proper explanation for it or, if we have, that it will be the same as anyone else's. Accidie often manifests itself as displacement activity - you find yourself doing something that you persuade yourself isn't a total waste of time when actually you've got plenty of stuff that ought to be done. But somehow, you don't want to get on and do it and you find excuses not to, then you get depressed because you haven't done it, and so forth. Eventually you reach a crisis. No doubt there are some smartypants out there who don't know what I'm talking about, which is probably a good thing, or whose reaction will be to say "Snap out of it and pull yourself together." But there you go.
Being a fan of post-modern irony, I find it amusing that the Accidie website consists of only this short article about accidie. And, moreover, that comments are closed.

Mike Stern on the Radio

Drop everything and listen to this programme on the BBC iPlayer, or I want to know the reason why. BBC Radio 3 Jazz Library
Note: It is only available until 5 pm Saturday 16th.
Note 2: The Sage Building in Gateshead where this Jazz Festival took place was funded by the Arts Council, the European Regional Development Fund, the Regional Development Agency, Gateshead Council, and the Lottery. With the exception of the latter, these sources of funding are under threat thanks to the neo-liberalist economic ideology of the present Government. And Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, doesn't like the BBC either. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Splice The Mainbrace: Trouble At Sea

Trouble At Sea.
- a poem, on the occasion of Pierre's visit to Whitby,

  by Alfredo von Widdlesworth-Shortarse.

Cap'n Pierre and his not-so trusty crew
Set sail from old Whitby;
It was nearly, but not quite,
a quarter to two.
"Avast there ye pox-ridden lubbers!"
Cried the mean, grizzly Cap'n.
"Look lively, ye lazy fat buggers!"
 "We've whales to catch, the North sea to cross, afore the day's out,"
Cursed the Captain.
"So there's no time for youse lot to be hangin' about!"
The crew shuffled together and, as a man, stared back,
Scurvy knaves and veterans
Of the devil-spawned Captain's most recent ship wrack.
"That's all very well",
said Old Pegleg Pat
Shifting from side to side,
"But from where I'm stood it's not as simple as that."
"There be whales a-plenty a-swimmin' in the sea,
And seagulls flying above.
But there be a problem ahead for them such as we."
"And, pray, what be that?" asked Cap'n Pierre,
His eyebrow askance at Old Pat.
"We's all shipshape as far as I be aware."
"Well," says Old Pegleg, "You daft pantaloon,
As you know perfectly well,
You ain't got no licence for your flippin' harpoon!"
"It's in the post, I tell ye," spat Cap'n Pierre
Staring at Pegleg with hate in his eye,
"And if the Customs don't like it, see if I care."
"Pull the other one!" says Old Pegleg Pat
Forgetting for a moment
That she'd hit the deck if the Cap'n did that.
The crew looked from Pegleg to Cap'n and back,
Uncertainty reigned, fear crept in.
Unlicensed whaling! Alas and alack!
Conflicted by fear and love for their Captain
(The Keeper of The Banjo
That was once owned by Clapton).
Pegleg looked grim, and wobbled her knee,
As the Cap'n, all smiles, pleaded
"Now come on lads, worse things happen at sea."
"We's old salts and form-fillin' don't matter!
Don't listen to Pegleg,
She's a borin' old fart, and mad as a hatter!"
At this foul epithet Pat felt somewhat insulted
She girded her loins
And, hopping to starboard, caused the fate that resulted.
The ship toppled over and turned upside down,
Capsized and not floating.
All hands fell to sinking; they feared they would drown.
But just at that moment, a whale did appear
It spewed from it's spout
"Oy! you lot! You can't park that boat here!"
Bad luck was the Captain's old friend, but he hadn't known
He'd steered his vessel
Into a three lined compulsory no parking zone.

Bedraggled, disgruntled and soaked to the skin,
Pierre and crew were landed
In nearby Scarborough, much to their chagrin.
With no ship and no money, his sea-faring future was lost
A parking fine and clamping fee:
Cap'n Pierre had no hope ever to meet with the cost.
Bankrupt and bereft he stared alone at the moon,
Pegleg had warned him:
You shouldn't go whaling with an unlicenced harpoon.

© Doggerel and Doggerel Inc. (SA) 2011

Monday, 4 April 2011

The results are in!

That's it for another year of University Challenge. Magdalen College Oxford were crowned champions after they trounced York University 290 to 85 points.
How did the Haines family do? I hear you cry. Well, let's just have a look shall we.

Mum managed to get 9 starter questions, so she won.

Friday, 1 April 2011

April Piscis Piscis Forsit

The Xorg Collective awoke this morning to a disturbing crisis. Our goldfish was swimming upside down in the wrong direction...
Wilberforce, bless his little cotton socks, is generally a well-behaved goldfish and swims, as he should, in a clockwise direction round and round and round pausing intermittently to nibble at a weed or snaffle a flake of Old Mother Slapknicker's Gourmet Fish Food. He might, occasionally, stop to investigate the sunken treasure chest that lurks at the bottom of his tank but he has never, to our knowledge, disorientated himself as a result of these digressions. He seemed otherwise to be in fine fettle, greeting us with his usual good morning bloop bloop bloop and cheery wave of his fin. El Presidente feared the worst-case scenario and suggested that perhaps little Wilberforce had contracted aqua tergiversatio australis, a condition caused by gravity working in the opposite direction in the antipodes, but we know for sure that Wilberforce has not been in contact with any piscean ozzies. Perhaps there has been a blunder at the Old Mother Slapknicker's processing plant and the wrong variety of flake has been shipped to our local fish emporium and we have been feeding him the antipodean version. Although possible, it seems unlikely that Wilberforce was abducted by aliens last night, probed, and then returned to his tank the wrong way round; there is no evidence of collateral splash damage.
Any road up, we have embarked on a course of corrective therapy and installed signs in Wilberforce's tank pointing him in the right direction and have been making sure that his food can only be accessed if approached from the left. No sign of improvement yet but we remain optimistic.