Thursday, 11 September 2014

Five Thoughts about this Referendum Thingie

It’s everywhere: the Guardian alone has had 1,707 pages of coverage this week, more than five times the actual thickness of the paper (or so it seems).   So don’t imagine you can come here to escape it! 

I’m not entitled to vote, obviously, which gives me the right to say whatever I damn well please about it.  So, just five random thoughts:

  1. Why aren’t I entitled to vote?  In my admittedly limited experience, divorces usually allow both parties to have a say.
  2. The actual question – ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ – seems to mean ‘Just say Yes or No to something or other, we’ll work out what afterwards.’
  3. Here’s an idea for Gideon.  Flog off NatWest; implement the Williams and Glyn English branch hive-off; then sell what’s left of RBS to Scotland to use as its new central bank.  They already have the money-printing presses.
  4. What will the residue be called?  ‘Rest of the U.K.’ doesn’t really catch you, does it?  I suggest ‘FormerlyUnited Kingdom’ or ‘DeUnited Kingdom’.  Do the acronyms and say it quickly …
  5. What about the weather forecast, eh?  What about the weather forecast?  The BBC doesn’t do the Republic of Ireland; will they continue to do Scotland?  And will the SBC do England?   This is important!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Fixing a Hole*

I know, I haven’t been blogging much lately, for too many reasons to enumerate here – some due to necessity, some due to mostly enjoyable distractions, lots due to, let’s face it, sheer inertia.

So it’s a relief* to have a genuinely valid excuse for not blogging over the next week or two – I’m going into hospital!

I’m so excited!  This will be only the fourth time in my life (not counting the odd A&E visit).  The first was to have my tonsils out when I was about six, about which I remember little except that I was forced to eat banana sandwiches, which put me off the things (bananas, not sandwiches) for years, and that parents were discouraged from visiting.  The second time was in my forties, to have wisdom teeth extracted; that was under private healthcare provided by my employers, which meant I had my own room in a very tastefully decorated hospital (without, of course, anything like an A&E department).  And the third, last January, I’ve blogged about here.

[The statisticians amongst you will have noted the increasing frequency of these events.  I’m not bothered in the least by this; the sample is far too small as yet to prove a trend.] 

I won’t go into details about this fourth one, except to say that, apparently, it happens a lot to old men like me, and will involve the micro-surgical equivalent of the reamer fitting on a Black and Decker.  It’ll be a piece of – no, better not say.*

Anyway, I’ve resolved, when I come home, to fix the hole in my blogging bucket.  I’ll probably be sitting around for a while, not allowed to do much more than read, listen to music, and write.  So, I’ll try for the ‘post-a-day’ policy so enjoyably employed by other bloggers whom I follow.  It’ll be an interesting experiment, given the enforced narrowing of my horizons.  Will my imagination be given free rein into hitherto unexplored realms; or will it be along the lines of ‘Got up.  Fell out of bed.’?  Who knows? 

* Enough with the clues: Ed.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Ten Great Intros

I was flipping through ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, Bob Stanley’s magisterial history of modern popular music (which should be essential reading for anyone with anything approaching a  passionate interest in the subject – it’s 737 pages long, but you can skip), when I came across a remark about the role of the intro in a great pop record.  In the days when radio play was the key to sales, a good hook at the very start could make all the difference.  Record makers realised this and played around with the concept (and its creative potential), and the intro eventually became a miniature art form in its own right.

So I started to wonder what might be amongst my top great intros.  I drew a few boundaries: it had to be instrumental, which sadly rules out, for example, Good Vibrations (‘I…’) and Heartbreak Hotel (‘Well…’); it had to aurally identify the record before the song itself actually started – to stand alone, if you like; and as a self-imposed constraint, it had to be from the fifties and sixties: both because that’s my formative musical era, and because those decades were definitely the golden age of the intro.

[I wanted to make this a kind of quiz – guess the intro from a brief sound clip – but I lack the technology for this, so the Spotify links (where they work) will be followed by the whole record.  I hope you don’t mind.] 

Okay, here goes (don’t expect many surprises):

 More or less randomly selected – it tied with ‘That’ll Be The Day’ – but in the fifties, upfront guitars like this were a blast between the ears.  And Chuck’s has lasted longer: you can still hear it played today, if you listen closely.  And it’s a better song, at least lyrically.

Because it’s is just so beautiful, and contrasts so drastically with the next selection, the same song opened up to such opposite interpretations, surely a hallmark of an imperishable masterpiece of songwriting.
Frank Sinatra – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (or more correctly Nelson Riddle): 
These two intros to the same song couldn’t be more different in setting the emotional tone (sad resignation versus angry menace), not to mention the musical tenor, of what’s to follow, yet they’re equally memorable.
Spoiled for choice here really – God Only Knows was a close contender –  but this is just so evocative!

The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
 Well, I had to include one, didn’t I?  Again, random choice.  First ever use of the Mellotron?  And it does illustrate one intro trick, which is to start with the bridge or middle bit; they played this card over and over again.  Strangely, it doesn’t appear to be available on Spotify; why would that be?  Oh, I know…

The longest intro in pop history?  It might sound tame now, but when I first heard it on Luxembourg, through a wave of phase, I thought I’d tuned in to some other planet, which of course I had.

Because I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard it.  And because, for reasons lost in time, it made me want to sing as well as play rock ‘n’ roll.  And because of the rimshots.

The shortest intro in pop history, just two rapid-fire drum rimshots – it hardly qualifies. But it counted for a lot more in 1956.  Drums had never been so loud.

Bob Dylan - Like a Rollin' Stone  (again, no Spotify link)
Yet another rimshot, followed by a mind-spinning swirl of quintessential 1965.  You heard the words before they even started – didn’t you?

And of course I’ve kept the best till last…  Dave Anthony's Moods - New Directions
Modesty forbids me from saying more ...! 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Five random notes

  1. There was another gorgeous butterfly in the garden earlier, but it scarpered before I could get the camera. “Not ready for my close-up, Mr de Mille”, I heard it mutter as it fluttered away. Mostly black, with bright red flashes on its wingtips.  Any clues?
  2. Back in May, I turned the central heating thermostat down to 180C: it’s just clicked on (5.35 pm)!  Outside, it’s 150, and hasn’t been much more all day.  How am I supposed to get those tomatoes ripened??
  3. The letter ‘i’ on my keyboard is making an ominous clunky noise.  Could this be due to the residual presence of dried red wine? 
  4. Rummaging through a drawer for an old butter knife, as one does, I came across the fork from a cutlery set I was given at my christening, back in 1942.  (The rest – knife, spoon? –  is lost; as is the butter knife.)  It’s solid silver, little lion on the back to prove it, and is engraved with my initials.  I found this quite moving for some reason.   I also discovered that, if you tap it on a hard surface, it plays a very interesting chord. 
  5. Does anybody speak cat?  I can communicate with most dogs, but cats are mysterious.  I was sitting out under my bus shelter when a tabby who frequents the garden crept out of the shrubbery.  In the past, any friendly approach by me would be rebuffed with a startled stare and a dash back into the bushes – but this time it crept up, miaowing threateningly, came close enough to be briefly stroked, rolled over on its back and allowed its tummy to be tickled.  Then it jumped up and ran away like a scaredy-cat.  It might just be hungry, of course, but it’s not going to get fed around here.  Or it needs counselling.  Mysterious.      


Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Only Word Is Exxes

“I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. 
The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish.
nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following.
“unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.”

What I loved about this particular spam comment (which originated, as always, from Russia) is that it purports to link to a tanning salon in Braintree.

And its ‘found’ poetry.  The bastard child of Ezra Pound and William Burroughs after a good night in?  I particularly like “case you shield this hike.”

I HATE SPAM.  But just occasionally it throws up a gem.  Another recent one praised the insight, erudition, eloquence, etc. that I’d evinced in a photograph of a butterfly.

The real purpose of this post, of course, is to see what spam comments it attracts.  I’ll share the best, if any.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lights out

I’m writing this just before ten o’clock, though I won’t post it until after eleven.

I can’t honestly act in personal remembrance of anyone who died, because none of my ancestors or relations did, as far as I know.  This doesn’t stop me from being aware of what happened, and I have read long lists of names on memorials, not just recently; but does it sound harsh to say that names are not the same as personalities?

I’m going to switch on the TV in a moment.  (The TV is, of course, a source of light.)  All but one of my house lights are off, but that’s not unusual at this point in the evening, so I can’t claim to be making any kind of gesture.

Just a last thought – wouldn’t it have been more affirming to ask everyone to switch their lights on, or light their candles, one by one, rather than extinguish them?  Or do we have to wait another four years for that?


It’s now 24 hours later.  I’d intended to add a postscript to the above – but as I was watching the ceremony, in the dark, I reached out for my wine glass and knocked it all over the computer.  It’s taken until now for the keyboard to dry out enough that ‘s’ doesn’t come out as ‘\s’, ‘q’ as ‘zq’, etc.  I’d spent the night and half the day worrying about whether I needed to buy a new keyboard, or a new computer, or what… but as you can see it’s now back to zqnormal (only jkidding!/)

I missed the last bit of the ceremony, obvs.  I see that a girl movingly proposed that names (or even the absence of them) can in fact be used to construct personalities – and that it doesn’t actually matter whether those are real or not.

As a final, slightly confused, thought: small mistakes (spilt wine, shot man) can lead to huge stupid consequences (new computer, world war), if we’re not careful. 



Wednesday, 16 July 2014