Saturday, December 29, 2007

Led Zeppelin at the 02

Since December 11th, when I started watching the videos of Led Zeppelin at the 02, I've been feeling guilty about my statement in my review of the biography Magus Musician Man where I said: "Both of the magus books in this series of reviews so far have concerned ...rebirth this case Page from a very complex, beautiful and accomplished young man into quite an ordinary man."

That night, I think Page showed very clearly that he's anything but ordinary. I don't know what he was doing on his seven-year lay-off from live playing, but it didn't involve losing his fire. He played his heart out, risky, edgy, fast and daring, like it always was.

So I take that back.

New Year present:

Here is a list of YouTube videos of all the songs Led Zeppelin played at the 02 at the reunion on December 10th, in order. If you want a DVD of the night, save these to your hard disc using or your preferred downloader, and burn them to DVD using . (You have to set it to burn, it doesn't install itself that way.)Alternatively, convert them to AVI files with Super and then burn them to a DVD.

After party clip:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Be Here Now

The Little Grey Fella in my car spontaneously decided to play Pink Floyd's Echoes today.

You know, the one that starts with "Plink~~~!" It's a piece of music I probably first heard 35 years ago, and I know it well. It has no surprises. (Unlike Careful With That Axe, Eugene, which made me jump out of my skin recently when the Little Grey Fella played it. I'd forgotten about the scream.) Since I heard it so often as a student, the states of mind I was in then are easily recalled when I hear it now.

I was driving along the easy bit of the Ortega Highway, heading back home after a fairly quiet day. There's a repeated figure in the first part of Echoes that sounds just like a Stingray moves – the lyrics say something is 'willowing across the sand' – and we're told that everything is 'green and submarine'. Naturally within a few moments I was following the Ray as it willomied through the rippled green, and a couple of minutes after that, I was trying out being Steve Irwin's widow for size. Would I scream and kick my heels for months in mourning, or would I bravely start up some sort of wildlife protection trust fund as he'd no doubt expect me to do?

At that point, brake lights flashed in front of me, and 'I' arrived back in the car to take charge of various controls. No danger at all – the person in front of me must have been some sort of a tourist, only doing 55 on a two-lane highway that has a mere smattering of deaths each year, and he was braking before each corner because he couldn’t see around it, the amateur. All I had to do was make sure I stayed at a safe distance.

But it did remind me that people often say, "I was so preoccupied, I don't even remember how I got home". And so today I can say, "I do remember how I got home. Somebody else was driving while I was swimming with Stingrays. And Manta Rays. And being Steve Irwin's widow."

When I was young – about the same time I first heard Echoes, or maybe even earlier – I went to a series of lectures on Eastern Philosophy. One thing they were particularly keen to teach me was that people rarely live in the moment, and tend to spend each minute somewhere else. They tried to instill in me a discipline to live for each moment as it comes and resist the temptation to drift off. When the brake lights flashed today, I realized that I can no longer remember why this was so all-fired important. I mean, have you seen the moment? This is no place to live! It's sparsely furnished, consisting as it does of sensory inputs which are deliberately pruned back to almost nothing before they reach the brain. When the remaining impulses do reach the brain, it ignores most of them and makes some other ones up. If they were encouraging me to have some sort of authentic experience, living in the moment hardly counts. The outside world is illusory both from a philosophical and a physical point of view. If you want a rich and fulfilling experience, one you've made up yourself in the comfort of your own mind is always going to be a better fit than whatever happens to be going on outside.

Of course it always helps if you have the sort of music playing that can get you there within a few notes, something physically easy for your body to do, and of course some brake lights to flash before you get the to scary night-time eerie bit in the middle.

Note: I had to stop writing this for five minutes to find out why "willomied" sounded like a better word for it than "willowed". It's because "willowed" does not exist as a verb, but "willomied" is the Douglas Adams word for that type of movement, as seen here. This type of distraction is a drawback of my type of imagination.

Other note: I reserve the right to change my mind and say that one you've made up yourself in the comfort of your own mind isn't always going to be better, as the fancy takes me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

LOL Coxhill

It's probably been done, but if not, here's today's LOL Lol Coxhill.

At World's End (That's what the kids call it now?)

I finally watched Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End today.

What a lot of noise, explosions, bodies, plotting and seafood that was! It was 'very big', said STB, the man of the house. And it was indeed very big. Not very good, but certainly overwhelming. I couldn't help thinking the whole enterprise must have taken lots and lots of cocaine. I can't think of any other way that the writers could have convinced themselves that they could bring a whole audience along for such a long, winding and frankly weirdly perverted ride unless they were completely up their own arses in a way that's not normally achieved without coke. It's just… presumptuous… to think you can get away with all that. It would be nice to say they did get away with it and all the clever expense reports necessary to hide the blow was worth it, but I don't think they did. I noticed, and so did many of the reviews I read when it first came out.

Also, it was very complicated. There's a theory that the word processor has ruined the novel, because it allows people to perfect a paragraph, polish it to a precious glowing gem as it's held still in front of you with Microsoft's own word-dopping wax, but encouraging you to lose sight of any strands longer than one page, which therefore remain ragged and loose. Apparently the combination of word processing and offline editing has done the same to movies – at least to this one. Each individual shot(of ten seconds or so) is brilliant. Any three or four of them are wonderful. When you start to add up a few tens, they are simply confusing. As a whole, the movie doesn't make sense by itself. You need a whiteboard with six colors, or Microsoft Project, or maybe a dab hand with Excel to chart out who promised who what and whether they got it or not and how many people betrayed them on the way there. Although I like a movie I can discuss afterwards, I'm not so keen on a movie for which I have to write a cause-and-effect fishbone diagram before I can even visualize its overall structure.

Loved the usual things. Jack Sparrow – gorgeous, cowardly and logorrheic. Davy Jones' expressive face and bizarre Scottish accent. (Wouldn't someone called Davy Jones be Welsh?) The beautiful Tia Dalma, here becoming the 50 ft Woman and then coming down with a bad case of crabs, poor thing. Captain Barbossa's very masterful rule of his boat. The CGI was impeccable – I gave up looking for it and assumed everything was real after a while. Less brain strain. Keith Richards, easily taking over his couple of scenes without actually doing anything, which I guess is what charisma is all about.

Was horrified by the horrible things – the sea-change of the crew on The Flying Dutchman literally gives me the creeps. The number of people blown up, impaled, decapitated and/or delimbed was higher than any 'action' movie I can think of. God only knows how this gets a PG-13 rating. The visual bits that recalled other movies annoyed me rather than came across as homages. The weapons-unloaded-from-apparently-unarmed-person's-clothing scene, recalling Mad Max 3, and the whole unnecessary "Big Trouble in Little China" Singapore subplot being the worst offenders in my eyes.

Overall, quite a spectacle but not one I'd call a great movie. Yes, I will watch it again. Probably when I get the six different colored pens for my whiteboard so I can chart it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Muscle Memory

A few weeks ago, in On Writing I mentioned that I'd taken up playing the guitar again, after a hiatus of thirty-five years or so. I said that alas, the much vaunted 'muscle memory' hadn't lasted the full three and a half decades and I was starting from scratch.

That might not be entirely true. When I learned as a teenager, I was taught classical guitar – all fingerpicking. I never used a pick. This time, I went to a guitar class where we began with strumming using a pick and we never really put it down. But I found it rather difficult to use – like picking something up with your hands closed, a deliberately handicapped way to go about something. Whenever I was asked to do something complicated (like play notes on two strings without about a minute's thought between them) I dropped the pick and used my fingers. Now, after a few months, I'm far faster, and far more accurate, with my fingers than with the pick. In fact, if I make myself use the pick I sometimes miss the guitar entirely and accidentally hit the 'on' switch on the TV remote control and wake up about an hour later watching a Sci-Fi Channel special about men and women with 2007-era looks and Southern Californian ethical values defeating giant dinosaurs, giant spiders, giant lizards or giant sharks. You have to admit that shows a definite lack of accuracy. And although it gets better slowly, my first three fingers get better much more quickly.

I can't prove that it's 'muscle memory' – that my fingers 'remember' the way they were taught before. It's equally likely that I was hard-wired for fingerpicking from the start and it won't matter how long I spend on either technique or which order I learned in. There's no way to test the hypothesis because I would have had to split myself in two just before I learned the first time, and that might prove to be a difficult experiment to do.

But it's interesting, is all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright!

Merry Yuletide and a Happy New Year from me!

A Merry Christmas from Marc Bolan and T. Rex as well!

And for traditionalists, here's the one from Bing Crosby. He wears more flamboyant costumes than Marc. Who knew?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer died five years ago. It's hard to believe that someone who provided the soundtrack to my twenties is dead, though it happens to us all eventually. London Calling was probably the most played album on my friends' turntables for years - occasionally even a Deep Hippy friend would take off Caravan or Matching Mole and put on I'm All Lost in the Supermarket or Rudie Can't fail.

I tried to see The Clash several times. I was at Victoria Park for the Rock Against Racism Gig, and I have a vaguer memory of my view being blocked by large, leather-jacketed men a couple of years older than me at an indoor gig somewhere. At least two other attempts didn't work because The Clash canceled. All in all I felt safer listening to them at home.

We used to have quite a lot of conversations like the one which begins this clip.

And this is what they sounded like.

RIP, Joe.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Led Zeppelin at the 02 (again)

I may have promised not to do any more of this, I forget, but this is too good to pass up. Here is BigWill57's video edit of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven at the 02. It uses one good sound source and many of the available (phone)camera angles.

Anyone want to do the rest of the set? And yes, Warner, I will buy the official DVD when/if it comes out. I may buy more than one! It was that good!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Your android replica is playing up again...

When it comes to the transgressive, loving a Dalek is about as far out as you can get. Yet it happens; Mick Farren commented on the most recent girl to fall for one, Kylie Minogue, here. And I've mentioned it before on this blog.

But they say the largest sex organ is the brain, and consequently the place most robots make inroads into your house and your fantasies is not the way Diktor did, but the way Eliza did way back in 1966.

Russian robots are cuddling up to online johns and cooing at them until they hand over their e-wallets. It's amazing people fall for this trick from real life women, never mind artificial intelligences. But they do.

And this news report from CNET shows how good they are at it, too.

A program that can mimic online flirtation and then extract personal information from its unsuspecting conversation partners is making the rounds in Russian chat forums, according to security software firm PC Tools.
The artificial intelligence of CyberLover's automated chats is good enough that victims have a tough time distinguishing the "bot" from a real potential suitor, PC Tools said. The software can work quickly too, establishing up to 10 relationships in 30 minutes, PC Tools said. It compiles a report on every person it meets complete with name, contact information, and photos.
"As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering," PC Tools senior malware analyst Sergei Shevchenko said in a statement.

It's been speculated that this type of AI can be so successful, it's one that's very likely to escape and go feral in the net. They do say that pornography drives technology. Odd to think that our pornography might also actually be our descendents, one day. Of course, they'll be seducing each other by then. I imagine most of us will be digging for roots with sharpened sticks and wondering if the rain god will love us this year.

Title from Hawkind's Spirit of the Age.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Twas Brillig...

Killing civilians always gets bad press – The Americans still mention the British Boston Massacre of March 1770, with its five dead, as a deep wound on the national psyche. Israeli soldiers often seem to manage to hit a child. 1972's Bloody Sunday, when the British army fired on civil rights protesters in Ireland, left 13 unarmed people, 6 of them kids, dead.

This type of unwelcome publicity means that the armed forces of the world are on the lookout for something that will force subjects to obey their masters, but won't produce any photo opportunities for human rights activists. They thought they'd scored a massive hit recently when someone at Raytheon [1] developed a sort of microwave-oven-at-a-distance effect that heats up the skin, causing, it says here, pain. But not the killing thing, or the blood, or the kids draped over their weeping dad's arms with their heads lolling too far back to be merely sleeping. Just "intolerable" pain, after which the targeted person will run away from the beam - because, of course, people are always free to run in any direction they choose in riot situations.

It's called the Active Denial System, because "Heat Ray" is something bad from War of the Worlds, and we wouldn't want that image
burnedappearing in our minds. It's described as

a non lethal, counter-personnel directed energy non-lethal weapon which can be used against human targets at distances beyond the effective range of small arms. ADS projects a focused millimeter wave energy beam which induces intolerable heating sensation on an adversary's skin and cause that individual to be repelled without injury.

Brillig, the time when you begin
broiling things for dinner. From
Alice in Wonderland.

The army wants it for Iraq; the public is said to be "squeamish" about it. Articles mention its possible misuse as torture. I think the public is probably squeamish about it because they don't want it turned on them. I know I am; I can imagine a day when the LAPD decides to "actively deny" a public square to the public by non-lethally broiling its own citizenry. In fact, I can imagine them doing it tomorrow if they got hold of a Heat Ray tonight.

It turns out that the "squeamish" public might have the right idea. "Non-lethality" sounds too good to be true, and it is too good to be true. The death ray, sorry, ADS, has to be calibrated for the distance to its target and also, presumably, for the amount of water vapor in the way that might dissipate the energy. I can imagine that in an armored vehicle, with limited visibility, small arms fire outside and the possibility that someone is rigging up a bomb under the truck right now, an operator might make a hasty decision about which buttons to press, and end up grilling somebody.

It turns out it's worse than that. According to a report in The Guardian, the operator can boil someone during a relatively stress-free testing exercise. In a report called "US military in denial over pain ray - Concern over the safety of a crowd control system in tests sparks fears about its use in operational situations" The Guardian says:

Earlier that day it had been used successfully at 75% power level and three-second duration. According to the report: "ADS Operator P4 set power to 100% for four-second duration, so as to be effective at the longer range." A problem prevented the test from taking place - the system's magnet requires supercooling and can be temperamental in hot weather. …
Unfortunately, the crew forgot to change the settings. …
The description of the injuries has been censored from the report: all we can see is that they are covered by 11 numbered points. An Air Force statement says: "the injury was classified as a second degree burn," a type characterised by blistering. Local newspapers reported that the airman suffered burns on both legs and spent two days in the Joseph M Still Burn Centre in Augusta, Georgia. The official report puts the injury cost at $17,748.

Generally speaking, I'm against the death penalty because I think, all ethical considerations aside, voluntarily giving your government the right to kill you is a bad move. I'm also against my government spending money on Death Rays to keep me out of public places.

[1] If the name of your company sounds like an Evil Overlord from Flash Gordon, you're already doomed, really.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bumper Book of Fun Redux

Whenever I used to lie around in front of the electric fire demanding more amusement out of the three channels of British TV, my Dad used to berate me with tales of the good old days. "We used to make our own entertainment!" he'd say, and demonstrate by making toys out of matchboxes and rubber bands, or cotton reels and string, or magnets and cigarette pack silver paper.

I was always glad I didn't live in the good old days. They sounded shite. I think the time I realized that the bright glow on the horizon must be the dawning of the Future was the day I got my first Walkman. I loved that thing. Imagine -you could take ninety minutes of music with you wherever you went! (My Dad was a speaker technician in his younger days. The entertainment center in our first council house had a speaker (one - mono, remember) that was three feet high with the baffle built out of six-inch thick poured concrete. It was a great speaker. The Walkman was more portable.)

Just so you know I'm not making that up, here's a picture of concrete speakers from G. A. Brigg's Stereo Handbook of 1959. They're prettier than ours, which was really just... concrete.

Unfortunately, according to a study by Nokia, in the new future (the one that's in the future), we'll be making our own entertainment. Damn and blast!

Of course, since various things have happened in the meantime, it's possible that this entertainment will involve Nero and downloads and YouTube mashups and MIDI and all that good stuff rather than cotton balls and string. (Although my Dad was great at growing a crystal garden in Waterglass. Fun, scientific and breathtakingly beautiful and no doubt completely illegal these days as it involved chemicals.)

Of the 9000 people surveyed in the Future Laboratory study a staggering 39% watch TV on the internet, - 46% regularly use an instant messenger program and 29% regularly blog.

The way the company views Circular Entertainment working is that someone shares video footage they shot on their mobile phone from a night out with a friend, that friend takes that footage and adds an MP3 file, then passes it to another friend. That friend edits the footage by adding some photographs and passes it on to another friend and so on. The content keeps circulating between friends.

That really sounds like lots of fun, doesn't it?

Hopefully it'll be better when the non-straights take it up. As William Gibson once said, "The street finds its own uses for things." He wasn't talking about Coronation Street.

The Song Remains the Same

The audience-shot footage from Led Zeppelin's gig at the 02 is now back on YouTube, Google Videos and Dailymotion.

Apparently an overzealous underling issued the DMCA takedowns. Or that's what it says here.

Antony Bruno of reports that a third-party vendor hired to issue takedown notices on sites like YouTube has taken responsibility for the removal of LED ZEPPELIN concert footage taken during the band's historic reunion.

Sources involved in the situation earlier in the day said the takedown notices came at the behest of the band and its handlers. However, by late Wednesday, the company Grayzone issued a statement acknowledging their involvement and apologizing for their mistake.

Whether this means the footage will reappear on the site is unclear. While Grayzone acknowledges the error, there's no telling whether either the band or its management will prefer to keep the footage off YouTube even if it didn't initiate the takedown notices.

According to, video footage of LED ZEPPELIN's triumphant reunion concert on Monday night has become an online hit watched by half a million people.

Within hours of the band leaving the stage at London's O2 Arena, footage shot with mobile phones was posted onto YouTube.

Just over 24 hours later, a 10-minute clip of the band performing possibly their most famous track, "Stairway to Heaven", had been viewed by almost 500,000 people.

A shorter clip of them performing "Good Times Bad Times" had been viewed by more than 250,000 people.

Of course I didn't bother to save any URLs so I can't put them here. If anyone gives me a list, I'll edit the post to include them. Until then, you can watch or download them from my 4shared drive or search on YouTube etc. with the usual suspect keywords.

To use a 4shared drive:
Click on the file you want and it opens up another window. You can watch the video in that window or download it from the window. The download button only opens up after about thirty seconds, so if you don't see one at first, don't panic.

When you have an .flv file on your hard drive, you need a player to watch it. If you don't have one installed there's a free one at Just follow the instructions on that page for downloading it.

If I'm missing any good ones let me know and I'll copy and upload them.

I'm going to go back now and edit the old posts and remove the rant about Warner. Happy watching!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Once and Future Kings

In which I berate the WaPo.

The media have adored the Led Zeppelin reunion – it's been non-stop coverage for three months now. Not all the people kissing up to them for the papers can be actual Led Zeppelin fans. Percentage wise, it's just not possible. They're bandwagon jumping. They are people who now believe they always were Led Zeppelin fans.

It's reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's death – many people of newspaper-puff-piece writing age at the time of his death abhorred Reagan when he was president, but when he died, they sensed a sniffly-group-hug moment. Bring the country together and all that. Everyone united in saying what a great guy he'd been. A former boss of mine, who had been countercultural way back in the day said as she sneered at the obituaries, "I never realized I loved the old bastard until these articles told me how much I did."

Similarly, Led Zeppelin is a godsend for the old media. The newspapers are completely unable to find their footing in the steep scree-slope of modern culture. The youth of today, with its iPods and time-shifted TV programs and everybody renting DVDs instead of going to the theater en masse like a pack of lemmings, is even more unfathomable than the average youth of yesteryear. How do you find an angle that cuts across all these groups? Where is the line through the dot-plot of tastes that resolves and perhaps explains the variation we see? Nobody knows. There are no big bands, and you can't fake one up with the Tin Pan Alley tricks that worked so well in the middle years of last century. The kids have a choice, and have decided to exercise it. (Come to think of it, telling them to exercise a choice may drive them all into conformity – the media should try that instead.)

It's a gift from heaven then, to have a previously-assembled world-class band handy, hiding behind the curtain, ready to spring out at the moment of maximum chaos and unite everybody. Led Zeppelin to the rescue. For internal reasons, they have been in hibernation for almost thirty years, snoozing like King Arthur until their country needed them. They have failed to tarnish their legend by doing anything weird to the back catalogue, publically doing anything deeply stupid, releasing any crap Christmas singles, selling any digital product whatsoever, authoring any official biographies or making any more films or documentaries. They are technically still the biggest band in the world. They have press clippings from 72 – 73 to prove it!

The time is right, they poke their little pink noses out of their longbarrow to sniff at the spring air and the papers go wild. A ready-made. A true Blue Peter "Here's one I made earlier" biggest rock band in the world, cooling beside the oven in a fashionable baking tray at a time when no fancy-schmancy chef could possibly cook up a new one in front of us.

It's a wet dream for the papers. Not so much for the fans, who already have all the Zeppelin "product" they need and don't really want 25 year-old smackhead celebrities pretending to have always dug them, or the Washington Post – the bloody Washington Post, man – saying things about them like: "All notions of rock idolatry aside, it has now become obvious that Page is simply not human. He is some kind of formless shape-shifter, channeling darker forces as he languidly glides across the stage, his visage made all the more eerie by the shock of white hair that flows to his shoulders."

I mean, get a grip. You should be reporting on Iraq or something. I do the fangirling around here. Me, not the Washington Post. You're stealing my lines.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Led Zeppelin at the 02 - 2

Slim pickings still - an ITV newsreport

Led Zeppelin at the 02

I'm overjoyed and I wasn't even there.

Here, have a picture.

(Click for larger picture)

Doesn't Jimmy look gorgeous? Just say yes. That's what the comments section is for.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lucius Malfoy at Large

The world's largest picture of Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy.

That was just a thumbnail - I can't carry big pictures here.
The large picture can be found here. [link dead]
Warning: It's really large.

Doesn't he have lovely eyes? Malfoy is such a sweetie.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On writing.

I've started taking guitar lessons recently. A bit late, you might think, but it's better late than never. And anyway, I did have a brief fling with playing the guitar back when I was fourteen or so, so I'm not starting from scratch. I was pretty much starting from scratch, though, because I remembered all the theory but had absolutely no way of applying it. Lots of people will tell you about permanence of muscle memory; my muscles apparently got over it and started going steady with something else (hello Scheidegger Ten Finger Touch Typing Course) many years ago and didn't look back.

In the past I've also taken writing lessons. That's something else I've done for a while too – I started writing Science Fiction when I was six. So I've met writers and guitarists, and writing teachers and guitar teachers, and I've discovered they are very different people.

(The picture is of Robert Plant playing Jimmy Page's guitar at the sound check, Hiroshima, 1979-09-27. Photo by Koh Hasebe.)

I have to say that getting the calluses back was the second most painful thing I've ever had to do, too. It was worse than waking up from the anesthetic before they started the pain control that time after my cancer op, but was nowhere near as bad as breaking one of my toes on the furniture a couple of years ago. That hurt. In fact the bloody toe hurt more than the time I broke my finger when the fiberglass hood of my Corvette slammed shut on my hand. I'm actually surprised I still have fingers after that. And my finger didn't hurt too much, either, until the fact that the idiot emergency room doctor missed the fracture meant that it didn't heal and then it really started to hurt about a week later. Anyway, I digress. What I mean to say is that I'm not really that much of a wimp, but rubbing your fingertips on cheese-wire for an hour a day is a shabby way to treat them.

Of course, they've forgotten about it now, due to their poor muscle memory. I can still type with the calluses, too, but I can no longer turn pages in a book. Anyway, that's probably a topic for another day. (And it's not a hint for a Kindle for Christmas.)

Now, your writers don't seem to like writers. The writing courses I took were a couple of Adult Ed ten-hour classes, and it both cases the minor-league writer teaching it spent the entire time telling us that it's hard to get published, editors hate you, you'll fail immediately and constantly and the very first words of your cover letter will suck so much that editors will single them out to share on their blogs about how stupid writers are. Then the next week you hand in your homework and the teacher tells you you'll never make it. (Though by this time the sting is wearing off.)

I've met non-teaching writers too, particularly at the Worldcon. The professional writers on the panels have their books in front of them and occasionally, whatever the subject of the panel, make remarks to each other about how successfully they've put any writers in the audience off submitting anything to anybody. There's also always one panel there where professional editors read out gems from their slush pile and everyone laughs. The savvier editors pick out sex scenes, because even an ok sex scene sounds thoroughly stupid when read out by someone who is feeling more sarcastic than sexy. A few of these torrid passages and the audience is laughing like drains with the editors and wondering how they put up with having to deal with writers all the time. Poor things!

On the net, blogs cover the subject of why you shouldn't ever write anything. You can buy demotivational calendars and t-shirts to help you stop writing. Ex-writers tell you how happy they are to not be writing. Agents publish things about how life would be great if they didn't have to meet writers. [1]

Now, how about guitar players?

My guitar teachers wanted to teach me how to play and have never yet said I'm not going to be famous. It's possible that's because they know I haven't actually made the assumption I will be famous, but there is an amazing sense of relaxation induced by having a teacher who wants you to be as good as you can be, rather than spending half the lesson telling you all about how you'll never be as good as an editor wants you to be.

Also, although I haven't played it for many years, I've had my guitar in its case just sitting around the house since I was a kid (minus a few years it spent with a friend of mine). So I can tell you that regular guitar players, on seeing your guitar, exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

• They want to play your guitar
• They want you to play your guitar
• They want to get their guitar and the two of you can play guitar together
• They want to talk about what songs you know
• They want to teach you how to play other songs
• They want to lend you their guitar
• They want to lend you their electric guitar
• And their amp
• And their effects pedals
• They want you to come to their parties so everybody can play guitar.

When I first started learning, back in the approximately 14 year-old days, I used to go to a jazz club with my mum and dad every couple of weeks. In those days I knew my electric guitars fairly well – even girls have a bit of the trainspotter gene in them – and I asked the (awesome, I recall) guitarist in the house band there once about his battered Stratocaster. He told me its serial number, which was so low it made my jaw drop, then handed it to me and asked if I wanted to play it. In the club, between sets. At fourteen.

Yay for guitarists.

(By the way, if you missed the punchline there because you switched your brain off in outrage that a 14 year old was hanging around a club where people, like, drink beer and play jazz and stuff, then you're either much younger than I am or American, or both. And I pity you.)

Now, I realize some of this difference is due to the nature of music versus writing. Knowing the standards is the criterion for basic guitar playing. Your new friends probably know Smells Like Teen Spirit and Hotel California and House of the Rising Sun, not just to listen to, but to play. On the other hand, at least currently and in the West, originality is the major criterion for writing fiction.

So you aren't going to get a conversation like this:

Person at a party: Hey, you write? Are you familiar with War and Peace? In English? I've been working on the middle section a lot recently. Let's go write. If you handle the paragraph breaks I'll show you these adverb inversions I found.
Me: Cool!

And some of the difference is due to the indivisible nature of writing. You can't write in harmony.[2] But the image of a writer as a skivvy-clad loner nursing a bottle of scotch while piƱata-ing their muse until the words tumble out in a broken heap can only explain that one small part. It doesn't explain the attitude to other writers, or the weird way that everyone assumes you want to be J.K. Rowling, and that furthermore, you deserve to be put back firmly in your place for even looking like you might. Do they think writing is a zero-sum game where only a few can be winners so it's in their best interests to nobble the competition? Could be – the people who are *for* Creative Commons licenses are generally *not* the people I discuss above.

At least, I'm fairly sure that guitarists don't go to conventions of music listeners and the guitarist-panelists talk about the time they went to somebody's house and asked them to play a song and the beginner played House of the Rising Sun hahahaha, and then the audience all laugh like drains at the loserness. How dare he think he's going to be Stevie Ray Vaughan! Loser!

[1] Note: I exempt everybody on Live Journal, some people on Yahoogroups and the regulars of rec.arts.sf.composition from all the negative comments about writers.

[2] Though now I've thought of the concept I might try.

Edited to update a link and remove the t shirt link.

The Song Remains The Same (DVD 2007)

I got my copy of the remastered The Song Remains The Same.

I'm suited, as they say where I come from. I got the Extra Special Completely Fabulous DVD Packeroonie or something, which means I got two disks, a free T-shirt (which I haven't opened yet – might be wonderful), a bunch of reproduction lobby cards and some other paper tat in an E-Z-Looz-'Em ™ slippery cardboard package without a lid, some other pieces of cardboard, a mail in thing for a poster which I've lost already. And NO LINER NOTES. You only get liner notes with the Semi-Deluxe Partly Fabulous DVD Pack-a-go-go. So I have no idea what the band or the editor thought about the release. Presumably at some point I'll find the liner notes on line and know what I'm looking at.

The movie itself is entirely unaltered from the previous release. I've discussed it before in detail here, and I don't see any reason to change my mind about it. You get the movie as before, but with a vastly improved concert sound in Dolby 5.1. (There are significant cuts and minor changes in the music as well, but they are too boring to go into unless you're a complete anorak, and if you are you wouldn't be reading this blog for the answers anyway.) The extras are in the menus, so let the menus play rather than diving for the go button screaming (my normal reaction to DVD menus).

Since I wrote the original review, I've seen a quite a bit of search engine traffic to the site asking what Robert Plant's fantasy sequence was all about. Luckily for you guys, Robert addresses this in an interview on the second disk. He says, "You planned out how you would like to… in my own case, how I really saw what I was doing, on another level altogether, you know, the journey, the fact that there were pitfalls, trials, tribulations and elations and the end should never ever be in sight." I believe this is what they call a Plantism (or a Plantation). That's how he speaks. I hope it helps.

The second disk is the gem, of course. I've seen the film. But the second disk is where the new material comes in. There's newsreel footage of the robbery, the aforementioned interview with Plant and manager Peter Grant, a news report on the record breaking Tampa gig that I was going to skip until someone told me it had rare footage of the band onstage in it (and it does), the original theatrical trailer, a radio promo spot by the earnest and slightly boring Cameron Crowe which I skipped, and then – the moment you've been waiting for – the extra songs.

The new live songs are Over The Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, The Ocean and Celebration Day. And these are worth every penny I paid for the deluxe disk. Celebration Day alone may have been worth it, for Page's hummingbird moon-and-stars stage costume, his little knee-wobble shimmy and some beauteous film of Plant and Page together. The footage in TSRTS is cobbled together from various Madison Square Garden nights and some stuff re-shot on a Shepperton soundstage later for close ups. The new songs, particularly OTHAFA, suffer a bit more in this regard than the original songs on the movie, so much so that in places even I can tell that shots are not matching. But watching good quality live Led Zeppelin is watching live Led Zeppelin – it's always worth it.

There was some directorial copyright which means that every frame of the theatrical release was untouchable. This has led to a couple of editing decisions that I wouldn't have made, but ok. The upshot of it is that the movie has not been touched; the soundtrack of the movie has been extensively edited by Kevin Shirley to make it sound 'better' – more modern, anyway. This is good. The CD of the soundtrack (sold separately) *is* the songs from the soundtrack. This means that wherever the music was cut to fit the scenes on the screen, that cut appears on the CD. The previous soundtrack CD did not have these cuts. I'm not an expert on the soundtrack, never having heard it previously, but I have heard enough people talking about it to gather that it is not an improvement to have the music cut as though the film was playing on the screen when the film is not, in fact, playing on the screen. Therefore, if I were you, I'd buy the older version of the soundtrack if you're going to buy a CD at all. Not as modern and punchy, but certainly better in terms of musical continuity.

Official Website. (Includes video of Rock & Roll)

Modern Guitar's Review.

Interview with Kevin Shirley in Modern Guitar.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Selected Dylan Interviews

A follow up from the Dylan_Taxi interview I mentioned here.

Here is New York Entertainment's roundup of The Ten Most Incomprehensible Dylan Interviews of All Time.

Sample, from 1961:

In one of his first-ever interviews, a pre-fame Dylan was not yet very good at lying to journalists:
Dylan: Yeah, well, I was in the carnival when I was about 13 — all kinds of shows.
CBS: Where'd you go?
Dylan: All around the Midwest, uh, Gallup, New Mexico, Aptos, Texas, and then … lived in, Gallup, New Mexico and …
CBS: How old were you?
Dylan: Uh, about 7, 8, something like that.

Far out.


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