Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spot the Difference

Funny what you learn on the interwebs. On this thread I learned that the cover of It's Only Rock and Roll

is based on a famous picture of a Nazi procession

Yep, so it is.

Who knew? Then again the cover was by Guy Peellaert, who appeared to think all the Rolling Stones were Nazis. He painted them in a famous scene in Rock Dreams that I was going to put here but thought better of it, since it's edging towards illegality these days. But since they knew that's what Peellaert thought of them, why did they ask him to do the cover of IORR? Assuming I've got the dates right. Of course it's entirely possible none of them knew how he'd come up with the arrangement of figures for the cover.

Spiral Jetty, American Landmarks and Technology

I was in a conversation the other day about Spiral Jetty, and how it was hard to find. The sculptor's instructions on how to get there, I was told, were difficult and possibly deliberately so.

Spiral Jetty re-appeared above the surface of Salt Lake a few years ago. Getting instructions on how to find it today took 40 seconds. Copying and pasting the picture into Photoshop, tidying it up and loading it on Photobucket* took over 3 minutes, however, which is a long time to use a sledgehammer on a nut. Need more technology!

(c) Google

I read an article the other day that catalogued the changes in video cameras from early B&W television cameras in which the cameraman sat and operated something the size and weight of the load-handling exoskeleton Ripley operated in Aliens, to something weighing less than three ounces the writer held in the palm of his hand. The writer took the new camera for a spin down the corridor and, on viewing the resulting video, failed to think "wow! imagine how amazingly clever and minaturized this thing is!" but instead thought, "argh! no image stabilization! wtf were they thinking!" Yep, needs more technology.

Of course I don't have the link to that article. I need more linking technology too.

Not all American landmarks are quite this well catalogued by Google. Carhenge comes off badly.

(c) Google

And so did the Georgia Guidestones, though I didn't capture a picture. Of course, there are third party photos associated with each that are viewable on Google.

Now off to look at my house on Google Street View and see if I can see myself in the window!

* Edit: Taking it off Photobucket when it decided to start charging us $400 a year to host pictures in 2017 and reposting it took another few minutes, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Texts from Last Night

A website that preserves the best drunk, or just ill-advised, text messages sent in by readers. Texts from Last Night. Some of them are so droll that for a moment I suspected cheating. I doubt it as I doubt anyone could be so prolific at cheating.
(859): I ahte it when I peed a little on my shews. I got a litll bit on the automen in your room too.:/
(973): Tracy!! I don't have an ottoman in my room.
(859): you have a dog shaped liek un automan?

(317): I swear to god I'm with a high end prostitute right now and shes the most interesting person I've ever met. She just took me in to share an evening.
(317): And as an added bonus she seems to have gotten a blood stain out of my favorite t-shirt

(805): Dude?? where did you go after Wildcats last night? Last I heard you went off with one of the girls we danced with?
(1-805): Negative - This is his GF, Bobby is in Jail for a DUI. Thanks for the info.
And many more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bestselling books of 2008 - SF/Fantasy

Andrew Wheeler lists the best sellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy of last year. I was surprised at how high the numbers were. I keep reading as how nobody reads books these days (they're all off having a tweet) and the publishing industry is tanking.

Highest genre adult hardcover is at #3. It's The Host, Stephenie Meyer, wtih 1,240,005 sold. Not bad.

Much further down, one that we actually own, Anathem, Neal Stephenson, with 157,215 sold is the first genre SF novel on the list. Still not bad.

Another one we own, in paperback The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon, with 150,000 sold.

However, in paperbacks, Mr. Wheeler warns us:

Top book is John Grisham's The Appeal, at 2,185,722. (By comparison, the best-selling movie of the year, The Dark Knight, sold an estimated 22.37 million admissions -- roughly ten times as many. It's useful to remember this issue of magnitude when thinking about the book world: it's about a tenth as popular as movies.)
But then, MacDonalds sells two million meals a day in the UK (can't find figures for the US), and that's not a fair comparison either. Books are books, not movies or burgers.

He points out that the top Trade Paperback seller is Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, with 5,298,355 sold. Clearly people don't mind paying to have a nice Trade Paperback as opposed to a regular paperback. I wonder why that is?

The children's book business is booming compared with the adult fare.

#1 Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer, 6,051,981
#2 The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling, 3,577,183
#3 Brisingr, Christopher Paolini, 2,604,642
#6 The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, 1,000,000

Lots of full lists at his blog.

I'd probably feel better if I owned more than two books out of the entire set of lists Mr. Wheeler printed, mind you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Elbow - One Day Like This

Not the sort of music I listen to regularly, but I love the video. We have sign throwers like this near us. (Not surprisingly, as the video appears to be on a Southern California street corner.) They get very, very bored being human signposts for several hours at a stretch, but I've never seen one hone his skills to this level. It's not great advertising - it's hard to see which way one would go for the condos, for instance - but it's certainly a great street sport.

It's a British band, and a British sound, but it's not a very British video.

Where are they now?

A special "where are they now?" shout out to the landscape that appears on millions of computers around the world - the XP desktop theme called Bliss. Never could stand it myself, as it looked barren and artificial.

In this article in Serial Consign I learned why. It was originally a vineyard, but after an attack of Phylloxera, the vines were uprooted and the hill reverted to grass. The article has before and after pictures.

Edit 06/26/2013 - link restored by virtue of the Wayback Machine.
Edit 07/18/2017 to restore Botophucket's broken link.

Robert Plant in Abu Dhabi

Robert Plant played WOMAD in Abu Dhabi over the weekend as a special guest of Justin Adams (of Strange Sensation fame) and Juldeh Camara. Here are the YouTube videos. A friend of mine was there and reported he was in great form. He certainly looks healthy and energetic and the music is much more to my tastes than the crooning he does with what another friend of mine refers to as Backwoods Barbie and the Banjo Pickers.

Fixin' to Die

Black Girl

Black Dog

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody, played by computer hardware

Mostly. The majority of the tune was composed of various bits of hardware scanning, disk-spinning and generally buzzing and humming.

The author? conductor? bd594 writes:
This is dedicated to all fans of Queen and hey let's not forget about Mike Myers and Dana Carvey of Wayne's World.
No effects or sampling was used. What you see is what you hear (does that even make sense?)
Atari 800XL was used for the lead piano/organ sound
Texas Instruments TI-99/4a as lead guitar
8 Inch Floppy Disk as Bass
3.5 inch Harddrive as the gong
HP ScanJet 3C was used for all vocals. Please note I had to record the HP scanner 4 seperate times for each voice. I tried to buy 4 HP scanners but for some reason sellers on E-Bay expect you to pay $80-$100, I got mine for $30.
He's also built a 250,000 volt Tesla coil.

Stone Soup

You've heard the story of stone soup, right?

It's a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The first time I heard it must have been twenty years ago and I found it fascinating, intriguing and very useful. I saw it as the story of someone who brings absolutely nothing to the table, and yet gets folks to give him a good meal. The perfect scam, the fruits of blarney, the easy life of a man with the gift of the gab.

Anyway, I heard it again the other day and this time realized the stone in the story represents cooperation. The villagers have enough to eat, but lacking cooperation they are unable to do so. A stranger supplies this missing (but inedible) ingredient, and everybody eats.

I wondered for a while if it were me that had changed – that's a big change for anybody to go through and I thought I'd gone a bit soft. So I looked it up on the web and there are countless variants, from selfish traveler to bringer of cooperation.

It's nice to know I haven't changed. It's just America, moving from Reagan's Eighties to today's so-close-to-the-right-part-of-the-center-it's-almost-socialism! Obamania.

Stone Soup, from extremelinux

Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.
"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told.
"Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
"Ahh," the soldier said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat."
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the soldier. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved


Extract of Stone soup, from a historical folklore site at
© 1998 by D. L. Ashliman.

A tramp knocked at the farmhouse door. "I can't let you in, for my husband is not at home," said the woman of the house. "And I haven't a thing to offer you," she added. Her voice showed unmasked scorn for the man she held to be a beggar.
"Then you could make use of my soup stone," he replied, pulling from his pocket what appeared to be an ordinary stone.
"Soup stone?" said she, suddenly showing interest in the tattered stranger.
"Oh yes," he said. "If I just had a potful of water and a fire, I'd show you how it works. This stone and boiling water make the best soup you've ever eaten. Your husband would thank you for the good supper, if you'd just let me in and put my stone to use over your fire." The woman's suspicions yielded to her desire for an easy meal, and she opened the door. A pot of water was soon brought to a boil. The tramp dropped in his stone, then tasted the watery gruel. "It needs salt, and a bit of barley," he said. "And some butter, too, if you can spare it." [snip]
"My thanks for the use of your pot and your fire," said the tramp as evening approached, and he sensed that the husband soon would be arriving home. He fished his stone from the bottom of the pot, licked it clean, and put it back into his pocket.
"Do come again," said the thankful woman.
"I will indeed," said the tramp, and disappeared into the woods.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Technology Day

Yesterday was technology day (as opposed to, or at least not directly in line with, Earth Day) for me. I spent an hour and a half on the phone to Verizon tech support trying to figure out how to listen to my own voice mails. Very patient people, Verizon. I can now do it.

I didn't want a Blackberry - my firm insists I have one, a sort of soft ball and chain for their valuable employees. It works too. I find myself obsessing over messages I get - email messages only, until today. No obsessing over VMs until this afternoon. Now I can start. As far as the non-technology aspects of the Blackberry go, my thumbs are about eight times too large to press the keys, which I can't read except with a jeweller's loupe under a halogen light, so I have to type messages with my left index finger. It takes about five minutes per line. Or I call, using a non-Blackberry device to call on. That works.

This evening I found out how to a) email a post to this blog b) text message a post to this blog from the Blackberry (which clearly I won't be doing unless I'm stuck in a well-lit version of the Black Hole of Calcutta with no other means of contact) and c) how to add widgets so that people can recommend my blog posts to Digg It, Delicious and Stumbleupon.

The last might actually prove useful. Why not recommend a few next time you're here?

I tried out about fifteen "How to put Social Networking links on your Blogger posts" sites and none of them worked at all - malformed XML, probably caused by me plunking them down in the middle of something else like a major chromosome translocation of the blog code.

However, this site's instructions worked.

I did have to make one adjustment. The default blogger code for this layout does not include any such line as the data:post.body example given . I had to add the paragraph breaks around the data:post.body code that was there, which is about the limit of what I can do. Can't say I expanded my knowledge of anything, but at least it worked.

Edit: I just added Twitter, as a javascript widget, so it doesn't come out below each post, it comes out above each post instead. Thanks to Interesting Stuff That Matters for that tip.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stylophone Mania

My Raconteurs Stylophone arrived today. Yes, there is such a thing – apparently it's used on Consolers of the Lonely (although I can't make it out in there) and a Raconteurs Stylophone was sold on the subsequent tour. Their website still has them – that's how I got one, in fact. Forty bucks. It came with a free iron-on Raconteurs transfer which I am having difficulty deciding what to do with. Iron it on what?

What I didn't realize when I was buying it, because I always do my homework afterwards, is that it's a reproduction Stylophone, not the same circuitry as the original. The originals were analog devices made by Dubreq between 1968 and 1975. I had one myself, and I believe 1970 was the year I got it. They came, as do the reproductions, with the music for Silent Night and I remember charming the socks off of locals with my rendition when I went out caroling at Christmas. No, it's not that the locals were good actors; generally speaking Yorkshiremen do not feign delight with any degree of verisimilitude.

The Stylophone was associated with Rolf Harris, Australian wobble-board maven, kangaroo bondage artist and painter, who was a fixture on TV at the time. There were a number of records, books and pamphlets on playing the Stylophone available back then, all with Mr. Harris's smiling face on the front. I can't remember ever thinking Rolf was cool, but I immediately realized the instrument was cool.

My dad used to love it – not me playing Silent Night per se, but the concept. He was an electronics engineer and actually enjoyed electronic music, so the Stylophone floated his boat. It was a true synthesizer, and remarkably compact with it. The stylus, which is the end of a lead from the battery, connects a circuit when you touch the metal keyboard. Each key has a different-value resistor attached, so each key puts a different voltage through the Stylophone's single voltage controlled oscillator, and bingo, you get a handful of (monophonic) notes.

There's even a Marc Bolan connection. David Bowie famously used a Stylophone on Space Oddity, and apparently the instrument was a gift from Marc, who favored the strange (such as pixiephones) on his own albums.
“I remember David playing me ‘Space Oddity’ in his room and I loved it and he said he needed a sound like The Bee Gees, who were very big then. The stylophones he used on that, I gave him. Tony Visconti turned me on to stylophones."
(From Nickel In the Machine.)

Here are some famous Stylophone tracks.

The White Stripes- Icky Thump

Space Oddity, David Bowie

Kraftwerk, Pocket Calculator

Manic Street Preachers, Why So Sad

Anyway, my original Dubreq Stylophone was lost to me when I put away all childish things – at one point I piled just about all my toys, including Mr. S, into a bag and swapped them for my first guitar. And look how far that took me!

The re-imagined Stylophone seems to be the same size and weight, but is in cool Raconteurs Bronze/Copper colors. It comes with the sheet music for Silent Night (of course) and Londonderry Air (which I don't remember ever playing), but also, as a special bonus, the music for Seven Nation Army and Salute Your Solution. I would not know how the keyboard feels because, as soon as I opened it and realized it actually was a special edition, and not just shipped in a box stamped Raconteurs, I got all Comics Guy about it and put it away in its box to become a collector's item. I've already seen one going for $250 on Ebay, but I don't know if that was the beginning of collector's-item-hood or just someone out to relieve of the low hanging fruit of the internet of their hard earned cash.

Now, since I can't play my Raconteurs Stylophone (it would mean getting screwdriver marks on the back when I put in a battery), I have a hankering to have a playable Stylophone. I have a couple of choices. I can buy the repro, same as the one I have, but in a less-ossum color and without an ornate "R" on it, for about $20, or I can buy an actual refurbished Dubreq from a dealership that sprinkles originals with loving-caredust and then ships them out again. These are $119, or fifty-five pounds sterling. (Either their website is not terribly well designed or perhaps I'm tired, but I can't work out how much it will be if I pay in sterling but live in the US. Now, that's a difficult question for any website. More significantly, I can't figure out how to order a unit at all from this site. I may try again in the morning.)

What shall I do? I want a seventies one with a picture of Rolf on the box, but if I get it, it will be a collector's item too and I'll have to buy the cheap repro as well for my daily player. Because, you know, even though I haven't, like, touched one in forty years, I am so going to play it daily. I am.

Edited to fix links 07/18/17

Monday, April 20, 2009

Strunk and White's Elements of Style is 50 this month

And for its anniversary, the Chronicle of Higher Education lays into Strunk and White in the April issue. If you haven't had to suffer Strunk and White, it's a sort of folk-grimoire except that, instead of telling you how to cure warts with witch-hazel or banish fairies with goat gallstones, it has about a thousand pieces of advice on how to be having the well English grammer. There's no rhyme or reason to them; you just have to learn each one. The Chronicle explains that this is because neither Strunk nor White really knew any grammar, so each piece of advice has to be learned in isolation instead as part of a system. In other words, the advice is largely wrong.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

The book's toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar. It is often so misguided that the authors appear not to notice their own egregious flouting of its own rules. They can't help it, because they don't know how to identify what they condemn.

"Put statements in positive form," they stipulate, in a section that seeks to prevent "not" from being used as "a means of evasion."

"Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs," they insist. (The motivation of this mysterious decree remains unclear to me.)

And then, in the very next sentence, comes a negative passive clause containing three adjectives: "The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place."

That's actually not just three strikes, it's four, because in addition to contravening "positive form" and "active voice" and "nouns and verbs," it has a elative clause ("that can pull") removed from what it belongs with (the adjective), which violates another edict: "Keep related words together."

"Keep related words together" is further explained in these terms: "The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning." That is a negative passive, containing an adjective, with the subject separated from the principal verb by a phrase ("as a rule") that could easily have been transferred to the beginning. Another quadruple violation.
And so on. Interesting read that will teach you more grammar than the entire Elements of Style.

#amazonfail presages much crowd-sourced tsuris to come

A week ago, I mentioned #amazonfail - the recent unpleasantness where Amazon took thousands of gay and lesbian books off the ratings/listings available in the general search (they remained available in full searches) due to some cock-up with tagging that meant they were treated en bloc as "adult" even when the material was relationship, not sex, based.

I had some sympathy for Amazon. Jeremiah Tolbert has a more practical take on it in Twitter Will Murder You While You Sleep.
Do something bad, catch the attention of Twitter, and don’t respond for several days. This is a recipe for total and utter reputation anihiliation.

So how do you avoid this? Well, nimble companies should not be threatened by Twitter’s awesome might. The faster you fill the void of information, the more quickly Twitter as a whole will move on to something else. It probably doesn’t matter what you say. All you have to do is acknowledge it. Say, “We see the problem. We don’t know what’s causing it. We’re on it. Thank you.“ And then keep people updated. The lack of response is as important as the mistake.
He's right, y'know.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Britain's surveillance society

Britain's surveillance society is officially so bad that even Brussels thinks it's illegal.

Fears that Britain was slipping into a surveillance society were heightened yesterday as Brussels initiated legal action after declaring that UK laws guaranteeing data protection were “structurally flawed” and well below the European standard.

The criticism arose after the European Commission investigated the use of “behavioural advertising technology” by British internet service providers, which it found was illegal under European — but not British — law.

“I call on the UK authorities to change their national laws and ensure that national authorities are duly empowered and have proper sanctions at their disposal to enforce EU legislation on the confidentiality of communications,” Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said.

From Timesonline, Britain in the dock over secret tracking of internet accounts Data protection laws 'below European standard'.


RIP J G Ballard

We all knew he was sick, but of course you never expect it to happen.

I'd read a few Ballard pieces in Mike Moorcock's New Worlds when I was a kid. They were a struggle at the time, since I was more interested in rocket ships than inner space at that age, but I read them nevertheless. I read The Drowned World, The Drought, The Crystal World and The Wind From Nowhere as a pre-teen. Much easier going. It wasn't until my mother stuck Crash back into the library bag with "I'm not reading any more of that pornography!" that I realized there was more to Ballard than a strangely angled Cosy Catastrophe. (Perhaps I'd forgotten all those New Worlds shorts already.) Then I read Crash - and everything I could about him. the Re/Search issue on him is a gem.

It evidently worked - I won a competition in the semi-prozine Interzone for a Ballard pastiche, a condensed novel (less than a page long), a novelization of the movie Alien as filmed by David Cronenberg. Sad to say I haven't kept up with the newer (post eighties) output as well I could have. Ballard and Dick are my favorite authors and now neither of them are around any more. Sad indeed, but as some of my friends are saying, his death could be his big break. Looking forward to those American re-issues of his work. But still sad. RIP.

Guardian obituary by David Pringle (who adds, "Inevitably, the paper has hacked it about a bit, but not too severely. A couple of sentences no longer read as well as they should -- and one idiocy has been inserted: JGB was interviewed in Shanghai in 1991 for a TV programme broadcast in 2004. (No! It was shown on BBC 2 in 1991 -- and then repeated on BBC 4 in 2004.)"
BBC obituary
More info at Ballardian.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Record Store Day!

Today, April 18th, is Record Store Day. Since we have no local record store - I live in a cultural desert - I won't be celebrating it with a nice vinyl purchase, or even a nice CD purchase, but it did bring to mind the record shops of yesteryear.

I grew up in a small town in England that also had no record store - the closest one was in the next town. I'd save up five weeks "spend" (pocket money) and walk to the next town to buy the latest album. It was usually a bit more complicated than that as the store never actually had any of the ones I wanted, so I used to get them special order. I think the only one I bought that they ought to have in stock was Led Zeppelin IV - and they didn't, as it happens, stock that one either. The girl explained that, since it had been released with no name or band name on the cover, people did not know what it was, and so it hadn't sold. In fact she told me it had hurt the sales of the album everywhere. That's not what Led Zeppelin's publicity machine told me, either then or now, but I'm inclined to believe the record shop girl. Why not?

The last record I special-ordered from the record shop was Eddie and the Hot Rods first single. I went in to pick it up and on getting it home, found it had a bubble on the vinyl that threw off the stylus and made it unplayable. I went back to hand it in for a refund. At the time, I believe, I was wearing a home-made Ramones t-shirt and home-altered drainpipe jeans (it being impossible to buy anything but flares at the time). Sending back that proto-punk record meant that I arrived in London in 1976 still mostly listening to such things as the aforementioned Led Zeppelin IV, having not completely moved over to punk. My life may have been completely different if only I'd kept the record. Instead I became one of that last tranche of hippies and lived the double life of one who secretly went to see the Ramones one day and with half a dozen friends to see Hawkind the next.

Things have changed. Yes, we still live in towns with no record store - not much change there - but "special ordering" means at best downloading an mp3 instantly the fancy takes you, unless it's really obscure, in which case firing off a one-click request to Amazon's associates gets it to arrive at your door in a week. Music was actually hard to come by, growin up. In Yorkshire, where we had bad Radio Caroline reception, there was literally only one radio station that played any music I might want to hear. That being BBC Radio 1, the times that music was played was 10pm to midnight. There were clubs, which played Northern Soul and Motown, and older brothers (mine and girlfriends') who were always happy to fix us up with some Who or Terry Reid or something. And of course, music was limited your house, and probably a designated room of the house, as the smallest unit of music playback was the size of a suitcase, the famous Dansette portable record player. Yeah, Compact Cassettes, but did anyone ever buy an album on a cassette? No. They were limited to geeks who could do mix tapes. (At which point we were told we were killing music. Sound familiar?)

One more record shop reminiscence. The final time I walked to the record shop, I was walking on the sidewalk beside the main road, lanolin-stinking woollen mills and oil-drenched garages on either side of me, when a man came up to me and asked me the way to the next town. Obviously, this being the main road, he knew it already, and equally obviously, I was going there. He started walking beside me. I'd been stalked. I was sixteen and had been walking the route since I was nine or so, but was now too old to walk on my own. I couldn't shake him off - there was nowhere to branch off to, and no residential houses around. He didn't do anything until I was in town, when he physically assaulted me. I ran for it, ending up, of course, in the record shop, where they hid me in the stockroom and gave me reports on his progress ("He's outside...he's gone now...") until it was safe to leave. After that, whenever I needed a vinyl fix I took the bus.

So, support your local record store on Record Store Day, because they might come in unexpectedly handy. Mine did.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Dead Weather; in which I get cardigan envy.

Here's another video of Dead Weather's debut at the Bowery on April 15th, 2009.

Will There Be Enough Water.

Nice. Jack is back on guitar and showing us how come he got famous. And Ms. Mosshart is wearing a cardie that has gorgeous eye-catching ocellata like a peacock day gecko

but in the colors of a Tokay gecko

which is totally cross-dressing gecko-wise and makes her the Lizard Queen. I have cardie envy.

Here's an NYT review.

Here's a nice long interview with Dead Weather from Self-Titled Daily. (April 14th 2009) It includes a lovely video clip of Alison Mosshart singing Steady as She Goes with The Raconteurs. The contrast between that and the above video shows that drumming is beginning to do Mr. White good - one friend of mine has already remarked on the much improved arm tone. We're hoping for a good long summer tour and looking foward to videos of the resulting upper body cuts.

And here are the three videos I linked to yesterday, I Cut Like a Buffalo, Hang You from the Heavens and 60 Feet Tall.

Edited to remove broken links 07/18/17

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dead Weather, Bowery Ballroom, April 14th.

It was the Dead Weather's first show - if you don't count the invite-only debut in Nashville in March - last night.

Here's the videos to tide you over until the bootlegs come out.

Sixty Feet Tall.

Ignore the first minute or so. For a startled moment there I assumed Dead Weather were playing Sure Nuff n'Yes I Do - I thought Alison Mossheart had developed a couple of extra octaves at the low end (I wouldn't put it past her). But it was a recording of Captain Beefheart, of course.

I Cut Like a Buffalo

Hang You From the Heavens

This is their single.

Don't know what to think yet. Rolling Stone were there and their review is a red mist of teen-weltanschauung post-apocalyptic black leather imagery, plus it mentions 'sexual menace', 'spite' and 'swagger' so I suppose that's all good then.

Unfortunately I seemed to have hypnotized myself by watching the Beefheart video when I found the hyperlinks for this post. I'm ruined for other music for a couple of days. Sorry Jack.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Groupie Girl (DVD) 1970

A friend sent me a copy of a 1970 movie Groupie Girl, seeing as she knows how much I like a) 1970 and b) groups.

It came listed as a sexploitation movie and I really didn't think it would have so much story. I was expecting Confessions of a Window Cleaner except with groupies instead of window cleaners, and instead it was quite a reasonable, and as far as I can tell, accurate, story of its time. (Barrring the usual lapses like "tripping" on marijuana ("maharajah"). You'd think someone on the film would have asked Release about drugs before they finalized the script. Release has been around with its pamphlets since 1967.) The music was quite good too. Way too poppy for my tastes, but not as god-awful as it could have been.

Much of it was indeed about groupies, but the subplot about vans was the truly cool feature. I loved the Transit van scenes but I had to admit in the Big Chicken Run, the ultra-cool Bedford easily outfoxed the Transit, which is all as it should be.

As another van-related feature, IMDB points out that the group's van runs over a pedestrian in the opening sequences. I think it was staged, and I think it was supposed to be funny. My theory is based on the way the pedestrian collapses and rolls before the van gets him. Here's the shots.

The van is rushing because it's pulling away from the group's house which has been surrounded by autograph/souvenir hunters. I have to say that seemed unlikely - the girls would have stripped the van while they were waiting for the boys, surely? Or at least ripped out the distributor cap to give them a better chance at outrunning the van. Overall, the acting was barely adequate (except from the vans) and the nudity was not particularly enticing, but the plot was relatively strong. I felt sorry for the young woman, who was too dim for her own good, and felt that the boys' attitudes, sadly, were probably quite realistic.

Verdict: If you like 1970 you'll probably like this movie.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Surprisingly, internet outrage builds on rumors

Over the weekend, started quietly de-listing gay and lesbian (GLBT) books apparently under the pretext they were 'adult' even when they were clearly ordinary stories with GLBT content. The internets, primarily Twitter, exploded with outrage.

It's an interesting new phenomenon. The type of technology that allows flashmobs to gather and do daft stuff for fun also allows people to find out about bad stuff, react to it, form a feedback loop and overreact to it, then work themselves up into a frenzy over it, and then still have time left over to wonder what the hell is wrong with the offending company for not having apologized already, and all this before the offending company has managed to prise its head out of its ass.

It appears that Amazon didn't mean it. They seem to have made an error based on customer tags that disproportionally affected GLBT books. It started and was over in a couple of days, but the fuss on the internet did that thing meters do in films just before the reactor blows. In my prior experience this sort of hysteria has been confined to LiveJournal, which has all the requisite positive feedback loops and little way to damp feedback, leading to what's commonly known as "wank" there. Twitter, the new player on the block, seems to have even better positive feedback and yet retains absolutely no way at all to damp wank down, as the 140-character limit of a tweet is just right for an opinion but too short to provide any sort of context, analysis or apology. (Just for the record, wank on Twitter is called Fail...more or less. This incident, for instance, is called #Amazonfail.)

I'm not going to try to explain the whole thing - it'll just start it off again here on this blog, which is not what I'm aiming for - and there's a news story in the New York Times called Amazon Says Error Removed Listings which explains it in a nutshell.

Amazon, once they woke up to the sound of the tweets, offered this hurried explanation.

But in the meantime, almost every blog I read, apart from the terminally sloth-like[1], had covered the story with thousands of commenters getting in the act. Many swore never to use Amazon again. Most, I would say, assumed the worst motives of Amazon. Some suggested that the correct way to address this was to follow the time-honored order
1. Investigation
2. Trial
3. Execution
and not leap to the third one simply because it is now technologically possible to do so. I have to say I'm with this latter group.

Charlie Stross finds out about it and pulls his links to Amazon, apparently for damage control, not wanting to be associated with even the merest hint of a shade of a possibility of a taint of homophobia.

Making Light takes a more measured approach but gets more than 300 comments, some of which should come with a pitchfork smiley face.

John Scalzi keeps pitchfork-guard locked until he learns more.

More Words Deeper Hole (general link below), being on LiveJournal, manages to remain relatively calm, except for the commenters calling each other names like asshole, lazy and stupid.

I read recently that Twitter is not a young persons' medium, like texting, but is being adopted by people in their mid-forties and early fifties. In other words, this new power of the masses is in the hands of people supposedly intellectually and experientially equipped to deal with it. I dread to think what could happen if it were to get into the hands of the impulsive or under-educated.

[1] Yes, that includes this one. I had no idea this was going on for a whole 48 hours!

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Better Auto Tune

Here is Rory Gallagher and band stomping through "Going to my Hometown" at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1977. It was filmed for the BBC's Sight and Sound and simulcast in stereo on the radio which means the videos circulating the internet are of fairly high quality. Nothing beats Rory Gallagher in full flow - and this is a mandolin. Imagine what he's like with a resonator guitar. Wait, no need to imagine it. Those tracks are on YouTube too!

I just liked the way the drumkit says Arbiter auto tune is all... but the track's a stormer, isn't it?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Doomed, I tell you

We know that newspapers, the craggy, underappreciated grauniads (pun!) of our democratic freedoms are doomed - I've mentioned that before - by people who write for free, since they recently found the tools to self-publish just lying around on the interwebs thingy. This has led to unedited rubbish being published which is qualitatively worse than the approved rubbish that used to get published. (It says here.)

Apparently - this just in - regular people have also found the tools to make music lying around unguarded and have started to do it for themselves instead of leaving it to professionals. Horrors. This has never happened before, because, you know, music is, like, really hard and no-one had access to musical instruments or audiences who wanted to listen to regular people until this digital stuff was, like, just dropped in front of them by those stupid Open Sores information-just-wants-to-be-worthless penguin-hugging guys.

So thinks Matt Patterson of Big Hollywood, anyway.
Never before has music been so easy to create, distribute, and obtain. And never before has it been less inspired and inspiring; never before has it been so inconsequential to human affairs. The villain behind this terrible irony? Ones and zeros. Digitization has democratized the processes of musical composition and recording, beckoning the masses to participate in once rarefied and expensive art forms.
Well, if democracy is involved you can tell it's a loser straight off, right?

The main issues appear to be 1) nobody practices guitar any more and 2) if you can download music something happens to it that makes it less appreciated. Not sure what, but it's to do with the tragedy of the commons, a phrase that always makes me see red. As red as the People's Flag, in fact.

Anyway, have a read. It's possible to read while practicing finger exercises on the guitar, by the way. That'll show him.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Modern Dilemmas

Here's a question for you - if you're an older 'rocker' and you've picked up a successful cover band do you:

a) Laugh, think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and regard them as free publicity
b) Sue their pants off for damaging your rep?

Jimmy Page, who has attended a show by Led Zepagain, seems to go for a) But Bon Jovi, or at least their record company, tends to go with b).

According to BeatCrave, tribute band Blonde Jovi have been issued a C&D (cease and desist) Order because their name "creates a likelihood of confusion with [Bon Jovi], and capitalizes on the goodwill and reputation of its well-known marks". Because, you know, if you see a bunch of young women on stage you'll totally get confused over which one is Whatsit Bon Jovi, the original Bon Jovi dude.

They've temporarily changed their name to Blonde Jersey until they figure out next steps. Personally I think their next steps should include finding a less angry and jealous band to cover.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Freedom of Speech News

Britain, again. Now keeping records of every web page you visit and every email you send. Just in case, you understand. Just in case they need to know.

Full story at The Telegraph.

Barry the Sea Worm

Workers found a giant sea worm at a Newquay aquarium in the UK. Something was slicing the coral in two and attacking the fish. They set traps, but the creature ate the traps. Eventually, they took the coral reef apart to find a four-foot long poisonous worm, which, of course, they called Barry. Barry now has his own aquarium. They didn't say what they feed him. Probably unruly children.

Picture from the Daily Mail

Story in the Daily Mail.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page at the R&R HOF

Last night, April 4th, Jeff Beck was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Jimmy Page. It's the second time for Jeff - he was inducted in 1992 for his work in the Yardbirds, but said he appreciated it more this time for his solo work. Jeff's always been a bit of a loner. Or "naughty" as he put it.

Afterward, Jeff played Beck's Bolero and then Jimmy joined him for Immigrant Song, which then developed back into Beck's Bolero. They must have gotten over their tiff over who wrote BB. After all it was over forty years ago, and as they said last night, they've been friends since they were kids. ("Were we thirteen or fourteen when we met?" Jimmy said. "Eleven," Beck replied.) Jimmy was, unusually, playing a Fender 12 string.

He also played The Theme From Peter Gunn.

After Metallica was inducted, by a blue-haired Flea (and I spoonerized it as the Rock and Roll Home of Fail - sorry Metallica, nothing personal), just about everyone who was there except for Bobby Womack and Run DMC got on stage to jam to Train Kept a Rolling. Don't know why this was an all-white line up. I suspect Run DMC, at least, could have done great justice to this one given their previous success in making Walk This Way rock.

Here's on is video of the post-induction interview with Jeff and Jimmy. Love the interplay. Page says it wasn't him that threw Jeff out of the Yardbirds and in fact, not much later, the Yardbirds walked away from him and left him on his own too!

Getty Images has plenty of watermarked shots to look at.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Poisson d'Avril!

One of my proudest possessions is a book I read when very young indeed - Henri Lhote's book on the rock paintings of the Tassili N Ajjer, called The Search for the Tassili Frescoes, The Rock Paintings of the Sahara. Published in 1959, it describes a journey to the burning heart of the Sahara to study the wonderful brightly colored rock paintings left there by the locals when the Sahara was green and home to antelopes and giraffes, only a few thousand years ago. The paintings are all wonderful, scenes of hunts and dances and ceremonies rendered in a delicate style using earth pigments.

When I read it with my dad, there were a couple of paintings in there that he would gasp at - "They're so modern," he said. And they were, with a delicate hipster touch I recognize from some of the 50's jazz pictures I've seen. They are most unlike the others, although the others, it must be said, are breathtaking too.

I was browsing around looking for more material on lost cities and remembered this book. I found this wonderful detailed website, Tassili n'Ajjer, The Most Beautiful Desert of All and was enjoying it until I came upon this:
Lhote published in his book two paintings which had an unmistakable ancient egyptian influence, yet were strangely different. This caused quite a stir in scholarly circles, as it seemed like unrefutable proof of contact between the Tassili and Ancient Egypt. Eventually it emerged, that the paintings were done by one of the playful artists of the Lhote team, who was familiar with the ancient egyptian style. The hoax misled Lhote himself, who argued very authentically about this cultural link in his book, and probably only became aware that he was set up much later.
Rats. It's always sad to learn your idols have feet of clay. Not that this diminishes the other paintings, of course, but to have this lemon described to me on April Fool's Day was a bit too ironic. A little like learning Jacques Cousteau once tried to net Nessie. (Someone will no doubt write in and tell me he did.)

Here is one of the small number of apparently hoax pictures, scanned from a color plate in my copy of the book.

Lovely, isn't it? But once you know what it is, you can see that slight French Left Bank hepcat look. Or maybe I'm imagining it. Not that I can find any other websites saying it is a hoax, mind, but that's mostly because if you plug 'tassili hoax' into Google you get a gazillion pages claiming modern global warming is a hoax (because the Sahara sure warmed up a long time ago), and I couldn't be bothered to wade through it all.

There are many photographs of the paintings at the website linked above. Lhote's book does not contain photographs, but traced or copied drawings in the standard archaeological tradition that always makes me wonder how much interpretation the artist put in before deciding where to draw each line.

You've probably seen at least one famous picture from Tassili - the "Great Martian God" as Lhote unfortunately termed it, a round headed giant apparently wearing a thick neck-cloth and a puffy suit. Von Daniken said it was a picture of an ancient astronaut, and indeed it does look like a man in an Apollo-era space suit. You can see one here.

The Sahara is not exactly an abandoned city, but it certainly fits the theme. This one I would only visit, however, if someone ran an air-conditioned train to within about five miles of each site. Call me lazy.


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