Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iconic Jimi Hendrix nite spot to close!

Horrors! One of the treasured - indeed fabled - eateries of my youth is to close.

The first (and, really, where it counts, the only) Harry Ramsden's fish and chip shop, in Guisely, Leeds, is set to close down. It's been open since 1928.  I only recall getting to visit it once or twice, and my memory of it is of a giant, neon-lit barn filled with red-faced Yorkshiremen, situated on top of a desolate moor where winds howled across cringing heather. It's possible my memory is faulty. The fish and chips were nice, though.

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Fish and chips are soul food to Yorkshire people (and many others, though regional variations like Deep Fried Mars Bars and chips, and Eel Pie and Mash with Green Liquor abound in those foreign lands). We had one in our town, of course, but Harry Ramsden's was a sort of Holy Grail of fish shops, unattainable (because kids don't have cars and Wuthering-Heights-Ville was off the beaten bus route), mirage-like and unique.

Anyway, Jimi Hendrix once ate there, after being shooed off stage by the Leeds constabulary during an allegedly over-the-fire-limit gig in Leeds, 12th March1967.  The BBC has an article on the Leeds Spring of Love:

The Troutbeck Hotel was the venue for Hendrix's historic gig, and it was dangerously over-full before the band even took to the stage. Reports suggest up to 900 fans squeezed in, a mere 700 people more than the place could accommodate! ...As the gig heated-up, Ilkley policeman Tom Chapman decided enough was enough and stopped the gig. One boy in blue versus nearly a thousand Blues fans was never going to end well - and Hendrix just kept on playing. What happens next is unclear - some say there was a 'riot', others say people just went on their way. For his part, Tom Chapman denies there was big trouble.

 The Jimi Hendrix Forum takes up the story:

"Later on that evening, a woman called Sheila Lilley was waiting to be served at Harry Ramsden’s famous fish shop. behind her in the line appeared none other than Jimi Hendrix dressed in psychadelic gear. He said to Sheila that he was sorry that the gig had to be cancelled after just one number. He signed her a photo. She still has it. Framed on the living room wall."

This is the most famous appearance of a legendary guitarist in a fish and chip shop, and that's probably it for Harry Ramsden's in general. But I feel I ought to include this picture of even more angelic legendary guitarist Paul Kossoff eating fish and chips with his dad, David Kossoff. It's from the Free Forever DVD. It's not Harry Ramsden's but it'll do.

Note that Dad David holds his knife properly while young Paul is a punk. Tch! Young people of today...well, young people of forty years ago... no manners.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Porcupine hogs corn on the cob

The cutest video ever...Teddy the Porcupine doesn't want to share his corn cob with his keeper. The unusual thing is he actually says so.

The YouTubeosphere seems divided on whether he's speaking Jawa or Ewok, but I think it's just plain old English.

A couple of years ago I decided my new band name would be the Talkupines. Teddy should be our lead vocalist.

The video is copyright 2011, Zooniversity LLC, at and

Nothing to see here, move on

What the Tea Party call the "Lamestream Media" is funny, isn't it? Here is this week's Time Magazine's worldwide covers from its own site.

(That might be a bit large but you get the point.)

The rest of the world sees a picture of revolution. The US gets a cute cartoon that almost imperceptibly suggests you ought to be anxious and worried. Is this just one of those things, a complete accident based on ditzy editors and deadlines and gormless motorcycle couriers or something, like on the TV? Or is it important that Americans be vaguely upset and apprehensive, while keeping them from any images that might remind them there is an alternative to "hanging on in quiet desperation"?

Bringing the battlefield to your door

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window

...the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

The article does give a way to oppose the bill -by supporting the Udall amendment, which is a bit like agreeing to download malware because it promises to get rid of some other malware you already caught somewhere. It would be better if the bill simply didn't exist.

The Senate vote is this afternoon.

Anybody with that old, "If I'm not doing anything wrong, I have no need to worry," is fooling themselves. Dismantling Posse Comitatus isn't a joke.

More info.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forty years gone

I managed to miss the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin IV (or whatever your personal pet name for that album may be).  It was released forty years ago, on November 8th, 1971.

It was the first Led Zeppelin album I 'just missed' and bought after-the-fact.  I remember walking to my local record shop and placing a pre-order for Houses of the Holy, the fifth album. and talking with the record clerk there. "Not putting their name on the last album cost them a lot of sales," she said. When I looked skeptical, she added, "A lot of people just browse the stacks. If they don't see a name on the LP, they don't consider buying it."  Well, it certainly didn't do too badly, earning six time platinum in the UK and 23 times platinum in the US. (And only five of those sales have been me buying it in new formats every few years.)

The album has managed to gain a lot of notoriety one way or another. Do the words to Stairway to Heaven say Satanic things when played backwards? (No.) If you hold up the inner sleeve to a mirror, can you see a black dog looking back out at you? (Yes.) What do those four mysterious symbols mean? (Who cares in the 21st century, when Wikipedia will tell you something fans argued over and researched exhaustively for 30 years?) If you want to read about listening (and holding sleeves up to the mirror) I recommend Erik Davis' small but perfectly formed tome, which is titled with the four just let's call it Led Zeppelin IV.

Jimmy Page, who hasn't done much in twenty years, decided to come out of his shell this month and accompany his friend, Roy Harper, at Roy's 70th birthday concert. It's hard to imagine (Hats off to) Harper as a seventy year old, but as they say it beats the alternative.  Jimmy came out and played Same Old Rock with his friend, with that same skill and that wonderful tone he gets from his acoustic guitar.  You'll have to pardon a bit of political posturing at the beginning of this; it's the best filmed YouTube clip I could find.

This didn't involve any pissing on sheep, for which I'm sure the sheep are truly grateful.

Roy Harper with Jimmy Page - The Same Old Rock - Royal Festival Hall 05/11/2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Student Health and Safety update


UC Davis chancellor Katehi issues statement

Apparently the chancellor of UC Davis had the non-violent, non-resisting students pepper-sprayed because she was concerned about their health and safety!
Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend... 

Well, I never.

Crying like a fire in the sun

It's worth watching to the end, where the vicious assholes who had stood by while seated students were pepper-sprayed at point-blank range, are allowed to leave, and they do so, blinking in slight bafflement as they back away.

In a follow up article, we learn, in the new Health Speak that the anti-Occupiers have adopted (for they often say that demonstrations have to be broken up for health and safety reasons) that blasting chemical weapons into the the eyes and throats of non-resisting students stops them from being hurt by the police who are called in to deny them their First Amendment rights:
Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a “compliance tool” that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.
“When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,” Kelly said. “Bodies don’t have handles on them.”
After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.
“What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure,” Kelly said. (From Chicago Sun Times.)
Is it, Charles? Is it standard police procedure to gas a bunch of youngsters sitting on the sidewalk? Curling into a ball "warrants more force", including "baton strikes"?

You know, it's probably true that it's standard.  Which is one more good reason to have a protest movement, isn't it?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Journal of Journeyman Research

Hilarious article here.

There was a book written a couple of years ago, called  Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell. It postulated that to become an expert – in anything – one needed 10,000 hours of practice. Gladwell didn't say that's all it took. He said that's how long it takes to internalize the procedures and reproduce them by instinct, whether your subject is flying a Navy jet or playing a violin.  This was an important book, or at least the blog posts picking it up and propagating its findings made it an important book. It meant that all those with ~500 hours under their belt, who had felt clumsy and stupid and considered giving up, suddenly had something to keep them going – the understanding that the fumbling eventually goes away and is replaced by instinctual understanding. It gave hope, in other words.
The twits who wrote the article above, David Z Hambrick and Elizabeth J Meinz, must have felt a little miffed that Gladwell appeared to say (if you were a poor reader) that any sorry specimen of hoi polloi could reach great heights if they practiced for 10,000 hours. This led them to research Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters and get it published.
They strive manfully enough themselves to prove that it's actually IQ that makes you successful. They locate a paper that tells them, and us: 
The remarkable finding of their study is that, compared with the participants who were “only” in the 99.1 percentile for intellectual ability at age 12, those who were in the 99.9 percentile — the profoundly gifted — were between three and five times more likely

To what? Don't leave us in suspense!
to go on to earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work.

Jiminy Crickets! That's amazing!

Wait, what?
earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work

That’s all? Who cares?
They explain the results thus:
A high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage.

Hahahahahaha! They think that a doctorate, a patent, a peer-reviewed article or a published literary work reveals "an enormous real world advantage"! I wonder if they've ever even seen the real world?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tell me why

I was listening to BBC World Service yesterday, and even they - et tu, Brute? - had someone on who just didn't know why the Occupy Wall Street protesters were protesting. He said it loudly and repeatedly over the course of ten minutes or so until I had to leave for an appointment. I saw it in three or four news articles yesterday as well. Oh why, oh why are you protesting? Why won't you tell us, sweetums? Just tell us and then we can all go back to being normal.

I think it's quite plain why they're protesting - and why I support them.  The whole "why are these inarticulate hippies protesting? Aren't they just jealous of others' success?" schtick is completely manufactured. They are complaining because laws over the past 20 to 30 years have been increasingly rigged so that money flows towards people who already have money. If you're young, you generally don't have any money (that you've earned, anyway) and there are stringent mechanisms in place to make sure you never get any. Well, just enough to buy an X-Box or an iPad or something, to keep you docile.

This cartoon sums it up very nicely. Unfortunately I can't read the signature. It looks like Hurwiti, but I can't find that easily in a Google search.

For the visually impaired, the cartoon shows protesters at Wall Street carrying banners that say things like:

End Corporate Welfare
Stop Corporate Control of Government
Banks Got Bailed Out We Got Sold Out
Bring Back Glass Steagall Act
Wall Street Bailout is socialism for the wealthy

... and so forth. The rich Monopoly board Rich Guy is leaning out of a window with a megaphone saying, "Say they don't know WHY they're protesting."  In front of the crowd, a pretty TV news blonde is smiling widely into a camera as she says, "...they don't really seem to know WHY they are protesting!"

It's a message the media seems to have taken to heart. I first saw this cartoon on October 26th. It's November 16th and the media are still pretending they can't figure it out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Darth Maul returns...

My favorite Sith is back - in Clone Wars, starting in spring.

Teaser trailer from Lucasfilm here.

New modes of news

Looking at the news the last four days has been a depressing experience.  There was the failure of Phobos-Grunt, for instance, and the very real thought that eventually Phobos-Grunt will fall to earth, depositing 12 tonnes of Nitrogen Tetroxide and Hydrazine somewhere unguessable. That should be fun.

But I did notice a trend, and that was the trend of having non-humans read the news. I know we all love Siri - and we spent a good hour on Friday afternoon asking her what she was wearing and whether she was married (she did not reply in good humor to the inquiries) - but it's odd that non-humans have such a presence in the news. I assume that the volume of video is so high that not enough Emo layabouts in bedrooms can fill it up. 

Here, for instance, via Youdopia, cute critters discuss the banking crisis. 

They have a point. Obviously, news travels fast in the river delta of the Uncanny Valley.  But deeper in the upper tributaries of the valley, we learn of two automatons discussing the recently discovered outbreak of child-rape at Penn State. It's interesting to hear robots discuss this most disgustingly human failing, and even more interesting to see that they envision it as a tiger attacking a zebra in the  locker room showers. Can't say I've ever heard of NMATV, but I'll be tuning in to their droidcasters more often.

Interesting that JoePa, if that be he, is presented as Harry Potter. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Day

Today was Remembrance Sunday. It inspires all kinds of thoughts about man's inhumanity to man, though today I think I saw more posts pitting dueling war poets against each other than actual memorials to the fallen. Eventually, someone gloomily remarked in a comment thread somewhere that war didn't seem to have been any better when it was fought by poets.

Quite so.

This site [link partially lost] has a number of photographs of what, exactly World War I did to the landscape in Europe. All those trenches, and bombs, and the eventual destruction of explosive caches literally pocked the landscape, so almost one hundred years later, the earth has not recovered.

Never mind that every plowing season, the land yields bones instead of rocks, but large stretches of it, as at Verdun, above,  is unplowable, ripped up by conflict.

The current American fad for using drones may be cowardly, and would almost certainly be illegal if the US wasn't the 400 pound gorilla at the UN, but I can quite see why a general may prefer to call a "surgical strike" instead of sending ten thousand men over the top to die, as repeatedly happened during WWI.  Literally millions died - it's unthinkable. Less than a hundred years ago, too. My grand-dad fought in that war.  He lived through it, and I don't remember him ever saying a word about it.  Not all the soldiers were poets.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On top of the world

No relation to this, of course, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers playing On Top Of The World.

The couple of little guitar breaks are Eric Clapton inventing modern electric guitar.  It was produced by Jimmy Page. There's a bit of difference between 1935 Mississippi Delta and 1965 London (to say the least) but given my own situation, I heard the Bluesbreakers first. This track, and the others at the same time - I'm Your Witchdoctor, Telephone Blues - will always be my touchstone tracks.

Sittin' on top of the world

The Mississipi Sheiks, Sittin' On Top of the World.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nigel Tufnel Day, 11/11/11

Obviously, since the internets are what the interwebs are, the day 11/11/11 belongs to Nigel Tufnel, the Spın̈al Tap star whose amps went up to 11.

On being grilled if 11 was better than the normal 10, Nigel replied that it was "one louder", and no one can argue with that.

In view of his achievement, 11/11/11 has been declared to be International Nigel Tufnel day, and I don't see why this hero of rock shouldn't be honored this way.  The power of LA Weekly is behind us in this push (and I'm not referring to Big Bottom), so here we go.

Tell all your friends: Friday is Nigel Tufnel day.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bon Voyage to a friend

A friend of mine is going back to the Philippines today. She's been in the US thirty or so years. She came here after college, married and settled down. When I interviewed her for a job thirteen years ago she told me solemnly she'd be going back home in five years.

She was with me for more than five years - I abandoned the job first. She stayed behind and eventually left to work for another firm. We kept in touch as she built up her personal business outside of work, at first just beautiful cakes of amazing artistry and complexity, and then later food of all kinds.

I'm sad to see her go, but so excited about her new life in her old home. When I met her last week she was bubbling over with excitement and plans. She remembered the five-year-commitment with a giggle and laughed regretfully that it had taken her so long to put her affairs in order and put her familial demons to rest.

Although she's a vegetarian as much as possible (and a serious student of Chinese philosophy and health) she cooks what people ask for and so she gave me a piece of chorizo to take home. My experience of chorizo hasn't been good - you see it in the supermarket case with an ingredients list that reads like the "remember to throw away" instructions to a slaughterhouse. Well, I cooked her chorizo according to her instructions* and it was one of the most sublime treats I've ever eaten. She gave me the "low salt" version and yet it burst with flavor. "Vodka and wine," she told me with a wink.

I don't think she drinks, either.

I asked her if she still spoke the language (it's not Tagalog, it's a more local one) and she said, "Yes - I still dream in it!" To dream in a language you haven't heard spoken in more than twenty years...that's a thinking point right there. She's going home, even though we're all told we can't go home again.

I'm sure I'm committing some sort of Orientalism, but I'm imagining figs throwing massive roots over the stonework around the yard, and servants bringing obscure pans as they are called for. Wait, no, I'm not imagining it, that's how it is, she said.

Au revoir, Marlenie-Beanie! I'll miss you.

*Crumble the chorizo into a shallow pan of boiling water. Let the water evaporate and then continue to toast until the sausage is lightly browned.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Walking the walk

It's odd to have to get older to appreciate the things we had when we were small.  But today I heard something  from the past that almost certainly influenced my biggest influence.

I love Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I love Beltane Walk.

It dominated my early youth. And now, courtesy of 106 FM, I hear Jimmy McCracklin's The Walk.

It makes me love Marc Bolan all the more.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Seminole Freak, the new San Onofre

The city of San Juan Capistrano issues me phone alerts if something is likely to trouble my peaceably tax-paying status. Verizon, for my convenience, transcribes them and emails them. So today I was warned of a local nuclear accident.
"The 3:00PM today. There will, this is an important message from the city of San wan Capistrano at approximately 3:00PM today. There was an ammonia release at the Seminole freak nuclear generating station from unit number three. At this time. There is no danger to the health and safety of the public. There has not been any radioactive material release. Another update will follow at5:30:00PM. This concludes this message" 
After a little while I actually got to hear it.  It turns out that Seminole Freak isn't a new nuclear generator in town, it's just how San Onofre (the tits nuclear plant) sounds to Mr. Verizon.


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