Monday, December 31, 2012

In the Yard

The weather has been weird here in usually sunny Southern California recently.

A couple of days ago it was sunny and rainy at the same time - resulting in a rainbow.

Look, the neighbors above us on the slope have cut down their overgrown jungle! We can see the sky!

And this morning there was frost on the roof.

This is pretty unheard of. We're close to the ocean here, not in the desert, and I've only seen it frosty once before. All the giant birds of paradise died back.[1] (You can see our up-slope-and-to-the-left neighbors are going to have some trimming to do!) Our normal-sized birds of paradise are ornery enough that it won't affect them, but I'm worried about the orange tree (also visible in the rainbow picture) as a frost kills young fruit. Having said that, we do live in Orange County and orange trees are considered nuisance fruit trees as the oranges just fall and hurt people/rot/roll into the road because there are so many that we can't eat that much orange.  We keep ours because it's pretty, or it was pretty until it got Dreaded Lurgy, which has just reached Orange County and picked on us as early adopters. The good news for actual growers is it is just unsightly; it doesn't affect the fruit yield. The bad news for us homeowners is it is unsightly and doesn't affect the fruit yield.

The cold weather has impressed various cacti and succulents. The Fenestraria is blooming. You only really keep these for the "foliage", if that's the word for the oddball Cyriak-looking tubes they produce, but the flowers are pretty and surprisingly daisy-like. This one is blooming in two colors at once.


A flower

This thing, probably a Kalanchoe, is about to flower also.

And its little friend the Senecio articulatus is also about to do its thing. The ones I have indoor are about three feet tall and no sign of flowering. I think the hard life outside is making this one short and flowery.

[1] I said that to someone in non-Lala Land once and she thought some actual exotic birds had died. They're plants - Strelitzia plants. There's a literal jungle of them visible in the next yard up in the rainbow picture.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Grout and About

When I was nobbut a bairn, I thought one of the lines in the Monkees I'm A Believer was "There's not a trace of grout in my tiles". I'm not sure what childhood trauma led me to believe that was the most likely interpretation, but I've recently come to accept that this was a true description of the well-used areas of my current kitchen counter. So, for Crimbo, I bought STB a grout removal tool.

It was a bit late, in a way, since the main reason to have good grout on the kitchen counter is to have a germ-free countertop on which to roll christmas cake marzipan and icing, make the christmas pies and so on, which were already done. In fact, once we got round to applying it, the grout removal tool removed a great deal more confectioners' sugar and flour paste from between the tiles than it did remaining grout.

We watched about five hours of how-to video on regrouting before we tackled it. Despite areas of the 'grout' being only flour paste, the grout removal took approximately four eons, and the actual grouting about 20 minutes. (The removal tool performed wonderfully - it just takes that long. If we'd followed the advice of YouTube and used a screwdriver or a nail file or whatever else their terrible recommendations were, we'd still be at it.)

The flat bits grouted easily, with a float, and the curved bits were done, as YouTube assured us was quite kosher, with index fingers. In this case, we believed YouTube.

One of the issues with this particular 1971 house is this thing, seen here set in the nice new grouty countertop.

It's a wooden chopping board, which cannot be lifted up - it's set in a metal surround that is accessed from underneath, and when you remove the whole arrangement, there's a gaping hole in the counter that's about three inches deep and goes straight down into the pan cupboard. It's also not flush with the countertop - the ring is flush but the wood rises up about four millimeters above it, almost as though it was there to keep something from touching the countertop itself.  Ours is about  30 by 45 centimeters.

STB removed the board, but, in replacing it after the regrouting, we lost one of the three metal doohickeys that jack it into place in its ring and hold it tight. This sent us on a Web Adventure!

It turns out that a lot of 70's houses have these metal holes in the counter. For a long time they were believed by kitcheyologists to be "Hootie Rings" but eventually an ancient sage was found who remembered that they were in fact Hudee frames, originally made by the Hudee Manfacturing Co.

If this triggers any subliminal Goatse flashbacks, sorry in advance.

There is of course a remanufacturer of Hudee rings, Vance Industries, and so we were able to order replacement doohickeys (they are actually lug bolts, and they come in sets of six, not three).  But on reading through Vance's site, and following up with the incredibly useful Retrorenovation site, we saw that apart from sinks, Hudee made trivets, not wooden cutting boards.

A trivet is a thingumajig that holds hot pans above a surface. Hudee's were made of tempered glass in nice flowery 1970s patterns.  Interestingly enough, when we first moved in, the wooden cutting board had a big circular burn mark on it, exactly like one that would be produced if someone used to using a trivet had placed a hot pan on it to cool down rather than risking the pan contacting the counter below!

Our kitchy sense tingled. We've decided that our house must have come with a nice tempered glass trivet which at some point someone broke, or attempted to remove from its Hudee frame with a knife or similar no-no and dropped it, and it's been replaced by a modern little-pieces-of-wood-glued-together chopping block, which was cut to size and held on with the remaining few doohickeys. (We believe a lug is lost to a parallel dimension every time a Hudee frame is replaced.)

Although I'm not one of the paranoids who think germs thrive on wooden cutting boards - wood takes care of bacteria by itself, assuming you clean properly after use and regularly use vinegar to disinfect - I can see why a nice glass trivet-cum-cutting board was the original idea.

STB ground the board down to remove the burn and I fed the raw wood 6 ounces of mineral oil to reseal it. Sitting there in its nice new grout surround it looks great. Happy new year Lyle's kitchen!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The wind cries MRI

I have a frozen shoulder, which is like whatever it is the undead pirates have in POTC on Davy Jones's ship where they're all turning into coral and barnacles and fusing with the hull. The shoulder just seized up and stopped doing the things shoulders do. That in itself is annoying, but it also hurts like a motherfucker when a) I try to move it and b) when I'm not trying to move it.

I've been having physiotherapy for a while – and that's a saga in itself – but a couple of weeks ago my doctor suddenly said, "It might not be a frozen shoulder - it might be a rotator cuff tear...although probably not because the steroid shot I gave you didn't work...but it might be. Only an MRI can tell for sure. Have an MRI!" 

So I said, "Why? What would you do differently if it was a rotator cuff tear?" and he must have, at that point, taken something out of his pocket and said something along the lines of, "Look at this attractive shiny object. Just look at it!" because a minute later I was walking out of the office with a scrip for an MRI, and I couldn't remember whether he'd answered my question or not. So I'm not sure why I've had an MRI.

The physiotherapist was skeptical of me getting an MRI appointment before New Year, as 'everybody tries to get them in before then as they've already met their year's deductible'. I'm in a plan where it's not possible to 'meet' the deductible – like Little Joe's clients in Walk on the Wild Side, on my plan everyone just has to pay and pay. My health insurance is about $550 a month (this is lightly disguised as I pay some of it from my wages and the company pays the rest, but the company prints both amounts on the paycheck every month as it wants me to be fully aware that this is money it could be paying me but isn't because it's paying Aetna instead) and every visit to a health care practitioner has a $35 'co-pay'. This doesn't sound like a lot if you see, say, four doctors a year – though if you saw four doctors a year you'd be paying Aetna $1650 for each one and they'd be paying each doctor $90 ($360 total), so they'd be laughing all the way to the bank. However I haven't just seen four doctors this year – as well as the usual run of doctors I've had 15 physiotherapy sessions, for which I pay the $35 each, or $525 this year, on top of the insurance premiums. Aetna tells me that the physiotherapy appointments are 'fully covered' which means everything except the co-pay, so they pay about $50 a visit out of my premium and I pay the further $35. They are still laughing all the way to the bank.

This is a picture of my shower. It looks like I feel. 

Anyway, I phoned up the MRI people and they answered on the first ring and offered me an appointment the next day, as opposed to next year.

"No, I can't take tomorrow off – how about next Wednesday since I'm taking all Christmas week off?"

Done, they cried.

"Wait, that's Boxing Day…I mean the day after Christmas. Are you sure you're open?"

Yes, they cried.

So on Boxing Day I turned up half an hour early (to fill in forms) for a 10:00 AM appointment. To my intense delight and complete surprise, almost a quarter of the forms were already filled in by the computer. (Mostly the financial stuff.) I've been filling in crap about myself on doctors' websites for the past few months as they've been dragged kicking and screaming into the late 20th century recently due to HITECH and HIPAA. These attempts have not worked. When I finally turn up at the doctors, the computer is 'down', and I have mimeographed forms – I swear, mimeographed forms, and wavy lines from Xeroxing copies printed in Courier forms – to fill in. At the MRI center, a good 20% or so of the forms were prefilled. Good start; luck was not to continue in this vein.

The first symptom was that I was not called into the Second Waiting Room (there's always a second, hidden, waiting area; health care is a bit like Disneyland that way) until 10:45, which means that like almost all my healthcare appointments this year, the facility had managed to get 45 minutes behind schedule within the first couple of hours of operation. This suggests either stupidity or some pack 'em in and fuck 'em scheme that values their time over mine, every time. When I got to the Second Waiting Room, the uncheerful radiography technician looked right through me [1] and said to mid-air, "How many patients can they schedule in a day?"

"Merry Christmas!" I replied. Actually, no, I didn't! Joke! I just stared at her trying to figure out if she thought I was deliberately ruining her day or whether she was talking to a ghost behind me. [2]. She directed me into the little locker room where I was to take my clothes off, put on the gown (which fastens in the back, she reminded me), lock my gear in locker and the restroom is that way.

"Where do I wait after I take my clothes off?" I asked.

"Then you put on your gown…" she stated correctly, though unasked. She looked puzzled, perhaps because I'd deviated from her script. She recovered. "If you don't want to go to the restroom, there's a chair over there."

I interpreted this as meaning I should wait on the chair over there, rather than wait in the restroom. [3]

Another 25 minutes passed as I sat on the chair watching my ankles swell from sitting. (And yes, I did go to the restroom as well.) Eventually she let out a little old man (possibly had been virile young man when he entered) and allowed me in the room.  I offered her my locker key and she put it on the windowsill – I was expecting some sort of jeweled faraday cage steampunk radioactive Uranium 238 box, but no.  She gave me earplugs and warned me about the upcoming noise-fest. I dutifully put them in.

"Busy, are you?" I said smalltalkily.

"Busy?!" she replied incredulously, but declined to elaborate. "Which shoulder is it?" she asked.

"The left."

She got out some gaudy pauldron item much more to my Cyberpunk tastes and placed it on my right shoulder. "What's that?" I asked. For all I knew, it might be the Thing That Hides The Wrong Shoulder For A Better Picture.

She looked surprised once again that the question had come up. "It's the thing that makes the picture," she explained. 

Technical terms L

"Oh good."  Was it my place to explain to a health care professional what I actually needed? I guess I would have to. "That's my right shoulder."

"Oh!" She replaced it on my left shoulder. Then I got on the paper-lined bench (have you noticed doctors' bench-lining voodoo paper is getting thinner? It tears as soon as you sit on it nowadays. As a barrier to germs, bugs and cooties, I suspect it was never useful but it certainly isn't now) and she wrapped me up, like a mummy. Arms by my sides, wedged in with plastic, sheet wrapped around to prevent my arms moving. Then she gave me a panic button. Once again, it had never seemed to occur to her before – suddenly she realized! My arms were wrapped up and I couldn't take the panic button! She'd have to feed it in under the sheet until my fingers could grab it!

Then, of course, the actual MRI happens. They had asked me if I could stand an MRI before I got the appointment – a big advance over the first one I had, several years ago, when it was a complete surprise and also very painful (I had a torn rotator cuff on other shoulder[4], and was in for breast imaging, which means lying on your front completely still for about three eons. The shoulder did not take that, uh, lying down). So when the unit engulfed me, I knew what it was going to do. It's still like being buried alive. The unit itself is like a dryer drum. Not a big commercial Laundromat dryer either, like a little domestic dryer in radius, but long enough to enclose half your body length. This one was airplane-interior-colored plastic, that lifeless taupe that you can't possibly object to except on aesthetic grounds, and fitted with airplane-interior lighting strips, bright enough to shoo away that freshly-buried feeling. Since my left shoulder was the center of attention, I was lying slightly to the right, which made the light strips off-kilter and, because I'm long-sighted, more out of focus on the closer right lights than the more distant (by a couple of inches) left lights. The effect was of being trapped in a very, very small airplane. Without glasses. Then the imaging began.

Unlike CT scanning, which was reassuringly invented in Britain - in fact inside Buckingham Palace, at EMI by Wombles, or perhaps Teletubbies, using war surplus equipment consisting largely of Bakelite, vacuum tubes and aluminium kettles with melted bottoms thrown away by grannies, MRI was invented by John Bonham and Keith Moon on a bender, and the image is formed by demons banging on the outside of the dryer drum with dinosaur bones, large saplings and pieces of the altar of Stonehenge until the 3D image forms on a piece of cloth along the same principle as the Shroud of Turin. So the effect was now much like being trapped in a very, very small airplane while the CD Japanese American Noise Treaty played loudly all around me. After about 20 minutes, the infernal banging becomes your friend, and so whenever it gives up and goes away (which it does four or five times in a scan) the sudden silence wakes you up.  Once you're awake again, there's little for you to do except think about whether the designers made the machine fail-closed, so that in the event of a power failure, the dryer drum would recede away from you, or whether it just, like, fails, so the drum simply goes dark and continues to enclose you. While you are wrapped in sheets in a space too small to allow any form of sitting up, or for that matter even scooting, even assuming you didn't have a hurty shoulder. Which I did have.

But eventually it was over. The drum receded, or perhaps the bench moved, who knows? The sheets and restraints and pauldron were removed and I sat up and attempted to equilibrate before I got up, not wanting to fall over. "Are you ALL RIGHT?" the technician said after about 0.3 seconds of this. Apparently making sure I wouldn't faint when standing up shouldn't be on her time, it should be on my time. Fair enough. There were probably 25 people waiting outside by now, in their knickers and gowns…I picked up my key and went to get dressed.

There weren't.  There was no one in the chair or the locker room and the waiting room contained mostly tinsel. Clearly I'd been scheduled during the rush. 

STB is a 3D imager by profession, so I signed up to get a CD of my data (which would be released only after my doctor okayed it – because of course you wouldn't want a patient wandering around unsupervised with a picture of their shoulder. Anything could happen! Think, people!) STB asked the receptionist how many people signed up for their own images (at $10 a pop).

She thought for a moment. "All of them," she said.

Then we went outside to get, in my case, Pigs in a Blanket at the local medical complex's breakfast nook.

Mmm, Pigs in a Blanket.

[1] She had possibly developed X-Ray Vision, of course
[2] I'm watching Being Human (UK) and it's surprising how many ghosts, vampires and werewolves work in hospitals and places like that
[3] Later I found you could just wait in the locker room. This had not occurred to me
[4] I should do more shoulder exercises. Or fewer shoulder exercises, whichever it is that prevents them getting damaged

Thursday, December 27, 2012

RIP Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson provided much of the fuel of my childhood.  I wasn't allowed to watch anything not on BBC, but even so, I managed to see Supercar, Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Space: 1999.

Stingray provided my first attempts at fanfics and SF fantasies - at seven or eight, I was happily writing scripts for the programme. The more wide-open world and plot of Captain Scarlet seemed to attract the most, but I was a Stingray girl forever.

RIP Gerry Anderson and thanks for the worlds you built in Supermarionation.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The peak year of sci fi films.

Boing boing thinks that 1982 was a great year for summer blockbusters. Blade Runner, Tron, Poltergeist, The Thing, Wrath of Khan, ET and Tron.

It's like the theory that no years in music have ever rivaled 1971. It's true, they haven't.

Reggae of the Egyptian persuasion

Yesterday I mentioned Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae. There are those who say Egyptian Reggae was a rip off of Johnny Clarke's None Shall Escape The Judgment (or judgement).  It has the same riff, but is 84% less danceable.

What say you?


My own feeling is that "di di bop, di di bop, di di di di di di bop" has signified "Egyptian" for a hundred years or more - though I don't know the origin of the musical phrase.

It's Top of the Pops - and it's Jonathan Richman!

In between collapsing crying over supposed "pedo" transgressions in the 70's, the BBC continues to make Top of the Pops available again.

Jonathan Richman, possibly the oddest man to hit because of 'punk', managed to get on Top of the Pops in 1977 with Roadrunner, a sublime ode to youth, to being there, and the coolest song for 10 years on either side of it. TOTP, unable to get Mr. Richman to perform 'live' as was their wont, asked their dance troupe Legs and Co to interpret the hit.

The resulting 'dance' is one for the ages.

But not enough ages to watch it unironically. Perhaps it's better just to turn the sound up and look away from the television and imagine what Richman meant to be a roadrunner, with the radio on.

Of course Jonathan Richman was particularly unblessed by TOTP - his Egyptian Reggae was also 'interpreted' by Legs and Co.

[Original link broke; now watch it here. Can't embed.]

This is widely regarded as the most unintentionally funny performance ever by the troupe. And that's saying a lot. Observe the camel. (What am I saying? You can't ignore the camel even if you try.)

It might have been better if he'd mustered his energies and come over to the UK himself to perform. Or then again, maybe not. Those who knew his oeuvre (egg?) didn't actually need him to be there.

Rolling in on a burning tire

No, not a Dead Weather reference. Just that at 60 seconds into this 18-wheeler police chase video, a real burning tire makes its entrance.

I can see why you'd want to avoid one.

Friday, December 21, 2012

This is the way the world ends

Well, the world ends today, apparently. That must be why no Australians have phoned or called me over the last few hours.



(No, I don't know what that store sells.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Apollo 17 - forty years ago today

Forty years ago today, man came home from the moon for the last time[1]. Since then we've stayed away. Forty years is a long time - almost two generations.

When I was a kid I thought exploring other worlds was a normal thing to do, and I was disappointed to learn that it isn't. I am still disappointed.

Apollo 17.

[1] However, we have since stopped calling a bunch of men who represent humanity "man", which has been regarded as tremendous progress, a bit like calling actresses actors. Now we call "man" humanity, and in compensation, women have been renamed "bitches". Our language is going somewhere (albeit in a handbasket) even if the actual speakers are not.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Handy ready meals - the Alu Muttar variation

I had this for tea.

Alu Muttar. Very tasty.

Of course, all the time I was eating it, my brain was singing the Alu Muttar song.

Alu muttar, gentille alouette, alu muttar, je te plumerai. Je te plumerai la tete...

Haha! Got you! You thought I was going to be singing this other Alu Muttar song, didn't you?

We used to sing it in England when I was growing up, where it made no sense whatsoever.

Alu muttar...hello faddah,
Here I am at...Camp Granada!
I went hiking...with Joe Spivey
He developed...Poison Ivy!
You remember...Lynyrd Skynyrd... (wait, that can't be right)
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner!

We don't have poison ivy or ptomaine poisoning in England. Like charlie horses and shin splints, ptomaine simply doesn't exist. What is it, anyway?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Kills - Kissy Kissy and the NYC 10th Anniversary show

When I go to the gym it's just me vs. three screens showing ESPN and one screen showing the fat tosser off of Fox News - can't remember his name, the fattest tosseriest one. Comes on after Papa Bear. Him.

Faced with that sort of thing, anybody would despair, but luckily I have my trusty mp3 player, which today served me up some Kills.

I think Kissy Kissy may well be the best song ever written. I was listening to the one from the Kills' 10th Anniversary show, which is amazingly available in its entirety on YouTube.

The whole ninety minutes of the New York show from the MTV feed...nom nom.  Kissy Kissy starts at the 14 minute mark.

And for narrative complexity and two-lane-blacktopiness, below is the Keep On Your Mean Side version of the song from the DVD that was available in a limited edition when No Wow came out. (It says here. I don't have a copy myself.) The Kills, straining and soaring against the existential emptiness of the American outback and against its weird vampire cops that suddenly appear a yard behind you in the rear view mirror...wait that means they can't be vampires... weird werewolf cops that appear a yard behind you in the rear view mirror where before there was nothing but tumbleweed and Mexican Beaded Lizards on the road for the three hundred miles since the last gas station, which Jamie probably still insists on calling a petrol station to piss off the natives (but not as much as when he shouts "I'll be ahtside 'avin a fag!" every time Alison goes in to buy a carton of fluorescent orange juice to dilute down another bottle of drivin' vodka).  And you drive past prison after prison in the wilderness (and the notices against picking up hitch-hikers) trying to find the little brick cop house where you have to pay your fine and when you get there as you pull out your credit card you notice the cop's teeth are sharpened and it really wasn't your money the speed trap was designed to take out of circulation.

Well, I made all that up from seeing the video below - or 'deduced it from an icon' as Robert Graves used to write when what he meant was drunk writers - he called them poets - made something up from seeing a picture and what they wrote became the reality because what else is real?

Apocalypse Next Week!

It's the end of the world, but not as we know it (Jim) -

Doc 40 (the legendary Mick Farren) and the even more legendary Deviants are celebrating the business end of the Mayan calendar with a suitably porklips-themed party on December 21st. Unfortunately for me, the shindig is in Brighton, England, and I am not.

However, you may be, so here's the flyer.

Mick points out that it's not a Deviants show per se, however.

It's from 8 until Doom and it's free, so go along and party like it's 1999 (again)!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

RIP Patrick Moore

Sir Patrick Moore died earlier today. At 89 he'd had a good innings, as they say.

Moore, like many astronomers, was an eccentric - in his case, it took the form of strange beliefs about the forrins, the women and the metric measurement system - but I've begun to believe that society subtly but firmly canalizes famous scientists into eccentricity.

As a kid I used to watch Moore on The Sky At Night with my dad, who was a member of the British Interplanetary Society. I can't claim that he changed my life in a fundamental way, but like all great broadcasters, he certainly had an effect. I wish there were more of them around today.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Happy 40th, Glam Rock! My 1972 Diary, December

December 2nd.
Recorded Tommy. Also got sore throat and cough.

[Not sure what I recorded, as the Lou Reizner  version wasn't broadcast until the 9th.  I remember there was tremendous Tommy activity - musicals, films, clog dances - about that time so it was probably the Tommy played by Muppets at the Albert Memorial or something.]

December 9th.
Stayed in and listened to radio. Found out Marc Bolan has moved. He lived in Blenheim Terrace. Now lives in Wales.

[Really, Wales? Ahnd…that's it. I must have been so shocked I stopped writing for the rest of the year. ]

Put the needle on the record: Joy of the Single (BBC TV)

Ever wondered what happened to Stock Aitken Waterman? Me either, but you can't deny they wrote a boatload of hits. BBC 4's The Joy of the Single talks with and about them among many others in their paean to the seven-incher and its place in our youthful memories.

Slade, 10cc, Neil Sedaka, SAW, Suzi Quatro and many others join forces with Maul Poorly to eulogize the 45. All assume that it is now dead, and that we are currently forced to buy 'nothing' (i.e. an mp3) if we want music. The odd one out is Jack White, who of course is making singles and releasing singles by the dozen with Third Man Records. They don't actually ask him about that, so it sounds as though they have found a young fogey with artificial nostalgia. But we know better, don't we readers?

It's ultimately rather a lightweight program - I almost died laughing when Holly Johnson, of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame described a record player with an autochanger in what sounded just like the words of an Area Man in an Onion interview. 'You could stack seven singles up on the Dansette record player and one would drop down and play and the next one would drop down and play - there's something amazing about that. Something mechanical yet magical.' But there's a little meat in there amongst the onions.

It's interesting that the program interviews a dozen people who can all remember the very first 7 inch they bought - and one or two who believe that the Youth of Today would be mystified by a vinyl object - but they don't actually ask any Yoots for their opinions. Jack White is probably the youngest voice on the program.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Misty Mountain Hop (mountain not shown)

It's been uncharacteristically damp for otherwise perpetually sunny southern California. Last week the Marine Layer (as they call mist here) came for a visit and so the place looked like this in the mornings for a few days.

That's a view out of my yard and it looks like I'm in the middle of Washington state wilderness, except the plants are desert yuccas, Mexican Fan Palms and Queen Palms, which are not notably northern trees as it happens.  I'm not in the middle of nowhere - there's a mountain[1] with houses on it out there, hidden in the mist.

Also, what's with the vignetting? I didn't do that on purpose and I hope it doesn't mean the camera is on its way out. Perhaps one of the seventeen bazillion settings is "fake vignetting" and I pressed the wrong button on accident[2].

[1] Actually it's more of a big hill, but Misty Big Hill Hop doesn't sound very portentous.
[2] "On accident" is what they say here in Planet Orange County.

Grandis Day Gecko

Fatty, my Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis [1] can't actually see the television from where he is, but if it weren't for that, I'd have to assume he was taking lessons from the Geico Gecko.  Here he is warming up in the early morning under a heat lamp. (It's a chicken brooder lamp, in fact.)

He hasn't learned to speak yet, though, with or without the Cockney accent.

The Fatster is at least fifteen years old - we bought him fully grown in the mid-nineties.

[1] With a species name like that, you can tell why we call them things like Geico or Fatty for short.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well Done, Parker!

For Thunderbirds fans, the B Side of the Thunderbirds single of 1965,  it's Parker, Well Done by Barry Gray. It features Sylvia Anderson's voice as Lady Penelope's and David Graham (of Orch fame) as Parker. There was no video at the time - this is a mashup of Thunderbirds sequences by the uploader. (That's why the tire squeal does not match the crash footage, for instance.)

Very much of its time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rare Rolling Stones

Two rare Rolling Stones tracks to get us in the mood for their mini-tour.

I Don't Know Why I Love You

I Can See It

Dead Weather - Sesiones

Here is a YouTube recording of the full Dead Weather Sesiones broadcast.

47 minutes of pro-shot Jack White, Alison Mosshart, Little Jack Lawrence and Dean Fertita from Mexico City in 2009.

The Third Man Novelties Lounge

Jack White has expanded the Third Man Records store. It was about three yards square and is now about six yards square - but what an addition! Here's the video announcing the new nook:

It features Jack himself tearing down the wall -  to open up the Third Man Novelties Lounge which is indeed a cornucopia of impressive coin-operated gewgaws.  A Scopitone with 16 mm films of Third Man acts like the Dead Weather, a full-color Photobooth, and a small coin-operated injection-molding device which pumps out small red plastic models of famous Montgomery-Ward Airline guitars! Each machine is carefully branded in Third Man livery and is cleverly operated by Third Man 'gold tokens' because you just know that half of those will be bought and hoarded by collectors and never put back in circulation.

To round things off, you can buy a sort of modern-day Zoopraxiscope disc of a 50's stripper, Tempest Storm, and watch her strip in jerky half-motion! This is probably not sexist but actually ironic or Hipster or something. And I'm always a fan of things pioneered by Muybridge (in this case jerky half motion, not stripping) as he is my fave early film-maker.

(Possibly one of Jack's faves as well, as one of Jack's concert posters is a Muybridge series rather hilariously altered to conform to a Kafka short story...somebody is a well-read clever boy, but of course it could have been the graphic artist rather than Jack.)

Perhaps if we buy enough gold tokens we can organize a multi-strip-in inside the photobooth and make our own Zoopraxis movie disks!!eleven!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Green Dreams Sleep Furiously - Alison Mosshart tracks from Sons of Anarchy

Alison Mosshart tackles Iggy Pop's The Passenger, one of my favorite rekkids.  It's from the soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy, a TV program of some renown, although I don't know why it is of some renown as I don't have TV. She's backed by the Forest Rangers, whoever they are.

You can tell I follow all of this stuff very closely. You read it here first, folks.

STB and I have a friend who once said, "I used to love The Passenger, but then I found out it was about some guy who's a passenger."

It's one of the more profound things ever said. The same guy once,  in a discussion about computers' ability to understand natural language, was introduced to the concept that computers struggle with, where a human can immediately understand, two sentences like "time flies like an arrow" and "fruit flies like a banana". He contemplated this concept for a moment and said, "But...fruit DOES fly like a banana".  I don't believe he's ever taken any psychedelic drugs, he just naturally thinks like that.

Here is another Alison Mosshart song from the soundtrack with the Forest Rangers - Blind Ride. It took me a little while to learn to like this one, particularly as pedal steel guitars are like nails on a chalkboard to me. I'm sure everyone else thinks they are beautiful and haunting.

(Thanks to uploader Alisongardnersg)

Probably everyone remembers this one from last year with the same crew, same TV show - a cover of the sublime What a Wonderful World. Not a pedal steel in earshot.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Hundred Years Old - Grimm's Fairy Tales

BBC Radio 4 presents a Start The Week programme about the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Every four or five years, someone reads the Grimm Brothers' tales and discovers that they are nasty, brutish and short, and, to many modern sensibilities, not suitable for children. I grew up on an unsanitized version, I think - I certainly remember the Ugly Sister cutting off her big toe in order to fit her foot into Cinderella's glass slipper - and I'm fairly certain that all of it - being eaten by wolves, being trapped and fattened for the oven by witches - washed over me without the slightest psychic dent though YMMV. The stories were not collected (as you might naively imagine) from little old goat ladies living in wheeled cabins in the forest, but from the middle class friends of the Grimm's and their house servants. There was no intent at the time to collect children's stories, only to collect folk tales.

The collection of tales is now about to celebrate its bicentennial. Start The Week rounds up some enormously erudite Men (and Women) of Letters to talk about this again, and what is remarkable about the program is the way all the guests know what they are talking about and are able to express themselves with quiet authority. After the US elections over here, anything that is not an imploding know-nothing howl of anger, outrage and one-upmanship sounds as though it originated on another planet, and I guess it did - Planet BBC.

Planet BBC is having its own howls and implosions over l'affaire Savile - I'm not sure if there's anyone left in the directors' suite after the recent resignations - but it certainly appears that when it needs to round up the literary experts, it remains unsurpassed.  Philip Pullman, a man who writes in magical terms, is the author of the recent book being gently an unobtrusively plugged, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, and Sarah Maitland is an author whose Gossip From the Forest looked at the woodland origins of European folk tales.  Other contributors slide into the conversation in remarkably agreeable ways.

Listen here (43 minutes)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ineluctable Masculinity - stories of matriarchal societies

James Tiptree, Jr. was famously the pen name of Alice Sheldon, the SF writer, in the late sixties and nineteen seventies.  When it was first rumored that James Tiptree was a female, Robert Silverberg remarked, "It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing."

And that I find odd. I don't recall reading anything of hers during the period it was believed she was a man; I probably first read her in the anthology Again, Dangerous Visions, the introduction to which called her "the man to beat this year", but I most likely read the anthology a few years later. However, all the stories I read of hers were about as ineluctably masculine as a week spent scrapbooking in Utah with 12 nieces. The themes are sometimes humanist, but always feminist.

A radio play version of her story Houston, Houston, Do You Read? is available for streaming at Archive Org if you have an hour to spare on the classic story. The theme is a familiar one - a crew of male astronauts on board an American spacecraft become "lost" after a solar storm, and find themselves not off course in space but off course in time. Houston mission control does not answer their emergency calls; the voices who do respond are female. The astronauts then encounter the most alien menace of all (dun dun dun!) A Planet of Women!

The story strikes me as rather strident, but it's the 21st century now, where almost half of all American men think that women should be given some small measure of autonomy over their own bodies. Tiptree at the time was responding to such pieces as John Wyndham's Consider Her Ways,  in which the women develop a society based on ants...because you know, women are a lot like insects and stuff. Given that, it's surprising she actually wrote at all, and didn't just lay into the population at large with a baseball bat instead. You can read Consider Her Ways here.

Setaceous Hebrew character moth

Don't ask me how come I was reading the Wikipedia page on pests that feed on Maple trees. (Something to do with looking up sycamore species, I think.) But I did, and I learn that one such pest is a moth called Setaceous Hebrew character.


 I thought it was called that because Wikipedia couldn't print the Hebrew character in question, but it could. It's a "nun". It's just the insect is called Setaceous Hebrew character.

 Coolest insect name out there, I believe.

Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike is the work of an 'outsider artist', Mike Stevens. Stevens created an imaginary soul and funk career for his alter ego, drawing more than 50 album covers in all, starting in the late sixties.

The career of Mingering Mike was almost lost until the stack of albums turned up at a flea market. They were bought by record collectors Dori Hadar and Frank Beylotte, Stevens was tracked down, and Mingering Mike's career sputtered to a start again. His album Super Gold Greatest Hits was released in 2008, consisting of tracks recorded on his reel to reel in the sixties. The artwork continues to be exhibited.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Jack White and Alison Mosshart: Love Interruption

Jack White with Alison Mosshart, singing Love Interruption, Jack's single from his solo album, Blunderbuss. Live at Bridge School Benefit, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA on October 21, 2012.


Nerdgasm: Doctor Who on Star Wars

Or Barty Crouch on Star Wars! whichever you prefer.

David Tennant is a Star Wars fan! He will play a character on Cartoon Network's Clone Wars. 

The Doctor Who fave will play an ancient droid called Huyang, a servant in the Jedi Order.

Love that large-eyed, vulnerable look he has. Tennant, not Huyang. Though Huyang's pretty hot for a decrepit metal schoolteacher. has the story, and even better, an exclusive clip from the cartoon.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Monty Python's Election Night Special

Well, it's all over bar the actual voting, nominally the most interesting part of the process but in fact simply a tedious process where everyone who can be bothered to do so gets off their chair to register their voice (by voice I mean chance to put a mark on a piece of paper). (Not counting the voter suppression activities, of course. Even my own polling station in dark blue [1] California had a mysterious address change about a week before the election that was announced by a small postcard that arrived mixed in with the junk mail.)

That means that tomorrow we have to watch the Election Night Specials, which will excitedly babble over every single announcement from a "swing" county, and display a dazzlingly bright computer generated update of the red and blue states on their slightly fuzzy, mid-air floaty, stylized map of the USA.

Monty Python's Flying Circus, way back in the early seventies, skewered this one correctly. Things haven't changed, except the swingometer with the broken screw is now graphics from somebody's laptop with unimaginably vast, inexhaustible seas of red and blue pixels, swooping stars and stripily across your 52 inch screens, giving the sensation that the newscasters are trapped, drifting helplessly in a primary-bicolor manifestation of the Stargate from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Oddly enough, the newscasters have not Used Their Laptop Power For Good in this race[2]. Up until now, every single one seems to have said that the race is too close to call. Statistical analysis seems to be completely beyond every pundit, which is odd as every other pile of crap they intend us to care about on TV is lousy with statistics. Football, baseball, poker, basketball, golf, World's Strongest Iron Chef Truckpulling Funny Car, Dodgems, you name it, somebody has the book on it.  Slightly hidden away, there's been a coterie of actual statisticians working on the web, who seem to be doing it not as a public service, but simply as bragging rights for who gets to be named Bestest Poll Statistician after it's all over. All of these that I've seen forecast an Obama victory, of course, but with varying degrees of get-out clause. I think this is because the whole State Fair "Who will grab the greasy pig? Who will climb the greasy pole? Who will eat the most boiled cockroaches?" competition is actually more fun than seeing someone who has eaten some cockroaches, or for that matter got covered in grease. (FivethirtyeightSimon Jackman, Votamatic.)

[1]Note to British people: Despite the facts that The People's Flag is Deepest Red and of course Port is Left; Starboard is Right, America ignores this and labels the right red and the left blue. You can remember that by seeing which color has the direction's first letter in it. Unfortunately it could cause you to forget the Port/Starboard thing as you can't possibly remember everything  you've ever been told. Your brain would burst like that guy in Scanners (1981).

[2] Fox "news" has been more than willing to use them for evil, though, but that's hardly a surprise.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Dada poetry

George Melly (for it is he) the rambunctious jazz man and the author of seminal Pop Culture book Revolt Into Style, was a fan of Surrealism as well as The Joint Is Jumping.

This saved his life one time, when faced with a gang of Manchester youths ready to give him a kicking, he realized that he could neither fight them successfully nor outrun them, and instead went Full Dada, and recited the poem by Kurt Schwitters called Ur-Sonate. Now "recite" is a rather bland word for performing a Dadaist poem. Here's Schwitters' own version:


The gang slunk away, unwilling to take on a madman. That performance is of course unavailable on record, but George Melly recorded it for Morgan Fisher's Miniatures, and here is Melly's version.

Dadaism seems to have played a large part in British pop music - Bernie Rhodes, the Clash's manager, was a fan, and famously so was Malcolm McLaren, the instigator of the Sex Pistols. Of course, I think that has something to do with English music generally being developed at art school, rather than, say, while picking cotton on the Mississippi Delta.

I'm currently reading the very entertaining (and more in-depth than you might think) Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World's Greatest Rock Band by Barney Hoskyns, and early on in it, Chris Dreja (of the Yardbirds) points out that the British blues boom began in Surbiton (and Epsom and Ripley, which is the same thing) which is the most middle class of all middle class areas (English middle class being the US upper middle class - it is distinct from working class), and not only that but the famous names were associated with Kingston art school, where Jimmy Page went.  Jeff Beck mustn't have gone himself - it was his sister who attended and mentioned Jimmy to him. Chris Dreja goes on to say:
One of the great things the British government did was start this arts stream for selective children - and it wasn't hard to get in. Kingston was terribly relaxed, run by a guy called Dyson and a younger arts master whom we completely wrapped around our finger. It all came out of that art school semi-intelligentsia - that's where the southern blues thing kicked off. I mean, we weren't that intelligent, but we were given a chance in that system. 
Melly and Led Zeppelin's paths eventually crossed when Melly performed De Joint is Jumping (or something similar) for Led Zeppelin during the launch of their label Swan Song in 1974. The band held what was by all accounts a debauched romp on Halloween at Chislehurst Caves[1], with Melly dressed as a nun and a slew of naked girls. This has nothing to do with Dada, but I thought I'd mention it.

[1] Chislehurst and Epsom being exactly the same thing to this Northerner. FWIW, two of Led Zeppelin, Bonham and Plant, came from the Midlands, which is definitely not Middle Class. Later in the book someone mentions that the joke about the area was that everyone worked in the Iron and Steel Industry - the wife irons and the husband steals. 

Golgafrincham Ark B candidates - an occasional series.

Golgafrincham Ark B

Today I was browsing the interwebs, as one does, looking, in fact, through the Culcher section of the London Observer, and I came across a book I'd never heard of.

I was reading one of those "ten best of" lists that clutter the nets. Newspapers run them because you read #10 and then you have to click again to read #9, and so forth, so each list, which would normally be a 30 second read and one click is 10 clicks and two minutes, which causes rejoicing in newspaper advertising land. All those eyeballs! No matter that there's actually only one pair and it is studiously avoiding the ads because it knows exactly where to look to avoid seeing them. (And it - well, not the pair of eyeballs, but the eyeballs' brain - has switched the sound off just in case as well.)

This particular list was The Ten Most Difficult Books to Finish and it includes of course such stalwarts as Finnegan's Wake and V.  It also includes something by Will Self, and there's only one thing I want to know about Will Self, which is: How did he get his name? I can't imagine anyone naming a boy that, so I have to assume he willed it himself, which gets me in danger of falling down a rabbit hole of solipsism.

Anyway, one of the books on there was Very Difficult To Finish Indeed, and I'd also never heard of it. It is Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish and here is what it says about it:

 If you can't quite read it, here it is in text:
Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish
Abish, one of America’s contemporary greats, is best known for How German is It, which was preceded by this strange and demanding avant garde experiment whose prose is restricted by a pseudo-alliterative rule: the first chapter contains only words starting with the letter a, the second chapter only words starting with a or b, etc. Each subsequent chapter adds the next letter in the alphabet to the set of allowable word beginnings. In the second half of the book, the process is reversed. Thus, z words disappear in chapter 28, y in chapter 29, etc...
I can see why someone might want to write it, but why would anyone want to read it? At best would be like putting out a record of someone's five finger exercises and expecting rave reviews. At worst, the very concept leads me to a better understanding of where Pol Pot was coming from.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Dr. Zoolittle

Dr. Dolittle could talk to the animals, but the interwebs seem to have decided recently it would be much easier if the animals just learned to talk to us. There were two in the news this week and it isn't even silly season.

First we had the local California beluga whale who learned to talk to the divers in his pool.

After a while I worked out that this was an old video which had simply shot to prominence this week for unknown reasons.

Today, we learn of Koshik the elephant, who has learned to speak some Korean, presumably because he's in Korea.

And finally, old favorite Teddy Bear the talking porcupine, who is currently running for president. He isn't actually saying anything recognizably English, but then again neither is Romney. I love his voice - he sounds exactly like a Star Wars alien - perhaps a particularly short tempered Jawa.

Happy 40th, Glam Rock! My 1972 Diary, November

November 10th.
Trying to get Led Zeppelin tickets after school. No chance, people in queue didn't always get one.

[Didn't get to see Led Zeppelin until Earls Court, when my parents finally let me line up all night rather than assuming you could get one hours after the ticket office opened.]

Spam floods

I'm still being flooded by spam - none of it gets through, but it is a bit of a bugger. I'm enabling word verification, which means you would have to fill in a Captcha in order to comment. Sorry and all that.

I'm sure you'll feel better when you learn the name means Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dead Weather, Halloween

Here is the Dead Weather, live at Shoreditch Church, London, on Halloween 2009 with Treat Me Like Your Mother.

I miss the Dead Weather...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

These Fortean times

Live shark found on local golf course, San Juan Hills.  Video proof below, but since it's only thirty seconds long and is preceded by a thirty-second, rather loud, advertisement, you may want to forgo it.

The Capistrano Dispatch reported that it was returned to the ocean, about four miles away, and it swam off.

(The shark, not the loud advertisement.)

I assume this means that the ancient Wayans were right, and the world is gonna end on December 21st.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Delivering Presence - Led Zeppelin Celebration Day

Celebration Day -  Led Zeppelin at the O2

I wore my bell bottoms, or flares as we called them there and then, afghan coat, Jimmy Page t-shirt (licensed), and a smidge of patchouli - about 1/100 of a dose, as I didn't want to cause the whole cinema to riot - and called myself properly dressed to go to a Led Zeppelin concert.

This was the one-off showing of the film of Led Zeppelin's December 2007 Ahmet Ertegun charity concert at the O2 arena in London. Yes, we waited five years for Zeppelin to show it on big-screen video, even though the service, whose name I can't remember but was something like Fat Home Vents, reminded us about 13,000 times before the movie started that they were perfectly capable of showing exciting live shows live, as it happens etc. But as John Paul Jones remarked, five years is quite a short time for Zeppelin to get anything together, so I suppose we're lucky.

No one else had dressed up for the event, sadly, and the cinema was evidently under some ordinance that the audience must be allowed to hear a pin drop during the loudest musical passages for some unknown reasons probably to do with fire or safety or food anti-defamation laws or zombie awareness. The audience protested loudly several times and eventually, rather grudgingly, the sound was improved slightly. By the end, peak sound levels were hitting 89 dB, or about one hundredth as loud as Led Zeppelin actually were live. That just about covered the sound of popcorn, shoes creaking etc. and so I guess it had to do.

The show itself is surprisingly exciting. They are all old, now, of course, and there's no disguising that. Even Jason Bonham, the son of the original drummer John, is getting up there in his Gen-Xy way. But there's no denying the fluidity and mastery of their material that characterized them back then, and hasn't changed a bit. Mind you, since modern bands are unbelievably wimpy and amateur in comparison with any kind of actual rock music, Zeppelin now appear to be far harder and far more technically accomplished than they even seemed in their heyday, which is saying a lot. Back in the day, people spoke of power & control, light & shade, and in today's terms I think they actually display complete subjugation and #000000 & #FFFFFF.

And jazzy. It's perfectly possible that my completely untrained rock mind thinks of  "any jam including one or more unusual chords" as "Jazz" - but I don't think so. I think the classic rock bands instinctively move into jazz when jamming. (I hear it in Black Sabbath, for instance, though Deep Purple tend to jam in classical mode instead.) You don't hear Jack White or Skrillex or Deadmau5 or Ke$ha or Maroon 5 suddenly dropping into an extended proggy bit with jazz overtones, but Zeppelin do.

Plantations - the Robert Plant rambles between songs - haven't changed much either. Robert introduces Trampled Underfoot as a Robert Johnson-influenced song, but puts a different date on Robert Johnson's song when he mentions it before the song and when he mentions it after. (1935 or 1936, take your pick.) And he introduces Nobody's Fault But Mine by mentioning the time they (Zeppelin) saw Blind Willie Johnson, at a church in Mississippi back in 1932.

John Paul Jones, of course, regularly plays with hard rock bands - I saw him with Them Crooked vultures a couple of years ago. Don't know what Jason Bonham does, but I assume he's been in practice more recently than Led Zeppelin, and Robert Plant plays Zeppelin songs with all and sundry (though more often with sundry) and gigs regularly. The only retiree in the band is Jimmy Page. He played superbly for a hermit, and was quite his young self all the way through. You'd expect some sort of rustiness, but there was none. A couple of major clangers, yes, but that's rock and roll. Or Jazz. Certainly didn't detract from the overall performance.

Which was fun. All four looked like they were enjoying themselves, which is a good start, and when the sound was turned up beyond the low grumble level, we were enjoying ourselves too. I'll be buying the DVD, but of course nothing matches the big screen for delivering presence.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 08, 2012

Rock and Roll will never die

Then again, Rock and Roll has always been about teenage girls.

The Beach Boys' Barbara Ann, by some girls having fun in a car. (They hid the beer when they saw the cop.)

(via Doc 40)

Jimmy Savile: Jim, fixed.

The British broadcasting world has recently been rocked to its foundations (as people say when they are faintly surprised that something they long suspected turns out to be true) by televised allegations that Sir Saint Jimmy Savile was a child-molester.[1] 

The Daily Mail led the charge with an article quoting several women as having been sexually assaulted or outright raped by him in the distant past, and the article was followed by a TV program (which I haven't seen because I live in the wrong country) last week.  Following those allegations, about half the UK seems to have remembered that they knew this already, but for some reason hadn't told anybody.

I didn't know, I have to say. I heard the rumors after he died at 84, a year ago this month, at which time I watched a documentary on his life that showed him to be a lonely, mother-fixated individual who had difficulty relating to others. Before that, and especially during his heyday in the seventies, I thought of him as an unattractive, loud and garish TV presenter with the personality of a used car salesman and the musicological depth of a freeze-dried tardigrade. I couldn't stand the premier music TV show of the age, Top of the Pops, being presented by an ancient, ludicrously-dressed bottle-blond whose behavior was so thoroughly creepy it could have been harnessed to (slowly) transport shipping containers between major distribution centers. On the other hand, he was from Leeds (as was I), had been a miner, and did vast, huge and cosmically large amounts of fundraising for charity, particularly for Stoke Mandeville Hospital spinal unit. On top of that, he presented Jim'll Fix It, which my parents watched and therefore so did I, where he read out the wishes of sick or deprived children, which he then made come true…and filmed the resultant boundless happiness.

All the time, allegedly, he was using his star power and entourage to meet underage girls and coerce them into giving him sexual favors.  

From here in the US  the outrage seems to have convulsed the whole UK, possibly because Savile was so ubiquitous in broadcasting and was, after all, a Sir.  Britain has never been able to stand a nonce, particularly one it thought was the bees knees for thirty years and whose behavior was ignored so well that he was able to become a knight of the realm.
Despite the usual suspects baying for his head (even though he's dead), there's an undercurrent of well things were different then. And I have to admit that's true. After 1963 (when sexual intercourse was invented) and the resultant revolution, there was a recognition that teens were sexual beings. There was the Oz Schoolkids Issue, for one. The sainted John Peel regularly sang the praises of schoolgirls, and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was a staple of pretty much every blues band in the country. As someone who was 14 in the Seventies, I would have been happy to hang out with at least one rock star who famously liked that sort of thing, and although at the time the rumors caused a lot of tut-tutting, they didn't result in prosecution or even censure. (I'm not going to mention his name even though it's all over books and the web, because in today's climate, he probably will be prosecuted for it.) Bill Wyman 'waited for' 14 year old Mandy and married her at 18.  Elvis waited for 14 year old Priscilla to be legal. 

At the same time, the old sexist culture was still in full swing (no pun intended). Men had absolute authority. Humor was the execrable Bernard Manning at the worst end, and at the best the miniskirt-chasing buffoons of Carry On, with a wide swath of what-the-window-cleaner-saw movies and On The Buses in between. Even Monty Python is filled with cringe-worthy moments as the team, in pursuit of slaying what they perceive to be Sacred Cows, display blind spots the size of Betelgeuse as they enact rigid gender roles without the slightest awareness that those roles may not be innate. Generally speaking, being pursued and fondled by a powerful man was either flattering or highly amusing, depending on the circumstances. The word "fondle" still sounds funny to me, in fact. Fondled fondled fondled. "If we complained, we were [thought of as] being silly," says Janet Street Porter in this ineresting article about the broadcasting "culture" from a woman who was there at the time. DJ Liz Kershaw talks about being repeatedly groped by a Radio 1 DJ here. "When I complained to somebody, they were incredulous and said, "What? Don't you like it? Are you a lesbian?""

But even in those days, when people like Bill Wyman and Elvis Presley 'waited' until their girlfriends were of age and then married them, there was a perceived difference between falling for young groupies who wanted to spend time with you and coercing unwilling girls into sex acts by telling them that no one would believe their words against those of a star and there was no escape. Both are illegal. One of them I'd still tell my younger self to go for.

The other one? I'd tell my younger self to go to the police, of course. But things really were different then.   Almost all the bosses were men, almost all the police and almost all the people you would have to face in order to make a charge stick. A lot of them were complicit in rape culture (still are – but they are less effective now they've been diluted a bit), and even those who weren't had a tendency to believe a grown man over a young teenage girl.  And on top of that, if you were told that publicizing what you'd seen and heard could result in Stoke Mandeville losing millions in charity, or Jim'll Fix It going off the air, or the BBC undergoing some indignities, I guess you'd keep quiet.

Actually, I don't guess. I know you'd keep quiet. Because you all did.[2] 

Let's hope things really are different today.

[1] I'm not going to say pedophile (or even paedophile) as that describes someone with interest in prepubescent children. I'm fighting a bitter, losing, rearguard action against it being used as a term to describe sexual interest in 12 or 13 year old British or American girls.  That would be a hebephile.  It's still illegal, of course, and in Savile's case it seems to have been sheer sexual assaults on minors. 

[2] Though Savile didn't.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.