Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quote of the day

"...They have to make sure the douchebags aren't given a soap box." [I'm not one hundred percent sure about this. One of those squishy bags of liquid soap you find in non-domicile establishments might work. If it means one of those wooden soap boxes, it would probably be hard to rig up, I agree.]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Brian Jones

Today was Brian Jones' birthday.

One of the most influential rock stars of all time.  Someone who understood both his influences and the effect on his influencees.

Cherchez La Femme #3

Cherchez La Femme 3.

An incidental and occasional series on How To Blame Women for everything.

Yahoo chat conversation:
Friend: Winter needs to go away. Damned Persephone and that pomegranate...
Me: She must have been hungry.
Friend: Couldn't she have just stayed hungry for a while? She supposedly understood the deal.

Happy 40th Birthday Glam Rock! My 1972 Diary.

February 28th.
Learned French poem [for school]. Not too much homework. Horrible day, though.

February 29th.
Did French poem [in class]. Sowden [hateful teacher] didn't let me finish because she was too anxious to hear Jacky [fellow student].  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy 40th Birthday, Glam Rock! My 1972 Diary

Happy 40th, Glam Rock!  My 1972 Diary

I wrote my first diary in 1972.  Each day had four lines and I struggled to fill them all. Mostly I commented on whether or not I had homework or exams and how much I hated my teachers. (Still do. I'd cheerfully swing for three of four of them, to this day, forty years on.) I believe I was being terse in the diary as I knew my mother would find it and read it. In my other writing I was quite effusive. At the time I was inventing my own world, as kids do, and drawing the maps and inventing the languages to go with it.  But the diary doesn't exactly brand me as a budding Pepys.  I remember my rationale was to write just enough to remind me of the day's emotions. I wonder what I'd have done now with Facebook… instead of swearing at Dinner Ladies and getting detention I'd probably be fulminating against the entire lot of them in rich Yorkshire dialect.

That year saw some major power cuts due to miners' strikes, or at least due to the government response to them (i.e. make people suffer until they hate the miners and pressure them to come back to work). My parents were Tories and happily bigoted about all sorts of people and things, some of which rubbed off on me at that age and some of which luckily didn't.

I'll stick to the relevant things here.  Marc Bolan, Glam Rock and Marc-associated hippiephilia.  Oh, and homework and how much I hated my teachers.

Best of T. Rex, the second Flyback reissue, catalog # TON 2. Also, my diary, a Marc Bolan
special that I think I'll scan in as part of this series, and a scrapbook that is probably too
damaged to do anything with. The world was not overflowing with acid-free paper and archival
glues in 1972, particularly not for a fairly poor teenager.

So far in 1972 I've missed:

January 1st.
Still carrying on the great D. Went to Bradford and got Sleepy Shores finally. [Bruv] came.

[I can't remember what the Great Deception (of my parents) was but it wasn't drugs or sex. Most probably having a friend who was Catholic, Irish, or even gasp! an Irish Catholic. "Sleepy Shores" was a terrible piano tune by Johnny Pearson. My dad loved it. It was the soundtrack to Owen, M.D.]

January 4th.
Went to Heck[mondwike] looking for Lord of the Rings. Would have gone to Dews[bury] but it was closed.  Neither Ride A White Swan nor LOTR.

 [Towns used to close for half a day during the week. Dewsbury probably still does.]

January 15th.
Went to Leeds. Got Flyback 2. Tres good. Must remember to write letter to Marc at the address I know.

[That's the vinyl record pictured above and below, taken today.]

[Look, the writing in the diary matches my nitpicky corrections to the track listing on the
record. Is that 'provenance' and does it make this cheap reissue worth something? Alas I
rather doubt it.]

January 17th.
Told [redacted, a Dinner Lady] to fuck off. Fat [redacted, fellow student] told Nimmo [the headmistress]. Got bawled out.

January 18th.
Nimmo sent a letter [to my parents, about yesterday].

January 19th.
Got to stay on balcony [detention area] every dinner time [lunch time] for a month. Go to bus station after school now.

[Only the worst kids hung around the bus station. Detention made me a juvenile delinquent wannabe within one day.]

January 21st.
Finished art exam. [What the hell is an art exam?] Went on 3rd dinners [late lunch] so I didn't have to do too much work [detention work]. I hate fat [redacted, fellow student].

January 23rd.
Mum wouldn't let me go to Leeds cos of Monday and she thinks I want to run away to London.  Went to Dewsbury, bought Telegram Sam.

[I'm turning into Adrian Mole by this point. ]

January 26th.
Brought Telegram Sam to school.

January 28th
Giving up idea of seeing Marc Bolan. Anyway there's always ? (Added 18 months later: Robert Plant. Footnote Sept. 28 1973.)

January 30th.
Gran came after dinner. Rows etc. Listened to records all night.

January 31st.
Mum and Dad went to see Alley Orchestra so Gran stayed night.

February 5th.
Gran came. Stayed in. Filled in card for Lord of the Rings at the library.

February 6th.
Went to Cheshire, but raining.

February 8th.
Got Lord of the Rings part II out of the school library. Never thought of looking there.

[They didn't have the first book, so I read the second book first.]

February 9th.
Molly [sister] is going to get Gran's furniture.

February 10th.
Very little homework. Molly has got Gran's furniture.

February 14th.
Stayed in bed for ages. Did nothing muching the afternoon [sic]. I still have big D.

February 15th.
Went to Heckwike with Jacky. Saw Fragile [a Yes album] but didn't have enough money to buy it.

February 16th.
No power cuts but I've lost patience with the miners.

February 17th.
Norma came. Borrowed Tutankhamun's book. Went to Leeds, bought Fragile.

February 18th.
Listened to Fragile. We keep getting power cuts. Made a T. Rex scrapbook.

[If any of that book is salvageable, and it most likely isn't, I'll post it on the blog.]

February 19th.
Had chicken and chips at Hart's Head, Giggleswick.

[I was half starved as a kid, and chicken and chips was one of the biggest treats I could imagine.]

February 20th.
Walked halfway to Horton over top. Played in quarry. Very cold went home to a power cut.

[The quarries are a little bigger now than they were then, but you get the picture. Walking miles over
clints and bottomless peat bogs to run around in the blasting areas of the limestone quarries and
play in the blue chemical pools at their bottoms. Ah, seventies childhood. I gather it isn't like that

February 22nd.
Got TON 2 [Best of T. Rex, Flyback 2] back at last. [Where had it been? I forgot to write that down.]

February 23rd.
Vicky lent me 'Beard of Stars'. Great. I like Organ Blues.

[Budding rock critic here, I can tell. My favorite writers at the time were Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren. I think they did a better job than I did.]

February 25th.  [This was a Friday, the day the miners' strike ended. Not that I put that in my diary.]
Got SHE finally.  Lovely Marc writing and pictures.

 [That's the magazine I mention here.]

February 26th.
Went to library for Fellowship of the Ring.  [I get to read the first book at last!]

February 27th.
Read most of Lord of the Rings I.

[Read on for what happened to Gran, Mum, Molly and the cast of schoolkids]

Cherchez La Femme #2

Cherchez La Femme 2.

An incidental and occasional series on How To Blame Women for everything.

When Jack White goes into the chat room on his record company's website, the Vault, people in there stop talking to each other and start mobbing him. This comment was the last loud remark to boom through the chatroom just as everyone else shut up to listen to him on February 22nd. Probably if it hadn't echoed through the room at just the wrong time, it wouldn't have been picked up on anyone's transcripts of White's chat that got spread around the web, and would have been lost to history. Unfortunately, what was said to provoke it is lost, which makes it sound all the sillier.  "JWIII" is Jack White.

The babes and whiners are going to turn JWIII into Bob freakin' Dylan! But that's alright with me!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy 40th, Glam Rock! - Electric Warrior to be re-released.

It's 2012, which means it has been forty years since Glam Rock.

This hit me last night, when I was watching Flashbacks of a Fool, of which maybe more later. The foolish flashback, which is oddly divorced from both space and time, is of a young teen invited back to a teenage girl's place to listen to Roxy Music's first album. Adding up the dates of the albums shown with the supposed age of the adults caused my brane to fale, but succeeded in reminding me that 1971 to 1972 was my own musical uh... sprouting or something. ('Awakening' sounds far too pretentious for the discovery of "my" popular music, since everybody has one, like an uvula.)

 T. Rex's Electric Warrior was just about the first album I knew about before its release, and anticipated buying. It was released in December 1971, and was number #1 in the British charts until February 19th, 1972 (minus a week when it slipped down, only to rise again). I still have two vinyl copies - the British one I originally bought, and a gatefold-sleeve American one with a tip-on inside showing Marc Bolan lounging in a chair with Mickey Finn reading a paper behind him (Headline: T-Riffic!).

 When I bought the American one a few years ago, the picture sent me right back to 1971, when She magazine printed a long article on Mr. Bolan - something that I can't prove as it seems to be one of the few articles I failed to keep.


(This shot by Spud Murphy, in fact. But on the album sleeve it's cropped to keep poor
Bill and Steve literally out of the picture.)

Commerce being commerce, Electric Warrior is being released in April for its fortieth point five anniversary. The package looks great and of course I will buy it again, although the little plastic discs it contains can't possibly sound like the vinyl. Here's the skinny on the Boppin' Elf from Amazon's store:


Electric Warrior topped the UK album charts twice, from December 18th 1971 to January 29th 1972 and again from February 5th to February 19th 1972. This new Limited Super Deluxe Edition is crammed with previously unreleased demos and out-takes.
It is housed in a lavish box set which is foil blocked and de-bossed and will contain the two CDs plus a DVD of rare and unreleased TV performances and promos by the group, and contains a wealth of additional items – alongside a 32-page hardback book featuring a brand new essay from Bolan biographer Mark Paytress (including new interviews with those who were close to Marc). The box also includes reproductions of rare photos and memorabilia: a poster including a timeline, three photographs, a coaster and a vintage press release.
The centrepiece is original producer Tony Visconti’s re-mastered version of Electric Warrior, which is presented with four bonus tracks – the non-album single, “Hot Love” (No. 1 in February 1971) plus the B-sides “There Was A Time / Raw Ramp”, “King Of The Mountain Cometh” and “Woodland Rock”. The second disc in the Deluxe and Super-Deluxe editions opens with Marc Bolan reciting a previously unreleased poem titled “The Electric Warrior” which was recorded for a US Radio promo that is featured in full at the end of the album.
The DVD includes the only two surviving Top of the Pops performances from the BBC archive of T Rex’s Electric Warrior-era hits – “Hot Love” and “Get It On”, the latter featuring Elton John. The DVD also includes the previously unseen Blue Screen versions of “Jeepster” and “Life’s A Gas” from Germany’s Beat Club plus the actual broadcast versions of “Jeepster” and “Life’s A Gas”. The rarely seen official promo videos for “Get It On” and “Jeepster” are also included, plus live performances of “Girl” and “Cosmic Dancer” which were recorded at the performance of T. Rex’s historic Wembley Empire Pool concerts on March 18th 1972. These were not included in the concert film Born To Boogie which used none of the matinĂ©e concert footage.
This year is the 40th Anniversary of Glam Rock, or Glamiversary as some have christened it. Electric Warrior was T. Rex’s second album, released in September 1971. It was T. Rex’s No. 1 single “Hot Love” which sparked a movement that gathered pace throughout 1971 to become a fully-fledged phenomenon in 1972. 1971 was the year Marc Bolan broke big, and thanks to a touch of glitter under his eye when performing “Hot Love” on the March 10th edition of Top Of The Pops, he was to herald a new pop era, Glam or Glitter Rock. By the end of 1971 Bolan and Rexmania was as close as anyone had come to Beatlemania since 1963.
01: Mambo Sun
02: Cosmic Dancer
03: Jeepster
04: Monolith
05: Lean Woman Blues
06: Get It On
07: Planet Queen
08: Girl
09: The Motivator
10: Life’s A Gas
11: Rip Off
Bonus Tracks:
12: There Was A Time / Raw Ramp – B-side
13: Hot Love – A-side
14: King Of The Mountain Cometh – B-side
15: Woodland Rock – B-side
01: Electric Warrior Poem – Rare US Radio promo *
02: Mambo Sun – Instrumental edit *
03: Cosmic Dancer – single-vocal version *
04: Jeepster – single-vocal version *
05: Monolith – no backing vocals version *
06: Lean Woman Blues – single-guitar track – Work in Progress *
07: Get It On – Full Length version *
08: Planet Queen – acoustic version *
09: Girl – New York demo *
10: The Motivator – Work in Progress *
11: Life’s A Gas – Studio out-take *
12: Rip Off – Instrumental *
13: Raw Ramp – London demo version
14: Electric Boogie – London demo version *
15: Honey Don’t – Studio out-take / Work in Progress *
16: Planet Queen – Acoustic solo / London demo version *
17: Girl – Acoustic solo / London demo version *
18: Jeepster – Electric home demo version *
19: Get It On – Acoustic home demo version *
20: Untitled instrumental – studio out-take *
21: Electric Warrior Poem and radio advert. US Radio promo *
Previously Unreleased *
01: Hot Love from Top of the Pops, 24th March 1971. First time on DVD
02: Get It On from Top of the Pops, 20th December 1971 featuring Elton John
03: Jeepster from Beat Club, Germany. Previously Unseen Blue Screen Version
04: Life’s A Gas from Beat Club, Germany. Previously Unseen Blue Screen Version
05: Girl, Live at the Empire Pool Wembley, 18th March 1972
06: Cosmic Dancer, Live at the Empire Pool Wembley, 18th March 1972
07: Get It On, Official Promo
08: Jeepster, Official Promo
09: Jeepster from Beat Club, Germany. Broadcast version
10: Life’s A Gas from Beat Club, Germany. Broadcast version

Cherchez La Femme! #1

Cherchez La Femme #1.

An incidental and occasional series on How To Blame Women for everything.

LA Times, 02/26/2012 Travel section, article on jetlag:

What's the culprit in jet lag?

....It could be genetics (thanks mom!)....

What about thanks, dad? Or doesn't the writer know who his or her father is?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who is invited to discuss the future of the NHS with the government?

Color me less than surprised.

Science Blogger Ben Goldacre says,

I've put the main players into a table, to see if the invitation list it tells a story. Let me know if you think it does: I'm still not sure what statistical methods would be best to analyse this data, and extract the signal from the noise?

I can't work it out Ben. Are you seeing something in this data that is supposed to tell us something?

Chicken is no longer a healthy low fat meat

I read Scalzi on the shortcomings of people who eat Butter Chicken today. I'd never heard of Butter Chicken, so I looked it up and apparently it's Murgh Makhani, and got its English name from the dollop of butter that's melted onto it just before it's served.  I'm half-way through cooking it, and I have to say it appears to be Chicken Tikka Masala, except without tikka-ing the chicken first.  Oh, and the butter thing.

But that's not what's important right now.  What's important is, I went out to buy 'boneless skinless chicken thighs' since that was the recommended meat - in order to save me, I suppose, cutting a chicken into 8 parts with a sharp knife, something I'm quite capable of doing but why should I, if it costs slightly less per pound to have the boning and skinning done for me?

Anyway,  this is what a boneless, skinless chicken thigh looked like, straight from the package. 

Have you ever seen such a thing?  The fat is hanging down off every muscle group like congealed candle wax. I'm not blaming this particular brand, either. It's been like this for years.  And these chickens really are chickens, not hens. They are SIX WEEKS OLD. In six weeks they've managed to put on so much fat that the meat is half hidden.

I remember a few years ago - probably more than ten years, now - reading Muscle and Fitness Magazine. It was an article about the nutrient value of various foods. The foods were described as 'with all visible fat removed', and M&F reminded us readers that they meant it. They have technicians wielding scalpels removing all the fat before the calories are determined. It's the only way to be sure that two cuts of meat are properly compared, since one steak might have a half-inch of fat on the outside and one a quarter inch. Every bit is removed.

I don't have a scalpel, but I always trim chicken thighs so as not to eat the great stalagmite fountains of saturated fat that cascade down their outsides and infiltrate pockets between muscle groups on the insides.  The above picture is of the same thigh trimmed of fat (with scissors!) and the resulting pile of waste.  Fat's lighter than meat, so the pile may be a third the size of the meat, but it's only about a quarter of the weight.

What do they feed these poor creatures on? I hear that they often expire as the weight of their breast muscle breaks their legs as they grow - and they put on fat as well! I've started buying cage-free eggs, and I think I'm going to have to move to free range chickens also - for my health as well as theirs.

We are the business

Boing Boing has a post on one of those police undercover operations. You know, the ones that go on so long that the people they are socializing with fall in love with them. In this case, it didn't go so far as the policemen fathering the women's babies. Good thing too, since the people being spied upon were high school kids.

The original is a sound broadcast, at This American Life, and I don't know about you, but I don't have time to listen to something unfold at playback speed, so I'm going to crib from Boing Boing, who got it from Alternet.
The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other. 
One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn't smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn't want the money -- he got it for her as a present. 
She insisted on paying him for it.

That's his side of the story, anyway. He is now facing felony charges for selling pot.  So this is where some of those billions of dollars go in the War on Some Drugs - paying pretty young policethings to hang out with students for weeks, begging for dope until the students give in, at which point the youths go to jail, lose pretty much any chance of getting a decent career and lose the right to vote?

That's not money well spent. But.

I think it's more sinister than that. I don't think this is about the kid at all. The police run operations like this so they show up on news sites (and boing boing). Every other kid reading these articles learns it might not be a good idea to trust their peers. And as their mutual trust erodes, their society fragments. "Divide and conquer" is the oldest trick in the book. Well, apart from the "sending round a beautiful person of favored gender to tempt someone" trick, so I guess this operation had both the oldest tricks in the book...

"Why," you may ask, "do cops want society in pieces when they have to live in that society?" The simple answer is they don't live in our society. To their gang, our society is merely a criminal-generating device. Ideally, it should be strong enough to produce sufficient criminals to justify their funding but weak enough not to be able to produce winning criminals. Cops live in their own society. As Bryant said in Blade Runner, " You know the score, pal! You're not cop, you're 'little people.'" Anything that undermines the cohesiveness of society weakens us and provides great benefits to those who live off us - cops and the rich elites alike.

I would have left this as a comment on Boing Boing, but oh man, Disqus. I just can't use you...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food photography

The food photographer Brock Davis, the man who did the broccoli treehouse and the Gummi bearskin rug, has a series of famous explosions done in cauliflower. Here's Led Zeppelin I, I mean the Hindenburg disaster.

(Picture (c) Brock Davis)

At the link is Nagasaki and the Space Shuttle Disaster, and many more of his older food fotos.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quote of the day

It brakes my heart to give up on a book. - Lilith.

That may be a profounder statement than she thought she was going to make.


The last time I saw PC Plod, he was having a Scanner Darkly moment. Guided by a CCTV dispatcher, he was chasing himself around the streets of a town in Sussex.  Every time the operator told him the suspect was round a corner, he ran round it to find it - empty! Because, you know, laws of physics.

Today Constabule Plod has redeemed himself, by raiding the offices of The Sun, a Murdoch rag which although it is pretty insignificant in the overall Murdoch empire, owning as he does Fox and Sky, is the tenth biggest selling paper in the world. It's roundly hated by me and by many people like me. It's what I cut my hating teeth on. It was always a dull paper, largely designed to appeal to the working classes while attempting to gently ease us into stupidity in some Orwellian language-based fashion. After Murdoch bought it in 1969, it became a propaganda machine and entrapped more readers by the use of the famous Page 3 Girls,  topless models, sometimes photographed as young as legally possible - on their sixteenth birthday - draped over what passed for news reporting.

Two weeks ago, four senior staff  at the Sun were arrested on corruption charges. The Daily Mail reports that the deputy editor, the picture editor and several others were arrested yesterday and released on bail. And the paper says that the investigation has "widened" suggesting that there is a suspicion of other kinds of corruption. The DM has a handy timeline of events in the investigations of Murdoch journalists, which has been dragging on since 2007. Possibly this indicates that "agents of the crown" who are bought, stay bought. At least for about five years.

The journos seem to think this is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut - or in newspaper parlance, breaking a butterfly on a wheel - and it probably is. But since it's the Super Soaraway Sun we're talking about here, I can't help smiling.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gonks Go Beat (DVD, 1965)

Tonight's Netflix: Gonks Go Beat.

Youths from Beat Land and youths from Ballad Isle hate each other and hold a yearly contest for best song, overseen by an A&R man-from-Oz. Our galactic policeman is sent to Earth to reconcile Beat Land and Ballad Isle, on pain of being exiled to the world of gonks if he fails. He succeeds by deliberately re-creating Romeo and Juliet with two renegades and rigging the contest to give them the only "HIT".

Alas, the hybrid beat-ballad song is 99.999997% ballad and distinctly wimpy. (You can tell which island I would have lived on, can't you?)

It was a terrible movie for its time, but like many terrible movies it's a shiny gem now. How can one dislike seeing arch-Thelemite Graham Bond grooving on the organ in a movie that features still pictures of rotund cuddly toys as the emblem of eternal punishment?And Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and a drum battle that features 7 drummers (Baker and Jimmy Page-level session drummer Bobby Graham included) arranged by Mike Leander? I mean, Mike Leander!

Also, Lulu. And the Nashville Teens. And far fewer gonks than you might imagine.

Good times.

This picture is a link


Well, my mushrooms are growing!

I bought a box of growing oyster mushrooms about three months ago, which gave an acceptable pair of crops, as advertised.

After that, I obtained a couple of days worth of my work's coffee grounds (we drink a lot). I broke up the remaining mycelium-impregnated medium from the box and stirred it in to the coffee grounds. The mycelium regrew for about three weeks and has just started putting up mushrooms. No idea how long the fruiting will last, and you can't continuously take bits of mycelium and throw it into new medium. At some point you have to get a new fungus by sprouting mushroom spores on agar gel, letting them cross and then transplanting the new mycelium to growing medium. Not sure I want to go through all of that, particularly as I discovered after the original box fruited that I don't actually like oyster mushrooms. They're a bit fungussy for me.

But I'm proud of the new mushrooms. I didn't even have to case them - the pressure of the medium against the enclosing plastic bag seems to have set them off growing by themselves. The thing that looks like molten lava in the middle of the bag is just a coffee filter that got in there by accident.

After they're finished and the mushrooms thrown tidily away, the remaining used coffee grounds will make a nice mulch for the yard.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Newt's Spider Sense

I learned a little more about Newt Gingrich over the weekend. Gingrich famously ripped into would-be President Mittens after Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor -- we have a safety net there."

Hearing this, Gingrich rode into the fray as a white knight. According to the LA Times he 'hammered' Romney by saying, "If you're a genuine conservative, first of all, you don't say that you don't care about the poor."

At which I went into the kitchen and built a large, overloaded bacon sandwich, merely in order to drop it in shock.

Luckily for my kitchen floor, Gingrich quickly explained this unlikely outburst by going on to add, "We think it is the left which has abandoned the poor because its safety net is actually a spider web and it traps people into dependency."

For a moment I thought Gingrich might have some sort of pseudo-humanity, but then he went on to say it's not lack of care about the poor that's the problem, it's the presence of the safety net that's a problem.

Glad we got that cleared up, and I'm looking forward to increased opportunities to live in a cardboard box under a bridge during a Gingrich administration.


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