Saturday, April 28, 2012

Full Length Jack White show in NYC - video

For some obscure reason (that is possibly quite self-evident to rock stars), Jack White asked Gary Oldman to 'direct' the footage of a live concert in NYC, sponsored by A Credit Card.

So here's the two hour show on YouTube. Didn't have any luck getting it with Freecorder, but Keepvid performed like a trouper.  Lovely quality and a totally rockin' double show.

(Link fixed - the uploaders have altered the content several times) I have no idea why it opens with Jack White wrestling Sirius Black on a carpet, but it was very watchable.)

French have a word for it

I was thrilled to learn that George Bush once said, "The French don't have a word for 'entrepreneur'", and so I was duly saddened when the spoilsports at determined it not to be true. Apparently Baroness Williams said that Tony Blair told her Bush said it. But Blair's flunky says he never said it.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Didn't have this problem growing up in Yorkshire

Texting guy almost walks into bear.

RIP Bert Weedon

Before I learned that 91 year old guitar ace Bert Weedon had died today, I was thinking about something that comes with age. Possibly with wisdom, possibly due to brain cells dying in droves, but definitely with increasing age, comes a mellowness about things that you used to think sucked and now seem very fitting, and an important part of life's great tapestry.

As a kid, the two things I knew about Bert Weedon were:

1. The Bonzo Dog Band chanted on one track, "We are normal and we dig Bert Weedon."
2. Bert Weedon wrote the guitar tutorial Play In a Day, which featured little in the way of brain-burning, skull-peeling Hendrixisms and therefore sucked.

If the Bonzos thought Bert was too normal - we used to call normals 'straight' - and I thought his guitar course sucked, then of course so must have old Bert.

Nowadays it's pretty clear that if Bert hadn't written Play in a Day, which went on to sell millions, then pretty much everyone who provided the guitar soundtrack to the sixties and seventies would never have learned to play. When I saw a guitar course that taught you how to play Bobbie Shaftoe, I couldn't get beyond the normal - straight - song choice. Luckily, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Pete Townshend, Brian May and many others had considerably more imagination than I did, and went from Bobbie Shaftoe to much brain-burning and skull-peeling of their own.

They say that hearing Lonnie Donnegan made the boys of the fifties want to play guitar, and Play In a Day enabled them to do so. Perhaps if I'd bought it, I would have learned the guitar properly back then myself, but I was too snooty. RIP Bert Weedon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Patti Smith, the embodiment of artistic, punk-visioned America, is set to play my ex-local workingmen's club in Hebden Bridge. It's in Yorkshire. Yorkshire clubs are the home of terrible comedians and their "take the wife" skits. I'm overcome.

I hear Hebden Bridge is kind of progressive these days, but I'm having difficulty imagining that.

The Trades Club is a 190 capacity not-for-profit music venue and socialist members club in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Built in 1923 as a joint enterprise by half a dozen local trades unions, it was brought back to life in the 1980’s and retains its original sprung dance floor, one of the finest examples of its type in Yorkshire.

It's sold out, otherwise I might have been tempted to fly over and see what was happening.

Bruv must be going, surely? It'll be like watching a fish perform an ariel ballet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why a duck?

How about that weather, eh? On Friday it rained so hard here in Orange County that I thought the sky was falling. It lasted less than 15 minutes, but for that time was like having a tin bath poured out on you from on high, with added wind. I think the threat of the Evil Foreign $2BN-costing Psyllid - yesterday's So Cal scare - has significantly receded as the psyllids must have all drowned. And there were hundreds of tornadoes east of us yesterday.

So much for blog posts saying how nice the weather was.

Although I swore off reading the SF blogs a month ago, I find myself still reading them, but with a curious detachment. One post recently - can't remember what the ostensible subject was - degenerated into a cat fight OOPS NOT A CAT FIGHT because someone used the word "pussy" to describe cowardly behavior, by which, he explained later, he meant a fraidy-cat. Too late, though. He was caught using a taboo word, which some people use to mean female genitalia, in a non-positive sense, which is of course an offense requiring re-education.  On another SF blog, a writer posted a "what do you all think?" article which brought out the commentariat in droves. Some of them were right in what they thought, and some were wrong, and the OP happily slapped a ruler across the knuckles of the wrong ones. Some of them said some oddly non-PC things that could have been references to the female of the species, but this is a very different blog and no-one stopped them. In fact, I think that most of this set of commenters only ever even see women when their nurses wheel them out into the grounds in their bath chairs and leave them to shake their canes at passers-by and complain when the rugs fall off their laps.

A science fiction fan yesterday. Photo from buyvintage.

A rather more pragmatic friend told me to just stop reading comments, and I'd be fine. So, In an effort to get out more I started reading a book - one of those paper thingies with the pages and cover art. I've always wanted to get into Magical Realism, because it sounds like something I should like, but when it comes to it, I can never be bothered. I bounced so hard off the Gormenghast trilogy years ago that I still have the lump on my forehead. Any number of  SF-type fantasy worlds, the M John Harrisons and Angela Carters and their ilk, have gone unread. I can't read the books although I like each individual sentence. Inasmuch as I ever understand the sentence. I think I struggled through One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I might have cheated my not reading the middle.

So, since we have some China Mieville on the stacks, and since he is the Greatest Author Ever as far as I can tell by the number of awards he's won, I decided to jump right in and read Perdido Street Station. I got exactly as far as the third paragraph on the first page of the introductory bit in italics, which reads in part:
Behind me the man tugs uneasily at his rudder
The mental image it conjured up gave me a fit of giggles that lasted five minutes and left me wheezing breathlessly with tears running down my cheeks. I haven't had a laugh like that in years. [1]

After I'd recovered, I attempted to read on and got to this bit, which is describing the city,
That is what protects me here...the anguish that has brought me to this great wen, this dusty city dreamed up in bone and brick.
What's a wen? I asked STB.  At the back of my mind, the word reminded me of the Ancient Egyptian letter W, which is drawn as a quail chick.[2] After a few clarifications ("I didn't say 'What's a when'" etc.) he thought about it and decided it was a kind of a duck.  That fitted in with my thoughts, so:
That is what protects me here...the anguish that has brought me to this great duck, this dusty city dreamed up in bone and brick.
That didn't seem quite right so I looked it up and apparently a wen is
A harmless cyst, especially on the scalp or face, containing the fatty secretion of a sebaceous gland.
(Free Dictionary.)
That is what protects me here...the anguish that has brought me to this great harmless scalp cyst of oogy squishy matter, this dusty city dreamed up in bone and brick.
That's better!

STB says the book gets more hooky once Our Hero gets into the city and stuff starts happening. I'll try.

[1] I did pitch a giggle fit earlier the same day when I read The Thread Where Experts Look At A Picture of Led Zeppelin And Tell You All About It on the unofficial collectors' message board. The questioner posted a picture of Jimmy Page on stage with his guitar and said, "What song is that?" A few minutes later the answer came back. "Something with an A in it." (A major is the second most common guitar chord in rock music.) They did narrow it down to the date, venue and one of three songs at a certain time in the show later on, though.

[2] Now I come to look it up, the word WN is spelled "hare" in Ancient Egyptian.  That's more "UN" than "WEN" though, I think.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lucifer Rising

I got my copy of Jimmy Page's Lucifer Rising and other soundtracks in the mail today. It was shipped from the UK signature-only, but luckily STB was home to sign for it. The large and not very clever cardboard package (these guys could learn a lot from Third Man Records' packaging) had a label on it reading Jimmy Page.

The postman apparently breathlessly asked STB "if it's from THE Jimmy Page?"

Why, yes, it is!

Jimmy Page's short cameo in Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising movie - with a copy of the Stele of Revealing and  a goat.

Reminded me of a time when I was wearing a t-shirt with the classic picture of Page emptying a bottle of Jack Daniel's down his gullet. A typical Orange County straight glared at it and said "the guy looks like a girl - what is that?" But when I said, "That's Jimmy Page!" he calmed right down and was palpably taken back to 1975 in his mind.

I haven't actually played Lucifer Rising yet - I have a love/hate affair with vinyl. I love having it, I hate playing it. And of course I've had the bootleg for years, so it's not as though I'm itching to hear what the man was thinking all those years ago. In fact, I have a copy of the movie with Jimmy's soundtrack synced to it instead of Bobby Beausoleil's originally released track.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SF fandom continues to thrill

A couple of days ago I wrote about the case of a commenter who inadvertently made a poster's point, by arguing against it very carefully and calmly, while elf-refuting his point [*] that there is no bias against female critics when he mentioned that the female critic had probably just been venting to her friends, but now that the post had been mentioned by (male, natch) John Scalzi, it was worthy of his attention.

 SF has managed to do exactly the same thing again!

One person - a Penwing - had a very bad experience at the British Science Fiction Association awards presentation at Eastercon this year.  The talk by John Meaney (accompanied by PowerPoint slides!) went on forever, and contained sexist and ethnic 'humor' that seemed to stretch out forever. I wasn't there, but the evidence from the Twitter feed showed that many people felt more or less the same.  Penwing wrote:
"The "humour" in his [John Meaney's] speech was far too in-jokey. Now, I like a good in joke. Note, good in joke. And even then they should be used with caution. Meaney's speech was one in "joke" after another which relied on you being "in" for longer than I've been alive. That is not the image of fandom I want to see. It is not the image I want putting out of any organisation I am a member of. It excludes. Worse, it reflects on non-members as well and reflects on fandom in a completely inappropriate way. It got worse. In a masterclass on sexism, he proceeded to do a not very funny sketch making great pains to point out that Lauren Beukes is "hot". It gets worse. He started railing against "political correctness", gender parity and the "new man" (meaning someone who wouldn't define women by their looks)."
Penwing's blog post was followed by a comment from Martin McGrath (British Science Fiction fan of this parish) who mansplained carefully and rationally why Penwing's understanding of the situation was flawed. John Meaney was just joking, and racism, sexism, etc. didn't come into it.

 As part of the explanation, in a reasonable effort to be completely reasonable, MMG comes clean about the speech.
 "For example, as an Irishman, I wasn't wildly keen on the presentation of Dave Lally as a leprechaun..." 
 Own goal! Original point proven.

One of James Nicoll's commenters found an earlier version of MMG's comment that Google has managed to cache. (Nothing you ever write on the interwebs is lost) and that includes the nice line,
Honestly, I think some of the stuff I’ve read online and some of the shite I’ve had people spit in my face in the last few hours has been hysterical.
Which is especially great as "hysterical" refers to a mental condition caused by a disorder of the uterus - the quintessential sexist comment.  But he edited the post, so we shouldn't hold it against him.

[*] That should have been "self-refuting" but I think I'll leave it like that. :)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Jimmy Page, Chicago April 10th 1977

Good lord - the current Jimmy Page On This Day splash picture is Jimmy in Storm Trooper regalia - which is not terrifically unknown, but the words he's written actually say, "ON THIS DAY… 10 APR 1977 I DEBUTED THE STORMTROOPER OUTFIT IN CHICAGO. This show was on an Easter Sunday, it was the first time I wore the Storm Trooper outfit, but not the last. Soon after this I began to alternate between the white poppy suit and the black dragon suit for shows."

I don't think he's ever acknowledged what that costume was before. (Also, I didn't know he'd worn it more than once, as I'd heard it was a costume change due the usual suit being unavailable for that day. I'll continue to monitor Led Zeppelin sites on the subject, but currently all I'm seeing is disbelief that he would even mention it.)

I, of course, filch picture for you.

He's a cool one, that Jimmy Page.

Edit to add: Apart from wearing the boots and pants to the second Oakland show (for other wardrobe failure reasons), it appears he didn't wear the outfit again.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Going to California - Led Zeppelin

Jimmy "Al Bundy" Page and Robert's plantations - July  17, 1977.

Rolling Stones do krispies

A broke sixties Rolling Stones did ads, apparently.

This one could have easily been a single, if you substituted something sufficiently southern and swampy for Rice Krispies.

Polk salad, maybe. Whatever polk salad is.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Jimmy Page and thelemites

Wow - Jimmy Page's On This Day feature on his website April 8th features something I never thought he'd speak about publicly.
On the centenary of Aleister Crowley's channelling 'The Book of the Law', I revisited the Egyptian Museum of Cairo to see the 'Stele of Revealing'; the conduit to that event. I was curious to see how many people might attend the museum and indeed there was a small gathering of Thelemites.
I filch the picture for you.


The Pretty Things - Midnight to Six Man

No reason except I love the mid-sixties garage / nuggets music.

Driving a Ford Hurry to work.

Yesterday I was almost out of gas, so I pulled up at the no-name gas station on the outer edge of town.  I got out at the front of the left hand bay,  and saw a truck was pulled up at the front of the right hand bay. I started to fiddle with my credit card, attempting to remember my zip code in order to placate the pump, when a car drew up behind me.  The driver, a white-haired old Anglo man, got out and ran his finger along the completely stoved-in grille of his car. Both sets of lights were smashed and the hood was kinked upwards all across – the car had obviously hit something at speed, probably another car, head on. The damage looked fresh, as though it had just happened that morning.

The man went in to pay for gas in cash and as I stood at my pump, I saw that his passenger, a very young Mexican woman, was holding a scarf to her face as though she did not want to be recognized. There was something blue on the dashboard of the passenger side – are deployed airbags blue? The car looked too old to have airbags.

The man came out with two packs of cigarettes – Marlboro and Marlboro lights. He tossed them into the car, put an unlit Marlie between his lips and started pumping gas. As he did so, a gardeners' truck pulled up into the right-hand bay. The driver then decided to move forward a bit more, which he did by running into the truck ahead of him and shunting it a couple of feet. The driver of the front truck shrugged, then pulled away to give the gardeners more room.

By this time my tank was almost full.  I watched the white-haired guy standing at the pump behind me reach into his pocket, cup his hands around his face, and light his cigarette.

I'd seen enough. When the Receipt Yes No screen came up, I pressed "No thank you very much; I'm in a Ford Hurry!" button, and sped away. I didn't see a ball of flame behind me, but I thought it was best not to dawdle, in case.

I memorized the car's number in case anyone ever asks about a kidnapped Mexican girl with a fugitive who rear-ended someone in his haste to get away. The mnemonic is the picture up top.

Falling into a stupa

OK, here's one for my brother who says I don't write enough personal information.

People's Palace photograph by Jacqueline Banerjee.

When I lived in England, men on the street owned my face.  If it wasn't fitting in with the d├ęcor they thought they should have around them while out and about, they'd tell me to change it. Wherever I went, particularly in London, they'd say, "Cheer up!" or "Smile!" or even, "Cheer up, luv, it might never happen!" As you can imagine this always put me into a better mood immediately.

One day I was walking to college on a wonderful sunny day and everything about the world felt absolutely right, as though every care and woe had fled.  And I was walking down the Mile End Road smiling, as the old song goes, from my head to my feet.

Approaching from the other direction was another college student, a slightly older Anglo man who was a self-professed Buddhist.  As he neared me he said, "What a wonderful smile!" He paused to look more closely. "Or is it vanity?"

At the time I thought, "This is a man, in fact a spiritual man, a man who lives in the eternal now or whatever it is, a man who goes to an ashram every day and chants Om Nama Shivaya a thousand times with little tinkly bells and joss stick smoke and has a personal guru who has accepted him as an official disciple  – and he thinks it's vanity. I am a bad person."

Now, of course,  I think he was being an utter dickhead projecting his failings and insecurities on to me. But it was too late by then as the remark had affected my life and couldn't be un-experienced.

Anyway, later, during the Yuppie eighties in London when it became suddenly possible to get very rich just moving paper around, I heard he'd become a stockbroker. His guru, Sri Gotmine Ayamrichi, or whatever his name was, sold out as well. Hope they both got wiped out during one or other of the big stock market crashes.  Never trust a hippy.

Today is the same sort of gorgeous sunny day.  I wasn't smiling so much, and Americans, unlike British people, rarely feel entitled enough to tell other people to rearrange their faces, but it still reminded me of the People's Palace on the Mile End Road. 

Jeepster's roots

What is pop sensibility? How does someone come up with something that can roar in and shag the zeitgeist into submission?

Marc Bolan did it for four years straight in the early 1970s.  He was a rock and roll fan who loved Eddie Cochran, hung out at the 2i's coffee bar with all the early sixties greats and generally absorbed every hook ever written.  The greatest hit he had was Get It On, which ends with him crooning over the rideout, "But meanwhile, I'm still thinking," a Chuck Berry line from Little Queenie. (Well, Chuck actually sings "Meanwhile, I's still thinking" - but that would be a stretch for a boy from Hackney.)

One record that he did not approve of as a single was released by his old record company just as he jumped to form his own T. Rex Wax Co.  He thought the timing was wrong for the release, and he may have been right, but the single flew up the charts. It was Jeepster, a cars'n'girls singalong that walked the knife edge between being breathily up-close sexual and wide-angle laddishness - a combination that very few lads can pull off.

Apart from the obvious Chuck Berryism of singing about a car while singing about sex, what else went on in Jeepster?

It owes its origins to something darker and swampier than Chuck, Gene and Eddie. The rhythm is from Howlin' Wolf's You'll Be Mine.  It's hard to imagine the 5' 4" skinny white Londoner Boppin' Elf listening to the six foot big black southern voodoo man, rewriting it and pulling it off, but hey, everyone digs the blues one way or another. All roads point to the delta eventually.

Here's Mr. Wolf.

And here's the Boppin' Elf.

At that huge Wembley gig, Marc Bolan is wearing a t shirt with his own face on it. That may be the ultimate clue to understanding Marc Bolan. I just totally love it.

Cat discusses birds and bees and is set among the pigeons

Excellent piece of inadvertently funny commenting hit the SF blogs yesterday.  Funny, in an 'almost made me cry but I decided to laugh instead' way.  

The SF commentariat was rocked to its foundations last week when venerable Man of Letters Christopher Priest suddenly decided to lay into the jury for the little-known but believe-me prestigious Clarke awards.  His was a fine piece of what James Nicoll calls "cane shaking", a get-off-my-lawn piece of polemic which stopped just slightly short of calling for the jurors' heads to be brought to him on a silver platter. The SF world, bored with chewing its own foot and scratching its ears, sat up, made popcorn, and in many cases, played along with the stars. It was so fine a tempest in a teapot that even Fandom Wank found a place for it, and it doesn't do that often with written SF.  One of the prominent SF writers who commented on this was John Scalzi, writer of many popular books and keeper of an immensely popular blog called Whatever.

Anyway, SF author Catherynne Valente, writing as Yuki Onna on Live Journal  (my mind always balks at that name and supplies a 'no' for Yuki no Onna, but there isn't one), wrote a related piece saying that the backlash against Chris Priest for speaking his mind was nothing compared with the backlash that would have occurred if he had been a woman.  She says, "if a woman wrote it, she’d have been torn to pieces. No quarter, no mercy." Women online are routinely 'put in their place' if they criticize in public.  Violence, specifically rape, is often invoked. She gives examples.

I'm not going to debate that thesis here – It's true that the interwebs can be scarily nasty to women to the extent that some would call it qualitatively different to the internet's generalized scary nastiness to men, but I'm not as impassioned about that the way Cat Valente is. You can read her words and decide for yourself.

Cat Valente's piece attracted a lot of comments.  One of them was a long screed from a man called avt_tor, trying to be as reasonable as possible (you can see the sweat created by his trying to behave himself glisten on every sentence) who disagrees with Cat Valente about the denigration and belittlement of women in online discourse and concludes his spiel:   
 If you're just venting to your friends on LJ, I apologize. Scalzi elevated your post to the level of social commentary when he linked to it.
You have to love the innocent gall. He magnanimously gives Valente the opportunity to retreat, as she's probably just 'venting' to her friends – you know, like women do – on Live Journal – you know, like women do – but when Big John links to her post,  testosterone was invoked and a possibility loomed that her piece could be taken as social commentary. Now it's a man's issue and a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do – even if that means posting a comment on icky feminine Live Journal. 

I've never read a comment that proved the original writer's point while disputing it in quite such a neat and tidy fashion.  I just laughed out loud.

Both Valente and Scalzi point this out in answers to the comment.  

John Scalzi: 
I didn't *do* anything to this post other than point to it. Everything it already was, it was before then. I'll also note that *I* found it because someone else had already pointed to it (a woman, as it happens. […] Which, as it happens, dovetails *rather cogently* with her points made above, regarding the differences in how the sexes and their contributions to discourse are apprehended and processed.

Valente added, at around the same time as Scalzi's first comment: 
I'm sorry, John did not "elevate my post to the level of social commentary." It was social commentary. 

(Another bitter chuckle was evoked.)

After a comeback from the commenter Scalzi added:   
Perhaps you did not mean to suggest that I, as a man, have validated the thoughts of Cat, as a woman. Perhaps you meant that the SCALZI ENTITY validated the VALENTE ENTITY, independent of those entities' respective genders. But as a practical matter, context matters, and in a discussion focused on the privilege of gender (and lack thereof), it might have been wise to pay attention to detail.

(Appreciative laughter from me.)

Live Journal comments are threaded, which means that replies to comments, although properly nested,  muddy up the order in which comments were received, and  the stark exchange now lacks the bite it did when the comments I quoted stood out. There are 329 comments at the post as I write, and it's a bit of a thicket.  I was lucky to see that exchange go by in real time. 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

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

April 9th.
Went to Liverpool to see an Egyptian Exhibition and planetarium.

April 12th.
Went to Dews[bury] looking for doubleback. Double X, ha ha.

[Doubleback was a 1972 reissue of Tyrannosaurus Rex's My People Were Fair and Prophets, Seers and Sages.  This was the gateway drug that turned me from the most likely path for someone from my home town (i.e. becoming a Suedehead and getting pregnant at 15) into a far-too-young-for-it hippy.  But it wasn't available that day,  so it was a double-not, a pun I must have been happy with at the time.]

April 15th.
Went to Heckwike. Bought Double back.Very good. Missed Doctor Who listening to it. Went walking around some pub.

[I missed Doctor Who! I must have been really hooked.  'Walking around some pub'  - a public house, what would be a bar in this country - was my parents' favorite pastime apart from being inside the pub.]


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