Monday, May 28, 2012

Noguchi coffee tables and other faux pas of interior decoration

My new favorite website:

It only took me twenty minutes to read the whole thing, so it's not exactly my go-to site each day, but they'll update regularly, I'm sure. Tumblr seems to have two main themes: fuckyeah, which means they like something, and fuckyour, which means they don't. This is one of the latter ones. It skewers the interior decorations (over)used by people who prefer blinding white walls.

I had a good laugh even though I have a Saarinen chair, one or more terrariums (or terraria, if you're so inclined) and many, many pictures (though not actually in clusters). I may also have committed taxidermy (actual).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Elephants and pandas cosplay

No idea, but it's incredibly cute.  It's from this website, translated by Google.

If you're wondering what on earth I was looking up when I found it, I was Googling images for
paul klee  "vor dem thor"
and no, that doesn't make it any easier to understand what's going on.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Secret Meeting: Connection Between Rap Music and Private Prison Population Increase?

I received this brand new, to me, conspiracy theory in the email this week.

It details the Smoke Filled Room in which, 20 years ago, Rap music was turned to the Dark Side. Here's the site, O'Finoian's Blog. Charlie Stross apparently got the same notification, and his link goes here, but it's the same.

Here's a few excerpts:

After more than 20 years, I’ve finally decided to tell the world what I witnessed in 1991, which I believe was one of the biggest turning point in popular music, and ultimately American society. I have struggled for a long time weighing the pros and cons of making this story public as I was reluctant to implicate the individuals who were present that day. So I’ve simply decided to leave out names and all the details that may risk my personal well being and that of those who were, like me, dragged into something they weren’t ready for.
Quickly after the meeting began, one of my industry colleagues (who shall remain nameless like everyone else) thanked us for attending. He then gave the floor to a man who only introduced himself by first name and gave no further details about his personal background. I think he was the owner of the residence but it was never confirmed. He briefly praised all of us for the success we had achieved in our industry and congratulated us for being selected as part of this small group of “decision makers”. At this point I begin to feel slightly uncomfortable at the strangeness of this gathering. The subject quickly changed as the speaker went on to tell us that the respective companies we represented had invested in a very profitable industry which could become even more rewarding with our active involvement. He explained that the companies we work for had invested millions into the building of privately owned prisons and that our positions of influence in the music industry would actually impact the profitability of these investments.
 Our job would be to help make this happen [increase in prison population] by marketing music which promotes criminal behavior, rap being the music of choice. He assured us that this would be a great situation for us because rap music was becoming an increasingly profitable market for our companies, and as employee, we’d also be able to buy personal stocks in these prisons.

It's an interesting read. I don't think it's true, as I don't believe that an unvetted bunch of "decision makers" could be invited to such a meeting, and then when some of them express disbelief, armed men get rid of them, but after that nothing bad happens and no-one speaks about it for twenty years. But  it's certainly true that private prisons have taken off, and it's certainly true that an unbelievable number of black men are incarcerated in them. The prison staff agitate for longer sentences for inmates, for three strikes laws; the owners use the men for indentured servitude. It's a terrible, third world, evil, system but I can't see that Rap musicians were bamboozled into being its midwife.

On the other hand, Rap did change from responsible to gangsta - but not quite at that time.

Early Rap music continued in the tradition of such groups as the Last Poets (as heard in the soundtrack of 1970's Performance). They were beat poets, speaking in a didactic tradition. Funkier folks kept to the wisdom/anti-drug/community improvement line as well; White Lines, by Grandmaster Flash, being the index example.

Much hip-hop was more playful, like the accomplished and sample-heavy 3 Feet High and Rising, by De La Soul - funny and clever.

Three Is The Magic Number, De La Soul.

I still listen to it today. I still listen to KRS-One (Boogie Down Productions), where he exhorts, "You Must Learn" - and  although it turns out in Why Is That,  that much of what you must learn is a sort of origin myth about the sons of Noah that doesn't seem to hold up, it's still not a bad thing to ask young kids to learn, black or white. Back around the same time, Public Enemy were telling young black kids to listen to Dr. King. When Ice-T sang I'm Your Pusher, he was talking about music, not about drugs - something that seems to have escaped most people. His album, Rhyme Pays, was the first hip-hop album to carry an explicit content warning.

The crime rate was rising rapidly in the late eighties, and hip-hop began to reflect that. Suddenly - Bingo! - white kids who could care less about Martin Luther King, or the genealogy of Shem, or Ham, whichever name KRS-One had picked as the father of black-kind [1] - were given a subject they cared about, sex and violence. Rap sales took off into the stratosphere, and Gangsta rap, not coincidentally, took off at the same time. By 1992, the crime rates were falling again, but testosterone-addled adolescents continued to be interested in the life of a gangsta. I'm not going to guess at whether they thought black people were naturally more prone to violence so it was 'safe' to listen to them talk about their experiences, real or faked, or whether the kids just liked violence - the success of Michael Bay et al suggests that it's the latter, but whatever.

One of my favorite hip-hop albums is NWA's Straight Outta Compton. It's funky, and it's hilarious in parts, and it's filled with violent images - it was also released well before the conspiracy theory says powerful white men in a smoke-filled room got together in 1991 to turn rap into a money-making proposition for the prisons.

So, myth busted, I believe. Still love that 80's hip-hop though, and I think it's a shame it changed.

Here's Wise Intelligent of the Poor Righteous Teachers giving his view (pre-conspiracy theory). He describes the pressure on rappers from record companies to make 'negative hip-hop'.

[1] I can't tell what he's saying on the record.  In the bible, Shem was the father of Semites (Jews and Arabs), and Ham the father of black Africans - if, as KRS-One does, you believe black Africans are Israelites, this is confusing. Having met a fair number of white non-Jewish Israelites, I can categorically state it's not the most confusing genealogy out there.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


OK, not the most convincing image of an eclipse ever, but you can just see the bite out of the sun at around the 5 o'clock point. The Grey May mist rolled in just as this started...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jimmy Page getting Lei'ed

Jimmy Page's On This Day today has a *giant* picture of the band on the tarmac at Honolulu airport, ready to start the Hawaiian leg of their 1969 tour.

Here, I filch the picture for you (only at 15% of the size).

Jimmy Page's blurb at the top left rather cheekily says they are already getting Lei'ed.

Here we are at Honolulu airport, getting Lei’ed on the spot! On the 1969 tour, the second album was in the process of being recorded. For the sake of security, the multitrack tapes were being carried as hand luggage. It seemed a good idea to have each member carrying one of the boxes for the photograph. However at the time, few people would have understood the significance of this picture.
This is a picture I've had in my little hard drive collection for quite some time. Even without the tapes of one of the most significant albums of rock in the frame, it's a very striking picture. Jimmy's webmaster doesn't seem to have credited the picture, but it's by Robert Knight. Raised in Hawaii, he was well-positioned to lead them around for a few day's rest and document this portion of the tour. The really odd thing is that his photos just don't look like Led Zeppelin. In this one, I was left wondering why Jimmy Page, John Bonham and Robert Plant were touring with Mick Ralphs (on closer inspection, you can just about tell that they aren't - they've brought JPJ as usual). It does appear to have been hand-colored - the signed ones for sale are generally sepia, and there's something intensely colorful about it in a way that normal colors usually aren't. But that's not it.

In the others I've seen from the set, there's always something weird about the shot. I don't know if it's his lenses or the Hawaiian light (though it seems to happen indoors as well). The classic appearance of the band at this time is in LA photographs by various folk, for instance the Chateau Marmont photographs.

On this day photos are only up for a day...I guess the clue is in the name. So if you want to see this full-size, I guess you have only a couple of hours left.

Quote of the day

Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries doesn't have many good qualities - she's a Conservative, and a tireless anti-choice campaigner - but she did recently call David Cameron and George Osborne "arrogant posh boys" who "don't know the price of milk", and anything that starts an argument in that government is a good thing.

 However, she recently made my day by describing the Leveson Inquiry as a "bit of a damp squid".


She probably learned it from  IT Crowd's malaprop court scene on the subject.


If you're in a hurry, start at 1:04. However, you'll miss the set up to the joke if you do.

Talking about the IT Crowd, don't all those previews of Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows remind you of Richmond Felicity Avenal? Actually I think I prefer Richmond.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Come With Me - Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page

Puff Daddy with Jimmy Page, Come With Me. It's from the 1998 movie Godzilla, though this performance is from Saturday Night Live.

I love its use of Kashmir as a backing track (yes, it's a backing track not a sample). It's not out of line with the Page/Plant uses of the riff over the years. However, it's roundly disliked by Led Zeppelin fans en masse.  Possibly for that reason, it's hard to find an actual performance of it on the interwebs. Luckily someone on the Led Zeppelin fanatics group Royal Orleans mentioned it was available on Russian tube. So I grabbed it.  Also it has Fox Mulder introducing it. How much better can a track be?

No idea how long it'll stay up.  Download it now with Freecorder! (I am not paid by Freecorder to say that.)

It reminds me of Rage Against the Machine's scalp-peelingly excellent Wake Up, although that's probably a bit more Mars, Bringer of War than Kashmir. Or not.

Rita Hayworth - Stayin' Alive

What it says on the tin. Rita Hayworth Stayin' Alive. I believe I'm supposed to use the word "gams" somewhere here.

It's hard to remember how much I hated the Bee Gees in late 1977. I used to hear this pounding out of the basement of one of the students' halls of residence and wonder how anyone could fall for it. Now, I still hate it but I have to salute a beat that just won't quit and a masterful song that, despite being about nothing, manages to keep your interest for at least the first three minutes of its four-and-a-half. Beat-matching it to the Rita Hayworth footage disentangles it from its actual historical place in my memories (I can still recall the smell of spilled beer in that basement - was it in Creed Hall?) and puts it on a footing with Bollywood movies as a pure spectacle.

I try to forget what it was like when I was straining and soaring against the dark ages of music ((c) Tony Palmer, 1969).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jason Isaacs, looking at the camera

English actor Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy, for one) is my favorite bad guy.  I came across this newish film on the interwebs and it was without any attribution, as it often is, but it appears to be Jason Isaacs looking at the camera for 3:32, during which his (real life) family appear now and again.

It sounds kind of boring, and perhaps it is - you have been warned - but I found it tremendously affecting, and I learned something about people. YMMV.

Edit: looks like the uploader pollysteele1 is the film-maker. Her channel is here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Child Ballads

A few years ago, I first heard about Murder Ballads. I only heard about them because I inadvertently bought songs of the type, on Karen Elson's Ghost Who Walks.

I thought they might be from a book of ballads collected by Carlton Finbarr Murder in 1872, but apparently not. They're ballads about murders.

Yesterday, I was looking up the history of the song Gallows Pole - specifically,  the song sung by famous early 20th-Century African-American blues singer Lead Belly that is actually an English song that dates back several hundred years. How did he learn it? That's a question that led - no pun intended - me to buy a copy of Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor's Faking It - The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. The book has actually answered the question, but since I haven't finished it yet, I won't spoil it for you.

Gallows Pole, sometimes known as The Maid Freed From The Gallows, is about a young woman (or a young man) who has been condemned to death, and who attempts to delay the hanging until various family members can arrive with sufficient bribes to persuade the hangman to free her.

(There are a number of versions of the Lead Belly song on YouTube, spelled both ways.)

In the Led (no relation) Zeppelin version, the song ends with the hangman accepting the bribes, but then going right ahead and hanging her. (With new twists like that, it's a shame that the mollycoddled youth of today have learned to think of Plant and Page as plagiarists rather than bluesmen, but hey hey what can I do?)

Anyway, while I was researching it...looking it up...oh, all right, Googling it, I learned that it was one of the Child Ballads. I was all excited.

Was this a new genre of songs, ballads about children?

No, it's a book of folk myths/poems/songs collected by James Francis Child under the title The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, in 1882.  Chapter 95 collects the Gallows Pole stories. One version:

‘Hold up, hold up your hands so high!
Hold up your hands so high!
For I think I see my own father
Coming over yonder stile to me.
‘Oh father, have you got any gold for me?
Any money for to pay me free?
To keep my body from the cold clay ground,
And my neck from the gallows-tree?’
‘Oh no, I’ve got no gold for thee,
No money for to pay thee free,
For I’ve come to see thee hangd this day,
And hang d thou shalt be.’
‘Oh the briers, prickly briers,
Come prick my heart so sore;
I ever I get from the gallows-tree,

‘Oh yes, I’ve got some gold for thee,
Some money for to pay thee free;
I’ll save thy body from the cold clay ground,
And thy neck from the gallows-tree.’
‘Oh the briers, prickly briers,
Don’t prick my heart any more;
For now I’ve got from the gallows’tree
I’ll never get there any more.’

Some of the other Child Ballads made it over to the land of the Murder Ballads.  One of the most unlikely, Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, apparently managed to do so. I find it hard to imagine Appalachian banjo players banging it out, but they did.

In this set of songs, a lady often known as May Colven, rather than Lady Isabel, is seduced by an evil Elf-Knight, who takes her away on horseback. As he is about to do the deed, he lets her know she is the seventh lady he has taken away, and he has killed all the others. She tricks him into looking away from her, kicks him into the water and then rides away on his horse. So far, so good. But the really awesome thing about Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight is, when she gets back to the castle, her parrot squawks, "I saw what you did!" and the noise wakes up the King. She hushes the parrot and begs him not to tell, and when the King asks him what the commotion was, he squawks, "I saw the cat coming up to my cage and I was rousing May Colven to save me!"

Any maid who can drown an Elf-Knight and get a parrot to lie for her is okay in my book.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

What if Helter Skelter and Whole Lotta Love had been the same song?

A mash-up that really works. The bassists get into a tangle now and again, but I guess with McCartney concentrating on the vocals, he'd just go ahead and leave it to JPJ to sort out.  Of course it's a bit of a cheat combining the nastiest, rockiest ever Beatles track with a mid-nasty Led Zeppelin track. Could you do this with Norwegian Wood and Tangerine? (This is a challenge.)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson talks about Aleister Crowley

I meant to post this a week ago, but I got drunk and forgot.

Youdopia posted an hour-long video of Robert Anton Wilson talking about Aleister Crowley. Now RAW had issues, and AC had issues, but to some extent they cancel out. The other weirdnesses in the file...well, they don't cancel out but it's worth hearing about all of them from the source.

Or the secondary source, since RAW isn't actually AC.

From Youdopia.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

No Lie

Hooray! My team building exercise tomorrow has been canceled! I can concentrate on Star Wars Day instead.

Thinking about lying on the Internets, and about HR team building exercises, I realized:

1. This year, for my birthday, I got one real birthday card and one missive from Bruv that might count as a birthday present (no card though). On the other hand, I got e-cards from a car dealership and from a hotel I once stayed in. How come the car dealership and the hotel even have my birthday on file? I didn't give them permission to keep that data on file. They both saw my driver's license so I assume they both filched the info from it.
2. I was speaking with my HR Director today, and during the conversation he said, "fuck".  I don't mind (said it myself often enough) but I thought HR types had the word surgically removed from their vocabulary before they started their job? Guess not!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


At work today I was told to complete an online self-assessment for a team building exercise on Friday. I had to go to a link and select, from 28 screens of four words each, which word most applied to me in my work day and which word least applied to me in my work day.

So far so good - typical psychobabble. I've completed one of these every two years or so since I first made the mistake of lifting my head above the parapet 15 years ago.

But this one was on line. The first page was 'voluntary' and asked for my gender (I don't have a gender, being a human and not a word), age, race, place of residence, place of work and a few other things. I tried to not fill it in (since it said it was 'voluntary') but wasn't allowed past it without filling in each entry. So I filled it out with make-believe. Then it asked for my name and sex (or it might have said gender again) so it could 'identify me for the purposes of this survey', and I had to fill that out - I mean, they'll hand it out at the team building exercise and when someone answers to all the other names and takes the little booklet, but no one answers to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, they'll know which one is me, right - so I had to fill it out honestly. Then 28 sets of words that I selected at random as being 'most' like me and 'least' like me, and then a page of 'voluntary' extremely personal information that was, at least, skippable. I skipped it.

I don't want to have my easily matched up name and location details in some moron's database. I don't want to have psychoanalysis, however partially-baked, on line with my name and all those other details attached.

I don't even want to do a team fucking building fucking exercise on Friday. But I have to do that to keep my job. I don't have to do the rest of it, on line. Here's notice to you guys who put surveys on line -

I lie. I have always lied. I will continue to lie. Anonymity, or at least Pseudonymity, is the default status of the original internet or whatever it was called before browsers. Gharlane of Eddore wasn't that guy's given name, you know.

Unless its an affidavit or for some other legal purposes, I have treated it as being frivolous. Just so you know, future employer, when you read my Facebook page[1] in years to come, I may or may not be an African-American Australian who collects butterflies and loves Led Zeppelin and geckos. This is notice for you, whoever you may be, in case you find my name attached to a profile of someone who is MOST courageous and LEAST sensitive and MOST diffident and LEAST outgoing  and MOST forthcoming and LEAST informative and so on and so forth for 28 word pairs - I lied.

[1] Lie. I don't have a Facebook page. If someone wants to fake mine for me, be my guest.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy 40th, Glam Rock! My 1972 Diary, May.

May 3rd.
Parents Meeting. Pretty boring though every teacher seemed to like me. [I wonder why?] No homework. Stayed in baths [i.e. stayed in the swimming pool after the swimming lesson was finished. I loved swimming.] Gattrell [gym teacher] is human!
[Gattrell was the epitome of gym teachers – large, Amazonian and about as feminine as a saw horse. But that's not why I had thought of her as inhuman. I'd put her in with the rest of the teachers, many of whom could have played the part of Dolores Umbridge without missing a beat

May 4th.
Sowden [hellacious teacher who would have been much improved by hanging, drawing and quartering] denied everything she'd said about us yesterday and told us how useless we were. Not much homework.

May 6th.
Bought Metal Guru in Dewsbury.

May 7th.
Go to London. Went to Soho for supper – or late tea. 2i's not there! Lovely day.
[Parents took me to London. I'd convinced myself I'd like London, particularly Soho, because the 2i's café was there. This was the hangout where all young stars went to be discovered in very early Sixties - Cliff Richard, for instance. Marc Bolan had hung out there with his heroes and done the wannabe thing, long before he was famous. It had closed down by 1972. I wrote about it here.]

May 8th.
Went shopping in Regents Street area [London]. Bought Desdemona. Went to Trafalgar. Came home.
[Desdemona was a single by John's Children that featured Marc Bolan on vocals. Nowadays you can summon it up on YouTube within about three clicks. At the time, it was a Holy Grail. I'd been waiting years to get a copy. And this wasn't the original, but a reissue on Track Records that featured three other songs. I believe they were The Wind Cries Mary (Hendrix), Fire (Arthur Brown) and Something in the Air (Thunderclap Newman). Although getting music was like pulling dragons' teeth at the time, you can't say you didn't get an eclectic bunch when you finally found it. All of these became firm faves. Desdemona was famous in my eyes for having been banned by the BBC for the line "Lift up your skirts and fly". I wonder what they thought it meant? I loved Trafalgar Square, where you could buy little paper cones of corn for the pigeons. As soon as you held out a handful of corn, the birds descended on your outstretched hand, your head, your shoulders, your shoes and proceeded to peck at anything corn-like. It was great, in an anti-Hitchcock sort of way. I don't think they allow bird-food sellers in Trafalgar Square anymore, because the world has gone to pot.]

May 11th.
Not much homework.  T. Rex on television!

May 13th.
Was rugby final. Taped a Marc interview off Scene and Heard.

[Wish I still had it.]

May 14th.
Went to a fish show, then to a quarry with [Bruv].

[Ah, quarries! What a day out. I remember Bruv's fish tanks, though.]

May 21st.
Uncle George came from America. Gave us lots of coke, whisky and peanuts. He gave me 30p [50 cents]. He's oll right.
Alice Cooper!

[Ah, the rich American uncle arrives with his riches, richitude and legendary largesse!  30p! And the coke was Coca Cola, of course. And I didn't get any whisky, being 14 at the time.)

May 25th.
T. Rex on TV!


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