Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paul Kossoff - Live (and beaten) at Leeds

Back in 2006 I wrote about seeing Paul Kossoff play with John Martyn, the collaboration that is on the Live at Leeds album. I have a couple of updates - two rock'n'roll stories which are hardly uplifting, but are entertaining and possibly great anti-drug motivators.

Back then I referred to "one source" who wrote that John Martyn and Kossoff had had a fight before playing. Koss attempted to pick up a girl, and was rebuffed by her boyfriend.  Koss tried to get Martyn and Danny Thompson involved, but when they realized the "gang" which had attacked him was a single student who had shoved him, they beat up Paul Kossoff instead.

John Martyn, with Paul Kossoff, Victoria Palace Theatre London Jan '75,
Photo by Robert Ellis

The link to the "one source" died, but when I went looking for the story to replace it, I found it's been published in full on the web - it's an editorial from Allan Jones, in Uncut Magazine.  The story is vastly more sordid than I realized from the remembered version, but it's worth a read. I'm not a fan of this sort of loutish laddishness, and I've never much liked John Martyn, whose happy-go-lucky beating-up ways allegedly involved even women, never mind  5' 4" guitar-genius drug-addicts, and I was even less impressed with Danny Thompson's role in the issue. Given that he's a double-bass player, an avocation that should consider itself lucky not to have its members drowned at birth (as they would be in a just society), you'd think he'd he'd have behaved himself better even in times of stress.
“He’s the one that hit me,” Kossoff fairly shrieks.
Martyn, moments ago ready for havoc, pauses now.
“He’s not a fucking GANG,” he says of the trembling student. “What’s going on?”
Turns out Kossoff’s drunkenly groped this bloke’s girlfriend and the bloke’s given Kossoff a shove that’s sent the guitarist tumbling down some steps. All talk of a gang attack is pathetic bollocks.
“You c***,” Martyn shouts at Kossoff, smacking him extremely hard in the face. The short-arsed former guitar hero is further surprised when Danny Thompson fetches him what I’m delighted to describe as a pretty painful thwack to the side of the head with the arm of the chair he’d snapped off in the dressing room.
This makes Kossoff cry like a girl, at which point Martyn and Thompson stalk off, laughing like people who are mad.
Etc. Possibly Kossoff was so unpleasant at this stage of his addiction that Martyn was the only person who would have him around. Martyn wasn't even the only person Kossoff attacked with a bottle, in fact. Even so, when you read about his first death in August 1975, it makes you wonder whether being beaten with chair parts by his friends didn't have something to do with it (along with all the random drugs he managed to find and scarf down, of course). I've mentioned before that folkies can be unusually vicious, but certainly the drugs don't help.

Paul Kossoff attacking someone with a bottle, from 
David Clayton and Todd Smith's book Heavy Load.

However, the beating can't have dampened Kossoff's enthusiasm for the female of the species even temporarily.  On a long-defunct Paul Kossoff message board a young woman posted the following story. I don't have permission to share it here - and no way of finding it, since the board dissolved rather suddenly in a fountain of acrimony - but since she was happy to share it with the fans on the board a few years ago, I'm assuming this isn't outing her in any significant way. (I will take it down if requested.)

"I was 17 and in sixth form at high school, when on 13th February 1975 my friend dragged me along to see John Martyn at Leeds Uni. I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of him at the time and was only vaguely aware of Free through their chart hits, I was mostly into mainstream Pop type music.
After the gig my friend persuaded me to wait back while she got John's autograph. Paul Kossoff came over and asked me to go back to the hotel with him, I was somewhat taken aback, but there was no way I'd have dared go my mum would have killed me. He got one of the band to write down the hotel for if I changed my mind.
Next morning, having spent the whole night thinking it over I bunked off school and rang the hotel The Merrion in Leeds Merrion Centre. I was put straight through to Paul and he came out to meet me. We went to his room and he was obviously even to my innocent eyes under the influence of some drug or other.We spent the morning in bed, he was totally unable to do anything and apologised I was secretly rather relieved. we later went out round the shops and he bought a pair of very ordinary looking beige trousers at Royce Manshop and joked about being a shortarse.
Back at the hotel we met John Martyn and Danny Thompson at the bar, Danny was angry at the state Paul was in and at first blamed me for some reason, John said "leave her out of it she's no more than a kid" and he calmed down and bought me a Creme de Menthe which I have never ever drank either before or since that day but picked because it sounded sophisticated and I had never drank alcohol apart from a small glass of wine at home.
The band insisted on driving me home right to the end of my road, don't know wether they were heading home or to another gig."

No, that wasn't me pretending to be someone else. I was the same age, but I had heard of John Martyn - and Paul Kossoff, of course. I would have had the same problem with my parents if I'd been the one to get the offer, but as those who have read the earlier blog piece may remember, the biggest problem would have been getting away from my school friend, Captain Cynical. It would never have occurred to me to go to the stage door to meet a musician. Glad someone did, though.

I still love Paul Kossoff's music and really wish everything had worked out differently for him.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Art restoration corner

A couple of days ago, the interwebs brought us the story of Cecilia Giménez who restored a picture of Jesus in her church which had been originally painted by Elías García Martínez,  a 19th century artist of little renown.

Inspired by the Spanish Granny, I've been restoring masterpieces all day.

Marilyn. Andy's oeuvre (egg?) was looking a little tired so I freshened it up.

Agfa Girl. In order to win photography awards you have to do a little retouching now and again. This is much better.

RIP Neil Armstrong

Yes, I was one of the ones who stayed up all night to see the Moon landing, with my dad, who was a member of the British Interplanetary Society going back to the mid-fifties. In 1969 we both thought we were all going somewhere, not just the Apollo astronauts, but I guess that didn't happen.

Here's Neil Armstrong just after the EVA. He's 38 years old, he's just got back in after a walk on the Moon, and his thinking is probably somewhere along the lines of the Onion piece (NSFW). 

One day they'll have to put guardrails round his footprints up there to stop rubberneckers destroying them, but that may be further in the future than I thought it would be, back then.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Great Ape-spectations

A few days ago,  we had a post about a monkey - actually, a chimp is an ape - who asked some humans a question in fluent human sign language, and went away disappointed.

Today, we have a chimp - actually a bonobo, which is a different species to a chimp, but still an ape - who, having learned from his human friends how to make stone tools, now makes and uses them to get food.  The article, in the Daily Mail (of course) Kanzi the bonobo chimp learns to create tools by himself - repeating humanity's first steps towards civilisation does what it says on the tin. On New Scientist's page, there's a video, also.

Of course, nobody told Kanzi that the human had used his considerable tool-making skills not only to teach the bonobobo "genius" to make tools, but more importantly, to hide the food so thoroughly that Kanzi would have difficulty getting to it. Had he known, their friendship might have been impacted.

As always, a large part of the charm of anything to do with monkeys, evolution, climate change,  or science in general is watching the commenters get riled up about everything.  Daily Mail readers rose to the challenge.

Frances says,
As I drive in my car down the road and I look at all the amazing things Humans have created and built, I can't believe that your still pushing this myth that in a few thousand years chimps will be able to do the same thing. Like the chimp himself, I am a creation of God.
Actually, Frances, you're in luck, as starting now, nobody will push the myth that in a few thousand years chimps will be like humans. In fact, no one has ever pushed that myth, unless you count the Planet of the Apes movies, of course, but I think they were allegory rather than myth (or science).

Anon writes, and I quote him, her or it in full as you wouldn't believe I'd quoted fairly if I selected part of it.
Why are we always fed this tosh about evolving from chimps. I don't know, i don't believe it. I was reading up on the Annunaki, now, they were here many, many years ago. What people are saying, is that they, effectively, created us, shaping us to be more intelligent. That were were originally made to be slaves. Now this challenges religion and Darwin's theory HOWEVER, there is proof out there, on the carvings, writing, documentation. Apparently we've been lied to. They can tell us a load of lies and we wouldn't think any differently, we'd assume its the truth and we have just taken it as it is. I felt the need to write this and i'm sure i'll be thumbed down but i can guarantee the ones who wont listen are either religious or ignorant. When you know this, it's like you become detached from other people, i see most people as, basically, stupid because you're all so blinded, just wish more people would research this.Unlikely though.

Well, once again the commenter is in luck, as no one is saying we've evolved from chimps. That's like saying you're descended from your cousin. It doesn't happen. Not because animals have those Magic Vaginas that have been in the news recently where "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" but because of the sheer technicality that you can't descend from things that didn't give birth to your ancestors.   But in the same way you and your cousin are descended from your grandparents, all the apes, including chimps (especially bonobos) and humans are descended from a common ancestor.

Now if that were the only problematic statement in Anon's post, we'd be home dry.  First I have to figure out who "they" are who are telling us a load of lies.

Fed Up With This gets down to brass tacks.
What a conclusion to reach. If we came from chimps there would be none left. He is just copying like a child and they do make primitive tools in the wild anyway. It just proves a common designer NOT that we come from chimps, although looking around Britain today it is almost believable ;-)
Isn't it weird the common designer grouped most of the similar things in animals and plants in exactly the order you'd get if similar animals were descended from a common ancestor? Humans can knap stone tools and so can (when pushed) the similar looking bonobo, and yet neither has a poisonous sting (like bees and wasps) nor are either of them hermaphroditic and can fire packets of sperm under each other's skin like many molluscs. Just once, you'd expect the common designer to say, "Fuck this for a game of soldiers, it'd really help if this plant had legs, so shazam you've gottem," or "All my bears look basically the same. You can hardly fit a knife blade between the polar bear, brown bear, kodiak bear and panda bear. I think I'll give the grizzly bear eight starfish arms. Then it could catch clams more easily," or "I feel an absolute compunction to use a mammal-style backbone on a whale for reasons that are unclear to me. Bah, using the mammal backbone means the tail isn't going to move from side to side like a fish! Yikes! Good goddamn, it looks like some of them are going to have to keep their hind legs as well. I'll just make the pelvic girdle as small as creatorly possible and hope those humans don't notice or they'll be all over it with their descent-with-modifications bollocks."

It's also weird that the common designer made us from dirt and yet there's still dirt. You can't explain that.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Icky Homo

Heard on BBC World Service today:

For some reason, an elderly parishioner took it upon herself to restore an old fresco of Jesus Christ on the wall of her church, the Sanctuary of Mercy, near Zaragoza. The picture, Ecce Homo, by Elias Garcia Martinez, is no great shakes as far as I'm concerned. But when it began to peel from water damage,  she loved it enough to try to preserve it by painting over it.

Detail of fresco.

I have to say I quite like the finished product. However, apparently the powers that be (so to speak) don't think much of it and are interviewing her to find out what she did, with a view to undoing it, if at all possible.

Another take on this with a different photo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ancient Maya News

News reports today suggested that the ancient Maya "empire", which suddenly and unilaterally crashed, declined so precipitously (no pun intended) partly because their farmers' deforestation efforts led to a dryer climate and exacerbated a natural drought.

Of course, combining "climate change" and "sudden crash" and "Maya" in an article led to all kinds of interwebular hilarity.

Laboratory Equipment's newsroom (you can tell I was reading this at work, can't you?) put it this way:
The idea that the Maya changed the climate by clearing away jungle, partly causing their demise [was modeled and an] estimate of a 5 to 15 percent reduction in rainfall [was obtained].
Laboratory Equipment goes on to add:
Archeologists attribute a variety of factors to the collapse of the Classic Maya, whose ancestors are still living today in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. 
Lab Equipment does not explain why the scientists didn't just speak to those still-living ancestors, who, since they continue to dwell in the same place, most likely talked to their descendants before those descendants died and presumably could tell us what happened to them.

The fun was hardly begun, however. In a report on the news item, Live Science asked, "What Was Behind Mysterious Collapse of the Mayan Empire?"

It answered:
The city states of the ancient Mayan empire flourished in southern Mexico and northern Central America for about six centuries. Then, around A.D. 900 Mayan civilization disintegrated. [...]
Scientists have found that drought played a key role, but the Mayans appear to have exacerbated the problem by cutting down the jungle canopy to make way for cities and crops[...].  Their results [...] suggested that when deforestation was at its maximum, it could account for up to 60 percent of the drying. (The switch from trees to corn reduces the amount of water transferred from the soil to the atmosphere, which reduces rainfall.)
I'm still not sure why it was an "empire", but it's a nice write up and ends with a note that rings true - the ruling classes of the Maya, the priests and kings, lived off the backs of the farmers, and in return they were expected to ensure that the gods would bring rain and fertility. When these boons failed to materialize,
"The old political and economic structure dominated by semidivine rulers decayed," the team writes. "Peasants, artisan – craftsmen, and others apparently abandoned their homes and cities to find better economic opportunities elsewhere in the Maya area."
But a well-written article does not guarantee a commentariat blessed with understanding.

Douglas Kleven Barnes wrote:
I was interested in the story until the tired old myth of man's ability to affect the climate was presented. I wonder if there is a way to trace the money trail of this author and see which leftist organization funded his "research".
Of course - you've hit the nail on the head! Those fucking "scientists" are just raking in the big bucks by, uh, studying mesoamerican weather records.

Rudisius Maksimus replies:
I know right? They could just say "it could have contributed to the problem" but no. What about the ancient Egyptians or the Mesopotamian civilizations?? They were located in a desert! Yeah, King Tutankhamen had real sweat v20 Suburban that he cruised around in which led to.....Any scientific debate should not have this kind of biased associated with it. It goes against the very principles of the scientific method itself!
I'm so used to people just writing "IKR?" that it took me a minute to recognize "I know right?" spelled out.  Having worked that out, I couldn't follow the rest of it. I know Geronimo had a Cadillac but it was the first I'd heard about Nebkheprure's sweat Suburban. Presumably he parked it well out of the way of the yearly Nile inundation that provided the fertile Egyptian soil and the irrigation water, just as Sargon kept his Denali out of the extensive irrigation channels that watered the Land Between Two Rivers, otherwise known as The Fertile Crescent.

One Jim Accardi replies, attacking the major factoid in the comment and wisely leaving the rest well alone:
ancient Egypt was not in a desert and neither was Mesopotamia you monkey
Another commenter feels that the money-grubbing scientists are taking their blood money from an even more sinister and shadowy group  - "they".
They'll keep posting this stuff until after December 21st. At first everybody joked about the end of the world but now that "Doomsday" is 4 months away, and people ARE starting to get edgy, scientists, businesses, even the gov't is launching all these 'reports' and 'studies' to assure people that the world won't end. 
But another commenter has a better idea - time traveling viruses from 1492 ended the Maya cities 600 years before they hitched a ride on Columbus. You can tell by the Pilgrims, who were in their Plymouth - presumably the sexy 426 Hemi-Cuda.
The greenies would love to make a case for global warming or weather, but there is no evidence of that. It was more likely disease, like effected the native population of the Northeast US. When the Pilgrims arrived a Plymouth, they found villages abandoned and the native population had been mostly killed off by disease. Their arrival may not have been as welcome a decade earlier.
You see, "there is no evidence for that". And he should know, he reads the interwebs. His view was corroborated by an AOL user who writes:
One would tend to disagree on their facts. The weather pattern in the area are such that the area is close to the equator, second the Mayan cities are located in an area where it rains 75 % of the year, thirdly, they have to read about all the diseased brought over by the Europeans (Conquistadores). the reason for the end of the Mayan culture are endless, but to blame it on a drought. It leads me to believe that this is just another cooked up idea of the global warming cookies to make everybody believe in their smoky, crazy ideas.
Once again, not sure what it means, but I like the idea of the smoky, crazy cookies.

However, the last word must go to Johann Young.
To be on the safe side on this it is easier I believe to put the onus on the English.
Yes, generally speaking, if disappearing natives are suspected, it's always safer to blame the English.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Star Wars Oldies - original screen tests

Slate magazine finds and discusses the original screen tests for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

It's hard to imagine a time when there was any question of who is Luke Skywalker and who is Han Solo. Although I didn't see Star Wars as a little kid, I did see it when it first came out and that is over thirty years ago now. The only person who could ever have embodied the boyish, whiny Luke as he grew up to be a somber Jedi was Mark Hamill, and of course the only person who could mumble Han's convoluted lines and look roguishly handsome at the same time was Harrison Ford.

But there was a time when even George Lucas didn't know that, and so there were screen tests. Hamill is himself in his and already sounds every inch the part. Listening to Kurt Russell's take on Han Solo is amazing, though - he would have been great, too, but it wouldn't have been Star Wars.  His Kurt Plissken, like Mel Gibson's Mad Max, is one of the characters I most admire in fantasy movies.

Mark Hamill's screen test

William Katt's screen test with Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell's screen test

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bonzo Dog Band: Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage

Dangerous Minds - always a good read - unearths a seminal Bonzo Dog Band movie featuring instrumental versions of three songs and the band attempting to eat jello with wooden spoons, among other things. It's a genuinely weird and authentic piece of psych music of the Veddy English with Children in it variety.  It's billed as "rare and complete".

Bonzo Dog Band: Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage:

Those Roger Ruskin Spear robots are lovely...

Star Wars mysteries - would Luke Skywalker survive the night on Hoth in a dead Tauntaun?

i09 in Science Proves Luke Skywalker Should Have Died In The Tauntaun's Belly provides a "scientific" rationale for why Luke Skywalker could not have survived on Hoth, despite (or rather because of) being stuffed inside a recently dead Taun Taun.

It's one of the Old Skool internet arguments and takes me back to those (probably not) long lost (at all) days when people, or at least teenage boys, would spend hours arguing whether Jean Luc Picard could take James T Kirk in a fight, or which would win, the Enterprise or a Star Destroyer.

i09 conclude that Luke, covered in freezing blood and infectious guts from the Tauntaun, would begin to cool down in 17 minutes, suffer severe hypothermia (as in limb loss) in 47 minutes and die within an hour.  (For some reason they believe that it will take Han some time to inflate the emergency shelter and this time frame is pushing it.)

They've forgotten three things:

1. Tauntauns may not be able to survive a night on Hoth (this is specifically mentioned in the dialogue) but they do live on Hoth, which means they have some fur or blubber that slows down heat loss even when dead;
2. Lightsaber cuts cause an initial spray of blood, or a few drops of blood, but the heat cauterizes the cut very well - so the inside of the animal would not fill with cooling blood;
3. Luke isn't actually dead, so he does not cool down according to Newton's laws - he can keep up his own body temperature as long as he is partly insulated.

I guess i09 weren't spoiling for a fight with middle-aged female teenage fanboys - they say it's 'lighthearted' - so I lightheartedly reply, "Ha Ha! I win!"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sentient life on Planet Earth? Some of the apes might qualify.

Here's a video that brings out the sads for a couple of reasons. A chimpanzee uses clear sign language to tell visiting humans that he/she wants the cookie on the ground on their side of the glass.  The human (who is of my tribe, a northerner, I'm ashamed to say)  is completely incapable of figuring out what it wants, and provides a wittering narrative about escape, made up, presumably, inside his own head. Chimp gets no cookie, and we have to shake our heads at the behavior of our putatively closer relatives.

The YouTube video has comments disabled so it's hard to say how many of those 1.7 million viewers would have written "'E wants the biscuit, yer daft bugger!" in the human's own dialect.

via Skepchick, whose commenters provide some poignant, er, commentary.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Round up of the interwebs And More Again

I had a German visitor at work this week. As I was leaving the building, fully expecting him to not understand my banter, I said, "All the activity out there is because our new CEO is visiting next week. They're all out there painting the vegetation green." He didn't say "Eh?" or the German equivalent. He said, "Yes, we do this in Germany also. Paint the vegetation green."

Our So Cal home town is having a rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, so I will have to wear my cowboy hat. STB promises there will be "both kinds of music".  That is, country AND western.

I was speaking with the Germans about the metric system – which is not in use at all, except in scientific communities, in the US. I couldn't for the life of me remember what the deal was in the UK. I know people still weigh themselves in stones (14 pounds), and that distances are in miles, and food is in kilogrammes, though I'd guess most people still think in pounds. I have no idea what's taught in schools.  I was reading an article from the Old Days yesterday and it mentioned that someone paid 15/- for something, which I internally vocalized, quite naturally, as "fifteen shillings". It occurred to me later on in the article – when something was 18/6 – that most people reading the article today would most likely have to stop and work out that this was eighteen shillings and sixpence. Of course any reference in there to LSD would probably not be read smoothly as "pounds, shillings and pence".   Today I came across an article mentioning an amazing find of a dimetrodon fossil in Canada . This is a beast which predates decimalization in all three countries mentioned, which may be why the following interesting measurement set was used:
“This one we think is a juvenile, a baby, so about two to three feet in length, tip to tail, and 30 to 40 pounds,” she said. “But some of these guys could grow up to 4.7 metres in length and up to 300 pounds. From the Globe and Mail.
Uh oh. Peromyscus, my totem animal, has killed a man. It used to be bad enough with the Lyme Disease, but the Hanta Virus is catching up fast.  Hanta Virus Claims First Ever Fatality in Yosemite National Park.   (Apparently we carry Erlichiosis and Babesiosis as well. It's a wonder there's any of us left at all.)
According to the CDC, there are four North American rodents that carry hantavirus: the deer mouse, cotton rat, rice rat, and white-footed mouse.Both the deer mouse and the cotton rat usually live in rural areas, but can also be found in cities when conditions are right, such as easy availability of food, water and shelter, the CDC said.
An NY Times article about writing attracted my attention. It's called Where Do Sentences Come From? but for some reason completely fails to address the question.  However, the author, who rejoices in the name Verlyn Klinkenborg did write a fascinating sentence of his or her own:
So let’s demystify the origin of sentences. Think of it this way. You almost surely have a voice inside your head. At present, it’s an untrained voice. It natters along quite happily, constructing delayed ripostes and hypothetical conversations.
Which of course I do, and that's exactly what it does. It spends all day explaining what I could have said that would have been funny, planning out what to say if I ever met $Hero, and, um, thinking about the best way to describe in writing what I'm currently seeing. Which is why Verlyn lost me when zie tried to help me train my 'untrained voice':
Now try turning a thought into a sentence. This is harder than it seems because first you have to find a thought. They may seem scarce because nothing in your education has suggested that your thoughts are worth paying attention to. Again and again I see in students, no matter how sophisticated they are, a fear of the dark, cavernous place called the mind. They turn to it as though it were a mailbox. [...] The more you do this, the easier it will be to remember the sentences you want to keep. Better yet, you’ll know that you can replace any sentence you lose with one that’s just as good.
Do other people really have to practice this? Or just Verlyn's students?

In the comments there was this:
There's a problem with this approach. It confuses speaking with writing. And it privileges speaking over writing. The voice in your head tells you something very different than the marks on a piece of paper or the images on your computer screen. Writing, arguably, predates speaking. that is, there was likely a shared graphics before there was a shared phonetics giving voice to those graphic marks.
Which I found fascinating. Is it really possible that painting marks came before speech? I think it might be – and it's a wonderful strange world to think about. The comment was answered by Miss Ingthepoint, a regular commentator.
Actually there is no human society in which writing predated speech. Speech predates writing for a very long time, for the writing to be invented to record it for posterity.
That's not what the commenter said.

Here's a picture of Jack White playing a "B" show in a laundromat in Portland.  The "chick" that people are asking about in the comments is Ruby Amanfu, a singer in his band.

And here's a competition to design a dress for his supermodel ex-wife, Karen Elson. Here's my entry. I don't think I'll win anything.

The Grauniad decided that a History of Fanfiction was in order, now that Fifty Shades of Grey is a multi-million seller.  The piece seems to include plenty of long words and not a lot of the usual Graun typos, so it looks legitimate on the surface,  but each actual statement either seems wrong or actually is wrong.
 By the late 1980s there had been a glut of Mary Sues fictionally beaming themselves up on to the Starship Enterprise, and true fans started to view the sub-genre plots as insidious. Interestingly, by outshining the heroes Mary Sues reveal a lurking contempt on behalf of their fan writers towards the original characters.
Well, no…

Lo and behold (or Low and Behold, as they say on the internets), Making Light made mincemeat of it. That's what you get from a blog that has professional editors and Big Name Fans as owners, and a commentariat comprising just about everybody in SF Fandom from about 1952 on (the date of publication of The Enchanted Duplicator, about which the Guardian gets much wrong).

Here's the Raconteurs in concert in 2006 with Level. This came up in conversation on a message board today for the bit where Jack and Brendan try to push each other over (starts around 1:09): [link broke]

And here's an interview with Alison Mosshart of the Kills at Outside Lands, interviewed by the Rock It Out Blog.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life on Mars?

Yesterday I mentioned that autocorrect errors couldn't outperform good old manual errors, but maybe I'm wrong.  Public Radio International's piece on my new NASA robot-piloting mohawked hero, Bobak Ferdowsi, managed to quote him saying this:
"We're looking for one step shy of life," he said. "Do the indigents for life exist on Mars, or could Mars have ever supported life at one point or another? We’re basically looking for all the things we have on Earth that allow life to thrive."
Jesus said that we will always have the poor with us, but PRI is the first to hint they're there on Mars.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Roundup of the interwebz and more

It's fashionable to assume that laughable malapropisms are due to the interference of malevolent autocorrect demons.
Tweets the actor and author Stephen Fry: “Just typed ‘better than hanging around the house rating bisexuals’ to a friend. Thanks, autocorrect. Meant ‘eating biscuits.’ ”
(From NY Times article)

But I've been rereading one of Richard Lederer's tomes on English language bloopers, and it's quite apparent that the unaided human mind is quite capable of producing the same errors.
The equator is an imaginary lion that runs around the world forever.
Comets are made up of organic material...and are thought to be ruminants from the beginning of the universe.
The climate is hottest next to the Creator.
In spring, the salmon swim upstream to spoon.
And so on. (From Richard Lederer's Bride of Anguished English.)

Today started of with great excitement as a neighbor rang me up to say,
"Hey Steven and this is Stefan, your neighbor. There's a 3 foot and one out walking around the neighborhood needs for some reason funds. We had yours but if it is to come and it and if it's not, forget about it. My home number is...."
Or at least that's what the auto-transcribed email of the voice message said he said. When I listened to the message, it was apparently a "three foot iguana" and they wondered if it was ours. No, our geriatric lizard was sitting quietly at home at the time. I arrived at their house at the same time as Animal Control, which was a little disappointing as I'd got hyped up to 'rescue' it myself but of course once an officer is on the ground, the animal is his. He scared it into a pool, where it immediately dived and prepared to wait us all out. Eventually between him netting it and me entowelling it, we got it back to his truck. A very healthy one, either an adult female or a young male. Hope its owner sees it on the Animal Control webpage and gets it back.

I watched the Olympics Closing Ceremony today. I didn't think I would be doing anything of the sort - I've been whining about the Olympics, the cost, the disruption to Londoners, the insane security including SAMs located on handy tower-blocks, for years. Then it actually happened and I got taken over by national pride. Not that I watched any of the sports (can't stand sports) but I gather the Home Team took home many medals and the whole thing is generally regarded as a success.

(Olympic catwalk models, from the Daily Mail website)

I switched on a proxy to watch the closing directly on the BBC website. I'd tell you which proxy I used, except they said if I tweeted their name I'd get a free gigabyte of bandwidth, which I did, but the bandwidth hasn't appeared yet, so no mentions for you, no name proxy! Anyway, I watched most of it in astonishment as London put on the World's Biggest Variety Club performance ever!11!eleven! On the one hand, I'm sincerely proud that a small island has produced such an incredible amount of musical talent, but on the other hand I'm amazed that pop music (and fashion) made up about 90% of the show. (With fireworks making up the rest, natch.) I sat on twitter the whole time and a spate of people said that seeing the Spice Girls made them feel young once again; not me. The Spice Girls the first time round was when I first realized I might be getting past it, so they actually made me feel old once again.  Queen played, with Long Dead Fred whipping the crowd into a frenzy from one of those things the media calls 'holograms', followed by Jessie J taking his place at Brian's whassname's side - and looking/sounding like she belonged there.  Kaiser Chiefs! Annie Lennox! Russel Brand! Tinie Tempah! Taio Cruze! Muse! Fatboy Slim! Madness! Ray Davies! And of course, the Who,  who changed the lyrics of Baba O'Riley to "not only teenage wasteland' in order to bring the song into negative cynicism territory.  There were Rolls Royces! London Taxis! Those mobile billboards you drive around (except that as well as a billboard, each one carried a genuine supermodel to the stage, which had become a giant catwalk). With so much vehicles and rock, it now makes sense why Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis stood on a bus at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and belted out Whole Lotta Love.  Eric Idle sang, as promised, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which means he got to use the word "shit" in front of the entire planet, while accompanied by rollerskating nuns and a troupe of Indian dancers.

And Sir Paul and Sir Elton were mercifully awol for the ceremony.

Robert Plant played Clarksdale, Mississippi. I've been there - it's billed as the cradle of the blues and certainly looks it. (Though it was quite as warm an humid here is So Cal today.) Wonderful to see that Robert Plant has 'come home' as well.  He lives in Texas now. 

Here is a little known British piece on the blues - Blues and Gospel Train, from 1964 featuring Muddy Waters, Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. It's about 38 minutes long.

Harmless Drudge has a piece on the lyrical beauty of the descriptions of colors in Webster's Third dictionary.  These are unusual as the editors were mad keen on keeping the entire book as dry as bone, but for some reason, based on a command to describe colors only in terms of other colors, the descriptions of colors were an exception.
Vermillion: “a variable color averaging a vivid reddish orange that is redder, darker, and slightly stronger than chrome orange, redder and darker than golden poppy, and redder and lighter than international orange.” Lapis lazuli blue: “a moderate blue that is redder and duller than average copen and redder and deeper than azurite blue, dresden blue, or pompadour.” Cadet: “a grayish blue that is redder and paler than electric, redder and duller than copenhagen, and less strong and very slightly redder than Gobelin.”
(Via Making Light)

Language Log had a piece on how "I'm gonna" is now rendered in written black slang as "I'm on".
Rita said to him, “Honey, don’t move. I’m on get you to the hospital.”
This reminded me - for what turned out to be a not very good reason - that the Yorkshire dialect for "You must" or "You are going to" is "Tha mun".  While looking that up, I found this list of Yorkshire terms that are derived straight from the Viking (Norse), and although I can safely say I haven't used most of them, I can remember my dad using at least two: Rig-welted, which he used to mean helpless or stuck and apparently is descriptive of a sheep on its back, with its heavy fleece preventing it from righting itself (rig meaning backbone and velte meaning turned over) and minnin-on, which he used to mean a snack and apparently comes from minna, the word for reminder, but usually means snack.

Dangerous Minds had a piece on the Pretty Things' S. F. Sorrow, which it calls a "great lost psychedelic classic". I'd agree with all of that except "lost". I just checked and my copy is still in the radiogram cabinet, where it's been for about forty years.

Loved this Iron Maiden video which begins with Bruce Dickinson chewing out some helpless texter.

And finally: Ten reasons why the Megaupload bust was illegitimate. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life - Olympic Closing Ceremony tomorrow

The Olympics Closing Ceremony is tomorrow, and I came across this teaser today:
 Monty Python's Eric Idle will sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. 
(From a write up in the Grauniad)

I've always thought that the British do not only love theireccentrics, but are borderline weird. This clinches it.  The song was one of the most controversial pieces of music ever, said to mock Christ's suffering on the cross, the sacrilegious finale to Life of Brian, a film accused of bigotry, satanism, blasphemy and failing to wipe its shoes before walking in to the living room.

Now I find it's a family-friendly singalong. I guess the Age of Outrage is over in Britain.

Here's how it went over originally. It features the vicious and rude progenitors of Attack Ad-speech against a bunch of Oxbridge-educated literati, with the former being the Church of England and the latter the Pythons, of course.

Edit:  It came true.  So we got to hear Eric Idle sing the word "shit" in front of 80K punters, assorted athletes and the second line royals.

I can't add an American video as the Olympics committee, whatever their official name is, is taking them down as fast as they go up. If you have a proxy, such as TunnelBear, you can watch it on the BBC here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Today in sickness news

My company publishes a Q&A of inquiries they receive from staff members and today's had a question from someone about maternity benefits.

Why are non-exempt employees not offered 100 percent pay for maternity leave?
The [redacted co. name] Salary Protection Disability Plan considers maternity to be a disability like any other illness/injury. [Redacted co. name] offers this plan to financially protect you and your family if you are sick or injured and cannot work. It is designed to replace a portion of your income while you are recovering. The company paid plan benefit for non-exempt employees is 60 percent of base earnings following the waiting period.

Yes, that's correct. My company, which is a $BigNameCo in health care, says that maternity is "like any other illness or injury".  

This is probably news to people who think that pregnancy and childbirth is a normal part of a woman's lifecycle, like growing taller or developing body hair. Well now you know better. It's an illness or injury, official.

UK Pop Culture explained

I'm British, and I can't quite follow this, but I thought I'd put it here so I can listen to it a few times more.

If you are a practiced American speed-listener, you could probably learn quite a lot about UK things that don't need learning. (Which I suppose makes it like poetry, or sports stats.)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity lands on Mars

So, we landed on Mars again!

I use a sort of anti-royal "we", meaning several persons who are not me. Last night NASA landed an explorer the size of a car on Mars, using a Rube Goldberg contraption that deployed all of: a heat shield, a parachute, and a rocket propelled winch on a hover-platform. Said platform them lowered the robot to the ground and flew away to crash into the outcrops. The robot, called Curiosity, then tweeted a picture of its own shadow on the Martian surface. (Yes, I have subscribed to Curiosity's Twitter feed.)

The only thing that could have made that better is if it had broadcast the theme tune from Thunderbirds as it did so. Luckily, a Youtuber was on hand to provide a good simulation thereof.

The previous two Mars robots, Spirit and Opportunity, were incredibly cute, tiny platforms that were designed to last for days, and lasted for years. Spirit, in particular, was actually plucky.

Spirit by XKCD, natch.

(Since that makes most everybody tear up, I better post the antidote happy ending version:

Not sure who made that originally. Not me.)

Now plucky Mars robots are their own chick magnets, but Curiosity is more of an SUV, and what's fetching about an SUV?

Luckily, NASA, in the form of the JPL control room, came to the eye-candy rescue with a most unlikely source - one of its own boffins who rejoices in the name Bobak Ferdowsi, and has a most un-NASA mohawk. With little stars in it.  Flight Director Ferdowsi's mohawk could be seen bobbing over  the flight monitors during the live feed from JPL during the landing sequence.  He, or it, instantly became the face (or hairstyle) of Curiosity. He has his own Twitter feed, Bobak F @tweetsoutloud but as befitting an internet sensation, his fans have at least two Tumblrs (  and ). The Tumblrs, as they do, aggregate news about him, pictures, cartoons, drawings and protestations of love.


The Atlantic has a short piece on Ferdowsi, the man who put the human hairstyle on Mars exploration.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Zacron RIP

Richard Drew, known to the art world as Zacron, apparently passed away in January after a bout of bowel cancer. His death is just now being reported.

Zacron, born in 1943, studied art at Kingston College in London, and crossed paths with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, two students there.  Zacron's art revolved around rotating art - haha, I make funny - and when Jimmy Page contacted him for ideas about a sleeve for the third Led Zeppelin album, Zacron came up with the album cover that so fascinated me back then - a gatefold sleeve with round holes cut in the front and a wheel with an eyelet in the center between the two layers of cardboard, so that the wheel could be rotated around its center. As you did so, different pictures appeared in the punch-outs.  This way of displaying certain pictures of a set in a relation to each other is called a volvelle, and is considered to be a type of computer. Jimmy was said to have been thinking of a crop rotation computer for farmers when he gave Zacron the idea for Led Zeppelin III's cover.

Jimmy and Zacron (still no idea of photographer, sorry)

The pictures included Led Zeppelin snapshots, zeppelins and, because Zacron was thinking of a crop rotation chart, the odd vegetable.  I pulled mine apart to find out what was in the invisible spaces that were never uncovered by the holes in the sleeve, hoping for a hidden message, and was disappointed not to see any.  When I glued it back together I needed something to free up the mangled hub, so I used butter. For years afterwards, I associated Gallows Pole with the smell of rancid butter.

Zacron took reels and reels of photographs for the disc, and in December 2007, the Mail on Sunday Magazine, Live, ran a spread of his unused photos.

Supine Jimmy, by Zacron from Live magazine

Furry Jimmy, by Zacron from Live magazine

Apparently Jimmy wasn't very impressed with the sleeve, but used it anyway because time was short. Most references say he found it "teeny-bopperish", whatever that might have meant, but I vaguely remember reading him saying, "Corn? Is he trying to say our music is corny?" I might be mixing it up with something else.

Zacron on what the cover pictures really mean. (Classic Rock Magazine)

Edited 08/07/2012 as one of the photos was not legit and was removed. Jimmy and Zacron, Supine Jimmy and Furry Jimmy were added.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

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

August 3rd.
Bought music papers. Hadn't got Melody Maker.

[I bought ALL the music papers? Blimey. I guess I demanded the balanced view. The weeklies were Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. I think Disc was still going but no one bought it unless it had a special in it.]

August 10th
Bought music papers.

[OK, I guess I did buy them all each week.]

August 11th.
Bought Killer. Alright.

[Maybe Alice Cooper was wearing off. My dad hated the record, but mainly because of the snake on the cover. I hid the cover. I never played it for him. I mean, Dead Babies. ]

August 14th.
New joke – Mummy, mummy, I hate daddy's guts. – Well dear, put them to the side of your plate and eat your vegetables.

[These were a fad. I remember a handful. For instance – Mummy, mummy, why am I going around in circles?  –  Shut up or I'll nail your other foot to the floor.  Mummy, mummy, can I play with grandma? – No dear, you've dug her up twice this week already.]

August 18th.
Roxy Music in charts. Schools Out very high in charts.

[Due to the sort of incompetent marketing I thought only Brits were capable of, Schools Out was released in England as a single AFTER the start of the summer holidays. It doesn't seem to have hurt its chart places, but I think we would all have enjoyed it more if it had given us something to look forward to. Since I read ALL THE MUSIC PAPERS I, of course, knew about it much earlier.]

August 23rd.
Joke: What do you say when you see an elephant on the table?  - Shout, "Look! An elephant!"


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