Friday, November 30, 2012

Misty Mountain Hop (mountain not shown)

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

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

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

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

Grandis Day Gecko

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well Done, Parker!

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

Very much of its time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rare Rolling Stones

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

I Don't Know Why I Love You

I Can See It

Dead Weather - Sesiones

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

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

The Third Man Novelties Lounge

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to uploader Alisongardnersg)

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Hundred Years Old - Grimm's Fairy Tales

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

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

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

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

Listen here (43 minutes)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ineluctable Masculinity - stories of matriarchal societies

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

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

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

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

Setaceous Hebrew character moth

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


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

 Coolest insect name out there, I believe.

Mingering Mike

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

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Jack White and Alison Mosshart: Love Interruption

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


Nerdgasm: Doctor Who on Star Wars

Or Barty Crouch on Star Wars! whichever you prefer.

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

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

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

Monday, November 05, 2012

Monty Python's Election Night Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Dada poetry

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

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


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

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

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

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

Golgafrincham Ark B candidates - an occasional series.

Golgafrincham Ark B

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Dr. Zoolittle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spam floods

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

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


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