Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dead Weather, Halloween

Here is the Dead Weather, live at Shoreditch Church, London, on Halloween 2009 with Treat Me Like Your Mother.



I miss the Dead Weather...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

These Fortean times

Live shark found on local golf course, San Juan Hills.  Video proof below, but since it's only thirty seconds long and is preceded by a thirty-second, rather loud, advertisement, you may want to forgo it.

The Capistrano Dispatch reported that it was returned to the ocean, about four miles away, and it swam off.



(The shark, not the loud advertisement.)

I assume this means that the ancient Wayans were right, and the world is gonna end on December 21st.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Delivering Presence - Led Zeppelin Celebration Day


Celebration Day -  Led Zeppelin at the O2

I wore my bell bottoms, or flares as we called them there and then, afghan coat, Jimmy Page t-shirt (licensed), and a smidge of patchouli - about 1/100 of a dose, as I didn't want to cause the whole cinema to riot - and called myself properly dressed to go to a Led Zeppelin concert.

Untitled


This was the one-off showing of the film of Led Zeppelin's December 2007 Ahmet Ertegun charity concert at the O2 arena in London. Yes, we waited five years for Zeppelin to show it on big-screen video, even though the service, whose name I can't remember but was something like Fat Home Vents, reminded us about 13,000 times before the movie started that they were perfectly capable of showing exciting live shows live, as it happens etc. But as John Paul Jones remarked, five years is quite a short time for Zeppelin to get anything together, so I suppose we're lucky.

No one else had dressed up for the event, sadly, and the cinema was evidently under some ordinance that the audience must be allowed to hear a pin drop during the loudest musical passages for some unknown reasons probably to do with fire or safety or food anti-defamation laws or zombie awareness. The audience protested loudly several times and eventually, rather grudgingly, the sound was improved slightly. By the end, peak sound levels were hitting 89 dB, or about one hundredth as loud as Led Zeppelin actually were live. That just about covered the sound of popcorn, shoes creaking etc. and so I guess it had to do.

The show itself is surprisingly exciting. They are all old, now, of course, and there's no disguising that. Even Jason Bonham, the son of the original drummer John, is getting up there in his Gen-Xy way. But there's no denying the fluidity and mastery of their material that characterized them back then, and hasn't changed a bit. Mind you, since modern bands are unbelievably wimpy and amateur in comparison with any kind of actual rock music, Zeppelin now appear to be far harder and far more technically accomplished than they even seemed in their heyday, which is saying a lot. Back in the day, people spoke of power & control, light & shade, and in today's terms I think they actually display complete subjugation and #000000 & #FFFFFF.



And jazzy. It's perfectly possible that my completely untrained rock mind thinks of  "any jam including one or more unusual chords" as "Jazz" - but I don't think so. I think the classic rock bands instinctively move into jazz when jamming. (I hear it in Black Sabbath, for instance, though Deep Purple tend to jam in classical mode instead.) You don't hear Jack White or Skrillex or Deadmau5 or Ke$ha or Maroon 5 suddenly dropping into an extended proggy bit with jazz overtones, but Zeppelin do.

Plantations - the Robert Plant rambles between songs - haven't changed much either. Robert introduces Trampled Underfoot as a Robert Johnson-influenced song, but puts a different date on Robert Johnson's song when he mentions it before the song and when he mentions it after. (1935 or 1936, take your pick.) And he introduces Nobody's Fault But Mine by mentioning the time they (Zeppelin) saw Blind Willie Johnson, at a church in Mississippi back in 1932.

John Paul Jones, of course, regularly plays with hard rock bands - I saw him with Them Crooked vultures a couple of years ago. Don't know what Jason Bonham does, but I assume he's been in practice more recently than Led Zeppelin, and Robert Plant plays Zeppelin songs with all and sundry (though more often with sundry) and gigs regularly. The only retiree in the band is Jimmy Page. He played superbly for a hermit, and was quite his young self all the way through. You'd expect some sort of rustiness, but there was none. A couple of major clangers, yes, but that's rock and roll. Or Jazz. Certainly didn't detract from the overall performance.

Which was fun. All four looked like they were enjoying themselves, which is a good start, and when the sound was turned up beyond the low grumble level, we were enjoying ourselves too. I'll be buying the DVD, but of course nothing matches the big screen for delivering presence.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ant architects

Surprisingly beautiful - casts of ants' nests.



Professor Walter Tschinkel makes a Molten cast of an Ant Colony

Monday, October 08, 2012

"Marc", TV series 1977

In 1977, Marc Bolan was quite successfully attempting a comeback. After a massive string of hits and teen popularity in the early seventies that had led journos to dub the phenomenon "t rextasy", Marc spent two or three years in the wilderness (the exact time depends on how much you reckon his later hits), getting high and getting fat. His marriage disintegrated when he fell for singer and songwriter Gloria Jones, as one does, and by 1976 the writing appeared to be on the wall.

But something about Punk appealed to Bolan - after initially writing it off, as most hitmakers did, he decided he liked its spirit. (In fact both my two main dinosaur loves, Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan, were in the unusual-at-the-time position of supporting the movement that had vowed to sweep the old guard away.) In February 1977, Bolan invited the Damned to support him on tour.  According to biographer Mark Paytress, in Twentieth Century Boy, Marc dove into a diet and fitness regime, working on Dandy in the Underworld and appearing on the pop show Supersonic, his lifeline to youth culture, until it was canceled in March.

The punk rejuvenation did a lot for Marc, if not much for his record sales. It was also parlayed into obtaining his own show to replace the lost Supersonic, a six-episode Granada Television programme in the 4:15 after-school slot.  With characteristic reticence, Bolan named the show Marc. He envisioned Vera Lynn and Elvis Presley, but got what he was given for such a timeslot.  Between those teenybop acts, he managed to smuggle in his beloved New Wave acts, and for the final show he booked his old friend and rival, David Bowie, who was at the time stratospherically famous. He agreed to do a song (Heroes) and a duet with his host.

Paytress describes the bittersweet meeting of the two famous ex-Mods and the song they wrote in the afternoon before taping began. The production ran behind schedule to the extent that the finale was in doubt - was there to be no duet? But with moments to spare, Marc got on stage with Bowie. As Paytress puts it,
He should have been elated, but the pressures of the day had taken a visible toll on him. There was a look of genuine sadness in his eyes.... Bowie counted the group in and...got things under way. But...Bowie missed his vocal cue. Eventually, he found his way in, singing, "What should I do...", just as Bolan tripped into his microphone and off the stage. The camera zoomed in on Bowie's resigned grin...Bolan had bowed out of his final television appearance, his final public performance in fact - an ungainly exit...which somehow crystallised the unfulfilled promise of Bolan's last few years.
With great timing (since I'm in the middle of a Glam Rock reminiscence), Marc has become available on YouTube (Episode 2 on Vimeo).



Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Hat tip to the fabulous Dangerous Minds blog which unearthed this major gem and provided this afternoon's viewing pleasure!

Rock and Roll will never die

Then again, Rock and Roll has always been about teenage girls.



The Beach Boys' Barbara Ann, by some girls having fun in a car. (They hid the beer when they saw the cop.)

(via Doc 40)

Jim, fixed.


The British broadcasting world has recently been rocked to its foundations (as people say when they are faintly surprised that something they long suspected turns out to be true) by televised allegations that Sir Saint Jimmy Savile was a child-molester.[1] 

The Daily Mail led the charge with an article quoting several women as having been sexually assaulted or outright raped by him in the distant past, and the article was followed by a TV program (which I haven't seen because I live in the wrong country) last week.  Following those allegations, about half the UK seems to have remembered that they knew this already, but for some reason hadn't told anybody.

Photobucket

I didn't know, I have to say. I heard the rumors after he died at 84, a year ago this month, at which time I watched a documentary on his life that showed him to be a lonely, mother-fixated individual who had difficulty relating to others. Before that, and especially during his heyday in the seventies, I thought of him as an unattractive, loud and garish TV presenter with the personality of a used car salesman and the musicological depth of a freeze-dried tardigrade. I couldn't stand the premier music TV show of the age, Top of the Pops, being presented by an ancient, ludicrously-dressed bottle-blond whose behavior was so thoroughly creepy it could have been harnessed to (slowly) transport shipping containers between major distribution centers. On the other hand, he was from Leeds (as was I), had been a miner, and did vast, huge and cosmically large amounts of fundraising for charity, particularly for Stoke Mandeville Hospital spinal unit. On top of that, he presented Jim'll Fix It, which my parents watched and therefore so did I, where he read out the wishes of sick or deprived children, which he then made come true…and filmed the resultant boundless happiness.

All the time, allegedly, he was using his star power and entourage to meet underage girls and coerce them into giving him sexual favors.  

From here in the US  the outrage seems to have convulsed the whole UK, possibly because Savile was so ubiquitous in broadcasting and was, after all, a Sir.  Britain has never been able to stand a nonce, particularly one it thought was the bees knees for thirty years and whose behavior was ignored so well that he was able to become a knight of the realm.


Despite the usual suspects baying for his head (even though he's dead), there's an undercurrent of well things were different then. And I have to admit that's true. After 1963 (when sexual intercourse was invented) and the resultant revolution, there was a recognition that teens were sexual beings. There was the Oz Schoolkids Issue, for one. The sainted John Peel regularly sang the praises of schoolgirls, and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was a staple of pretty much every blues band in the country. As someone who was 14 in the Seventies, I would have been happy to hang out with at least one rock star who famously liked that sort of thing, and although at the time the rumors caused a lot of tut-tutting, they didn't result in prosecution or even censure. (I'm not going to mention his name even though it's all over books and the web, because in today's climate, he probably will be prosecuted for it.) Bill Wyman 'waited for' 14 year old Mandy and married her at 18.  Elvis waited for 14 year old Priscilla to be legal. 

At the same time, the old sexist culture was still in full swing (no pun intended). Men had absolute authority. Humor was the execrable Bernard Manning at the worst end, and at the best the miniskirt-chasing buffoons of Carry On, with a wide swath of what-the-window-cleaner-saw movies and On The Buses in between. Even Monty Python is filled with cringe-worthy moments as the team, in pursuit of slaying what they perceive to be Sacred Cows, display blind spots the size of Betelgeuse as they enact rigid gender roles without the slightest awareness that those roles may not be innate. Generally speaking, being pursued and fondled by a powerful man was either flattering or highly amusing, depending on the circumstances. The word "fondle" still sounds funny to me, in fact. Fondled fondled fondled. "If we complained, we were [thought of as] being silly," says Janet Street Porter in this ineresting article about the broadcasting "culture" from a woman who was there at the time. DJ Liz Kershaw talks about being repeatedly groped by a Radio 1 DJ here. "When I complained to somebody, they were incredulous and said, "What? Don't you like it? Are you a lesbian?""

But even in those days, when people like Bill Wyman and Elvis Presley 'waited' until their girlfriends were of age and then married them, there was a perceived difference between falling for young groupies who wanted to spend time with you and coercing unwilling girls into sex acts by telling them that no one would believe their words against those of a star and there was no escape. Both are illegal. One of them I'd still tell my younger self to go for.

The other one? I'd tell my younger self to go to the police, of course. But things really were different then.   Almost all the bosses were men, almost all the police and almost all the people you would have to face in order to make a charge stick. A lot of them were complicit in rape culture (still are – but they are less effective now they've been diluted a bit), and even those who weren't had a tendency to believe a grown man over a young teenage girl.  And on top of that, if you were told that publicizing what you'd seen and heard could result in Stoke Mandeville losing millions in charity, or Jim'll Fix It going off the air, or the BBC undergoing some indignities, I guess you'd keep quiet.

Actually, I don't guess. I know you'd keep quiet. Because you all did.[2] 

Let's hope things really are different today.


[1] I'm not going to say pedophile (or even paedophile) as that describes someone with interest in prepubescent children. I'm fighting a bitter, losing, rearguard action against it being used as a term to describe sexual interest in 12 or 13 year old British or American girls.  That would be a hebephile.  It's still illegal, of course, and in Savile's case it seems to have been sheer sexual assaults on minors. 

[2] Though Savile didn't.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Beatles at fifty

Fifty years old this weekend.



The Beatles Love Me Do - released on October 5th, 1962.

James Bond film Dr. No (starring 32 year old Sean Connery) was released the same day.

Evolution and embryology are lies, says US Congressman in House of Representatives' Committee on Science

Paul Broun believes that evolution, embryology and the big bang theory are lies straight from the pit of hell.



Normally I wouldn't care much, as everyone is entitled to believe pathetic crap that has no supporting evidence - my dad loves me, my iguana understands what I'm saying, what I do at work actually matters, Coldplay are a great band - that sort of thing.  But Paul Broun is a Representative, which is to say he has been invited to work as a Congressman in Washington where he is supposed to make decisions on how the country should be run.

Not only that, but he is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which has, and I quote from its website,
...jurisdiction over all energy research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor, and all federally owned or operated non-military energy laboratories; astronautical research and development, including resources, personnel, equipment, and facilities; civil aviation research and development; environmental research and development; marine research; commercial application of energy technology; National Institute of Standards and Technology, standardization of weights and measures and the metric system; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; National Weather Service; outer space, including exploration and control thereof; science scholarships; scientific research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor. The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology shall review and study on a continuing basis laws, programs, and Government activities relating to non-military research and development.
How can a man who doesn't even believe science exists - or if it does, it exists only as a pack of lies made up by people trying to deny him a savior - be in charge of science spending? 

He says he is a scientist, but if so, his definition of science is as crazy as the rest of his thought processes.
...it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth is but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days, as we know them. That’s what the bible says!
Paul Broun and his ilk is the reason why most of the planet averts its eyes and changes the subject when people talk about America. The rest of the world pretends to listen to the US only because it has half the nuclear weapons on the planet, spends as much on its military as the next fifteen nations put together (half the world's budget for dealing death is spent by America) and is so totally, irrevocably, eyeball-rotating insane that the world has to pay attention unless it gets wished to the cornfield by its batshit "leader". 

Chairman Hall should man up and dismiss Broun before he can do any more damage on behalf of his giant bearded sky fairy.  It certainly makes you hope that multiculturalism spreads to the House quickly - not that Hindus, Taoists or Moslems who get elected are any more likely to be sane, but at least they'll be crazy in different directions and perhaps dilute out the Bible-bashers. 

Not that all Christians are crazy. This one, for instance, has worked out that spending unbelievable amounts of money on devices that kill village women trying to gather firewood in the morning might not be what the Gospels were actually exhorting Christians to spend their lives doing. It doesn't seem to be a popular message, though. The joke when I was a kid was that people would study their Bibles looking for loopholes; nowadays the trend is to study the Bible looking for the weirdest, most out-there statement that can be found, take it out of context and then grind it in to everyone. Note that Paul Broun doesn't take the whole Bible literally - that would be silly. For instance, he's on his fourth wife. Perhaps he found a loophole. 

Broun is one of those people that give the lie to the easy phrase, "People can believe anything they want; it doesn't affect me." Yes it does - this moron is one of those in charge of the government's entire science and technology budget. And there's lots of these crazies in government. In this article in Slate, William Saletan reveals the "the Republican plan to nullify the courts and establish Christian theocracy". The video shows the then presidential candidates at a "family forum" in November 2011, discussing their need to dismantle the judiciary and bring in Biblical law. (It starts at about 26 minutes, after the prayers.)


Some quotes: 
Those of us that are people of faith and strong faith have allowed the nonfaith element to intimidate us into not fighting back. I believe we’ve been too passive. We have maybe pushed back, but as people of faith, we have not fought back. --Herman Cain 
American exceptionalism is grounded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is really based upon the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were the foundation for our law. That’s what Blackstone said—the English jurist—and our founders looked to Blackstone for the foundation of our law. That’s our law . . . I have a biblical worldview. And I think, going back to the Declaration of Independence, the fact that it’s God who created us—if He created us, He created government. And the government is on His shoulders, as the book of Isaiah says. --Michele Bachmann
Unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law. … As long as abortion is legal—at least according to the Supreme Court—legal in this country, we will never have rest, because that law does not comport with God’s law. . . The idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong. Our country is based on a moral enterprise. Gay marriage is wrong. --Rick Santorum
By the way, the backdrop of hundreds of disembodied deer heads on the wall in the first video is bizarre, isn't it! Who does their decor?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Stop spamming me!

Stop it!

I know it isn't just me, and there's literally hundreds of thousands of zombie machines pouring out spam, but it's specifically ME that it affects since I have to spend at least 30 seconds every day clearing it out of the filters. And those 30 seconds add up, baby.

They are almost always strings of nonsense text with few recognizable words in them and then up to ten URLs, most of them malformed.  One incredibly annoying thing about them is every one of them - every last one, 100%, all of them - is caught by Blogger's spam filtering software and not one of them - none at all, not any, zero - ever end up on a page where the URL might be seen by a bot or a human. Every single one of them is always caught and deleted.

Mind you, there's been two or three that start with the common formula of the type, "What an excellent blog post, you wonderful person! You are so clever! See also my blog on the same subject...." that I've sprung out of the filter and allowed to post because there's some tiny chance that the writer is actually a clueless human rather than a botnet, and it would be rude to delete his or her comment just because it's ditzy and weird.

Which brings me to the other annoying thing about spam. Because I have the filters on full-blast they occasionally - like once a month - catch a genuine comment and hold it. That means if you write a comment, it may not post immediately. Apologies and please blame the spammers.

PS talking of weird, that first presidential debate was weird. Romney stood and smirked like a Persian with a  bowl of cream all evening and Obama stood still and un-animated, looking like he had somewhere else he'd rather be. I actually wondered if he had sickle cell trait and the altitude was getting to him. That'd be an interesting corollary for the First Black President, and I'm quite sure no one would ever admit it if it was true.  Sickle cell trait doesn't have many symptoms, but being under extreme stress at altitude is something that might have an effect. Whatever, let's hope he tears into Romney when they're at sea level.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

RIP Big Jim Sullivan

According to news reports, "Big Jim" Sullivan passed away yesterday.


Video: Tom Jones with Jim Sullivan - Guitar Man

In the early Sixties, British hits generally had one of only two major guitar session players on them - either Little Jimmy Page or Big Jim Sullivan.  Big Jim is said to have played on 55 #1 records.

He was 71.

Monday, October 01, 2012

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



October 7th.
Went to Leeds, dad bought the Roxy Music LP. All right. We got it from Virgin – chart shop.

[Amazing to think of Virgin as a little record shop. I wish I'd invested $10 in the shop that day. I could have retired by now. But no, I bought an LP.]


October 11th.
Lindisfarne, Genesis – great. Genesis is loud/soft. Lindisfarne fun, very loud Rab Noakes ok.

[The Peter Gabriel version of Genesis was once the support act to chart toppers Lindisfarne. The concert obviously worked for me though, as I subsequently bought a shitload of Genesis records, none of which I can now stand. Rab Noakes was a singer-songwriter - still is, in fact.]





October 12th.
Aftermath. Me ears still ringing.
School is horrible. Eric is God.

[Well, that's nice.]

October 13th.  (Friday)
This new "Sequence" programme is awful. Remember to complain to BBC.

[Can't even remember it, but I know I forgot to complain to the BBC.]

October 21st.
I bought Genesis Nursey Cryme.

[Or more likely Nursery Cryme. Peter Gabriel was startling to a young teen – I can still remember the fox head. It makes me tremble.]

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