Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Glam Rock at the BBC (TV, 2017): Review

If you have BBC iPlayer, Glam Rock at the BBC is available here for a few days:

It's described as:
“A spangly celebration of the outburst of far-out pop and fuzz-filled rock that lit up the British charts in the early 1970s. Top of the Pops is our primary arena and its gloriously gaudy visual effects are used here aplenty! The compilation also utilises footage from a selection of BBC concerts as well as from Crackerjack and Cilla. It features classic BBC TV performances from T. Rex, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Suzi Quatro, Slade, The Sweet, Elton John, Queen, Sparks and many more.” September 15th 2017

Pictured: Alan Moore, hit writer for Wizzard

Glam marked the (thankfully temporary) end of pop music in the UK – the last gasp of a completely worn out, fucked up music industry that had tried everything it could to keep people interested. The thing at the time was to reach back to something that had grabbed our attention before and try it out again. The result was a lot of 70s people dressed in the 50’s Teddy Boy costumes of drape jackets and drainpipe trousers, a visual cue that we should find the music to be new, raw and attractive. Just like Bill Haley and the Vomits!

This diagnosis of malaise isn’t new; even at the time people knew that something had been irretrievably lost by around 1970, though I think it wasn’t until Robert Stigwood’s extragalactic unicorn orchestra ensemble zero gravity version of the Who’s Tommy that was headed up by Joan Collins, Mike and Bernie Winters and your mom that people realized music had finally died as dead as the proverbial parrot. Sounds (then a weekly inky) knew it as early as 1974, when they published a spoof record review of Brian Gamage and the Spikes’ single Brain Damage, that featured, “a guitar solo which involved hurling a meat-hook at a highly amplified Stratocaster,” and the NME (another weekly inky) obviously knew it in 1976 when they published Mick Farren’s call to arms, The Titanic Sails at Dawn. But something propped the corpse up and made it wave at passers-by between 1970 and 1976, when punk finally came along to reanimate it. And that thing was Glam rock.

The beginnings of Glam were simple enough. Marc Bolan got tired of sitting cross-legged playing the 50’s style rock and roll he’d grown up with and translated into British, songs like Mustang Ford and One Inch Rock, on his acoustic guitar, accompanied only by bongos. In collaboration with producer Tony Visconti, he hit on a winning Chuck Berry-influenced 60’s formula. For the kids too young to appreciate prog or the stirrings of working-class heavy metal up north, it was good stuff. The glam movement grew Pegasus wings of Damascene sable, as Bolan might have put it, when he appeared on Top of the Pops with his famously elfin features enhanced by glitter tears, his long curly hair loose and feminine, singing Get It On and pretending to play the guitar. His hippy silk and satin wardrobe had been simplified from the elaborate costumes of the Granny Takes a Trip rock elite into bright, stylish wear – tight pants with flares, girls blouses, girls’ shoes. Just about everyone fell for it. I know I did. I was 13, and the Golden Age of pop is always 13.

The BBC retrospective was sufficiently savvy to start with this moment, but as the program continued it became increasingly apparent that despite the yellow satin clothes, pop music was worn through, and had been patched for workaday use with better material from other, more luxurious times. The tracks they played are more or less in date order, so the deterioration is clearly evident.

T. Rex, Get It On, 1971

Marc Bolan and T. Rex’s stand out hit, Get It On (Bang a Gong in the US) is recognizably based on Chuck Berry’s 1959 rocker Little Queenie. It’s origin not exactly hidden. On the run-out groove Marc sings, “But meanwhile I’m still thinking…” Chuck's repeated refrain in Little Queenie. It’s 50’s music with saxophones, however brilliantly Visconti tarted it up for the seventies. One of the hallmarks of rock and roll (by which I mean the music of the American south, for example Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard) is the use of rhythm piano. In this particular rendition, I love the way Elton John kicks his stool away to start the rhythm piano bit and the producer ignores him and changes the camera. If we’d known then how famous he’d become, they wouldn’t have done that.

This first track also displayed the BBC’s famously muddy, quiet sound. Since the radio recordings of this period are superb, it may seem odd they couldn’t do it for TV. My dad, who was a TV engineer, did explain it to me at one point but since I’m not a TV engineer, I don’t recall much of what he said. It’s something to do with needing the bandwidth(?) for the picture, and so they put limiters on the sound volume. Whatever the reason, you can barely hear these guys but their glittering tinsel comes across great. (Studio cameras had come a long way from the white-streaked Ed Sullivan Show days.)

Alice Cooper, School’s Out, 1972

Perhaps US music hadn’t quite reached its own nadir at this point, as Alice Cooper’s performance and songwriting stand out in this overplayed (but with good reason) track. Not based on any recognizably Nashville or Memphis 50’s rocker template, it has the Alice Cooper hallmarks – different sections, actual chord changes, a singing voice that is clear and loud, punny lyrics (we got no class…and we got no principals!) and Alice being evil and menacing and yet keeping it PG-13. When most TOTP performers see the camera pointing at their face, or look at a monitor and see their face, they smile broadly like amateurs. (Look mum, I’m on the telly!) Alice instead points a rapier at the camera, rather accurately.

David Bowie, Starman, 1972

The other stand out glam track in the program, this is the famous performance where the universally dubbed “androgynous” Bowie puts his arm around glam Mick Ronson’s shoulders to sing the chorus and a thousand watching gay boys’ eyes bugged out and a thousand slashy fan-girls started writing a secret diary. It’s a great tune, owing more to Somewhere Over the Rainbow (that jump between “there’s a star…MAN”) than Jailhouse Rock, and without a trace of rhythm piano or grown men wearing Teddy Boy outfits. Bowie, too, can figure out which camera is on him and point at it accurately.

Roxy Music, Virginia Plain, 1972

An odd one this. Despite the fact that the band are described, on screen no less, as looking like 50’s rockers, and despite the presence of a saxophone and a rhythm piano, Roxy Music do have to go in the plus column. Ferry’s sheepy bleat and clever lyrics layer over a music track that might well have been engraved on a gold platter brought to TOTP by the aforementioned Starman from his lonely home on Mars. Its allusions, though, are to a vanished world only accessible visually through the earthly silver screen. Roxy Music did a good line in sounding nostalgic for something that was essential for existence but now vanished. They can't fully describe it in words, only with their haunting music. Their angst was outsize. U2 gave us the endless longing of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” but Roxy Music were more, “I can no longer find what I used to live for”. For that, you can forgive them the occasional 50’s drape jacket and drainpipes amongst their costumes.

Chicory Tip, Son of My Father, 1972

A respectable song, written by no less than Giorgio Moroder, it features a bunch of Maidstone no—hopers lisping lyrics too heavy for the singalong handclap festival they made of it, rendered even worse by a depressingly cheesy synthesizer sound. It’s not Jerry Lee Lewis but it is pop music by numbers. Chicory Tip are famous for dressing as spacemen, if spacemen got their fashion cues from Plan Nine From Outer Space. People like this are to blame for KISS.

Slade, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, 1972

Ex-Skinheads with a hard-rock past do pop, which they did very well for a long time but it’s not exactly art. I won’t give them any points for originality – well, maybe as pioneers of branding by not using dictionary spellings for their product – but at least they aren’t wearing drape jackets and singing about the sock hop.

Sweet, Blockbuster, 1973

Our first Chinnichap record. More hard rockers with a penchant for playing pop. Sweet lucked out with Chinn and Chapman who made every record they touched irresistible to the average pop consumer. This one is based on the famous riff off of Tobacco Road by the Nashville Teens, so at least it only looks back to 1965 for its inspiration. I personally thought Sweet looked naff, glitter done badly, particularly in this performance when one heavily made up boy kisses another and it just looks…wrong...compared to the wholesome, ladsy shoulder clasp pioneered by Bowie. At least they weren’t skinheads and didn’t have major pretensions (that I know of).

Suzi Quatro, Devil Gate Drive, 1974

Gotta love Suzi, a fierce woman rocker, but this Chinnichap hit is self-consciously a fifties song. It’s basically Grease, with percussion piano and synced dance moves.

Wizzard, See My Baby Jive, 1973

Wizzard at least had the sense to be fronted by magician Alan Moore, but this inescapable hit is self-described as a Spector homage and it sounds even older than that, with a 50s structure and bloody saxophone. At least one person is in a drape jacket. Wizzard were determined to have “fun” and I hate “fun”. This performance had zany monkey costumes, pie throwers and dance moves. Can’t deny Roy Wood’s hit-writing skills, but this hit is self-consciously pieced together from the mechanically reclaimed carcass of 1959.

David Essex, Rock On, 1973

Oddity, this one. The song is 100% throwback fifties music, referencing James Dean and soda jerks or some similar crap. However, it’s stripped down to a gracile titanium exoskeleton of funk, featuring a breathtaking bass line by Herbie Flowers, some funk violins and little else. Pretty boy David might have hearkened back to the music of his own Golden Age of 13 but at least it sounded great. (And he looks great, too.) Wouldn’t call it glam, mind.

Alvin Stardust, Jealous Mind, 1973

I don’t need to do much to prove my point with this one. Bernard Jewry aka Alvin Stardust dresses as Gene Vincent and sings a Vincent-esque song. There’s literally no attempt to make this sound as though it was recorded after 1962. (I don’t know why stating Bernard Jewry’s real name is so funny. It’s not nearly as funny to mention Gary Glitter’s real name is Paul Gadd, or Marc Bolan’s name was Mark Feld.)

Mott the Hoople, Golden Age of Rock and Roll, 1974

Well, it’s all in the title, isn’t it. A specifically designed throwback track with rhythm piano and a whole bag of saxophones. Ian Hunter’s trademark anger makes it interesting but it’s still Grease. To be fair to Mott, the BBC seemed to want to showcase All The Young Dudes but found that, as they often did, they'd wiped all the tapes. This song has me in it, though – I was a 96 Decibel Freak. (Bradford Town Council had limited music venues in the city to a maximum loudness of 96 dB the year before.)

Ian Hunter is not very glam.

Mud, Tiger Feet, 1974

Five or so (can’t be bothered to count) guys in Teddy Boy drape jackets and drainpipes and a guy in a dress with Xmas baubles hung from his ears. (Actually, it’s a divided skirt, but it looks like a maxi dress.) Another Chinnichap hit, as catchy as influenza – who can resist singing along with that’s neat that's neat that’s neat that’s neat really love your tiger feet, whatever the hell it might mean – but it’s still a throwback song. And it has a built-in skinhead dance.

Elton John, Bitch is Back, 1974

God knows I hated Elton when he was a singer/songwriter, but in a compilation like this he stands out head and shoulders above the competition. And he’s singing about being a bitch, which is funny.

Glitter Band, Goodbye My Love, 1975

Dreadful ballad from several people dressed in Space Teddy Boy drape jackets and drainpipes. At least they still have two drummers. This could have been a hit song at any point in the last 60 years and I’m amazed it takes 5 amplified people to put it out. I assume the BBC had to nod towards Gary Glitter, who defined Glam, but since he’s a felon with an ugly crime to his name, they couldn’t actually put on the man himself. Unfortunately his backing band had little going for them.

Queen, Killer Queen, 1974

This is where prog meets glam, though I can’t say I thought this was particularly glam. Freddie was wearing a fur coat. Is that glam? This is English music, singing-into-a-cone-to-record-78s-music, of the Noel Coward tradition, with big guitar sounds and tremendous dynamic range (dutifully ironed out by the BBC limiters). It owes nothing at all to Memphis or Nashville. Prog was on its last gasp as well during this period, but at least Queen were looking backward at something other than Eddie Cochran. No hint of drainpipes or rhythm piano.

Sparks, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, 1974

Unabashedly American. From our vantage point in the future, we can see it’s audibly trending towards the New York Dolls rather than backward towards Chuck Berry. The vocal mannerisms are a little bit Queen but edging towards a little bit punk. It’s not glam though, is it?

Steve Harley, Come Up and See Me, Make Me Smile, 1975

Sorry I was rude about you last week, Steve Harley. This is a killer record. The Ooooh Ooooh La La La’s in the background may be Beatles throwbacks, but the song is solid and modern. Harley’s mannered delivery, half Bob Dylan and half punk, is a perfect bridge to the next big thing that was rapidly hurtling down the pike, gobbing as it comes. Punk is in the air. Also by 1975 the BBC had the sound sorted.

Marc Bolan and Cilla Black, Life’s a Gas, 1973

You wouldn’t have thought this would work, but it does. Our Cilla’s sweet voice and Marc’s more weathered tone harmonize well together. I’m wondering who made him change the lyrics from “priestess” to “princess” though.

The last words are “Life’s a Gas, I hope it’s gonna last.” ☹

Monday, July 24, 2017

Update on the Photobucket Fiasco, and the missing pictures on this blog

I've been diligently working through the missing pictures. I started using botofuckit in October 2008, and I've found and replaced nearly all the missing pictures from then until September 2009. Luckily, I stopped using the "service" a couple of years ago, so I only need to go up to 2015. I've also fixed as many broken links as possible, and man are there a lot of them.

I'm only about 15% through the relinking, but as before, if you land on a post and you want to see a picture that's been replaced with photoscrewit's ransom demand, leave a comment on the post and I'll find it and re-up it as soon as I can.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Peromyscus in the news again

And not for a nice reason, either. The little White Footed mouse is apparently "not fastidious" and doesn't mind ticks attached to its body. It also has a crap immune system. This means that the Borrelia burgdorferi it often carries gets into the ticks, which, when they are grown up, bite humans and give us Lyme Disease. They eat acorns, so a good acorn year is followed by a good mouse year, which is followed by a good (for B. burgdorferi) Lyme year.

Washington Post has the full story (text here).

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Important notice re: Earlier images on this blog are disappearing

Photobucket, the 3rd party serving photo-hosting service, has emailed me (and all others) to say they will no longer host 3rd party images.

To continue using Botophucket, all I have to do is pay $400 a year!

Needless to say, I'm not going to pay $400 a year (actually it's $399), but to help force the issue, Photofuckit are replacing all the hosted images with thumbnails containing their ransom demand. So those of you who read my blog here at http://peromyscus.blogspot.com/ are going to find it looking a little measly with many of the older pictures replaced by those thumbnails. 

My apologies, but it it will take some time - perhaps forever - to change all those links, especially as Photobucket's download button only downloads one picture at a time. One at a time!

If you are searching for a picture (e.g. one of the historical Led Zeppelin pictures) and think the image may be underneath the ransom demand email, leave a message here and I will attempt to find it on my hard disk and re-upload it or send it to you. Same deal for any postings in message boards or fora that you think may have been by me (e.g Elixir_Sue, Lyle Hopwood, Peromyscus). 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doctor Who's Oxygen: What would really happen to a human in a vacuum?

I know everyone who just watched Doctor Who will be thinking, "I wonder what would really happen if the human body was exposed to a vacuum?"

Good question. NASA used to have the answer on its pages, but it disappeared a couple of years ago. Luckily, nothing is truly gone from the Inner Tubes, and so I proudly present their answer, ripped from the Wayback Machine.  [Their answer is ripped from an even earlier page, referenced in the text.]

Ask an astrophysicist: What happens to a human body in the vacuum of space?

The Answer
From the now extinct page http://medlib/jsc.nasa.gov/intro/vacuum.html:
How long can a human live unprotected in space?
If you don't try to hold your breath, exposure to space for half a minute or so is unlikely to produce permanent injury. Holding your breath is likely to damage your lungs, something scuba divers have to watch out for when ascending, and you'll have eardrum trouble if your Eustachian tubes are badly plugged up, but theory predicts -- and animal experiments confirm -- that otherwise, exposure to vacuum causes no immediate injury. You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness.
Various minor problems (sunburn, possibly "the bends", certainly some [mild, reversible, painless] swelling of skin and underlying tissue) start after ten seconds or so. At some point you lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Injuries accumulate. After perhaps one or two minutes, you're dying. The limits are not really known.
You do not explode and your blood does not boil because of the containing effect of your skin and circulatory system. You do not instantly freeze because, although the space environment is typically very cold, heat does not transfer away from a body quickly. Loss of consciousness occurs only after the body has depleted the supply of oxygen in the blood. If your skin is exposed to direct sunlight without any protection from its intense ultraviolet radiation, you can get a very bad sunburn.
At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (less than 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained conscious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained consciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last conscious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil.
Aviation Week and Space Technology (02/13/95) printed a letter by Leonard Gordon which reported another vacuum-packed anecdote:
"The experiment of exposing an unpressurized hand to near vacuum for a significant time while the pilot went about his business occurred in real life on Aug. 16, 1960. Joe Kittinger, during his ascent to 102,800 ft (19.5 miles) in an open gondola, lost pressurization of his right hand. He decided to continue the mission, and the hand became painful and useless as you would expect. However, once back to lower altitudes following his record-breaking parachute jump, the hand returned to normal."

More info and references are at the link.

So I think Doctor Who got it right, don't you?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Geoffrey Bayldon, RIP

RIP Geoffrey Bayldon, known to many people as Catweazle, but to those of us in the know as Marc Bolan's neighbor and his hamburger butler in Born To Boogie.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Knock Knock - the woodlice

Knock Knock!

Knock on wood!

Can you shoot an episode of a tv series about the relationship of these two unrelated sayings? Doctor Who can.

Do you think Doctor Who writers research whether English terms are used in the US? (Or Australia, or wherever, but I'm thinking of BBC America here.)

Doctor Who's bugs are clearly pillbugs.

Last night's episode was about alien pill millipedes, which they kept calling woodlice - often just lice - even though the pilling kind and the woodlice kind are entirely different. The pilling kind are Myriapods (millipedes), and the woodlice are Crustaceans (like crabs). And they're called sowbugs and pillbugs around here in the western US. They have lots of other names around the world - like roly-polys and wood pigs - and the woodlice name seems to be relatively uncommon. 

Pillbugs, unrolled and rolled.

Woodlouse. That's the way a woodlouse rolls, i.e. it doesn't roll at all.

I was especially revolted by a killer pillbugs plot as I have just started a farm (with both pillbugs and sowbugs, since my yard teems with both) because my chameleon ADORES eating them, but they're known to be parasitized in the wild. No, I'm not talking about the Isopods that ARE parasites like the famously off-putting fish-tongue-eating Isopod, Cymothoa exigua, that continues to live in the fish's mouth and perform tongue duties as the price of its meals; in their turn our garden Isopods can get a parasite that makes them walk above ground in the sunshine where they're easy prey for birds, who are in turn colonized by the parasites. (They're called Plagiorhynchus cylindraceus. Calling Charlie Stross!) I thought a farm would be a good idea as I can keep the birds away and hopefully raise a generation of healthy sowbugs and pillbugs. I did not expect to see cheap CGI of them eating people.

I suppose I shouldn't agonize too much over the comprehensibility of their common name since the characters in Doctor Who kept calling them insects, which is like calling humans a type of bird. (We do have two legs, like birds.) Since the young housemate characters were all students, I'm hoping none of them is a zoology student. 

Loved the pun about, "How do you feel? Rotten?" though. Hahaha.

Spoilers below.

The common name of the Isopod  wasn't the most confusing thing about the episode, however. They presumably went with 'woodlouse' because the wood of the house - the 'fabric' as the doctor called it - had something to do with the plot. As did the wood of the trees outside, since they also attacked a character. But it didn't really hang together - the woodnymphs, the dryads, the tree spirits, the tower, the wainscotting, the woodlice, OK. Eating someone's vital essence to preserve someone else's life as they turned to wood, OK. Yet, somehow the victims themselves being preserved forever - or so the landlord said? In what way was Pavel preserved as part of the house if he'd been used up? Aliens summoned by a tuning fork or a musical box, and yet halted from action by a stuck record? Seems a bit, well, rushed, to put it charitably.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Killing in the Name by the Wackids


That amazing solo instrument is an Otamatone, and I want one. There seems to be a plethora of YouTube vids of rockers making music with them and at least half the fun is the smile on the little guy's face as they do so. 

Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball

Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jack White with Alison Mosshart: Love Interruption (Live video Dublin 26/6/14)

Thanks to uploader acquiescefc, Jack White's Love Interruption from his debut solo album Blunderbuss, performed with his male backing band The Buzzards - and Alison Mosshart.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Old Millennial vs. the Young Millennial

Jesse Singal, writing in NY Mag, argues that there is a difference between "old millennials" and "young millennials".

As someone who graduated directly into Thatcher's Britain and consequentially can't stand to be labeled a "Baby Boomer", I feel for him or her.

They argue that there's a split that occurred due to the introduction of the iPhone (2007) and the Great Recession (2008) that caused a major difference in young people's outlooks.  I can believe that; it seems more likely that cell-phone availability and job insecurity is a much likelier contributor to cautious vs. risk-taking personality than the arbitrary Arabic numeral group giving your birth cohort.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It Might Get Loud, Revisited

When It Might Get Loud came out in 2009, I was just getting into Jack White’s music and at the peak of a rediscovered Led Zeppelin fanaticism. I loved the hell out of the idea of the film. Thesis: take three guitarists and examine the role of rock guitar in music, and what drives the players to learn and excel at it – starring Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge.

The premiere was in LA and when I phoned up for tickets, they said there were two premieres. I asked what the difference was, and she didn’t tell me the truth, which is how come I went to the second premiere that didn’t have Jimmy Page and Jack White in attendance. But never mind! I saw it another two or three times in the cinema, and then bought the DVD. I gushed about it several times on my blog, and other bloggers – cooler heads, one might say – did try to tell me it wasn’t very good, but I wasn’t having any of it.

I re-watched it just now. There’s things I still love about it. Jack’s laconic gunslinger outsider shtick, Jimmy’s palpable excitement at listening to Link Wray’s Rumble and his enthusiasm with the other players; Edge’s self-deprecation and brief Wanderer-of-the-Wasteland episode ending when the looming tangle of trees suddenly resolves into perfect rows with clear paths between them; the cows listening to Jack’s Diddly Bow; the slide guitar jam near the end; the White Stripes performing for a room full of puzzled Chelsea Pensioners. And although the three men seem to be mostly there because they were the three who answered the phone, rather than anyone’s idea of a broad selection, they settle into their roles as Jack (heart), Edge (head) and Jimmy (groin).

The cooler heads were right, however. The exercise was flawed in numerous ways. Neither producer Thomas Tull nor director Davis Guggenheim demonstrate an understanding of the guitar nor are they able to pull together a cohesive account of the electric guitar or its place in rock. The narrative used is a three-act drama, which means that at the top of the second act, someone had to have a crisis, reach rock bottom and be forced to develop new strengths to overcome adversity and ultimately triumph. This is a really strange thing to have in the middle of a factual film that is not a biography. It’s shoehorned in by bending poor old self-effacing Edge’s story, having him go into exile to learn songwriting skills. Which he does, but the sought-for emotional catharsis is blunted by its artificiality. As a more concrete example of a flaw, Jimmy’s first electric guitar is labeled onscreen a ‘Stratocaster’ even though it’s a Grazioso, and Jimmy was one of the least likely rock musicians to be seen with a Strat at any point in his career.

More obviously (and loudly) two of the three guitarists refuse to stick with the script. Jack’s first love is the drums, and he’s portrayed as switching to guitar mostly because his upholsterer boss Brian Muldoon already played drums and he wanted to jam. Apart from a fair amount of drumming, the bulk of Jack’s music in the film is thumped out on piano, so Guggenheim must have been overjoyed to get hold of the footage of him bleeding for his art all over a guitar pickguard. Jimmy loves guitars – literally – but spends a lot of time talking about producing music (mostly drum sounds) and plays a lovely mandolin bit. At least he can tell his spooky story about the guitar “intervention” when his first guitar turned up mysteriously in his house just as he became interested in music. Edge sticks to guitar, but his style – very simple riffs compounded into lacy ruffles by echo, delay and other effects – means that the film spends most of its time marveling at his equipment and following his guitar tech around.

The ’summit’, where all three guitarists meet for the first time, with their equipment set up around them, is evidently supposed to be a climax. In the event, all three seem a little shy, and you watch The Edge, ever eager to please, trying to keep the conversation going by asking Jimmy questions but aware that he needs to avoid the minefield of disallowed inquiries that have tripped up many a professional journalist and gotten them yelled at by an irate Page. (He steps in it with the Kinks question, but manages to get out with both feet intact.) They demonstrate one of their famous riffs each, teach it to the others, and then join in on the ultimate song of the movie. It’s… The Weight, that old chestnut, played on acoustic guitars, and there’s nothing about it that you wouldn’t see at any house party where three or more of your friends brought or found an acoustic instrument and downed sufficient beers to have a loose jam.

It’s worth watching, because we care about the people and what they have accomplished, but as a movie, alas, it’s strictly third-tier.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lawn Maintenance

Since the media still loves divide and conquer tactics - as both attacked and attackers will click on the content - Boomers vs. Millennials is one of today's big Let's-You-And-Him-Fight matches.  I'm not happy with being shown how to hate on a daily basis, but it is - as the annoying Gen X folks always used to say - what it is. 

Just this month I've seen the following headlines:

Sorry Millennials, Boomers May Be Better Drivers Than You

I found a couple of more recent articles about inter-generational sniping in my bookmarks. Anyone who's amused by the current Millennial/Baby Boomer social media battles might find them familiar.

The first one is from the New Statesman.

"The growing public approval of anti-culture is itself, I think, a reflection of the new cult of youth. Bewildered by a rapidly changing society, excessively fearful of becoming out of date, our leaders are increasingly turning to young people as guides and mentors. If youth likes the Bieb, then it must be good, and clever men must rationalize this preference in intellectually respectable language. Indeed, the supreme crime, in politics and culture alike, is not to be “off the hizzle”."

Actually, I changed four words there. The original is from Bill Deedes (b. 1913) throwing shade at the Beatles in 1964. It's a great piece of sniffy fuddy-duddyism. It's worth a glance at the whole thing.

And from a decade later, we get another Bill - this time it's Grundy - tipsily attempting to out-snark Siouxsie Sioux and the Sex Pistols (Rotten, Jones and Matlock) on his TV show in 1976. The show was a disaster for the Pistols, as most of the country weirdly sided with Grundy (b. 1923) and the Pistols subsequently found themselves persona non grata, but at the time it was hilarious.

"GRUNDY: It's what?
ROTTEN: Nothing. A rude word. Next question.
GRUNDY: No, no, what was the rude word?
GRUNDY: Was it really? Good heavens, you frighten me to death.
ROTTEN: Oh alright, Siegfried...
GRUNDY: [Turning to those standing behind the band] What about you girls behind?
MATLOCK: He's like yer dad, isn't 'e, this geezer?
GRUNDY: Are you, er...
MATLOCK: Or your granddad."
Transcript from The Guardian 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Black is black (I'm feeling blue)

Remember the blue and black (or, for some, white and gold) dress from two years ago?

At the time, I said on this blog,

The picture was 'obviously' light blue and gold - to me. I assumed the people who saw black and blue were somehow processing the white balance in their heads, which is pretty damned clever. It's as though they weren't seeing what color the picture was, but estimating what color the real dress is and reading it back without realizing that's not what was on the monitor. The real dress is, equally obviously, blue and black.
But apparently, I couldn't have said that, because nobody knew how color perception worked at that time, at least according to this Slate researcher.

Two Years Later, We Finally Know Why People Saw “The Dress” Differently
Remember “the dress”? It disrupted our understanding of color, and, yes, it took science two years to catch up.
No one had any idea why some people see “the dress” differently than others—we arguably still don’t fully understand it. It was like discovering a new continent.
Two years later we have a much better idea of what may have been a reason for the varied perceptions: People’s perceived color is also informed by their perception of lighting. And the image of the dress, taken on a cellphone, contained a lot of uncertainty in terms of lighting conditions. Was it taken inside or outside? This matters because it implies artificial or natural light. Was the dress illuminated from the front or the back? This matters because if it was back-lit, it would be in a shadow, otherwise not.
I'm glad they cleared that up. 


Friday, April 07, 2017

Dexter Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets

The Flat Duo Jets in a movie called Athens, GA: Inside/Out which is apparently from around 1987.

Wild Wild Lover from a 1990 Letterman show.

I may have posted this before, but here is an MTV video from the 80s, interviewing Dex Romweber in his little house, "The Maus".

It's sub five minutes of rock and roll background and a ramp to great tunes. It's the one I love the most.

I saw Dex in 2010 and he's touring now. Don't hesitate.

Monday, April 03, 2017


I joined http://mastodon.social . If you're my friend here and you want to be included, why not join and follow? I'm LyleHopwood there. :)

It promises to have fewer assholes and more granularity than Twitter, but I'm yet to experience that because I don't have any friends. Luckily there is a timeline that streams everything 'local' so if I want to respond to a stranger's post, I can. (And they can respond to mine.)

I haven't found a button to share these posts to Mastodon yet. It's kinda new.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pictures from the Phoenix trip

More from the Phoenix trip. 

Phoenix's mountains are fossilized Sorting Hats. 

The aquarium has some nice jellyfish, among other things. (I went to the zoo too, but didn't take any photos.)

The Trump billboard went up the day I arrived and generated a lot of buzz. What the articles didn't show is the billboard is in an artist's community, not over a main highway. 

 The back of the billboard.

The billboard has since been vandalized, hey, it's the libs who always cause the property damage, son, the right wing people always respect property. 

A screen in Taliesin West. I assume the decoration is a representation of the property. I forgot to ask.

The legendary Sa Gyu Ro cactus of the S'Morean dessert.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reduced Power Research

The Washington Post recently changed its motto to "Democracy Dies in Darkness". It's hard to tell whether that's a claim or a prophecy. The government is trying to make it literal, by reducing HHS grants for light.  Statnews reports that HHS Sec Tom Price wishes to reduce support for "indirect expenses" or "overheads" in research.

Price repeatedly suggested reducing the amount the NIH pays universities to cover “overhead” costs, like lab equipment and utilities. That would let the agency direct more of its funds to actual research, even if the overall budget were reduced, he said.
“I was struck by one thing at NIH,” Price said, “and that is that about 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which as you know means that that money goes for something other than the research that’s being done.”

"Indirect expenses" has a specific meaning to a businessman. They're things that cannot be directly linked to the product being manufactured. For example, they include electricity, rent, and telephone costs. His accountant will treat them differently from direct costs - for example, what accounting period the incurred cost hits the books, which affects spreadsheets and the bottom line. There are tax implications. I think indirect costs (unlike direct) are tax deductible. Usually a business will develop a costs rate. If indirect costs are normally say 30% of overall costs, then a change to 35% may need investigation to see if there is impending trouble.

If a researcher writes a paper, it's trivially true that institutional electricity and telephone costs can't be linked directly to the conclusion of the paper. However, it's also fucking trivially true that without them, the research can't be conducted and the paper can't be written. Every businessman knows this - that's why they keep an eye on the rate, not suddenly decide to defund indirect costs. What the hell are universities going to do if they lose support for rent because it's 'indirect'?

These people are as crazy as junebugs.

Never mind, we can all start using this: 

Drug costs, another one of my bugbears.

One of the reasons cited for high drug costs is the cost of developing a new drug. I've seen figures of up to $1.52.6 billion per marketed drug.  (Article here at Forbes.)

The New York Times reports on a new treatment for eczema, which costs $37,000 per year.

However, a paper by the London School of Economics provides ample evidence that this high cost of R&D is as they say, a "myth".  Or rather, creative accounting.  Warning: PDF. I'm not going to try to summarize it but if drug costs are of concern to you, it's worth reading in full. 

Book learnin', 45 style

A couple of presidential tweets that show it is possible for him to learn - if he's forced to read something out loud. 

Fungicidal mania

So I have a toenail...condition. To cure it you have to use a special nail polish with fungicide in it that you have to paint on every day for a year. It has a 17% cure rate. (No, I didn't mistype that. After a year, one in five or so people are cured.) I'm on month 7 (nothing so far!) and got a refill today.
The pharmacist handed it over to me and said, "That'll be $63.99." 

I gasped. "Didn't the insurance cover it? They've always covered it before."

He looked at it wonderingly and said, "It didn't go through insurance. That's the cash price." He then pressed the various buttons to get it to go through insurance. "Okay, that'll be five bucks."

"Ah, that's better," I said, paying up.

But that's not the whole story. Because he handed me the "cash price" invoice at first, it had different information on it to the Full Price/Copay slip I usually get. The cash price invoice said,

**Congratulations! By using a generic you've saved $1563.97! Cash price $63.99**

I take that to mean I gasped at the sixty dollar price of Cic******, the generic drug, but the brand name drug, Pe****, had been priced at $1627.96. Since they last about two months, a year's worth is $9767.76.

You have a 17% chance of curing toenail fungus if you spend ten thousand bucks. This is why generic drug manufacturers can jack up their prices - they know brand name drugs are even more expensive. (Though this manufacturer is asking a fair price at around $60.)

I may have missed out a couple of swears in my transcript of the conversation up there.

Stonehenge tunnel still a bad idea

Stonehenge tunnel: UNESCO doesn't like it either.

BBC News link.

Dumbo Octopus swimming

I think this may be a dumbo octopus. Aren't they cute?

Lyme Disease vaccines

I used to work with Lyme testing and it's a pleasure to read something in the news about Dr. Alan Steere again. it's less of a pleasure to read that his expertise has gone to waste in one area because people are easily led.

Why your dog can get vaccinated against Lyme Disease and you can't

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Phoenix, Arizona part II

Continued from part I

The other school mentioned in Alma Mater (the School's Out album track) is of course Cortez.

I always go to the really highbrow cultural places when I'm on me hols. 

The song lyrics say, "We got no principals", but Cortez nowadays has a principal, and a psychologist (probably necessary). 

After that, perhaps tiring of the hurly-burly of high culture, we went to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, the winter home of his architectural school. (Which, on contemplating some of the things the tour guide said, was as close to a cult as you could come and still be respected.) It's still a school and the students still spend summers in Wisconsin and then pick up and spend winters in Phoenix, in a house they design and build themselves as part of the course, which seems admirably grounded. 

Looking out of the front door of Taliesin West, you can see Camelback (the hump is behind the sa gyu ro cactus, head towards the right), where Alice Cooper's famous school lies. 

And facing the opposite way, the main building of Taliesin West. Among hundreds of other facts, the tour guide said that the stone and concrete foundations and translucent-blind covered roofs were put down first but it was years before the glass was put in. I find it really hard to imagine working with large pieces of architectural paper with the desert wind (and rain) howling through the four or five foot gap between the wall and roof, but that's what she said. 

It also took years to get a well drilled and get this pool filled. And don't even think about the students digging latrines for the first couple decades. 

The tour is completely fascinating and to be recommended. 

And last but not least, STB taking his oath of citizenship in Phoenix. Due to the odd logistics, I wasn't very close to him, but he's in there somewhere. 

Phoenix, Arizona

I spent the weekend of 17 March in Phoenix. I traveled to witness STB take his oath as an American citizen.

A bird's nest in a cactus in Phoenix. 


Disappointingly, Phoenix's mountains are mostly piles of decomposed granite with pebbles in. What gives?

The mighty Sa Gyu Ro. I first came to Phoenix in the nineties, when a Grateful Dead fan convinced me to come to Tempe to see the band.  At that point I'd lived in the states for about ten years (and of course had heard of some aspects before then), but she was in a good mood and wanted to point out all the authentically American things around.  "This," she said, pointing at one of these in the photo, "Is the Sonoran SA GYU RO cactus." Dead heads turned. One said, loudly, "SA HWA RO cactus."

It's a Saguaro. I knew it and vaguely how to pronounce it before then, but this really rubbed it in. 

Important stop in Phoenix. This is Camelback High School, made famous in Alice Cooper's songs. It's one of the two schools that were *out* in School's Out, and namechecked in another song on the album, Alma Mater. The mountain just visible behind it is...guess...Camelback Mountain. 

Bye, United Kingdom

It's beyond breathtaking to me to realize that British politicians still have no idea - none at all - what they've got themselves into with Brexit. 40 years of mutuality and common law-making to undo in two years, based on the passing wishes of 52% of the voting public (who were not informed of the technicalities beforehand.)

I guess it's irreversible now as Article 50 is to be invoked within hours, but shit, what a terrible way for a country to die. 

According to Alan Ferrier (@alanferrier)David Davis said on March 16th: 

I has walked a trail

I spent the March 11 weekend exploring a trail in Casper's Park, Orange County. I used to work there - yes, inside the park, as it wasn't always a park and canny businesses bought land while it was permitted.

It's been raining quite a bit, and so the creek needed a bit of creative jumping from rock to rock but once up the hill, there's an excellent view. 

My workplace was the glass building just under the two water storage units, in the center of this picture. Can't ask for a more peaceful and contemplative place to work. 

Always with the wild cucumber on these walks. Though this is the first time I've seen an actual cucumber on the vine. 

Gattaca, anyone?

A new bill in town, H.R.1313 - Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. These 'wellness' programs already let employers do "voluntary" health testing on employees or charge a penalty fee. With the new law, they would be allowed to test for genetic issues.
According to Stat,

“What this bill would do is completely take away the protections of existing laws,” said Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a civil rights group. In particular, privacy and other protections for genetic and health information in GINA and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act “would be pretty much eviscerated,” she said.

Recite the names of the Wi Fi

Via Simon Coffey (@urbanautomaton) who said:

someone at the British Library is doing fine work 

The Kills: Impossible Tracks (Video Late Show February 2017)

Internet of shit

The internet of things.  All fun until the kid three doors down kills you with your garage door opener.

I stayed in a hotel with Android lightswitches and it was just as bad as you'd imagine

Trump tyke

See the kid apparently flash a "white power" sign (fingers making a W and a P) in front of the president towards his (all white) tour group. At 38 seconds in in this NYT video.

Alien organism injected into the body politic

Never heard a Right Winger use the alien/germ metaphor in a positive way before. Suspect a paradigm shift in memes is coming up. Chilling ten second video at link. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Video: The Kills,Eurockéennes, 2016.

The Kills play the Eurockéennes de Belfort in France, 2016.

One and three quarter hours of prime Kills.

You owe it to yourselves to listen to the Kills.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Peromyscus, not as cuddly as it sounds

This blog is named for the mice that carry Lyme disease, because I used to work in Lyme disease detection, from 1989 to 1995 or so. At the time, Lyme was quite mysterious and largely confined to a small area of the eastern US. Since then, it's exploded. Detection and treatment haven't gotten much better but the mouse that carries it - Peromyscus - has done very well for itself.

NPR just published an article on Lyme, its expansion, and how to protect yourself here.  (Photo by Stephen Reiss, from the article.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Compulsive believers

Kept seeing this quote and finally found out where it came from. It's a Guardian article. 

"Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world."

What happened today?

Here's another 'what's happening' website. 


One thing I've learned over the past couple of presidencies is that few people can remember what things were like 'before'. The flood of people saying 'this is not normal' as things happened over the first few days of 45's presidency was...not normal. It's worth memorializing these things so we can assess what has happened - even if it's become normal by then - for the midterms in 2018.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Two weeks in

I'm not seeing as many daily 'what's happening' posts on Facebook, or I'd post them. Jeff Mueller is posting them daily on his blog, but I can't work out how to contact him to copy them here.

For the time being, you can read them there https://jeffmueller.net/2017/02/.

I may crack and just copy them all later.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Four days in...


Those who study authoritarian regimes suggest keeping a list of abnormal events after a demagogue is elected, as a way to remind yourself that this isn't normal and to keep from being overwhelmed into acceptance by the onslaught of attacks on our rights.

Here is a list below. We are 4 days in.

(Note to future historians, if there are any, "DT" is President Donald Trump.)

As the author says, "when you see all of this in one list, it is easy to get overwhelmed, at first-- it is also easy to see a pattern and to finally, finally recognize that none of this is normal, nor is it ok."

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is of the 2009 inauguration of 44th President Barack Obama, and is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources. (from a friend)

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