Wednesday, 22 June 2011

dorothy l sayers' parody gospel; russell brand's light quote

Two things from the new-to-me Sceptical Believer blog, Life and Faith:

Russell Brand on Celebrity - an item on a Russell Brand appearance on Newsnight in October last year, being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, featuring a quote a version of which I've seen a couple of times since: 'Someone told me once that all desire is the desire to be at one with God in substitute form. So perhaps we can draw attention not to the shadow on the wall but to the source of light itself.'

A Parody of the Gospel - by Dorothy L Sayers, in a catechism format, which is interesting. He said he'd found it in a book, I asked which, and he answered, info in the comments, with a link to this Amazon page.

sharp's, including photos

Went to Sharp's last night, and sang The Willing Conscript (from Pete Seeger CD, I thought it was his song but Googling just now indicates it seems to have been written by Tom Paxton) in the first half and The Death of Queen Jane (Karine Polwart version) in the second half.

I wasn't planning to sing, because last time I was there I made such a hash of my second song (Where Two Hawks Fly, Corries - pitched far too high; first song, I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now, Jimmie Rodgers, went okay). But we'd run out of singers before it was time for the interval and Martin was looking for anyone extra who hadn't put their name down, and I'd got some courage back by then (I'd had a mental run through a couple of possibles at lunchtime in case any circumstances arose in which I'd sing, so I was ready; and I'm alway emboldened by the others who sing, partly I think if they can do it so can I, but more that they're not afraid to have a go and get things wrong). They went fine; I pitched them okay, always the biggest danger, and I remembered all the words. It wasn't a packed night, but there were good performances and, as ever, both first-timers and people I'd never seen before who were well-known to some of the folk there (which isn't a great surprise since I'm not very regular).

A couple of times when I've been to Sharp's recently someone's been taking photos, and a set from my second-last visit have appeared on Flickr here, taken by YetiBait (some of the other photos suggest he was there with the folk choir who sang that evening). There are three of me, all taken during the first half, at the time of the non-dreadful song; two out of the three are me getting ready to sing, one is me singing; probably the best one is the one with my hand in front of my face, but it's not saying much. Some of the other photos are pretty good, though; they give a good flavour, and it probably helps being black and white.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

tiananmen square tank man photos

Two interesting related articles from New York Times photo blog re photos of the man in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square, the second on a much less familiar photo:
3 June 2009 - Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen
4 June 2009 - Behind the Scenes: A New Angle on History

famous album cover kids, then and now

Where Are the Famous Album Cover Kids Now?
- Slate, 17 June 2011. Photo feature of then and now.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

yoyo eskimo + the white hart gang + lace & whiskey

On Thursday, after church prayer meeting, I went up to the Hope and Anchor for a cheap evening of three bands I'd never heard of (I listened to snippets of tracks on their Myspace pages earlier) - £6 entry, plus £1.80 for a half of cider.

The Hope & Anchor website listed the event (fairly accurately) thus:
TBC + Yoyo Eskimo + The White Hart Gang + Lace & Whiskey
Yoyo E-Dark synth pop Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode etc plus more left field stuff like Cabaret Voltaire, an experimental edge, but it's still pop.
WHG-British indie a la Editors (musically) meets Arctic Monkeys (vocally)... a Doyle & The Fourfathers type charm here and some good ideas.
L & W-Acoustic man/woman duo...bluesy numbers and commercial pop songs to go...

The Yoyo Eskimo chap mentioned that they were originally meant to be the main support act, don't know why the main act never came off (but they weren't on the poster in the venue).

I'm not sure the Hope and Anchor is a destination venue that people have ambitions of playing on their way upwards, although its got its history going for it, but it's certainly a place for clocking up some gigging hours.

It was a very enjoyable evening, and I think I was home before eleven (not sure if this would have been the case if there had been four acts as originally planned).

Lace & Whiskey were an Englishman with an acoustic guitar and an American woman with an electric guitar. He came and spoke to me after they'd been on, thanking me for coming to hear them (as with the second support act, I was the only person in the room not a band member or a close friend of one of the bands - again, perhaps the clocking up of gigging hours is more important than getting new people along); if he was disappointed that I wasn't a music industry professional, he didn't show it. The big things in their favour were that they had proper songs with tunes and structure, and that they sang in harmony quite a lot of the time, and that they had charm and good humour, clearly enjoying themselves (I said most of these things to the chap). The songs were quite a mixture of country, rock and pop, which was fine by me. Sometimes the sound of the electric and acoustig guitars didn't quite mesh - not that they were out of tune but that it felt like they weren't playing in the same room, different in sound and tone. They seemed less technically proficient than, say, the other two bands on the night, but that didn't feel very important. You can't fail to be impressed by a woman who claps her hands above her head to get the crowd clapping along with a song, when that crowd consists of about ten people, and who gets them to do it. If I saw them on a bill again, I'd expect them to have improved technically, to still be playing good songs, and to be entertaining; I'm not sure I'd be buying a CD of theirs yet, but I'd enjoy them again live.

The White Hart Gang were electric, acoustic and bass guitar (there was some swopping of electric and acoustic), and playing without their drummer for some reason. They were technically proficient, but unremarkable (studenty, indie); crucially, they didn't really have songs, in particular melodies. One of the things which going to these kinds of gigs has impressed upon me is how much easier it is to be technically proficient than it is to be able to write songs. I wouldn't seek them out again.

Yoyo Eskimo were drums, bass, electric guitar and synthesiser (the last two swopped a couple of times). Quite a retro style of synthesiser sound, indie pop. Not only technically proficient, very polished, at ease on stage, but again proper songs with tunes and structure, and harmonies. I could imagine listening to what I heard then on a CD at home, and could imagine them becoming successful. A lot more people came in to hear them (all relative, of course - only around fifteen there for the first two, perhaps thirty by the end of the night) - a good chance that most of the new arrivals were friends of the band, but interestingly most of them were women. I'm sure I've heard it said that if you can get women out to your gigs you're on the path to success. From reading websites subsequently, it seems that this was Yoyo Eskimo emerging in a new form out of another band ('folk-pop quintet Lion O’Brien') after some time rehearsing and recording, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed this was an early performance by them (nor that they had been folk-pop).

The Myspace addresses: Yoyo Eskimo; The White Hart Gang; Lace and Whiskey. On Facebook, YYE and WHG. On Twitter, YYE and WHG. This Town Is Folly blog coverage, under New Band Watch heading, of YYE. And two Docklands newspaper articles on Lace and Whiskey: funnily enough I'd wondered what had brought the two performers together and it turns out from the articles in The Wharf and The Docklands that they both work at the offices of the Financial Ombudsman.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

uk life expectancy map

A UK life expectancy map on the Guardian, 8 June. Not looking good for Hebrideans or Glaswegians. Full data here.

terry pratchett quote

Have you worked out how you want to be celebrated when you die? A long pause: 'Not really... someone else is going to have to do that. But I believe the universe has purpose and form and possibly something behind it - and it is an amazingly splendid place. The point is, if there's nothing, there's nothing to worry about - and if there's something, it's bound to be interesting.'
- from an interview article with Terry Pratchett, Radio Times, 11 June 2011, tying in with a programme he is presenting on assisted suicide (which he, who has Alzheimer's, is in favour of). He'll get drummed out of the BHA and NSS if he's not careful.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

made up joke party

Made Up Joke Party - a website collecting together made up jokes from the feature on the Adam and Joe 6Music radio show.

why idolise footballers?

Why idolise footballers? It's like living in a world where half of us worship shire horses. Society rewards athletes with astronomical sums. It's wonky and demented, but that's the way it is
- Charlie Brooker, Guardian, 30 May

I don't have kids, but I know enough about parenting to state the following with confidence: any parent who is genuinely concerned that their child's worldview might be hopelessly altered by the unruly behaviour of a footballer has failed as a parent.

stornoway street names spreadsheet

You can't tell, I don't think, who has made this or where it is linked from, but this is an interesting spreadsheet of Stornoway street names and their origins.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

'he never went into his basement'

The Charles Dickens Museum Guide says this:
The rooms in the basement would have been used mostly by the servants. A later resident of Doughty Street, Dickens's friend Edmund Yates, recorded that he never went into his basement, 'but I believe the kitchen was pronounced by the servants to be "stuffy", and the whole place "ill-convenient".'

- quite an insight into Victorian life (and perhaps life in any servant era), the idea that you'd never have been in one whole floor of the house which was yours. The Museum is the house in Doughty Street, which I visited today, where Dickens lived 1837-39, writing Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, among other things, there (more information on Wikipedia). They've got a new cafe at the back since I was there many years ago, and fundraising for more changes to come. Quite a bit of the stuff was away at an exhibition, and there wasn't much there anyway. It had been lived in quite thoroughly after his departure, but is I think his only surviving London home.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

dumb britain

I'll be reading this in Private Eye before long, but this extract from Dumb Britain was reproduced in the June Ansible:
_Anne Robinson:_ 'In 2006, the _Star Wars_ character voted the most annoying film character ever was Jar Jar ... what? _Contestant:_ 'Gabor.' _Anne Robinson:_ 'The road known as Watling Street, which now incorporates part of the A5, was built by which
ancient civilization?' _Contestant:_ 'Apes.' (_The Weakest Link_, BBC1) [PI]

'I'm sorry, women'

I read the first volume of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney, this evening, and quite enjoyed it. This bit, after Greg's big brother lets little brother get hold of a heavy metal magazine with a picture of a lady in a bikini lying on a car, made me laugh:

Rodrick's punishment was that he had to answer a bunch of questions Mom had written out for him.
Did owning this magazine make you a better person? No.
Did it make you more popular at school? No.
How do you feel about having owned this type of magazine now? Ashamed.
Do you have anything you want to say to women for having owned this offensive magazine? I'm sorry, women.

Friday, 3 June 2011

murray walker's previous careers

Murray Walker rose to fame as a Formula One commentator, as well as creating slogans such as 'Opal Fruits: made to make your mouth water' during a stint in advertising. But the veteran pundit has now confessed to a less mouth-watering habit in the past - eating cat food. 'I used to sell pet food and if they were suspicious about the quality and they queried it we would open the can of Kit-e-Kat and eat it in front of them,' he said. Daily Express P15
- Media Guardian email, 1 June

Fifth of London commuters take over an hour to get to work

London workers are suffering "nightmare" long commutes in appallingly overcrowded carriages, official figures reveal today. (Evening Standard, 2 June)

Metropolitan Police officers on the beat warning

Political desire to see more police on the street must not reduce the Metropolitan Police's overall capability, a report has cautioned. (BBC, 1 June)

A city of children who cannot read

London is in the grip of a literacy crisis. One million people in this great city cannot read. (Evening Standard, 31 May - first of a series)