Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whatever happened to Erin Pizzey?

Remember Erin Pizzey? Back in 1971 she opened Britain's first shelter for battered women in Goldhawk Road, West London. She founded the charity Refuge and set up other shelters despite official hostility, eventually winning over the government and being praised by Jack Ashley in the House of Commons in 1975 as follows:

"The work of Mrs. Pizzey was pioneering work of the first order. It was she who first identified the problem, who first recognised the seriousness of the situation and who first did something practical by establishing the Chiswick aid centre. As a result of that magnificent pioneering work, the whole nation has now come to appreciate the significance of the problem".

So why does her name appear nowhere on Refuge's website, not even in the section dealing with its history? (See here, noting especially paragraphs 11 and 12!) And what is she doing now?

Well, not long after opening her first women's refuge Pizzey realised that domestic violence wasn't just about men battering women, but that women also abused men. Sometimes the female victims of violence turned out to have been far from passive victims but to have been dealing out violence themselves: of course in a women's refuge she was only seeing one of the victims in such cases. In other cases women were abusing their male partners and not suffering violence themselves. Pizzey co-authored a research study Comparative Study Of Battered Women And Violence-Prone Women (with Dr. John Gayford of Warlingham Hospital), subsequently turned into a book Prone To Violence. And something interesting happened: the women's movement rounded on her. She and her family received death threats (her family pet was actually killed). Eventually she was forced to emigrate to New Mexico for her and their safety. She was, as we have seen, written out of Refuge's history. Without wishing to sound like a conspiracy theorist, in 1997 a search of all libraries world wide which could be accessed via the Inter-Library Loan scheme (which is all academic libraries and many others) turned up only 13 copies of Prone To Violence. The Library of Congress didn't have one until the person doing the survey donated them his own. Should you wish to read it, it can be found online in its entirety here. Pizzey's own description of this time was published in the Scotsman in 1999.) By 1997 she felt safe enough to return to Britain, where she continues to write (these days fiction as well as non-fiction).

Having realised that domestic violence is not simply a gender issue, Erin Pizzey has continued to work with its victims and is now a patron of the charity Mankind Initiative. Let me quote here what they are about:

The ManKind Initiative is committed to:

•Ensuring that all victims of domestic abuse receive the help that they need.
•Removing gender, sexual orientation and race as barriers to receiving help.
•Ensuring that all children witnessing or suffering from domestic abuse access the help that they need.
•Challenging gender specific policies as they are counter-productive to solving the social problems of domestic abuse.
•Ensuring that safe houses are made available to all victims.
•Removing gender politics from the issue of domestic abuse and ensuring that men and women work together.

As part of this work they have published a report Male Victims of Domestic Abuse: The Challenge They Face (available here). A few facts from it:

  • at least 40% of victims of domestic violence are men
  • 1 in 6 men will be victims of domestic violence at some time in their lives
  • in the UK there are over 470 refuges for women but only two dedicated refuges for men, one of which is specifically for gay men (with the other one being in Wales).

So far so good, but much remains to be done, especially in Scotland where I live. Not only do we have no shelters for male victims of domestic abuse, there is as yet no Scottish regional branch of the Mankind Initiative. Which is not to say that nobody else is tackling the issue, or that nobody is trying to bring it to the attention of the government. Here, for example, is a petition calling on the Scottish Government to ensure than all publicly finded actions recognise that men as well as women can be victims of domestic abuse. Anyone can sign it, and I urge all my readers to do so, and to bring it to their friends' attention.

One of the organisers of the petition is a friend of mine and drew my attention to this new blog. The hope is that it will provide a forum where Scottish male domestic abuse victims and their supporters can discuss issues and co-ordinate action. Watch this space.


A reader has pointed out to me (via email) that not only does the Refuge site show the way in which you can be edited out of history for telling unpalatable truths, it also begins with a dodgy statistic. Paragraph #1 at the link above states that:

Domestic violence kills more 19-44 year old women than any other cause, including cancer, traffic accidents and war

That may seem a little exaggerated - and it is. Here is a link to a BBC radio programme which discusses the statistic in some detail (listen from about 1:45 to 10:45). I'm not suggesting the exaggeration originated with Refuge, but they certainly haven't corrected it. As for Refuge's paragraphs #9 and #10:

Any woman can experience domestic violence regardless of her age, background, income or education

Any man can be an abuser, whether he’s a high court judge, teacher or mechanic

(emphases added by me)

.....those simply perpetuate the falsehood-by-omission (what the legal profession terms suppresio veri) which my post - and the linked petition - is attempting to put right.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The official, the alternative, and the sick

For some of us, the passing of Tony Blair as Prime Minister was sad because it meant an end to the St Albion's Parish News columns in Private Eye, where the sanctimonious creep was regularly lampooned.

Still, for anyone who wants a good laugh, here is the Pretty Straight Guy delivering himself of a Christmas message. Because, of course, we were all waiting for that with bated breath. Unbelievable. Literally unbelievable: one need only apply the Richard Nixon "Would you buy a used car from this man?" test as you watch. He certainly oozes something, but it isn't inner conviction.

At least Her Majesty has people who know about aspect ratios, unlike the Blair groupuscules at the "Tony Blair Office" Youtube group. (It appears to be connected to Blair's site at www.tonyblairoffice.org, though the one at www.tonyblairoffice.org.uk is both funnier and more realistic. It appears however that TB's broadcast is actually genuine.) And unlike Blair, she at least gives the impression of caring about someone besides herself.

Meanwhile, anyone wishing a genuine alternative to the Queen's message, here is someone genuinely inspiring delivering the Channel 4 version. Sadly, Tony Blair in his inglorious career contributed far more to putting people into Katie's sutuation than he did to relieving their suffering. "Do what we can to show our love for His creation and for our fellow humans", forsooth (from the sainted Tony's message). Pass the bucket.

I wonder whether Pongo the Rubovian dragon knew the Clangers Soup Dragon?

Joe recently posted on cartoons and puppets from his televisual childhood, and asked what our own memories were. I started to write a comment but by the time I'd hooked in the Youtube clips it was getting too long, so here are some of my own childhood memories.

Like Joe's other correspondents, when I was little we got the Hanna-Barbera cartoons (Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Deputy Dawg, Top Cat etc etc), and indeed a lot of American sitcoms like Mr Ed, My Favorite Martian, and The Beverly Hillbillies (though without the embedded ads in our case).

We had Tom & Jerry, and at weekends we got Bugs Bunny and his gang (which is where my abiding love for Wily E Coyote was born).

More local cartoon/puppet products were Noggin the Nog

and later Clangers

which were just the best ever.

There was also Captain Pugwash. Back in the day, he was in black and white and done with cardboard cut-outs, more like a puppet show than what we would thnk of as a cartoon. Still, Youtube only has the slightly higher-tech version.

Then there was Rubovia, which was pretty weird stuff:

And finally the Gerry & Sylvia Anderson puppetry stable, from Supercar through to Thunderbirds via Fireball XL5 and Stingray.

They don't write theme music like that any more!

Does Anyone Know If There Is A Part For Me?....

Just found this on Joe's blog and couldn't resist reposting it. Funnily enough I hadn't seen it before.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ho ho ho

A merry Christmas to all our readers, even the ones who have arrived here while Googling for sites they expect to hate (for example Zionists, Tony Blair groupies, Islamophobes, fundamentalists of any persuasion, anti-nuclear campaigners, union-bashers, etc etc).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign, in Israeli jail

See email below from the Stop The Wall campaign.

Ah, how sweet to live in "the only democracy in the region": that is, if "democracies" have political prisoners seized by soldiers in the middle of the night and held indefinitely without charging them or allowing them access to legal representation. Democracy my arse. It's easy to concentrate one's ire on Israel's behaviour towards those in the Occupied Territories and forget that live is hardly a bed of roses for a non-Jew in Israel itself.


Jamal Juma’ was arrested by Israeli authorities on December 16. This latest arrest is yet another escalation of Israel’s attack on Palestinian human rights defenders and clamp down on the right to freedom of expression and the right to association.

Israeli security first summoned Juma’ for interrogation at midnight of December 15. Hours later, they brought him back to his home. Juma’ was handcuffed while soldiers searched his house for two hours as his wife and three young children looked on helplessly. The parting words of the soldiers were directed at his wife: she would only see her husband again through a prisoner exchange. Since then, Juma’ has been detained, and banned from speaking to a lawyer or his family, with no explanation for his arrest.

Jamal, 47 years old, was born in Jerusalem and has dedicated his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. The main focus of his work is on empowering local communities to defend their human rights in the face of violations brought about by the occupation. He is a founding member of a number of Palestinian NGOS and civil society networks. Juma' has been the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign since 2002. He is widely respected for his work and has been invited to address numerous civil society and UN conferences. His articles and interviews are widely published and his work has been translated into several languages. As a highly visible figure, Juma’ has never attempted to hide or disguise his activities.

Jamal Juma’s is the most high profile arrest within an intensifying campaign of repression of grassroots mobilization against the Wall and the settlements. Initially only arresting local activists from the villages affected by the Wall, the Israeli authorities have recently begun to shift their attention to the detention of internationally known human rights defenders such as Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh. Mohammad, another member of the Stop the Wall Campaign, was arrested nearly three months ago when returning from a speaking tour in Norway. After two months of interrogation, the Israeli authorities were still unable to find charges to level against Mohammad and therefore issued an administrative detention order so as to prevent his release. Abdallah Abu Rahma, a leading figure in the nonviolent struggle against the Wall in Bil’in, was taken from his home by masked soldiers in the middle of the night a week before Jamal was jailed.

With these arrests, Israel aims to weaken Palestinian civil society and its influence on political decision making at national and international level. This process clearly criminalizes the work of Palestinian human rights defenders and Palestinian civil disobedience.

It is crucial that the international civil society combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human rights defenders struggling against the Wall. The Israeli policy of targeting organizers calling for Israeli accountability is a direct challenge to the decisions of governments and global bodies such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. This challenge shall not go unmet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

it is better to light a lamb than to curse the darkness

Of course, when it comes to the surreal our domestic product is hard to beat (even when advertising Samsung LED lighting):

And now, fun from Switzerland

First of all, this story made me smile.

Then there's this.

And people say the Swiss are humourless!

A little shopping fun

This webpage for a Dutch department store is rather good fun. Don't click on anything, just wait. Oh, and turn your sound on.

Somewhere there is a talented programmer with time on his hands.....

It was clearly inspired by this:

...probably via this:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Benefit cheats exposed

I thought this was long overdue. "Israeli" manufacturers who actually produce goods in the occupied territories have been defrauding the UK government for too long, to say nothing of the fraud being perpetrated on the consumers.

And good to have a reminder, for the BBC and all the others for whom Israel can do no wrong and the territories are all really part of Greater Israel, that our government's position is:

The Occupied Palestinian Territories were occupied by Israel in 1967. They include the territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Settlements are Israeli communities established, usually by Israeli citizens, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (there are no longer any Israeli settlements in Gaza).

Israeli settlements in the OPT are unlawful under international law. They contravene Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory.

In addition, the Government believes that the existence – and continued growth – of Israeli settlements poses a significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This is because the settlement of occupied territories makes it more difficult to establish a viable Palestinian state. Israel has committed to freeze all settlement activity as part of previous political
agreements, such as the Roadmap of 2003 and the Annapolis Agreement of 2007. Though Israel recently announced a limited tenmonth moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank, Israel has not yet fully fulfilled its obligations under these political agreements.

That's the British Government speaking, not the Guardian, or Hamas, or the Palestine Solidarity Committee, or George Galloway. That is the view of a government which gives massive amounts of aid to Israel, which has turned a blind eye for decades to Israel's regulated and uninspected weapons of mass destruction, and which sat on its hands during the "holocaust" which was visited on the civilians of Gaza. Even our complacent, Israel-loving government doesn't pretend that the occupation is legal, or East Jerusalem is part of Israel, or that Israel hasn't consistently blocked peace for forty years by its refusal to abandon the illegal settlements.

Plane Crazy

On the topic of deluded fools, here's Debbie Schlussel, ultra-rightwing blogger, being taken for a ride by a "War On Terror" wannabe. Even when the story is comprehensively proved to be a Walter Mitty fantasy by someone who wasn't even there to watch, let alone get involved, she still believes she's the only person in the universe who knows the truth. Now she's harping on about this non-event (apart from that one report, all Google hits for "United 227" are to Schlussel's article). Hmmm...."Passengers say a bomb-sniffing dog was brought onto the plane" - so they can tell a bomb-sniffer from a drugs/cash/contraband sniffer (or indeed a dead body sniffer)? By sight? These would be the same passengers, then, who described all the men involved as "looking Middle Eastern"?

Mind you, even Schlussel's terror of Muslims is eclipsed by this seriously nasty piece of work running for Congress in Minnesota. Still, I have enough faith in Americans in gemeral to be pretty sure she hasn't a chance in hell of getting elected. (Setting myself up for a starring role in Leon Festinger's next book, I know....)

Beam us up, Tony

In the light of Tony Blair's confession in his interview with Fern Britton last week that even had he known there were no WMDs in Iraq he would still have taken Britain to war, I wondered how the diehard (not to say desperate) Blair groupies would handle the acknowledgement from his own mouth of the war crimes they keep trying to tell us are the fanciful product of a hostile press.

And of course, following the example of their glorious exemplar, their response is to lie with the barest of faces. Apparently the statement “I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously, you would have had to have used and deployed different arguments about the nature of the threat.” is to be read with the unspoken corollary "....but under those circumstances I would have been restrained by the lack of any UN Security Council authorisation for war" (though no such restraint was evident when Blair entered on his equally unauthorised crusade to remove the imaginary WMDs).

These people are a textbook example of cognitive dissonance, which is what happens when someone holds a very strong belief which is then completely contradicted by facts which they are forced to confront. Usually the sufferer either denies the facts, or denies ever having held the belief in question. The classic (and immensely readable) study on the topic is When Prophecy Fails (1956) by Leon Festinger, in which he studied a cult who believed they were to be taken away by a UFO on a certain date. His description of their responses when the date came and went (but the UFO didn't) is both interesting and entertaining: rather like the anguished writhings of our own tinfoil-hat "Keep Tony Blair for PM" brigade.

Actually, watching those writhings over the past few days, the number of references to Blair's words has fallen off (to distract attention from them, perhaps?) while we are now being urged to think that if there had been no WMDs there would have been no UN authorisation for military action: Blair could never have got Parliament to vote for the war so wouldn't have entered upon it. But there were no WMDs, there was no UN authorisation for war: Blair simply made up the first and pretended he'd had the second so as to get his vote passed. Are we supposed to believe that his belief or otherwise in their reality would have spoiled their utility as a convenient fiction? That the vilest liar ever to disgrace the office of Prime Minister would break the habit of a lifetime and tell the truth? When there was no money in it for him? Perhaps we are: we are after all expected to believe that Melanie Phillips is an "honest journalist"!

Just stating the obvious

On December 10 2009, the Jerusalem Post contained a pull-out UN poster listing the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

The poster contained no political statement, only the articles and a basic 2010 calender below them.

The front page of the JP contained the following disclaimer:

"Note to Readers: Today's Jerusalem Post includes a leaflet produced by the UN to mark Human Rights Week '09. This paid insert does not reflect the editorial positions of The Jerusalem Post. The Post takes no responsibility for the content of paid advertising/advertorial material."

Enough said.

(Hat tip: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

No fairytale ending

I found this story very sad. Sad in that a tremendous talent was taken from us all in tragic circumstances, and tragic that her family have never obtained the justice - and closure - they sought.

Here is Kirsty as we all remember her:

And again:

Incidentally, in case any of you didn't know, Kirsty's father was Ewan MacColl, doyen of the English folk revival and composer of Dirty Old Town and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. He left Kirsty's mother and ran off with Peggy Seeger (Pete's half-sister). Which is quite a story in itself.

Avoid Seetickets.com whatever you do - they are crooks

It may sound odd for me to be warning you off the company from whom I obtained my Status Quo tickets, but there is a reason. At the same time as I bought the Quo tickets, I ordered a ticket to see The Only Ones in Glasgow:

You have booked to attend THE ONLY ONES at The Garage, Glasgow on SATURDAY
12/12/2009 at 19.00

You have ordered the following tickets

Reference 23093889 - 1 STANDING at £ 18.65
Plus a Transaction fee of £ 2.25

Tickets will be despatched as soon as possible, but may not be received until the
week of the event. If your tickets haven't arrived 48 hours before the event, please
contact us.

You have been charged a total of £ 20.90 and this will appear on your statement as

To check the status of your entry tickets go to http://www.seetickets.com/tracker

This order is subject to See Tickets getting authorisation from your card issuer for
the funds requested, and the terms and conditions which can be viewed here

Which would have been fine had The Only Ones been playing Glasgow on Saturday 12/12/09. In fact they were playing in London, which fact clearly didn't stop Seetickets from offering tickets for both venues on the same night right up to last week, for example via NME Ticketline:

The Only Ones Tickets For All On-Sale Tour Dates And Concerts
NME Ticketline: 0871 230 1094

The Only Ones tickets are currently on sale! Here's the latest gig listings, and where you can buy The Only Ones concert tickets

TICKET SEARCH: Date / Time Artist Venue Town/City Buy

Dec 10, 2009 20:00 The Only Ones Brudenell Social Club Leeds Buy The Only Ones tickets
from Seetickets
Dec 11, 2009 19:30 The Only Ones The Assembly Leamington Spa Buy The Only Ones tickets
from Seetickets
Dec 12, 2009 19:00 The Only Ones The Garage Glasgow Buy The Only Ones tickets
from Seetickets
Dec 12, 2009 19:00 The Only Ones The Relentless Garage London Buy The Only Ones tickets from

So when I received a ticket for a gig 500 miles from the one I had ordered (and had confirmed) - and I should point out that the actual gig did take place in London - I attempted to contact Seetickets via their Customer Service webpage which has one of these setups where you key your message in and it's transmitted (supposedly) via the webpage rather than via email. I got no reply, so looked for a phone number. The only one is for WEST END THEATRE BOOKINGS ONLY and according to a web search is never answered anyway. Certainly not when I tried. No email address is given except for one to report software faults. I tried that (after a series of failures to send a message via the web page) and it bounced as invalid. An address I got from a web search didn't bounce, but came back with an automated response saying I should use the customer services page. I tried that again: no reply, of course.

I doubt I shall see my £20.90 again, but I am going to report this bunch of chancers to the trading standards people for offering items for sale which don't exist and then refusing refunds. If I'd done a web search before using them in the first place I would probably have run a mile, as the web is full of their customers who have had tickets delivered late or incorrectly, and have then been unable to contact anyone to complain.

Following my recent experience with ukticketweb.com, who let me down at the last minute so my group couldn't go at all to what was evidently a great Muse gig in Glasgow, I shall in future use only venues' own box offices, official festival sites, or Ticketmaster, who have never yet let me down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Status Quo / Roy Wood's Rock and Roll Band: Glasgow SECC, Sunday 13 December 2009

To Glasgow on Sunday, to see Status Quo for the second time. But not just Quo, or even mainly Quo, great live performers though they are. This show had Roy Wood's current band as support, and they did not disappoint. Wood has been one of my musical heroes since the days of The Move: the thinking man's pop musician. Then there was Wizzard, then Electric Light Orchestra, then a solo career. Actually, solo work was always dear to RW's heart: his album Boulders was one of the first one-man-playing-everything efforts, before Jon Anderson or Mike Oldfield (who didn't play everything anyway). I loved it as a student, and I love it still.

On Sunday his band played a mixture of new songs and old songs, and it was scary to hear so many of the old ones introduced as having been number ones for Wizzard or the Move. Blackberry Way, Flowers In the Rain, Fire Brigade, See My Baby Jive, Angel Fingers: all sounding as good as ever, which I suppose just goes to show (a) what well-written songs they are and (b) how much they owe to the man himself in performance. Instantly recognisable with the trademark beard and long frizzy hair (and indeed the greatcoat), Wood has scarcely changed since he was a regular on Top of the Pops. (Though he's lost the make-up.) His voice certainly hasn't changed. He had the SECC audience eating out of his hand and bouncing delightedly through Blackberry Way, while See My Baby Jive had the whole place rocking.

Their finale, of course, was I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. Strange to think that one never made number one (thanks to another rather well-known Christmas hit). Just as good as ever.

After the break, on came Status Quo. It's fashionable in some circles to look down on Quo, but they don't deserve it. Utterly without pretension, they have for a staggeringly long time pumped out well-constructed pop songs. They are perfectly happy to accept the mantle of three-chord wonders and even to play up to it (their last studio album was called In Search of the Fourth Chord), though a cursory listen to any of their albums or a visit to a live gig shows them to be in fact very competent performers. They keep on writing new material (this time they featured Beginning of the End from that last album, and maybe others), but have such a deep back catalogue that they can pull out infinitely varied setlists from it. Hilary was disappointed they didn't do whichever number it is where Parfitt and Rossi play two guitars, each with a hand apiece. On the other hand, this time they did Pictures of Matchstick Men and Ice In The Sun, neither of which I ever expected them to do live. (PoMM is approaching its 42nd birthday next month). They work as hard as any band I've ever seen, display enviable skill at connecting with their audience, and trust that audience. "This is the one where you have to sing the intro" said Rossi before they launched into Hold You Back: and we did. When they did Down Down, he just played the opening couple of chords then got the audience clapping - not with music, just clapping in time, secure in the knowledge that they'd get the tempo right and clap steadily. And that's quite a lot of trust in my experience of audiences' clapping skills.

So what else did they do? Down the Dustpipe, Caroline, The Oriental, Don't Drive My Car, In The Army Now, Whatever You Want, Rocking All Over The World, Paper Plane, Mean Girl, Living On An Island, Roll Over Lay Down, Something 'Bout You Baby I Like, What You're Proposing, Burning Bridges, a rock and roll medley, and a few others I've forgotten.

OK, so I went to see Roy Wood: but I stayed for Quo and knew I wouldn't regret it. I'd happily see either band again any time. And given how long Wood, Parfitt and Rossi have been around, I expect to have plenty more opportunities.

These guys really enjoy performing, even after all this time and however many thousands of iterations of their biggest hits. Look:

Prepar-ed by the Ministry of Transport / and Civil A-vi-a-ti-ion

Hadn't heard this for a few years (about 40, I think) until I bumped into it on the web the other day. Enjoy.

Here is a bit of background.

And here is the music should you wish to join in.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A hole-in-the-wall crash machine

At about 0500 on Saturday morning, when we were all asleep in bed, a drunk driver in a Mazda attempted to turn into the road beside our house. He failed. What he did instead was hit our garden wall at (we reckon) between 50 and 60 mph, pulverising an eight-foot stretch of it, flattening the hedge behind it and loosening the wall for several yards on each side of the hole. None of which woke any of us: we found out about it when we got up, finding a card from the police through our letter-box. I sleep very soundly, and Hilary wears earplugs to drown out my snoring. Our son, though, sleeps in a room just above our front door, so we're impressed that he wasn't woken.

At least the driver was (a) unhurt (his passenger was slightly injured apparently) (b) insured.

The Proclaimers: Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 10 November

Time to start in on my recent backlog of gig reviews (I'm going to roll up the earlier part of the year into a couple of mega-posts).

Lisa saw the Proclaimers earlier on this tour, so I was interested to see whether they did indeed rouse the Usher Hall to greater heights than they managed in Nottingham. After all, Edinburgh was the only European venue on the tour to be awarded two nights of the boys (an accolade shared with Melbourne!) I saw them on the first of the two, and while the audience took a couple of numbers to get going, when they got fired up (initially for "Cap In Hand") they really let rip. Hilary went to the second night and reckoned that was even livelier. She commented that the audience in the balcony were all on their feet and jigging: something which had made her uneasy when it happened (with Runrig) in the Playhouse where the whole balcony flexed, but posed no problem in the more rigid Usher Hall. On my night only half a dozen or so were on their feet in the balcony, but most of the stalls seemed to be up. So sorry, Lisa, but it was the Nottingham audience that was stolid. When they did "500 Miles" in Edinburgh I think you could probably feel the ground shaking in Nottingham.

So yes, the boys done good. The set list (not in order):

Born Innocent
Let's Get Married
Letter From America
What Makes You Cry?
I Met You
Love Can Move Mountains
Sing All Our Cares Away
Notes and Rhymes
Cap In Hand
There's A Touch
Sunshine on Leith
Life With You
Three More Days
I'm On My Way
You Meant It Then
Three More Days
500 Miles

My Old Friend The Blues
Joyful Kilmarnock Blues
Wages Of Sin

I hadn't actually heard the new album (Notes and Rhymes) so was interested by the material from it, including a couple of songs contributed by musicians they'd worked with. For me, though, the stand-out song of the evening, even eclipsing "My Old Friend The Blues (which I'd never heard them do live before) was "On Causewayside", which seemed to me to sum up everything that made me fall in love with the Proclaimers' music when I first heard them.

Looking back at Lisa's review, they still had the decorative and very talented violin player, though in Edinburgh she was wearing a kilt and popsocks.

Incidentally, Hilary needed access to the Usher Hall the next day for work-related reasons and the place was humming with security, with access to the auditorium suspended. It turns out there had been some major security scare, though I'm not sure exactly what. Anyway, it fortunately didn't come to anything.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Great Pretender strikes again

Bogus asylum-seeker, serial liar, infamous right-wing Islamophobe: Ayaan Hirsi Ali ticks all the boxes. Now the disgraced Dutch ex-MP tells us all that Switzerland's vote to ban minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion. You couldn't make it up: but why bother when she's done it for you?

Words utterly fail me

How on Earth did I miss this story the first time round?

These go up to 11

xkcd on Spinal Tap's amps.

The BBC report on the "Large" "Hadron" "Collider"

Anna has been enjoying the punctuation fairy's liberality with "quotation marks". Used in the oddest "places". My mother used to do it sometimes, so it gives me a strangely "nostalgic" feeling. Oh God, now I'm doing it.

Anyway, the aforementioned fairy has taken up residence at the BBC. Here is the Beeb reporting on the start-up of the LHC at CERN. I liked the bit that read

Housed in a tunnel 100m beneath the Franco-Swiss border, the LHC uses some 1,200 "superconducting" magnets to bend proton beams in opposite directions around the tunnel at close to the speed of light. At allotted points around the "ring", the proton beams cross, smashing into one another with enormous energy. Large "detector" machines located at these crossing points will scour the wreckage of the collisions for discoveries that could roll back the frontiers of knowledge.

Anyone who can explain the presence of any of those quotation marks should have a go at unravelling Tony Blair's finances.

Pop goes the weasel

The Guardian has a Christmas competition with a difference. Can you shed any light on exactly where Blair's money comes from? where it goes? and why he needs such a hugely complex financial structure to launder handle it?

Bhopal: still suffering after a quarter century

Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the worst industrial accident the world has ever seen. And the best article I have ever read about it is here. It makes grim reading, especially when you realise that the Dow Corporation still refuses to clean up the site which continues to leach lethal chemicals into the groundwater. If you would like to help, go here. (Some of the photographs make pretty grim viewing - you have been warned.)

Meanwhile David Cameron peddles old myths about health & safety, calculated to please the tabloids. Here is Zoe Williams' succinct response. And here is Brendan Barber's. The final comment on that one is my own, and brings us neatly full circle to Bhopal.

Heavy Breathing

The clarinet equivalent to the Ernst in terms of crazy difficulty is Arthur Benjamin's Le Tombeau de Ravel, but I couldn't find a performance on Youtube. Its equivalent in silliness, though, I found: Domenico Liverani's fantasy on the Cujus Animam from Rossini's Stabat Mater. OK, first you take a religious text solemn to the point of morbidity. Then you set it to a rather bouncy tune (marvellously performed by Luciano Pavarottti here). Finally you make a wildly florid fantasy from it.

Admit it, if you'd heard it before the Ernst you'd have thought it was even sillier than you do now.

And now for something completely different...

...a piece generally considered to be the greatest technical challenge ever written for the violin. There is a marvellous story of the mighty Maxim Vengerov at some record industry lunch being asked if he'd play something, and simply hauling out the old Strad, giving it a cursory tune up, and launching this on his unsuspecting audience. Watch and weep:

The curious can download the sheet music free here. The crazy bit at 5:05 is the Poco piu vivo on p.31.