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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Procrastinated Reviews: Scottish Opera "The Pirates of Penzance" Edinburgh Festival Theatre 28 May 2013

Over the years I have seen plenty of professional productions of G&S, most notably perhaps The Yeomen of the Guard in the moat of the Tower of London, with Tommy Steele as Jack Point. I saw several D'Oyly Carte productions at Sadler Wells when I lived in London, including Mikado and Iolanthe. But the D'Oyly Carte company is no more, and (perhaps because of the vast number of often excellent amateur productions out there) very few professional opera companies do G&S any more. So it was a rare treat to see Scottish Opera doing Pirates. It's far from being my favourite of the Savoy Operas, but it is full of wit and does have some cracking music. I may find A Policeman's Lot resistible, but A Modern Major-General is a classic, and Poor Wand'ring One is Sullivan on top form, really showing off his leading lady (in this case Stephanie Corley).

The programme notes were especially interesting, pointing out that at the time it was written Gilbert & Sullivan were engaged in a battle with real (copyright) pirates in the USA. These people were doing nothing illegal, but took advantages of huge loopholes in the copyright law of the time to put on productions form which the creators abtained not a cent. G&S went to considerable lengths to try to avoid such issues with their appropriately-titled new piece, going so far as to have Sullivan relocate to New York to complete the scoring. Sadly their efforts came to naught, as the Americans simply found new loopholes and smarter lawyers.

So what was the difference between a professional and an amateur production? Money, is the answer. Professional singers can do more justice to Sullivan's score and Gilbert's lyrics (Richard Stuart was a splendid Major-General, Rosie Aldridge was marvellous as Ruth, and Nicholas Sharratt shone as Frederic), but the real difference is in the quality of the production. Professional quality sets, slick changes, and all the stage business handled with the smoothness of a West End musical. The pirates themselves were simply funnier than usual.

I can only hope, not just that Scottish Opera will do more G&S but that other opera companies will follow their lead. Gilber and Sullivan are national treasures, people: while it's fabulous that ordinary people put on their works, can we not put just a little more of the national arts spend into supporting professional performances of the Savoy Operas? After all, while funding a Parsifal or a Peter Grimes may seem like money spent for a small elite, it's hard to take that view of an HMS Pinafore, or a Gondoliers.

Please, opera companies and arts funding bodies: we want some more.

Procrastinated Reviews: Scottish Opera "The Flying Dutchman", Edinburgh Festival Theatre 13 April 2013

It is a little-known fact that when Richard Wagner first started work on the story for The Flying Dutchman he set it in Scotland, a country with a powerful hold on the Romantic imagination thanks to the poems of Ossian and the novel of Sir Walter Scott. Eventually the action was moved to Norway, but it is hardly surprising that some enterprising director would set a production in Scotland, even going to the extent of renaming the characters in line with Wagner's draft intentions. And it's even less surprising that the company mounting this production should be Scottish Opera.

The production's crirical reception was mixed. Nobody had a bad word to say for the singers or orchestra, who were all fantastic, but the staging received a mauling in some quarters, especially the works-canteen-cum-garment-factory which is where most of the non-dockside action takes place. I thought it worked pretty well, myself: it certainly helped to locate the scenes in Scotland. And I particularly liked the way Rachel Nicholls played Senta's character, as a withdrawn, socially awkward obsessive. I hadn't thought of Senta as suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, but it fits her actions so perfectly I can't believe nobody has tried it before. Peteris Eglitis as the Dutchman was a more conventional portrayal, but none the worse for that, oh dear no. And the almost casual way he and Donald (more usually called Daland) arrange his marriage to Senta reminded us that women were far from equal with men in 19th century industrial Scotland. Most women in Wagner operas are won as wives via some kind of contest, whether it be a singing contest (Tannhauser, Meistersinger) or passage through a magical barrier (Siegfried). But being disposed of as a prize is surely less demeaning than simply being sold for cash, as Senta is.

So - special praise not only for Senta and the Dutchman, but also for conductor Francesco Corti and director Harry Fehr. I loved it, and if they revive the production I'll happily see it again.

Procrastinated Reviews: Scottish Opera "The Magic Flute", Edinburgh Festival Theatre 2012

Not sure of the precise date, but a splendid and memorable performance. Brilliant in almost every respect (except for the tuning of the Three Boys and a distinct lack of bottom end in Sarastro's vocal range - which is sad since that should be the real glory of the part). The steampunk set was glorious, the costumes terrific (umbrellas with propellors!) and the dragon great fun. There was a very clever inverted shadow lighting effect produced by spotlights with a reflective stage. But the best production feature was Monostatos's goons (clad in miners' helmets) whipping out hankies and doing a Morris dance when Papageno fired up his bells (much to the mirth of Pamina).

Director Thomas Allen was Welsh National Opera's Papageno when I first saw the opera back in 1971 or 1972 (it was my first experience of live opera). Suzanne Shakespeare was our Queen of the Night, and ace. Papageno had some splendid comic business, such as his third pipe call (when he is about to hang himself) coming unbidden from the orchestra pit (or his third lot of bell music - when he is high - playing itself. The scene by which I always like to judge productions of Flute, though, is the "Papageno/Papagena" duet near the end. It's extremely difficult to avoid making it unbearably twee, but Thomas Allen managed it, firstly by having the pair play the birdie actions pretty straight, and secondly by the wonderful device of a string of around a dozen nursemaids processing on wheeling gradually diminishing egg-shaped prams. "What could beat a miscellany/Lots of little Papageni?" Even Ingmar Bergman, whose film version I love to bits, only just betters this scene.

Which brings me to the real star of the evening: the translated libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey (half of comedy duo Kit and the Widow). In "Ein Madchen oder Weibchen" there are heaps of wonderful plays on Papageno's name (Papagenette, Papagenowhere, Papage-yes....) "Bei Mannern" wasn't full of humour but was a lovely translation all the same, and beautifully sung, and with some lovely extempore flourishes from Papageno. (Honourable mention to Claire Haslin, driving the keyboard glockenspiel down in the pit, for HER wonderful swooshes in her numbers. And the food and wine provided by Sarastro provoked the marvellous "Mr Sarastro bakes exceedingly good cakes" and "Chateauneuf du Papageno" (which beat Thomas Allen's "Draught Guinness!" when I first saw him).

Laura Mitchell as Pamina resembled Gwyneth Paltrow. Ruth Jenkins was a punk Papagena, all striped tights and spiky hair - well, really a feather poll. Richard Burkhard as Papageno also got to do the "Showman's Booth" introduction (during the overture) which acted as a kind of Brechtian alienating device, like its counterpart in Petrouchka.

With all the misogyny shown by Sarastro and his fellow cultists; with the irrational (or at least misinformed) Sarastrophobic hatred Tamino shows at first; with Pamina's abduction "for her own good" and the flogging ordered for Monostatos, it's hard to avoid comparisons between Sarastrism and Islam. And why not? all the great religions teach the same truth, as I used to be reminded during my own time with a group of Neoplatonic Universalists who were at least as obsessed with triangles as the Sarastrists.

What, me worry?

I was watching a documentary on STV about Americans and their love of guns, and it reported the chilling (and surprising, to me) statistic that there is a mass shooting in the USA (defined as one with more than four fatalities) every four weeks. To judge from this report and this one that would seem about right.

So there will probably be one while we're in the USA.

However, the odds of my being anywhere near it are extremely small. In the same way, there are on average 140 tornadoes in the USA every July, with around half of them in parts of the USA we'll be passing through. Thrilled though I should be to see a real tornado, I've no desire to be run over by one. (In the same way I shall obtain a horrid pleasure from visiting an American gun shop, though I have no desire to be shot.) It isn't likely, though: we'll be in Tornado Alley for only a few nights, and most tornadoes fall far short of the monster that took out chunks of Oklahoma City last month. For that matter, we'll be in Oklahoma City, site of the second worst act of terrorism in US history, and visiting Meteor Crater in Arizona. Will I be panicking about being bombed by a PTSD-crazed vet, or smitten from on high by an errant rock?

Do I look like the sort of person who buys lottery tickets in the hope of winning? (The National Lottery - a concept, incidentally, invented by Giacomo Casanova, who sold his idea to the French government - has been accurately described as a tax levied on those who are lousy at maths.)

No. And no.

I know several British people who were as amazed as I was, howewer, to find that Oklahoma still doesn't require new buildings to have tornado shelters. They could, after all, do double duty as "crazed gunman" shelters. (Though they'd be fuck-all use against even a small meteorite.)

Then of course there are the hazards you really can't plan for...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

That Rivera Touch, or It's Nice When Nazis Take Instruction From Me But It Would Be Even Better If They Learned Something About British Culture And History If They Want To Stay Here

I'm touched. Linda Rivera, the only person I've ever known to own up to being a LibertyGB supporter (they're the bunch of neofascist no-hopers who claim to be a political party but don't believe in standing in elections - too namby-pamby liberal) has clearly noticed my scorn at her illiterate citing of the non-existent "Crime and Criminal Evidence Act 1998" and now gives it its correct name of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Of course, she's still peddling the lie that it abolished the offence of treason, whereas it merely removed the option (which could never have been used owing to it conflict with other human rights legislation) of the death penalty for treason. The maximum sentence for the still-very-much-in-existence crime of treason is life imprisonment.

But don't take my word for it: here is Section 36 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998:

36 Abolition of death penalty for treason and piracy.

(1) In section I of the Treason Act (Ireland) 1537 (practising any harm etc. to, or slandering, the King, Queen or heirs apparent punishable as high treason), for the words “have and suffer such pains of death and” there shall be substituted the words “ be liable to imprisonment for life and to such ”.
(2) In the following enactments, namely—
(a) section II of the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 (occasioning disturbance etc. to the crown of Ireland punishable as high treason);
(b) section XII of the Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560 (penalties for maintaining or defending foreign authority);
(c) section 3 of the Treason Act 1702 (endeavouring to hinder the succession to the Crown etc. punishable as high treason);
(d) section I of the Treason Act (Ireland) 1703 (which makes corresponding provision),for the words “suffer pains of death” there shall be substituted the words “ be liable to imprisonment for life ”.
(3) The following enactments shall cease to have effect, namely—
(a) the Treason Act 1790;
(b) the Treason Act 1795.
(4) In section 1 of the Treason Act 1814 (form of sentence in case of high treason), for the words “such person shall be hanged by the neck until such person be dead”, there shall be substituted the words “ such person shall be liable to imprisonment for life ”.
(5) In section 2 of the Piracy Act 1837 (punishment of piracy when murder is attempted), for the words “and being convicted thereof shall suffer death” there shall be substituted the words “ and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for life ”.
(6) The following enactments shall cease to have effect, namely—
(a) the Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Act 1931; and
(b) sections 32 and 33 of the Criminal Justice Act Northern Ireland) 1945 (which make corresponding provision)

From which we may conclude that Linda Rivera spotted Section 36(3)(a) and Section 36(3)(b) and simply assumed that the repeal of two specific acts was the same as repeal of "the treason laws". And that she considers the publication of this repeal in an Act of Parliament and its ready availability on websites is somehow "secret". Either she really is that stupid, or she is a cynical liar who assumes that nobody to whom she spreads her corrupting filth will bother to check it. Perhaps, like Bonni Benstock-Intall who is her main publisher, she is both.

It's strange, though, Like my old sparring partner Uncle Jimmy, this supposedly British "patriot" has real trouble understanding the British parliamentary system. Look: we have a parliament, which makes laws. The Prime Minister has quite a lot of input into what laws are made, and certainly into the priority different pieces of legislation receive, but nowhere near as much as an American President. He doesn't, for example, have any kind of veto. The only person who has a veto is the monarch, and it is understood by all that the monarch had better not use it if the monarch wishes to remain the monarch. The last time a monarch got involved in the nitty-gritty of lawmaking, it didn't work out too well. But hey, catch these "English patriots" knowing anything about that English history and culture they accuse immigrants of ignoring.

Indeed, Ms Rivera describes Britain as "the country that (her) ancestors fought and died for". Of course, it was also the country that the ancestors of Britain's Muslims fought and died for. The reason why Winston Churchill made it a priority during WW2 for his cabinet to set aside funds for the construction of the London Central Mosque was not simply that he considered it obscene that Britain's Muslims had nowhere to worship, but to show the nation's gratitude to the thousands upon thousands of Muslim soldiers who had fought and died in the battle against Hitler. (Not to mention the thousands more who had laid down their lives for the British Empire in the First World War.)

Regarding the post under which Ms Rivera's less illiterate lies appeared, the EDL's head thugs were arrested (as they had been worned they would be) for violating the terms under which their rally was permitted. (The "charity walk" was to raise funds for a sick child: unfortunately (a) the child's parents wanted nothing to do with it (b) the money allegedly went straight to the EDL's wholly non-charitable account. So both cynical exploitation of a sick child and theft of money under false pretenses. Brilliant way to honour Armed Forces Day.) In the video Bonni posts, we see them being "assaulted" (with absolutely no harm to them, so probably by EDL stooges) and then screaming that the police are taking no action against the people who "assaulted" them. A policewoman points out that if they bothered to look they could see that the police had stopped the "assaulters" and were questioning them, whereupon "Tommy Robinson" (real name Stephen Lennon, the man of a dozen fake identities) simply yells more loudly and changes the subject quickly ("Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's Good News Week......

All kinds of good news today:

I have a spanking new iPhone5 and have managed to get everything synced and updated. (It seems to work better with my PC than the old one, which always seemed to resent the fact that it was being asked to talk to a non-Apple device.)

It appears that I will be getting a teaching contract for the whole of next year. Not quite as many hours as last semester, but it's possible that there will be more added at some point.

Potential obstacles on Andy Murray's path through Wimbledon are dropping like flies, either through illness or defeat: Nadal, Federer, Tsonga, Hewitt...

The US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marrriage Act, and dismissed California's attempot to retain Proposition 8, its state ban on marriage equality.

Best of all (since I'm neither American nor gay but am a British anti-fascist) is the news that Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been denied entry to Britain to attend the EDL's hate rally in Woolwich.
After careful consideration, she [the Home Secretary] personally directed that you should be excluded from the United Kingdom on the grounds that your presence here is not conducive to the public good. The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BareNakedIslam applauds gangland murder and terrorist bombing. Oh, and the savage beating of a Jew. And lynch law.

New Yorker Bonni Benstock-Intall hates the British almost as much as Muslims, and Jews far more.

Here she reports a Lancashire gangland attack which left two men seriously injured. Bonni's description of the incident:

UK: Machete-wielding Muslim thugs leave two men with ‘serious injuries’ after attacking them in an Accrington barber’s shop. The two victims had been inside the shop in Ormerod Street when four masked men carrying machetes and knives forced their way inside. Apparently, Britons are no longer safe anywhere in England.

Gosh, she makes it sound as though the victims were just a couple of customers getting haircuts. But wait: what's the very next line of the report she quotes from?

Detectives investigating the incident said the gang attacked the pair before forcing them into the street. The thugs also attacked a parked car during the incident at midnight on Saturday.

Now who goes to a barber's shop at midnight on a Saturday? Doesn't sound like a couple of customers to me: but it does sound like a fight between rival Asian gangs. Either way, Susan K (the BNP member we met the other day, the one who makes up beheadings) called it a "good news story" in the comments, a description Bonni herself also applied to the shooting of an Edinburgh man by a Somali drug gang. In other comments, as well as the usual ignorant rantings about how we dumb Brits had "allowed ourselves to be disarmed" (as though anyone but the nobility had ever been allowed to carry weapons in public, even in the Middle Ages), there are a few urging us to arm ourselves with (equally illegal) Tasers and pepper spray. Yup, there's a lot of contempt and hatred for Britain out there but precious little idea of anything to do with the place (Bonni probably thinks it's part of Spain: I mean, so far she's located both the Colosseum and a Paris suburb in that country.)

Then Bonni gets busy downplaying the terrorist bomb which exploded outside a Walsall mosque. She mocks the British authorities for sending in the Army (because why would you want the bomb squad to investigate a terrorist bomb?) In the comments someone calling himself "englishmaninexile" posts a nasty little video from one Paul Golding, who apprentlyleads "Britain First", another group of neo-Nazi thugs like the EDL. In itm he gives the Metropolitan Police an ultimatum (hmm, good luck with that, son) and if it expires his bunch of thugs will take the law into their own hands and attack Anjem Choudary because he hasn't yet been arrested. Now he hasn't been arrested because he hasn't broken any laws yet, but you'd hardly expect Golding to be bothered about that: just because the guy is (a) Muslim (b) brown (c) a twat, he considers himself justified in lynching him. (The ultimatum expired last week: I'd love to know whether Golding actually did attempt to raise a mob or whether he was just another mouth with a Youtube account and no supporters like LiberyyGB's Paul Weston. )

And while whining about the "lenient" sentence of thirteen years for GBH given to a Muslim (doesn't sound remotely lenient to me, but then I'm not as keen on sharia-type punishments as Bonni: she's forever calling for people she hates to be publicly beheaded, or hanged, or genitally mutilated) she finds time to respond to a commenter who drew her attention to a savage attack on an Amsterdam Jew, saying that she hates non-Zionist Jews and hopes he died from his injuries.


Seventy-one years ago, a man and a woman got married in All Saints' Church, Fortuneswell, in Portland. He was on leave fro the Army, she was a shopgirl. And they lived, if not happily ever after, happily until the mid-1980s when they died in fairly quick succession. Along the way, thirteen years after getting hitched, they had me. Wrapped me in swaddling clothes and laid me in an incubator. And there you are. Happy memories.

In 1973, as I was just coming to the end of school and waiting for my exam results, there was a fire in New Orleans. As far as I know it never made the headlines in Britain, and reporting in the USA was faily sparse, because although it was the worst fire in New Orleans history, most of its victims were gay: iot was an arson attack on a gay bar.

When people talk about Islamic attitudes to homosexuality, with the stonings and hangings and what-have-you which some countries indulge in (as do some "Christian" countries like Uganda) they tend to refer to them as "7th century" attitudes. But it's a sobering thought that the Upstairs Lounge massacre was in 1973, when homosexual acts had only become legal in England five years earlier (and were still illegal in Scotland). Perhaps when we look at pictures of Iranian gays hanging from cranes, we should think of it as a 1970s attitude rather than a 7th century one.

Just another Israeli crime against humanity: move along, nothing to see here

Filmed evidence of the Israeli Defence Force committing crimes against humanity by indiscriminately using a biological weapon for the collective punishment of civilians.

I tell you, the end of this vile regime can't come soon enough. Meanwhile, Barack Obama funds these sad apologies for human beings to the tune of over $2 billion every year, while blocking any attemots by the rest of the world to organise any kind of miltary intervention to bring about regime change and a transition to democracy.

What will it take to stop people making excuses for the world's worst human rights abusers? The deliberate placing of booby-trap bombs to kill schoolchildren? The use of children as human shields? Illegal kidnappings on foreign soil? Breach of undertakings to the USA not to use weapons supplied by the US to commit the mass murder of civilians? Launching an unprovoked air strike against civilians in the capital city of a country with which it was supposedly at peace? Attempting to sell nuclear weapons to another racist regime with an appalling human right record? The murder of foreign civilians in acts of piracy? Or how about officially celebrating an act of terrorism in which 78 civilians, many of them British, were slaughtered?

I don't understand why we still allow this stain on humanity to operate an embassy in London, let alone an "Honorary Consul" in Scotland.

The Curious Affair of the Dog in the Taxi (or not)

At first I thought this story was probably fake or atl east exaggerated, but seemingly not.

As a campaigner for the rights of disabled people, and especially for increaed availability of the various kinds of assistance dogs (we see several kinds in the college where I work) I am happy to say that it seems likely that the non-compliant drivers will have their asses handed to them in a sack.

Funnily enough I was in Aberdeen today, though not in a taxi. I had my first encounter with a car park where you don't have to take a ticket on entry, nor do you have to stick one in your windscreen. When you're done, you go to the machine, key in your car registration number (or key in the time you parked and select your car from a photo gallery) and the machine, fed by number-plate recognition software, does the rest. Pretty cool idea. (I was at the cinema seeing Behind The Candelabra: fantastic performance from Michael Douglas as Liberace, but ineligible for an Oscar because the film didn't have a theatrical release in the USA. Oh, and Rob Lowe's hairstyle is something else.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

The military Gulag at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where the USA locks up its political prisoners has been in the news for two reasons this month. First of all, the US Army's chief military prosecutor admitted that out of the 779 people who have been held in the camp since it opened in 2002, a grand total of 20 (that's TWENTY) either have been prosecuted or are intended for prosecution. That makes a whopping 2.5%. For the remaining 759 individuals, so far are they from being "the worst of the worst" that not even years of taxpayer-funded torture could provide even enough evidence to justify a trial, let alone secure a conviction.

Then as if that weren't shameful enough, on Wednesday Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama signed into law a bill which will extend the ban on either releasing or trying any of the illegally held political detainees at Guantanamo. This despite a promise to veto the bill precise;ly because of that provision. Still, for a President whose principal legacies seem likely to be the export of remotely-controlled terrorist bombings of innocent civilians in countries supposed to be allies of the USA, and the extrajudical murder of US citizens with inconvenient political opinions, it is scarcely to be expected that mere torture and imprisonment of innocent human beings woukd pose a significant barrier to political expediency. Hell, they should be thankful they're locked up safe in Gitmo instead of being sent home to have their skin burned off by a bored CIA drone operator in Arizona trying to target wedding parties and ambulances.

Don't get me wrong: the Obama administration has done some good things. But former President Lyndon Johnson is nowadays associated in popular memory with the illegal bombing of Cambodia and Laos and with shifting Vietnam War tactics away from engaging enemy fighters and towards terrorising and killing the civilian population, and not with signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act (the one Bonni Benstock-Intall wants repealed). As Shakespeare has Mark Antony say of Julius Caesar, "The evil that men do lives after them: the good is oft interred with their bones."

Edinburgh Players Opera Group: Parsifal: Portobello Town Hall 30 September 2012

As before, I was in the second violins ( I think there were four of us this time), and as usual it was a wonderful experience to see and hear a Wagner music drama taking shape before our eyes and ears. For general background I refer you to the first four paragraphs of my review of 2011's Götterdämmerung here, and for a detailed cast list (as well as a very positive review) I will point you to Opera Scotland here.

What can I add? It was great having Elaine McKrill back. Along with Gerard Delrez, Jonathan Finney and Nicholas Fowler she is one of "our" singers, having made her first appearance with us back in 2002 (singing Brunnhilde, of course). Jonathan appeared in 2005 to sing Tristan and keeps on coming back. I can't remember precisely when Gerard and Nicholas first sang with us: possibly 2001. Anyway, as ever it was a thorough joy to work with such fantastic talents. Amateur orchestras usually raise their game when working with really good soloists, and that's just when playing concertos lasting maybe half an hour at most. Imagine the impact of spending around fifteen hours rehearsing with four top-class singers, and then performing with them for over four hours. No wonder we keep on doing it.

What else? We've nearly gone round the block twice (Mike Thorne's passion is for the seven "music dramas" rather than the earlier "operas" (so that's the Ring, plus Tristan, Parsifal and Meistersinger). This year (2013) we will be reprising Tristan, and in 2014 it's a fair bet that we shall be doing Meistersinger. My guess is that we'll stop then: Philip Taylor, the originator of the whole crazy scheme, is too old and frail to keep on doing even the reduced workload he now has, while Mike Thorne....it is unbelievable the effort he puts in, He has to come up from South-East England for a start (he's Vice-Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University), and averages rather more than an hour a day all through the year preparing his scores. Any normal mortal would have packed it in after the first seven-year cycle, but not Mike. Still, each year he gets a little greyer and looks just a little more tired (as do we all), and I suspect he may call it a day after 2014. But what do I know? Maybe he'll decide he has one more Ring left in him. It is astonishing to think that this whole enterprise kicked off back in 2001, about a fortnight after 9/11. I persuaded my management to allow me to defer my departure for India by a few days so I could play in Rheingold, and I've played in every performance and rehearsal since. This year, if I am lucky enough to have teaching work, I may have to miss the Friday afternoon rehearsal, which will be my first skipped rehearsal in thirteen years.

Anyway, was there, did that (again) and proudly wear the T shirt (which should be forbidden to mere spectators!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I keep intending to procrastinate more but somehow I never seem to get round to it

I have, piled up in a carrier bag and stashed as notes on my iPhone, a whole load of concert programmes and my notes for reviews to go with them, Some of these go back several years, and there is no way I'm going to dig them all out and do sensible reviews even if I can understand my cryptic notes. Still, it seems like a good time to make a start, as I sit on my own on the Ballater flat at the end of a day of rain. SO - i shall kick off some reviews, in no terribly logical order, and we'll see how we get on.

She'd be a lot less funny if she ever admitted that she'd made a total fool of herself

OMG...ROFL....LMAO.... I'm suffering paroxysms of abbreviation-sickness here. You see, I just noticed what may be the funniest example yet of Bonni Benstock-Intall's inability even to cut and paste a story properly. Here she not only introduces an illiterate typo, she then goes on to make her own error the subject of the story.

Here, using the magic of CUT and PASTE, is the original story from Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News (the highlighting is mine):

Investigation launched after claims of mosque attack in NATO base

The Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an official investigation into a mosque attack at the NATO İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, following claims that the attack was carried out by U.S. soldiers, Doğan News Agency has reported.

Turkish and U.S. generals, as well as other relevant authorities, will be asked for information about the incident as part of the investigation, reports said.

Local media in Adana had earlier reported that a number of soldiers at the İncirlik base entered the mosque on New Year’s Eve, destroying its minbar and windows along with the Quran. Turkey’s chief of staff subsequently denied the allegations.

Windows in the prayer room were broken by unknown individuals and there was some additional small-scale damage, the chief of staff said in a written statement issued late Jan. 10.

(A minbar is the pulpit of a mosque.)

Now here is Bonni's version, complete with incorrectly transcribed text from Hurriyet Daily News (this time the highlighting is Bonni's):

HUH? U.S. soldiers accused of destroying a minibar inside a mosque at NATO Air Base in Turkey

A minibar in a mosque? Are they serious?

Hurriyet Daily News The Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an official investigation into a mosque attack at the NATO İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, Turkey following claims that the attack was carried out by U.S. soldiers, Doğan News Agency has reported.

Local media in Adana had earlier reported that a number of soldiers at the İncirlik base entered the mosque on New Year’s Eve, destroying its minibar and windows along with the Quran. Turkey’s chief of staff subsequently denied the allegations. Windows in the prayer room were broken by unknown individuals and there was some additional small-scale damage, the chief of staff said in a written statement issued late Jan. 10.

Now in my last post I said that "randy63ism" from Tulsa appeared less intelligent than Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden, and I stand by that (probably less fun to hang out with than either, too). But he clearly knocks spots off Bonni when it comes to common sense, as he points out her howler to her not once but twice in the comments. (Though not before putting his own foot in it, as the snip here shows). Still, at least he twigged eventually. Clearly he is but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly he can tell a minbar from a refrigerator.

Bonni, on the other hand, sails on in blissful ignorance, because what does it matter if she prints rubbish? Her sheep will swallow it whole anyway (see all the other comments). Whoever heard of a questioning sheep? (Fictional ones don't count.)

If Bonni imagines that all women are as stupid as she is, no wonder she doesn't think they should ever have been given the vote. (Of course, she opposes letting black people vote too: they hardly ever vote for neofascists, after all.) Highlighted text is Bonni's interpolation into a piece from All Alabama.)

Imaginary beheadings, imaginary "media blackouts" and real praise for Hitler. Yes, it's the sheep who comment at BareNakedLiars

One of the other regulars among Bonni Benstock-Intall's Holocaust-denying, Hitler-rebranding site goes under the pseudonym of "Susan K". She's clearly no brighter than "Linda Rivera". She provided Bonni with this news story about a murder in Thamesmead. For Bonni of course, the fact that the murder has been extensively reported in the local press and websites, and has clearly made it to London news sites, shows a "Near Total Media Blackout". That, I imagine, was Bonni adding her own lies to the original story. But as well as providing the link to the (supposedly non-existent) report, "Susan K" is down there in the comments with this gem:

So there have been three beheadings in Britain since Lee Rigby. The first, er, was Lee Rigby (obviously he has to be counted twce because he was One Of Our Boys). The second was a Muslim in a mosque in Britain. Well, the only stabbings in a British mosque since Lee Rigby's murder were these, which you will note were not only not beheadings but not even fatal. And the third was Colin Greenaway, who was at least killed: however, he had his throat cut, he wasn't beheaded.

So the three beheadings since Lee Rigby come down to, er, zero beheadings since Lee Rigby. Well done, "Susan K"! Keep up the good work of posting readily-exposed lies we can all laugh at, you sick buffoon. (Are you perchance Susan K Kelly of Bispham,. Blackpool, who is described as an "activist" on the British National Party membership list?)

Oh, and in case you think I was a little harsh on poor old Bonni and her sheep in my introduction to this post, I spotted this (from one of her other regulars "Randy63ism", who frequently calls for the mass extermination of Muslims as well as perpetrating blood libels about "cannibal" Muslims turning Christians into kebabs). Here he is carefully expressing his admiration for Hitler:

"Randy" claims to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I wonder if I'll see him as we drive through in a few weeks' time? If I do, I'll smile sweetly and remember that he is just as much a child of God as Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden, if rather less intelligent than either.

Thank you America, but we have enough fascist hatemongers of our own and have no need to import yours

I see that "Tommy Robinson" (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), who got into a wee spot of bother last year when he entered the USA illegally on a forged passport to speak at one of Pamela Geller's hatefest rallies, has returned the favour by inviting both Geller and Robert Spencer (surely Geller's only serious challenger these days as hate-spewer-in-chief) to one of his own EDL rallies here in Britain. This one is timed to coincide with Armed Forces Day next Saturday, and will involve a march to Woolwich finishing at the site where Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered a few weeks ago.

Just what we need: a hands-across-the-sea conjoining of American and British neofascists, designed to dishonour the memory of Lee Rigby and exploit his murder to spread lies and hatred.

Hope Not Hate have an online petition here asking the Home secretary to refuse visas to Geller and Spencer. Please sign it.

"I have nothing to say, and I am saying it" (John Cage)

The BBC's Mike Williams spends some time in the anechoic chamber at Univertsity College London.

It was his visit to the similar room at Bell Laboratories (the daddy of them all) which inspired the composer John Cage to create his silent work 4'33". Specifically it was the realisation that in supposedly complete silence he could still hear his own body - the joints, the blood, the nervous system - that led him to realiser that any musical experience we have is an exercise in selective attention. We pay attention to the alto, not the arteries; to the violas, not the vertebrae. Going further, we attend to the orchestra rather than to the air conditioning, or the person in the next row turning pages in her programme, or the one upstairs who just coughed. While a police siren outside might upset a recording session, we simply tune it out when it happens during a concert. What 4'33" is about is forcing our attention back to these things by taking out the "actual music". It forms a kind of experimental control: what you would have to subtract from a live recording to have "just the music". Of course, there are extraneous noises which arise from the production of music. Sounds of mutes being put on and off, of pages being turned and so on. But you can't have everything, any more than you can have nothing.

Final fun fact: 4'33" equals 273 seconds. 273 is a number well known to scientists, because (to the nearest degree) minus 273 degrees Celsius is the Absolute Zero of temperature derived from the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Neat, eh?

Scandalous Grace

I'm reading a pretty challenging book right now by Shane Claiborne, entitled Irrestible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Shane is a Christian, but probably not any kind of Christian you've ever encountered. Shane realised that Christ's message wasn't something to be assented to in a distant, complacent way, but a challenge to everyday thinking. His Christ is the one who surrounded himself with socety's losers and misfits, who told the rich man "Give up all you have, and follow me". Shane's Christianity is political, certainly, but it's not the politics of any political party. He works with homeless people, he went to Iraq in the middle of the war to spread the message of Christ's love to Muslims and Christians alike. If that sounds crazy, well, so did Christianity when it was new. and that's rather the point: it's become old and tired, and people no longer take it seriously. Now I'm normally pretty resistant to folk telling me their take on Christianity, but I have been reading his book with a lot of admiration (mixed with awe). I keep finding things I would like to quote, but I'll restrict myself to one big quote.

There's another person who felt the world killed the good in him, a young man who was a decorated army veteran in the 1991 Gulf war. I remember reading the letters he wrote home from the war, in which he told his family how hard it was to kill. He told them he felt like he was turning into an animal because day after day it became a little easier to kill. His name was Timothy McVeigh. He came home from serving in the Army Special Forces, horrified, crazed, dehumanized, and became the worst domestic terrorist we have ever seen. His essays cry out against the bloodshed he saw and created in Iraq: "Do people think that government workers in Iraq are less human than those in Oklahoma City? Do they think that Iraqis don't have families who will grieve and mourn the loss of their loved ones? Do people believe that the killing of foreigners is somehow different than the killing of Americans?" No doubt his mind had been tragically deranged by the myth of redemptive violence. He bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in hopes complacent Americans could see what "collateral damage" looks like and cry out against bloodshed everywhere, even in Iraq. Instead, the government that had trained him to kill, killed him, to teach the rest of us that it is wrong to kill. dear God, liberate us frm the logic of redemptive violence.

One of the people I have grown to love is a man named Bud Welch. He lost his twenty-three-year-old daughter, Julie Marie, in that Oklahoma City bombing at the hands of Timothy McVeigh. He says he went through a period of rage when he wanted Timothy dead. "I wanted him to fry", he says, "I'd have killed him myself if I'd had the chance." But there was a moment when he remembered the words of his daughter, who had been a courageous advocate for reconciliation. She used to say, "Execution teaches hatred." It wasn't long before Bud decioded to interrupt that cycle of hatred and violence and arranged a visit with McVeigh's dad and family. As they met, Bud says he grew to love them dearly and to this day says he has "never felt closer to God" than amid that union. He decided to travel around the country speaking about reconciliation and against the death penalty, which teaches that some people are beyond redemption, and pleading for the life of Timothy McVeigh. And he says he felt "a tremendous weight had lifted" from his shoulders.

As he worked through his anger and pain and confusion, he began to see that this evil spiral of redemptive violence must stop with him. And he began to look into the eyes of Timothy McVeigh, the murderer, and see the image of God. He longed for him to experience love, grace, and forgiveness. Bud is one who still believes in the scandal of grace.

Ironically, when I was giving that talk titled "The Scandal of Grace", I told the story of Bud Welch as I talked about how God's love extends to all losers, whether Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Saul of Tarsus, Timothy McVeigh, or me. The program team showed a PowerPoint presentation ising the "visual edition" of Philip Yancey's work What's So Amazing About Grace? In the Powerpoint, different images pop up behind the words "amazing grace that saved a wretch like me", and different people's faces are branded with the words "like me" - Mother Teresa, sports stars, celebrities - and one of them was Timothy Mcveigh. It created such discomfort that the program team was told to remove the image of Timothy from the presentation before the second service. There is something scandalous about grace. It's almost embarrassing that God loves losers so much. It flies in the face of the world's myth of redemptive violence. No wonder the early Christians had such bad reputations and questionable credibility. No wonder they were called "the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world", as one of the leaders, a former murderer himself, wrote (1 Cor 4:13).

An astonishing book by an astonishing young man.

Update: here's another guy who takes a similar theological approach, while not going so far as Claiborne in giving everything up.

In which Linda Rivera, fan of pretend political party Liberty GB, forgets a vital Islamophobic mantra, and we all point and giggle

Sorry, but I couldn't resist this classic from "Linda Rivera", regular commenter at BareNakedLies and possibly Liberty GB's only actual supporter. Under a post on a Daily Mail story about Abu Hamza's family, she writes:

UK ruling elites are the biggest racists on earth. Nothing but the best for MUSLIM terrorist families whilst DESPISED homeless British vets and other despised, white, homeless British families live on the streets.

In the words so beloved of Bonni and the other Muslim-hating sheep, all together now: WHAT "RACE" IS ISLAM?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shits, lies and videotape

Bonni the Nazi buffoon really isn't very good at geography. Human geography certainly eludes her: take this post, where she informs us that "Mohammed" is the commonest boy's name in Britain today. Hmm. Let's try a site specialising in baby names in Britain. Is Mohammed the most popular? No. Is it in the top 40? No. OK, perhaps we'd better try another site. Nope: not in the top 40 there either. So was it maybe a more popular name in 2012? No: not even in the top 100.

Just another outright lie from the woman who makes her living from them.

Or take her recent post featuring a video clip from Paul Weston. Who? You may well ask: he leads a wannabe neo-Nazi political party called Liberty GB, which not only has no elected representatives but has never put up a candidate in an election. Stiil Bonni and her employers are touting this nobody as Britain's next Prime Minister, perhaps mistaking Britain for the kind of place where somebody with an gang of thugs behind him (Liberty GB and the EDL are very close) can simply wander in and take over. Britain, Bavaria.... so many letters in common. Anyway, Weston in his video blames "massive immigration" from the third world on Tony Blair, who apparently deliberately set about destroying Britain as soon as he was elected. (Gosh: I hate the man as much as anyone and even I never spotted that.) And just to make sure he was safe in this treasonous adt, Blair repealed our treason laws just after he was elected too. Now I'd heard that one before, from one of Bonni's regular sheep, a big Liberty GB fan who goes under the pseudonym of Linda Rivera. Here's what Linda had to say about it recently

Tony Blair and the Queen repealed the treason laws in the Crime and Criminal Evidence Act 1998

There's a good example of I'll-make-something-up-because-nobody-reading-this-site-ever-checks-stuff. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 made a change to the law of treason in Britain. Do you know what it was? It abolished the death penalty for it, replacing it with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Treason is still exactly the same offence it was before Tony Blair became PM, or indeed before he was born. So why do these people indulge in such obvious lies? Partly it's to make their otherwise thin and unconvincing conspriacy theories sound as though they might have a basis in fact; but mainly it's just a total contempt for education, fact-checking, or any other "liberal" (read "British") disinclination to believe goose-stepping demagogues. In the same comment stream as Linda's lie we have "John" saying (about the murder of Lee Rigby) that:

.... there were Brit cops watching the muzz saw off the soldiers head and did nothing, just stood and watched and talked to each other, probably about what they were having for lunch. All they had to do is grab a rock, trash can , jump in a car to run them over, what ever but they are cowards. And that is who “protects” you Brits that cannot own a gun? They were very concerned about the wounded muzz murderers thought weren’t they?

Actually, of course, as anyone who saw the video footage played endlessly on the news will have seen, there were no police present until some time after the killing, and when they showed up they shot the perpetrators. Who the hell did "John" think wounded them?

In fact that whole post shows a delicious double standard. Bonni pours scorn on complaints of an anti-Muslim backlash following the Lee Rigby murder, sneering that it's all lies because "the vast majority of incidents recorded were anti-Muslim messages on Facebook and Twitter". Yet when "Tommy Robinson" (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) receives abusive tweets, does she tell him to grow a pair? No, she assumes they're all genuine and that this is a dreadful attack on a poor paramilitary passport fraudster simply trying to go about his daily business of burning down mosques (allegedly).

Incidentally, Mr Weston, you are a racist, but not because a bunch of your political opponents say so. No, it's because in your own video clip you set up the "British" population in opposition to the "Islamic" population. Never mind that most of Britain's Muslims didn't arrive in some mythical wave of third world immigration ordered by Tony Blair but were born here, as were their parents, and very often grandparents. It's the idea that there is some "population" of non-British Muslims in Britain with whom the "British" should supposedly be at war. So answer me this, Mr unelected Weston: what "population" is Islam?

Linton Singers: Bach B Minor Mass (excerpts) St Mungo's Penicuik 16 July

Last Sunday I was down in Penicuik leading the second violins (all two of us) for a performance of the first half of Bach's Mass in B minor (plus the Agnus Dei and Qui Tollis from the end). It was great: amateur music-making at its best. The chorus were the Linton Singers, based around Penicuik. The soloists were all taken from the chorus, so had no pretensions to greatness: but some of them were really very good for complete amateurs. The orchestra was a scratch job assembled for the most part from various Edinburgh orchestras. I especially enjoyed it as I'd never played the piece before: wonderful stuff, and the performance went very well. I think the perform,ers may have outnumbered the audience, but that's amatuer music for you.

The performance was directed by Murray Campbell, who also provided hospitality the previous Sunday for those of us down for the rehearsal in Carlops. I know Murray as a trombonist, but knew that he was an acoustic physicist. His house was hung with a collection of strange instruments: serpents, cornetts, sackbuts, viols, rebecs..... He had recently hosted a gathering of serpent players from around the world. A delightful chap, and great fun to play for.

Climb Every Mountain....

This weekend I'm on my own in our Ballater flat, as Hilary and Ruairidh headed off to Skye yesterday. They managed to climb the Inaccessible Pinnacle of Sgurr Dearg today despite iffy weather:

while I kept thinking that maybe I'd go for a walk only to have a monsoon-like downpour arrive. Ah weel.

The thing about the Inn Pinn (as it is colloquially known) is that it's the only Munro (Scottish mountain over 3000 ft in height) that needs a rope for its ascent. (Actually I have seen it done without but you need to be a bit crazy as it involves climbing backwards down the side in the photograph. Most folk abseil off this side.) I did it about 25 years ago with a group from the Bank of Scotland Hill Walking Club, guided by Martin Moran. Here is a more distant view giving some perspective on the whole affair. So congratulations to Hilary on adding it to her tally.

(Image by Judy Horacek, from Cath Tate cards)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Forbidden Fruits

Having just discovered Forbidden Broadway, I've been enjoying plundering Youtube for more of its splendid parodies. Here's another Les Mis one:

Or how about Fiddler On The Roof?

And also this (not a video, but the accompanying slideshow is rather fun)

This is simply marvellous:

And this made me laugh a lot too (not a live performance but using video footage of the original show):

Leaving the best for last here. I love this, despite (or perhaps because) the original is one of my all-time favourites. I didn't like Song and Dance nearly as much as the original (shorter) TV version which was called Tell Me On A Sunday and was a Marti Webb solo show lasting about 45 minutes. Marti Webb once said she liked this song better than the big hit Take That Look Off Your Face, and so do I. This parody works perfectly even if (like me) you have never heard of Bernadette Peters: you're about to find out one big important thing about her.....

Edinburgh Playhouse: Colm Wilkinson

An excellent at the Playhouse watching Colm Wilkinson. Who? Well, he played Phantom in the pre-production workshop of Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, and let Michael Crawford do the actual production while he went off instead to create the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. He began by doing Music of the Night:

His programme was a mix of show tunes (Somewhere, Some Enchanhted Evening) and a variety of other things: Help Me Make It Through the Night, Hallelujah, Imagine (with an interpolated section of Tom Paxton's Peace Will Come), Danny Boy, Whiskey In The Jar, Folsom Prison Blues, I Got My Mojo Workin', She's Leaving Home. And as he likes to do something in each concert related to the place he's in, we also had The Proclaimers' 500 Miles.

Colm's backing vocalists Siobhán Pettit and Áine Whelan each did a couple of solo numbers. Áine's were especially impressive: I Dreamed A Dream and The Winner Takes It All.

Before doing Bring Him Home as an encore, Colm mentioned that people are always saying how high it is. However, when it was first written, he'd wanted to do it a tone higher, in B. He was dissuaded because B major is not a popular key for bands to accompany, especially not for clarinets or brass. So in A it remained. I can report that at 69 he can still hit it just fine. Before he performed it, he also did a rendition of this wonderful parody from Forbidden Broadway, an off-Broadway show which sends up all the current Broadway shows. Epic.

From Russia With .... Tampax

Russian Tampax commercials are a little different from ours. FUnnier, too.

Knock knock. Who's there? Nagini. Nagini wh-

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You're Just In Love

I've been humming this a lot recently. Time to share the earworm (thank you, Irving Berlin).

Good soldier, bad soldier

An interesting hidden camera show from ABC exploring ant-Muslim bigotry here. But the best bit is the last, when the uniformed US soldier gives the guy a piece of his mind. Isn't it wonderful to be reminded that there are serving US soldiers (i would guess the majority of them) who don't disgrace their uniform the way Allen West did? Mr West (I won't call you Lt Col West as you lost the right to that rank when you committed a war crime), this guy is worth five hundred of a POS like you. maybe you do do as he suggests: just STFU and if you don't like America and its values, take your hate business elsewhere.

Bonni love, for f*ck's sake buy an atlas: nobody will pay you to post racist filth for them if you turn it into a clown show

As regular EKN readers will by now have realised, Bonni Benstock-Intall (the BareNakedImbecile) mostly posts racist trash which she is sent by the professional Islamophobes who fund her site. She doesn't usually bother to watch the video clips she posts, or to read the articles she links, which can lead the poor dear to some hilarious misunderstandings. As she is none too bright and has the grasp of geography of a rather slow six-year-old, anything to do with Europe is especially risky for her.

Take this post. The video she links appears to originate from the "Vlad Tepes" MRCTV stream. "Vlad", a well-known Canadian white supremacist, describes the cip as "Tardball", presumably because it shows black people who he considers "retards" because they don't belog to the master race. But Bonni can't resist adding her own little touches, for example her description of the commentary as being a "North African tribal chant". (This added extra has since been proagated to sites which copy Bonni's hate speech, such as those of the BNP.) Oh, and despite its being correctly spelled in the video, she screws up the spelling of "Maghreb". Not that is has anything to do with the Maghreb: the footage is of the violence that erupted at an amateur football match in Ivry-sur-Seine on the edge of Paris. The match (US Ivry Football v AS Val de Fontenay) was either followed or interrupted by a massive pitch invasion by gangs of local youths armed with clubs, pepper spray and paintball guns. See report here.

Well, nothing much there, you think. Bonni adds a little gratuitous racism to an already racist edit of a genuine riot. Ah, but it gets better. The "North African tribal chant" is actually Spanish, as is pretty obviously from listening to it. It's also clearly taken from a football match commentary, because, you know, Vlad or whoever produced the video was trying to be funny by using a football commentary to "describe" the riot. Obviously the joke was far too subtle for birdbrain Bonni.

But it gets better yet. One of her commenters points out that the commentary is in Spanish:

So does Bonni "correct" her description of the "North African tribal chant"? No, she "corrects" her original title which can be seen here in the cache

to replace the reference to France with one to Spain, because even when someone patiently explains that the video shows France but the commentary is Spanish, her brain can't cope with the idea that there is more than one country in Europe. Eventually someone must have pointed her cretinous mistake out to her, whereupon she simply gave up all hope of working out what country she was blogging about and took out the country reference altogether. The description of the "tribal chant" remained untouched throughout, however, because obviously if someone not from America is yelling something Bonni can't understand it must be something primitive, right? (And this cretin pretends to have a degree in Japanese!)

And finally, just to show how little attention Bonni pays to what she is paid to display, the fool had posted a still picture of the riot only two days earlier which she correctly locates at Ivry-sur-Seine (though Bonni seems unable to tell a paintball gun from a machine-gun)

And finally, some excellent news form the comments under the post. Some American racists have promised not to pollute Europe with their stench any more. Win!

From the creators of Thousand Island Dressing

For when you're stuck for something to put on that salad......

Monday, June 17, 2013

Papa Don't Teach

Sunday was Father's Day, and I received delightful cards from both my grown-up children. Friday, OTOH, was the last day of my teaching contract at Edinburgh College, and I received a very nice (and unexpected) card from my colleagues along with a bottle of wine. I hope to be asked back next term: it looks as though there should be some teaching hours available. I'll still be in college for a day or two, as I'm finishing off my end-of-term paperwork (and chasing up late submissions from students who have suddenly realised that actually, if they don't hand in that essay, they will fail the course). I'm happy to say that most of my students - at least, the ones who bothered to turn up - passed their various courses. I even got a card for "being an awesome tutor" from some of the trainee social workers I've been teaching about the internet. If they - and my other internet students - remember nothing else from my lessons, I think they will remember the origin of the term "spam" as applied to unwanted emails (it comes from this).

Dragon Drop

Almost six years ago I wrote this post to begin my LiveJournal blog (long since mothballed) and I was moved to think about it again this weekend. Not the sight of Barbara Windsor's breasts in a transparent top (I require no moving to think about them) but the phrases "dragon drop" and "head on a stick". Because on Saturday morning I was at a Dragon Workshop run by the Edinburgh Taoist Tai Chi centre, learning how to walk - then run - a Chinese dragon, the kind you see Chinese folk operating at festivals.

After my introduction to the dragon I know that it is led by the person (traditionally female) with the ball on a stick (who is called the "Pearl"). I know how to pick up and put down a dragon, and the various commands (among which "dragon drop" does not feature, though after a while you begin to feel it should). I know how to request a substitute if I get tired, and how to provide that service for someone else. I know how to do a wave and a zigzag, and after a further session in a week and a bit, I will know how to do even more. Which is just as well, as on August 10th we will be running our dragon in public at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, and I won't be able to attend any further practises because I will be in the USA. Still, on 10/8 the dragon (by then at its full 25-man size - we were using just half of it on Saturday) will be manned by a mix of people ranging from the very experienced (who were training us this weekend) to total novices turning up on the day, so I should be somewhere in the middle of the ability range. It's more complicated than you might think: your movements are constrained by those of the legs ahead and behind, and if you forget to swap hands on your pole before dipping your piece of dragon you could end up talking in a high-pitched voice for a while. It all reminded me rather of carrying the processional cross for my church choir as a teenager, though when doing that I was rarely called on to carry out waves or zigzags.

The best part of all, though, was when we were asked if anyone would like to learn how to do the drumming for the dragon. Well, you don't need me to tell you that I leapt at the chance, and now have the basic skills of hitting a hunk of dead animal with two pieces of wood the size of a large carrot. It's a bit like being bass drum for a marching band: you're responsible for the timekeeping and co-ordination of the dragon, There are a few basic riffs, of which the most easily described has the rhythm "The WORkers, uNIted, will NEver BE deFEAted" and one or two special rhythms for particular manoeuvres. I took to it like, er, a dragon to water, so now as well as being able to operate as a leg for at least the basic moves, I have joined the cast of drummers.

I look forward to wowing the August crowds on Princes Street. Oh, and I just found this picture of our very own dragon on the Taoist Tai Chi society blog.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Normal service restored

...and we can return to laughing at Bonni Benstock Intall, who in another post today opines:

Here’s a headline I bet you never thought you’d see: ‘Cross dressers arrested at Saudi Gay Wedding’

Gee, no, Bonni, the story came as a shock. Just as it did when the same thing happened in 2004. And in 2005. And 2011.

Still I don't suppose a homophobe like Bonni (whose terror of anything gay even exceeds her hatred of Muslims) takes much interest in the doings of Arabian homosexuals unless instructed to make fun of them by the folk who fund her. And anyway, who ever caught a Holocaust denier doing historical research?

Bonni Benstock-Intall applauds the cold-blooded murder of a schoolteacher

As you will have spotted by now, I enjoy poking fun at the imbecility of Bonni Benstock-Intall, the Holocaust-denying Hitler fan from Queens. But when I dropped by her site today, the headline brought me up short. Try as I might, i couldn't find anything funny in this.

YAWN. Why should anyone care that a Muslim teacher was shot to death in a classroom in Thailand?

I mean, one becomes used to Bonni's cheering whenever a boat full of refugees sinks, but after the Newtown CN massacre it still shocks me that even an NRA-loving gun-toting bitter-clinger like Bonni can be so dismissive when a death squad guns down a primary school teacher in front of her pupils. Still, it's not as though she was a human being, with her slanty eyes and her headbag and all.

To sum up. Two guys murder a white British soldier in cold blood, and it's the end of civilisation as we know it. Two guys murder a brown Burmese schoolteacher in cold blood, and it's boring.

Edinburgh College Music Box Summer Concert

On Thursday evening I was at the Queen's Hall for the Edinburgh College music department's summer concert. This one showcased the classical musicians: the pop ones had their own show the previous night at Electric Circus, at which my son and his band reprised highlights of his degree recital. He featured in Thursday's show too, sitting in the back playing drums for the Big Band and cahon for the Folk Group (who did one of his compositions as well). OK, yes, proud father, guilty as charged.

The concert was very good, with material ranging from part of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas to the arrangement of The Best Is Yet To Come that Quincy Jones made for Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra. Singer in that, and a couple of other numbers, was Stephen Duffy, presenter of BBC Scotland's Jazz House and also compere of Thursday's concert. I would have to say that his set with the band was the high point of the evening. I didn't know him before, probably because when the Jazz House goes out I'm usually rehearsing, but he was really good. As of course were the band.

Pats on the back all round to the staff and students at Edinburgh College's Music Box.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Got my modem running...Heading out on the Information Superhighway.....

Hi. There was a short pause back there as last weekend our internet connection died. I was still able to get some connectivity (rather s.l.o.w.l.y) via my old Vodafone dongle. (The only reason I still had it is that I'd forgotten to cancel the account: Hilary reminded me just last week about it.) It seems our cable provider (Virgin) have greatly increased our bandwidth: so greatly that our old cable modem was unable to cope and just sat there flashing pitifully. Cue a call to the helpline, where after much running of online diagnostics my cable modem was officially declared antique and an appointment made with an engineer.

'Twas on the Monday afternoon the engineer came along...... and very efficient he was too. We now have a "Super Hub" with a built-in wi-fi router. There may be things about Virgin which are irritating: it took me a bit of web searching to find the helpline number as they assume you'll contact them online (tricky when your cable is offline), and it might have been more helpful to have known we would need a modem upgrade before it stopped working. But their customer service is mostly very good indeed. Go Richard Branson!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Tea, custard creams and a kick-around: Muslims educate the EDL in the British way of life.

York's Muslims really know about the British way of life, and give the English Defence League's thugs a lesson in it.

Africa, Turkey, Spain, the British Commonwealth: is there no part of the world about which Bonni Benstock-Intall the Holocaust denier isn't prepared to show her unbounded ignorance?

Now I understand why Bonni the Holocaust Denier has such a poor grasp of geography (remember: she thinks Rome is in Spain?) It's because she gets her information, on that as on so much else, from fake ex-terrorist Walid Shoebomber Moonbat Fruitbat. In this post, for example, she uncritically reprints a screed of stupid abuse about President Obama's half-brother from Fruitbat's site. It includes this (and I checked, it really is what Shoebomber wrote):

Malik Obama is the Executive Secretary for the Islamic Da’wa Organization (IDO), which is stationed in Khartoum, Sudan, and which has its primary focus in expanding Wahhabist Islam in the African subcontinent

Now I know where the Indian sub-continent is (though Bonni doesn't - more of that in a minute), but I'm damned if I know what the "African sub-continent" is supposed to be when it's at home. You see, when I was at school, Africa was an actual continent. What's that you say? It still is?

Maybe Moonfruit and Bonni should try this quiz about the African continent. I just had a go and scored 110 out of a possible 165, which I was pretty pleased with. I suspect geographical geniuses who reckon there is something called an "African sub-continent" won't manage to get 50.

Other recent examples of Bonni's fractured grasp of geography include a post on anti-government protests in Turkey entitled "Could this be the start of the 'Anti-Arab Spring' protests?" Er, no, Bonni, it couldn't, because the Turkish government had nothing to do with the "Arab Spring". And you know why? Because Turks are no more Arabs than the Chinese are. You may think all Muslims are Arabs, but they're really not.

And on that subject, there was this wonder, where the New York Nazi-worshipper instructs the British that we must stop referring to British Asians as "Asians". (Well, OK, Bonni pet, we'll just call them British if you prefer.) You see, Bonni believes that referring to Asians as Asians is a distraction from the fact that some of them are Muslims. Bonni, once again, needs a geography lesson. I don't know where the Muslim Americans in New York hail from, but it's a fair bet it's mostly not Pakistan, Bangladesh or India (I suspect there are a lot of Americans of Turkish or Arab heritage there). Well, in Britain almost all our Muslims originated in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Some came directly from those Commonwealth countries: for example in 1963 the Conservative Health Minister Enoch Powell (yes, that Enoch Powell) specifically called for doctors from those countries to come and fill vacancies in the National Health Service. Many more came to work in the restaurant business: most of Britain's "Indian" restaurants are actually Bangladeshi, so I expect the thugs of the EDL and the morons of Liberty GB who wail about the evils of halal meat have been eating the stuff all their lives (LOL). And of course they came to work on our buses, in our factories, in our offices, banks, schools: to become part of Britain. Then in 1972 President Idi Amin expelled all the Asians from Uganda, and most of them came to Britain as well (Uganda being yet another Commonwealth country).

So when a crime is committed by a British Asian, we say so. Sometimes the criminal's religion is evident (a woman in a hijab, perhaos, or a Sikh in a turban) but usually the police have better things to do than ask the guy they're handcuffing whether he's a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or an atheist. So they call them Asians. Because that's where their fsmilies come from: Asia. Specifically, the Indian sub-continent (now that one does exist). It's not misleading, and not insulting: just a fact. (Don't you just hate it when pesky facts get in the way of your white supremacist ranting?) So no, Bonni, we're not reconsidering our ban on the "M" word: we've always called homeschooled imbeciles like you "morons" and we always will, however many fake degrees you claim to have.

Keep up the stream of hilarious ignorance, Bonni, because for those of us who really are British (as against the pretend Brits and ex-Brits who litter your comment streams) it's very funny indeed to watch foolish foreigners getting it wrong. If you keep on getting your geography lessons from Wacko Shoebomber (who thinks Jerusalem is the capital of Israel FFS) you're sure to continue delighting us.

I'm So Excited

In a month from now I will just be making my way through immigration at Chicago O'Hare Airport having flown from Edinburgh via Heathrow. I wonder whether our in-flight entertainment will be as, er, entertaining as these guys from the new Pedro Almodovar film I'm So Excited. (The only clip I could find doesn't have English subtitles, but the music is in English (the Pointer Sisters) so it really doesn't matter.

The film is great fun: not a masterpiece, or a film with any pretensions to being great art. Just fun. Oh, and as rude as fuck.


The genocide of Rohinga Muslims in Myanmar has been going on for some time now, much to the delight of Bonni and her fellow Hitler fans (OK, I suppose they'd like it even better if the genocide was of Jews, but Muslims are a good second best and when they've been burned to a crisp it's hard to tell the difference). Well, now one region of Myanmar has taken its genocidal policy one step further (and all from the Adolf Hitler Playbook too) by imposing breeding limits on Rohinga families.

Meanwhile, where is Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi? Surely she has been speaking up for the thousands of her countrymen being slaughtered in the name of religion? She's no longer in prison, she's the leader of the official parliamentary opposition, so even if she felt it risky to campaign vigorously, surely she will have made some statement condemning the violence. Something like "Now now, chaps, play nicely and if you have to burn down buildings full of Muslims at least allow bystanders to throw water on them when they fall to the ground smouldering: keeps down the smell, don't you know." Yes?



Not a word.

I am beginning to think that Aung San Suu Kyi is no more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama. On the one hand, a President who executes Americans and non-Americans alike without trial (or even much attempt at identification, et alone avoidance of civilian casualties). On the other, a political big-shot who has parlayed her Peace Prize into power and status, and whose silence in the face of genocide is to all intents complicity in it.

Perhaps we need a regulatory body which could strip such people of their undeserved prizes in the same way that Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson were stripped of their Tour de France and Olympic titles when their cheating came to light. I'm not suggesting that ASSK and BO have done nothing worthwhile (for that matter Lance Armstrong's tactical skill wasn't drug-enhanced, and he was racing against equally doped-up riders so he must have had considerable raw talent). But they don't deserve the prizes: and only Johnson and Armstrong have paid the price. Tha really should change, and soon.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A puzzle solved

Remember this picture?

I posted about it here, and wondered which ship the old ship of the line was. A commenter sugested HMS St Vincent, which I had considered but ruled out because by the time the picture was taken the St Vincent was permanently moored at Haslar near Portsmouth and being used as a training ship. However, thinking of training ships gave me some more ideas for search terms, and before very long I found this article about HMS Impregnable. Impregnable went though a number of changes of role, ending up in 1888 as a quarantine hulk for use in an epidemic. At this point her name was given to HMS Bulwark (which had started out as HMS Howe - I hope you're taking this in as there will be a short test later). In 1891 HMS Bulwark was renamed as HMS Caledonia and moved to Queensferry (by the Forth Bridge) for use as a training ship.

Here is a picture of HMS Impregnable (formerly HMS Bulwark, formerly HMS Howe) around 1900. It certainly looks like the same ship.