Sunday, 30 November 2008

Saint Andrew's Day

And in order to celebrate all things Scottish today here is a track from one of our finest bands – Shooglenifty play a style of music that some describe as Celtic fusion, all I will say is that they are a very fine band who are best experienced in a live environment.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Toots Hibbert

Saw the movie This Is England this week, an interesting and at times uplifting account of a 12 year old boy's summer in 1983 in an unnamed English coastal town. It also contains a very dark central theme of racism and the far right which some might find a total turn off.

The film opens with a montage of scenes from the time set to one of my favourite Toots and The Maytalls tracks 54-46 Was My Number. Uplifting ska which brings a grin to my face every time I hear it or any one of their other tracks, always brings back memories of hot summer days – particularly appreciated on these dreich frozen November days.

Here is some footage of them doing Sweet And Dandy – which might have been lifted from the movie The Harder They Come, but it is so long since I have seen it that my memory cannot be relied upon.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Roman Oratory

Read an interesting article in the paper this week about the next US President's use of “tricks” of oratory first deployed by Cicero in Ancient Rome in his speechifying; these include the tricolon (strings of three points), antonomasia (the identification of a person by an epithet or appellative that is not the person's name), anaphora and epiphora (repetition of a phrase at the start or end of a sentence).

Always good to learn new things, not that I am planning a career switch to become a politician.

This demonstrates yet again just how far ahead the Romans of over 2000 years ago were in their thinking or how bereft of new ideas Western civilization has been for the last 1000 years.

There was also a reference to a book about the dumbing down of President's speeches over the last 100 years from college reading levels then to 8th grade school kids now (ages 13-14 if wiki is to be believed).

Googled the author and found myself on his blog, he writes pretty well as you might expect for someone whose higher education was done at Oxford. This post on why he thought it was now time to change the mantra “Support Our Troops” to “Honour Our Veterans” struck me as thought provoking.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Jeff Buckley

A good friend of mine was a huge fan of his dad (Tim) and so made for an early convert to the songs of the son, he met him after one of his first low key gigs over here and was impressed by his openness and friendly demeanour. Sadly he died at the age of 31 in a swimming accident in Memphis He would have turned 42 on the 17th of this month and I imagine that he would have given us more fine songs.

This one is a cover of a Leonard Cohen song and is a live performance rather than the more familiar studio version (which seems to crop up on soundtracks on a regular basis). The stark musical style and intricate vocal phrasing remind me of some of his dad's work and illustrate what a great loss his early death was to the world of music.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Tax The Rich – But Not Us

Monday's budget statement attempted to get our economy back on track but it looked like the usual smoke and mirrors to me - reduce VAT by 2.5% but increase the duty on fuel, alcohol and tobacco by the same amount. However the excellent Private Eye magazine draws this interesting fact to our attention:


Earning threshold at which Government is to introduce new 45% tax rate.


Annual salary of cabinet ministers.

Business as usual then in the corridors of power - and a rare example of the Treasury getting their sums right.

Thanks to D for pointing this out.

Monday, 24 November 2008

ISS Spotting

Heard on the radio today that the ISS (International Space Station) is currently on a orbit path which makes it visible over the UK. While the station is visible with the naked eye the missing $100,000 toolkit will require the use of a pair of binoculars – but if the sky is clear it should be found some 6 minutes ahead of the station.

Only visible for a couple of minutes which is a real plus considering the current freezing temperatures; it is a pretty impressive sight and I find it inspiring to think of the people up there living and working on it.

First time I saw it was up in the Highlands where we were staying at a rented house that did not let you smoke inside, so were sat out front in the middle of nowhere smoking and drinking when one of us noticed it. Luckily we had an expert with us who identified exactly what we were witnessing.

There is a very good site where you can enter your location or lattitude and longitude to get some sky maps to show you where to find it. You can obtain your lat/long values by visiting the Met Office site and finding the town where you live or one nearby and the values are listed on the weather page. If you live high enough to want to enter your height above sea level then go over to Metcheck and enter your post code and use the ASL value.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Florence and The Machine

Stumbled across a song by this young lady during the week and was blown away by her voice, it was released on an independent label earlier in the year and since then she has been snapped up/kidnapped by Island Records. Her lyrics and tunes are pretty cool as well - judge for yourself by clicking on some of the links below and enjoy some of the sounds that have been rocking DBA cottages this week.

The Force is indeed strong in this one – I predict a long and successful career until such time as she becomes bored with it all.

This is the video for her new single Dog Days which comes out on the 1st of December, this is a live rendition of Girl With One Eye, and finally here is the fantastic video for Kiss With A Fist – wee bit different to the live version above.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Silly Money

This is the title of a credit crunch 4 show special by Bremner Bird and Fortune which came to and end this week, using their usual mix of impressions, two handed interviews of "establishment" figures and relevant archive footage. These 3 satirists have been taking the piss out of our “glorious” leaders (and every one else's come to think of it) for the last 9 years.

Not everyone's cup of tea but they do make me laugh, in the first one they attempt to address the question of Where The Money Went? This clip is the start of the first show (the others are available via related links).

The second one attempted to answer the question of Where Did The Money Come From, and the answer appears to be mainly China – it is estimated that 70% of their $2 trillion reserves is invested in the US. This is a link to the full 48 minute show.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Stem Cells To The Rescue

A woman in Spain has a new lease of life following a successful transplant of part of her trachea (windpipe) without the use of anti rejection drugs thanks to the use of stem cells. This is also a story of European cooperation as the stem cells were added to the trachea by scientists in Bristol who then passed it on to colleagues in Italy who used their bioreactor to fuse them in place. Finally the surgeons in Barcelona performed the operation back in June of this year and in a short time her left lung was back operating as normal.

I saw an interview with her surgeon last night who said that he had received a call from her in August at 05:30 complaining that she was short of breath; when she explained that she had been out dancing in Ibiza until that time he replied that there was nothing to worry about and he would have been feeling the same if it was him.

This could prove to be a real turning point in modern medical technology if it can be replicated in the future – and they get the funding to pursue it.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

World Toilet Day

Today the 19th of November is World Toilet Day.

Sounds like a joke but for millions of people around the globe the lack of decent sanitation is a very serious health risk. The presence of a decent toilet is something that most of us in the West take for granted, a place where we can have a quiet read or talk on the phone according to this survey – WTF?

Not a very glamorous thing but the absence of adequate sanitation is a problem for an estimated 2.5 billion people around the globe according to this charity – something to ponder this morning while sat on the throne – got to be better than phoning a friend.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Augustus Pablo

Was over at a friend's blog and came across a video which featured someone playing a melodica and that reminded me of the late great exponent of the instrument Augustus Pablo.

Originally a keyboard player he became entranced by the melodica and put this so called child's instrument to great use as a lead over reggae dub rhythms. Must have first come across him in the late seventies and from the outset I fell under the spell of his haunting solos – he always worked with the cream of Jamaican musicians and produced several excellent albums.

He sadly passed away in 1999 but he left behind a fine legacy in very distinctive reggae music, here is a live version of Java:

Here is a track from his classic East Of The River Nile album that I had never heard until today, it appeared as one of six bonus tracks when the CD was reissued in 2002 – that will teach me to “never” buy something that I already own on vinyl – Islington Rock.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Mark Kermode – Quantum Of Solace

Have not included one of the good doctor's rants for a while so time to dust him off again, here he is weighing into the new Bond film describing eloquently why it failed to move him and almost had him nodding off.

Not as scathing as his contempt for any of the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, he identifies the main faults of the movie while going on to say that it will rake in loads of cash at the box office.

His best line comes when he seeks to illustrate his point that you do not feel any pain from the action sequences - "like watching teletubbies bouncing around in a padded cell".

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Today marks the 70th anniversary of this infamous night in history, over 25,000 Jewish men were removed from their homes in Germany and sent to concentration camps. Mobs attacked Jewish owned businesses and synagogues – destroying many of them, 91 people died while the police watched and did nothing.

The violence was organised by the Nazi government which had been looking for an excuse to unleash this terror against the Jewish community, that had come from Paris where the son of a Polish Jew who had been deported to Poland (along with 15,000 others) the previous month shot an official at the German embassy.

This night marked the start of the Holocaust and millions died and suffered as the results of events set in motion on this day but planned well in advance.

Nothing on that scale has been seen since then but even in the last 20 years similar events have taken place in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur in Sudan.

On this day of remembrance we should all pause and reflect that in some places the same old shit that was being carried out 70 years ago is still happening to people. It would be good to believe that one day it will stop occurring but I do not think that it will be in my lifetime.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Happy Landings & Other Tales

Came across this story yesterday, the pilot of a light aircraft had a stroke at 5,500 feet and went blind, kept his wits about him and radioed for help. An RAF pilot flew beside him and escorted him to one of their airfields and a safe landing – a happy outcome for something which could have ended in tragedy.

Jeremy Clarkson made an off colour provocative remark last Sunday night (no real surprise there, it's what he does) about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes and 500 people complain, an MP calls for him to be sacked. A more reasonable response came from a Glasgow based games company which released a game where Jeremy can be run over by trucks while collecting license players cash – fun for all the family.

There is a link available to play the game on the news page.

Meantime in Malaysia a blogger has been released after spending 8 weeks in prison under some very dubious legislation – 2 years without trial under some “Internal Security Act”; just the sort of blanket power our government would love to get put in place here.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bonfire Night

Tonight is bonfire night when we celebrate the foiling of a plot to blow up the King and his parliament on this day in 1605, this is done by having bonfires and letting off fireworks at public or private displays. What I had not realised until recently is that for over 250 years the celebrations were compulsory by royal decree.

Even more surprising was that they had their 36 barrels of gunpowder in a rented cellar under the House of Lords for 8 months before their plans ran off the rails.

Might appear odd to celebrate a failed explosion plot by burning large piles of wood and filling the sky with colourful explosions, but I suppose that it is traditional. Have always enjoyed a good outdoor display under a cold clear autumn night – not much chance of that tonight as it has been a dreich overcast day.

Here is an 8 min display from London a year ago that was set to music – enjoy.