Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ceremony for Skippy

We're here to celebrate the life of our friend Skippy and to request from any powers, if there are any listening, that he be accorded a most favourable place in the hereafter, if there be one and hoping there is, to ask for pleasant weather and plentiful grassy land. And if there could be hedges and borders of lavender, well please consider letting him stay nearby. And water, but I don't have to tell you, I guess, and something to eat if eating is required. Please restore him to the peak of his health.

If this all sounds a little presumptuous, please know that Skippy is a most worthy candidate. If anyone says a dog has no soul, and that a dog is like a machine that is turned off at the end, begging everyone's pardon but I would want to have a fist fight with that person and knock in all their teeth. (I'm sorry, score that against me, not Skippy).

I can't tell you all about Skippy, if this is reaching anyone, but if it is you probably know anyway. He came from a pet shop, got his name for leaping into a basket in the cage there, and lived all his life in Willesden London. We always planned to take him to the seaside in summer but every summer came and went and we never did it. Gladstone Park was as far as he travelled and that stretched his patience in the car, so I don't think he would have liked longer journeys. Now that I think of it, he did come with us as far Holloway where he had a friend called Whitey. By the way if he could meet up again with that friend, who passed on a few years ago, that would be great. It's Whitey from Q- Road, quite stocky, one testicle.

In his younger days he could run around in the local parks and would go a bit deaf when an attractive possible mate was around. I don't call it a sin but he did follow a pair, I think, of Lhasa Apso sisters all the way out of the park and across a dangerous road. That was the only time that happened. His walking wasn't so good in later life and he always suggested going by car to the park, which we did. He was a good guard dog, barking at any shadow on the door glass, even if there was no one out there but he wasn't to know that it was us, he never could fathom that.

Like I said, I can't tell you all about him. Everyone loved him, that's the main thing. He was a dog and he behaved like a dog, a good dog, and he was a fond companion and liked to play fetch - really, really liked to play fetch. Fetch is not as simple a game as some might think, not the way Skippy played it. He played the doggie hold-em version, not the return the tennis ball and go again version. In Skippy's version the thrower had to work to get the ball back and had the devil of a job to succeed in that, but sporting fellow that he was, Skippy would make it a little easier should the thrower show any sign of giving up.

Everyone, please raise your glasses to Skippy. Goodnight Skippy my dear, sláinte mhaith, sweet dreams.

Skippy in October this year

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The real Irish presidential debate

A solar flare causes massive disruption to mobile phone networks, and widespread chaos. Among side effects that people have little time to worry about, the seven candidates in the Irish presidential election 2011 are stranded in a blacked out TV studio where they were preparing for a debate. With all transport and communications blocked they have no choice but to sit tight and wait.

Dana: Oh lord Jesus preserve us. Holy Mother of God pray for us.

Michael D: Stay calm. The power will come back on in a minute.

Dana: Hail Mary full of grace....

Gallagher: [turns on iPhone like a torch, simpers...] No signal.

McGuinness: Is there no windows in this place?

Mitchell: No.

Dana: Our Father who art in heaven...

Mitchell: Dana, would you ever give it a rest?

Michael D: There's no need for that, Gay.

Mitchell: You can go and fuck off as well. Which way is the door?

Director: Gentlemen, ladies, please sit tight, it's not safe to wander with the cables and equipment.

Davis: [screams] What was that?!

Gallagher: Sorry.

Dana: Hail holy queen...

Michael D: Ah Dana, will you shut up now?

McGuinness: Who's in charge here?

Mitchell: If we all hold hands we can support each other and try and find a way out.

Michael D: Like an elephant troupe. (I must make a note of that image.)

Gallagher: Fuck this for a game of cyards. I'm going.
[Loud crash, multiple items cascading]
Aah, owww, owww!

Director: Please sit tight!

Dana: Glory be to the F-


Michael D: Are you all right there, Sean?

[No answer]

Mitchell: And then there were six....

McGuinness: Well whenever we're stuck here we might as well get a few things straight. I've been subjected to harassment and unfair attacks here in this studio.

Norris: Martin, you think you've been harassed. I've gone through the trials of Oscar Wilde you know.

Mitchell: The two of ye deserve each other. Why don't you get a civil union and join your miseries. You'd think nobody else had ever suffered in their lives. ... If you's had been fed on nothing but Smash and sausages in Inchicore and had an oulfella leather you whenever he'd had a bad day in the cattle market, you'd know something about misery.

Dana: We were all ....

Norris: It wasn't all that different in the boarding school, except we had a few carrots and real potatoes. Oh and maybe a chop instead of a sausage. Missing your parents and crying in each other's arms every night. Made a man of you.

Dana: Spangles?

Michael D: Yes, Dana?

Dana: You know, we had Spangles.

Gallagher: [groans]

Davis: I thought Miriam went a bit berserk in the last debate. Really think RTE could do a bit better. With all the marvellous ladies I meet around Mount Merrion, why they have to bring in a mumsy lowbrow like her, I'm sure I don't know.

Michael D: To be fair to you Mary, you have a lovely turn of phrase. But I'd swap ten of you for one of Miriam, now, so I would.

Davis: You doddery old shite. God forgive me.

Dana: We used to...

McGuinness: I was down in Inchicore today and none of them had ever heard of you Gay. I asked some of them and they said 'd'ye not mean Gay Byrne, he never ran.' I had a pint with a fella there, quartermaster for the Dublin south east brigade, and he said you were best remembered as a thick who tried to bounce a rock. "Rocky"?

Mitchell: Fuckin' amazing, you never said "whenever I was down in Inchicore" ya moron.

Gallagher: [moans]

Michael D: Shush everyone, I want to hear what Dana has to say.

Dana: It doesn't matter now. When will the power come on? I've got the shakes. Something is frightening me, I don't know what. Has anyone else got a mobile phone on them? I left mine in the dressing room.

Norris: Here, Dana. I'll pull this barstool over beside you. Now, how's that?

Dana: [screams] Get away from me! Get away from me!

Norris: Jesus Christ almighty, Dana, what is the matter with you woman? You're a nervous wreck.

McGuinness: Sing us a song Dana.

Davis: Oh please God no.

Michael D: [sings] Nach mór an t'íonadh, os chomhair na ndaoine, a bhfheiscint sinnte ar gcúl a chinn...

Gallagher: [whimpers]

Mitchell: Holy sufferin lantern o' Jasus, will yous ever cop yourselves on. It's like a fuckin' wake here. Tell some dirty jokes or something. Here's one: If the answer is two dogs and a film star, what's the question?

Dana: [sings]
Ah! Sweet mystery of life
At last I've found thee
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all!

[The power comes back on revealing: ON AIR sign, cameraman in place, Mary Davis riding Gay Mitchell, David Norris with his tongue down Martin McGuinness's throat, Sean Gallagher on all fours with his head up Dana's skirt and Michael D with legs crossed, hair like Einstein and trousers sopping wet. Small audience, earlycomers, breaks into a round of applause.]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Watching the defectives - GOP foreign policy debate

This video contains the entire debate, not just the first hour that was shown on TV. It's a beautiful quality video this time, by the way, even full screen.

It's worth listening to the logic of people like Gingrich, absolute moral bankruptcy: covert operations "all deniable". Deniable - why? A big question.

‎16:00 on: Huntsman is making great sense.

After 24:00 - Bachmann: "The table is being set for a nuclear war against Israel".

‎27:30-ish: Santorum has a good grasp of "real politik" (as they say).

Good for Ron Paul for standing up against torture against the other nincompoops. You've got to ask "What are you fighting for?" There's no point in fighting if you're offering the same prospectus as the enemy. Huntsman too. Good for him.

Every time Perry talks it's like "special needs time" and in saying that I feel it's demeaning to special needs people to even compare him to them. Oh well, he has no chance- hopefully.

About 47:00: Was that a bit of a sinister statement by Huntsman that of 500 million young people in China there are 80 million bloggers whose actions "will bring China down" and he gestured downwards, while the US goes up (gestures). I don't understand exactly what he means by that. Does he mean that democratic reform in China would bring China down?

59:00 - Cain's logic is "Anyone we torture is a terrorist". Wait till it's your son or daughter.

‎61:00 - I'm with Ron Paul on lawlessness and legality. The crowd sounds nervous, which is a good sign.

70:00 - Bachmann wants to copy China's lack of social security. "China is growing". So if you want to be ants in an ant colony, vote for Bachmann.

75:00 - Santorum "You don't cowboy this one." Made sense in context (responding to hijack of a nuclear weapon in Pakistan and he meant just sending in special ops troops by helicopter etc.)

‎77:00 - Huntsman very authoritative on the "loose nuke" question.

That's it. I will be a world authority on the policies of the candidates soon. I still predict a Romney / Huntsman ticket. However, the winner doesn't always pick a running mate from the other candidates. It happened last time but it's not a given. I was wondering if I could get a bet on that pairing, probably longer odds than the individual candidate, so I checked on William Hill .com and you might be interested in the odds they offer at present. Here you go:
2/5 Mitt Romney
6/1 Newt Gingrich
8/1 Herman Cain
10/1 Rick Perry
20/1 Ron Paul
28/1 Jon Huntsman
100/1 Rudy Giuliani
100/1 Michele Bachmann

"Others on request". They don't even quote Santorum - and where did Giuliani come from - is he even in it? A lot of money on Romney, obviously.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Astounding fruit and vegetables 7

Turmeric, a rhizome that looks a bit like ginger. It dyes everything it touches that amazing colour and has medicinal properties. In India they make a poultice of it to put on wounds to help them heal and my GP says it works but he doesn't know why. It contains curcumin, which I believe helps prevent Alzheimers. In fact I take the powder every morning in orange juice, so let's see how I get on!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Gargoyle 57 is out

Gargoyle Magazine and Paycock Press

She's there somewhere in the 600 pages of Gargoyle 57, "Annie" my poem about my paternal grandmother, née Annie Carey. Thanks to Richard Peabody and everybody at the magazine for all the pains they take with the proofs and every little detail. Each annual edition provides a cornucopia of items to read throughout the year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Human pyramid

This is a grizzly image but can you calculate the height, area or extent in space that would be occupied if you could connect the first umbilical cords of the first humans, starting from their mother, if there was only one (?), and connect a given size of human to them another level down and then continue through all the generations to the present day? It's tempting to say that the area of the ground floor, i.e. our generation would be the space needed for 6 billion people to stand, which I believe is approx. The Isle of Wight. That doesn't seem enough somehow. None of the males would have any connections coming down in this layout. They would of course have umbilical cords upwards but obviously do not have any downwards.*

Of course the umbilical cord is an aid to visualising the problem, it's not strictly necessary in fact it makes the problem impossible if actual umbilical cord length had to be used, so instead of that we would probably use an average human height, weighted for the change in that over time or just averaged out or anyway taken into account. So instead of joining the people physically, you could just stand them on levels, not equating to generations but equating the the number of people generated by the initial number of people. So from one we maybe get two, or five or whatever it was. Then from those five we get 20 or whatever it was, etc. They're not generations because the ages are all combined and put on the same level. But that should work, should it not or is there a fatal flaw in trying to do that?

So you get something like:

Of course the men in this only have upward connections (the umbilical principle) and no downward ones*. In a way, we could omit the men from the levels and then at the bottom level, just bring all the present day men back in to give us a base approximately equal to The Isle of Wight. Then if we knew the number of levels (but is that even possible, or is there a glitch there?) and an average height, we could work out the height of the whole cone, and then assume it must be equal numbers of men and women on each level, approx, so just connect lines from the base up to the top.

Another point: if we start working back from the present level (everyone alive today) ... ah but here's the glitch: You can't put everyone alive today on the same level, because some of them are grandparents, parents or children of others alive today. That is the glitch.

Why then, if we start from the top does it feel like we can force it into levels? How would it end up to the present stage. Oh I know, it's because all of those alive today is not one of the levels. The levels are different things that don't correspond to temporal locations, they are abstract concepts. The people alive today span several levels, not just one.

If we forget the men and say they are just ballast, then it is women who define generations. Every woman alive today had a mother who had a mother and so on. It's a many-to-one relationship going backwards. Everyone has precisely one mother. Some women have daughters but some don't; not everyone links both ways in this. If we could say that there are more girls with each generation then it would be clear that the population decreases going backwards. This is known or anyway believed to be true. If every woman had precisely one daughter then there would still only be one woman alive plus her mother and grandmother perhaps, maybe even great grandmother so at most four or five women in the whole world.

It's simpler to think of the question as how many generations there have been since the first humans. We could answer if we knew the average number of girls born to each mother. We could extrapolate from the present number of females by using the average increase per generation to work out the total number of generations to date.

We could define the present generation as the set of all females (and males but they are irrelevant) who have not yet had any children. That gives us an unentangled set because they are not the parents of anyone alive at present. Of course the set is changing from minute to minute. Anyway we take a cutoff (no pun intended). Now we can neatly take the mothers of each of these (the present generation) and trace back to an imaginary "level" (not a real time) before any of those mothers had had any children. Repeat and that gives us our generation counter or visualiser.


* Another truism: Everyone has precisely one father and one mother (no clones as yet). So even though there is no umbilical cord to connect a child to its father, the scenario is the same. Everything that could be calculated concerning mothers could be calculated concerning fathers. It is only when combining the two that some tangling occurs. However for a complete model, we would need everyone to have two umbilical cords, one to a father and one to a mother.

But you cannot separate all the progeny "connected by two strings" of the previous level into one next level because some of them might have a relationship upwards and be ancestors of some of the progeny on their own level. That is why it complicates it bringing in two parents. This does not arise in following only the matriarchal or only the patriarchal links.

ANOTHER THOUGHT: We could combine the two models, the male and female "trees" with their perfectly untangled levels but the levels do not map across exactly, so they would look like two cones with their points leaning together. They don't fit but if the male one has less levels the space between them must be stretched so both the models reach from the first humans to the present day, giving us a different average "generation length" for males and females. Model F + model M = everyone who ever lived.

We may tend to assume that population has been increasing steadily but it might have gone down due to problems at various times, for example during the bubonic plague. The amount by which it increases or decreases could vary over time so there must be wavy edges to the pyramid but we know that over the long term it has been increasing.

If archaeology can tell us when the first humans appeared, and we combine with where we are now, which we know about, we could work out a pyramid shape. I think it would be a very tall narrow pyramid. I'm only guessing but it might reach from the Isle of Wight as the base to the Moon, maybe.

I remember reading an article in Atlantic Monthly by a leading mathematician specialising in the maths of heredity, which he said was exceedingly complicated. It turns out that everyone alive today has a common ancestor about 10,000 years ago. Anyone who was reasonably prolific, like Nefertiti or Genghis Khan for example, is most likely ancestor to everyone alive today. This effect leads to the seemingly marvellous result that everyone who researches their ancestry discovers that they are related to some famous forebear. Also he found that 3,000 years from now, everyone alive today will either have no descendants at all or will be ancestor to everyone then alive. (Ref: Joseph Chang, Yale University quoted by Steve Olsen in "The Royal We" Atlantic May 2002 Monthly

Monkeys' tea party commentary

Republican contenders Tea Party debate (video)

Part 1

Perry can keep on with that "Ponzi scheme" crap all the way to the time when he phones up Obama to concede and congratulate him.

Ron Paul wants to get rid of Social Security for young people. Vote Ron Paul to make the US more like the Philippines: mansions with no roads between them, shanty towns, destitution, pauperisation, beggar your neighbour.

The idea that people can save for their own security or insure adaquately is a complete and utter fraud. Insurance only works through the power of everyone combining, it's bullshit to leave people high and dry when they get in trouble. What a load of claptrap these tea party bozos swallow.

These people don't understand that government IS people coming together to get themselves a guaranteed health service, education, transport etc. They think that a load of privateers can do it better, it's complete crap. The exploiters will rob you blind. Private medicine is an extortion racket by another name.*

Huntsman only borderline sane, sensible person so far. Oh and Mitt (dear God) at least he sounds halfway normal.

Part 2

‎2:30 in: Perry is a liar. New Yorker article this week shows millions of jobs created by initial stimulus. He says zero jobs were created and then goes on to build on the lie and joke about half of zero. He has a track record as a liar and self-aggrandiser.

7:00: Clever metaphor from Romney "We've gone from a pay phone world to a smartphone world."

13:30: Best bit by Cain so far. His background is good.

‎15:30: Huntsman deals the killer blow to Perry with a whisper. "I know that everything is bigger in Texas; and Governor Perry likes to talk like that as well..." (ouch).

End of part 2. I think Perry is found out for a braggart and all at sea over social security. GOP please select this loser. There are some viable tickets materialising - Huntsman + Cain, maybe, Romney + Bachmann (most likely and by the way, she kissed him and nobody else, woooo). Ron Paul is a complete non-starter in any capacity. Santorum might be a dark horse, he looks lightweight but he's a heavy hitter, still he's almost certainly out. If I had to bet money to save my life, I'd bet the ticket will be Romney & Bachmann.

Part 3

Santorum: Corporate tax zero from 35%? Madness. Sheer demented delirium.

7:00 Huntsman sensible on tax. Huntsman is my man so far.

9:00 Newt Gingrich: That's just sophistry "The Obama depression" - you're only fooling yourself man. Everybody knew that Obama walked into this situation, he inherited it, we all knew that day one. It's the Bush depression.

13:30: Bachmann is a despicable person to play word games like that with health.

15:00: Perry says, "If you think I can be bought for $5,000, I am offended." We know what he is, all we're trying to do is to establish the price.

24:00: Ron Paul wants helpless people to rely on religious charities. The moderator cited somebody who is very well and earning well and doesn't buy insurance but that is a straw man; the real problem is people are not able to pay, people that is who are not the rich exploiters riding the poor all the way to hell.

End of part 3. What you have in the hall there is a collection of greedy people who are very well off and don't want to help out in society with anyone else. They are a bunch of privateers, stab in the back artists, who couldn't be trusted to run a whelk stall. Robbers, hypocrites, sheisters, frauds, dumbbells of general ill-will to humanity. Bring on the election.

Part 4

Amazing how this bozo Perry wants the Federal government to secure the border. He thinks Washington should have nothing to do with the states and it should go to hell but when it comes to something that Texas should do, he doesn't want to do it. He wants Washington to do it. What a hypocrite.

4:30: Immigration: What Bachmann and the crowd want is to have their cheap virtual slave labour to clean their houses and harvest their crops but they don't want them to have any benefits. What they really want is slaves, that's what the people in the hall want.

6:30: Huntsman calls Perry's suggestion that they are unable to secure the border "treasonous".

13:30 - Ron Paul points out that the US has 900 bases overseas.

About 16:00: Ron Paul is telling the truth and the audience is booing him. They don't want to know why Al Qaida is against the US, they booed when he said it wasn't the entire Muslim world against the US. Arses.

Towards the end: What quirky personal thing would they bring to the White House. (Obama added a vegetable patch etc.) Romney would bring back the bust of Churchill. Huntsman would bring his Harley Davidson. Hmm. What about a Romney / Huntsman ticket? I thought earlier that Romney Bachmann might work but unfortunately she is unelectable and couldn't row back from her extremism far enough to work with Romney (Perry maybe). So Romney Huntsman might work or Romney Santorum. I think Gingrich is past it. Bachmann is toxic. I'm changing my bet to Romney Huntsman. Or Huntsman Cain. It all depends which ones make the biggest arses of themselves in the next phases.

* I think there is something to be said for funding healthcare on a state by state basis, with the proviso that some small states can combine into consortia, simply because the US might be too big an entity to have one funding system for all. However the same basic rules of 100% coverage should apply in every state. I don't know enough about the present plans to know if each state funds its own compliance with the new regulations. That should be the way it is done and if effect, comprehensive healthcare coverage should be a constitutional obligation on each state. That is the way to make it popular. It risks "postcode (zip code I suppose) lottery" problems at boundaries but that is a lesser problem, given that each state is obliged to ensure 100% healthcare; it then becomes a local election issue as to how well they are doing it in the state and enables tuning of systems to what locals prefer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011


Slam Fiction

Scene from a party, wot I wrote (and soundtrack by The Melodians)

Friday, September 02, 2011

pretend genius interview

interview with steve moran, founder of willesden herald short story contest

SM: "It's ok, the attackers got into spaceships and went away again. It's all fruity sarnies and brollies here again."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Astounding fruit and vegetables, 6: Purple carrots

These are the new "wonder food", apparently. An expedition went to Borough market yesterday to get them. You have to peel them to appreciate the wet purple that appears between the dark skin and the interior, which returns to normal carrot colour. The gradation of hues is similar to when peeling sweet potatoes but purple instead of peachy.

As you can gather from my previous vegetable pictures, I am a part time kitchen porter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pretend Genius Press Kickstarter appeal

That's me in the video inviting people to support Pretend Genius Press and help to publish rising writers. Please follow the link in the title for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


A station with no exit. "Keep your baggage with you at all times." In every window of trains, which arrive while I wait for a connection, there is someone from years ago. They are young people whose names I have long forgotten or never knew. The other people on this platform are old and don't look like anybody.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fils de

[Found this in Drafts, thought I might as well publish it.]

One of Jacques Brel's best songs is "Fils de" ("Sons of" or "Children of"), but it is badly served by a famous but crude translation by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman that takes liberties and introduces lines that are not in the original at all, which loses the gentleness and subtlety of the original.

Fils de bourgeois ou fils d'apôtres 
Tous les enfants sont comme les vôtres. 
Fils de César ou fils de rien, 
Tous les enfants sont comme le tien. 
Le même sourire, les mêmes larmes 
Les mêmes alarmes, les mêmes soupirs. 
Fils de César ou fils de rien, 
Tous les enfants sont comme le tien. 
Ce n'est qu'après, longtemps après. 

Mais fils de sultan, fils de fakir, 
Tous les enfants ont un empire 
Sous voûtes d'or, sous toits de chaumes 
Tous les enfants ont un royaume 
Un coin de vague, une fleur qui tremble 
Un oiseau mort qui leur ressemble. 
Fils de sultan, fils de fakir, 
Tous les enfants ont un empire. 
Ce n'est qu'après, longtemps après. 

Mais fils de bon fils ou fils d'étranger 
Tous les enfants sont des sorciers. 
Fils de l'amour, fils d'amourettes, 
Tous les enfants sont des poètes. 
Ils sont bergers, ils sont rois mages, 
Font des nuages pour mieux voler 
Mais fils de bon fils ou fils d'étranger 
Tous les enfants sont des sorciers, 
Ce n'est qu'après, longtemps après. 

Mais fils de bourgeois ou fils d'apôtres 
Tous les enfants sont comme les vôtres. 
Fils de César ou fils de rien, 
Tous les enfants sont comme le tien. 
Le même sourire, les mêmes larmes 
Les mêmes alarmes, les mêmes soupirs. 
Fils de César ou fils de rien, 
Tous les enfants sont comme le tien. 

And here, with a few obvious corrections by me, is a heroic attempt by Google page translator to render it, which to me feels better than the standard "Sons of" translation mentioned above, though I only have a few words of half-remembered school French to work with. As you can see there is no mention of "Sons of the sinner, sons of the saint / Who is the child with no complaint", which is actually a pretty good couple of lines but not from Brel's lyric! (No?) Nor is there any "Some built roads ... some went to war .. some never returned", which is a terrible liberty that changes the emphasis from the original where the key image is the little empire of childhood, "a dead bird" and other little things, no grand bluster.

Another thing to remember when thinking about this is that in French, the plural of a word that has masculine and feminine (fils, fille) takes the masculine. So "fils de" in French not only means "sons of" but also "children of". [Update: I have been corrected about this in the comments below, qv!] There is almost that sense available in English too, if you think you can bend it into the same collective sense whereby "man" is sometimes used in a gender inclusive way.

Sons of the bourgeois or sons of Apostles 
All of the children are like your own. 
Sons of the Caesar or of nothing, 
All children are like yours. 
The same smile, the same tears 
The same fears, the same sighs. 
Sons of the Caesar or of nothing, 
 All children are like yours. 
It was not till after, a long time after... 

But son of the Sultan, son of Fakir, 
All children have an empire 
Under golden arches, thatched 
All children have a kingdom 
A breaking wave, a flower that trembles 
A dead bird that looks like them
Son of Sultan, son of Fakir, 
All children have an empire. 
It was not till after, a long time after... 

But the son of a good son or son of a stranger 
All children are sorcerers. 
Son of love, son of love affairs, 
All children are poets. 
They are shepherds, they are kings, 
Are the clouds to fly better 
But the son of a good son or son of a stranger 
All children are sorcerers, 
It was not till after, a long time after... 

But the sons of bourgeois or sons of apostles 
All children are like yours. 
Son of the Caesar or of nothing, 
All children are like yours. 
The same smile, the same tears 
The same fears, the same sighs. 
Son of the son of Caesar or nothing, 
All children are like yours. 

A challenge to somebody to produce a poetic translation in keeping with the original instead of the mawkish Blau/Shuman effort from "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris". Footnote: The above is as nothing compared to the abominable "Seasons in the Sun" (Terry Jacks), which bears no relation to Brel's brilliant lyrics for "Le Moribond", doesn't even try, only shares the tune - and even ruins that too.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Overnight, changed rooms, left the other three and got a room of my own. Getting ready to go out for dinner but in the mirror, somebody else smiled back at first. Got a helluva fright. That was bad enough but rat scurrying across and under the bed was too much. Decided to leave early. It was only half twelve and lunch wasn't till one. So I had the street to myself down behind the school.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Overnight I met Ringo Starr at an event in a crowded shoe shop. Got a chance to talk with him sitting on one of those low benches (for trying on shoes). I told him people really liked his voice. I suggested he release his own version of Hey Jude in time for the Christmas market. He wasn't paying much attention.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reflections on Saturday evening TV in England

Duplicity and hypocrisy of the British establishment

Popular British media is counter-educational and devoid of dignity, purposefully designed to patronise, degrade and demoralise the general public. It is a smokescreen to obfuscate and so protect inherited privilege by debilitating the general public.

At the same time continual wars are fostered to further weaken and cull the healthy progeny of the serving classes, providing more distraction and rewarding the people's self-destruction with mealy-mouthed, cost-free acclaim and carefully forgetful "remembrance".

What about a tomb for the Unknown Citizen? Where is the ceremony of remembrance for the countless millions killed by order of British governments, whose leaders place wreaths and go back to their offices to order more bombing?


The BBC has two distinct levels of programming, one is at a high level encompassing new drama, popular science, investigative journalism, rigorous interviews, public debate and classical music.

The other is relentlessly patronising and meretricious, Blue Peter for all ages, moronic games, tone deaf singers, clodhopping wallopers, cheesy fops, blowsy, raucous tarts and all presented by smarmy, unconvincing phonies and deadbeats. Twenty year runs for unfunny situation comedies that died in their first season.

Other channels: With a few honourable exceptions, UK commercial television is a desert of the utterly banal and nauseating.

Newspapers: The main tabloid newspapers are nothing but a sick joke. The London Evening Standard at least has Brian Sewell, a really great columnist, and affords him two or three pages when he reviews an exhibition.

I think the Guardian is superb, a world class newspaper here, no? The Independent at least tries. The Times seems dreary and overblown but I haven't read enough to say for sure. They support the short story by running one in their Sunday supplement. The Telegraph is sensationalist, with weak science stories overplayed, sour and boorish columnists (the brilliant Boris excepted) but at least got the scoop on MP's expenses and interesting if you want to know what your enemies are thinking.

These are my impressions anyway. No doubt I'm in the throes of some florid delusion.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


You know when you're on your own in the middle of a room and you look through the window at lighting up time and wonder how many are being born, making love, dying, how many are standing looking, how many sleeping... (and a lot of other tiresome, mundane or horrible things).

Astounding fruit and vegetables

Californian strawberries

Sweet potatoes (for the colours)

This GM madness has gone too far

Romanesco broccoli

Portobello mushrooms

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few maybes about fiction

The joy of fiction is not in finding out what the writer knows, it's the writer finding out what we know. Characters the writer hated turn out to be better than the writer imagined. Characters the writer loved were not all they were cracked-up to be. If non-fiction is for us to find out what the author knows then maybe fiction is an exploration in which the author sets out to discover what we know. Then like other discoveries, it sounds obvious when we hear it. We knew that all along.

Reading fiction is following with the logic of music, notes that establish a theme, counterpoint, development, allegro, largo, andante, the theme returns, resolution... The music is out there; it's David in a block of marble, stories in the burble of a café, the susurration of congregants, the gull cries of a spoon stirring medicine in a glass, the sound of a small hammer on tin, which turns out to be a finch, the train sound from miles away that only carries on moonless nights...

(And always a basketball bouncing, though nobody round here plays basketball. Always children babbling and shrieking, though there are no children round here. Sometimes a jet flies low overhead though we're not on any flight path. Helicopters hovering where the streets are too small to land. The same Jehovah's witnesses call every couple of months, disbelieving the mezzuzah. Visits by the Seventh Day Adventists are settling into a pattern. The Church of Latter Day Saints is overstretched. A hungry teen with crow's feet round his eyes sells flannels from a tray while a Merc. waits round the corner. The parcelmen knock and run away.)

But what does it matter? Turn the page, our hero is going somewhere, to where people are and there will be tea, JD, opium and lashings of ginger ale.

We are the lost tribe, the lost tribe of us, enrapt in a florid delusion of consciousness, where spirits live in history, and offerings are made on stage to gods of theatre, and there are such laughable concepts as careers, status, security and wisdom. Where everyone is a shaman drunk on industry, spinning in train carriages of spear carrying accountants, trouping in powdery makeup through jungles of wire.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaddafi a latter day Caligula

Gaddafi is a present day Caligula, completely insane and depraved. I have just seen his 11 second appearance tonight on Libyan TV and he is completely off his rocker. That is nothing new, it has been perfectly clear for years. The wonder is that any of his people or other governments ever kow-towed to him, especially the nauseating Tony Blair and New Labour sellouts.

Our governments know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Better austerity, make do and full employment than being in thrall to the globalist "race to the bottom", destroying all industry and principles. Self-sufficiency and protectionism now, nationalise the banks without compensation. Out with the Tory government, needless to add. Slogans maybe but if Egyptians and Libyans can march into bullets for their freedom, what are we waiting for here?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Listening to The Beatles

Update: The video has disappeared. Here is a link to Cry Baby Cry on Spotify.

"Cry Baby Cry" from The Beatles eponymously titled album ("the white album") is a good track for headphones. There is a lot going on in it, not least the wonderful way the it goes cry-ahy-ahy-ahy-ahy with echo at the end of the lines in the chorus. Even in the first 10 seconds, it's magical the way guitar on the right, voice on the left and then some gorgeous noodling synth comes in the middle. It's worth listening just for those first 10 seconds. There are birds chirping and all sorts of things. The annoying double ending has been edited off the version above but now that it's gone I sort of miss it.

The way the different parts come in is marvellous and it then goes through all sorts of phases. Guitar plus voice, then synth, then bass drum, cymbals all coming and going, echo, etc. Most crummy songs just start with a setup and stick with it all the way through but this, although not classical music or instruments, has a lot of musical art in it. It's a long way from skiffle.

The progress of the arrangement is approximately:
00:00-00:05: Acoustic guitar (right) + vocal (left) simultaneous start (chorus)

The chorus is always in the left ear in a sort of sly or whispered mode; "cry baby cry, make your mother sigh, she's old enough to know better". Thinking about it, it's a taunt, a childish "your mother is old" jibe.

00:05: Add synth for a few seconds (middle)

00:11: The first verse starts.
The verses are all in the middle in a slightly bolder narrative voice. They are alternating with the taunting voice in the left ear, which sometimes has added faint two-part harmony over to the right middle, perhaps a metaphor for the playground gang?

00:18: Add wowy bass line (left) for a few seconds
00:27: Add piano highlighting lyric "playing piano..."
00:30: Add heavy bass drum beat - we're now in full flow
00:41: Add high hat cymbal beat for the first time
00:45: Classic Ringo fill (he said all his contribution was in the fills)
00:50: Start of a sinister high pitched synth sound. We're fully underway now with all the elements coming and going. There are rhythm and lead guitar parts blended as well.

01:15: The arrival of "the Duchess of Kircaldy" seems to be accompanied by something like birdsong that ends in a burbly warble. [From comments: I think the birds chirping are there because with the queen being in the parlour and the king somewhere else, what else to expect but four and twenty blackbirds.]

The sigh-like echoing of the the cry-ih-ih-ih-y is keyed to the "make your mother sigh-igh-igh-igh" as it is a kind of sighing. It seems to increase as the song goes on.

Notice how all the time there are superb dynamic changes to where there is a quieter spell and then the heavy drum beat makes the main thrust of the song come back with great energy, with a thrashing effect almost. There is also a strange slightly harsher turn of voice at the ends of the verses, a sort of wilful insistence on the narrative that adds to the effect and enhances the dialogue between the verse narrator in the middle and the taunting chorus on the left.

01:35 We're now getting added two-part harmony vocal in the middle, an octave higher.

And so on, and it's only 2 minutes 34 seconds long this video. There is actually a false ending to the song and it has a coda on the LP that is not on this YouTube version. There is that sense of something missing at the end of the song. However, it could be argued that it is better this way than with the somewhat annoying "Can you take me back?" little ditty that has been edited off here.

Whoever made the video adds another layer of interest by equating Mai Pang with "the friend who came to play" though the White Album was made long before John Lennon decamped to the US. John was always worrying away at his problem childhood, so I suppose that might be a starting point for working out what the hell the lyrics are about. I know he said that they just made up nonsense but he was being a little disingenuous I think. He was not one of those totally open people like McCartney who seem to have no "side" to them, Lennon was all side and everything was said for effect, I think, rather than in service to some simplistic idea of truth. No doubt I have it all wrong but luckily it is of no more consequence than a gnat's gnibble.

The missing coda is a wistful repetition in a different but strangely backward sounding tune of "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back? Can you take me back where I came from, brother can you take me back, can you take me back? [etc.]"