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Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Looney Facts repost from 2011

Here is a list of seemingly looney facts. Can you spot the one that 's not true?
  • Japanese research has concluded that moderate drinking can boost IQ levels.
  • The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth is called Arachibutyrophobia.
  • Macadamia nuts are not sold in their shells because it takes 300 pounds per square inch of pressure to break the shell.
  • Florida: An elephant tied to a parking meter must pay the regular parking fee.
  • In Samoa, it is illegal to forget your wife's birthday.
  • In Alabama it is illegal to stab yourself to gain someone's pity.
  • In the UK it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
  • Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.
  • London taxis (black cabs) must carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats.
  • Descendants of Sweeney Todd, the cannibalistic barber, founded a sausage factory in Somerset, England after the First World War.
  • The word "queue" is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.
  • Queen Elizabeth Ist regarded herself as a paragon of cleanliness. She declared that she bathed once every three months, whether she needed it or not.
  • An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
These facts have all been verified by the they must be true! Answers at the weekend.
I'm listening to Dion & The Belmonts singing Ruby Baby, one of the all-time great rock and roll songs. Listen here.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

REPOST from 2012: Painting of the Month, Alex Snellgrove

Persian Girl by Alex Snellgrove
On my recent visit to Australia (from November 2012)I was lucky enough to meet up with esoteric fellow-Blogger Stephen Simmonds. He and his wife Rosalie took Leah and I to a gallery in Clovelly, a suburb of Sydney near Bondi Beach, where their friend, local artist Alex Snellgrove, was showing her latest work.
As you can see she has a wonderful way of painting water. The series of paintings, of which the above is one, displays her great ability to convey the luminosity and movement of water. The effect of light and the translucence it gives the water is delightful. We met the charming artist and bought some cards with prints of her work; I would have liked to have purchased a painting too but they were (justifiably) out of my price range!
Coogee Beach, Sydney by Alex Snellgrove
I'm listening to Dion's version of Leonard Cohen's much-recorded Sisters of Mercy. There are many excellent versions of this wonderful song but Dion's is surprisingly good. Hear it here!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Ruth's Birthday

Leah and I walked a mile-and-a-half through the deserted streets to the home of Ruth, our oldest daughter, and we held up a banner while singing Happy Birthday. It's nice to get out now and then!
As we were leaving an ice-cream van pulled up outside. They had placed their order and paid online. The Italian ice-ream guys made up the orders right there and left it on their doorstep - no contact! Very enterprising I think.
I'm listening to Jackson Browne singing his own song Linda Paloma live on The Letterman Show. He is a top-class live performer. The song is in a Californian-Mexican style. Listen here.
The original studio recording features a harp and it's here!

Sunday, 12 April 2020

John Prine 1946-2020

I was saddened to learn that Covid-19 had claimed the life of John Prine, one of my favourite singer-songwriters.  By all accounts he was a decent family man. His songs are often very humorous and can be full of hard-hitting social commentary. When he first appeared on the scene he was dismissed as just another Bob Dylan clone but he persevered and showed his true worth. Here are some links to a few of my favourite songs and a cover by Bette Midler:
Sam Stone - a very moving song from early in his career. Listen here.
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness - lovely lyrics, catchy tune. Listen here.
In Spite of Ourselves - with Iris DeMent, very funny. Listen here.
Hello in There- such a sad song. Listen here.
And finally an emotional cover of Hello in There by Bette Midler. Listen here.
Joan Baez has also covered the song but, for me, it doesn't work so well at the high tempo she has used.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Re-post from 2010: The Naming of Parts by Henry Reed

I am currently re-posting some of my favourite posts from the last ten years.

This is one of my all-time favourite poems. It was written in 1942 during the War and it has various ways of being interpreted. I feel that there are two voices speaking. The first one is an army instructor, rather drily and somewhat sarcastically putting some new conscripts through their paces in learning about a particular weapon and the second voice is that of a young recruit (which I have italicised).
The recruit’s mind is wandering as he notices all the signs of spring-time around him. His mind is doing what a young man’s mind will do in spring-time and everything he is thinking has a secondary sexual connotation. The more you read it the more of these hints will be picked up. (‘Cocking bolt’, ‘we can rapidly slide it backwards and forwards’, ‘assaulting and fumbling’ and so on).
Henry Reed has not used punctuation to distinguish the two voices and make our job easier but it is clear what he intends. Rather clever don’t you think?

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
     And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
   Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
   Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
   They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards
and forwards,

   For today we have naming of parts.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

RE-POST FROM 2012: Isaac Albeniz

As I am a bit of short of time currently, I am going to re-post some of my favourites from over the previous ten years.
Isaac Albeniz 1860 - 1909. A little flamboyant don't you think?

Isaac Albeniz was a Spanish pianist and composer who died at the early age of 48 (from a kidney ailment known at the time as Bright's Disease). I was once a student of the classical guitar and came to his music through the many transcriptions of his piano music for the guitar. Transcription is when a piece of music written for one instrument is arranged and notated for another.
My two favourite pieces are Granada from the Suite Española and the Tango in D and here are links to piano and guitar versions of both where one can see how well they work for the guitar.
Granada for piano (there are better versions but this is the best I could find on You Tube). I'm not sure who plays this.
Granada for guitar played by John Williams.
Tango in D for piano. Again, I don't know who the pianist is.
Tango in D for guitar played by John Williams again.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Draft 1

While I am stuck at home self-isolating, instead of music, I will be posting jokes:

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

North Hill, Highgate, Part Two

This is the second  post about the amazing North Hill in Highgate, London.
See the first part and introduction here.
 4 North Hill, Highgate
Number 4.This is a good example of Venetian Gothic which differs from that of Florence or Rome. The steeper roof and smaller windows make it more suited to a colder climate. The windows are the first appearance in North Hill of a pointed and angled arch as is the use of varying colours of brick. The heavy entablature at the top would have served to throw rain-water forward to avoid it soaking the walls.

 47-49 North Hill, Highgate
Numbers 47 and 49. Known as Provincial Georgian style (not a derogatory term!). These houses, unique to London would have been outside of any building regulations and, most probably, from a pattern-book so no involvement of an architect. The equal spacing of the windows and brickwork between them was a typical feature and the lintel at the top hides the roof.

 51 North Hill, Highgate
Number 51. An ornate Regency Villa of 1780. Although the ground-floor windows are classic Georgian the downstairs has been more recently extended. It is the only property in North Hill in which the front door opens directly onto the street. I love the first floor bay and wrought iron decoration.

Castle Yard, North Hill
The Victorian Cottages of Castle yard; although tiny and quaint, these former worker's homes,
directly off North Hill, are worthwhile mentioning. These neat, sought-after houses can fetch a million pounds each! Location, location, location.

Highpoint One at the top of North Hill
And the final treat at the top of North Hill is HIGHPOINT (1935) the first of two apartment blocks on one of the highest spots in London and often cited as one of Britain’s finest buildings. It was designed by the Russian-emigré architect Berthold Lubetkin and commissioned by Sigmund Gestetner. Although it was originally intended for his staff, it was never used for that purpose. Next door is Highpoint 2 but I think Gestetner must have copied the first one 😊. Corbusier described it as “a building of the first rank.”

I'm listening to Country Girl by Brinsley Schwarz, the very talented 1970s band who never really made it despite having Nick Lowe as their vocalist. Take a listen here!

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

North Hill, Highgate, Part One

North Hill in Highgate, north London is a unique road in the UK, probably in Europe and possibly in the world! It's about half-a-mile in length and contains an absolutely incredible variety of English domestic architecture; almost a complete collection of all the styles and variety since Tudor times. Here is a selection of some of the more interesting buildings. More will follow in a future post.
41 North Hill, Highgate London
Number 41 was built in 1600, at the end of the Tudor period although in the Elizabethan age. Its typically Tudor arrangement of black beams on white walls is far too tidy to be the original design and it was extensively remodelled in 1926. It is easily the oldest building in the street.

121 North Hill, Highgate
Number 121, an almost over-the-top Gothic Revival house from 1880 is unusual for the style in being symmetrical. It was the first appearance of glazed panels in the front door. The sills are made from an artificial aggregate called coade stone, named for its inventor, Mrs Coade who took the secret of its manufacturing process to her grave. Personally I rather like the downstairs windows and all the fussy details and additions.

Morven House, 6 North Hill, Highgate
Number 6 was badly neglected when used by Haringey as sheltered accommodation for homeless people and drug addicts. Now fully restored, one can see the Palladlian-influenced building at its best. The stucco on the ground floor has been incised to give the appearance of large pieces of masonry. Stucco would have been much cheaper than stonework. The first-floor railings are also typical.

80 North Hill, Highgate
Number 80 is a typical Edwardian house built around 1905 and is, perhaps surprisingly, the only example in this street. Features include the recessed entrance below an upstairs window and, above the upstairs bay, is something that became very popular during the inter-war years: small areas of pebble-dash between wooden verticals, possibly reminiscent of the Tudor style. 

169-175 North Hill, Springfield Cottages, Highgate
Springfield Cottages, 169-175. Built in 1877, this neat row of cottages shows the influence of the 1870 Building Regulations: the taller chimney stacks and you can just make out the vertical row of bricks between the properties, which acted to stop the spread of fire. Also, not really visible, there is a row of blue bricks along the base which helped to prevent damp. These cottages had bay windows where the earlier Georgian ones would have had bow windows

I'm listening to the irresistible Negro Y Azul, The Ballad of Heisenberg by Los Cuates de Sinaloa
from Breaking Bad. LISTEN HERE 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Australia: Australia Post 1809
Austria: St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium 803 Located in the walls of St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg and remains the oldest restaurant in Europe that you can still eat in. The inn is rumoured to have served Columbus, Faust and Mozart.
Belgium: Affligem Brewery 1074 Still brewing top-class beer
Canada: Hudson’s Bay Company 1670
China: Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House 1153 During the Jin Dynasty
England: The Royal Mint 886
Egypt: Egyptian National Railways 1854
Finland: Fiskars 1649
France: Monnaie de Paris 864
Germany: Staffelter Hof Winery 862 Oldest Winery in Europe
India: Wadia Group 1736
Ireland: Sean’s Bar 900
Italy: Marinelli Bell Foundry 1040
Japan: Kongo Gumi 578 World’s oldest still trading company, although taken-over in 2006
Kosovo: Meridian Corporation 1999
New Zealand: Bank of New Zealand 1861
Scotland: The Bank of Scotland 1695
Spain: Casa de Ganaderos 1218
Ukraine: Drohobych Salt Plant 1250 
United States: Shirley Plantation 1638 Edward Hill raised the farm and his descendants still occupy and manage the business today. 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Short Break

I am taking a short break from posting due to being busy with other things for a while. However, I hope to be able to visit my favourite Blogs and comment!

Monday, 6 January 2020

New Year Quiz Answers

In the spirit of peace in the world I declare the quiz a four-way tie 
Sorry if it was a bit too hard!
  1. Linguistically, what do Blackpool in England and Dublin in Ireland have in common?        DUBLIN means 'Black Pool' in early Gaelic.
  2. What is the antonym of oriental?         OCCIDENTAL
  3. Which are the only two countries to have an X in their names? MEXICO and LUXEMBOURG
  4. What do these words have in common: Tungsten, Gauntlet, Moped and Ombudsman? They were all borrowed into English from SWEDISH.
  5. Which Oscar-winning film was based on Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness? APOCOLYPSE NOW (Marlon Brando's rebel character had the name Kurtz - taken directly form Heart of Darkness)
  6. The name of which city is derived from an indigenous word for "stinky onion" (probably garlic). CHICAGO is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa, known to botanists as Allium tricoccum, from the Miami-Illinois language.
  7. Philadelphia means "brotherly love". Which capitol city in the east was also once known as Philadelphia in Biblical times? AMMAN in Jordan was once known as Philadelphia in the ancient world. 
  8. Which word, not in use before the 1980s, can be defined thus: “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”? STEAMPUNK.
I'm listening to The Beatles singing If I Fell. Apart from fabulous multi-voice harmony, it is musically interesting for an early key-change; very unusual and very inventive after about 18 seconds of a song! Listen here.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Bazza's New Year 'Wordy' Quiz

  1. Linguistically, what do Blackpool in England and Dublin in Ireland have in common?
  2. What is the antonym of oriental?
  3. Which are the only two countries to have an X in their names?
  4. What do these words have in common: Tungsten, Gauntlet, Moped and Ombudsman?
  5. Which Oscar-winning film was based on Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness?
  6. The name of which city is derived from an indigenous word for "stinky onion" (probably garlic).
  7. Philadelphia means "brotherly love". Which capitol city in the east was also once known as Philadelphia in Biblical times?
  8. Which word, not in use before the 1980s, can be defined thus: “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”?

Answers next year (ie. 2020)

I'm listening to the ridiculous Wreckless Eric singing his much-unappreciated late punk recording from 1979 of Hit and Miss Judy. Listen here.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Painting of the Month (92) Dec 2019: Utamaro

Utamaro, born in 1753, is regarded as one of the finest Japanese artists working in the medium of woodblock prints and paintings. His speciality, for which he is best known, was the series of "large-headed woman" in the 1790s.

"He created an absolutely new type of female beauty. At first he was content to draw the head in normal proportions and quite definitely round in shape; only the neck on which this head was posed was already notably slender ... Towards the middle of the tenth decade these exaggerated proportions of the body had reached such an extreme that the heads were twice as long as they were broad, set upon slim long necks, which in turn swayed upon very slim shoulders; the upper coiffure bulged out to such a degree that it almost surpassed the head itself in extent; the eyes were indicated by short slits, and were separated by an inordinately long nose from an infinitesimally small mouth; the soft robes hung loosely about figures of an almost unearthly thinness" (From Wikipedia). Here are some more of his pictures:

I'm listening to Joan Baez's version of Janis (At Seventeen) Ian's  plaintive and sad song Jessie. Hear it here.
Janis's own original version is almost too sad. She gives a vulnerable and completely believable performance here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

When You Are Old by W B Yeats

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
W B Yeats                             Maude Gonne

   This lovely, simple poem can be enjoyed without analysis. Its merits are not buried deeply or hidden from the reader but, being me, I am going to offer some analysis anyway.

   The themes of the poem, I would suggest, are growing old, the passing of time and, slightly less obviously, unrequited love.

   The speaker of the poem, whose voice we hear, is directly addressing the lady he loves and asking her to think of a future when she has lost her looks and is “old and grey and full of sleep”. The third line of the second stanza tells us that “one man loved the pilgrim soul in you”. We learn in the third and final stanza where the personification of Love has “fled” – that he has been rejected.

   The poet has used some symbolism (where the words don’t have their literal meaning but stand for something else). For example when Yeats writes “take down this book and dream” book  is a symbol for reading someone’s face. Also “mountains overhead” and “crowd of stars” stand for things that she knows exist but cannot be reached.

This poem was published in W B Yeat’s second collection of poetry in 1893 it is actually based upon a 16th century French sonnet. The lady being addressed was the Irish actress Maud Gonne with whom he had a relationship.

   You may find further symbolism within.

   I'm listening to Michael Nesmith's version of his own song Different Drum. It's still the best one despite many covers including Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Poneys and PP Arnold. Have a listen here. 

Friday, 22 November 2019

Tu You You

The first sentence is completely true. I have some doubts about the second one!
As Leah and I are off to Madeira for 12 days from tomorrow morning there may be a longish delay in any responses.
I'm listening to The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun. Written and sung by the under-valued George Harrison. You can listen here!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Painting of the Month (91) Nov 2019: John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent. San VigiIio: A Boat with a Golden Sail. 1913

This lovely impressionistic painting, by John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) is set in San Vigilio on the beautiful and tranquil shore of Lake Garda, Italy. It is always pleasing to look at; using a limited palette, its use of light is magical. Are the sails golden or is it the sunlight? All of the other elements in the picture appear to be draped in late afternoon sunlight, (I know its afternoon and not morning because the light is coming from the west.)
San Vigilio today

Sargent is well known as a very great portraitist and quite rightly so, but I have always preferred his landscapes. For me they simply convey a great joy in just looking at his subjects. He was highly skilled in the use both oil paints and watercolours. His parents were American but he was born in Florence and spent most of his life in Europe so he is regarded as an American ‘expat’. 
I'm listening to Madeleine Peyroux singing a lovely,jazzy version of Bob Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Listen here

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Our Golden Wedding

This is the music we opened the dancing with at our wedding. Listen here.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

“On the Stork Tower”

On The Stork Tower by Wang Zhihuan
The sun in the distant mountains glows
The Yellow River seawards ever flows
You will find a grander sight
By climbing to a greater height

Zhihuan's short poem works on two levels. It is a mediation on nature which also serves as an epigram, a short motivational work meant to encourage seeking out new and better prospects.   
While the poem is only four lines long, it works as a meditative focus point, something to ponder whether sitting alone outside or during a crisis as a reminder that there is a solution to be found no matter the problem. Combining Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian religious ideas Zhihuan’s only surviving poem provides food for thought dressed in the language of nature. It symbolises the pursuit of an ideal. The message it contains is the admonition to try harder!
In China, the stork (also the heron and crane) is a symbol of longevity because it lives a long life, and its white feathers represent old age. In the Chinese imperial hierarchy, the stork is “a bird of the first rank.” Flying cranes symbolise one’s hope for a higher position.

Here is another, less satisfying,  translation:

The white sun sets behind the mountains,
and the Yellow River flows into the sea.
To see a thousand mile view,
go up another floor.

I’m listening to the British psychedelic folk group The Incredible String Band singing their own song  “Painting Box”. Very sixties! Listen here.