Captain Beefheart dies

Trout Mask Replica

Trout Mask Replica

The BBC is reporting today that the artist and musician Don Van Vliet, known as Captain Beefheart, has died in California from “complications from multiple sclerosis”.

I only ever bought the one Beefheart album, Trout Mask Replica, but I have appreciated it more and more over the years.

I recall that a few years ago Trout Mask Replica won an award for the best album of all time on some TV channel. While researching this I found that BBC 6 Music had listed it as one of the most overrated albums of all time. Beefheart’s detractors are missing out. Yes, Trout Mask Replica is not shiny and perfect like most of the music produced today but that’s the point.

Starting around the fifties or sixties recorded music became industrialised. A machine evolved to create music and sell it as a product to generate profit. To begin with this was done by “spotting” talent but today this has evolved into attempts to create talent. E.g. The X Factor. The problem with the likes of Simon Cowell trying to create talent is that Cowell has no artistic talent himself. Yes, he has the ability to spot similarities and this is what he does. He observes how talented singers sing and then tries to encourage would be talent to sing in the same manner. Consequently the “artists” which emerge are mere imitation of true talent. They can hit the notes, they can keep time but they have no artistic talent. They are the musical equivalent of battery hens. After Cowell and his team have refined and Kaizaned all their individuality out of them they resemble a Toyota more than an Aston Martin.

Even in the 60s the machine was gearing up to replace temperamental and expensive talent with clones created by the industry. One of Captain Beefheart’s achievements was to defy the system and create music which was not reliant on emulating others.

It’s interesting that, though the British press are reporting Beefheart’s death, the story has not even made the front page of The L.A. Times.

Cash Passport does incur ATM fees despite what Travelex say

Cash Passport - Foreign ATMs DO charge fees

Cash Passport - Foreign ATMs DO charge fees

On my way to the United States in the summer I stopped at Travelex to buy some dollars. I was offered a special pre paid card caled a Cash passport. I was told the rate was better than cash. The card has a Mastercard symbol and the idea is that you load it up with cash and then withdraw cash abroad from ATMs as you need it.

I asked if there were any charges and was told no I asked if I would incur any charges when I withdrew my money and was told no. I asked again, though Travelex and Mastercard may not charge me fees, will I be charged a fee by the bank that runs the ATM in the other country. I asked this very explicitly. I was told NO. So I signed up for one of these cards.

Of course once I got to America and withdrew cash I was charged a fee so Travelex had been TALKING BOLLOCKS. I had thought I destroyed the card but I just found it and rang the helpline. After the usual bollocks of trying to fob me off with recorded messages about pressing other buttons or going tot he web site I spoke to someone. You can guess what they said when I complained about the fees. They said that they do not charge fees but they, or their operatives, cannot answer for the banks who own the ATMs. I explained that this was the point. The sales person had answered for the ATM owner and had lied.

I canceled the card.

I am not even sure of the point of these cards. If I have money already in my bank then why transfer it to another company and use their card. Why not just use my bank card? Miss-selling I call it.

Koyaanesqatsi & The IBM Glass Engine

koyaanisqatsi

koyaanisqatsi

Having just completed my first video with anything like a narrative I started to contemplate my next masterpiece. Some may say that, following the four minute Youtube video “The Other Floor”, my choice of remaking Koyaanisqatsi is overly ambitious but I remain optimistic and am preparing to record my friend’s 6 kids aged between 4 and 7 chanting “Koyaanisqatsi” at the top of their lungs after Christmas dinner while their parents are doing the washing up. Note to self to remember to take audio recorder at Christmas.

In preparation for this I thought I’d better get the main theme of Philip Glass’s masterpiece loaded into my music software. I plugged in the MIDI keyboard, selected church organ and bashed a few keys. The main disadvantage I have when playing church organ in Steinberg Sequel is my inability to play any kind of musical instrument to any degree whatsoever. All my attempts sounded overly jaunty and I realised I needed help.

A quick perusal of the web revealed a demonstration on how to play piano like Philip Glass by the weirdly zealous Torley. Very impressive but it didn’t get me very far.

It did however give me a clue. Torley claimed that all Glass music is based on Chord progressions so I Wiki’d chord progression and discovered that “a chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that “aims for a definite goal” of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord.”

Obviously rational investigation was getting me nowhere and I reverted back to searching for a youtube video demonstrating the buttons to push and came across the more melancholic, but equally mystifying Koyaanisqatsi & Prophecies – Organ by oldfm88. Again, very good but too dark to see what’s happening at the keyboard.

Torley had suggested that Philip Glass’s work consisted of no more than difference serious of chord progressions. While I cannot comment on this I did discover some software named IBM Glass Engine purporting to be able to locate any Philip Glass music by moving a series of sliders representing Joy, Sorrow, Intensity, Density and Velocity.

All very interesting but I am no closer to being able to compose and play music like Philip Glass. What I needed was the whole of the music from Koyaanesqatsi programmed into Steinberg Sequel, then saved and made available on The Internet for me to downland. Surely that’s not too much to ask. I didn’t find that but I did find a video showing the buttons to push.

OK, that’s the music sorted out. Now I just need to get some filming done. Perhaps Christmas day will provide some raw material for that too.

The Wrong Floor

An exhausted traveller arrives in Prague on a bitterly cold winter’s night and finds himself several miles from his hotel. He trudges through the snow toward the hotel while an eerie bell tolls portending he knows not what.
When the stranger finally reaches his hotel he accidentally gets out of the elevator on the wrong floor and is met by a disturbing doppelgänger version of reality haunted by sinister manikins. After retreating back to the elevator he finally reaches his room and, thankfully, TV.

Rich kids and demonstrations

Tuition fees? - get away?

Tuition fees? - get away!

The Daily Telegraph has reported that the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Charlie Gilmour, was involved in the student demonstrations and photographed climbing on The Cenotaph. The Cenotaph climbing doesn’t worry me too much, it’s a great tribute to many brave people who sacrificed their lives for others and deserves respect but young people will always disrespect symbols of this sort and there was no serious damage done.

What I do note is that David Gilmour is a very rich man and presumably his son is not short of a bob or two. I expect that Charlie does not need a student loan so must be driven by wanting to help the less wealthy. A noble sentiment.

But hold on a second. We have a rich young man with a fervent desire to help the less fortunate. So what does he do? He desecrates a symbol to the dead in an effort to get everyone else to pay for students.

It seems to me that this is a fault in the British character. No matter how well off, people who want to help others never dig in their own pockets or dirty their own hands actually contributing funds or helping themselves. Instead they start campaigns for everyone else pay.

If Charlie Gilmour really wants to help poor students I suggest he talk to his dad.

China’s Nobel prize tantrum shows recipient well chosen

Liu Xiaobo - well chosen Nobel peace prize recipent

Liu Xiaobo - well chosen Nobel peace prize recipent

I hear that a Chinese “dissident” named Liu Xiaobo has won the Nobel peace prize and that the Chinese government are once again throwing tantrums. It seems that they have convinced 18 other countries not to attend the prize giving ceremony.

The great thing about tyrants is that they are stupid. They are so stupid that they are completely unaware of how their aggressive behaviour exposes them as illegitimate tyrants. For example China is reported to have sent letters to every embassy in Oslo threatening “consequences” if their representative attended the prize giving ceremony.

Further, it is possible to judge a regime by it’s friends. The 18 countries which agreed to boycott the ceremony are: Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco. Not all of these countries are corrupt dictatorships but if were one were putting together a list of corrupt dictatorships it would not be a bad starting point.

It is very fashionable in the world today to condemn the United States for it’s failings and it is true that the Invasion of Iraq and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo bay have not done America’s image any good. But does anyone seriously think that the Chinese would behave better in the same situation? This is the same regime which rolled tanks over unarmed civilian protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and now blocks any searches to the Tiananmen Square protests. Just as it screens all Internet access for it’s citizens.

The United States is an imperfect democracy. China is a dictatorship.

The Chinese government could have reacted in a low key way and argued that it was working it’s way toward more open government but instead the Chinese authorities exposed themselves and their agenda.

Chinese government’s reaction underlines the aggressive nature of the people who comprise the government of China. They have got to where they are by bullying and intimidation and so this is their natural response to criticism.
They complain that the prize is an insult to the Chinese people but the Chinese government do not represent the Chinese people and they do not speak for the Chinese people. They have no mandate to power and they maintain their grip on power in the same way that tyrants have always maintained their grip on power: by bullying, intimidation and violence.

The Chinese government reaction to this award demonstrates a definite need for the Nobel Peace Prize to encourage democracy and freedom within all countries.

The award shows that the recipient was well chosen.

do students have right to your money?

Student Protest

Student Protest

Student funding in the news. Student demonstrating everywhere. Demonstrations crossing the line from peaceful protest into violence. Broadly I’m in favour of subsidising the university fees of young people who may find it difficult to pay for themselves. I’m in favour of this as I think it’s good for our society as a whole and because I’m in favour of equality of opportunity.

However I am getting pretty pissed off with the violence of the demonstrations and the belligerent attitude of the students. I heard one this morning saying that she though that university education was her “right” and that it should be free. Well, I agree I think her education should be free. She should not have to pay for, neither should I and neither should you. Unfortunately this leaves the question: Who the hell is going to pay?

The truth is that nothing is free. Goods and services are either paid for directly by the user, paid for by everyone via state funding or paid for by combination of the two. This young woman thought that if they were paid for by the state then they would be free. Not so. What she meant when she said that education should be free is that EVERYONE should pay for her education and that means me. As I say, I’m broadly in favour of subsidized university education but when some little twit starts yelling that she has a “right” to my money I tend to become less sympathetic.

I’m also pissed off at the self riotousness of these bloody students. During the materialist bullshit Britain years of New Labour the students didn’t make a sound. We didn’t hear a peep out of them when Blair took us into an illegal war. We didn’t hear anything from them as New Labour eroded our civil liberties with ubiquitous CCTV and authoritarian terrorism laws. Traditionally students have been left leaning but that seems to have changed. The only way to get them to demonstrate these days is to threaten their wallets. Sure they have muttered about child benefit but they never got off their arses until it was their funding that was under fire. Now that they may have to pawn their iPhones to pay for education they’re up in arms condemning the Liberal Democrats and aligning themselves with Labour. Labour for God’s sake! The bastards that got us into this disaster. Economy down the drain, massive debt and fighting a war in a land locked country which we couldn’t suppress at the height of Britain’s power. Well done Blair!

And Labour have turned on a sixpence. They’ve reverted from the pro-business, pro war, pro-consultant, pro business-bullshit, profligate capitalists back to the whinging, protest party. Now they’re out of power they are free to pretend that they would not have cut any budgets at all. New Aircraft carriers? Of course we’ll have them. Free education? Why not. Child benefit for all? Of course. After wrecking the British economy Labour can now pretend that everything would have been fine if they were just left in power and the students can all pretend that the past 13 years have never happened and we’re back in the Thatcher years.

The protesters bang on about the Liberal Democrats “betraying” them. A party can’t betray you if you don’t vote for them. It would be interesting to know how may of the student protesters voted Liberal Democrat and if they really want to think about betrayal they might consider the whole New Labour project.

I will say one thing in praise of the student protests. They have stamina. It must be bloody freezing up there.

Are you posh or not

is she posh or not

is she posh or not

The programmers at Radio 4 are obviously on form this week. On Monday Woman’s Hour had a piece on Burlesque featuring a performer with the ludicrous name of Opehlia Bitz. The gist behind this was the question “Burlesque: is it the acceptable face of stripping?” or as Jane Garvey put it: is Burlesque merely  “Stripping for posh girls”.

Today’s edition of Woman’s Hour had an item on the new Ryan Air calendar which features “scantily clad” female air hostesses and featured Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, and Mary Honeyball an MEP. This was more stripping, this time for the working classes with the debate focused on “a bit of fun” and discussion on whether the unions were involved?

For any students researching such topics The Ryan Air calendar can be seen here and I report this as, from a TALKING BOLLOCKS standpoint, these two features highlight the ingrained class structure of British Society and, in no way, a cynical attempt to raise ratings. As if I would.

The future is fat

fatronaut

fatronaut

The man on the radio today said that there is not a single country in the world which has reversed their obesity epidemic yet. He claimed to be some kind of medical expert and referred to the phenomena of “foetal imprinting” also known as “Genomic imprinting” which has been discovered in the last five years. This is a process whereby the genes of a foetus are switched on or off according to input from the mother’s body. The assertion was that an overweight mother had a propensity to switching on genes in the foetus which would lead the child susceptible to obesity.
The evolutionary context was that an animal which found food abundant would pass on traits to her offspring which assumed that food was abundant. An animal which found food to be scarce would pass on traits to her offspring which assumed that food was scarce.

The upshot being that because many of us are fat our children are more likely to be fat.

I find this interesting. I had a conversation years ago where I claimed that evolution had stopped because modern society allows everyone to live and breed no matter what their natural capabilities. Evolution depends on the least well adapted dying out. If none of us die out due to our physical or mental traits then evolution has stopped. QED.

However, if foetal imprinting is a true phenomena then evolution will continue but it seems that far from the clichéd version of the future where our bodies shrivel and our head become massive we are destined to become a race of fatties. He ho. If that is destiny then I shall have another pork pie.

fast broadband wont stop facetime

Facetime not facebook

Facetime not facebook

The news has been reporting that the British government is to reveal plans to provide “super-fast broadband”. Oh, good grief! We’ve had this back in March when Gordon Brown had the same idea.
I despair over our leadership as they seem rudderless when confronted with a changing world. I remember when PCs were becoming popular some idiot politicians thought that we should have typing taught as part of the national curriculum. This, at a time when kids were getting home games computers before they became teenagers and picking up typing naturally.

Now our government look around and see everyone talking about e-this and i-that and hits on some daft idea which they consider will prove their leadership regarding technological change. But copying Singapore is not providing leadership.

My broadband is quoted as about 6 meg download. I don’t get that of course due to contention ratios and other technical factors. The point is that my speed is usable. I work from home now and then without issues. If my work required faster speeds I could get it. I’d just have to pay more. I know that maximum broadband speeds are unevenly spread across the UK but I do not believe that this is a limiting factor to technological economic growth

As I said, I work from home now and then. Most of the time I join the nightmare commute north every morning to sit opposite another poor sod. We grunt “good morning” and then spend the day talking to people on the other side of the world. As soon as is permissible we join the commute back home and then slump in front of the telly.

This wokring from home is termed telecommuting. The reason I do use it most of the time is not technological, it is because of outdated management styles. British management like to see their workers sitting in the office; this makes them think that they are getting their monies worth even if the employees spend most of their time on Facebook. It can be no coincidence that for many years prior to Facebook the Japanese word for this time wasting has been “face time”. It is pointless and it costs industry millions.

The reason that facetime is so popular is that it is easier on the manager. He can hide in his office, then once his boss puts him on the spot, he can strut around giving instructions and demanding information. Having his staff scurry around makes him feel important and may impress his boss but this is poor management and detrimental to economic performance. Facetime should be eradicated irrespective of telecommuting policies but and telecommuting can help this process along.

Eradicating facetime means implementing effective achievement based management. The manager needs to plan his team’s activities, create schedules, allocate time and resources and them review progress. Employees should then be judged by the efficient and timely completion of tasks which they are set.

Many companies already have successful telecommuting policies but not enough. Achievement based management is more of a challenge as it involves the manager having to put in some effort. It is here where the British government could usefully intervene by providing training for managers and by implementing tax breaks for employers and employees.

The government encouraging telecommuting would also encourage achievement based management. Telecommuting would also ease transport problems, make industry more efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. It’s is a no lose proposition and would show real leadership.

Government should set policy and not get involved in implementation. This is where New Labour went wrong. The government should not use tax payers money to provide high speed broadband access to every shed on every mountain top in the country. Market forces can be left to supply broadband to where it is required.

Let’s not forget the last government technological big idea. Digital Audio Broadcast. OK, many of us have DAB radios but how many of us have them in our cars? And how long before the whole DAB experiment is shelved in favour of wireless internet access?