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Talk Porty ~ Portobello • View topic - Rathbone's Ramblin'

Rathbone's Ramblin'

General discussion - "gossip and tittle tattle"

Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 23 Jul 2012, 07:26

It will probably take a superhero to sort out the bureaucracy currently afflicting the Justice League of Rathbone.

The eldest Rathbonette’s partner discovered last week that his entire bank account had been stripped out. Every penny. The bank accepted immediately that he had not been in Shanghai over the previous week and that his identity had obviously been cloned. As a result they would be re-instating the money into his account. But not until ‘they had completed their investigations’. When he asked, they weren’t able to tell him how long those investigations would take or when the money would be put back in to his account. He understood that, but as there are a number of small things to take care of, like the rent on their flat, he asked if the bank could give him a short term loan to tide them over the next month or two. No. The reason being that as he has now been the victim of identity fraud he is considered to be a bad risk. As the Rathbonette’s salary will cover the food and utility bills, but not the rent, Bank of Mum & Dad have had to come to the rescue.

Meanwhile the youngest Rathbonette is in the throws of wedding preparations. Anticipating what was likely to happen in the run up to that event, she had applied to her bank back in April to have her overdraft extended. The local branch understood the situation and agreed, so it came as a surprise on Thursday when she received a snotty letter from head office, stating that she had exceeded her overdraft, that they would be suspending it if she didn’t pay them back £1,200 within 14 days, oh, and they were charging this absurd level of interest on the excess. It took three days and half a dozen ‘phone calls to get them to accept that they were wrong and that she had stuck to the agreement reached in April. Apparently it is something to do with a computer somewhere.

With an eye on potential future expenses, when the Rathbonettes first came along Mrs. R. and I took out endowment policies. The idea was to cover things like university and wedding costs. The policy documents were given to our solicitor to look after, together with our wills and the deeds to the house. We are now cashing one in to contribute to the wedding. Or at least that was the idea. In the interim three things have happened: The insurance company has been taken over by another (big name) one. The Building Society has been taken over by another (big name) one. Our solicitor retired and sold his business to another (not very big name) one.

So I contacted the insurance company. They needed a current bank statement, a letter from the building society and the original copy of the endowment policy.

The first one was straight forward. The second one required me to contact the building society. As our mortgage was paid off some time ago and our agreement had been with their predecessor they weren’t prepared to write a letter saying that the mortgage was paid off (Not their practice to do so). I got back to the insurance company. Not to worry. They sent me a seven page form to fill in explaining the situation and promising the earth to them if I was found to be a fraudster. They still needed the original policy. I ‘phoned the solicitor and asked if I could come to collect it. They would have to look it out. Three days later they ‘phoned back to tell me that they had been ‘unable to locate my package’. No that didn’t mean that they had lost all of my legal documents, just that they couldn’t locate them. I got back to the insurance company. Another huge form required to be filled in and a letter from the solicitor to confirm that they cannot locate the policy.

I am now awaiting developments. Hopefully in the next day or so there will be letters from the building society and the Land registry to confirm that I do, indeed, own my own home. I am exploring how you get compensation from a solicitor who loses all of your documents, but won’t admit it. I am also wondering what I pay these people for and where is Batman when you need him.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 24 Jul 2012, 07:22

Unlike Superman, with Batman for me it was the flying machines he got to play with. Everybody knows the Batmobile, but don’t forget the Batgyro which was a peculiar hybrid of helicopter and plane. Not to be confused with the Batplane, which started life as a regular passenger plane but eventually morphed into a streamlined jetliner. The Batcopter was introduced in the 1950s only to be followed by my favourites, the Whirly-Bats. These were collapsible one-man helicopters which Batman and Robin kept stored in the boot of the Batmobile. Finally the Batmissile could be used for suborbital flights.

Batwise nothing much happened on water. There was only the Batboat and the Batmarine.

For a lot of people their attention was drawn by the svelte black tights, the bat-hood with its stylish ears and the bat-cloak with its oh so subtle scalloping. For me the real interest was that often overlooked utility belt. A leather belt with a solid steel buckle and numerous metal compartments placed along its length, the utility belt was one of the foremost items in the caped crusader’s arsenal against crime. Working along from the buckle the various compartments contained: an infra-red flashlight; smoke capsules; fingerprint dusting kit; a miniature camera; lockpick tools; tear-gas pellets; a micro processor power source; a micro casette recorder; the batline reel; a laser torch; plastic explosive grenades and finally breathing apparatus. The buckle doubled as a two way radio and the bat-boomerang fitted snugly into a compartment on the back of the belt. For a kid growing up in Portobello it was lust at first sight.

The Batman villains were a much better rogues gallery than Superman’s. The Joker was just the personification of sheer insanity. The Riddler was all that his name implied. The Penguin, with his spats, tuxedo and umbrella disguised a deadly interior. Cat Woman (the wily Selina Kyle) had a way with jewel heists and Mr Freeze just wanted to cover everything with ice. Even the minot characters were brilliant. Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley) who was immune to all poisons and irresistible to men. Two-Face Harvey Dent with his horrible facial scars and Ras Al Ghul the ecoterrorist.

Whatever the villain, we were safe in the knowledge the Bruce Wayne would strike back with lethal force against anyone who caused harm and pain to his extended family. In doing so he would venture into situations which Superman never dreamed of. Who could forget issue 314 where Gotham City was terrorised by a giant mechanical version of Moby Dick? You never got that in Metropolis.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 25 Jul 2012, 07:20

Did the lovely Diana Suprema ever fall for Captain Steve Trevor? I wonder.

Diana, of course, is Wonder Woman, the only one of the classic comic book characters who is genuinely rooted in the classics.

Let’s go back to that first episode in All Star Comics no. 8: Captain Steve Trevor crashes his plane on a remote, uncharted island. There he is discovered by a tribe of beautiful women, who just happen to wear very little and turn out to be the ancient Amazons.

Captain Trevor is nursed back to health by Diana, the daughter of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons. It turns out that the Amazons are on this island because earlier they had been taken into slavery by Hercules, who had defeated them by trickery. Hippolyte had pleaded with the goddess Aphrodite to help them and she had vanquished Hercules and freed the women. In return the Amazons had to agree to leave the world of man and live on the island.

Suddenly Aphrodite appears to them and declares that it is forbidden that Steve Trevor remains on the island and that one of the Amazons must return him to America and remain with him to defend America, the last bastion of democracy in a troubled world.

It is ultimately decided that Diana will accompany Steve Trevor back to America. Aphrodite presents her with her special costume and the diadem and bracelets with their magic powers. In a totally implausible plot line the plane is magically repaired, Diana flies it to Washington and drops off Steve at the hospital, all without detection by the American military.

Exploring this new world she foils a robbery, the bullets from the robbers’ guns being deflected off her magic bracelets. She then befriends a nurse who just happens to be working in the hospital where Steve is. The nurse says that she wants to leave nursing to join her boyfriend in South America but doesn’t have the cash. Miraculously Diana does. She gives the nurse the money and they swap personas. Diana starts working at the hospital and assumes the name Diana Prince.

Now, you may have noticed the discrepancies here. What happened to the intervening 3,000 years between Ancient Greece and 1940’s America? When did Diana learn to fly a plane? Where did the money come from. How come Diana can speak perfect english having been brought up by greeks? Why does no-one in the hospital notice that she is (a) new and (b) has no training as a nurse.

Never mind. With her magic diadem and bracelets and the lasso of truth she took on the corruption of the modern world. Over the years she would be regularly tied up, chained, shackled, gagged and otherwise restrained hundreds of times and overcome it on every occasion. The suspicious among us might detect a writer (William Marston) working out his domination fantasies here. (The red high heeled boots are a give away.)
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 26 Jul 2012, 07:23

No longer a household name, The Flash is one of the longest running of the classic comic book characters, having been around since 1940. He was born out of unrequited love.

The object of his affections,Joan Williams, was one of those frustrating, females who wouldn’t look at a man unless he was some sort of big shot athlete, which poor Jay Garrick certainly wasn’t. What he was was a chemistry student. One night in the lab he decided to have a fly fag. As he leaned back to take a drag he accidentally knocked over a shelf of chemicals which smash and he inhaled their mingled fumes, which rendered him unconscious, When he woke he had developed a super power: he was now the fastest man alive. After impressing the, let’s face it, frankly shallow Joan, by succeeding on the athletics field, he decided to use his new talent to fight gangsters and criminals.

Remarkably D.C. comics killed him off in 1951 and then had to revive him again. To get round the fact that Jay Garrick had died (and kids notice these things), they came up with an ingenious twist. Police forensic scientist Barry Allen likes reading comics. One day he is flicking through an old copy of The Flash in his lab when a bolt of lightning strikes through an open window, smashing the bottles of chemicals. Barry inhales them and acquires the same powers as poor old Jay.

Barry decided to take on Jay’s identity, except this time he creates a special costume for himself. It is what looks like a lycra jump suit years before lycra was invented. Red top and blue bottoms with yellow lightning flashes on the sleeves and legs. He had a helmet which looked like an enamel pudding basin with wings attached to it and a pair of red boots with wings on the heels.

The great innovation of this second incarnation of The Flash was the cosmic treadmill. Barry discovers that he can now run at the speed of light, but if he does so then time goes backwards. He builds a treadmill and discovers that by running on the spot he can control the direction of time and goes into the future and into the past to discover villains to conquer.

Along with Batman The Flash has some of the best villains in comics. We have Abra Kadabra, a magician from the 64th century; Mark Mardon the Weather Wizzard; Mirror Master a reflective character; Captain Cold; Professor Zoom; Captain Boomerang; James Jesse, the trickster and, my favourite, Gorilla Grod, the super intelligent ape.

Then D.C. did it again. In 1985 Barry Allen was whizzing around the 30th century when he was mysteriously killed. Meanwhile back in his lab his nephew Wally West happens to be there when, through mind-boggling co-incidence, another bolt of lighting comes in through the open window, smashes just the right combination of chemicals and Kid Flash is born.

Initially Kid Flash appeared in the Teen Titan series along side of characters like Robin, Wonder Girl and Aqualad, but soon took over his uncle Barry’s old strip, where he has been running at phenomenal speeds ever since.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 27 Jul 2012, 07:23

Hundreds of years ago a meteor fell to earth in China. As ids often the way of things, it was carved into a lantern by a sorcerer. The lamp changes hands many times over the course of the centuries until it reaches America, where it is reshaped into a train lantern and is put to work as a green lantern on the back of a cross country express.

One day, as it is crossing a bridge the bridge collapses and all aboard are killed except for engineer Alan Scott. In the wreckage (presumably concussed), he imagines that the lantern is talking to him, instructing him to take a piece of its metal and form a ring. He does this and discovers that the ring allows him to fly, to pass through physical objects, and generate a force field which protects him from danger.

Inevitably he makes himself a costume of red shirt, green tights and purple cape and goes off to find villains to vanquish.

In what you might notice is a recurring pattern in D.C. comics, at the end of the fifties he had a complete change of character. Without much explanation Alan Scott suddenly started being called Hal Jordan and, instead of being a railway engineer he was now a test pilot. (Did the powers that be think that we kids wouldn’t notice minor details like this?)

There were some great characters in Green Lantern. The Weaponers of Qward, who were evil scientists. Ch’p the alien chipmunk. Medphyl the walking vegetable. Kilowog of Bolovax Vik and Chaselon the rock man who was made of pure crystal.

Then, in the 1980s, it was decided that there were many Green Lanterns. In fact they were a crime fighting syndicate. Hal Jordan was joined by John Stewart (an architect from Detroit), Guy Gardner (who was a school teacher) and Kyle Rayner (an artist).

Still on the go, the various Green Lanterns recite their sacred oath every day: “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might beware my power - Green Lantern’s light!”
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 28 Jul 2012, 07:23

I’m not sure if jumping out of a helicopter would have qualified the Queen for membership of The Justice Society of America.

The Justice Society of America is not to be confused with The Justice League of America

The Justice Society was founded in 1941 and comprised The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, The Sandman, The Spectre, Dr. Fate, Hourman and Johnny Thunder.

The Justice League did not come into being until 1959 and comprised Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman and Jonn Jonzz the Martian Manhunter.

I was never much into either series. I suppose for historic value the Justice Society is the more important of the two, but who remembers any of them apart from The Flash and Green Lantern? In fact characters kept coming and going. At one point Hourman dropped out to be replaced by Doctor Midnite. Green Lantern was replaced by Starman.

A lot of the work for The Justice Society was in the war effort during World War II. They were always using their super powers to aid U.S. forces in the Pacific or embarking on missions to deliver dehydrated food to starving civilians behind Nazi lines in Europe.

The Justice Society kept going into the 1990s.

The Justice League was an altogether higher level of super hero. The only one who never made it big in comics was Jonn Jonzz. The Martian Manhunter was from the red planet, accidentally teleported to earth by Professor Erdel. He is super strong, can fly and read minds.

Most of the time The Justice League was engaged in the humdrum struggle against evil, often against the equally stereotyped Crime Syndicate Of America. I found it all pretty boring, unlike the Olympic opening ceremony. (Just a pity they had to drop the action featuring The Clangers.) The League were dropped about twenty years ago.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 29 Jul 2012, 07:22

One of the weirdest experiences in my life was sitting in a mud hut in a remote part of the Kenyan Rift valley watching a Newsnight interview with David Blunkett on a widescreen t.v. with half a dozen Masai courtesy of a petrol driven generator and a satellite dish perched on top of the thatched roof. While we were watching the Olympics opening ceremony, Mrs. R. and I were asking each other how this would go down in the Masai Mara.

So I decided to take a quick trip round other cultures to see how it had played out:

Take the Tories for a start: “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen - more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?" wrote Aidan Burley, the Conservative Party MP who was fired as a ministerial aide after revelations he attended a Nazi-themed stag party in France last year. "Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows.”

So much for our own endangered species. What did the capital of a communist state make of it:

“London's opening ceremony was a far cry from Beijing's. Even the director of the London Olympics ceremony complained of the budget being too small, having only 27 million pounds," Haluo-yuan wrote on Sina Weibo, the largest blogging site in China, (where state censors block Twitter).... "There's no comparison with the formidable China." London's Olympic opening ceremony certainly was interesting, but it can't be said that it was superior to Beijing's. It can only be said that each had its merits," wrote Zhang Yiwu.

Given that the current concept of the Olympics ( a bit of sport sandwiched between two overblown extravaganzas) started at the Los Angeles games, I thought I’d check out the L.A. reactions:

“It’s hard to imagine any other nation willing to make so much fun of itself on a global stage, in front of as many as a billion viewers. It takes nerve to look silly; the cheesy, kaleidoscopic history lesson that took Britain through its past, from pasture through the workhouses and smoke stacks of the Industrial Revolution to World War I and, of course, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” was like a Bollywood version of a sixth-grade play.” ...... “If there is a through-line to be untangled from its $42-million, cast-of-thousands, higgledy-piggledy progress through modern Britain, it might be something like, “Sorry for the unintended consequences, but we did give you steam engines, great pop music and comedy and the roots of social networking. It was ugly there for a while, but we’re all right. and everybody dance now.” ....”overwrought pageantry, stuffed unnecessarily with symbolism and mushy sentiment, most of which I cannot identify, much less comprehend.”

The New York papers thought that:

“It was really a parade of British whimsy: sheep and milkmaids, factory workers, the Internet, Mary Poppins, the queen and a snippet of the Sex Pistols’ rendition of “God Save the Queen,” and, oddest of all, doctors and nurses jitterbugging on hospital beds in a tribute to the National Health Service.......But with the production tossing out historical and cultural references at a rapid rate, even the most ardent Anglophiles in the audience may have felt some allusions whiz over their head like an airborne nanny........a display of humor and humbleness that can only stem from a deep-rooted sense of superiority.”

Then there were your average punters on the usual chattering sites having a moan:

“How do you do four hours of anything in England and not include Elton John? If I could pick three Britons to have dinner with, Elton John is on my short list, right behind Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic cyclist. An entire tribute to the history of British pop music, right down to an East London rapper, and no mention of Elton John? David Bowie, but no Elton John? Annie Lennox, but no Elton John? Isn't he Sir Elton John? I'm not asking for a medley by Sir Elton, but the man can't get a mention?The man who rewrote "Candle in The Wind" for Princess Diana gets shut out? That, boys and girls, is intentional.”

“ If I ran the Olympics, regardless of where they were held, the opening ceremony would be capped at 90 minutes. There would be a flyover (go ahead, I dare you to find someone who doesn't like a flyover), the march of the athletes into the stadium, some contained artsy presentation that accurately reflects the host country's primary passion (in England's case, it could be a reading of Shakespeare, a mini-concert by the Stones, David Beckham bending it or a James Bond car chase; I'd take the latter), then the lighting of the torch. That's it. Cue the band, get everybody home safely and start the damn Games already.”

“It was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of event, and I may have just blinked and missed the sink.”

I’m sure my friends on the Masai, who don’t have a kitchen sink, but do have a satellite dish, enjoyed every minute of it. What they made of hasty references to EastEnders and the NHS, to Gregory's Girl and Mr. Bean, is anyone's guess.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 30 Jul 2012, 07:18

One of the good outcomes of the magic money which arrived for the Olympic torch relay was the planting which the Council undertook along the route.

The verges and the roundabouts in the town were beautifully decked out in patriotic bedding of red white and blue. (Just a pity, I suppose) that the torch bearers wouldn’t have seen any of it because of the crowd lining the street and obscuring the all of the good work of the parks department.

The real bit of inspiration, however, was the treatment as you go out of the town.We are one of those market towns which are surrounded by farmland and villages and the roads rapidly change into country lanes. Rather than just abruptly stop the planting where the roads change into lanes, someone had the inspiration to seed the verges for about half a mile outside the town with wild flowers such as campion, cornflowers and so on, in red white and blue. Every so often they had punctuated the scheme with hollyhocks.

Early yesterday morning I was out for my constitutional. (This used to be my Sunday run before my knee went.) As I went along I was full of admiration for the person who had thought of this floral transition. It really worked.

Then, up ahead, I could see a car parked in the lane with its hazard lights flashing and two figures shuffling back and forward. I assumed that they had had a puncture. As I came closer I could see it was a man and a woman. Even closer and I could see what they were doing. They were systematically pulling up the hollyhock plants and throwing them into the boot of the car.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves”, I shouted as I got closer to them. They slammed down the boot, got into the car and drove off. The woman stuck her head out of the window as they passed and told me to f**k off!

Apart from the lack of moral compass, they obviously have no grasp of horticulture. There isn’t the slightest chance of those hollyhocks surviving in the current weather, so they will have carried out their nefarious plant snatching for nothing.

It makes you wonder if this was simply a case of opportunistically driving past and giving in to temptation or, given the early hour, a premeditated ct. Given that by the time I passed them they appear to have taken about 50 metres worth of plants, I incline to the latter.

Civic pride, I think it’s called.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 31 Jul 2012, 07:21

The endowment policy saga continues. Having written to the Insurance company to tell them that the building society would write to them direct, a fortnight later I get a letter from the insurers to say they still had received nothing. I then get back to the building society who then tell me that they have no record of my original call and nothing has been done about writing to the insurers. They acknowledge their error and say they will write straight away. This time I confirm the conversation in writing. So this morning I get a letter from the building society confirming that they had no further interest in the policy. As this is what they were supposed to be writing to the insurers about I ring them up. There appears to have been a misunderstanding. They thought I had asked them to write to me. With apologies they will now write to the insurers. I ring the insurers to ask if they will accept the letter which has been written to me. They will, so I have now put that in the post to them. Meanwhile, with no apology, my solicitor has sent all of the documents which just a week or so ago he could ‘not locate’. As I don’t need all of my documents which were deposited with him, only the original of the policy, I will now have to re-deposit everything again (for which there will presumably be a charge). Thank heavens they weren’t in charge of logistics on D-Day.

My father was always reticent about his war record. Apart from describing himself as a Commando, he kept what he did pretty much to himself. A few years ago (long after he was dead), I spent some time in the archives of the Imperial War Museum reading the diaries of his commanding officer, which outlined in detail the movements of his unit from 1940 to 1945.

It turned out that my Dad was in special forces and was one of the men who undertook the establishment of the forward command units in Normandy before the D-Day landings. That meant that he was one of a team sent in midget submarines to a point off-shore, from which they had to swim to the beach, make their way through the German lines and link up with French Resistance members and then make decisions on where the command points would have to be located for maximum effect. Fewer than 200 men served in the unit during the last three years of the war, and between them they won 90 medals, although their work has been little noticed over the past 70 years. It is simply because they were so good, and so secretive about what they did that nobody knows anything about them.

So it was with a bit of pleasure that when Mrs. R. and I were visiting the Aircraft museum at Duxford yesterday I came across a little cabinet in a section on D-Day. Included in it was the following testimony from a former member of the unit (who might well have served alongside my father) :

“I was dressed in a diving suit, in a a submarine lying a mile offshore at Gold beach in Normandy in the days before the D-day landing. We arrived five days before the landing, went up at night to fix positions, and then returned to the submarines, which remained on the sea floor during the day. It was incredibly hush-hush at the time – quite critical of course that we did not tell anyone about what we were doing and people did not want to publicise it after the war, so basically no one has heard of us”.

What was even more pleasing was the comment in the same display that a memorial to them will finally be unveiled in September of this year. It is a four metre high granite stone, which will be erected at Hayling Island in Dorset, the spot from which they set out for Normandy.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 01 Aug 2012, 07:19

There are better ways to learn about the death of a friend than to read it in Mojo.

Yesterday I bought this month’s copy of Mojo and was flipping through, reading a letter moaning about their Spike Island article last month and an interview with Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. The Mike Oldfield piece was a bit of a bore but the one on the 1970 Isle of Wight festival was good (or was that only because I was there?) I skipped the article on Toots and The Maytals and turned over the page.

Lol Coxhill died on 10 July.

He was a lovely man. For a while in the seventies he lived in our town in what was, somewhat laughingly, known as an ‘art collective’. I got to know him quite well.

Before we met I used to buy his albums, which, frankly, are a bit patchy, veering from the truly inspired to the incomprehensibly bad via the completely bonkers....... my kind of man.

Never a household name, Lol worked with so many bands that you might well find his name among the small print on your albums and CDs. If you’ve got early sixties blues by Alexis Korner or R&B by Dave Hunt, you probably have Lol as well. If you have late sixties and early seventies Canterbury prog by Robert Wyatt or Kevin Ayers then you are more than likely to have Lol and if you have anything by Caravan then you definitely have Lol, who was a member of that band. He toured with Jimi Hendrix. If you like punk, particularly The Damned, he’s there as well. If you are into Jazz then you are more likely to know Lol by name. I won’t list the many, many jazz musicians he worked with. Patchy they may be, but any of his 27 solo albums are worth a listen.

If you have a CD called ‘Grown In The Garden’, not only is it a valuable collective, it is also the only time that Lol and I worked together. About fifteen years ago I went through a phase of producing local bands. (If you ever come across anything on the Bloomin’ Good label, then it was produced by me.) Some of these band you might never have heard of: Lavender Rose; The Bush The Tree and Me...... no, let’s face it, all of these bands you will never have heard of. One of them wanted a sax on one of their tracks. I gave Lol a ring. He didn’t hesitate. On the agreed afternoon he wandered into the studio, doodled brilliantly all over their music and then for a quarter of an hour just improvised this great little piece. It didn’t have a name so we called it ‘Freeform Piece’ and released it on ‘Grown In The Garden’. He spent some time chatting to the lads, gave a friendly wave and wandered out again.

There is a nice quote about life from Lol in the Mojo obituary: “ You should be more busy doing it than worrying about it.”

I’ll miss him.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 02 Aug 2012, 07:21

Amazing effort by the Post Office to get commemorative stamps for the gold medals out in just one day.

Time to get back to some real superheroes I think.....

In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale.......

That was the introduction to the only superhero to appear on a british stamp, back in 1994.

Noggin, king of the Nogs was a gentle king who liked a quiet life. He ruled the land of Nog with kindness and a well meant but sometimes inconvenient desire to improve the lot of his people.

Noggin disliked magic and prefered to solve problems and right wrongs with a mixture of courage, of which he had plenty, and common-sense, of which he had not a lot.  He had a loyal retinue of guards, led by the redoubtable Thor Nogson and a group of friends and advisers including Graculus, who was a big green bird, Groliliffe the ice dragon and Olaf the Lofty who was a mad inventor.

All was not sweetness and light for Noggin, however, as his evil uncle Nogbad the Bad desperately wanted to rule the Land of Nogin his place, and would go to any lengths to do so. (Actually, we should be grateful to Nogbad as his dark plots seem to be the only interesting things that happen in the Land of Nog

In one saga, Noggin, Queen Nooka and Ronf the dwarf went out for a walk, and met Nogbad who seemed to be a reformed character, as he had mended his castle and was growing a lovely garden.  Since Nooka was interested in gardening, Nogbad gave her some seeds to plant back at Noggin’s castle. Obviously, this was all a despicable plot, and the seeds once planted grew into enormous, fiercely destructive creepers, which began to destroy the castle and all of the town.  Noggin was ready to hand over his crown and throne to Nogbad, in return for removing the terrible flowers. While all this had been going on, Ronf, a keen gardener himself, had been investigating the plants back at Nogbad’s castle.  Although he was put in prison by Nogbad, he escaped, and returned in the nick of time with the information that the plants were really kindly by nature and would give up if asked nicely. Noggin’s castle and city were saved, and Nogbad forced to flee.

In another, Olaf the Lofty invented a new game called Hnefetafl, which swept the nation in a massive craze, at least until everyone realised that Noggin was better at it than them. Eventually Nogbad faced Noggin in a showdown to see who was the better player, but inevitably it was just another Nogbad trick to try and win the crown...
What I like about that is that the game of Hnefetafl does actually exist, and is based on a real game played by the Scandanavian people before chess was introduced into Europe in the twelfth Century.  There are game pieces and boards found in grave mounds as early as 400 AD, and there are many references to the game in Norse and Icelandic Sagas. The rules for Nog's Hnefetafl are based on two accounts, one written by Robertap Ifan in 1587 and another by Linnaeus writing about the old Icelandic peoples.  (Thor Nogson's game in which the pieces move like the knight in chess is an accidental invention by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, based on their misreading these accounts!)
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 03 Aug 2012, 07:18

No such basis in fact for Sub-Mariner. He is Prince Namor, a water-breathing strongman who claims to be the rightful king of Atlantis.

I’ve always found Prince Namor a real pain in the arse, the strip only saved by Bill Everett’s great graphics which are full of subtle detail. Come to think of it, the plot lines are equally interesting.

Princess Fen of Atlantis is sent to the surface of the Atlantic ocean to investigate the scientific vessel the Oracle. She falls in love with the captain, Len McKensie and they have an affair. However the Atlanteans attack the ship but are repelled and killed. The now pregnant Fen returns to Atlantis and in the course of time Namor is born, the only man who can live on land and in water and can fly through the air. (Historically, he is the first genuine mutant in comics.) Once he grows up and is told his history, he vows vengeance on America and sets out to right his wrongs. Not only is he the first mutant, he is the first anti-hero.

Right up until the moment America entered the Second World War he was rampaging through the states destroying all that americans hold dear, even attacking the Statue of Liberty and throwing tourists off the torch. All fascinating and unexpected stuff. Unfortunately, with America’s entry into the war he stopped all of that hooliganism and turned his attention on to fighting the Nazis. He degenerated into being just another superhero,albeit one with annoying habits.

By the 60s he was one of the Fantastic Four and by the 80s one of the Avengers. Still around, he remains one of the least endearing of comic book characters.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 04 Aug 2012, 07:23

I suppose with Sub-Mariner on the rampage across the country Marvel comics had to come up with a counter force. Enter Captain America. Actually he didn’t come along until after Prince Namor had seen the error of his ways and was happily chasing Nazis.

Weedy young recruit Steve Rogers was transformed into a perfect specimen of fighting muscle by Professor Reinstein in a secret military experiment. No sooner has he done so, however, he is murdered by a nazi traitor and the remaining supply of the serum destroyed. In a rage Steve Rogers kills the evil nazi, dons a fetching red, white and blue uniform and becomes Captain America.

In what might now be considered a suspect move, when he is observed getting into his uniform by a young boy, Bucky Barnes, he swears Bucky to secrecy by offering to make him his own special uniform and stay with him forever.
Captain America was a deliberate attempt to personify the notion of America defending the world against fascism. His nemesis was The Red Skull, who was actually Hitler’s bellboy. Throughout the war the comics were a real success, but after it sales dipped badly. In a final mission Cap and Bucky are guarding a missile when it suddenly takes off. The intrepid pair leap after it and hang on, attempting to steer it away from populated areas.

Unfortunately, over the pole Captain America loses his grip and plummets to the icy wastes below. The missile explodes (presumably killing poor Bucky). Captain America becomes frozen in suspended animation on the ice floe.
In 1964 Sub-Mariner happens to pick a fight with some eskimos and in the process of beating them up he throws a chunk of ice into the sea. As it makes its way drifting along the gulf stream it slowly melts to reveal Captain America. He is conveniently picked up by Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and The Wasp in their submarine, which just happens to be passing. Together they form The Avengers.

From there on in Captain America became really interesting, which was mostly down to the quality of Stan Lee’s writing. The captain didn’t adjust well to the way the world had changed whilst he had been frozen. It took him a while to catch up with technology. Steve Roger’s personal life was well thought out and plot lines involving racial equality and other topical issues were refreshing.

Unfortunately in 2007 Marvel comics killed him off, with Steve Rogers being assassinated in the March issue. However, there are rumours that Bucky didn’t die in the missile explosion. He also fell on to the arctic wastes and was cryogenically frozen, found by the Russians and became an unwitting tool of the Soviet Union. Only recently Bucky has regained his memory and his free will.........
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 05 Aug 2012, 07:22

If any group of super heroes were out to save the world it was The Avengers.

It all started when a radio message to The Hulk was intercepted by the evil Loki and diverted to his brother Thor. What Loki didn’t realise was that the frequency he was using could also be accessed by Iron Man, Ant Man and The Wasp. Soon they all met up at the clubhouse of Rick Jone’s group of radio hams. (Rick, of course, being the young boy who hung out with The Hulk.) Of course the whole thing was a ruse so that Loki could wreak vengeance on Thor for some sibling misdemeanour. Loki was swiftly overpowered, but when Ant Man suggested that they all make a great team, they agreed to band together.

The Hulk didn’t last long as a team member and dropped out by issue three. In the next issue Captain America drifted by on his iceberg and the rest was history.

That history included the first anti-hero collective The Masters Of Evil who consisted of The Melter, Radioactive Man, The Black Knight and Baron Zemo.

One of the things which make The Avengers so good is its fluidity. A pretty loose collective, the members come and go. Some of them, like Hank Pym, transmute into a variety of personas. Depending on circumstances Hank can be either Ant Man, Giant Man or Yellowjacket. In its time the group has included Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as well as the original core. It’s the same with the villains, especially after Baron Zemo’s son (confusingly also called Zemo) recruits Goliath, The Absorbing Man, Wrecking Crew and Mr. Hyde.

My own favourite villain is Ultron. Ultron is a robot who was created by Hank Pym in his Ant Man persona and who turns to the bad. Ultron in turn creates another android called The Vision and a robot mate for himself called Jocasta.

It all gets very complicated. Ultron falls in love with Hank Pym’s wife Janet, who just happens to be The Wasp. He uses Wonder Man’s brain waves to create The Vision. Meanwhile Ultron allies himself with the evil Grim Reaper who happens to be the brother of Wonder Man, but the Grim Reaper won’t work with The Vision because the latter has Wonder Man’s brain waves. (Are you following all this?) The Vision then decides to go straight and joins The Avengers He falls in love with, and eventually marries the Scarlet Witch. His ongoing search for humanity is truly touching.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 06 Aug 2012, 07:20

I suppose there is an Edinburgh connection with The Avengers. Nobody could look at The Hulk and not notice the similarities with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Incredible Hulk was one of the shortest lived of the classic comic book heroes. His magazine only lasted six issues from May 1962 to March 1963. After that he popped up from time to time as a bit player in other people’s story lines. So why did he make such an impact? I think it’s because he got angry easily and almost everybody can relate to that.

He didn’t just get angry, he got furious.

Dr. Bruce Banner is a nuclear scientist. He specialises in weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, when rescuing a young boy, Rick Jones, who has wandered into the test area, he is caught by a blast of gamma radiation. At first it seems that they are both alright , and then Bruce loses his temper and turns into a seven foot high green monster. The angrier he gets, the stronger he becomes.

At the research plant one of the cleaners also accidentally gets a blast of radiation and they, too, turn green. Presumably pre-disposed to evil, they call themselves The Leader and start on a career of world domination. Also at the plant is another worker called Emil Blonsky, who just happens to be a soviet spy (the name is a bit of a giveaway). Yet another blast of those gamma rays turns him into The Abomination.
None of the three of them are particularly pleasant characters, but their motivations, particularly The Hulk’s, are unusual for comic books. We gradually discover that Bruce Banner’s anger comes from witnessing the abuse which his father used to inflict on him and his mother when he was a child. As a result he is emotionally repressed, but capable of deep love as well as anger.

What really projected The Hulk into the big time was when it was made into a t.v series in the 1970s. There were 82 episodes between 1977 and 1982. And then in 2003 the film and in 2008 the remake. For once the remake is better than the original and is well worth seeing for Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky.

If there is one message to take away from The Hulk, it’s the one Stan Lee made right at the beginning: "As long as we're experimenting with radioactivity, there's no telling what may happen, or how much our advancements may cost us."
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 07 Aug 2012, 07:18

Iron Man was probably the most political of all of the classic heroes.

In Vietnam Tony Stark is severely injured by a booby-trap bomb and is captured by the Vietcong. In the same prison hut where he is held is Professor Yinsen, the greatest physicist of them all. It just so happens that Tony Stark himself is a bit of a dab hand as an inventor. Realising that Tony’s wounds are life threatening, the pair set about building a special suit or armour that will keep his damaged heart beating. Now don’t ask how they managed precision engineering in that hut, far less where the materials came from, or how Tony Stark was even able to work on it with his life threatening injuries. Suffice it to say that once fully armoured (complete with concealed weapons) he manages to escape from the prison and go forth to win the Vietnam war virtually single handed.

Which is fine as far as it goes, but leaves us wondering what happened to the good professor and how come, with IronMan on their side the Americans ended up losing the war.

With the end of that war, it was necessary to introduce new adversaries. The chinese war lord The Mandarin was one, the russian Titanium Man another. He continued the battle the red menace throughout the cold war. When that, too, ended, he took on corrupt big business. No act of corporate intrigue or industrial sabotage was too small.

It is around this time that a little humanity enters into that steely frame: Tony Stark becomes an alcoholic. Iron Man’s reputation is in ruins. He hits rock bottom. For over three years Marvel had the courage to run a strip in which the ‘hero’ was battling against alcoholism, and usually losing. If you ever come across a copy of Iron Man no. 128 from 1979, snap it up, there are life lessons in there for us all.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 08 Aug 2012, 07:18

I suppose that currently the most well known of the super heroes is Spider Man, if only because a whole generation of kids have grown up with the films.

But Spidey goes all the way back to the 1930s. Once Peter Parker had been bitten by that radioactive spider he started climbing walls and has kept it up for nearly eighty years. When he finally changed out of black and white and into the iconic red and blue spider suit in 1962, the world rejoiced.

For once the film versions are remarkably close to the originals, which probably says more about the strength of the concept than it does about the Hollywood system. Or maybe it means that Sam Raimi is a true comic book fan.

Unlike so many of the super heroes who are driven by some impulse to save the world, Peter Parker is driven by guilt: he stood by and did nothing while his Uncle Ben was murdered. He could have stopped it and saved his uncle, but he didn’t. Everything that follows is atonement.

The love interest in the films is the beautiful Mary Jane, but over the years he’s had a few women. To begin with there was Betty Brant, the secretary from the Daily Bugle. (What is it with these superheroes and newspapers?). Then there was Liz Allen and Gwen Stacy. Gwen was Pete’s girl for years and years before Mary Jane came on the scene.

Gwen came to an unfortunate end in 1973. There she was, falling to her doom after the Green Goblin had thrown her off the George Washington Bridge when Spidey sends out a web strand to catch her, but unfortunately it gets tangled round her neck and throttles her to death. Who said comics were funny? This was genuinely shocking. Super heroes don’t cock things up, do they?
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 09 Aug 2012, 07:19

Mrs. R. and I will shortly be going on holiday (which means, paradoxically, there will be a break in the rambling). After what happened to Donald Blake we’ve decided to give Norway a miss.

While casually exploring the fjords, Blake comes across a band of alien stonemen, from Saturn, who are the advance force of an invading army. When he is sotted and they start to give chase he takes refuge in a cave. Stumbling through the semi-darkness he accidentally hits a hidden trigger and finds himself inside a secret chamber. The only thing inside is a stick.

But this is no ordinary stick When Blake picks it up there is a flash of lightning and he is instantly transformed into the mighty Thor and the stick has become a huge hammer. On the hammer head is the inscription: Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.

Of course, he also instantly realises all of the other super powers which come with the hammer, like the ability to fly and, usefully, the ability to control the weather. (He’s not the god of thunder for nothing.)

In a mere couple of frames the invading force is sent packing back to Saturn.

As time progressed Marvel began bringing in the other gods of norse mythology such as Balder the Brave and the evil Loki. Asgard soon became a battleground.

Which is why Mrs. R. and I will not be going there on holiday.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 10 Aug 2012, 07:32

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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 27 Aug 2012, 08:30

I had hoped to come back from holiday all refreshed, bright and sparkling, full of bonhomie and ready to go.
Unfortunately, it was to find an e-mail from Brian Hogg in my in-box to tell me that George Gallacher collapsed and died after the Partick Thistle / Dumbarton match on Saturday. At least it was after the match, which meant that George would have been in a good mood when he died. He was a fanatical Partick fan and they won 3-0.

So, who was George Gallacher then, you ask?

George was another of my adolescent music heroes, the lead singer of The Poets. The Poets were a five piece, R&B band from Glasgow. They had a nifty line in clothes, wearing high-necked jackets and ruffled fronted shirts they allegedly took from a portrait Rabbie Burns (hence, also, the name) and were famous on Scottish the gig circuit for playing 12-string guitars, a real novelty at the time. The band were hugely popular in Scotland and were signed by Andrew Loog-Oldham. One of my favourite quotes which sums up George Gallacher’s attitude is the following : “At the audition I remember poor Hume asking Andrew if he wanted to hear us do some Stones numbers and me saying "Fuck the Stones, he wants to hear our stuff." "

Between October '64 and January '66 they released three singles on Decca and two on Immediate. None of the band’s releases apart from the first saw any chart action which is a shame since they’re all well worth a listen.

Despite the minimal chart success they seemed set to scale greater heights but it didn't happen, as Oldham -- distracted by conflicts with the Stones and other business headaches -- withdrew from the band's affairs. He left the production reins in the hands of Paul Raven, later to become Gary Glitter and everything in the band just disintegrated ( a familiar story with Scottish bands, then and now).

It's difficult to say why the Poets did not become bigger. Maybe it was because they weren’t primarily making music to dance to. As the music critic Brian Morton has said, "Unlike all others of the 500 bands in Glasgow at the time, whom people went to dance to, one went to a Poets gig to listen." Their stuff did not make for easy listening (which is probably why it appealed to me!). It was distinctly Scottish, full of old celtic self-pitying doom and gloom. There was no irony or humour evident, only unrelenting misery set to a swinging pop beat.

George’s next group, the Dead Loss Band, was essentially a heavy rock band, very loud and self-indulgent and heavily aligned to far-left politics. I liked them as well. Regrettably they never recorded anything and are now lost to the mists of memory.

George himself eventually finished his university course, graduating in philosophy and literature, became a teacher and got involved in a number of theatrical projects with James Kelman.

Last year The Poets reformed for a couple of gigs, which I missed. At least I still have the scratchy old 45s to remember him by.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 28 Aug 2012, 07:54

It was one of those torrential holidays that we love so much, cruising around the west country with the windscreen wipers on extra fast. It rained all the way down to Cornwall, mostly stuck behind the spray from the lorry in front. It rained all the time we were in Cornwall (except for one day), and it rained all the way back. Since we got back the weather down here has been glorious.

It was Cornwall because that’s where the soon to be son-in-law comes from and we were going to meet his parents. That bit of it went off quite well. We all gathered together at the allotted spot in our macs and sou’westers and tried to spot each other. It wasn’t too difficult - we were the only two couples there and besides his mum does look like Ozzie Osbourne.

The rest of the time was trying to find things to do out of the rain, which quickly becomes just finding things to do. As any resident of Portobello knows, there is a limit to the romantic appeal of standing on the sea shore in a forty mile an hour wind, being lashed by rain drops the size of golf balls while staring out at the white crests of the stormy sea. As any intrepid hill walker knows, there is a similar transient quality to the delight of tramping across the moor when you have to take your glasses off because you can’t see a thing for the rain running down them, only to find that you can’t see a thing with them off.

We resorted to tourist information: a handy brochure entitled 11 things to do in Truro:

Truro cathedral was fine, and out of the wet, until it closed for some sort of special service and we were in the wet again. The Hall for Cornwall is a theatre. The afternoon performance had already started, so we gave that a miss. Healey’s Cornish Cyder farm sounded delicious, but was in the open. Same with the Callestick Farm Cornish Dairy. Neither of us play golf, and I doubt if anybody could in that wind, so Killiow Park Golf Course was out and neither of us fancied heading out across the estuary in the Enterprise Boats excursion. I did fancy the tour of Skinners Brewery, but as Mrs. R. pointed out, we have toured a brewery before. The Royal Cornwall Museum was very apologetic. The art galleries were closed for renovation but no, the extortionate admission prices had not been reduced, not even for soggy concessions. That left The ATV Centre, which would have meant dashing about in the wind and the wet on quad bikes or the Truro Bowl, which, given my knee problems, was also a no-no.

We ended up in the bandstand in Victoria Gardens. According to the brochure, beside the river Kenwyn, Victoria Gardens, originally created to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, is filled with exotic trees, shrubs and flowers. There is also a bandstand and during the summer, concerts are held on Sunday afternoons. You would not think you were in the middle of a city, the calm broken only occasionally by a train passing over the majestic granite viaduct nearby. The original viaduct was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1859, but was replaced with the present structure in 1904, and now carries the main line from Paddington to Penzance. It made no mention of the numerous kids sitting around drinking copious amounts of ‘cyder’ which didn’t look as if it came from Healey’s, and arguing with each other.

The only solution was to find somewhere to eat to pass the time.

Next stop St. Austell.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 29 Aug 2012, 08:12

Holiday reading was a light and fluffy book by Johnny Sharp called ‘Mind The Bollocks’, an anthology of bad writing about rock and pop, which he prefaces by misquoting Oscar Wilde: “ We are all in the gutter, but some of us talk nonsense about the stars.”

Just as a diversion I thought I’d give you a little quiz today. The following are all contemporary reviews of famous records. Have a guess at which ones. Answers tomorrow...................

1 The use of guest artists here reeks of desperation to cover the lack of inspiration in the music. X lays himself bare as a songwriter and the results are often acutely embarrassing. A barely developed artist being given too much artistic control.

2 This record is lousy. The singing is flat, the song is laughably naive and the overall feeling is of a third rate Who imitation.

3 So utterly confused with itself it was difficult to follow. It relies too heavily on taped sound effects of heartbeats, plane crashes and other insane utterances.

4 X has no discernible singing ability. His speciality is rhythm songs which he renders in an undistinguished whine. His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. For the ear he is an unutterable bore.

5 X are praised for being more ambitious than their peers. Possibly because there’s nothing much to them but ambition. Pampered, pilfered piffle.

6 Dismal, muddy, thuggish trad rock that adds further weight to the notion that sub-pop is hype. These warhorse riffs are only fit for the knacker’s yard.

7 This is quite good. Just. What could have been great instead merely bulges with promise.

8 Could have done with a more distinctive lead vocal.

9 Christ, so this is what John Leckie dumped the Roses for. Yet another anthemic chunk of fey verse riffola and big Marshall stack chorus action.

10 The kind of garage band who should be speedily returned to their garage, preferably with the engine running, which would undoubtedly be more of a loss to their friends and families than to either rock or roll.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 30 Aug 2012, 07:21

The answers to yesterday’s quiz:
1 Michael Jackson -- Thriller
2 The Sex Pistols --Anarchy In The UK
3 Pink Floyd -- Dark Side Of The Moon
4 Elvis Presley -- Heartbreak Hotel
5 Blur -- Parklife
6 Nirvana -- Smells Like Teen Spirit
7 The Stone Roses -- The Stone Roses
8 Dexy’s Midnight Runners -- Searching For The Young Soul Rebels
9 Radiohead -- The Bends
10 The Clash -- Garageland.

Let’s have another:
There was an interesting argument put forward by Patrick Ness at the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference the other week. Namely that instead of bringing people together in a multi-faceted discussion, the internet has actually made sectarianism the default position.

What that actually means is that instead of joining in genuine debate, with rational discussion of various viewpoints, modification of opinions in the light of counter argument and movement towards consensus and resolution, the anonymity of the internet leads to polarised positions, with responses becoming increasingly fragmented and bitter.
As examples he cites recent ‘debates’ on Syria, Julian Assange and people pontificating about what constitutes rape.

This issue has subsequently been taken up by Peter Beaumont in an article where he points out that initially it was claimed that the internet would empower people by giving everyone a voice, not just those who had access to the media and that this, in turn, would lead to greater democracy. (What the definition of democracy might be in this context was never clearly explained.) Instead what has tended to happen is that it has led to a proliferation of special interest groups who reinforce each other’s like-minded opinions and gang up on those who hold opposing views.

The virtual communities which develop out of this tendency end up being organised around their own confirmatory bias which results in the participants confusing emotional response for rational thought and being supported in that position by the others in their network.

Added to this is the psychological effects of anonymity. Because people subconsciously assume that they are ‘hidden’ from others, self censorship goes out the window and they say things in cyberspace which they would never do in a face-to-face situation. This is compounded by the assumption that the people against whom they are directing their invective are somehow ‘unreal’ because they only exist on-line. As a result the ‘discussions’ become increasingly toxic and aggressive.

Todays game, children, is to go through the threads on this site and see how many posts you can find that fit this description. Whoever find the most gets to object to a planning application of their choice.

(My own post yesterday in response to seashell’s joke about ellipsis counts as one point. ...... It was a joke, wasn’t it?)
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 31 Aug 2012, 07:24

The heavy holiday read was Jeffrey Meyer’s biography of Ernest Hemingway.

Working on the basis that the first three things that come into my head are the main points which made an impact in the book, those would be killing things, drinking too much and his war record (which isn’t quite the same as killing things.

It seems that Hemingway started shooting and killing super furry animals when he was four years old. Allegedly he once killed four hundred rabbits in a day. When he was a little older, young Ernest had to pay a hefty fine for blasting an endangered bird to bits. He later summed up his attitude to shooting things that can’t shoot back as: “you cannot take pleasure from hunting endangered species; the pleasure comes from making them endangered.”

As far as booze was concerned he drank like a fish, (assuming that fish are raging alcoholics). According to the biography, he would guzzle—this is not a joke—absinthe, whiskey, vodka, wine, gin, tequila, and champagne for breakfast. In the evenings he would guzzle… well, pretty much the same (notice the nifty ellipsis there). On top of that was the bottle of wine with each of his meals. The editor of the Paris Review, George Plimpton said “you could see the bulge of his liver stand out from his body like a long fat leech.”

Despite the fact that he failed his army medical because of poor eyesight he became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in World War One. When a trench mortar shell detonated near him, and despite hundreds of shrapnel fragments in his foot, knee and scalp, Hemingway carried a hurt comrade to safety, for which he won the Silver Medal of Valor. In World War Two, he once again contributed without officially enlisting. He miraculously convinced starstruck Navy officers to stock a boat with bazookas, grenades, and machine guns to hunt Nazi submarines and give it to him. He sneaked behind German lines all by himself, carrying “more munitions and alcohol than a division,” on unauthorized reconnaissance missions, for which he earned another Medal of Valor to complement the one from two decades before.

Thinking more about the content of the book, there are two main things I'll take away.

The first is Hemingway’s five tips for good writing:
1use short sentences
2 use short first paragraphs
3 use vigorous english
4 be positive not negative
5 edit ruthlessly

On the last point he claimed: “ I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the waste basket.”

Perhaps his finest demonstration of these five tips was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

The second is his reflection on life: " Those that it will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of those you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 01 Sep 2012, 07:23

I was sorry to read that at least one of the local kids hadn’t managed to get the grades that his mum had hoped for.

I pass on the following tip for use in any re-sit:

Spend the time in the exam writing a letter to your mum telling her that you have finished the exam early and so you are writing to her to tell her how well you think you have done.

At the end of the exam hand in the letter instead of the answer paper. Take the answer paper out of the exam room with you, go to the library and look up the answers. When you’ve completed the paper, put it in an envelope and post it to your mum. (make sure to do this on the same day as the exam.)

When the envelope with your exam paper in it arrives at your house, intercept it. Take it back to the school and show it to your teacher, complete with the stamped addressed envelope and explain that you appear to have made an awful mistake.

Explain that you had finished the exam early and wrote the letter to your mum and must have put the wrong document in the envelope and sent it off. Hand over the exam paper for marking.

Most people who have done this have received straight ‘A’s.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 02 Sep 2012, 11:53

At last, I'm in ....... lots of 404 errors this morning!


Disappointingly my mate Jo Kjarval won’t be coming over for a visit this autumn. He’s not too well at the moment. Perhaps it’s got something to do with all those icelandic delicacies that he and Gerdur keep promising me.

It all started over 40 years ago when he first discovered haggis and realised that it was almost identical to what the Icelanders know as Slatur. Essentially Slatur is all of the innards of sheep chopped up and boiled. Usually it’s eaten cold. You can buy it in the supermarket in Reykjavik.

Alternatively, in the same supermarket you can just buy a sheep’s head, chopped off and ready wrapped for roasting. In the old days they used to toss the heads on to a bonfire and fish them out when done. Nowadays Gerdur just leaves it in the oven a bit too long. This is called Svid. (When I was little my grandmother used to buy sheeps’ heads and boil them to make soup. It was delicious.)

Dried fish called Hardfiskur is a smelly staple, but much more adventurous is Hakarl. First take your shark , dress it and bury it in the garden, preferably in May or June. At least six months later dig it up again. Ensure that the meat has begun to decompose. As may be expected the smell is a tad pungent and you are recommended to hold your nose while chewing. Best served with about a quarter litre of Black Death Schnapps.


On the more tempting side there are Snudar, Vinarbraud and Kleinur, which are traditonal pastries eaten with whipped cream, jam and chocolate. These are particularly nice with gooseberry vodka.
My own favourite is Kyr, which is a cross between yoghurt and cheese and is great combined with blueberries.
With a bit of luck they’ll be over at Christmas with a nice bit of Hakarl wrapped in foil in the false bottom of their suitcase.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 03 Sep 2012, 07:17

We were talking about Frankie Boyle, as you effing do, when I said that I didn’t think he was obscene, just puerile. I was then asked what I did think was obscene, and I replied “Israel’s attitude to Palestine”. I was immediately jumped on, being accused of anti-semitism.

I did not refer to Jews. Nor did I refer to the Israeli people. I was making a comment on Israel as a political entity and was decidedly not lumping the Israelis together as though they formed a monolithic entity with a single view and agenda. Nor was I commenting on Israel’s right to exist or questioning the fact that it is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East or, come to that, defending the equally obscene response of its neighbours to Israel’s existence. It should go without saying that criticizing Israel is as appropriate as criticizing any other country. Israel deserves no special exemption from critical examination.

The act of criticizing Israel does not by itself make one an anti-Semite. Criticizing Israel's policies is legitimate and often necessary. But attacking Israel's existence is quite another matter. Applying double standards to Israel is very common, and it is also not rational. It is fair to criticize Israel as severely as other nations when Israel does things that warrant criticism as severe as that given to other nations. But severe condemnation of Israel that passes over or even excuses worse behavior by other countries makes no sense.

Which takes me to what has been happening in Edinburgh over the last couple of weeks, which I also find obscene.

I’m referring to the behaviour of people at the performances of the Batsheva dance group at The Playhouse. Every night people attending the show have had to run the gamut of a heckling group of anti-Israel protestors outside the venue. Every night the show has been stopped by the same protestors invading the performance and making it impossible for the performers to carry on. The Police have not intervened because the protestors ‘were not doing anything illegal’.

You may have seen the letter in The Herald, which called on the Festival to withdraw the invitation to Batsheva "even at this late stage", which was signed by Liz Lochhead, Iain Banks, Tom Leonard and A.L. Kennedy, among others. Lochhead said that "Having seen how Palestinians are treated like non-humans, I believe we must use sanctions in the way they were used to bring apartheid to an end in South Africa".

You might think from that that Batsheva are an official national company. They are not and have even stated in public that they are against Israeli policy over Palestine, and they have been condemned in Israel for doing so. Their ‘crime’ has been to accept a grant from the Israeli Ministry of Culture.

I wonder if Liz, Iain, Tom and A.L. would be happy to be classed as supporters of the British Government just because they are British artists. If every British artistic endeavour which has received grant funding was similarly boycotted because of our involvement in Iraq there would be very few productions without a picket line outside it.
I think I know what Frankie Boyle’s response would be to that .
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby Sceptic » 03 Sep 2012, 12:56

As one who can remember what a South African Tour under apartheid looked like, namely Murrayfield with a continuous corden of police around it trying to stop some people invading the pitch, yes protest is fine, have apicket outside, hand in your petitions, but, please, let the performers do what they want, they are on your side as well. Would they barrack the Divan Orchestra? Daniel Barenboim infuriated the Zionists with his outbursts. The protest is anti Zionist, not anti Semitic. Zionists are the first to confuse the two. Anti Zionists just give them ammunition when they cross the line of fair protest
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 04 Sep 2012, 07:19

Just carrying on the theme of obscenities, it’s salutary to note the response of the extreme right to the decision of the Norwegian court that Anders Breivik was sane.

It was a brave decision of the court because it opens up the can of worms which is islamophobia under the surface of Norwegian society (just as it is under the surface of our own.) It would have been really easy to have said Breivik was insane and swept all the difficult issues under the carpet of Planet Wacko. It hardly seems coincidental that the one witness in the Breivik trial who received death threats was Muslim. It will no longer be possible for extreme rightwing Islamophobes to deny that Breivik was in fact inspired and motivated by their ideals, fabrications and distortions.

Stephen Lennon, the leader of the English Defence League is now on record as saying that by finding Breivik sane the court has : “given credibility to what he had been saying, and that is that Islam is a threat to Europe and the rest of the world.”

Philip Horn, of the British National Party has said on Facebook “I take my hat off to you, sir. You proved you were not insane, and that you are just one of many like myself who wish their country to return to the way it was before it was invaded by the Muslim population. Respect to you.”

Order 777 (the self titled Christian Resistance Movement) which is run by Nick Greger and Paul Ray, both themselves founder members of the EDL, has posted on Facebook that Breivik deserves a medal for his “groundbreaking performance in blowing up his marxist traitor government building”. Ray however vigorously denied having anything to do with the Norwegian attacks after Breivik claimed at his trial to have been inspired by Ray’s on-line blogs. (Both Greger and Ray now live in Malta because in this country they would be arrested for inciting racial hatred.)

Also on Facebook is a petition from Darren Clift in support of Breivik. Clift finds Breivik “truly inspirational. He sacrificed his life so Europe may be free again from the clutches of Islam .... I see him as my role model, what every European man needs to be in order for Europe to survive.”

In France Richard Millet has written that “Anders Breivik is without doubt what Norway deserved.”

Note that none of them make any mention of the 77 people whose lives Breivik sacrificed for his own ends.

Joel Yossi, another member of the EDL has announced that he is now in communication with Breivik in prison and that “he is in high spirits”.

Apparently Breivik has already started writing his autiobiography, which will reportedly focus on his life from 2002, when he began his 'crusade', and a blow-by-blow account of his attacks. Breivik's lawyer Tord Jordet says that there has been a lot of interest from publishers.

Now, that is obscene.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby Sceptic » 04 Sep 2012, 07:30

I fear that history is repeating itself yet again, what will he call this work? "My Struggle" or whatever those words may be in his language? There are few left who have first hand knowledge of these matters, there are those who decry the History Channel about showing so many programmes about Nazi Germany and how evil they were, but the warning signs are there, when one group blames another for their own problems, when blame turns to hate, when hate tuns to violence, violence turns to......................

We have been there before, do we want to go there again?
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby gillian » 04 Sep 2012, 09:12

It seems to me inevitable that racial hatred will increase whilst ever there is so much inequality in our society.

The mining village where I was born typifies this. When the mines were working and there was full employment in the village you couldn't have lived in a more harmonious community. Everyone was tolerated, I remember a huge influx of Scots coming to work in the mines. New houses were built they were all accommodated and integrated into village life.
No one was discriminated against because of their differences whatever they were.Really I'm not looking back through rose coloured spectacles everyone really did look out for each other. People were gay or straight, able bodied or not, black or white it didn't seem to matter.
Then of course came the miners strikes and the pit closures. Feuds that started when some men felt they had to cross picket lines still show their presence today. There are people just younger than me who have never worked, nor have their children, or their children. People are poor and disaffected. They are vulnerable to the poison that the BNP and the like feed them. There are now BNP councillors in the area. Surely that is where the hatred and intolerance starts. Who knows where it will end.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 05 Sep 2012, 07:15

One of the great luxuries of the week is lying in the bath listening to Gardener’s Question Time. If nothing else, it is tremendously reassuring.

Take raspberries. All summer I have been worrying about my rasps. There have been hardly any flowers and consequently only a few berries to date. I assumed that it was all the wet weather this year, but apparently not. It seems the problem wasn’t that but the snow at the beginning of the year. Raspberries, it seems, don’t like their roots frozen.

And the Hydrangeas. We’ve had no blooms at all on them this year. It’s not that they haven’t been prolific. Loads of leaves, just no flowers. Again I put that down to the heavy rain and lack of sunshine, but no. My poor hydrangeas are anaemic and need a good dose of fish meal.

I’ve given up on the fig though. Not even the best of experts would be able to convince me that it is only sleeping. By any definition, it is dead. It’s hard to tell whether it suffered from frostbite or drowned. Either way, it is now just a stick.

This little trip down the garden path was prompted by Mrs. R. who was inspired by a superb photograph of a lovely blue caryopteris in one of the sunday supplements. It sowed two huge heads of blue trumpets with white hearts and long blue stamens. Inevitably I was instructed to get down to the garden centre and purchase one asap.

I think she will be sadly disappointed. Have you ever seen the flowers on a caryopteris? They are really tiny. To get the kind of image as that on the magazine you would have to use a lens the size of Mount Palomar. I came back with a new fig instead.

I’m considering sending my own question in to Gardener’s Question Time and look forward to lying back, laved by Radox and bubble bath while they explain to me why seed catalogues and gardening articles are so full of misleading photographs which make plants look like something other than they are.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 06 Sep 2012, 07:17

Just to get a little perspective on Bob’s saga of his neighbour’s planning applications:

As you will have deduced by now, I live in a market town surrounded by pleasant countryside, all of which happens to be designated Green Belt.

Nestling in that countryside is a pleasant little valley, with woodland up one side and sheep gently grazing the slopes on the other.

Back in 2003 someone from London (who did, indeed, turn out to be a banker with more money than sense), bought the side with the sheep and, shortly afterwards, put in a planning application for a seven bedroom ‘mansion’. The local planning authority, rightly, turned it down.

Our banker went to appeal, which he also lost. The Planning Inspector found that the site was a pleasant agricultural landscape of gently undulating land sloping generally down to the valley, and that the proposed mansion would be an unacceptable visual intrusion.

In 2005 he submitted a new application, this time for a seven bedroom Eco-house which would be dug into the hillside. That was also refused because it would destroy the landscape quality of the valley. He appealed again and again the appeal was rejected. This time the Planning Inspector found that the cluster of small fields at the site have survived for some considerable time and they can be found, in their current form, on c1868 maps. From a landscape and historic perspective he considered the fields to be important and scarce in a county context.

Our banker then went on a different tack. As the land was being grazed by sheep, it must be considered as an agricultural site. Indeed the first Inspector had specifically described it as such.

In January 2010 he put in an application for a substantial barn (about the size of a seven bed house). It was refused.

In May 2010 he resubmitted the application for the barn. Again it was refused.

In July 2010 he put in an application for a large stables. It was turned down.

October 2010 saw a second application for the stables, with the same result.

In January 2011 the barn application returned and was similarly rejected.

Now he has put in an application to level out the site by importing 280,000 cubic metres of ‘inert’ waste. The reason for this is that he now intends to establish a chicken farm on the site and that the site needs to be level because it is important for the viability of a free range egg business that chickens can be seen by passing drivers. (I am sure that you have screeched to a halt as frequently as I have as you passed a flock of strutting chickens in an adjacent field.) It would mean that, just at the point where the original ‘mansion was to be sited, the valley would be effectively filled in.

What he is doing, of course, is preparing the foundations for his ‘mansion’ and establishing a case for existing agricultural use which, under the new (English) National Planning Policy Framework can then permit a change to residential. How much this process has cost him to date I shudder to think, but presume it must be chicken feed compared to his annual bonus.
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 07 Sep 2012, 07:24

Anyone else been watching The Last Leg after the channel 4 paralympic coverage? If you haven’t, it’s really refreshing watching a team of disabled presenters going into the sort of territory that able bodied ones would shy away from. They come out with comments like : "There was blind long jump, blind football and blind athletics today. If you didn't see any of it, don't worry. Neither did they."

As Adam Hills, the front man with the prosthetic leg, has pointed out you can't help wondering whether if Frankie Boyle woke up tomorrow with a spinal injury, his jokes would get a kinder reception.

I particularly enjoyed the rambling story that Alex Brooker, who has two deformed arms, with no fingers, and a missing leg, told about arguing with the woman from the laundrette in the Olympic Village about the cost of washing socks. "£1.25 for a pair? I'm not getting charged that with one leg".

The other night they were discussing whether the particular disabilities that paralympians have should be displayed while they perform. This was prompted by someone expressing the view that a lot of the competitors appeared to be completely normal and that it was difficult to see why they should be competing against people with obvious disabilities.

It seems to be a little-known fact that 120 athletes with learning disabilities from 34 countries are taking part in this year's Paralympics, alongside their physically disabled teammates. Nine members of Team GB have learning disabilities, including a runner, seven swimmers and a table-tennis player.

Then there are the people who do have physical disabilities, but don’t show it. To demonstrate that Adam Hills rolled up his trouser leg to display his prosthetic leg (beautifully painted with the Ghanaian flag - the team he is championing)

All of them will have gone through a lengthy assessment process to prove their eligibility, including an IQ exam and sport-specific tests to measure how their disability impacts upon their performance. They will also have been observed in competition.

One of the most obvious examples of people who look as thought they have no disability is Will Bayley, the table tennis silver medalist. I’ve been following him throughout the tournament.

His parents were aware before birth that he would be born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that was to affect all four of his limbs. It means that he has no wrists or ankles. His feet are literally cemented to the end of his legs.  At three months old he underwent his first operation. Many more reconstruction operations were to follow. At the age of three, with the aid of magic Pedro boots, he was able to walk. Then, at the age of seven Will was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Whilst recovering from cancer, Will discovered he was able to play a good game of table tennis. He took to the game quickly and began playing competitively aged 12. At the European Championships last year he achieved a Gold medal in the singles, Silver in the team event and was voted European Players Player of the Year 2011.

Truly inspirational, though I don’t think I’d adopt what he considers to be his good luck charm. If he wins a match he wears the same t-shirt throughout competition if he's on a winning streak. By the seventh game he "genuinely stinks of sweat".
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Re: Rathbone's Ramblin'

Postby rathbone » 08 Sep 2012, 07:23

I have to admit that I’m shocked by the bawdy comments about local shops on the Portobello High Street Facebook page. The last straw was Ms. Yates actually having the temerity to post a photograph of the Costcutters top shelf prominently displaying a copy of Practical Pigs.

In this part of the world we are over-run with these randy pink creatures. On some days we are down wind of them as well, a truly sensory experience. My mate Dave looks out of his cottage window at a landscape filled with little nissan huts all bulging with porcine flesh.

It makes it odds on, therefore that Practical Pigs is the top-shelf item of choice for many of my neighbours (filthy beasts!). It is published four times a year and claims to ‘provide an informative and entertaining magazine for the domestic pig’ with straightforward, down-to-earth content covering all the essentials. Each issue provides in-depth buying features from emporia like Sainsbury Local, practical articles on key aspects such as housing, feeding and welfare, owners’ stories, readers’ sows, a breeders’ directory and much more.

The copy displayed on the Facebook page shamelessly features an article explaining the ins and outs of artificial insemination. Not only was the article tasteless, the pun that you have just read is atrocious.

So popular is this type of filth it even has its own website. Given some of the things people post on there, it is having a pernicious impact. Faithmead from the Carmarthenshire/Pembrokshire border admits to curling up with it in front of the woodburner every evening and is so knackered that he can’t concentrate on anything too technical. Oaklandspigs, from East Essex prefers it on the kitchen table, while Stonehead from Aberdeenshire notes that Suzanne sows put fat down extremely easily while boars from the Mermaid sows have the higher amount as they can tend to build muscle rather than fat.

Shouldn’t be allowed.

So potent is this stuff that it was reported that during the rioting in Manchester last year chavs were looting all the copies they could as they searched for a suitable mate. (this is of course a joke … after all, pigs are intelligent animals)
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rathbone
 
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