BBC Newsnight

BBC Newsnight commentators are like children trying to guess what the grown-up world is about, chattering nonsense. ‪Evan Davis was in a world of his own as he questioned John McDonnnell about policy at the 2015 Labour party conference. He was all wrapped up and smiling and not even looking at McDonnell. He talked so fast, the shadow chancellor could hardly get a word in. Evan Davis hasn’t woken up from the previous groupthink and when he does he will get into another groupthink. He might never have an idea of his own, as long as he lives. Allegra Stratton is even worse. All the mateys together. #‎bbcnewsnight‬ #evandavis #allegrastratton #johnmcdonnell

Voices from a Hidden People

RTÉ Player: TV50 “Diarmaid O Muirithe explores the literary and poetic heritage of six areas of the country. First broadcast in 1971.”

Part of a series of programmes on poetry in Irish from six regions of Ireland in the 18th century (almost all with subtitles and set to music). All children in Ireland learn poems by Raftery (or at least we used to) and others from the same era, connecting us to the ancient nature loving tradition and introducing us to the courtly verse of itinerant bards; perhaps essential building blocks of being Irish, you might even say. If you could build a model of the molecule for Irishness, there might a green atom of naturelove in tension with a purple atom of courtly verse, all circling a black nucleus of, what -?

Self-Portrait – Sylvia Beach

RTÉ Player: TV50

Watching this. Archive interview from 1962 with Sylvia Beach, publisher of Ulysses, who talks about her life and Joyce, Hemingway and lots of interesting times and people.

‎”Joyce was sitting at table and Ezra Pound was teasing him…” You get the idea of the calibre of her friends!

Good to know he pronounced “book” properly! I mean in the Dublin way.

Fascinating about Hemingway arriving in her shop with wounds still not healed from the war. “Would you like to see my wounds?” “Very much.” So he showed her. … She organised a boxing match … Hemingway broke his thumb in the course of it. His opponent was subsequently killed fighting for the resistance. … Now she’s talking about Austin Clarke. …

Onto Beckett now. Scott Fitzgerald. Thornton Wilder. … What an interview. Louis Aragon.

Joyce would recite Walt Whitman to her, an enthusiasm he shared with her when Whitman was not liked at the time.

She watched the Germans arriving … “The tears were streaming down our cheeks.” A German soldier demanded her copy of Finnegans Wake from the window of her shop. She refused. He came back later and threatened to confiscate all her stock when he found that FW was no longer in the window. She moved everything out and hid the stuff in an empty apartment. Very brave! They came back and found the shop gone, name removed, shelves removed. shuttered.

She got a writer called Gordon Craig out of detention by appealing to the Gestapo. Later they arrested her and took her away, complained about her having a Jewish assistant in the shop and so forth. They were rounding up all Americans in the city and detained 400 of them at the city zoo. There were armed guards up above us and we were below in what we called The Monkey House…(not verbatim).

‎…moved to another prison for 6 months. … on and on, fantastic interview. Retreat of the Germans – “shooting at us”.

They machine gunned the people in the town while retreating. “We had to lie on our stomachs” … later stretchers taking wounded away. “We were liberated by Ernest Hemingway …. I heard this big voice shouting Sylvia, Sylvia!”

…and he wouldn’t stay for tea. He said, “Oh no, I have to liberate the cellar of the Ritz!”

Watching the Late Late Show – 1971

RTÉ Player: TV50 – celebrating 50 years of Irish television

About 11:00: Eamonn Andrews is dead wrong about the BBC being above censorship during the war. George Orwell was one of the censors, as point of interest. His war diaries about his work in censorship are quite interesting.

If you want to see Sir Matt Busby, the famous Manchester United manager, he comes on after 14 mins. Talking about George Best etc. ‎”a secular saint”.

He has an idea for a transfer window (there is now one) but in the closed season to create more stability and less panic. Does the present transfer window mean players play for one team at the start of the season and a different one at the end? I don’t know enough about it but that sounds wrong.

“Air-ay” is Éire. Nostalgia for people being able to smoke on the panel. I know it’s bad but there is also something good about it, something, I don’t know what. You will say, “no, nothing” and you’ll be right.

Next up Trevor Howard criticising David Lean very wittily but acerbically.

Matt Busby and Trevor Howard looking for a match to light up. “Dingle had 52 pubs and nowhere to eat.”

Gay Byrne to Trevor Howard: “Did you or did you not say that Irish people are only interested in drinking?” “No they are interested in other things.” “Like what?” “Well, you should know.”

A funny lady. Real trooper, type you hardly get now. a. days. Barbara Kelly

At least these interviews are getting somewhere, not the utter tripe you get now with Graham Norton etc.

‎”Helen threw a bicycle at me when we were at Cambridge and I said that’s the girl for me. I had to marry her and get my own back.” Trevor Howerd

Gay does ask some tactless questions. “Would you believe your husband Helen, if he turned to you and said you’re beautiful?” Ouch. But wait for this. Wait till you hear Matt Busby. Gay: “What about you Sir Matt, do you ever tell your wife she’s beautiful?” “Yes. Every morning. You have to use tactics as well!” (And he goes on to conjure the whole morning conversation.)

Next up Jack MacGowran, Beckett’s favourite actor. Both Eamonn Andrews and Jack MacGowran left working for Hibernian Insurance in Dublin on the same day. (!)

Aw man. Best art story ever.

Three smokers out of four on the panel. Man oh man. Jack too.

Brilliant mime by Jack MacGowran, under protest. It’s sewing. You have to see it. Hard to explain. Hilarious.

We may get a song from Jack from a Sean O’Casey play. And now Peter Sellers. It’s unbelievable.

Sellers is on fire. His Italian is a masterpiece – a story about the Pope…

He was first one to be defibrillated – in the world – dead for 2 minutes in L.A. Oh man he’s so funny. i rate him with Milligan now.

We’re promised mind reading and quick change act from Sellers in the next part. Can it get any better?

MacGowran on Lorca … and Polanski

Vaguely remember seeing this quick change before

I probably saw that whole show before when it was on. I was 17 in 1971. But the only thing that produced the smallest atom of deja vu was the quick change setup.

Watching the defectives – GOP foreign policy debate

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

It’s worth listening to the logic of people like Gingrich, absolute moral bankruptcy: covert operations “all deniable”. Deniable – why? A big question.

‎16:00 on: Huntsman is making great sense.

After 24:00 – Bachmann: “The table is being set for a nuclear war against Israel”.

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

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

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

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

59:00 – Cain’s logic is “Anyone we torture is a terrorist”. Wait till it’s your son or daughter.

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

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

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

‎77:00 – Huntsman very authoritative on the “loose nuke” question.

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

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

Monkeys’ tea party commentary

Republican contenders Tea Party debate (video)

Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

7:00: Clever metaphor from Romney “We’ve gone from a pay phone world to a smartphone world.”

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

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

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

Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 4

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

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

6:30: Huntsman calls Perry’s suggestion that they are unable to secure the border “treasonous”.

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

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

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

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

Fils de

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening to The Beatles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just waving

Words by Jackie Morris


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