Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Todays Song

Well I built my life around you
Did what I thought was right
But you never cared about me
Now I've seen the light
Oh darlin', there ain't no pleasing you

You seem to think that everything
I ever did was wrong
I should've known it
All along
Oh darlin', there ain't no pleasing you

You only had to say the word
And you knew I'd do it
You had me where you wanted me
But you went and blew it
Now everything I ever done
Was only done for you
But now you can go and do
Just what you wanna do
I'm telling you

Cos I ain't gonna be made
To look a fool no more
You done it once to often
What do you take me for
Oh darlin', there ain't no pleasing you

You seem to think that everything
I ever did was wrong
I should've known it
All along
Oh darlin', there ain't no pleasing you

You only had to say the word
And you knew I'd do it
You had me where you wanted me
But you went and blew it
Now everything I ever done
Was only done for you
But now you can go and do
Just what you wanna do
I'm telling you

Cos I ain't gonna be made
To look a fool no more
You done it once to often
What do you take me for
Oh darlin', there ain't no pleasing you

And if you think I don't mean what I say
And I'm only bluffing
You got another thing coming
I'm tellin' you that for nothing
Oh darlin', that's what I'm gonna

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday, 26 June 2011

recycled paper

I paid a lovely visit to Wakehurst Place in West Sussex the other day. Wakehurst Place is run by the people who run Kew Gardens, the National Trust and also gets government funding (55% of it's income).

It is an amazing combination of nature reserve, beautiful grounds, and conservation work.

It had lovely explanations about the delicate balance of nature.

One of the displays was about all the uses of wood by local crafts people: e.g. wooden bowels, furniture, baskets, spoons, fences, sculpture etc.   All loved wood for the way it could be sustainably harvested.
Which makes me wonder about the wisdom of the emphasis on recycling paper.  usually the alternative is top access documents electronically or online. Now I haven't got any estimates, but it seems to me not entirely unlikely that most electronic devices are powered with non-renewable energy.    Paper was perhaps a good item to start recycling because there was a market and the process of producing paper can be at quite an environmental cost.Yet, I suspect that compared to say the environmental cost of discarded metals and rare elements in computers etc, the cost of paper is not so high.  That doesn't mean I against recycled paper, I use lots  myself, but it does make me wonder if the message on recycling is quite right.  Reduce, reuse and then recycle should be the sequence. In the commercial world, reduce is often the last thing on anyones mind, but actually, some of us might be a lot happier if we reduced our consumption of consumer goods.


Going for walks in the streets and roads near where I live, I am struck by the amount of litter. This evening I resolved to do my bit for the bit society and clear some up if I came across any in my walk.  I took two carrier bags with me - one for waste and one for recycling.  Now obviously I straight away ran into a problem.  No I know you daily snail  mail readers will be thinking health and safety gone mad, but no, it's more obvious than that. Two carrier bags just wasn't enough. So I got home and emptied 42 aluminium cans and plastic bottles into my recycling wheelie bin.

Blame it on the wombles if you like, but I have always found littering one of the most anti-social activities.  Well, no actually the wombles thrived on litter, they could set up a colony round here.  I like the Pam Ayers poem, littering, and the Flanders and Swann song Bedstead men.   But their comes a point when humour and education have had their trial period.  

There are  powers for on the spot fines for littering - although these are such a rarity, the figures I have seen that people with these powers average less than one fine each per year.

I don't know what the answer is.    It should be self evident that littering is bad. Words fail me

Coalition Government

As a student of history and Liberal Party politics,

Three books are covered by this review, Coalition by Mark Oaten's, 22 Days in May by David Laws and Hung Together by Adam Boulton and Joey Jones.

Firstly, it is quite interesting to read what were current events but are already history.  The rush to political memoirs has gathered pace - so that instead of waiting years for notes and recollections, they are availible in months.

David Laws, Lib Dem MP for Yeovil and  one of the Lib Dem negotiating team and has produced an instant warts and all account of events.

It is rather strange, not to say disheartening to see Laws make fun of his own parties policies and internal democracy.  The over whelming impression is that excessive concern was given to "the markets" and the "24/7" media. 

The Adam Boulting and Joey Jones both work for Sky News. Again it is a surprise to see how freely key people were prepared to talk about their part in events.  Probably the best of the books in being more balanced, as long as you can quickly skip through the bits of the book which read like a plug for Sky news and the two authors.  The "row" between Boulting and Alistair Campbell (Labour party spin doctor) goes on interminably and unintelligibly.


Brian Cox, light speed, amazing.

There was a very funny parody of Professor Brian Cox on Radio 4's the Now Show on 24th June. It was "amazing". (it seems the popular scientist Brian might over use that word)

Still,it got me thinking that the Universe really is amazing.

Light travels at about 300,000 kilometre a second.

It would take a human a long time to walk that distance!

In a minute, light travels around 18 million km, that more travel than a human is likely to do in a lifetime.

It takes approximately 8.31 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth Don't you like the approximately?

In a year light will travel 9,460,730,472,580km, a light year.

Current interpretations of astronomical observations indicate that the universe is around 13.75 billion years old and that the diameter of the observable universe is at least 93 billion light years.

All of which make an omnipresent God a startling concept.

 Here is a being that is not only present ever where and at all times but also instantaneously and simultaneously aware of all the thought and deeds of billions of other creatures. I mean, I thought my broadband was fast.

And following the logic of creationists who argue for "intelligent design"
the creator who designed God, must be, as Brian Cox might say, amazing.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Favourite Links

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Gay Bishops

The Church of England seems to be going through one of it's agonising debates about whether to appoint homosexual Bishops.  Well, they think that is the debate, but in reality there have been plenty of gay bishops, just  few of them have been openly gay.   So what does God think ? Lets ring him up and ask. Can't be done ? So lets turn to scripture and see if that can help us.  Quite clearly the answer is yes, no and maybe.
So whatever your view- you can reinforce that. But that leaves a more interesting question - why would God be bothered ? 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Why Caratacus

Caratacus was the King of an Ancient British Tribe who resisted the Roman invasion.
he was defeated and taken to Rome in chains. There he was allowed to address the Senate (presumably by a translator)

Tacitus records a version of his speech in which he says that his stubborn resistance made Rome's glory in defeating him all the greater. Cleverly he argued that if the Romans let him live, "I shall be an eternal example of your clemency."

The phrase that has always stuck in my mind however is that he is recorded as saying
"And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?"

This is often taken as that he was impressed by Roman with it's huge wealth and buildings but surely a the more subtle message is why are you so greedy ?

It may be that his words were embellished by others. Historians has a long history of doing such. Recorded history is littered with examples of "noble savages" - idealised versions of barbarians, native americans, etc who recorded words were 'adapted' to make the authors point rather than the speakers. But some how the words attributed to Caratacus ring true. He was after all a King who had a lot of possessions of his own he fought to hang on to.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Local Elections - Now there's a good idea

The Liberal Democrats had a pretty disastrous set of local elections. It would be fair to say that the Party has suffered the biggest setback in it's history. The results from the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament were unrelentingly grim.

For a party which based a lot of it's success and appeal on it's local Government base, it may be catastrophic. There is no law in politics that says parties will recover. More often than not, parties, especially smaller one come and go. The reasons for the drubbing are fairly obvious, and without going into details - the words tuition fees, Nick Clegg and coalition spring to mind.

But, here's the problem, while some of the electorate had taken upon themselves to give the Liberal Democrats a good kicking - it very rarely had anything to do with local government, their local council or the merits of the candidates in their ward. Now fun though it is, it not very healthy for democracy. It is already pretty evident that the value placed on democracy in the UK is rather low. Now it is treated like a vote for Anne Widdecombe on strictly come dancing or for Jedward on the X-Factor.

Very few people have any real idea about how elections in the UK operate. The answer is on the whole, not terribly well. Most elections aren't really contested. Sure, two or three of the parties usually make the effort to ensure they have a candidate but few of them will even put out a leaflet and even fewer do so in the expectation that they might win ! All the parties struggle to find candidates - especiually ones that want to be elected and are reasonably competent. More often than not candidates agree to stand only after reassurance that they won't be elected

The actual mechanics of election campaigning are quite onerous - imagine if you were going to stand for election - you have to design, get printed, pay for and then deliver your own leaflet. You are likely to need between 2,000 10,000 copies. On when you have delivered it will you discover that perhaps 1 in 5 voters might have looked at it before it was binned ! That's if it is well designed and eye catching. Optimistically, some of those reading it might be interested in what you have to say and even remember it or have their vote influenced by it. Don't get to technical though, otherwise voters switch off. So what do you have in most places - people who don't want to be elected trying to appeal to people who aren't interested and who are almost deliberately ignorant of the facts.

Library Books - June 2011

The mystery of Lewis Carroll - by Jenny Woolf 2010 ISBN 978-1-90598-68-6

Probably the best book to read about Lewis Carroll aka Charles Dodgson.

It clearly and authoritatively sets the record straight. The new information she uncovered about his finances and falling out with the Liddells is particularly interesting. It has probably been said that more nonsense has been written about Lewis Carroll than appears in his books - if not it should have been :-)

Pete and Dud - An Illustrated Biography by Alexander Games.
Conventional wisdom is that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were very funny in the 1960's and never really reached those heights again. This book tries to argue that perhaps some of the Derek and Clive stuff was very funny - but misses the point that conventional wisdom could be right and it doesn't really matter. Where conventional wisdom might be wrong is in arguing that Peter Cook in particular wasted his comic potential, whereas anyone who achieved so much is surely allowed a bit of slack !
The book is a good attempt to paint a warm and human picture of two complex and very different individuals.

Further Adventures of a Grumpy Old Rock Star by Rick Wakeman -  This book has me laughing out loud with genuinely funny stories from his life. True I don't think I've ever listened to any of his music, but as when the old lady asked him if he had made any discs, he replied yes, 136, she said "Have you sold all of them yet". Full of self-depreciating humour like the time he did a signing in Woolworth's and no-one turned up !

Fathers Day

David Cameron (Prime Minister of the UK) has written an article saying that runaway dads should be stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them. They should be looked at like drunk drivers, people who are beyond the pale, they need it rammed home that what they are doing is wrong - leaving single mothers to fend for themselves simply isn't acceptable.

I think I know who the Prime Minister is getting at. But I'm not sure. I am never keen on "naming and shaming". Partly as many people no longer feel shame and partly because I'm not sure that even if they do, it leads to positive outcomes.

There are so many assumptions behind his article. Are drink drivers really beyond the pale for everyone ? What about runaway mums ? How many runaway dads are there ? Is it really a problem of deliberate fecklessness or is it more complicated ?

Cameron came up with a plan to offer £150 a year tax breaks for marriage - now I can accept that financial pressures put marriages under strain, I can also spot that plenty of very rich people get divorced - so the question is - would £3 a week make a difference to most marriages? I doubt it, so the argument retreats to it being symbolic, to sending out the right message, etc hmmm

145 times

Ed Milliband (Leader of the Labour Party in the UK) made an interesting speech the other day.
In it he noted a number of points:

In the last ten years the pay of someone at the top of a company has gone from 69 times the average wage to 145 times.

Every time a chief executive gives himself a massive pay rise - more than he deserves or his company can bear it undermines trust at every level of society.

But then he rather spoils it.

He says Labour was seen "however unfairly" as the Party of those ripping off society. Even as he acknowledges that Labour "Was intensely relaxed about what happened at the top of society".

How "unfair" to blame the "intensely relaxed" Labour Government for the massive pay rises!
But Ed has a solution - He rules out the Government setting maximum pay ratios - perish the thought.

The solution Ed offers is - well it's sort of make a speech and the top paid people will see they error of their ways and change. Job done. So as my only contribution to "sending out the right message" I just like to say that noone deserves to be paid 145 times anyone else.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Big Brother and the Holding Company

Another historic 1960's band. It started when Sam Andrews (guitar) heard the sound of Peter Albin (bass) playing guitar coming out of a high up window. in the spirit of the times he went up to speak to him, and that's how the band started.

James Gurley has been described as the father of psychedelic guitar. I don't think this is disputed. Before Janis Joplin joined the band, he was the star with his unique sound, due in part to being entirely self taught.

BBTHC had a raw, powerful sound that complimented Janis Joplin's raucous vocals. In the recording studio they suffered from trying take after take but, the very essence of their live performance had always been the impact of their sound, not being note perfect.

The irony is that Janis was persuaded to leave the band to be backed by technically better musicians, and perhaps had greater commercial success, but for most fans the BBTHC years (months?) were the best and most enjoyable. Perhaps she was right, she felt she needed a brass
section so help her sing. 3/5 of the band is still going now, had Janis lived, would she still be touring ? or retired like Grace slick from Jefferson Airplane.

Great Bands No 2 - The Great Society

The Great Society was Grace Slick band before she joined Jefferson Airplane.

Ironically it was the two Great Society songs "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" that became Jefferson Airplanes biggest and probably best known hits.

The Great Society versions are quite different.

Somebody to Love, written by Darby Slick, is much slower and melancholy.

As Darby says; "Our version was sadder. I'm not saying it was better ...."

White Rabbit is also slower and has a long instrumental intro.

Undoubtedly Jefferson Airplane were the better musicians but the Great Society recordings perfectly capture the transitional evolving folk-rock sound of 1965/66

Great Bands No 1 - Country Joe and the Fish

Country Joe and the Fish are one of the great bands to come out of San Francisco in the 1960's. They never made a big impact on the charts - their first single got to about number 98 in the American hot hundred, but they were a truly innovative group. As bassist Bruce Barthol said recently, ""It was real easy to be a genius, there were probably some folk songs that I was the first guy in the world to play electric bass on." Although they are sometimes viewed as a hippie band - Country Joe and the Fish weren't really hippies in that they all seemed to have shared left-wing political views, whereas the hippie view was against politics. Their first (and to most people, best album) was called "electric music for the mind and body". It ranged from the politics to folk - instrumentals to rock.

When they were making their 'difficult' third Album, the band almost split up. Indeed Country Joe left for a short while. The reason Joe gave for leaving was that he and lead guiaterist Barry Melton were arguing, Barry could "play anything" while drummer "Chicken" Hersh didn't want to play repedative beats while Bassist Barthol emulating Paul McCartney was strugglingto stay in tune. but, these were the very things that made them such an interesting band.

The Skeptic's Bible

The Skeptic's Bible is an excellent project to show how silly the Bible, Koran and Book of Mormon are if you take them literally.

Of course too many people, the Bible, Koran and other books are not to be taken literally, or only selectively literally. A bit like political manifestos?

The trouble with this view is that it is there is no guidance as to which bits should be taken literally and which bits shouldn't.

Personally, I always find the more literal approach to be the more sensible.

Great Bands No 3 - Moby Grape

Rock music has it's fair share of bands that wow the critics but don't sell the records.

Moby Grape is one such band. Their first album, Moby Grape, is usually described as the perfect debut. Five members all of whom could sing, play and write songs produced a masterpiece.

After that everything seemed to go wrong for the band. The record company knowing the album was great released all the tracks as singles at the same time - thus ensuring that people thought the band was over hyped and that none of the records got enough coverage to be a hit.

Management problems, drug busts, a not quite so good second album, an even less good third album, members leaving, a trio struggling on, disbanding, occasional reunions, etc etc
Two band members ended up homeless and destitute.

It is one of the sad stories of rock music but the best music the band created still sound great.

Amazingly the 4 surviving members of the band reunited for the summer of love festival in San Fransico in September 2007.

Just one more God to go

When someone comes up to you in the street and asks if you believe in God, what do you say ?

Which God are you asking about ?

I think about the Gods of Ancient Roman and just find them all a bit implausible.

The Greek Gods are similar, but do they live on Mount Olympus still ?

I used to love tales of the Norse Gods in my younger days, Loki, Thor, Odin - they still have a small neo-pagan following.

There have been so many Gods over the years people have written encyclopedias about Gods, that have only scratched the surface.

The two most popular religions - Christianity and Islam insist that there is only one God. They dismiss all the others. Hundreds and thousands of Gods. Which leads to one of my favourite saying - most people are just one God short of being an Atheist.