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Jethro Tull

A special piece of educational material here for my friend and correspondent Helpless Dancer.

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Laurel and Hardy. Pure Genius.

Although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy produced their best work pre-war (1939) and retired in 1950, in the 70's and 80's their comedy was still being televised on a regular basis. I remember loving the little short films which were often shown in groups of two or three on a Saturday morning. Timeless is perhaps an over used description but the humour of Laurel and Hardy was certainly that. If proof were needed then one only has to look at how many DVD's of their films are still selling well.



I am grateful to the writer of

this Wikipedia Article for providing the following which sums up the duo perfectly. 


The Laurel and Hardy on-screen characters are of two supremely brainless,
eternally optimistic men, secure in their perpetual and impregnable
innocence. Their humor is physical, but their accident-prone buffoonery is
distinguished by the stars' friendly, kindly personalities and their
devotion to each other. Stan and Ollie are children in a grown-up world: a
skinny-and-fat pair of life's innocent bystanders who always run afoul of
irate landlords, pompous citizens, angry policemen, domineering women,
antagonistic customers, and apoplectic bosses. But they face the world
together, no matter how disastrous the consequences, and their friendship
sees them through more than 100 adventures. Whatever else they are, they are
gentlemen: "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy."
Laurel and Hardy had an inbuilt physical contrariety to aid them, and they
enhanced this ludicrousness with little touches, being very careful never to
desert reality. Stan kept his hair short on the sides and back, but let it
grow long on top to create a natural "fright wig" through his inveterate
gesture of scratching his head at moments of shock or wonderment and
simultaneously pulling up his hair. To achieve a flat-footed walk, he
removed the heels from his shoes (usually Army shoes). When talking with
Ollie, he would frequently look at his partner's forehead instead of his
eyes, enhancing his out-of-this-world coloration.




Part of Laurel and Hardy's on-screen appearance called for their faces to be
filmed flat, without any shadows or dramatic lighting. To recall the
traditional appearance of clowns, both comedians wore a light pancake makeup
on their faces, and Roach's cameramen, such as Art Lloyd and Francis Corby,
were instructed to light and film a scene so that facial lines and wrinkles
would be "washed out." Art Lloyd was once quoted as saying, "Well, I'll
never win an Oscar, but I'll sure please Stan Laurel."
Off-screen, Laurel and Hardy were the opposite of their movie characters:
Laurel was the idea man, while Hardy was more easygoing. Although Hal Roach
employed writers and directors such as H.M. Walker, Leo McCarey, James
Parrott, James W. Horne, and others on Laurel and Hardy films, Laurel would
rewrite entire sequences or scripts, have the cast and crew improvise on the
soundstage, and meticulously review the footage for editing, often
moonlighting to achieve all of these tasks. While Hardy also made
contributions to the routines, he was content to follow Laurel's lead and
spent most of his free time on hobbies such as golf.


There is also a Laurel and Hardy Official Website (!) HERE although it hasn't been updated recently. Oliver Hardy trained as a singer before turning to comedy and Stan Laurel was also a kind of song and dance man in his early career which began in Glasgow.

Of course if you were to ask anyone what their favourite Laurel and Hardy clip was, I'm sure this would be high on the list. From the 1937 film Way Out West (yes sevently years ago) this is the classic Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

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It’s Very Nice But Is It Art?


So you think you know art?


Now here is your chance to put your skill as an art critic to the test. Click Here to see a collection of items which you decide are genuine works of art and which are just photos of any old net rubbish.  









You'll get a mark at the end. Don't forget to report back and let me know how you did. I got eight out of sixteen. So get cracking. Ist it art? or crap?



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1930′s Building Site Health and Safety New York Style

I am indebted to Alastair over at his blog (See Alastair's Heart Monitor on my links). He posted another one of this series of prints. I actually have this one on my office wall at the emporium. Look at these guys. Hundreds of feet up on a steel beam on a construction site. No hard hats,safety slings or protective clothing and posing for a photo playing harmonicas. Actually I don't think the three guys at the back have really got moothies at all.

When I was in New York in the 90's and visited the Empire State Building, the speed of the lift (elevator) was enough to give you a fright! I can hardly look at this picture without a shiver yet it was all in a day's work for these guys. In the 20's and 30's, the competition amongst the monied elite to build the biggest and best towers and office blocks was incredible. I'm sure there was some phalic symbolism as well as monetary boasting going on.




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Van the Man


I've just realised that I haven't posted any Van Morrison on this blog yet. I've just counted and I have 28 Van c.d's and that doesn't include other bootlegs and mp3's. He is a prolific artist and it is fair to say that some of his output in recent years has been pretty average although there have been a few gems in amongst it. The critics choice of best Van album is usually Astral Weeks however as a collection of songs I prefer Moondance.


 From Moondance, here is a very good live version of And It Stoned Me.

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Richard Dawkins The God Delusion




The following is an honest review of a thought provoking and interesting
book. A book I believe that raises almost as many questions as it answers. I
started the book as a sceptic non-believer in an interventionist deity and
finished it the same way. However I took issue with the author at several
points along the way.

Richard Dawkins, is a master of scientific exposition and synthesis. When it
comes to his own specialties, evolutionary biology and zoology, he manages
to explain his subject in an interesting and in the main understandable
fashion. The purpose of this book however, is not simply to explain science.
It is rather, as he tells us, “to raise consciousness,” which is quite
another thing. Dawkins though still does a fair bit of explaining science
and sets out in this book to convince the reader that there is no God. No
Abrahamic bearded old man in the sky who not only created us but also
intervenes in our lives. The evidence is overwhelming in this respect. How
could some interventionist deity simultaneously deal with the minutiae of
millions of lives and answer prayers? It is a highly unlikely and improbable

Dawkins also points out the savage cruelty and barbarism of Yahweh the Old
Testament God and how the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is bizarre
in the extreme – especially if it were to be used as a literal moral
instruction guide. He reminds us of the consequences of religious
fundamentalism whether that is from Islamic Middle Eastern based terrorists
or Christian creationists in the U.S.A.

He states that Darwin was right and that creatures including humans have
evolved over billions of years by a process of natural selection. That is to
say those genetic physical and mental traits, which survive in a population
are those, which lead to the continuation and survival of the species. All
highly reasonable stuff backed up by the evidence. He then goes further to
question religion’s place in all of this. *Is there perhaps an area in the
brain that has a particular susceptibility to receiving information of a
religious nature? Is it perhaps a by-product of some other useful activity?
Either way Dawkins does wonder about this because religion at first doesn’t
seem to fit in with science, logic and natural selection. It seems a futile
non-productive activity.

Curious then that when he talks about radical atheism he holds up as an
example the gay rights movement. Going by the previous paragraph, and
applying Dawkins’ logic, surely the *religious have more in common with
His view of religion does seem highly pejorative and selective. He tries to
say that moderate religion and religious fundamentalism are the same when
they clearly are not. I heard a radio programme recently featuring Terry
Waite speaking about his experiences as a hostage in a very human and moving
way. He spoke about his captors in very measured and forgiving tones. To
compare Waite or Bishop Richard Holloway (who Dawkins mentions in the book
as describing himself as a ‘recovering Christian’) with fundamental wing
nuts like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson is simply absurd. His view on
Islamic fundamentalism is similarly coloured. 9/11 was simply a religiously
motivated crime. It was nothing to do with American foreign policy (despite
the fact that the building of an American base in his native Saudi was the
last straw for Bin Laden) or global capitalism apparently. Dawkins turns a
blind eye to the considerable good and lasting human benefit, which has
accrued from religion. He is also strangely silent on the horrors which
science has unleashed on the world. No mention of the chemical weapons used
in Viet- Nam or the atomic bombs dropped on civilians in Japan. Of course
Iraq is mentioned presumably because there is the religious aspect.

When dealing with 20th century despots, he denies that Hitler was an atheist
and claims evidence for Stalin being religious too. In any case he contends
that atheism wasn’t their motivation. Again by his selective view,
well-known atheists Poll Pot and Mao don’t even rate a mention.

In his dealing with the abortion issue he concentrates exclusively on the
abortion of embryos. He argues that as embryos don’t have a nervous system
and therefore can feel no pain then abortion is justified whether as a
(rather late) method of contraception or for stem cell research, which helps
many people. This would seem a sensible reasonable point of view. However
the abortion limit in the UK is 24 weeks, which is way beyond the embryo
stage. The 24-week foetus is recognisable as a human being. One wonders how
Dawkins views this. We are left wondering for he avoids the subject
completely. I do not follow any religion but I wonder at the morality of
abortion at this stage of the pregnancy.

 There are a few howlers in the book too. He apparently completely

misunderstands the ethno- political situation in Northern Ireland. He states

that the terms Loyalist and Nationalist are euphemisms for Protestant and

Catholic. Loyalist and Nationalist aren’t even antonyms. Loyalist and
Republican are antonyms as are Nationalist and Unionist. This is a man who is
outraged when a child is described as Protestant or Catholic and yet seems
quite happy (or ignorant) to assign incorrect labels to adults. He
hypothesises that if Ulster Catholic and Protestant schools were abolished                          

(there is in fact no such entity as Protestant schools so presumably he
means just Catholic schools)
then the ‘troubles’ would evaporate in a generation! This is highly
satirical stuff. Professor Dawkins loves analogies, to claim such a thing is
to claim that a stepping-stone could bridge a river (the Boyne perhaps?)


It would seem Professor Dawkins would love to see a world where there was no
religion. He would have us rise up against the natural selection and memes
(a term Dawkins coined himself in the 70’s to describe cultural beliefs
which pass down the generations) which have produced these belief systems.
He would have Amish parents in the USA tried for child abuse for
indoctrinating their children and depriving them of computers, t.v. and he
would argue a proper education. The facts that the Amish pose no threat to
their non-religious neighbours, teach pacifism, have no childhood obesity,
non existent crime, no drug or drink problem and seem on the whole to live
happy and fulfilled lives cuts no ice in the court of Dawkins. They must
know his scientific version of the truth and give up the way of life they
have led for hundreds of years. These peoples’ ancestors fled Europe in the
eighteenth century to escape religious persecution. It would be ironic if
they were to face the same thing in our so-called enlightened times.

It would be unfair and indeed untruthful of me to say that I didn’t enjoy
the book. Dawkins intellectual case for there being no personal God is one
that is almost impossible to argue with. He illustrates his points very well
with pithy analogies (‘to believe that the world is 6,000 years old is like
believing that Los Angeles is 700 yards from New York’).  However I share
Dawkins’ friend and fellow atheist Daniel Dennet’s misgivings that it would
be desirable to hasten the death of religion by similar intolerance
exercised by the religious fundamentalists.

I was fascinated by this passage quoting Steve Grand in the final chapter of
the book.

‘Think of an experience you clearly remember, something you can see, feel,
maybe even smell, as if you are really there. After all, you really were
there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is
the bombshell: you weren’t there. Not a single atom that is in your body
today was there when that event took place. Matter flows from place to place
and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you
are not the stuff of which you are made. If that doesn’t make the hair stand
up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is

I cast my mind back over 200 pages and remembered Dawkins refuting dualism
i.e. a distinction between body and mind. He declared himself a monist i.e.
body and mind being one. Perhaps I am missing something or maybe it’s just
that I don’t know enough about science but doesn’t the above passage kind of
support dualism?

As I say the book poses as many questions as it answers.

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Roy Harper – Playing God

Always controversial and always doing things his way. Roy is still making a point in his late 60's. Here are his thoughts on George 'God told me to bomb Iraq' Bush and Tony 'History will prove me right' Blair.

This was part of a 13 minute (!) single from 1985 entitled God is Dead.

Note: My tag 'Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion' is the title of an early 70's Roy Harper album.

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Craig Brittain Testimonial Year


It has been my pleasure over the last 15 months or so to have been Chairman of Craig Brittain's Testimonial Committee. Craig signed as a player for Dumbarton in 1997 and I felt in these days where players at all levels stay for a short spell at one club (sometimes as little as ONE SEASON) before moving on for another signing on fee, his loyalty should be rewarded. Anyone who has seen Craig play will acknowledge that he could have played at a higher level than he has for Sons. I assembled a committe for the purpose and we organised several events including a Testimonial Match v. a Rangers X1, a Testimonial Dinner and a Golf Tournament. The support I received from my fellow committee members, Dumbarton supporters and a whole host of companies and sponsors has been magnificent. We have now closed the fund and the total profit raised and ready to be paid to Craig can be revealed by Clicking Here

Good luck to Craig, his lovely wife Claire and wee daughter Cayla. You deserve your reward and I'm delighted that thanks to the way so many people have responded it is a significant one.

I'm pleased to say that Craig has signed for another season with Dumbarton and is guaranteed to be celebrating the Sons elevation to the dizzy heights of the second division at the end of the season!

Gaun' Yersel' Wee Man! 



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Screamin Jay (2) /Nina Simone/Tom Waits



It isn't often in music that a cover version will surpass the original but here are two such cases connected by one man.. The Screamin' Jay Hawkins version of Tom Waits' Heart Attack and Vine first came to my attention in an early 90's Levi's commercial which depicted a New Orleans funeral procession. Those of you who are familiar with Waits attitude to his own work may wonder what his reaction was to this. Waits has famously and successfuly sued companies including VW/Audi for adapting one of his songs and using a vocal soundalike Click Here . Waits sued Levi's, they pulled the commercial and printed a full-page apology in Billboard magazine.




Quite bizarrely, Waits did once do a voiceover for a TV commercial. In 1981 he advertised Butchers Blend Dog Food for the Ralston Purina Company. His previous and subsequent hostility to his work/voice being used in such a way was put aside as he eulogised the three tempting meaty tastes of the doggy dinner. I must admit to having been sceptical of this being Waits at first but I have double checked and it is definitely him.





However I digress. Here is the other cover version I was talking about. This version of Screamin' Jay's song lifts it to a whole new level and no matter how many times I hear it, it never fails to send a shiver down my ever more curving spine. Nina Simone was one of the great female vocalists of the twentieth century.




She was also a great songwriter, held strong views and was regarded as an eccentric which is another connection to Hawkins and Waits.




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Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. I Put a Spell On You


Screamin' Jay wrote this song in 1957. The definitive version has to be the Nina Simone one. I must confess I started by searching for Screamin' Jay's version of Tom Waits Heart Attack and Vine to share with you. Screamin Jay's version of that song surpassed the original by quite some way but I couldn't find that on Youtube. It was used in a Levi's commercial and depicted a New Orleans funeral. I'll post the audio track tomorrow.

In the absence of a decent video of Nina Simone's version, I'll post her version of this tomorrow too. Anyhow in Screaming Jay's classic introvert understated style, have a gander at this. By the way just what is the shrunken head smoking do you think? I don't know but I suspect it was similar to what Jay had been smoking for quite some time before this performance.

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