Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trump: spot the racism, Guardian-style

My brother assures me that Mr Trump has, prior to his Presidency, shown racist traits in his employment practices and I never doubt his veraciousness.

Mr Trump uploads another tweet

But the latest prigs-on-steroids hoo-ha is far from a clear example, even as reported in the Guardian newspaper under the headline (they always find a cute angle) "'His only tool is racism': why Trump's bigoted tirade could be a vote winner."

If you take the trouble to click on the Q&A inserted in the story (why not in the main body?) you will find this concession to contextualising:

Q&A
What did Trump say in his racist ‘go back’ tweets?

On 14 July Trump sent a series of tweets saying:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

The US president did not name his targets, but the attack was directed at congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Only Omar, who is from Somalia, was not born in the US.

One cannot hope to attain the transcendent wisdom and moral purity of Guardian journalists in a single lifetime, but I have trouble finding the specifically racist element in this outburst - I see it more as defensively nationalist. Typically, the hypersensitive Trump has got some detail wrong, in this case place of birth (though do they see themselves as hyphenated Americans?), but he knows from which direction he - and Joe America - is being got at.

And I would like to see some more context - such as, what exactly these four people have been saying that provoked the so-easily-entrapped Mr Trump.

But it may not be safe for me to ask these questions. A series of video piss-takes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) by a young girl has been taken down by her parents because of death threats, in a country that has more firearms than people.

American conservatives, or violent, up-themselves SJWs? What a choice!

Perhaps, when I have more time and patience, I will look up what the four picadors were doing to enrage the bull.

Or maybe the Guardian will get round to telling us all, disinterested seekers after truth as they undoubtedly are.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

If we weren't already in the EU...

If we wanted to join a federation that is militaristic, has imperial ambitions, identifies Russia and China as potential enemies and inteferes on the African continent; allows people and money, goods and services to move freely within its borders, while challenged to prevent illegal migrant incursions; is run largely by and for a small elite and offers in a number of its member states carefully-structured vehicles for secretive, tax-efficient squirreling of capital; has runaway debt and a zombie banking system close to collapsing; then a better ready-made solution can be found in the USA.

At least there, individual states stoutly assert their sovereignty and the President, for all his other faults, isn't a drunk.

cf. https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/if-we-werent-already-in-the-eu-who-could-make-a-valid-case-for-us-to-join/

Friday, July 12, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Paul Verlaine - French records, by JD

I have been listening recently to the CD "La Chanson Bien Douce" which featured the poetry of Paul Verlaine set to music by Billy Cowie and sung by Cathryn and Lucie Robson. I included two of the songs in a music post a couple of years ago - https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2017/06/friday-music-billy-cowie-by-jd.html

And I have noticed that YouTube has been 'recommending' other music set to the words of Paul Verlaine's poetry -
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Verlaine-Paul

A lot of it is very good and I had not realised until now that Debussy's 'Clair de Lune' was inspired by Verlaine's poem of that title so I have included that also, played by Debussy himself in 1913. All very inspiring and a pleasant interlude in this troubled world.









Clair de lune

"Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres."

Paul Verlaine







Monday, July 08, 2019

En Primeur: a popular con? - by Wiggiaatlarge

Firkin nonsense but tuns of fun... Wiggiaatlarge explores the hoo-ha around early-bird wine buying:



This little piece comes on the back of having been suspended from the Wine Society blog, for the second time. I believe I am the only person to be suspended once never mind twice, so it's a sort of badge of honour.

Why was I banned? For asking a question that was not answered, so I asked again and still no answer despite me ‘helping’ the comment maker with a hint; he then 'lost it' and in doing so gave the answer I wanted at the start, but by then I had apparently ruined his day and everyone piled in to say I was a bully and it was not cricket to pursue the question. All very strange and it shows that a vociferous minority on there are living the latest ‘everything is offensive’  ‘everyone is offensive’  and asking a simple question is akin to a hate crime. Replying that if the commentator had answered in the first place that would have been the end of it resulted in my suspension; the strange world of wine appreciators strikes again.

But I digress, somewhat. Every year the wine trade winds itself into a frenzy over En Primeur - "EP" - this is the annual release by the top Bordeaux château of their yet to be bottled wines from the last vintage, 2018, to the public through wine merchants here.

It is all based on the wine critics going to Bordeaux in the early part of the year to taste cask samples, wine still fermenting in barrels, and then pronouncing their judgement on it and giving it points rather like in gymnastics, 9.9 or less or more, except that most - and this is where the general public will become baffled - almost to a man/woman, score out of a hundred; which is strange, as they start at 50, it's rather like a gymnast being given 5 out of 10 for turning up, but that's what they do and everyone waits with bated breath for the results... well, almost everyone.

Plus it is no guarantee that the wine will ever taste as their predictions say.

A little of the background to EP. It originated as a way to help wineries with their cash flow until the wine was ready to sell. For a discount you could buy wine in advance, so all things being equal you gained and the winery got some money up front to help with the cash flow.

But that all changed markedly after the ‘82 vintage which turned out to be superb. Those who purchased EP in those days would buy on the assumption that their purchase with discount meant in effect they got some free wine in the long run, but ‘82 saw a lot of buyers piling in to take advantage of the vintage and many later sold much of their stock at hugely inflated prices as the vintage matured. Some people made a lot of money, though of course you had to lay out a lot and take a chance as in those days profit was not a given.

The châteaux saw all this and said to themselves 'we want some of this' so started to jack the prices up as the end of the eighties approached and they have been ratcheting them up ever since. This was made easier for them as the affluence of the late eighties meant many buyers of wine, conveniently for the châteaux, forgot all about how EP came about and purchased whatever they wanted at these inflated prices. Strangely the crash of ‘89 did not see much of a check on the sales of EP and the sales and prices kept going up, until the 2008 crash; this time the sales did take a hiding and have not really recovered despite much hype and the explosion of the Chinese market. In America EP has always struggled as a concept because they cannot, rightly, see why you should pay in advance for anything, especially when it will still have to be cellared for years.

So despite all this and the fact that apart from one or two rare occasions when EP makes some sense, it makes no sense at all to older people who will be dead if they buy the latest vintage that needs at least ten years to be ready to drink. People here, as we are at the forefront of this folly, still believe for some reason despite the diminishing market, that EP is a good idea.

This video gives the good and the bad but doesn’t give the ugly, greed, and contains a portion of total bollox, to be expected as they are promoting EP, Ever Present in their case.



The trade of course push EP as it is part of their annual sales and get ever more hyped about it. The annual circus that surrounds EP has become a love-in for yet another vintage of the century despite the fact no one will find out if it is, and many of the 'vintages of the century' turn out to be merely good, for perhaps twenty years, by which time several other vintages of the century will have been promoted.

If anyone who is interested in wine as a drink they have to look no further than the broker's sales list to see that buying wine EP is pointless There is hardly a wine from all the good recent vintages that is not available, many ready to drink, so what really is the point these days of purchasing that way, as on top of the inflated prices unless you have a cellar you will have to pay for storage charges every year as well.

Here is an article by the respected Jancis Robinson on the current state of EP, and even this still has the underlying notion that it is a good thing, ignoring its raison d'être.

https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/an-existential-crisis-for-bordeaux-en-primeur

Virtually no raison. Going back to the late lamented blog, when I put this point to the over-excited adults foaming at the mouth about proposed purchases of EP  they were obviously upset that it should be criticised, and would reply with childish notions of it being exciting. I cannot get my head round giving inflated prices in advance for a product you can buy at any time ready to drink, all with my money. Exciting? Stupid, yes; exciting, no.

And still the châteaux ramp up up the prices. The trade make light of 7-8% price rises over last year, another contender for vintage of the century. Will the bubble burst? It should, but the châteaux have become greedy and are loath to set fair prices while gullible buyers still exist; but even the Chinese, who have hardly helped by buying anything and everything at these ridiculous prices, are cooling as they become more knowledgeable and start to realise the real value of things.

What also doesn’t help in the war against inflated prices is the auction houses. Certain wines especially Burgundies that by their nature can never be made in quantities to satisfy demand have gone stratospheric, thousands of pounds for a bottle in some cases, for wine that is now a commodity not a drink is purchased and sold around the world by collectors, not drinkers who treat a case of wine like an art work. It isn’t of course it is a beverage but you would never guess.

So  what next in the arcane world of the wine trade, who despite moving eventually into the 21st century on many levels have brought much of the baggage of the past with them, EP being the prime example of something that lost its purpose long ago?

I give an example of how inflated prices have become, it is one I have used before. In the seventies I was browsing a wine outlet in Queensway, Bayswater, London and espied on a rack of bin ends (wines that are few in number, for clearance) a bottle of Burgundy vintage ‘66. It doesn’t matter for here what it was except it was a top winery in a good year. I thought for a while: should I, could I buy it? and I did. The exact price I have forgotten but it would have to have been around a maximum of £10. Out of curiosity I looked up the same wine: it would cost you over £2000 a bottle today, absolutely bonkers, but we are where we are and as long as people treat wine like an art work or a commodity or a talking point for the rich prices will remain ever more out of reach for the wine drinker who just likes the stuff.

Have I purchased EP? I would be a hypocrite if I said I hadn’t. I did buy the odd case long ago for the purpose of drinking when the prices were sensible and I did buy some after the 2008 crash as a way of spreading what little cash I had in what was a hopeful money-making project - it wasn’t and I came out with what I had put in, just about.

So the strange world of the upmarket wine trade bumbles on, its arcane set-up with EP (plus the matching language of the oenophile and wine taster, an article on its own there) remains. In a normal commercial environment, En Primeur would die a natural death, but I have my doubts. Whilst people still treat the whole annual jamboree as fun with your own money, it is a world apart, almost masonic in its rituals and habits, and will probably stagger on and who knows even revive while people retain that attitude.

For the more sane wine drinkers there has never been a better time to enjoy the choice, for the whole world has never been bigger more varied or better. Enjoy!

Friday, July 05, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, by JD

Another slice of Americana, this time from Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Guaranteed to raise a smile, a very 'tongue in cheek' celebration of the roots of America's musical history. Behind all the fun is a very good slide guitar virtuoso with a gravelly voice which is a reminder of Charley Patten, Son House, Howling Wolf, Captain Beefheart and many more. Music is alive and flourishing if you turn away from the usual bland sameness offered by the mainstream radio and TV channels and look elsewhere!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Reverend_Peyton's_Big_Damn_Band















Friday, June 28, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: John Hartford, by JD

You may not be familiar with the name John Hartford but you will most certainly know his most famous song, "Gentle On My Mind".

John Cowan Hartford (1937 – 2001) was an American folk, country and bluegrass composer and musician known for his mastery of the fiddle and banjo, as well as for his witty lyrics, unique vocal style, and extensive knowledge of Mississippi River lore.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hartford

He liked to joke that the song had been good to him. He once said that royalties from Gentle On My Mind gave him the security to indulge himself with a steamboat on the Mississippi river.

As well as being a talented songwriter, banjo picker and fiddle player he had a habit of tap-dancing while he was singing and playing as you can see in the videos which follow.

Following the success of the film "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" all or most of the artists who had contributed to the film's sound track gathered together for a concert which was filmed and released on DVD under the title "Down From The Mountain" John Hartford was the compere of the show as well as making his own musical contribution to it.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0284067/

















When I first heard that song I thought it was just another typical whim of Hartford's very fertile imagination combined with his wry sense of humour. But no, there really was a steam powered aeroplane. Designed and built by the Besler Brothers in 1933 in Oakland, California.
You can read all about it here - http://rexresearch.com/besler/beslerst.htm

And this is some archive film of the test flight -
https://www.britishpathe.com/video/aviations-latest-wonder-1/query/wildcard

Monday, June 24, 2019

Home Economics, by JD


After last week's televised 'pantomime' in which five potential 'future Prime Ministers' demonstrated why they should never be allowed anywhere near the job, along comes another one today if this report is correct-

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7171049/Report-lays-Corbyns-proposal-grab-inheritances-tax-profits-family-house-sales.html

One of the bright ideas is -

"The proposal to scrap the Capital Gains Tax exemption on main homes would force owners to pay income tax on the profits when they move home." 

They never learn, do they? When politicians interfere in the 'housing market' they always, always cause problems.

The Heath Government of 1970-1974 was a chaotic diaster for many reasons: the first 'oil shock' when prices rose sharply, the miners' strike, petrol rationing, power cuts etc and worst of all, joining the Common Market.

What will have escaped the notice of most people studying that period was the introduction of 70% grants for home owners to improve their property and specifically for kitchen and bathroom improvements. 70%? That was and is madness! When the government hands out 'free' money there is bound to be a scramble to get a share of it. It didn't take long for the cost of materials to skyrocket and it didn't take long for £300 of building work to cost £1000. For the home owner the cost remained the same - £300 - but the price paid to the builder was £1000 thanks to a generous government.

The many local Councils up and down the land decided to take advantage of these grants, and there was no reason why they should not benefit. So in the early seventies there was a boom in council house improvement works. I am told there was a building workers' strike in 1972. My response to that was and still is, strike? What stike? At the time I did not know of any tradesman who was unemployed. And I knew a lot of tradesmen, I employed more than a few. I met them all the time in the local Working Mens Club. And all of these tradesmen were earning money. It was in many ways a sort of mini 'golden age' of full employment and money to spend. There was a knock-on effect in the housing market generally and this was when the phrase 'gazumping' entered into public consciousness.

Fast forward to 1979 and more government interference with the sale of council houses to their tenants. A good idea in principle, in theory but........ They were sold at a discount but they had also been improved during the earlier reforbishment programmes thanks to the aforementioned government grants. So, in a way, the buyers were receiving a double discount on their price. (House tenants living in privately rented homes were not so lucky and so continued to save for the deposit for a home.)

The council houses sold were not replaced with a further building programme. The revenue from the sales was, as far as I can ascertain, never spent on anything and was 'ring fenced' for some unspecified future use. As far as I know it is still unspent.

How do I know all that? I know it because I worked in house building in the sixties and seventies, on sites as well as in offices.

And then I moved onto other, larger building projects in various parts of the world so lost track somewhat of the UK's mismanagement of home ownership. Looking at that story in the Mail, our politicans are as clueless as ever. I also know that interference, in the form of new building regulations, suggests that politicians and their academic 'experts' are never going to learn anything about house building.

I know that new houses are badly designed and badly built. I can see that for myself and it is not just houses. Every new building I have seen or visited is, for want of a better description, rubbish. Ask any Estate Agent.

Just another tale from Broken Britain. Broken by our dysfunctional political class.