Friday, January 18, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Robert Crumb, by JD

Robert Crumb. Where to start? In his own words, he was born weird. So that is as good a place as any. He was and is a prolific artist and in the sixties became a favourite of the 'counterculture' with his cartoon images in comics and album covers etc. His most famous creations were Mr Natural and Fritz the Cat. But he was also a musician of sorts with a taste for old style 20s music. I would describe him as a radical traditionalist!

Below is a selection of his music and a wonderful cartoon of Mr Natural.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

UPDATED: who DID NOT VOTE on yesterday's EU Withdrawal Bill?

(Post rewritten following further investigation!)

This morning the Daily Express had a shouty headline:

DEMOCRACY BETRAYED: Did YOUR MP ignore your Brexit vote? Find out here

I had a look myself. At first I thought 8 MPs had played hooky, but not so...

The 634 MPs who did part in the vote are listed here by They Work For You:

That leaves 16 who didn't:

The Speaker, John Bercow, who is expected to remain neutral

Four Deputy Speakers, who are also expected to remain neutral:

Paul Flynn (Lab)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Lab)
Dame Eleanor Laing (Con)
Dame Rosie Winterton (Lab)

Four Tellers for the division (two from each of the major two parties, for balance, so not counted):

Iain Stewart (Con)
Wendy Morton (Con)
Vicky Foxcroft (Lab)
Nick Smith (Lab)

And seven Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats in Parliament, on principle:

Órfhlaith Begley
Mickey Brady
Michelle Gildernew
Chris Hazzard
Elisha McCallion
Paul Maskey
Francie Molloy

... so nobody failed to vote without good reason.

It's not often the whole House participates in a division.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Britain's Tragic Waste of Talent

Thus (wryly) John Birch, giving a reader response in The Conservative Woman:

"Allowing and even encouraging (by lack of effective punishment) crime to take place at the levels that it is today makes me highly suspicious. Has anyone ever read a study on the positive effect of crime on the economy? After all the huge number of people necessary to clear up behind criminals, all those middle-class jobs in the prison service, judiciary, probation, welfare, hospitals, paramedics. They all create turnover in the economy in one way or another linked to crime. Then we have security services, cctv, locksmiths, insurance companies, all those replacements for items stolen. And so it goes on. It makes me wonder if going soft on crime is being used to boost the economy."

John Mortimer's fictional barrister Horace Rumpole often reflects how the Timson family of criminals keeps him in claret - and indirectly, also helps employ judges and all the rest.

But what might all those resources have been used for instead, if crimes were severely reduced?

And what could we do with all the first-class brains engaged in the complexities of taxation and its avoidance?

And the geniuses using their mathematical nous to play in the great casinos of stocks and bonds?

The waste! The opportunities!

Monday, January 14, 2019

This Man Dahna Pub, Right? 'E Knows More Than The B****ing Experts!

Through the door, the usual circulars - and an unusual circular:

Tim Wetherspoon makes his case against the scare stories about food prices post-Brexit, but unlike the usual news media he follows this double page with six third-party articles about the in/out issues, three from each side. How different! - click on "The EU Debate and the Circle of Deceit"

But what I'd like to focus on here are two points from above, on the flawed expertise of the experts:

Wetherspoon is substantially correct, though he overlooks retention of the costs of collection:

But how can the experts not know this?

Fabrice Montagné is the Chief UK and Senior European Economist at Barclays Investment Bank. Previously he worked at the French Treasury, then at FFR (the French Pensions Reserve Fund, managing funds for public authorities), and then the Dutch Central Bank.

Mark Brumby has a degree in "Economics Macro & Micro Trends" from Cambridge and is the Principal of Langton Capital. According to his profile on LinkedIn he "has occupied positions in both corporate finance and in fund management when he ran the US$100m Global Leisure Fund for Banque Pictet in Geneva. He returned to the UK in 2002 in order to co-found Oriel Securities and has since worked at Blue Oar Securities before founding Langton Capital in 2010."

Anyone else for a subscription to Wetherspoon News?

How Modern Social Media Communication Works

The techniques are only a couple of thousand years old, or more:

"But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death."

In the market place, a voice over your shoulder. You turn, but the speaker has moved on, to repeat his message.

You can do it to smash an individual, as Google allegedly did to James Damore; or public figures like Farage, Trump etc; or issues like Brexit.

There they are, the voices in but not of the crowd, supplying the insults, insinuations, cartoons, factoids, distraction issues for "Facebook simple"... and the coaches and placards, the knots of "representative" people on St Stephen's Green, the agents provocateurs...

On Saturday my wife and I were shopping, and on the pavement was a stand with two people asking passers-by to write on a Post-It and stick it on a board to "have our say" as to "What Should We Do About Brexit?"

I said to the nice lady, "Leave, obviously" and the shutters came down behind her eyes and her mouth repeated my words in puzzlement. If I'd bothered to write a notelet for this primary-school exercise, would it have stayed long on the board?

But if you sow division and confusion, that is half the battle.

Democracy can be managed.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Tribute To Frank Sinatra, by Wiggia

                                               FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA

                                                              1915 – 1998

So much has been written about Sinatra that anything I put on paper seems superfluous,  yet twenty years have gone by since his passing and with time it matters not how famous or influential you were in life, it soon becomes forgotten, only revived when something related is mentioned or discussed.

Sinatra was quite simply the greatest songsmith of his and subsequent generations. We can all have favourites in music, mine was always Mel Torme, but that in no way diminishes the effect Sinatra had on music during his lifetime.

With all these great performers they learnt their craft the hard way, the details of that and more are far too long to include or do justice to here but this link fills in all the details:

Certain details show the way forward, starting when Frank was singing for his supper and started to take elocution lessons: for a boy with scant education and little schooling that was a big move, but it was his tutor John Quinlan who was the first to notice his remarkable vocal range.

It was the Swing era that launched Sinatra on the big stage with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey had a big influence on Sinatra who admired his trombone playing and tried to model his breathing on the seamless style Dorsey had when playing. He left Dorsey in ‘42 when he had become bigger than the band and then the bobby-soxers period erupted every time he appeared on stage as a solo artist.

Now with Columbia records, his output was curtailed by a Musicians Union strike 42-43 but in ‘44 he more than made up for with a huge laying down of tracks including Put Your Dreams away, his theme tune for the time. This enormous output became known as his Columbia years.

Axel Stordahl left Dorsey at the same time and became Sinatra's chief arranger during these Columbia years and the numbers such as These Foolish Things, You Go To My Head, and  That Old Feeling defined the era.

His success continued until 1948 but his style was not evolving, and the first suggestions of his association with organised crime garnered negative press. His workaholic style - up to a hundred songs a day - had taken a toll on his voice and depression set in. His divorce from his first wife Nancy and his stormy affair with Ava Gardner added to the downward effect. To many he was washed up, finished; even his record company didn't help, getting him to record some banal songs. His record contract was not renewed in ‘52, his TV show was cancelled and he was dropped by his agency !

Yet he still managed to record some great songs during this time including this one……

During all this time Sinatra had been acting in films. I am not the only one who during that period thought he was a very good actor in the right films and he was. The passage below is a cut and paste on his film career, I shall stick to the music in my subsequent comments.

“Sinatra appeared in several films throughout the 1940s, the best among them being the musicals in which he costarred with dancer Gene Kelly. Of these, Anchors Aweigh (1945) and Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949) are pleasant diversions, whereas On the Town (1949) ranks among the greatest of film musicals. It was acting, rather than music, that precipitated Sinatra’s comeback in 1953. He pleaded with Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn for the role of the scrappy, tragic soldier, Maggio, in From Here to Eternity (1953), and he agreed to work for scale. His performance was universally praised and earned him an Oscar for best supporting actor. Sinatra went on to become one of the top film stars of the 1950s and ’60s, and he delivered fine performances in quality films such as Suddenly (1954), Young at Heart (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955; Academy Award nomination for best actor), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Joker Is Wild (1957), Pal Joey (1957), and Some Came Running (1958). The political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is perhaps Sinatra’s greatest film and features his best performance. With the possible exception of Bing Crosby, no other American entertainer achieved such a level of respect and popularity as both singer and actor. Although it is said that Sinatra stopped taking films seriously after The Manchurian Candidate, owing to his ongoing frustration with the tedious filmmaking process, his motion-picture résumé remains impressive. In later years, he was memorable in The Detective (1968), and in his final starring vehicle, The First Deadly Sin (1980). “

In 1953 Sinatra signed with Capitol Records and an era started that many consider to be his most fruitful, nine years of probably his most important body of work. Many of his albums were on a single theme and called concept albums: his first with Billy May, Come Fly With Me  1958 and  Come Dance With Me 1959 are the stand-out ones.

But it was the two decade long association with Nelson Riddle, whom Sinatra said was the greatest arranger he worked with, that produced at least three albums considered by most to be masterpieces: In the Wee Small hours 1953, Songs for Swinging Lovers 1956 and Only the Lonely 1958 all are musts for any serious collector of modern music.

Sinatra also collaborated with others beside Nelson Riddle. He sang with all of the best of the era - Basie et al. This, The Best is Yet to Come with Basie shows all the skills Sinatra had at his disposal, tonal range, timing, projection, diction etc a masterclass that today's singers in the main could only dream of.

It wasn’t all ‘smooch,’ far from it: this upbeat Day in Day Out was typical of his racier numbers this from 1967 with a slightly Latin flavour.

His “Rat Pack Years” mainly while doing the rooms in Las Vegas had a free-for-all style, not surprising considering his company with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis junior plus to a lesser extent Shirley McClaine, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. It was an act based on comic boozy fun, mostly ad-libbed and very successful. A good example of the period is this number, not at the Sands where most of this act was performed but in St Louis with the added attraction of Johnny Carson thrown in:

Sinatra founded his own label Reprise Records in 1960 whilst still on contract with Capitol until ‘62; Capitol allowed the two to run until their contract ran out.

He still worked with his original arrangers but new blood was brought in: Neil Hefti, Don Costa and Johnny Mandel injected new ideas to Sinatra's work.

Several hit singles were generated during the Reprise years including Strangers in the Night (1966) That's Life (1967) and My Way (1969), plus two of his best albums: September of My Years (1965) and the collaboration album Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobin (1967).

This is Wave with Jobin, a dip into Bossa Nova by Sinatra.

By 1969 another generation had taken over the music world and Sinatra said ‘They are not writing songs for me any more’. In ‘71 he announced his retirement only to start recording again in ‘73. In his last years he “only” produced seven albums but many were his most poignant, culminating with his last Duets 11 in ‘94.

His voice was suffering in these later years, more coarse, largely through his life of cigarettes and drink, but he compensated and could still deliver.

Here he is with Ella, these were the days when ability and talent actually mattered; sadly, as with those wonderful big bands, now all history:

Despite no more recording and failing health Sinatra did not retire, he performed at hundreds of live concerts all over the world. I am ashamed to say I lost the chance to see him live at the end of his career at the Docklands arena after a mix up with dates. To live through the Sinatra years and enjoy the decades of great songs with great composers and arrangers and then miss the last chance to see him live has always grated.

Still, the sound is there for many more years. He like his contemporaries were supremely talented and above all professionals, a golden era. Fittingly the last number is That’s Life:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Policing: Grasp The Nettle

David Clarke (htp: Churchmouse Campanologist) is a former Sheriff for Milwaukee and argues for much stronger policing in urban ghettoes. A black man, he has little patience with what he sees as the liberal approach:

The Right Approach to Solving Gun Violence

It’s a swing and a miss to target guns. Instead, we should target violent career criminals and their anti-social behavior. We shouldn’t take politically correct policy advice from the same leftists that have failed to deter crime.

Rather, there are a handful of new approaches we should take to make America safe. We must identify repeat perpetrators by their long rap sheets. Send out teams of officers to arrest everyone out on outstanding felony warrants. Arrest probation and parole offenders for the slightest violation of their probation or parole. Follow-up with quality debriefings by investigators to determine the associates of perpetrators and the vehicles they own. Prosecute offenders and keep them locked up for the longest period allowed by law, keeping neighborhoods safe. Set high bail and stop liberal programs like community corrections and second chances for repeat offenders. Send felons who use a gun in commission of a crime to the Department of Justice for prosecution because federal guidelines for sentencing are longer and more certain. Stop accepting plea bargains in exchange for weak sentences. The reality is that these policy alternatives are effective crime control tools...

If mayors and police commanders are unwilling to come up with a strategy such as the one I propose – improving the quality of life in crime-ridden neighborhoods through proven tactics – then they should prepare for another violent summer. One in which blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately victimized by crime and violence.

Far from being racist, vigorous policing in such areas would protect the innocent poor, who have just as much right to live in an orderly society as the financially better-off. It would also protect the life chances of young men at risk of straying, if they could see that a life of petty and violent crime is a non-starter.

Research suggests that crime prevention measures more than pay for themselves, if the effort is systematic and sustained. e.g. Table 1 here:

Peter Hitchens has long argued for a return to foot patrols rather than reactive policing - remember J.B Morton's definition: "FLYING SQUAD: A special contingent of police whose business is to arrive at the scene of a crime shortly after the departure of all those connected with it."

Time to grasp the nettle?

Friday, January 11, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Fame's Fame, by JD

Georgie Fame was part of the sixties 'beat' boom and had a number one hit in 1965 with "Yeh Yeh!" After his first hit records he recorded with Alan Price and then continued with a solo career. More or less forgotten, he was and is vastly underrated but he is one of the best musicians this country has produced in the rock/blues/jazz genre.

Here is a brief overview from Wiki and among the videos below is an interview about his time playing in the Flamingo Club in London.