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Friday, April 23, 2021


Another musician who defies categorisation is Sun Ra with his fabulous Arkestra(sic), who claimed to have been born on the planet Saturn and took his inspiration from Ancient Egypt! 

He was a jazz composer and keyboard player who led a free jazz big band known for its innovative instrumentation and the theatricality of its performances. Listening to his music it is hard to believe he was hired by Fletcher Henderson as pianist and arranger in the late 1940s! Whether you love or hate his music, it is impossible to ignore him or his influence on American music.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Newsnight: See Emily Play

BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis tries on the idea that Israel is discriminating against Palestinians re Covid vaccinations: - from 35:00 in...

Maitlis appears not to distinguish between Palestinians domiciled in Israel who will have been offered the jab like all other citizens, and those who are in the disputed territories where the Palestinian Authority has determined to make its own arrangements using the Russian vaccine.

She also tries to nail the Ambassador on failing to accept a two-state solution but is reminded that it's a solution ruled out by the Palestinian side. 

Melanie Phillips unpicks Emily's attack here:

Emily tries, but misunderstands
She's often inclined to borrow somebody's dreams till tomorrow

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Covid regulations: Parliamentary opposition needs an MOT

The role of Parliament is not to pass laws but to challenge them. When the major parties are agreed, the dissident voices will have to be heard outside, instead. Labour’s answer to the Government’s Covid strategy has been along the lines of ‘we would have done much the same, but earlier and worse.’ So it should not have come as a surprise to Sir Keir Starmer when he went for a walkabout in Bath the other day, to encounter not an adoring public but a furious publican .

When the Opposition forgets its duty to oppose – the Spectator’s editorial on 10 April called it a ‘collapse of democratic scrutiny’ - HMG is unlikely to be suitably hard on itself. On the contrary, in the panic to ‘do something’ it drove through the Coronavirus Act in a single day in each House, worded so as to give itself not only wide powers to restrict our movements (Schedules 21 and 22) but also a shockingly relaxed six months between Parliamentary reviews, the last having taken place on 25 March in the space of a mere 3 ½ hours .

As Lord Sumption noted in his October lecture ‘Government by Decree’ and as reconfirmed by the Health Secretary in the 25 March debate, the Government is basing its measures on the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which is worded in a dangerously woolly way. Lord Sumption commented: ‘It is a basic constitutional principle that general words are not to be read as authorizing the infringement of fundamental rights,’ and contrasted that 1984 Act with one the Government might have chosen to use instead, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 .

Like the 1984 Act the 2004 Act allows the Government carte blanche, but recognising the perils of such power it also requires, says the noble Lord:

‘a high degree of Parliamentary scrutiny… Emergency regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act must be laid before Parliament in draft before they are made. If the case is too urgent for that, they must be laid before Parliament within seven days or they will lapse. If necessary, Parliament must be recalled. Even if the regulations are approved, the regulations can remain in force for only 30 days unless they are renewed and reapproved. Unusually, Parliament is authorised to amend or revoke them at any time.’

The Government’s information and strategies may or may not be correct in every detail, but it should not be left to the news and social media, demonstration and riot to provide that scrutiny and opposition.

Perhaps our long involvement with the European imperial project and its masses of secondary legislation has led us to forget how our own system works. Westminster resembles a vintage car put up on bricks while the owner was abroad, and now it has to be serviced to make it roadworthy again. Before the law machine roars into life and straight for the nearest tree, we need the brakes and steering provided by the committees, the Opposition and the House of Lords.

My suggestion, which I hope you will accept, is that we should pick up on Lord Sumption’s observations and ask our MPs to press the Government to re-base its extraordinary power grab on the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 so that an equally extraordinary degree of scrutiny can be applied. If that had happened on 25 March, the 30-day review would be due this week, rather than next September.

MPs will only respond to their own constituents, so please find your representative and contact them as per the information on TheyWorkForYou .

Sunday, April 18, 2021

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: South America in paint, by JD

 Pacific coast road, Concón, Chile

This is somewhere on the coast road to the north of Valparaiso*. I wasn’t sure of the exact location so I searched Google maps and found it and borrowed a couple of screen shots. (see below)

This painting is 8" x 8" and is acrylic on canvas. I did a watercolour (15" x 15") ages ago which has been hanging on the wall for the past twenty years or so. The second Google maps image below shows the view from within the painting looking out over the Pacific. The cliff top at left is where I stood to take a few photographs which I have used as the basis for the paintings. That original painting was a composite of the photographs.

A very spectacular location, I’m sure you will agree. In fact the whole coastline is spectacular. A few changes since I was there. They have some street lights now and the roadside caff looks as though it has been abandoned (blue in my pic but a sort of dereliction cream in the Google view)

*The place is known as the Roca Oceanica - here is a photographic view from above:

- and more photos and information from a travel website:

*An earlier version of this post originally appeared at Nourishing Obscurity on 25/10/2014; that original post has been lost in NO's technical problems.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

THE WEEKENDER: Mighty Meaty Matey, by Wiggia

I came across whilst rummaging through the detritus one carries with one when you move house - why we do this is a subject for another day - but anyway, looking for some papers I came across an old menu from the Seventies from Berni Inns. Easy to laugh at such places now, yet going by the menu it offered better fare than many fast food outlets today, and you could get an alcoholic drink - no skinny lattes then, thank God.

So as one does I started delving into archives of old menus, from the cafe restaurants of our youth and before to those early fine dining establishments that we went to if we had the cash for a special occasion.

We soon forget, yet some things are very obvious in those periods, how the posh restaurants insisted in printing menus in French which hardly anyone understood and resulted in calling the waiter over and stabbing a finger at what one thought was a dessert to be snootily told it was a vegetable and then having to cringingly ask for advice on what was available in that section, only then for the waiter to, still snootily, repeat the offerings in French with an English translation for the proles.

When they started to put English translations underneath the French version it was the last throw of the dice in pretentiousness.

I remember well the first time I took my to be wife for our first proper meal, lunch at Rules, London's oldest (1794) restaurant:                                                                                                                                                                        

Having done my ‘homework’ I ordered the Châteaubriand and settled back on the banquette to peruse the wine list. I knew very little about wine in those days apart from my initiation into the intricacies of German wine labels, so when the wine waiter came calling I ordered the Rudersheimer Rosengarten and the wine waiter said ‘good choice’; a kindly man under the circumstances because it was anything but.

In those days fine dining was for the other people. We had the first signs of chain restaurants in the likes of Bernie Inns and others, it made a change from the plastic cheese roll under a glass dome cooking quietly on the pub counter.

I remember Woolworth had a rather good cafe, it was only when researching this I discovered just how comprehensive their pre-war menu was:

Apart from an early attempt at the bottom of the menu to garner feedback, the other item of note is the amount of meat products on the menu and ‘lobster salad’, in Woolworths!

Higher up the scale, this menu from Wheelers The Ivy gives another insight into how the other half ate in the Fifties, still clinging to the French language and a preponderance of meat and fish dishes. Good to see the old favourites up there, the potted shrimps and prawn cocktail, so derided since but making a comeback now:                                                                                                                                                                             

Menus from other posh eateries abound and none are posher than Buck House. A Queen's menu from 1906 shows nine courses and again plenty of protein; naturally at this moment in time the menu is again in French. Magnums, quite rightly, of champagne for Derby Day: they must have had a tip.

The great ocean liners that dominated transatlantic travel and vied for national pride with elegance and speed for those first class passengers and made sure they never went without during their voyage.
Eight courses at the Captain's table, I bet that went down well - I’ll get my coat...

All things are relative to the age but sometimes there are surprises on these menus in that what are considered delicacies today and have a price to match, were not so in days gone by. Oysters and foie gras were cheap and plentiful, as two examples; lobster as on the Woolworth's menu was available almost everywhere as were ortolans; today you struggle to find decent whelks.

The one below I actually remember. Although the fare is similar to the others a couple of items stand out: tripe and onions, and marrow bones; long time since I saw those two on a menu.

Today we are used to buying products that are cheaper than in the past because of modern big farming techniques and international trade, but not everything works that way. This wine list from a Cunard liner in 1927 shows the price for a bottle of Chateau Latour at 12/6; £1 then equates roughly to £44 today, making that bottle in today's money around £27 and that is a restaurant price; today a bottle of Latour retail would set you back in the region (depending on vintage) of £400-600 a bottle. You really could drink yourself to death in style for very little money then.

With all of the menus you can see there is an awful lot of meat, fish and game on offer. In today's world full of fatties and those same fatties being urged to do away with meat as are the rest of us, you do wonder why so few in those days were fat and yet today fatties are everywhere, and I don’t care if using that word offends, it should because there is absolutely no need to get in that state. 

Maybe McDonalds have to share some guilt in today's fattism: ‘buy them by the sackful’ is not very helpful when wanting to lose weight!

And when did you last see a seafood menu like this one? - and while you are perusing the menu, do not play with the candelabres:

But today those whole plates of steak have disappeared, we are presented with artistically arranged plates of very little for very much. At least the Argentinians know how to cook and present a steak - all vegans look away now…

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm !

Friday, April 16, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Josquin des Prez, by JD

 Josquin des Prez (French: c. 1450/1455 – 27 August 1521), often referred to simply as Josquin, was a French composer of the Renaissance. His original name is sometimes given as Josquin Lebloitte and his later name is given under a wide variety of spellings in French, Italian, and Latin, including Iosquinus Pratensis and Iodocus a Prato. His motet Illibata Dei Virgo Nutrix includes an acrostic of his name, where he spelled it "Josquin des Prez". 

He was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Like a hot knife through PLO jibberjabber

Following Sunday's piece about disinformation re Israel, here's a stunning (literally - see the faces!) speech to the UN by the son of a Hamas founder, dynamiting the 'PLO good, Israel bad' narrative:

'Who the h*ll let this b*st*rd off the reservation?'

'If Israel did not exist, you would have no-one to blame,' says Musab Hassan Yousef.