Thursday, December 29, 2022

Math: train hard, fight easy, by Paddington

Before implementing solutions to a problem, it is wise to understand what the issues are.

In 1957, our government and business leaders began to recognize that high-level Science and Technology were essential to our economy and national security, requiring a large number of people trained in Mathematics, the language of Science. It also became apparent, and more so over the next 60 years, that the performance of US students in the subject averaged mediocre at best, when compared with other industrialized nations.

The conclusion that the experts came to was that there was too much rote memorization in US education, and not enough understanding. Interestingly, the many groups of Mathematics education reformers rarely include actual mathematicians. When they do, it is most often ones whose work does not require the use of tools such as the Calculus and Trigonometry.

The implemented solution was the 'New Math', and was a disaster, in large part because the teachers didn't understand what they were doing.

Later, when the situation stubbornly refused to improve, the new reformers introduced ideas such as 'lean and lively' Calculus (i.e. teach less) and taught students to use calculators and computer systems to do the rote calculations.

The end result has been that the percentage of students who have learnt the bare required facts and can do the basic computations has shrunk. Of the remainder, many have decayed their skills so far that they cannot correctly input expressions to their computing devices, and cannot understand the resulting outputs. God forbid if you ask them to do anything with fractions or percentages.

The underlying problem was that the 'expert' reformers did not understand that Mathematics is both a language and a mode of thinking. Except for the savants, its learning requires repetition of operations, by hand. After all, we don't expect people to learn instruments by listening to music, do we?

In years past, I had classes prepare a study sheet for first semester Calculus. Most could fit every definition, theorem and rule required on less than one sheet of paper. For how many subjects could one say that?

However, when I awarded 20% of the grade on the final (announced beforehand) to reproduce 3-4 of the definitions and statements of theorems, no more than 1 in 20 of the students could get them correct.

So much for 'rote learning'.

Friday, December 23, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Christmas music (part 2), by JD

Part Two moves eastwards and further away from the 'traditional' carols and closer to the reason for this celebration. 

The fourth video may not be strictly correct (Christmas Eve would normally be compline and not vespers) but the lead singer here has a fabulous voice.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Christmas music (part 1), by JD

"The "Huron Carol" (or "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime") is a Canadian Christmas hymn (Canada's oldest Christmas song), written probably in 1642 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. 

Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born")."

This version is by Loreena McKennitt who is a Canadian singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer who writes, records, and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern influences. McKennitt is known for her refined and clear soprano vocals.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Marketing is self-serving BS, by Paddington

 For many years, I have wondered about the efficacy of advertising.

Then, I listened to a couple of the 'Freakonomics' podcasts, where they discussed experiments and statistical studies on this very subject. Those studies, and the reaction to them, are very interesting.
If advertising is actually effective, it appears to be only one-tenth as effective as is generally believed by those in the trade. However, the people in marketing in large companies, and those who sell them advertising, just 'know' that it works. They just can't explain how it works, nor provide any unequivocal data to support their conclusion. However, they maintain their cushy jobs on the backs of those beliefs.
One of the knock-on effects of this belief is that Marketing faculty at universities earn 1.5 to 2 times what Mathematicians and Engineers do, because 'everyone knows' how effective they are.
As I have said before, we are the nation of con men and used car salesmen.

Friday, December 09, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Last-minute Christmas Chopin, by JD

A bit of calming music as a blessed relief from the madness of the world. The first video was attributed to Frédéric Chopin but was in fact composed by Paul de Senneville under the name "Mariage d'Amour".

Thursday, December 08, 2022

US college math: If at first you don't succeed... by Paddington

There is current news on the intent of the state legislature to take over the State Board of Education, and the articles on the subject include a discussion of the 2021 Ohio Remediation Report. That report states that the percentage of students going to higher education and requiring remediation in Mathematics and/or English is declining.

Most of that gain appears to have been achieved by changing definitions.

When I started teaching Mathematics at the University of Akron in 1978, approximately 80% of the incoming students had not mastered Algebra I enough to pass a placement test into a college-level Mathematics course.

That 80% figure was national, often quoted as 'only 15% of 12th grade students were ready for a college-level Math course' (The difference in percentages was due to those students who didn't go to higher education).

When I retired in 2017, that 80% figure had not changed, despite the addition of lots of technology, and rounds of 'innovation' from Colleges of Education.

So, universities and colleges around the country were under pressure to 'fix the problem', and responded by generating courses which were not actually college-level, simply eliminating the requirement for a Math course, or re-defining what a Math course was. Others, such as the University of California system, have tried to hide the problem by 'just in time' remediation, which works about as well as one would expect.

After a half century of teaching and thinking about this problem, I wish I could have an answer, as a genuine solution would likely make me rich. I can, however, safely say that wishing it away doesn't help.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Palace in new bigotry storm

The nation was rocked today by fresh allegations of religious prejudice at the heart of the Monarchy. Speaking on BBC’s flagship morning programme Bleatfast, Sir Rious de Ralement (pictured above, right) sobbed as he related a bruising encounter with an elderly member of the Royal Household:

She asked me if I was a Christian. What on Earth could have given her that idea? I said no, I’m a pagan actually. But she wouldn’t let it lie. What were you before that? RC? CofE? I tell you, I felt violated.

Sir Rious felt under his tabard, moved the large wooden cross beneath it to one side and retrieved a sodden handkerchief. He blew his nose and muttered:

Lucky I had a tape recorder on me - here’s a copy of the transcript.

Sir Rious (formerly Brian Prendergast) spoke movingly of his childhood on the Bungalow Estate in Penge. His peers used to laugh at the monk’s alb he wore over his school uniform and his chemistry teacher scolded him for lighting a votive candle during lab experiments with hydrogen.

It was a lonely hell. My Jew and Muslim class mates never accepted my invitations to our Sunday family pork roast. But I won’t give up, I’m proud of my homicidal Crusader heritage, even if I’m not one myself.

The BBC was deluged with sympathetic tweets during and after the broadcast.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised please etc etc.

Friday, December 02, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Ringo Starr, by JD

Sir Richard Starkey MBE known professionally as Ringo Starr, is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor who achieved international fame as the drummer for the Beatles. That was more than fifty years ago and in the years since then Ringo has continued his creative journey with eighteen solo albums, several film roles the most well known being in "The Magic Christian" alongside Peter Sellers. He has published three books including the children's book "Octopus's Garden" as well as many other projects including his 'All Starr' band.

For all his many creative successes, Ringo is and always will be first and foremost a musician, a drummer. Ringo’s candor, wit and soul are the lifeblood of his music. As he sang on the autobiographical Liverpool 8, “I always followed my heart and I never missed a beat.” Peace and love are his life’s rhythm and melody, and he propels this universal message in everything he does: his evocative artwork, his enthused live performances, his legendary songs, all imbued with the joy, reflection, and wisdom of the music icon the world knows and loves simply as ‘Ringo.’

He is now 82 years old but looks twenty years younger so music must be keeping him youthful and he is still making records with a few of his most recent included below.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Reopen the talent mines! by Paddington

As Heinlein pointed out, the natural state of Man appears to be poverty.

Two hundred years ago, a person living on my property was 10 miles from the nearest small town. If he didn’t plan ahead, he would starve or freeze in the winter. Thanks to advances in technology, all but the very poorest of us now have access to clean water, cheap and safe food, and terabytes of bad information and pornography.

These advances were the result of government investment in basic science, including semiconductors, computers, nuclear energy and the internet itself. The researchers who did most of this were middle class through and through. Most engineers and scientists still are, and gain their training through the public education system. The well-educated children of the rich become lawyers, bankers, and sometimes doctors.

The contest between the creative geeks and the leaders of our societies go back over a millennium.

During the Middle Ages, many of the skilled workers were represented by the guilds, including the Freemasons. The Catholic Church kept their power in by controlling the spread of science and technology, while keeping the nobility largely illiterate. This balance of power shifted in the labour shortage that resulted from the Black Plague.

As the population increased, thanks to the dissemination of technology, the balance of power gradually shifted back, until the Scientific Revolution required skilled workers in large numbers. This led to the drive for public education.

In our lifetimes, we have moved to a Global economy, giving access to huge reservoirs of cheap labour. Our business and political leaders, most of whom do not know how to do anything practical, simply assume that the vast riches around them are the result of their own brilliance, and so are quite happy to move all of our jobs to other countries. They also work to dismantle the education system, and cut money for research, since this saves them taxes. The current economic crises give them the perfect excuse.

The problem is that simply preserving what we have as a society requires mining our meager talents every bit as aggressively as we drill for oil.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The vet will Zoom you now

Pet insurer Pets In A Pickle are now advertising ‘unlimited access to video consultations.’

The NHS is ahead of the curve; one GP told a widow to show her husband’s body on camera so he could certify the death without making a visit.

I can just see how it will work for our animal companions:

VET: Can you hold your dog up, please. Now then, what seems to be the trouble?

DOG: *Whimper, whimper.*

VET: And how long has this been troubling you?


VET: Fine, I’ll send a prescription and bill via WhatsApp.

So much more efficient.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
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Saturday, November 26, 2022

What football says about the nation-state

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The ‘beautiful game’ teaches us the positive aspects of nationalism. To play it you have:

  • A defined playing area.
  • Qualifications as to players. Only these, plus the referee, are allowed on the pitch.
  • A clearly expressed objective.
  • Rules that set down how the game is played and influence its style.
  • Impartial judges to enforce the rules.

Similarly, with a well-run country you have:

  • Territory with clear, well-defended boundaries.

  • Laws defining who is permitted to be there.

  • An agreed understanding of what the country ‘is about’ and whom it serves.

  • Legal and economic systems to achieve those goals.

  • Impartial judges to enforce the rules.

The European Union does not work because it has:

  • A vast domain with highly porous boundaries. Penetrate anywhere and you can go everywhere inside it.

  • Rules for who should be allowed to reside, but which are overriden by international conventions on refugees that are easily abused by bogus claimants, at huge expense to the host country.

  • A lack of mission. The EU had its origins in the desire to stop the awful military rivalry of Germany and France; then it became a useful protectionist cartel that maintained the prosperity of advanced European nations in the face of growing competition from much lower-paid foreign workforces; then an expansionist empire drunk with aggrandisement even if it meant acquiring countries that were at a different stage of development and so would cause economic strains; then a cat’s-paw for US/NATO aggression by creeping ever closer to the borders of Russia and ultimately destabilising Ukraine to provoke war and devastate Europe.

  • A hobbling centralised bureaucracy unrestrained by democratic power.

  • A legal system to enforce the arbitrary edicts of autocrats.

You would think that once free of all that we would be ‘full steam ahead.’ What do we have?

  1. Clearly defined and potentially very defensible territory. We kept out the mighty German war machine in my father’s time.
  2. Rules for who should be allowed to reside, but which are overriden by international conventions on refugees that are easily abused by bogus claimants, at huge expense to our country.

Foreign countries are happy to point them in our direction, in particular France (because it is closest) - remember the Sangatte camp, by the mouth of the Channel Tunnel? And now the rubber boats that French authorities seem unable to stop from launching into the Channel.

On top of that there are our Government’s policies on (much larger) legal immigration, partly to do with the right of families to be united, partly to fill gaps in the labour market that are allegedly unfillable otherwise.

Then there is the political Right that likes to import cheap labour (externalising the costs of unemployment, ill-health etc associated with the underclass it displaces, plus costs of the health, education, housing and welfare needs of the imported people.)

Meantime the Left has an insane abstract notion of the desirability of ‘diversity’ and how uncontrolled immigration will teach its nasty racist opponents a lesson - and somehow reconciles the idea of diversity with the fantasy that all people everywhere are basically the same underneath. The more this impacts on the working class, the more the latter grumble and protest and can then be dismissed as what Hillary Clinton called ‘a basket of deplorables.’

3. A lack of agreed mission.

It has taken centuries for Britain to restrain the arbitrary power of its monarchs. Our most precious possession is not the material comfort most of us now enjoy, but a Parliament that has the ability to call the Executive to account and so - we hope - limit the harm it can do.

But whom does the system serve?

Until relatively recently, the rich, profiting immensely from e.g. colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific, and the murderous greed of the East India Company. The ordinary person had no representative in Parliament. At the height of the British Empire’s prosperity people in the East End of London were working all the hours possible for a pittance, eating rubbish off the roads and facing the workhouse when they weakened.

Those who decry socialism as if it were Stalin’s Red Menace should read Jack London’s 1903 book to see exactly why we need regulations for housing, pay and working conditions, education, healthcare and welfare. The historian Correlli Barnett has argued that the paternalistic wartime regime of 1940-45 and the peacetime Welfare State that followed were unaffordable, sentimental. Well, we didn’t have it when we could afford it - Lloyd George had to break the House of Lords’ veto with the 1911 Parliament Act, just to get a modest provision for the underprivileged, and by 1945 the people had endured thirty years of wars and economic depressions and were in no mood for ‘jam tomorrow.’

Yet since then the British Labour Party has lost its way.

To some extent it was always conflicted, unable to decide whether it existed to serve the poorer element of this country or to promote international socialism, even at the expense of the British worker. Sixty years ago Labour’s leader Hugh Gaitskell warned the Party’s conference against membership of the ‘Common Market’, laying his finger on the tension in the socialist movement between international brotherhood and promoting the interests of working people at home.

More recently Labour seems to have been caught up in abstract thinking. It wants to buy the world a Coke but doesn’t realise that the world may have little intention of buying us one in return. It was enthusiastic about EU membership, under some Johnny-Head-In-Air delusion that we would all be jolly pals together (an illusion shared by many idealistic foreign Euro-MPs.) The consequence of EU mini-globalism and GATT maxi-globalism, as the late Sir James Goldsmith warned back in 1994, was socio-economic strain on ordinary families as the balance between labour and capital tilted sharply in favour of the latter.

We have to decide whether this country is to serve its people - an implication of the extension of the vote to all adults in the twentieth century, but not yet an express national commitment. Absent that mission plus control of immigration and renegotiation of trade terms, the country’s books will never balance and eventually the Welfare State must shrink and collapse.

If we go on as we are, then as I have said before, only disaster will save us. The wokeist flimflam from the Right is a cover for their old globalist agenda; if it and the Left don’t wake up in the proper sense, both will need to be replaced, as Nigel Farage is already advocating for the Tories. They must become nationalist and pragmatic if the nation is to survive and prosper.

4 & 5. … If that last is to be the plan, we need to structure our law and economics accordingly. This means revising our relationship with international and supranational bodies and agreements. We are now in a multipolar world and our team has to play for its own side.


That doesn’t mean hostility to other countries - in fact, we might have been spared the prospect of nuclear war if we had withdrawn from NATO as well as from complete absorption into the Euro-monolith, as de Gaulle suggested to us in 1969:

General de Gaulle made clear to our Ambassador that he wanted to see a Europe completely independent of the United States, which would result in the disappearance of N.A.T.O. as we know it; and that he would like to see the European Communities changed into a looser form of free trade area with arrangements by each country to exchange agricultural produce, and a small inner council of a European political association consisting of France, Britain, Germany and Italy.

What a shame that the then Labour Government sniffily rejected both proposals, as that link goes on to show.

What a shame, too, that we have forgotten the wisdom of Lord Palmerston:

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

We need to launder our kit, get onto the world’s field and play our hearts out.

Friday, November 25, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mariska Veres, by JD

Among the 'one hit wonders' of the Sixties was the Dutch band called Shocking Blue. Their lead singer was Mariska Veres known for her sultry voice, eccentric performances, and her striking appearance which featured kohl-rimmed eyes, high cheekbones, and long jet black hair, which was actually a wig. 

Her real name was Maria Ender. Her father was the Hungarian Romani violinist Lajos Veres.

.... and this is her father, Lajos Veres: 'Sirba pompierilor-doina' (1960):

Thursday, November 24, 2022

De-twitting Twitter

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The exodus from Twitter since Elon Musk bought it may be exaggerated. This report says 875,00 have deactivated their accounts and another half-million have been suspended.

In context, that’s a ‘flee’-bite. According to this source, Twitter has nearly 400 million users globally and half of those are daily users. Even with those numbers, the Blue Bird is merely the 15th most popular social network.

The writer also says:
10% of Twitter users are responsible for 92% of the tweets from all U.S. users, meaning there’s a particularly active group of users publishing a large chunk of content.
If those are the category leaving (and that’s not clear), maybe it will affect advertising revenue but otherwise are we going to miss them? After all, who’s going? Censorious hysterics who cannot cope with alternative views? Perhaps Mastodon is getting the fleas and Twitter will keep the dog.

There may be an opportunity here. Since we’re in a mass-spying and data automation age, there may be a way to scrape the user details of the screamers to make a list of those to be watched for totalitarian tendencies.

Similarly, years ago there was a regular ad on TV for a small, agile Peugeot car, showing it nipping through building sites and concrete pipes and generally zooming about recklessly. Soon after I noticed that dumb drivers with their d*cks on the accelerator were in such vehicles. I told a friend that the police and vehicle licensing agency could simply make a note of people making purchases in response to such ads, as a forewarning of dangerous drivers; perhaps shove nine points on their licenses to deter them from copying the driving style seen on the boob tube.

The immaturity and lack of impulse control are everywhere. I look on with concern at the way that e.g. universities have given in to intolerant wokies and could wish that my alma mater Oxford would rusticate such people as incapable of benefiting from a liberal education.

But no, that would be to play the game that governments and their agencies have been using against us for years. When Oxford students staged a demo march against Margaret Thatcher in the early 70s there were grey men perched up lampposts taking photographs of the crowd; seeing what kind of regime was allowed into power twenty-odd years later I think they can’t have done the follow-up work properly.

Best to take a laid-back approach, then. Maybe a lot of the noisy ones will grow up.

Or maybe they’ll take over and we’ll find out what happens when spoiled children get big.

Meanwhile, I’ve just registered with TruthSocial to watch Orange Man’s progress. It’s still a minnow - 2 million users so far - but it only started just over a year ago.

Will I be tainted by Evil Thoughts? Unclean, unclean!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

George Galloway blasts away at evil

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Gorgeous George was on top form Monday. With his staccato burst-fire oratorical phrasing he shreds four targets in this session:

1. Critics of Trump’s reinstatement on Twitter. GG reminds us that in 2016 Michael Moore called DJT a ‘human hand grenade.’ I have long seen Moore as a phony who has done nothing for the American working class but made himself a pseudo-scruffy millionaire with symbolic right-on guff aimed at white middle-class keep-your-own-hands-clean dizzyheads. As Matt Taibbi says elsewhere on this site (£$), the people who voted the egregious blond bulldozer into office ‘just saw a way to send a giant Fuck You to people they hated and distrusted more than Trump.’

2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now retiring. GG says she has done nothing for the US plebs but her now-billionaire stockbroker husband has had a strange facility for making great investment choices by anticipating government moves. Pelosi is another one for the empty malign gesture, tearing up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union Address behind him on live TV and by the same token ripping up the decorum that should properly characterise her noble office.

3. The unnamed US intelligence official who told CNN that the missile that exploded in Poland was Russian and so Article 5 of NATO’s Charter applied and consequently the Big War was on. This bastard (if I’m to burn in nuclear fire I must be allowed to swear) was set to get us all killed; and so was Volodomir Zelensky, calling for ‘action’ against Russia. One day there will be a tinkling all over the Western world as scales fall from eyes about that Ukrainian psychopath; but we are also overdue a deep dive into and radical reform of the CIA, the State Department and other agencies that were originally set up to advise the President but have since taken on an evil life of their own and given the slack hand of a senescent Chief Executive have slipped their leashes.

4. Human rights bloviators focusing on Qatar as the World Cup begins. What they complain about they knew long before, not to mention FIFA’s institutional corruption. But people in glass houses should not throw stones; for Julian Assange still languishes in an absurdly top-security British jail, not having tasted freedom for over ten years, yet guilty of nothing but jumping a bail that if there were such a thing as justice in this country would not have been imposed in the first place. All that our judiciary appears to be doing is preparing the sprouts and gravy before delivering him well-tenderised to a salivating American political and intelligence establishment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Electile dysfunction in Georgia

Elections cannot be stolen. It’s official, so there.

But votes can be mislaid, and that’s official, too.

The small town of Kennesaw, Georgia (pop. 33,049) recently held an election for a city council post. The result was certified in favour of one candidate, but it then turned out that a memory stick containing 789 votes had not been successfully (or perhaps not in time) uploaded into the system. This turned the race into a marginal win for the runner-up. The Council re-tested the ballot scanners Saturday and began a recount Sunday. As at the time of writing (Tuesday a.m. UK time) we still don't know the final verdict!

The position had become available because the previous incumbent resigned in protest at the reopening of a local shop selling Civil War memorabilia:
Dent Myers opened Wildman’s in 1971. It became infamous for its display of a Ku Klux Klan robe, racist collectibles, prominently displayed Confederate flag, and storefront signs such as the one that says “White History Year.”
Some non-Americans may view that country’s racial difficulties with a kind of eagerness for the apocalypse, as the Left here appeared to hope for South Africa prior to the Presidency of Nelson Mandela.

There’s a twist in human nature that wants to see others suffer in fire and blood - it’s a major, perhaps the main theme of written and cinematic fiction. Not so funny when you have to live through it. America has had enough of violent mountebanks of all kinds.

As it happens, Georgia is also awaiting the outcome of a bigger election, that for its US Senator. The contest on November 8 was so close that neither of the main candidates achieved 50% of the total, so there will be a runoff just between those two on December 6.

Both the incumbent, Raphael Warnock (Democrat) and the challenger Herschel Walker (Republican) are ‘persons of colour.’ Good luck to them both, as the US continues its progress towards harmony at home.

Now for the same, in foreign relations.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Robot Will Teach You Now, by Paddington

In about 2015, our department was being pressured to offer online courses. When I read around the subject, it turned out that the results of such courses in Mathematics were much worse, in terms of total pass rates and retained material, than live ones. I was told by a resident 'expert' that this was simply wrong. When we did offer such a course, the drop-out and failure rates were much higher than the live sections of the course, even when offered by the same  faculty.

Fast forward to 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when one episode of the 'Freakonomics' podcast explored how universities would adapt to online learning. A resident 'expert' at the University of Arizona expounded that the bugs had all been worked out to offer comparable courses, especially in Mathematics.

The events of the past two years and decline in student achievement seem to indicate otherwise.

Friday, November 18, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Duo Del Mar, by JD

"Este es un dúo de guitarra peculiar. Son músicas del repertorio clásico español, y temas propios, más cercanos al flamenco."
Ekaterina Zaytseva/Marta Robles

Duo del Mar is a new project that unites two emergent figures of the actual musical panorama: the classical guitarist Ekaterina Zaytseva and Marta Robles, one of the few female soloist in the world of the flamenco guitar. Their repertoire mixes the pure flamenco elements and the classical music, interlacing rhythms and harmonies to show all the expressive possibilities of the Spanish guitar. Baroque sonatas that were inspired with popular rhythms and melodies, romantic works that evoke the modernist Barcelona or contemporary creation pieces where the classical language fuses with flamenco.

Duo del Mar, Ekaterina Záytseva and Marta Robles, are both members of Barcelona’s extremely active classical-guitar and flamenco scene. Záytseva grew up in Russia, but has lived in Spain the past ten years, playing as a solo artist and also in various configurations, including the Barcelona 4 Guitars. Robles is best known for her flamenco work and her folkish duo collaboration with singer Alba Carmona, but is also adept at straight classical and plays other styles.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: It's Surreal Thing, by JD

 Surrealistic brandy!

This bottle of Conde de Osborne "solera gran reserva" brandy is unique as the bottle, its label and the presentation box were designed for Osborne by Salvador Dalí who received the commission in 1964. The prototype for the milk glass decanter was handblown by Vidriera Catalana and is crowned by an indigo ceramic stopper created by potter Antoni Cumella.

The brandy bottle you see above is one I bought at some point in the 80s in Spain. I had seen them on the shelves behind the bar in one or two of the 'up market' bars, the ones tarted up to look like a typical English pub as imagined in the minds of romantically inclined foreign persons. One day I was asking the barman to tell me the story behind the design and I asked if he would sell me a bottle which he did. (I can't remember how much I paid but they occasionally pop up on ebay and sell for £25 or so not that I want to sell mine, I was just curious.)

It is indeed a very fine brandy and the Salvador Dalí influence has undoubtedly filtered through to the bottle's contents; after two or three glasses of that very smooth liquid the world begins to look like a Dalí painting!