Friday 30 June 2017

Dead Poets Society #43 Elizabeth Bishop: Insomnia

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Insomnia by Elizabeth Bishop

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Last night's set lists

Mark Wynn waxing lyrical

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Tell Me
Brother Can You Spare A Dime

Da Elderly: -
Coupe De Ville
Old Man

The Elderly Brothers: -
Mailman Bring Me No More Blues
Eight Days A Week
Yes I Will
Crying In The Rain

What a change weather-wise from last week, it felt more like October than June and the rain was unrelenting. Be that as it may, The Habit was packed by 8:45 with punters and players. The new PA system speakers are now permanently installed, which makes setting up a lot easier. Surprise song of the night was by a young lass who delighted us with Michelle Shocked's Anchorage. Ron introduced an early Stones 'B'-side and "Bing Crosby's version" of a 1930's classic. I stuck to Neil numbers debuting Coupe De Ville (in The Habit). We debuted Side 2, Track 1 from Beatles For Sale - a little ragged, but passable; could do better as a school report might say. Crying In The Rain was dedicated to the weather outside! Highlight of the evening was a closing riff from Mark Wynn who brought back memories of his previous residency with a 15min extemporisation on 'da blues' incorporating stream of consciousness ramblings centred around an imaginary Skype conversation with Keith Richards - you couldn't make it up, but Mark did!!

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Hokusai: Old Man Crazy to Paint

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The first UK film biography of the world-renowned Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose print The Great Wave is as globally famous as Leonardo's Mona Lisa. With Andy Serkis reading the voice of Hokusai, the film features artists David Hockney and Maggi Hambling, and passionate scholars who study, admire and venerate this great Japanese master.
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The film focuses on Hokusai's work, life and times in the great, bustling metropolis of Edo, now modern Tokyo. Using extraordinary close-ups and pioneering 8K Ultra HD video technology, Hokusai's prints and paintings are examined by world experts. In the process they reveal new interpretations of famous works and convey the full extent of Hokusai's extraordinary achievement as a great world artist.
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Hokusai spent his life studying and celebrating our common humanity as well as deeply exploring the natural and spiritual worlds, using the famous volcano Mount Fuji as a protective presence and potential source of immortality. He knew much personal tragedy, was struck by lightning and lived for years in poverty, but never gave up his constant striving for perfection in his art. Hokusai influenced Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists, is the father of manga and has his own Great Wave emoji.

Watch it now on BBC iPLayer- but be quick: you only have 29 days left...

Friday 23 June 2017

Jackson Browne at The Sage, Gateshead, 2017 - review

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Jackson Browne at The Sage, Gateshead.
21 June 2017

Time might be the conqueror, but not yet. Not in Jackson Browne’s case. The 68 year-old, still slim and cool with his traditional flowing locks now flecked with grey, played a blistering concert in front of a rapt audience at The Sage, Gateshead, backed by a terrific band consisting of the stellar Jeff Young (keyboards) Val - son of David - McCallum (guitar), Bob Glaub (bass), Alethea Mills (vocals), Greg Leisz (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel) and an outstanding drummer in Mauricio Lewak, who brought deft rhythmic subtlety and percussive power to the set.

Browne’s between song-chat and occasional humorous trade-offs with an eager audience, keen to sway the direction of the set list, meandered engagingly and added to the effusive atmosphere already engendered by the music, particularly in his introduction to Something Fine, which managed – in a round about way - to take in recollections of Stephen Stills, an apartment in London, romance and an earthquake in California! He was in fine voice, too, the lower pitch of his older voice adding more resonance and emotional depth to familiar songs like one of the evening’s standouts, For a Dancer, one of several occasions where he switched from guitar to piano.

Delving into his back catalogue, he played tracks off most of his albums, including many favourites such as Doctor My Eyes, For Everyman, Running on Empty, In the Shape of a Heart and These Days, but he also featured newer numbers like The Long Way Around from his most recent album, Standing in the Breach (2014).

While Browne may be known for his forthright political views, he touched on issues without lecturing and saw fit to be self-effacing while covering Randy Newman’s A Piece of the Pie, an excoriating but sardonic look at the wealth gap at a time when ‘no-one gives a shit but Jackson Browne.’

This cover was one of three in the set; the others were Walls and Doors, by the Cuban writer and singer Carlos Varela, and Carmelita by one of his old sparring partners, the late Warren Zevon, which was another of the show’s highlights, lapped up by an appreciative audience.

Called back for an encore by a packed house - the crowd now on its feet, clapping and even dancing - the band played the opening notes of Take It Easy and everyone joined in!  in the audience knew it had witnessed something special and it would have been the perfect end to the night, but he managed to top it. Just as on his second album, Browne segued effortlessly into Our Lady of the Well, a romantic song with a political edge, to serve as a reminder that the cruel and senseless shadow over the USA of 1973 has been replaced by an even more senseless one.


Thursday 22 June 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Autumn Leaves
I'll See You In My Dreams

Da Elderly: -
Heart Of Gold
I'm Just A Loser

The Elderly Brothers: -
You Really Got A Hold On Me
Bus Stop
No Reply

The Habit was packed most of the time on what was a very hot and sticky night. There was no shortage of players either, with some fine performances. A flute, Spanish guitar, drum-box trio produced an excellent Oye Como Va. There was a surprise visit from Edwina Hayes who surprised us further with Loudon's Road Ode (that's a lot of lyrics to remember!). Dan Webster covered John Prine's Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness with everyone joining in. In a grande finale, ex-host Mark Wynn teamed up with Dave Ward Maclean, finishing off the evening with bluesman Henry Thomas's Don't Leave Me Here (Don't Ease Me In). Another enjoyable night to remember!

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Brian Cant RIP

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Brian Cant obituary
Children’s television presenter and actor who spent 21 years on Play School and whose baritone voice graced Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton

Stuart Jeffries
The Guardian
Tuesday 20 June 2017

“HERE’S a house. Here’s a door. Windows – one, two, three, four ... Ready to play? What’s the day? It’s Tuesday.” For those of us who were British, small and watching television between the mid 1960s and the mid 80s, those words, spoken by the much-loved children’s TV presenter Brian Cant, who has died aged 83, in his soothing, gently laconic baritone, are liable to provoke a Proustian rush.

For two decades from 1964 there was scarcely a BBC show aimed at little children that didn’t come with Cant’s distinctive tones. It was his voice that weekly introduced us in the late 60s to the townsfolk of Camberwick Green (1966), the puppet show created by Gordon Murray. “Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play,” he would tell us at the start of each episode. “But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?” And it was Cant who did the prosodically captivating roll call for the fire brigade in Camberwick Green’s sequel, Trumpton (1969): “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.”

Both shows, and the third of the trilogy, Chigley (1970), were set in an idealised English county, Trumptonshire, and suggested what we realised with hindsight to be the evident nonsense that a crime-free Britain ran like clockwork and that adult life was an orderly affair. Cant’s voice was the aural signature of these affairs. In 2007 he topped a children’s magazine poll to find the best-loved UK kids’ television voice, with Oliver Postgate, the voice of Bagpuss, second, and David Jason third for voicing the cartoon hero Danger Mouse.

Sensibly, Cant was modest about his effect on grown-ups nostalgically recalling their childhoods. “It’s obviously very kind and very rewarding to have that effect but I can’t believe it was that important to everyone,” he said once.

Cant might not have achieved such iconic status except for his ability to improvise with imaginary custard. In 1964 he was performing in a proto-Horrible Histories BBC TV drama about the Romans when he learned that auditions were taking place for a new show aimed at pre-schoolers. Joy Whitby’s Play School (1964-88) was aimed at taking kids’ TV to a new level, beyond such cherished favourites as Andy Pandy, The Flower Pot Men and Muffin the Mule.

At the audition Whitby asked Cant to climb into a cardboard box and row out to sea. He gamely did so, then dropped an imaginary fishing line in the water and, seconds later, hauled in his catch, a wellington boot filled with custard. How did he convince the audition there was custard in the wellie? Through the power of suggestion, most likely.

Cant remained on Play School for 21 years, long after its original target audience had moved not only on to solid foods, but into gainful employment. Some critics might be tempted to suggest that he and the other presenters – Floella Benjamin, Derek Griffiths and Johnny Ball among them – were overshadowed by the stuffed toys (Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Hamble), but that would be unfair: to sing, tell stories and otherwise captivate an audience composed mostly of under-fives is no mean feat, as any parent will tell you.

“One of the main rules of those Play School days was that we should play to the camera as though we were talking to one child,” said Cant in 2010. “It could be somebody in a tower block, a nice semi-detached somewhere, or a royal palace. You had to phrase everything so that, whoever was watching it, they felt you were talking to them.”

In 1971 Cant became, along with Toni Arthur, one of the regular presenters of Play Away (1971-84), aimed at slightly older children. Other presenters included, incredibly, Jeremy Irons, Julie Covington, Patricia Hodge and Tony Robinson. In his subsequent career he combined his work presenting children’s TV in shows such as Bric-A-Brac (1980-82) and Milkshake! (from 1997) with theatre, touring in plays such as Run for Your Wife, Doctor in the House, The Railway Children and The Canterbury Tales, in addition to pantomimes.

In 1984 Play Away was cancelled, and his services were no longer required on Play School. “All my regular programmes disappeared in one fell swoop,” he recalled. “Play Away had really run its course, but I was, rather unfortunately, considered too old for Play School.” That year, his first marriage to Mary Gibson having ended in divorce, he married the writer and director Cherry Britton and they went on to have three children.

Born in Ipswich and educated at Northgate grammar school for boys, Cant initially had dreams of playing football for Ipswich Town, having trained for the club as a youth. Instead, after some years working as a printer, he turned to acting, and an early review of his performance in an amateur production of the thriller Safe Harbour in 1957 judged that “Mr Cant does incredibly well within the terms of an almost embarrassingly inept caricature.” The following year he turned professional and spent the summer season in rep at Buxton, in Derbyshire. By the early 60s he was appearing in dramas such as the ITV police series No Hiding Place, before joining Play School.

Later Cant appeared on TV in more grown-up fare, including Casualty, Doctors, and Doctor Who. He had two roles in the last of these and was twice killed off, first by a Dalek and in another episode by a Quark, which he recalled was “a little polystyrene box-shaped creature that contained a schoolboy. I was from a pacifist planet and I had to wear a long skirt with a long pipe stuck up it which came to just below the neckline. When I was killed off, smoke belched out of this pipe for some reason. It was rather odd.”

But he carried on entertaining children. Younger Britons remember him not for Play School or the Trumptonshire dramas but as Brian the farmer in Dappledown Farm (1990–2003) and for his work from 2003 on two Channel Five kids’ shows, MechaNick and The Softies.

In one interview he defended the idea of children’s TV against the idea that it could be stupefying for kids. “No-one would suggest sitting there doing nothing but watching television, that’s obvious,” he said. “But programmes like Play School were always done with the idea that when it finished, the children could go away and try things themselves.”

In 1999 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but as late as 2011, after having been awarded a special Bafta honouring his career, he was still acting – making his third appearance in Doctors.

He is survived by Cherry and their children, Rose, Christabel and Peter, and by two sons from his first marriage, Nicholas and Richard, the latter of whom is also an actor.

• Brian Cant, television presenter and actor, born 12 July 1933; died 19 June 2017

Monday 19 June 2017

Andy Warhol's jazz album covers...

Way before The Velvet Underground and bananas, Andy Warhol was known for his jazz album  designs. Owing something to Ben Shahn and David Stone Martin, he produced a series of striking  covers (with his mother helping out with the typography) for a number of artists on several labels, notably Blue Note and RCA/Victor.

Count Basie

johnny griffdin
Artie Shaw
Progressive Piano
blue lights_burrell
trombone by three

Saturday 17 June 2017

The Book of Jeremy Corbyn

By Anthony Lane
The New Yorker
9 June 2017

And it came to pass, in the land of Britain, that the High Priestess went unto the people and said, Behold, I bring ye tidings of great joy. For on the eighth day of the sixth month there shall be a general election.

And the people said, Not another one.

And they waxed wroth against the High Priestess and said, Didst thou not sware, even unto seven times, that thou wouldst not call a snap election?

And the High Priestess said, I know, I know. But Brexit is come upon us, and I must go into battle against the tribes of France, Germany, and sundry other holiday destinations. And I must put on the armor of a strong majority in the people’s house. Therefore go ye out and vote.

And there came from the temple pollsters, who said, Surely this woman will flourish. For her enemy is as grass; she cutteth him down. He is as straw in the wind, and he will blow away. And the trumpet of her triumph shall sound in all the land.

And the High Priestess said, Piece of cake.

And there came from the same country a prophet, whose name was Jeremy. His beard was as the pelt of beasts, and his raiments were not of the finest. And he cried aloud in the wilderness and said, Behold, I bring you hope.

And suddenly there was with him a host of young people. And he said unto them, Ye shall study and grow wise in all things, and I shall not ask ye for gold. And the sick shall be made well, and they also will heal freely. And he promised unto them all manner of goodly things.

And the young people said unto him, How shall these things be rendered, seeing that thou hast no money in thy purse?

And he spake unto them in a voice of sounding brass and said, Soak the rich. And again, Pull down the mighty from their seats.

And the young people went absolutely nuts.

And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremy, and believed. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a helmet upon his head. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but hummus is quite another matter.

And the High Priestess saw all these things and was sore. And she gathered unto her the chief scribes and the Pharisees and said unto them, What the hell is going on?

And they said unto her, It is a blip, as if it were a rough place upon the road.

But they said unto themselves, When the government was upon her shoulders, this woman was mighty. But now that she has gone abroad unto every corner of the land, she stumbleth. For surely it is written that ruling and campaigning are as oil and water, and there shall be no concord betwixt them.

And the chief scribes wrote upon tablets, saying, Jeremy is false of tongue. He hideth wickedness in his heart. And his sums do not add up.

And nobody paid any attention.

And the elders rose up and said to the young people, If ye choose Jeremy, he will bring distress in your toils and wailing upon your streets. Do ye not remember the nineteen-seventies?

And the young people said, The what?

And the elders spake again, and said to the young people, Beware, for he gave succor in days of yore to the I.R.A.

And the young people said, The what?

And the young people said, Jeremy shall bring peace unto all nations, for he hateth the engines of war that take wing across the heavens. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto the transgender community.

And the elders said, The what?

And it came to pass that the heathen of this land came among the people, with fire and sword, and slew many among the faithful. And great was the lamentation.

And the High Priestess waxed exceeding wroth and said to the people, Fear not. For I shall bind your wounds and give ye shelter from the heathen, and shall take up the sword against them.

And there came again pollsters from the temple, who said, Will the people not vote for her in this hour of need?

And nobody paid any attention.

And it came to the vote.

And the elders went up to vote, and the young people. And the young people were as a multitude. And in the hours of darkness there was much counting. And the young people watched by night, and the elders went to bed.

And there came in the morning news that the High Priestess had vanquished the prophet Jeremy. But the triumph of the High Priestess was as the width of a nail. And she was vexed.

And the elders and the chief scribes and the Pharisees spoke among themselves, yea, even in the corners of their houses.

And there was great rejoicing amidst the multitude of the young. And they took strong wine, and did feast among themselves. And there were twelve baskets left over.

And of the pollsters there was no sign.

And the people saw Jeremy and said, Surely this man has won? Doth he not skip in gladness like a young hart upon the hills?

And there was great murmuring among the elders. And they said unto themselves, Weep not. For the High Priestess doth but prepare the way. Cometh there not one who is greater than she?

And they said, Behold, for the hour of the redeemer is upon us. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Prince of Peace. And they cried in one voice, Boris.

And the young people said, Oh, shit.

And the people gave tongue, and made supplication unto the Lord, saying, Lord, let our cry come unto thee.

And the Lord thought the whole thing was absolutely hilarious.

And then the people said, Lord, what shall we do regarding Brexit? For henceforth the High Priestess shall be as weak as a newborn lamb. How shall we hope for continued access to the single market?

And the Lord said, The what?

Friday 16 June 2017

Dead Poets Society #42 Tatamkhulu Afrika: Nothing's Changed

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Nothing’s Changed by Tatamkhulu Afrika

Small round hard stones click
under my heels,
seeding grasses thrust
bearded seeds
into trouser cuffs, cans,
trodden on, crunch
in tall, purple-flowering,
amiable weeds.

District Six.
No board says it is:
but my feet know,
and my hands,
and the skin about my bones,
and the soft labouring of my lungs,
and the hot, white, inwards turning
anger of my eyes.

Brash with glass,
name flaring like a flag,
it squats
in the grass and weeds,
incipient Port Jackson trees:
new, up-market, haute cuisine,
guard at the gatepost,
whites only inn.

No sign says it is:
but we know where we belong.

I press my nose
to the clear panes, know,
before I see them, there will be
crushed ice white glass,
linen falls,
the single rose.

Down the road,
working man's cafe sells
bunny chows.
Take it with you, eat
it at a plastic table's top,
wipe your fingers on your jeans,
spit a little on the floor:
it's in the bone.

I back from the
boy again,
leaving small mean O
of small mean mouth.
Hands burn
for a stone, a bomb,
to shiver down the glass.
Nothing's changed.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Need Your Love So Bad
Wild Horses

Da Elderly: -
There Stands The Glass
I Don't Want To Talk About It

The Elderly Brothers: -
Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues
Bye Bye Love
Things We Said Today
Love Hurts
Bring It On Home To Me

Packed from the off, there were plenty of players and punters for most of the evening, things only thinning out after 11pm. Nevertheless a sizeable audience stuck it out until midnight and afterwards. Regular Deb pulled out two unexpected songs: Tom Waits' Time and Minnie Riperton's Loving You. And there was the welcome return of The Elderly Brothers following Ron's return from holiday. After the open mic had finished, we provided the backing for a general sing-along with a string of Beatles and Rock and Roll standards.

Monday 12 June 2017