Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

Keep your knickers on, Dave

Andy Murray won the tennis. Yes, he did. He won it. Well done, old chap. Good, ho. And all that. You’re jolly good at tennis.

Britons are excited about this fact. Because Tim Henman didn’t really impress, did he? But now Andy has. And, my goodness, are we excited?!

You know who else is excited? David Cameron. O yes. He is very excited about Andy winning the tennis.

“O, Andy. I worship the ground you walk on. What fantastic tennis you play. I love your tennis playing abilities.”

“Wow. Thanks David.”

“You know what Andy? I’m going to give you a knighthood. I want to give you a knighthood. My goodness, you sooo need one of those. I’d go so far as to say that there is no-one as deserving as you, Lord Andy.”

Ok, so I have paraphrased a little here. But the direct quote from the news reports seems to be that he said, “there is no-one as deserving” as Andy Murray for a knighthood.

I’m just going to take a step outside of this madness and ask what the heck is going on here?

Honestly, now?! No-one as deserving?! For a knighthood?!

Whilst not undermining what has been achieved, we need to contextualise here. He’s playing a sport that he’s clearly very good at. And getting paid for it. Yes. Millions of pounds. He’s loaded. He made money by winning Wimbledon. Lots and lots of it.

It wasn’t a charity mission. He wasn’t playing tennis to win the Tibetans their independence. He didn’t donate his funds to an orphanage in India or use the occasion to highlight the problem of deforestation in the Amazon.

In fact, for people who get to the top in sports like that, there’s often a large amount of self-focussed living. You play sport, you go to other countries to train better, your relationships suffer. Your attention is on yourself and improving in your sport. It is not a charitable way to make a living.

No-one more deserving?

Like doctors? Teachers? Firemen? I saw a documentary the other day about firemen who work in the Amazon and that shit was serious. They work relentlessly, hours and hours for days to put out forest fires and stop people getting injured or losing their land. Um. Ambulance men and women. They’re pretty high up there for me. They work tirelessly, often for low pay and never get any recognition for their work.

Is Andy Murray really more deserving than these people? Good on him for winning Wimbledon but let’s not get carried away here. He’s good at a sport and he won a competition to be the best in it.

Keep your knickers on, Dave.

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I is for…

It’s over to my guest  blogger today for the letter I. Here goes…

 

INTERESTING!

Now I wonder what you expected after you read the title to this, especially with the question mark after it? – Something interesting to read or ponder?

Maybe, but perhaps before we can start we need a definition of “interesting” otherwise how will we know if what follows is interesting or not?

Let’s start with the definition from my trusty Chambers: engaging or apt to engage the attention or regard; also exciting passion or emotion. Did you find the definition interesting?

What would make you describe a person you met as “interesting”? Would it be their physical appearance, their clothes, their accent, their conversation, their reaction to you (friendly, angry, puzzled)? You can see there are many ways you might find another person interesting but I suppose one of the most obvious ways is how different they are to you. Supposing you’ve not travelled much and they have. You could find their stories of places where they have been “interesting”; if they’ve met important or famous people that might also make them interesting; if they’ve lived in different places, again that may spark an interest from our side.

Is something interesting because it’s something you never knew before? Or is it interesting because you are amazed at the information or the achievement of a person or an animal in the story? I heard an interview on the radio last week-end with a guy, Jason Lewis, who with a friend who left the trip in Hawaii, travelled round the world using nothing but human power. It took him 13 years, 2 months, 23 days and 11 hours travelling west around the globe until he arrived back at the point he first started. So human power only even across seas and oceans! (They pedalled a kind of boat – 26ft x 4.5ft – across the Atlantic from Portugal to Miami in 111 days – 5,500 miles!) We were also told of a lady who had moved house using a barge. Do you think that’s interesting? When actress Imogen Stubbs was being interviewed she said that in her life she just wanted to have a go at being more interesting. Are you “trying” to be interesting in your life? The same prog has a weekly feature called Inheritance Tracks in which they ask someone (usually a celebrity type in the arts/music/literature world) to say which track or piece of music they have inherited from someone else and which one would they pass on. This week it was Mick Fleetwood (founder member of Fleetwood Mac and one-time brother-in-law to George Harrison: Mick’s 1st marriage was to Jenny Boyd sister of Patti Boyd who was married to George Harrison at the time). His inherited track may surprise you: Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie by Charlie Kunz. Interestingly the light-hearted drinking song was first performed by the California Ramblers in 1925 and became Kunz’s theme tune in the 1930s. Here’s a version by The Merrymakers with lyrics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItjoO1cEG10 Mick’s connection to the song is that it is his mother’s favourite track so he’s inherited it from her. The one he would pass on is Imagine by John Lennon. Interesting?

I am reading a number of books at the moment one of which is The Love & Wars of Lina Prokofiev by Simon Morrison. (She was the wife of Russian composer Serge Prokofiev.) In it there is a sentence which speaks of Vera Danchakoff (a scientist) and Olga (Lina’s mother) not liking the “new music” but thinking it might be “interesting” to go and hear a Bolshevik musician who, it was said, was a mad genius.

I saw Marty Cooper interviewed recently on a news prog. Are you wondering who is he? If I tell you he is considered to be the inventor of the cellular/mobile phone do you find that interesting? Certainly what he had to say about the way technology is now enabling medical smart patches worn next to the skin to send info to a mobile phone to give an early warning of a possible threat to a person’s health was very interesting.

If I tell you that the highest inhabited place in England is a village called Flash (in the county of Staffordshire) do you find that interesting? I can tell you that the Ordnance Survey map people have confirmed it using their very accurate measurement methods. Perhaps if I give you some more info and tell you it’s 463 metres (1518 ft) above sea level you might find that interesting. You might ask whether living in the highest place in England has any particular advantages. Does it mean loads of tourists who all want to take have their picture taken there? Does it bring commerce to local area?

Now if I told you that in the highest place in the UK stakes, Flash also claims for itself the no.1 spot are you interested? Its rival, Wanlockhead in Scotland, has claimed to be 13ft higher at 1531ft. Some time ago a BBC TV programme apparently used the very latest satellite technology and measured the height of the highest house in each village – 1558ft in Flash but 1456ft in Wanlockhead. That’s settled then. Apparently not, as after the show aired some years ago, the Scots then disputed the way the measurements were taken and still say their village is the highest. Oh well…. Does that make the situation interesting? It certainly excites the passions & emotions of the inhabitants on both sides of the debate but for the rest of us……

I’ve just listened to a radio programme about Jeff Bezos. You may be thinking, WHO? Or you may know he is the founder of Amazon, a multi-billion dollar company selling everything you could possibly ever want from its 30 different departments in the drop down menu. I found the programme interesting, hearing about some of his family history and how he began the whole Amazon thing.

When I did one of my regular weekly washes in my machine I noticed within the rubber seal a lot of fluff and bits collecting in the fold. It’s quite a deep fold really so needs all the stuff scooping out. In it I found bits of fluff, couple of pieces of plastic and wait for this £4.20 ($6.43) in coins! Now is that interesting? It certainly was for me as I was £4.20 ($6.43) richer.

So are we any closer to finding out what makes something interesting? Can an article about being interesting actually itself be interesting? Or are we faced with the conclusion that interesting though the discussion may be it is all very subjective? That interesting means just that – that I think something is interesting. And what I find interesting you may not and vice versa. Oh well……..I wonder do any readers have any interesting comments to make on the subject?

The Plan

Ssshhh! Don’t say a word. I’m too excited to not tell you all but you mustn’t tell, ok?

I am going to work now. Until 9.30am, when I will call Danda and ask him if he wants to come for breakfast at the deli. Fingers crossed, Danda will say yes.

When he gets there, we will sit down for breakfast and I will say, ‘Oo! Something came from Amazon for you.’

He will say, ‘Really? But I didn’t order anything.’

I will say, ‘Well, here it is. I guess just open it and see what it is.’

I will get him a box which I received something from Amazon in the other day. I am very sneaky. I have taken out the book that I was sent but kept the packaging neat. I have then put a different book in there then glued it all back together so it looks like it hasn’t been opened.

So he will open it. Inside is a book with a gold cover which says ‘ROME’ in big letters across the front.

He will be confused.

‘I didn’t order this,’ he will say.

‘Are you sure,’ I will say. ‘Check inside the front cover, there should be an invoice somewhere, it will tell you who’s sent it to you. Maybe someone sent it as a present or something?’

He will flip open the front cover and inside is a message from me, which says, ‘Flight at 5pm. Pack your bags!’

He will be shocked and surprised and excited…. Hopefully. There will then be a flurry of bag packing and disbelief.

And then off we will go to Rome for four days!

Fingers crossed that:

a) all goes to plan
b) my phone works in Rome
c) my battery can cope with the photograph-taking overload

And remember, no telling!

I’ll let you know tomorrow if it went smoothly.

Five voices

It’s Wednesday and time for Rambler5319 to entertain us again…

Remember LLM’s piece on “Songs that remind me of stuff”. I have those as well but I also have artists that stand out in my musical memories. They stand out because they have endured, not necessarily in terms of long life as 2 died in their early thirties, but because I still love and listen to them today.
In 1999 Yes produced an album called The Ladder and track 11 was called “Nine Voices”. I’ve decided to do five of my favourite female voices. I won’t do the biographies, there’s enough on the internet if you want to look them up but a few facts will be included. They are voices, each unique in its own way, which remind me of particular things. Any musical choice will inevitably be personal and bound to divide opinion so I don’t say these are the best five voices in the world EVER. I simply say that these voices had a great effect on me. They have touched and continue to touch my heart today. They are not in order like a top of the charts list; they are more chronological in that this is the order in which they came into my life. Ok so here we go:

1. LESLEY DUNCAN
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Probably an artist few of you will know but one who was a big part of my growing up musical history. I heard a track on the radio and bought the first album. Then I got each new one as it came out. She sang backing vocals for a number of more well-known artists (Donovan, Ringo Starr, Dusty Springfield who also sang on Lesley’s singles, Walker Brothers). If you check out the track listing for Jesus Christ Superstar on Amazon you will see her as one of a number of singers on many of the tracks. She is credited on Pink Floyd’s (1973) Dark Side Of The Moon and here is a pic of the inside of the album cover with her name in the “Backing Vocals” section (with Lesley incorrectly spelt with an ‘ie’ ending rather than the ‘ey’ which she herself used):

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She appears on Elton John’s 3rd album (1970) Tumbleweed Connection. She plays acoustic guitar in a duet with him on her self-penned song, Love Song (Side 2, Track 2). It’s the only non Bernie Taupin/Elton song on the album. She appeared with him in 1974 at The Royal Festival Hall to perform it. According to the Guardian newspaper, it was covered by more than 150 artists (including Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie and Barry White)! It’s worth checking out the lyrics to Love Song. (Also on YouTube.) Elton played piano on Lesley’s first album Sing Children Sing in 1971. Unfortunately she made only the 5 albums you can see in the picture but her voice was very special for me. She died fairly recently, on the Isle of Mull, (her home since 1996), in March 2010 aged 66. The Guardian, in its obituary, said this:
“Her songs had an astonishing emotional depth and her voice a rare combination of warmth and clarity, bringing an intimacy to the experience of listening to her records. For those who discovered her music in the early 1970s, she stood out from all the other pop and rock of the era.” (March 23, 2010).

2. KAREN CARPENTER
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Interesting the group was called “Carpenters”: there is no “The” in the official name. Karen was initially a drummer in the duo with her brother Richard on piano. She was quite happy to play the drums and sing whilst doing it. She didn’t want to be “out front” but folks wanted more of her – her voice: a contralto voice that spanned 3 octaves. She was forced to reconsider. Eventually she played the drums less and less. I’ve got just the one album of Greatest Hits but what a voice. She was noted for her low range and Richard would adapt songs (& covers) to fit it. Just listen to the way she can hold the notes she sings. Out of the 5 here hers has to be the purest voice and who can fail to be moved by some of those famous songs: Yesterday Once More, Hurting Each Other, Close to You and the ubiquitous We’ve Only Just Begun played at so many weddings around the world. Died a month short of her 33rd birthday from anorexia. Very sad.

3. JONI MITCHELL
I suppose she is remembered, by most people, for her single Big Yellow Taxi (1970) and the rather silly laugh at the end of the song. However, over the last 44 years, she has produced many albums. My collection, of just some of them, is in the pic below:
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Hers is a voice that has sung in many different styles with a uniqueness that no-one has come close to imitating. Some of Kate Bush’s songs do give a feel of her style. Joni has ploughed her own furrow not allowing people to be able to pigeon-hole her and constantly changing. Once again a voice I heard and bought one album and then began to add to as the years went by. A very unusual voice and variety of singing styles and unusual cadences make her one of my top five voices.

4. SANDY DENNY
Lead singer of Fairport Convention for a short time and produced solo work as well. She formed the group Fotheringay (1970) and released one album (Fotheringay). Fotheringay Castle was where Richard III was born (1452) & where Mary Queen of Scots was tried and executed (1587). Sandy was given the accolade “Britain’s finest female singer/songwriter” by three publications at the time. She was voted “Britain’s No.1 Singer” for two consecutive years in the music paper Melody Maker’s readers’ poll.
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Amongst others, wrote the song Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Have a listen on YouTube). And I suppose we all echo that as we look back. Time does pass incredibly quickly. Sadly for Sandy and her fans she died aged just 31 in 1978. One newspaper obituary referred to her as having been: “Equipped with an incredible voice and an immense songwriting talent….” For me, a great voice which stirs up the emotions.

5. MADDY PRIOR (INCL. STEELEYE SPAN & THE CARNIVAL BAND)
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A founding member (in 1969) and and lead singer of Steeleye Span. Who can forget those words: “All around my hat I will wear the green willow……..And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it, It’s all for my true love who’s far, far away…”. It’s about a young man whose fiancée has been sentenced to 7 years transportation to Australia. He mourns his loss by wearing a green willow sprig in his hat. Excellent voice range, and a number of projects jointly with the Carnival Band have produced albums of folk versions of many of the old hymns, demonstrate how good it is. Still going strong today.
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There are of course many more (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy, Dido, for example) I could have included but the list would never finish. You will have your own favourites and maybe mine might seem a bit old or not of interest but they’re mine and I love them! All I’d say is have a listen before you discard them. If JM & MP have survived for 40 years or more in a very fickle business they must have something special about them; likewise those whose lives were cut short but are still remembered & played today. Go on, give them a listen.

The most annoying woman ever?

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Ok, I’ve got an exercise DVD in my cupboard somewhere which is gathering dust because I refuse to watch it. I’ll tell you why.

Where to start? Firstly, its Kettlebell workout which, when you start to watch it, turns out there’s not a kettlebell in sight. She uses a dumb-bell, which isn’t used the same way at all. She keeps telling me to hold it by the base or the handle and it’s always wrong. So already I’m swallowing down extreme annoyance just to have it on.

The main reason though, is because this woman never stops talking! And I mean, never. It’s constant. Just a flow of nonsense words. Here is a sample minute from the workout:

“Ok, we’re going to do some renegade squats now! We’re renegades! Moving side to side. They’re not static squats. We don’t stay still. We’re renegades. They’re renegade squats! Like we’re in the army! We’re on the move! Renegade squats! Ok, four more of these. They’re really good for your thighs. Renegade squats! Working our gluts! Hold that weight! Squat! Ok, put your weight down. Great. We’re just going to do some lunges. Over to your left. Put your back foot back (yes, she says that, what on earth is a ‘back foot’?). Reach, reach, reach, feel the stretch. Ok, get your weight again. I want you to hold it by the handle in your left hand. And curl, curl, curl. In kettlebell training this is called a clean. So clean! Clean! Clean! Great. That’s great. You’re doing great. Ok, and squats. Static squats this time. We’re not renegades. Amazing. You’re doing a fantastic job. And legs together and twist from side to side. We’re twisting from our hips here. Holding our weight. Working the waist. Yeh, working out that waist. Can you feel it? On the waist. We’ll have nice toned waists. Your body shapes the way you move it. If you move it in a long lean way, it’ll shape that way. Ok, let your biceps take over with this one. They’ll guide the movement. That’s the thing about kettlebell, your body moves in a co-ordinated way…..”

On… and on…. and on….

And that’s just one small section. Often I can tell what I need to do from watching her so she doesn’t need all this talking. It’s beyond irritating. I once stopped the video so I could sit down and write a bad review of it on Amazon. It’s ridiculous.

I thought about whether to get it out this morning and have a little workout and then I remembered. I remembered how my equilibrium is always unbalanced after watching it because it annoys me so much. Maybe I should try watching it muted and putting my own music on?? Ah! I may have hit upon something here.

Y is for…

YGGDRASIL!

(I’m handing over to the guest blogger again today.)

Yggdrasil is defined as: “An immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology on which the nine worlds existed” (Wikipedia). Apparently, in old Norse, it means “Odin’s Horse”.

What? You’ve never heard of it? A Google search throws up just over 3.5 million results (including pictures & drawings of seemingly endless variety!). Among those, on the first few pages are some intriguing examples:

1. Yggdrasil – the board game. On sale at Amazon for around $35-40.

2. Yggdrasil – a Swedish band (apparently of the genre “folk metal” – an oxymoron of a music type if ever I heard one!). Visit their MySpace site for latest info but some knowledge of written & spoken Swedish would be useful. Their debut album was “Kvällningsvindar Över Nordrönt Land.” (For those of you, without Swedish as a first language, it translates to: “Evening Winds Over Northern Lands”).

3. Yggdrasil – http://www.yggdrasil.com/ is the 7th result in the list and is a domain name which is up for sale. Yours for a mere $16,990 (£10,500)! Go on treat yourself!

4. Yggdrasil Afghan – This is a knitted blanket (or throw) based on the world tree idea from Norse mythology.

There are millions of other Yggdrasil results but perhaps one of the oddest is on the “nationstates.net” site which tells us there are 140 nations in Yggdrasil and if you look down the list you can see the different ones with their flags and main characteristics. Unreality springs to mind!

Odd word perhaps, to many of you – special to me. Why? Because I can remember exactly when I first learnt it and when I used it in an essay for the first and only time, ever – UNTIL NOW!

Why so memorable? It begins with me having to sit an English Literature exam many years ago. I was not good at Eng Lit. Prior to the exam I thought it might be a good idea to improve my chances of passing by learning some new words and slip them into some of the essays to make my work look better than it really was. Along with “Yggdrasil” I remember learning “amorphous” but can’t remember the others because I couldn’t work them into my answers. How did I come across “amorphous” & “yggdrasil”? Easy. I just flicked through the pages of the dictionary on our bookshelf at home. When I saw Yggdrasil I thought it looked quite unusual and would demonstrate my supposedly superior vocabulary skills.

Exam day arrives. I file into the hall. I sit down. When instructed, I “turn the paper over”. I begin the rehearsed pre-exam routine: spend the first few minutes reading all the questions thoroughly. Don’t start writing straight away in case you miss something later on. We’d had a reading list, of approx 50 books grouped into 5 blocks. We were told that, in the exam, there would be 5 sections, each with about 5 questions. As it was impossible to read and remember the plots and characters for all 50 books, we were told you could pick about 10 (2 from each section) and that should give you the ability to answer one from each of the required sections without too much trouble. Easy? Well, providing you’d done the work. I hadn’t. I’d read only 6-7 books, hoping to have done enough. My 5 minute look over the paper confirmed I hadn’t! I was ok for essays in Sections 1,2, & 3 but 4 looked tricky and in 5 I couldn’t do any of the questions. In section 4 there was a question along the lines of “Describe what John & Sally” – made up names because I can’t remember the exact ones in the question – “saw on their journey through the forest”. My extra words sprang to mind. I thought I could work a few into this question with descriptions of parkland, forest and some of that atmospheric mist drifting about etc. I’d have to give the 5th essay a miss and hope I would score enough on the four I could do. 1st mistake. I set off scribbling away on the first three essays and then finally came to what, I imagined, John & Sally saw on their journey. I breathed a sigh of relief as I put the pen down and the papers were collected. On the way out I did, as you tend to do, ask friends which ones they’d picked to answer. It was then I discovered my rather glaring mistake as a friend said, of the (John & Sally) question I had answered, “I couldn’t do that because I hadn’t read the book with them in.” “Book?” I said, rather glumly, immediately realising then, that I written a whole essay which was a complete fabrication. 2nd mistake. I’d been so determined to get my unusual words into an answer that I hadn’t related it to any, let alone “the”, book on the course at all! Doh!

The lesson was and still is today: concentrate – especially on the wording of each question on the paper.

Oh, and of course, I’ve never forgotten the word; I didn’t fool the exam markers; and, not surprisingly, I failed that particular exam – mea culpa!

Here’s a quote from a 2008 Graham Lockey poem actually called, “Yggdrasil”:

“Mysteries unravel in the time-wide shade
Thrown by Yggdrasil,
And under Yggdrasil
I solved the riddle of it all
And found what smiles lead to.
I’m bringing that smile home to you.”

I hope this ramble, from real life, did bring a smile to your face, wherever you are.