Sunday, 28 December 2008

It is a curious fact...

... that in Cantonese, there is no way of saying "my backing singers are in tune":

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Marriage, perception and memory

Surely I cannot be alone in my uneasy feeling that my lawfully wedded spouse and I inhabit parallel universes. This could explain the commercial success of books like "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Newcastle" or whatever the overhyped tomfoolery was called.

The rift in human perception on which it drew was recently brought to mind by a discussion of 'the incident at Heathrow' some years ago during which a caster became disengaged from the bottom of the oversized piece of luggage upon the bottom of which it had started the day.

My recollection is that it was a poorly made piece of luggage, dangerously overloaded by its female owner and unwisely trusted to the vagaries of airport floors and killer baggage carousels rather than the adoption of the sounder policy of keeping your luggage within the limit you can carry and lifting it clear of the floor. While getting out of the lift between the car park and the concourse, a wheel slipped into the gap between lift and floor and broke off, a fact that cannot be in any way blamed on the helpful, chivalrous gentleman attempting to drag it (and three other bags) at the time.

My wife's recollection is that rather than lift the thing clear of the sill 'like someone with common sense', I first got it jammed out of sheer malevolence and then spent fully 20 minutes pulling fruitlessly at it as queues built up around me, until overwhelmed by a combination of my Herculean strength the extent of which I apparently don't realise and the violence of my language - which allegedly attained a command of demotic Anglo-Saxon so advanced that students of linguistics within 200 metres got out pads and pencils and started feverishly making notes as their eyebrows ascended high into the stratosphere - the poor abused suitcase gave up and shed its wheel into the liftshaft where it subsequently 'must have' caused mechanical failure and congestion on a Biblical scale, too vast ever to have been noticed by anyone.

I suspect I can guess which demographic groups will instinctively believe each version.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

On the subject of Slavic music videos...

Before I get over this music video-posting craze and get back to serious blogging - Noted cultural commentator Gadjo Dilo has recently posted some interesting Ukrainian music videos. In a spirit of serious musicology, I would like to share the following video - Russian band ANJ's tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev, dealing with some seriously heavy political and economic issues within the music video form - with the three people in the world who haven't seen it yet:

But for other serious Southeast Asia specialists, I present an interesting art rock US/Cambodian fusion band ("Oh God, not another one" I hear you cry):

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Gyppo's video jukebox...

In a feeble attempt to match the technological nous of others, I hereby present an attempt to get a video to play on here. This is the 'Song of Peace' from Tony Gatlif's 2002 film 'Swing'. I particularly recommend the bit at 3' when Gypsies gatecrash an earnest peacenik 'everyone sing together' exercise with some kick-arse swing. Sharing Tony Gatlif's biases, I thoroughly approve:

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Smartening up rap music

As my colleague and time-wasting companion No Good Boyo has recently explained, he and I have come up with a plot to render rap, hip - and furthermore hop - music socially acceptable by asking the conceptual question "If this was being recited tunelessly over a repetitive rhythm by a decent chap with a sound public-school classical education under his correctly positioned and properly-tightened belt rather than a mumbling ghetto indigene with his trousers slipping down around his unwashed ankles, what words would be used?"

This train of thought led to the previous post, which - arriving unannounced and unexplained like a Burmese baby in a cardboard box on a Tory MP's doorstep as it did - seems to have confused more than it amused.

While Boyo applied his misshapen head to the improvement of Mr Schoolly D's lyrical outpourings (though he was unable to answer my query as to whether the School in question was Charterhouse or Winchester), I turned instead to Mr 50 Cent, duly relabelled 'Mr Ten Shillings'; whose 'In da club' I have thus reworked for a more upmarket-audience, to be sung to an appropriately uplifting tune:

At One's Club
Proceed, young lady chap, it's your birthday
We shall celebrate as if it's your birthday,
We shall sip Chateau Lafitte (the 92) as if it's your birthday,
And you know we're not unduly concerned that it isn't actually your birthday!

You can find one at one's club,
A magnum full of champagne
Look Mater I have a bag of ether,
If you fancy the idea of illegal substances I would not be averse to intimacy
So come give me a hug if you need the application of embrocation
When I park, you see the Bentley badge
Decent chaps heard I put one over on Dre*,
Now their appreciation has appreciated appreciably
When you sell like M&Ms, and the garden tools they wish to use
If you watch how I move you'll mistake me for a professional cricketer...

It continues, but is anyone going to read even this far?

*Presumably Reginald 'Tooler' Dre, leg spinner for Northants 1953-60

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Jeevz N da Hood

It was one of those mornings when, as Jeeves once put it, God's in his heaven and all's right in the world, if that's the phrase I'm after. Jeeves would doubtless know.
When he shimmered in with the morning tea I did detect a certain frostiness about his manner, doubtless the result of his sulking over my purchases of a gold tracksuit, Air Jordans, a Malcolm X baseball cap and copious amounts of bling.
"Dashitall Jeeves - one must move with the times, don't you know. This gear is all the rage at the Drones Club."
"Indeed, sir."
"I mean, Tupac Fotherington-Thomas has promised to teach some of the chaps to break-dance. It's this frightfully jolly dance where you spin round on your head, apparently."
"I fear that Mr Fortherington-Thomas may be unable to impart his skill in that particular exercise of terpsichorean agility today, sir."
"What on earth are you blabbering about, Jeeves?" I retorted. Brainy as the chap may be, he sometimes fails to make sense at all.
"One heard from Mr 'Biggy' Little's manservant Beddoes that Fotherington-Thomas showed disrespect to Mr Little, upon which Mr Little's homies took him for a ride in Mr Little's stretch limo and popped a cap in his mother****ing ass, sir."
I reeled. "Oh I say Jeeves! Hardly the act of a preux chevalier, what?"
"Indeed not, sir."
As I sipped the refreshing brew my head seemed to clear somewhat.
"Yes sir?"
"Do you really think the bling gear is a frost?"
"Yes, sir."
"You'd probably better get rid of it."
"Thank you sir. I already have"

Thursday, 4 December 2008

My life as a French farce

Looking back over what I can remember of my chequered career, the incidents which stand out with the greatest and most appaling clarity are the ones involving the highest degree of buttock-clenching embarrasment.

The one which stands out particularly as being the sort of incident which - if I wrote it into a sitcom script - would be most obviously cut as contrived and implausible, happened when a student couple, both of whom I knew well, split up.

I was in my flat attempting to deal telephonically with a terrible crisis which had befallen a language student friend, and to cope with which I had to buy them a plane ticket home from their 'year abroad', when there was a knock at the door.

It was a tearful young lady - let us call her Beatrix for the sake or argument - who informed me that she had just chucked her boyfriend, an acned youth (let us call him Rodney) whose relationship with the sweet and extremely pretty Beatrix was a mystery to all. "Go and have a seat in the living room", I told her, "I'll be with you in a moment."

I then reapplied myself to the intricacies of coping with the multiple-choice button-pressing telecommunications nightmare that was the BA booking line in the early 90s, when I was interrupted once more by a knock at the door.

I gurgled helplessly as Rodney strode in, saying "I've just split up with Beatrix, I need a drink..." and made his own way to the living room. It was a good 10 minutes before I could join them, during which I gather silent recrimination was the order of the day.

Both eventually forgave me, though never each other, curiously enough.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Glimpses into forgotten worlds - 3

A kind colleague brought an absolute treasure into the office the other day - a copy of Major W. Turner's 1943 "Guide to Military Urdu", including a sample elementary examination paper. It belonged to her father, who served in India during and shortly after WWII.

As you would expect, it is a magnificent collection of phrases which no pith-helmeted, khaki-shorted gentleman should be without:
"Your rifle is dirty, why have you not cleaned it?"
"How many mules have you brought?"
"We shall be able to capture the position in half an hour."
"Tell the men not to clean their rifles with sand-paper."

There are sections devoted to military discipline:
"March the prisoner in."
"You are charged with disobeying the Havaldar's orders"
"- Being absent from parade on Saturday morning."

Bayonet training:
"Don't bend the left arm so much."
"Keep the right arm against the butt."
"Make the 'withdraw' in the same line as you pointed."

Anti-gas training:
"What is the first aid for mustard gas casualties?"

And enrolment of new troops:
"You will not allow your caste usages to interfere with military requirements."
"Look here! I am going to ask you six questions. You will have to answer them truthfully."

But overall - disappointingly - it lacks the crusty, bat-stretching insanity of the slightly earlier "Malay Made Simple" or "The Modern Pushtu Instructor".

Until we get to the sample examination. Here, we start to get slightly more entertaining phrases:
"He got up and threw an orange at the Havildar."
"We hoped that the train would start again, quickly, as we saw a man coming towards us. when he got near, we all began to sing."

Best of all is a story regaring a man's ill-advised kindness towards a snake on a cold day, which concludes:
"The man got very angry and killed the evil snake with a stick. That snake was just like the Japanese. We must remember this story, and never let the Japanese get into our homes."

I showed this to Mr Shandonger, whose respect for the Indian Army rose appreciably...