the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Lockdown 2021: Day 19

Hello and good morning from 0438 am. I woke up about an hour ago, lay in bed with nothing but my thoughts for company and one persisted for so long that I was gripped by an overwhelming desire to share it.

Just a quick recap before though. For all of this year, I’ve been averaging roughly 3 hours sleep a night, and when I write roughly, I mean roughly. When I wake up, that’s it, I never go back to sleep, just lay there thinking until I fitfully drowse some time later. For the last few nights, being determined to break the cycle, I’ve forced myself to get up at 10am and tough it out until midnight and then go to bed. Sadly, while the mind may well be willing, the flesh is weak and wakes up at what-the-fuck-o’clock. So now you’re up to speed.

Yesterday I saw a headline on the BBC that was as inevitable as it was indicative of the times in which we live in now.

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over the nation’s attempt to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers.

Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content.

But the US firms have fought back, warning the law would make them withdraw some of their services.

Tech firms have faced increasing pressure to pay for news content in other countries, including France, where Google struck a landmark deal with media outlets on Thursday.

In Australia, the proposed news code would tie Google and Facebook to mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if no agreement could be reached first.

The article then goes on to point out blah, blah and blah, with Google bleating on about this that. It occurred to me that google are nothing more than the digital worlds equivalent of tobacco firms; they get people hooked on their product, make money hand over fist, but when lawmakers threaten regulatory action, get all stroppy and threaten to take their ball away.

Google believes in free speech all right, but free as in free to make money from the content that others have paid to generate in the first place. The irony that I’ve copied and pasted from a BBC news article about paying for content that I haven’t, isn’t lost on me.

Lockdown 2021: Day 11

I’m thinking of the ‘Morecambe and Wise’ Christmas Special of 1971. You know, back when Christmas Specials were actually special. Anyway they had Andre Previn on, the world famous conductor, taking time off from his normal bus route to appear on the show. Ostensibly there to conduct an ornestra in a rendition of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with Morecambe on piano. Previn halts proceedings when he accuses Morecambe of playing all the wrong notes.

To which Morecambe replies ‘I am playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order.’ That’s how my sleep has been over the last few days. The right amount of hours to be sure, but at the wrong time of day. Seven hours of sleep might be what one aims for, but if you start that seven hours at seven in the morning, like I did last night refreshed you are not.

And the worst thing is, that when you do wake up, you feel so knackered, so tired and so utterly butterly, that all you want to do is stay in bed. But you know that if you do that, then you’ll have another late one.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised last year when I heard to original version of this. Until that moment, I had no idea that the version I’d always assumed was the original, wasn’t.

Lockdown 2021: Day 10

You know that feeling you get when something you’ve been looking forward to, only for it to massively disappoint you? Netflix’s ‘A History of Swear Words’ gave me that feeling yesterday.

‘A History of Swear Words’ is a six episode series with each episode focusing on one swear word per episode, and the first one exploring the word ‘fuck’  Or f**k, as the programme description has it, adding that fuck ‘ is the silly putty of the English Language, our most malleable swear word can refer to sex, rage, confusion, excitement and whole lot more.’ They stressed repeatedly how fuck was the most offensive of swear words, in a classic case trying to convince us of something we know to be patently untrue. We know what the most offensive swear word is, and it’s so offensive that by ignoring it, the series only highlights this fact.

The rest of the series focuses on ‘sh*t’, ’bitch, d**k, Pu**y and damn. Fucking hell! Is damn a swear word? Are they taking the piss? Clearly, as piss isn’t even mentioned and neither is arse. Additionally, they only focus on English swear words, which is a shame, because other languages have much more wonderfully descriptive and offensive swear words. I went to a Catholic boys school, which means I can – or could before my brain injury fucked my speech – call your mother a whore and worse in Polish, question your fathers sexuality in Greek, your sisters dubious morals in Nigerian and your brothers flagrant opportunism in Turkish. The most offensive swear word I’ve ever used – well two actually – is Italian and I never thought that bad until, that is, I used it in an argument with an Italian. It was the verbal equivalent of throwing a hand grenade into proceedings, which would’ve been useful for me to know before I casually pulled the pin. Big mistake.   

‘A History of Swear Words’ is billed as a comedy, but with pretensions towards being a serious documentary, complete with academics on hand to provide some spurious credibility to proceedings. I had intended to watch it with the sound off and the subtitles on, to see how they’d cope, thinking that’d be the funniest thing. But the biggest joke of all was how they managed to avoid mentioning the most offensive swear word of all.

Which is what I thought the proramme makers were a bunch of.

There could only be one choice clip to accompany this post, couldn’t there. The first time I heard this, I was fifteen, had just bought the album, thought I was alone in the house, had it on full blast, went to the toilet, only for it suddenly to be turned off. Mum had arrived back. Comedy genius’s or not, swearing was swearing but this was off the scale..

Lockdown 2021: Day 8

Well that was certainly an unexpected turn of events, unexpected that is, to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to politics since they were born. I refer of course to the news that in the US, senior Republican’s have tuned on Trump, reversing their previous defence of the President against impeachment proceedings.

Their sudden realization that the result of cross-fertilizing a bad tempered orangutan with Arthur Daley had somehow become the president had nothing whatsoever with them calculating he’d become the political equivalent of Heineken. In 2016, Trump managed the seemingly impossible, and convinced large swathes of the politically marignalised to vote for him. How exactly this billionaire hoodwinked the disenfranchised to vote for him is an enduring mystery, but vote for him they did, and so, like Heineken, he revived a largely ignored increasingly dismissed electoral base. Of course he did,, Trump represented the best voice they’d heard in years of elections, years when they hadn’t voted – hell years when them not voting was seen as confirming just how right the political establishment was in ignoring them in them. Trump beating Hilary Clinton in 2016 was yet another example of people voting the wrong way, people acting without first reading the script.

But like Heineken, his time passed, and in the same way as someone who’s had too much Heineken, he became increasingly unstable and therefore a political liability to others. One has to ask then, when did these same senior Republicans who are withdrawing their support for Trump decide the game was up? What changed? Only a cynic of the very highest order would suggest that their sudden commitment to democratic norms has anything to do with him having a week left in office anyway? And that if .the impeachment process does find him guilty, he’ll be unable to run for President in 2024.

Like so many other political leaders before him, once he was seen a political liability rather than an asset, the inevitable happens. The sharks smell blood in the water; move in for kill and a feeding frenzy begins.  

As bizarre circumstance would have it, I started watching ‘House of Cards’ yesterday, the Netflix version. It rather bears out the political truism that everyone is expedient, that everyone can – and ultimately will – be replaced. As soon as Kevin Spacey was seen as toxic, ratings kryptonite, he was dropped.

However, lets move away from such tawdry business and instead enjoy the Euro-Disco bubblegum pop that is ‘Dolce Vita’ by Ryan Paris. I hadn’t realised how cheap and rank the video is, made in a time when that sort of thing, filming as many attractive girls as you could to hide the fact you only had two days to shot the video, was considered viable optionActually, it sums up Trump perfectly; crass, sexist, and hopefully, a one hit wonder.

Lockdown 2021: Day 8

Nosferatu read my post of yesterday and suggested that the only person feeling any worse from my late night/early morning navel gazing was me and to this end, for today’s post, I’m going to deal with something altogether more cheery.

Deaths from COVID.

I’m not being flippant or deliberately provocative here. But logical reasoning, analytical deduction and comparative analysis, make any other interpretation of the data sheer nonsense, if not a deliberate falsehood. Yes, I think COVID is real, and a real threat to life, the two notions sit quite comfortably together in my head. Just because I think that the data has been misinterpreted, it doesn’t therefore follow that I think the whole COVID thing is a hoax.

But the incidence of deaths from COVID, relative to the amount of tests carried out and the subsequent number of positive test results from them, are good news. More than good actually, bloody fantastic!

As of Monday 11th of January, the last time any new data was uploaded onto https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details the amount of coronavirus tests carried out was just over 56,000,000. Of those, just under 3,200,000 were positive.

Or about 6%. But it gets even better. Or worse, depending on your point of view, but for now, I’m going to go with better.

Because of that 6%, guess how many die? Come on, were all adults here, no place for wishy-washy sentimentality here, how many? Just under 82,000. So if we take that 6% and turn it into 100%, that 82,00 becomes 2.6%.

So naturally enough, I then ask myself what’s the percentage of deaths relative to the total amount of tests carried out? And what does that give us?  Less than 0.25%  Yup, for a virus that has in little over a year managed to completely overturn everything we took for granted in our old lives and at the same time, cost the UK government nearly as much as the financial crisis of 2008, it hasn’t killed that many people, has it?

Actually, it may be less than that, less than 2.6% or 82,000 or 0.25% or whatever number we choose. Because that’s…..another post. Of course every death is a tragedy and one feels for the bereaved, but sympathy shouldn’t inhibit our ability to look at the data as just numbers.  Numbers don’t lie – unless that number is £350 million painted on the side of a coach – but emotions do, sentimentality does, Before I go, I’ll just leave you with what I consider to be one best movie endings ever.

Lockdown 2021: Day 7

Well hello from what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-awake-o’clock, or as its better known, 6.07 am. I really did go to bed at just after midnight and just as with last night – is last night actually last night – and those preceding it, my mind was bedeviled by thoughts. As I wrote yesterday, the older one gets, the more one has to think about; what you should’ve done, what you shouldn’t have done, what might’ve happened had you, what might not have happened had you, that sort of thing. Except this time, I had my own ball of string to help me navigate my way back through the labyrinth ,well not back exactly but back to when it all started to go wrong, the moment when I chose the path which has by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, led me here.

I was ten’ish and it was time to chose which secondary school I’d be going to. In the usual course of events, one’s parents would see it as their solemn duty, nee privilege, to be entrusted so important an undertaking. Well, the problem was that my childhood didn’t follow the usual course of events. For all the interest my parents took, I’d have been better off hiring a firm of undertakers to help me. It was left down to me. I had to badger and cajole my mum to take me along to the local schools opening evenings. I was the child who asked all the questions, I was the child who would wander off to find the places they didn’t want you to see, I was the child who the pupils who’d been specially chosen to show the school in a good light hated. I was the one who studied and compared the prospectuses.

So how then did I get it so catastrophically wrong? Why then did I think that choosing a secondary school that no-one from my primary school was going to, indeed had ever been to, was a good idea? Why didn’t anyone point out the potential – which were soon to become all too real – pitfalls of such a choice? What was more pressing, more urgent, more deserving of their time to address? In what universe could anyone think ‘Sure, he’s only a child, but he’s always been a bit, y’know…so I’m sure it’ll all work out’

Looking back, that’s when it started to go wrong. The first decision I can remember taking about what direction I wanted my life to head in, was a complete disaster. Mind you, its not as if I’m the only person to have had these thoughts – or ones similar to them – at shitting-crikey o’clock.

Time for some music, methinks. I think this fits the mood rather nicely.

Lockdown 2021: Day 6

I don’t know what’s wrong with me – well apart from brain damage obviously – but specifically, the last week or so, the not sleeping thing. Last night being a case in point, In bed relatively early – midnight – then lay awake, unable to sleep. Thinking about things. And the older one gets, the more one has to think about; what you should’ve done, what you shouldn’t have done, what might’ve happened had you done this, what might not have happened had you not done that A veritable labyrinth of endless possibility to bedevil one and keep sleep at bay.

When it came eventually near 7am than 6am, it was nether deep or refreshing. It was the kind of sleep that bizarrely one feels worse for after having. That’s possibly because you know that the cycle has to be broken somehow, you just don’t know exactly how.

So tonight will be fun!

Anyhow, here is some of Michael Nyman’s’ rejected score for the film ‘Practical Magic’.

Lockdown 2021: Day 5

Today there was news that should’ve sent a chill through the heart of every so-called liberal. But as I’ve noted before on this blog, the thing about liberals is that they are not liberal. I mean they say all the right things, read the right books, listen to the right things, eat all the right food, but when push comes to shove, when a difficult decision has to be made, they take the easy route. Not that it should be a difficult decision when Twitter have permanently suspended Donald Trumps account and anyone who believes in free speech, as I imagine most liberals would claim to support the principle of, should be outraged by this.

But hey, its Donald Trump and we don’t like him. Don’t like what he says and we don’t much like the people who agree with him either.  So we don’t care, in fact this should’ve happened long ago. He doesn’t conform to idea’s of what statesman-like behaviour is.

But the inherent paradox of free speech is that if you believe in it, it must apply to everyone. One can’t deny free speech to someone whose opinions disgust you. You have to defend their right to free speech with as much vigour as you would defend the right of someone you vehemently disagree with. Arguably more so.

And the fact that Twitter have decided to do this, interpreting their own rules with all the consistency of tomato soup, is even more chilling. Because whilst the usual assortment of ‘celebrities’, politicians, has been’s and never were’s have praised Twitter for their action, without being aware of the irony of them doing so on the very platform that Trump is banned from, they are not aware of the very steep slope they are standing on the edge of.  Again, another paradox presents itself. If a corporation such as Twitter can ban someone permanently from using its product, doesn’t that mean they can ban anyone? Has that not dawned on these people, and anyone else who thinks it’s a good thing that Twitter have banned him. Are they so wrapped in their own self-righteousness, so focused on the transient appeal of virtue signaling, that they are blind to this inescapable fact?

I don’t like Donald Trump. But that doesn’t mean he should suffer a fate that I wouldn’t want.

Be that as it may, onto happier thoughts. When I was packing up my stuff and preparing to move house, often I would find myself going on a musical journey with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Here he is performing ‘Blu’ with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Lockdown 2021: Day 4

As I have observed a few times on this blog before, things that other people find shocking are not shocking to me but are rather a wholly predictable event. It may one that may be alarming and a cause for concern but they are not shocking, not least to me anyways. What is shocking, however, is that other people find the same wholly predictable event shocking and that this fallacious opinion becomes a truism by dint of the media deeming it as such.

The events at the US Capitol buildings the other day are but the latest example of what might be charitably called ‘reaction inflation’ inasmuch as the reaction to the event is much greater than the event warrants. Of course the storming of the US Capitol building by protesters was deeply concerning, but was it shocking? Really? I mean shocking in an unexpected, unforeseen way, in a before-it happened-you-never-thought-it-would way. Like a piano falling off a building and crushing someone to death way or a spear of frozen urine flushed from a plane impaling someone, ‘The Omen’ style?  That’s shocking. Donald Trumps supporters running amok, causing mayhem? Not so much.

Is it shocking or just one more in a long line of wholly inevitable consequences of us living in a digital echo chamber. The age of confirmation bias, one where opinions and beliefs, no matter how risible, misleading or offensive they are – are widely shared amongst others who think the same.

So really, what is the difference between the US protesters who caused so little damage but so many headlines and the murderer of Jo Cox MP? Of Donald Trump claiming that there was fraud and irregularities in the US presidential election count and Gina Millers’  legal actions to try to prevent the UK government from carrying out the will of the people? Or of the UK Supreme Court ruling that the UK government had acted unlawfully in trying to do just that and Donald Trump, on his 2016 presidential campaign, threatening to ‘lock her up’, her being Hilary Clinton.

Apart from the effects of these actions, they are all I believe on the same spectrum. Each at different points, granted, but on there nonetheless, part of the growing refusal to accept that others have beliefs, that while different from ones own, are as equally valid and deserving of defence. That’s what democracy is about fundamentally, because, as Voltaire wrote, “I may not agree with your opinion, but I’ll defend to the death your right to have it’.

Anyway, enough of that, and onto this, something I heard on an Radio One’s ‘Essential Mix’ late last year, only to find out it had been recorded in 1979!  It sounds a bit like Goldfrapp, well it does to me

Oh, that roast beef dinner I had last night? My stomach wants you to know it was fantastic.

Lockdown 2021: Day 3

Well today started badly enough, the afternoon was even worse, and lets just all join together in prayer to our Lord to ask him to make tonight a bit better.

I’m joking of course, not about the day mind, but about praying to make things better. Nosferatu is taking care of that, by the clever use of a roast beef dinner.

I wrote yesterday that thanks to you tube, accessing music has never been simpler. And to underline that point, here is the rave classic ‘Bombscare’ by 2 Bad Mice.Thanks the way you tube compresses music – me neither, and had I’ve people try to bore me to their death with it – the muffled sound for the last minute or so is actually the sort of bass that was magnificently devastating in clubs!