Been away for a bit and although I could have blogged from another desk, I do like to take a break from being online.
I am now unloading a bit randomly, in the interests of getting a few new posts up, so the theme for the time being is just …
Awaiting filing …
READING FOR BOYS
One of my maybe-someday projects is a collection of clippings which might interest lads learning to read. I once did a bit of teaching with some and was struck by the shortage of suitable material.
If I was a teacher, I would be bookmarking the impressive bit of research which enabled the Guardian to run a story on 12.2.14 saying:
When British forces pull down the union jack for the last time in Afghanistan this year, it will be a hugely symbolic moment. It is not just that the departure marks the end of 13 years of British involvement in combat in that troubled country. The surprise is that it could also signal the end of a century or more of unbroken warfare by British forces.
Next year may be the first since at least 1914 that British soldiers, sailors and air crews will not be engaged in fighting somewhere – the first time Britain is totally at peace with the rest of the world
The back-up material, offering opportunities for reading and research, is all at http://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2014/feb/100-years-of-war/index.html#24/
Another good subject for further exploration is, of course, the story of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, the Mexican fisherman who apparently survived more than a year adrift at sea by eating turtles, fish and birds, and drinking their blood. There was a good line in one report I read about how he survived by holding his nose so he could swallow raw flesh without being sick but his young companion could not do it, and died.
DADS TO LADS: ON MAKING TEA AND COOKING STEAK
Recently I bought an old copy of Katharine Whitehorn’s book Cooking In A Bedsitter, to give to the next niece or nephew to leave home. It was part of the survival kit my dad gave me. And seeing it again planted the thought that there must be room for a more comprehensive guide to running your own home – a collection to be called, possibly, Dads To Lads.
I would offer, for a start, a collection of recipes for the bleeding obvious, including a guide to making tea with loose leaves.
In preparation for these notes, I did some rough sums which I hoped would have a more dramatic outcome. Here they are anyway –
I get two cups per teaspoonful of loose Yorkshire Tea, and could get three. At two cups per spoonful, I calculate the cost to be less than 3.5p a cup (250 g = £6.40 and 250g = 8.8 oz and six teaspoons = 1 oz). A cup made from a teabag of the same brand, bought in bulk, costs about 5p – although, to be fair, a teabag will also usually make two cups if you bother.
Still, less environmental impact and a better cuppa the old way and it’s not that hard. I use a Japanese iron pot, which warms up easily and has a removable strainer to hold the leaves, so disposal of the used leaves is easy.
* Warm the pot. Pour the hot water from the pot into the cups. Put in the tea and add water. Swirl 20 times after two minutes and leave to settle. Empty cups into washing-up bowl, so heat stays in kitchen, and pour tea.
Agreed, it’s not much so far. But more coming later.
For now, I can add in a guide to cooking steak from chef Jason Atherton in Guardian of, I think, 8.3.08 …
All timings are for an 8-10 oz steak cooked on a normal chargrill:
Rare Three minutes a side (internal temperature 60C); rest for seven minutes.
Medium-rare Four minutes a side (internal temperature 64C); rest for six minutes.
Medium Five minutes a side (internal temperature 68C); rest for six minutes.
Medium-well Six minutes a side (internal temperature 70C); rest for five minutes.
Well-done Seven minutes a side (internal temperature 78C); rest for five minutes.
JAZZ FOR THE MASSES
After years of trying to like jazz, my conclusion is that I don’t, naturally, but I could easily make up an album of exceptions.
Might as well admit one of them would be Take Five by Dave Brubeck and because of that I noted a line in a Guardian obituary of guitarist Ronny Jordan which said he was “famous for crossing a hurdle – vaulted by Dave Brubeck and very few others – when he turned a jazz instrumental into a pop hit (with his) hip-hop- and funk-influenced version of the Miles Davis theme So What.”
I found and liked a dance mix of Jordan’s recording …
Same article, I think, got my funnybone again by recommending Sunday Morning by Grant Green …
Another 10 recommendations in this area to follow later.
Meanwhile, front page of the on-music strand of my blog is at
Must check out Ruth Wallis, famous for her “party records” – regularly seized by customs and other authorities – in the 1940s and 50s. YouTube has a clip of her on tour in Australia, which has a museum in her memory, although she was a Yank. YouTube also has more than one drag-queen cover of her greatest hit, You Gotta Have Boobs. Her songs made up an acclaimed off-Broadway hit called Boobs: The Musical, performed at various venues in the USA 2003-2005. Seeking film. Meanwhile, see songmeanings.com for the lyrics, which start …
You’ve gotta have boobs/.If you want to impress/ Tycoons and rubes/
You need boobs to fill out a sweater/You need 2 but 3 might be better/(That’s one in the back for dancing)/Doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doo/
You’ve gotta be stacked/Hey, you gotta be grouped/Individually packed
Ruth is clearly essential for inclusion in my upcoming essay Classic Filth, for my blog strand on music at https://hack4hire.wordpress.com/category/aa-online-and-off/
Meanwhile, You Gotta Have Boobs would make a good party piece and that’s another angle to be blogged later, along with the words for Pub With No Beer and I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper. Send me more suggestions, please.
Another contender for Classic Filth, already discussed in my blog somewhere, is the song Pussy Pussy Pussy, originally by the Light Crust Doughboys. Can’t trace it offhand so I’ve just reposted it at
Also to be checked out is a George Clinton album, Hey Man Smell My Finger. It got a mention in a Clinton interview in the Guardian in which the great man claimed: “The music we did was the DNA for hip-hop.”
* PS, George’s nomination for funkiest white band was The Average White Band.
David Boyle, Observer 19.1.14, offered a starting point for discussion on what is nowadays the “middle class”.
He wrote (edited sample):
One reason the middle-class debate is so fraught in the UK is that the phrase means very different things to different people. Is it used in the snobbish sense – sharp-elbowed, privately educated, fee-paying parents? Or is it used in the American sense – anyone neither extraordinarily rich nor experiencing grinding poverty?
Most indicators suggest that the American definition is winning. The old definition – you are middle class if you have a “white-collar job”, paid monthly – would apply to most people working these days. So when Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg talk about the middle classes, they do so as a way of are categorising the majority of people in the UK.
Despite all the political rhetoric in their support, the middle classes find themselves without effective pensions, sidelined by an aggressive international class of mega-rich, their professional judgment shunned by targets and compliance, and – however hard they work and successful they become – there is a banker half their age whose bonus makes them look ridiculous.
SOCIOLOGY * HOUSING
Ian Martin, Observer 1.02.2014, tickled me with the following observations (lightly edited) …
Call me old-fashioned, again, but I’m increasingly irritated by the theory of “urban vibrancy”. It almost certainly had its origins in the post-millennial transformation of Shoreditch and now it’s everywhere, like artisanal bread at three quid a loaf.
“Vibrancy” infests those endless surveys revealing which is Britain’s most desirable town. One week it’s Aberdeen, the next it’s Bracknell. There’s usually a picture at the top of the story, with people in hats.
Martin says vibrancy surveys mean nothing to most of us because they are “just another of those masonic conversations between estate agents and buy-to-let investors, financial analysts and chancers, bankers and wankers”
Vibrant” is industry polari, shorthand for “high quotient of people who look like they’re in Fresh Meat but all with disposable income”.
Gentrification is nothing new. But this sinister trend of urban vibrancy is relatively new and, as with almost everything else that has occurred under this government, we should blame the lying shit Blair. It was on his watch that local authorities and developers updated their code for social cleansing.
Urban regeneration” had for years been the default wide-spectrum term for the demolition and rebuilding of clapped-out, post-industrial areas. Often it required private finance, so a masterplan would be jointly worked up by municipal herbivores from the planning department and suave carnivores with cruel smiles and business offices in Jersey. But the most enthusiastic champion of PFI wasn’t a Tory at all, but Labour’s John Prescott. For younger readers: Prescott was a Blairite mascot, deputy party leader, who reassured old Labour types. They wrongly assumed, because he looked and spoke like a pissed dustman, that he was keeping the socialist pilot light on.
One of Prescott’s projects was the Pathfinder initiative, a scheme to improve neighbourhoods in northern towns by demolishing acres of sound terraced homes and replacing them with investor-readable housing. The subtext was “build posh-looking, high-quality houses and you’ll attract posh-looking high-quality people”.
Now there’s not even the pretence that new housing is for the poor. Or that the government, having zipped every local authority into gimp suits, gives a flying toss what they think about anything. Social cleansing is under way in our major cities, and the poor are being systematically criminalised.
If you want to know what’s in the pipeline for our urban vibescape, look at the architecture magazines. They’re full of proposals from spatial alchemists with practice names in lower case. Marvel at the “contemporary” schemes submitted for planning permission. All housing is “luxury”. All communities, when the luxury micro-estate is complete, will be “vibrant”. There’s little storage or circulation space inside the flats. They’re aimed not at people who will settle, but people who will sleep there and then sell on in two years.”
This needs to be filed into my collection of quotes on Politics and Economics at https://hack4hire.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/quotes-politics-economics/
For an upcoming Filofacts (see https://hack4hire.wordpress.com/category/the-filofacts/ ) I am saving Victoria Moore, Guardian, laying down some general rules for buying cheapish wine.
She said her colleague Matthew Jukes (D. Mail and blog) recommended Beaujolais and Loire wines for value from France “on the grounds that even the best producers will often cost less than an average wine from elsewhere”. Victoria agreed and added: “Never choose sancerre or pouilly fume unless you know the producer. It’s probably only there because uncertain drinkers will be drawn to it like moths to a light, and there are not enough good sancerre to go round. Instead choose a Touraine sauvignon or an unfashionable white Bordeaux. The same goes for Chablis. For lemon pith, a little weight and sherbet glitter, look for a gavi from Italy instead; for minerals and dry chalk, try a dry chenin blanc from the Loire.”
Also in my files is a cutting of Suzy Atkins, Telegraph, saying Spanish cava is better value than Italian prosecco.
I don’t want to just throw it away but it is probably time to hand on the note I made when Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service launched a recruitment website. It’s at sis.gov.uk/careers/
More on this later, but if we are going to get along, you will be as interested as I am to come across an internet broadcasting source called the Texas Blues Café –
CAMBODIA UNDER POL POT
Even I counted my blessings after reading Telegraph reviewer Nicholas Shakespeare reviewing The Elimination: A survivor of the Khmer Rouge confronts his past, by Rithy Panh.
Shakespeare said: “Panh risked his life when he was caught reading the French label on a medicine box. Reading was forbidden, like marrying for love, or wearing coloured clothes, or praying.”
Best-read column in British newspapers, I would like to bet, is Jeff Howell’s Sunday Telegraph advice column, A Builder Gives It To You Straight.
I’ve been collecting tips from it for years, for my own Filofacts project – see some of that at https://hack4hire.wordpress.com/category/the-filofacts/
The following clipping reminded me it is time to upload my Best Of Jeff. So watch this space.
Regarding the relative costs of fuels, all the gas and electricity suppliers have recently raised their prices, and it is time for me to revise the figures I last published in April 2011. Since that time, mains gas has gone up by 35 per cent and standard-rate electricity by 23 per cent. Kerosene (“oil”) and LPG (“Calor gas”) have actually got slightly cheaper. The real losers are those on Economy 7 or “off-peak” electricity, which has jumped by a staggering 70 per cent – some of which is to fund the generous feed-in-tariff payments to owners of solar panels and wind turbines.
Prices for all fuels vary depending upon which part of the country you are in, which supplier you have and how much you use. Kerosene and LPG prices can fluctuate throughout the year, and even from week to week. Whatever, the current average prices per kWh or “unit” are as follows (as before, I have adjusted the prices for gas, oil and LPG to allow for 85 per cent boiler efficiency): mains gas 5.4p; standard-rate electricity 14p; Economy 7 electricity 7.2p (with an associated daytime rate of 17.6p); kerosene 6.6p; LPG 6.7p. All prices plus VAT at five per cent.
So mains gas remains the cheapest fuel for those who have it. Followed by kerosene, LPG and Economy 7 electricity.
DUCT TAPE & DUCK TAPE
For some reason, I know I will need to find again, some day, the following letter to the Telegraph of 26.6.04 from Will Howard of Auckland, New Zealand.
Sir – M J Carr is not really wrong in calling duct tape “duck tape” (Letters, Jun 24), for that was the original name. It was first made during the Second World War and was used to seal ammunition boxes to keep moisture out; as it was made of cotton duck, and waterproof, it was called duck tape.
After the war, refrigeration and air-conditioning installers found it useful for joining their ducting and this soon became its major use, so the manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, changed the colour from khaki to silver to match the ducting, and the name was corrupted to duct tape. And now we can’t live without it. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Well, yes, it is fascinating to some of us. Interesting enough, anyway, to take me to Wikipedia to add in a bit more (including a by-the-way on gaffer tape) before tucking the subject away for now …
Duct tape or duck tape is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure-sensitive tape often coated with polyethylene. There are a variety of constructions using different backings and adhesives. One variation is gaffer tape designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape is not. Another variation is heat-resistant duct tape useful for sealing heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, produced because standard duct tape fails quickly when used on heating ducts. Duct tape is generally gray or black but also available in other colors.
During World War II, Revolite, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on ammunition cases during World War II.
The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) have written seven books about duct tape. Their bestselling books have sold over 1.5 million copies and feature real and unusual uses of duct tape. In 1994 they coined the phrase “it ain’t broke, it just lacks duct tape”. Added to that phrase in 1995 with the publication of their book about lubricant WD-40 book was, “Two rules get you through life: If it’s stuck and it’s not supposed to be, WD-40 it. If it’s not stuck and it’s supposed to be, duct tape it”. Their website features thousands of duct tape uses from people around the world ranging from fashions to auto repair. The combination of WD-40 and duct tape is sometimes referred to as “the redneck repair kit”.
My own contribution to the subject would be the discovery, from the film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, that duck tape in hillbilly country is known as Alabama Chrome.