Wednesday 31 October 2012

Always Read the Question

I won a medal at the weekend. It was for the third round in a four round pub quiz in which I did very badly. The pub quiz wasn't public, it had been written specially to celebrate my oldest and closest friend's 40th birthday and I did spectacularly badly in the 80's TV and 80's/90's music rounds. I certainly didn't remember the Blue Moon Detective Agency, nor pilot Stringfellow Hawke, nor the planet Thundera. Neither did I know the first band on MTV unplugged, or whose live album was called Under a Blood Red Sky. Perversely I was excluded from the fourth round about golden era Neighbours. The third round of the quiz was questions about the birthday celebrant, and while I expected to do well I didn't expect to win. Question 4 was a complicated two part question "Where and Why did Redacted buy Bermuda shorts from a roadside shorts-vendor?". The man who's birthday it was drunkenly forgot to answer the second part of the question and I beat him in a quiz about himself. The best question of the round was "What was the correct name of the game that Redacted and Richard used to play as children which was misunderheard as "Mind the Farlornes"?

Richard "Mindless Violence" B

Tuesday 23 October 2012

American English

It's very easy to think that Americans speak an archaic and faulty dialect of English, specially with words like "broil" and "gotten". A couple of my least favourite examples are "get" to mean "have" (can I get two coffees? No. I'm the waitress, I'll go and get them, you can have them when I bring them to you.) and "orient" as a verb. The Orient means China and the far east. Which direction something is pointing is its orientation. When you work out where you are and what you're looking at you orientate yourself, if you orient yourself, it would seem to mean that you went to China of your own accord. Believe it or not this comes up a lot in computer programming.

It wasn't until I was talking to an American recently that I realised that British English is littered with equally ludicrous phraseology. Think for a moment about your swimming costume. It doesn't sound at all silly does it? Until you think about the word costume. It means something that you dress up in to pretend to be something else. An actor's costume is what he wears to pretend to be (say) Hamlet. A Halloween costume presents you as a monster, zombie, witch, or whatever, when you're not one. You could only wear a bee keeping costume if you weren't already an apiarist, otherwise it would be your bee keeping suit. When an American hears "swimming costume" they think "swimming disguise" and then wonder what the hell you're going to be dressed as, an alligator? A shark? Michael Phelps?

To get the same mental effect imagine that I called the dirty clothes that I wear to do painting my "painting costume". That's right I was dressed as Rembrandt when I put a coat of emulsion on the walls of the lounge.

Richard "Two countries separated by a common language" B

Thursday 18 October 2012

Hobbyzone Champ

Showing Off
Look at the band I'm in playing a blues song with Troy Tate very very well!

Looking a fool
I recently bought a radio controlled model plane called a Hobbyzone Champ. It was £70 which seems to make it either a rather expensive toy, or a very cheep model. It's actually somewhere in between. In the box you get everything you need - the plane with radio reciever and motor, a flight battery, a battery charger, and a radio transmitter. On the day I bought it I had the box at home by 10:00 and was in the park flying it at 10:30. The plane is small and light (less than 18" wingspan and 1.5oz) so it needs a calm day or a sports hall. It's designed for beginners and it's easy to fly. It has large dihedral so it always wants to keep it's wings level. It has large tail surfaces so it always points in the direction of travel. The propellor has a large component of downthrust so the throttle barely affects pitch. At full throttle the plane climbs gently, at low throttle it glides back down. With one exception the flight characteritics are completely benign, reactions to control inputs are gently and predictable. The stall is obvious and recovers automatically. The glide angle is impressive and with no control inputs it always ends up the right way up. The only problem is that when you apply rudder the plane drops its nose. If you keep the rudder applied for any length of time you end up in a spiral dive. It's actually hard to make a smooth 180degree turn.

It was flat calm on Sunday morning and I took my Champ out to practice touch and go landings. Predictably I got it stuck in the top of a tree in the local park and had to climb up and shake it loose. I have done something similar many times and I would have felt completely comfortable had I been in my early teens and wearing scruffy clothes. In fact I'm pushing 40 and I was wearing a smart black wool overcoat, pristine jeans (I tend to do laundry on a Saturday) and handmade leather boots. I think I felt most self concious when one of the dog walkers came and asked me what I was doing.

Richard "wrong age wrong clothes" B

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Drum Fill

As well as playing all the right notes (I couldn't even do that much at the weekend) at the right times and the right volume, a really skilled musician can put emotion into the noise that their instrument makes. I didn't realise it at the time, but last week I think I heard the best bit of drum playing that I have ever, or will ever hear. The band I play in has recently taken on a new and enormously skilled drummer. I had a very minor disagreement with him about when a particular drum fill is played in a song called "Feeling Good". To make matters worse I was right, and I texted him the next day before dawn to tell him so. At the next rehearsal we played the song and he played the drum fill where I thought it should have been. He played it correctly and accurately, but also very sarcastically. We both agreed that we could really hear the sarcasm. There are lots of directions that you see on musical scores like "con amore" and "con fuoco", but neither of us have heard of "con sarcasmo".

Richard "not eating my hat" B

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Rough Pub

Over the weekend I helped out an Oasis tribute band at their equivalent of the Altamont Speedway Free Festival. In 1969 The Rolling Stones organised and headlined a free festival at the Altamont Speedway. Hell's Angels were there, and may or may not have been paid to provide security. The Festival became so violent that The Grateful Dead didn't even turn up to play. Sadly, during the Stone's performance one of the crowd was stabbed to death by one of the Hell's Angels. To be fair he had just pulled a gun.

Ours was a gig in a pub on Greenbank. It's used by the Aquila (bike gang) and they unofficially provide security. The pub became violent to the extent that I was frightened for my physical safety, and our equipment. One fight between two women ejected itself amid a hysterical cloud of accusations about who had slapped whom and in response to what. A very brief scuffle between two of the bikers seemed to end amicably, but with blood running from one of their heads. Towards the end of the show some drunken idiot tried to get on stage and grab a microphone. When he eventually succeeded the band pulled silent and said it was the end of the show. The bikers encouraged the band to carry on, and took the idiot outside and beat him to a bloody pulp. It makes the Cherry Tree look positively refined.