Archive for March, 2009

Bring on the Dancing Horses

28/03/2009

Woke up late after a late night dvd session with ‘Studio 60’, does anything suggest JTO might be away in the quiet of the Vosges?  Good news from le Racing with victory 2-1 away at Troyes, the fourth  win on the trot, seeing them consolidating in the second, and promotion, place in Ligue 2.  Because of the subject of yesterdays post, the NATO summit, there will be a shortage of police next Friday so the match against the players of Ajaccio from the island of Corsica has been postponed to 17:00 on Sunday.  It’s going to be strange going to a match, and seeing all of it, in the daylight again.  Later I’ll be cleaning, eating and then watching the Tudors before completing Studio 60.

Whilst typing this I’m listening to Chrome Dreams.  A Neil Young album recorded in the seventies which was never released and a number of the songs appeared on other albums, Rust Never Sleeps, American Stars and Bars and others.  I do not usually download pirated music as I believe the author and artist of the work should get recompense for it.  This is an exception as it originally featured on Neil Young’s own blog.  Hat Tip to the excellent One Heck of a Guy for pointing me to it.  To quote from the site featuring the download, repeated by One Heck of a Guy:

Probably the best Neil Young album… Unfortunately Neil never released it. I found this particular gem on on his blog a couple of years ago. Now, you all know that his blog was deleted a lot of things are now lost to us and I feel that Chrome Dreams is something you just cannot miss.

Neil Young was on a creative high in 1975. By the end of the summer, Zuma was finished, though still not released.  Yet Neil carried on recording his new songs. Sometimes he recorded solo and sometimes with Crazy Horse. Lots of these songs would remain unheard by the public until quite a while later, but by late ‘75, Neil had already written and recorded versions of such future classics as Like A Hurricane, Powderfinger, Sedan Delivery, Pocahontas and Ride By Llama.

He carried on recording in 1976. More great songs were put down on tape, such as Will To Love, Stringman and Campaigner.  Some of us may feel that the Long May You Run album with Stephen Stills robbed us of the natural successor to Zuma, but Stills always suspected that Neil was holding back his best stuff for his solo album.

That solo album was a work in progress throughout this period. Titles were reported in the press: Ride My Llama, In My Neighborhood, American Stars ‘N Bars, Chrome Dreams. When American Stars ‘N Bars was released in 1977, Neil had scrapped most of the material he had been recording since late ‘75, replacing much of it with a series of rough hewn cowboy songs.

Fun stuff to be sure, but had Neil committed the latest in a series of difficult to explain career suicides? Who else, except maybe Bob Dylan, would sit on a stash of such quality songs and not let the public hear them?

What might have been….. leads us to..

Dress down Saturday

Last week saw us look at one of ‘The Crucial Three’, the second of whom, Ian McCulloch formed Echo and the Bunnymen.  The band were in their pomp at the same time as I was a student in Liverpool and I have warm memories of seeing them play home town concerts a number of times.  Echo came from the drum machine they used early on but by the time the first album, Crocodiles, was released it had been replaced by a real live drummer, Pete de Freitas.  This Rescue from it played at Sefton Park:

The next album, Heaven Up Here, features a track that has long been a favourite, here performed at the Albert all:

I had the poster of the next album, Porcupine, on my wall for a couple of years as a student.  It was released in my first year in Liverpool and featured a couple of hits including my favourite track from the album:

The next album, Ocean Rain, was considered to be their masterpiece, not least by the band themselves, and they have been playing it through in full on a number of occasions of late.  My favourite from the album, and probably from the band, Killing Moon, from the TV programme, The Tube, although a bit of a weak version compared to the full symphonic splendour of the track:

They released another eponymous album before splitting in 1988 and drummer Pete De Freitas died in a road accident in 1989.  The band refo0rmed in the late 90’s and have been touring and recording since to some critical and popular acclaim.

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You say OTAN, I say NATO

27/03/2009

I previously wrote on the forthcoming NATO summit in Strasbourg and Baden Baden.  Self referentially I am writing something different about the same thing but using the same headline, hey, like Baden Baden, the headline’s so good I wrote it twice.  For younger people not up with their 1970’s hits the reference is to Gerard Kenny’s hit New York, New York so good they named it twice:

p1020291In just a week NATO will be meeting in Strasbourg and it has been getting regular, read daily, coverage in the local media.  Some stories have made it into the national media.  Now, my previous posting, from 8th March, contained a photo of a banner with the legend, “PACE, no to NATO”.  The national media recently had a story about the banner in the photo above and to the right, on the balcony of a known Communist Party activist in Strasbourg, who had a visit from the p10202921Police asking him to remove the banner.  It is above a restaurant opposite one of the major in town shopping centres.  Until the item on the television I didn’t know it was there.  I would not have taken the picture and posted it here.  I think a police own goal, opponents of NATO 1 forces of the state 0.  Talking of which, today’s free paper had a round-up of the restrictions to be in place next week during the summit.(Details also here on the Strasbourg Council site.)  Then again, the local paper has details of an appeal to the local judicial tribunal against the restrictions and the actions of the police in visiting people displaying flags asking them to take them down.

To show the lengths the rumours etc. have got to, a student today told me that in Baden Baden, also so good they named it twice which is probably why Barry O is staying there for the summit, everyone has been told they not only have to have their windows closed but shutters have to be closed too.  Many people are or have gone away and no-one is willing to have any English lessons during the period.

p1020296What isn’t a rumour as I’ve seen it myself, and have pictured it on the left, is that the rubbish bins around the city have been sealed.  There are two areas cordoned off from the public for the summit which people require passes to access their homes, places of work etc.  There is the total ‘ring of death’ around the Cathedral and Palais Rohan, the latter where it is rumoured the heads of government will be having their meals, with a nice view out over the River Ill – all the roads opposite are also blocked.  Then there is the lesser ‘ring of steel’ around an area of half the Grand Ile.  The picture above is taken from one of my workplaces whip1020297ch is inside the ‘ring of steel’ of a bin opposite it which isn’t.  You can see it has been sealed at the top with a temporary see through waste sack attached.  This is a week before the event.

Anyway, people wondering about the headline, it is inspired by this song, enjoy Fred and Ginger on roller skates:

On top down under

22/03/2009

Sports Report

The Sports report usually comes at the back of newspapers or after the news on the radio or TV, not here.  It is important and comes first.  A second day on the trot with good news from ‘down under’.  England’s women cricketers won the World Cup.  Here are pictures of them doing it.  The team had won the World Cup twice before, but never away from home and not since 1993, so big congratulations to the team, well done, I hope you enjoy your victory and I hope I get to see you win the Twenty-Twenty in the summer.  In a good day for Brits Murray is now through to the final in Indian Wells after beating Roger Federer.  In football the collapse of Manchester United to lose 2-0 against Fulham and end with only nine players on the pitch will have gladdened impartial observers who would like to see the Premier League more of a competition while Chelsea lost the chance to catch up.  Now it’s just the wait for City vs Sunderland this afternoon and le Racing vs Angers tomorrow.

Food column

Last week, as I was walking into our building and up the stairs I smelt some cooking pork.  The smell strongly reminded me of gammon and how long it was since I had eaten gammon.  I mentioned it to JTO and yesterday evening we had the closest to gammon steak we could, the French slice the meat too thin, perhaps we can get them to do it thicker next time – and topped with a fried egg and a sliced pineapple it was wonderful.  So wonderful I just had to take a picture of it:

p1020287

Elegant chaos

21/03/2009

Good news to start the day from ‘down under’ where the election win by ALP’s Anna Bligh not only sees the return to power of the ALP in the state but also the election of the first woman to any form of government in Australia.  Now I just wait for the news from ‘down under’ tomorrow where the England women’s cricket team are playing the New Zealand team in the final of the World Cup.  Having beaten them once I am hopeful that by the time I wake up tomorrow our captain, Charlotte Edwards, will have her hands on the cup.  No game yesterday for le Racing as they play in the second vs third match on Monday to be televised by Eurosport.  Both teams below Angers & le Racing won to replace them, on the podium, so the outcome of Monday’s match is even more important.  Elsewhere it seems the Prime Minister of Hungary has done tthe decent thing in order for his country to have a chance of recovery and the rulers of New Jersey seem to have come to their senses.

There is evidence of the fracture which runs through Turkey about its history and relations with Armenia.  At a time when Congress is considering again the genocide of Armenians during the First World War and there has been discussion about the promise Obama made to officially recognise the genocide.  To which Turkish leaders had said these would be unhelpful at a time when there is hope if improvement in Turkish/Armenian relations.  So, having schools play a video which reportedly demonises the Armenians and said the genocide was their fault for assisting enemies at the time of war cannot be helpful at this time either, but has been done.  It was the Armenian genocide which encouraged Hitler to commit the same crime against the Jews from the 1930’s onwards, saying, “Who now remembers the Armenians?”

Dress down Saturday

Early on we had three bands from Manchester and more recently there were three from ‘down under’.  Now’s the turn of the city where I lived for almost half of the 1980’s, Liverpool.  A band which will feature large over the next few weeks is the Crucial Three although they hardly existed, didn’t record anything and are believed to have never played live.  Their importance lies in what their members went on to do.  Today’s band, The Teardrop Explodes formed around Julian Cope were one of the bands to come out of the Crucial Three.  Their first hit, Reward was not originally on their first Album, Kilimanjaro, but put on subsequent versions after it was a hit:

The military look was a big look in Liverpool at the time as we’ll see next week. Treason, which was on the album was a follow up hit, also making the top 20.  I bought the next album ‘Wilder’ which yealded this hit:

They broke up before completing the next album and Julian Cope went on to a solo career almost immediately releasing the Album ‘World shut your mouth’, although it would be two more albums before the song with the same title which went on to be a hit.  Here’s ‘World shut your mouth’:

He’s never stopped releasing music and keeps up his own site.

Hamburg here we come

20/03/2009

Some good news yesterday in that the tickets have been booked to fly to Belgrade in May so that we can get the overnight train to Skopje and add that and Pristina to the list of capitals visited.  Also hotels were booked and paid for in order to make next months visit to Andorra, Toulouse and Lyon happen.

Last night I followed the Manchester City game against Aalborg.  Leading 2-0 from the first leg we just had not to let in more than one goal to go through.  After 85 minutes without even conceding one goal it all looked to good to be true for Manchester City.  I was right, they let in a goal and then with one of the last kicks of the game gave away a penalty.  2-2 and extra time.  Half an hour was then suffered which seemed to take hours to finish and City dead on their feet. Somehow, they survived and, again, penalties to finish a game which we should have wraped up in the 90 minutes. Somehow City scored all their panalties and Aalborg had two of theirs saved.  We did and are through to the quarter-finals, but, being City, it wasn’t done the easy or straightforward way.  This morning I returned from work to see the draw and discovered that City had drawn Hamburg in the quarter-finals.  I now don’t know what to do.  I’d love to watch the games but I’ve not seen a match so far and we’ve got through, will I jinx it and City go out if I watch it?  Would they have gone out anyway?  Will they win anyway?  Arrrrgggghhhhh……..

Off out tonight to the English Speaking Community of Alsace pub-quiz.  We’ve compiled what I hope will be a killer of a team and will gain emerge triumphant.

Watch the box

18/03/2009

p1010719People who’ve been reading for a while will remember a post from the beginning of January where someone got into the building where we live and destroyed the letter boxes for all the people living in the building. (picture on the left of the aftermath of the person’s handiwork.)  At the time we were told that it would take three weeks or so to replace the letterboxes.  It wasn’t just a matter for us to replace our own letter boxes individually as it is the responsibility of the firm which manages the building.  It is not an insignificant matter as, if you do not have a letterbox with you p1020281name upon it, you do not get your mail delivered. (on the right the destroyed letterboxes on the pavement outside the flat.)  Initially we took responsibility ourselves and organised and paid for our mail to be collected at the main Post Office.  That was OK for a time but they would only p1020282collect it, as soon as we went and got our mail, they stopped collecting it and if we wanted them to collect it we would have to pay again. (on the left the new letterboxes about to be installed.)  When we heard that the local post office was holding all mail for the building to be collected we then stopped the arrangement with the central post office.  It was better as we could get our mail regularly and didn’t have to pay for it to be held, but still wasn’t ideal. Two weeks ago I was told by a fellow resident that it would be sorted out in a week.  Some time after that the keys for the new boxes were brought round and had to be signed for.  Well, finally, a bit more than three weeks later we finally have our new letterboxes.  I first knew it was happening when I returned home from work to see the remnants of the smashed boxes on the pavement outside, together with a van for the working people.  Taking my bike inside there were two men, with a plethora of tools on the floor, and the new letterboxes on the floor up against the wall.  After a p10202861heartfelt round of thanks to them for the deliverance they had brought from the no-letterbox-hell we had been suffering, they made way to allow me to get my bike through to the courtyard at the rear and, when I came back through they were fixing the new letterboxes to the wall.  And above shows them fixed.  Now all we wait is for the post office to learn they are there and arrange to deliver to them again.  The title of the post comes from a line from the single ‘Top of the Pops’ from the Rezillos, enjoy:

On the podium

17/03/2009

In France Division One matches are mainly played on Saturday evening with three televised on Sunday afternoon and evening.  Division Two matches, like those of le Racing, are usually on Friday evenings unless they are covered live by Eurosport when they are on Monday.  Last night le Racing played at the bottom team of the Division, Nimes.  They won 2-0 and, though no-one would call it convincing – with a dodgy penalty to open the scoring – it is none-the-less three points away from home and as the reports say enough to take Strasbourg into the top three, or as they say here, “le Racing a retrouvé le podium de la ligue 2.  Les hommes de Jean-Marc Furlan ont confirmé leur regain de forme.”  Roll on the next match at home, next Monday also on Eurosport although I hope to be at the ground, against the second place team Angers.  I do like the idea of the top three being a podium, it’s like there is the podium, as in the Olympics, somewhere and the relevant teams go and stand on it between matches.

The weather has been much better, so much so that a person might be mistaken for believing Spring is here.  I’ll leave off saying it definitely is as I understand we might get a cold snap next week, (forecast here) March always seems to have a cold snap towards the end – last year I missed it by being in Cyprus and wonderful sunshine.  Anyway the weather report is by way of including the picture below, the flowers on our balcony planted some days ago but coming into flower yesterday.  Whether Spring is here or not it joyens the heart after the dark cold winter that the light and warmth are back to see :

p1020274The Centre for American Progress has a test to see how progressive you are.(Hat-tip JTO)  The average American score out of 400 is 209.5.  When I did it I got 274, JTO got 214, Tory Reading Borough Councillor Rik Willis got 212 and Tory boy blogger, Iain Dale got 189.

Happy St Patricks Day.  Apparently the leader of the free World is Irish, O’Bama anyone?  Well these guys think so:

That was the weekend that was.

16/03/2009

On Friday night, despite an Alsacian English Speaking Community event(which we only heard about on the day and therefore weren’t able to throw off end of week tiredness and attend.) as usual we watched an episode of West Wing. Of late real progress seems to have been made in getting through episodes and the end of the Third Series is now in sight. Also we are getting to the stage where we are seeing episodes which were missed when it was first broadcast because of being crazily busy in real-life and the then crazy scheduling of Channel Four who moved the series around the schedules then into a digital ghetto. West Wing is my favourite political TV series and it is bringing back great memories as we work our way through from the beginning again since we came to Strasbourg. It meant hearing this morning of the death of Ron Silver, an always good value Bruno Gianelli in the programme, made me sad.(obit)  There is a moving tribute to him from Daniel Finkelstein here. (hat tip Iain Dale)

Saturday evening saw a dinner for four friends and it just happened that, because of who could come, I was the only male with five females, and because of the nature of Strasbourg and working for a European institution we had people present from France, Turkey, Russia and Japan.  On Sunday I was amazed at the English destruction of the French rugby team, particularly the first half when they ran riot, to use an old friendly cliche.  I was less pleased about the loss by Manchester City away to Chelsea which, according to accounts, was not as close as the 1-0 score-line would suggest.

There is a site where you enter the URL of your blog and it tells you what kind of personality you have.  For me it said:

ESFP – The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors (sic) and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead – they are always in (sic) risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation – qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

(Hat-tip JTO who says, “and we all know that these analyses are NEVER WRONG.” though I would say I am more like a mechanic who; “like problem solving and risk and are independent and do not like personal conflict.” or to be a scientist who are; “long-range thinking and individualistic type.  They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch.  They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.  The scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity.  Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples.  Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone. ” But as I’m not either of the two alternatives as JTO says it must be right.)

Heidelberg so good the French burnt it twice?

15/03/2009

Between the station and the old city are uninterestnig post-war buildings like these.

Between the station and the old town there are uninteresting post-war buildings like these.

I promised yesterday that I would write today about the visit to Heidelberg last Monday for my birthday.  The day started well enough, although early, to the station and a train from Strasbourg just over the Rhine to Kehl, where tickets for travel by train in Germany are much cheaper.  A stopper train to Offenburg where we caught the ICE train to Mannheim where there was another stopper to Heidelberg.

p1020226

The 'old town' seems to start about a hundred metres in with the pub on the left and buildings above shop fronts typical.

Arrival at Heidelberg is very underwhelming.  A very helpful tourist information centre told us we needed a €1 bus ticket to the centre, though after sitting down for a coffee we walked it.  The bus would have been better.  As you see above really unremarkable post war buildings.

Once into

Student Gaol

Student Gaol

the pedestrianised area things improve and after about a hundred metres it starts to look like the picture above.Heading towards the centre you pass buildings of the university and the Students Gaol, pictured on the left.  What struck me at this point was the number of buildings which I had seen whilst walking through the place which had statues set into the middle or corner of buildings.  Most of them seemed to be religious with halos, not something I had seen on such a regular basis in one place before.  Then we came to the Jesuitenkiche (Jesuit Church) which is quite imposing on p10202351central Heidelberg.  If any building has statues in Heidelberg this one has them in spades, in alcoves in the building, on the roof on the side of the building and, just to make you know for sure what the building is for there’s a great big one  of Jesus Christ himself holding a great big cross on the top of the building.  You will see the statues in the picture to the right of the text.  From there it was a short walk to the Markplatz (main square/market place) with the Rathaus (Town Hall), the gothic Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Ghost Church) and the Haus zum Ritter (Knights House) the oldest private house in Heidelberg (1592) now a hotel.  Around the corner is the p1020243Kornmarkt (Corn Market) which has a great view of the castle which is on the hillside overlooking the Altstadt (old town) and the river Neckar.  Different parts of the castle were built at different times, and were destroyed at different times according to whether it withheld the  invaders or not.  From here we walked down to the river Neckar and between the towers of the Bruckentor (Bridge gate) and onto the Alte Bruckep1020251 (old bridge).  Although the bridge was rebuilt in 1947 after it was destroyed two days before the end of the war by fleeing Nazis who wanted to stop the Americans establishing a base here.  After that we headed for a restaurant which had been recomended to us but it was closed.  We did eat and, like Heidelberg itself, found it disappointing.  With the sleety rain we decided to head home but had to take refuge a couple of times on the way to the station to avoid heavier sleety rain and hail.  This time we left the old town and got to the sation on the bus.  The heading?  Louis XIV had Heidelburg burnt twice, the second time because only 10% of the town burnt because the residents had taken precautions.  The question mark is not questioning the fact as I believe it to have been historically verified.  Just , if it was up to me I don’t think I would have thought it worth going back.

Heaven don’t tear you apart

14/03/2009

A busy week and no posts.  On Monday it was my birthday so we took an

I'm just a little boy again when it comes to going on these German ICE trains.

I'm just a little boy again when it comes to going on these German ICE trains.

early train to Heidelberg for a day out.  The weather wasn’t great – cold wind with rainy/sleet seemingly always in your face, I’ll post further about it tomorrow.  The end of February beginning of March were school holidays here and so a number of students were away so my level of work has fallen off.  I’ve spent the time seeking additional work to bring me back up to full time and on Tuesday had an interview with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and have been offered some work with them.  As always seems to be the case when you have to do anything in France the bureaucracy has been endless and I’ve spent most of the week, when not working, carrying out various administrative tasks in order to be able to

We often take photos of JTO copying statuary, here's one I think works, probabkly because of the more human scale.

We often take photos of JTO copying statuary, here's one I think works, probably because of the more human scale.

start work this week.  For example I was working to eight one evening in order to complete a CV in French which was a requirement, it wasn’t a great CV, and the French wasn’t great, but they had a box to tick saying I had given them a CV in French, so they got a CV in French.  Pleasure later in the week a the result for City against Aalborg and largely good results last night for le Racing, with leaders Lens being beaten at home, ahead of their game on Monday.

Today I’ve been watching the excitement of the Paris-Nice race and following Liverpool’s demolition of Manchester United whilst writing this, who says men can’t multi-task?  It is good to be living in a country where cycling is given the respect it should have.  It does make me wonder why French people have a difficulty with cricket, particularly the test form being played over five days, when a cycling race takes much longer, the tactics can be just as subtle, and understanding what’s happening requires attention for quite a long time.  What I’ve also failed to understand is why it has been so difficult to get a British race going.  As well as the cycling fans, people love it when it goes through where they live and turn out to watch it and then there are the wonderful places the race goes through – there are a few places added to my I’d love to go to list from following the coverage of this race.

Dress down Saturday

Another band I came to via John Peel were Psychedelic Furs.  After hearing them playing ‘Into you like a train’ on his show I went out and bought the album it was off, ‘Talk Talk Talk’ although I lost the poster which came with it.  There seems to be no video for that but there is for the original, and better version of ‘Pretty in pink’:

That version is rightly described as darker, more snarling, than the version re-recorded for the eponymous film starring Molly Ringwold.  From their next album in 1982, ‘Forever Now’ here’s ‘Love my Way’:

The next album came out when I was living in Birkenhead and my landlord had said my room could be decorated if I helped.  I had just seen them at the University on the tour to promote the album so I’m now sorry for the local decorator who I helped do the decorating, who had to listen to this on rotation with, er this.  Here’s ‘The Ghost in you’ from the ‘Mirror Moves’ album:

They admit the next album was rushed to capitalise on the success of ‘Pretty in Pink’ following its use in the film and was also more commercial.  I lost interest with that and missed the next couple of albums before they broke up in the early 90’s.  They all did other things before reforming earlier this decade and have been playing live at festivals etc.  To end, appropriately, ‘Heaven’:


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