Band names derived from other bands’ songs

26 06 2006

Have always speculated about this ever since hearing about how Flock of Seagulls got their name. Limited list to date is:

  • Flock of Seagulls (line in ‘Toiler on the Sea’ by The Stranglers)
  • Ordinary Boys (Morrissey song of same name)
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves (Smiths song)
  • Deacon Blue (from Deacon Blues by Steely Dan)
  • Radiohead (from Radio Head by Talking Heads)
  • Sisters of Mercy (song by Leonard Cohen)
  • Death Cab for Cutie (song by Bonzo dog doo–dah band – or whatever they were called)
  • Simple minds (kind of from Jean Genie)

Darwin was right (not exactly news)

26 06 2006

Book front cover

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
Richard Dawkins
4 out of 5 stars

(Still catching up on some recent reading…)
I’m not a great fan of the popular science section in the bookshop but thought that I should give Dawkins a go given how impressive he sounds on the radio.

This one does not disappoint as a straightforward yet extremely cogent – indeed masterful – presentation of the Darwinian view. Lots of wonderful vignettes which explain evolution articulately to the lay reader (ie me). The best bit though is a very direct challenge to the ‘science is just another viewpoint’ gang:

Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes are built according to scientific principles and they work. They stay aloft and they get you to a chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications such as the dummy planes of the Cargo cults in jungle clearings or the bees–waxed wings of Icarus don’t.


Less espresso, more skinny latte

26 06 2006

Book front cover

Espresso Tales: The Latest from 44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street)
Alexander McCall Smith
3 out of 5 stars

A neat and quite entertaining follow up to 44 Scotland Street, again produced originally as a daily serial for the Scotsman. It follows the lives of a small and diverse group of inhabitants of this address in their somewhat, but not excessively, taxing existences. Some nice little tales of a nudist picnic, an insufferably vain ex–surveyor turned wine merchant and pushy parents and their pushed prodigy, little Bertie.

The episodic approach works extremely well for holiday reading and the characters are sufficiently engaging to keep you involved. Light but not completely slight.

Bizarre wine bottles

25 06 2006

On a recent holiday to Italy, stopped in a motorway service station which sold a lovely range of local wines. Bizarrely, the labels on the bottles featured famous individuals, mainly from the world of politics (in its broadest sense). Amongst those pictured:

  • Bob Marley
  • The Pope
  • Antonio Gramsci

Bizarre wine bottles

But the oddest thing was that the most popular depiction was of Il Duce himself. There were at least four different representations of Mussolini, mainly in military garb, including one particularly attractive shot of him sharing a platform with Hitler.

On wine bottles!!

Norwegian Woodiness

22 06 2006

Book front cover

Norwegian Wood
Haruki Murakami
2 out of 5 stars

Having read a couple of other Murakamis I felt I knew what to expect here – morose quasi–philosophical musings on love, loss, death and loneliness – and it doesn’t fail to deliver. The setting is different – Watanabe is a student in late 60s Tokyo and there are student riots and dorm–based craziness in the background – but the feel of the novel is pretty similar to the Murakami norm.

Having said that it is a not uninteresting and reasonably entertaining read but, as one critic has put it (OK, my hyper–critical friend, Steve) absolutely nothing of any consequence happens. To some (including Steve) this is something of a minus but I can’t say I was that disappointed by the lack of real action.

However, I do have to say it is not a patch on ‘Kafka on the Shore’.

Team challenge successfully completed

9 06 2006

Follow-up to team challenge from Prole Art Threat

And every one is pooped.

See photos from the morning via this link

team challenge

9 06 2006

Well. Senior officers are all rather hot and sweaty but doing very well. We are pretty much ahead of schedule and looking forward to lunch. Photos will be on insite soon I fear!

Signs of the times

8 06 2006

Two signs spotted recently.

The first on a van dropping off at University House:


Nice try but, objectively, driver would have found it difficult to match the claim.

The second at a lovely hand car wash venue. No hint of menace in the environment. Definitely no hint at all in the notice…


Only one spelling mistake though – and a nice cheery ‘thank you’ at the end!

Music of the spheres: approximation of a playlist §18

7 06 2006

Planets (mainly)

Planet Claire – B52s
Life on Mars – David Bowie
Life on Earth – Divine ComedyEarthy
Mercury blues – Steve Miller Band
Pluto – Bjork
Hey Jupiter – Tori Amos
Uranus Rock – Jimi Hendrix (I confess I had never heard of this and was searching for the missing planet)
Alpha Centauri – Tangerine Dream (similar confession – just checking that no–one would have been daft enough to use this as a song title – I was wrong)
Neptune City – Death in Vegas
Man on the Moon – REM
Venus – Bananarama
Saturn V – Inspiral Carpets
Moonage Daydream – David Bowie

The End of the Campus Novel?

7 06 2006

Writing about web page

The accepted list of campus novels starts with ‘The Groves of Academe’ by Mary McCarthy from over 50 years ago (shamefully I’ve not read it yet) then Pnin by Nabokov.

This extract from Guardian article by David Lodge on the latter (link) sums up the genre nicely:

To consider the possible sources of Pnin in Nabokov’s experiences at Cornell is to be reminded that the book was a very early example of the “campus novel”, a subgenre which is very familiar to us now, but was only just beginning to manifest itself in the early 50s. Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe (1952) has some claim to be the first in the field, and Nabokov would certainly have been familiar with it, since he knew both McCarthy and her husband, Edmund Wilson, who was one of his closest literary friends at this time (they fell out later). Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution (1954) which was, for those in the know, a riposte to McCarthy’s book, gave a further impetus to the new genre, though Nabokov had already embarked upon the Pnin stories when it appeared.

Lodge goes on:

What the three books have in common is a pastoral campus setting, a “small world” removed from the hustle and bustle of modern urban life, in which social and political behaviour can be amusingly observed in the interaction of characters whose high intellectual pretensions are often let down by their very human frailties. The campus novel was from its beginnings, and in the hands of later exponents like Alison Lurie and Malcolm Bradbury, an essentially comic subgenre, in which serious moral issues are treated in a “light and bright and sparkling” manner (to borrow the phrase applied to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, who would certainly have a written a campus novel or two if she had lived in our era).

And looking at the more recent examples the list is really dominated by David Lodge (although Amis was first):

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
The History Man, Bradbury
Changing Places, Lodge
Small World, Lodge
Nice Work, Lodge
Thinks…, Lodge
Porterhouse Blue, Sharpe (but at the Carry on end of the spectrum)
The Human Stain, Roth
Disgrace, Coetzee
A Very Peculiar Practice, Andrew Davies
I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe

I’ve never actually managed to get hold of the Andrew Davies one, despite the Warwick connections, but it is interesting that it is in fact only the British ones on the above list which could be described as comic – Roth and Coetzee are both deadly serious and Wolfe is just rather dull.

The Wilding line (to get to the point of things) seems to be that, basically, campuses are just not funny any more and therefore we won’t get any more Lodge–ish productions.

I do hope that isn’t the case. And given the number of people I’ve met who say they are working on the next great campus novel at the moment, I think there is much comedy still to be written about apparently joyless campus activities.

(I’d welcome ideas for chapter 7 of mine on RAE criteria bingo)

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