Monday, September 30, 2019


Ben is nineteen today.
In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was twenty-six
In Vietnam he was nineteen
Further random information;  guitarist Wendy Melvoin was nineteen when she made her live debut with Prince and the Revolution at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983 and played the famous guitar intro to Purple Rain. The version that was released is actually that live performance with some overdubs and edits.

You can do a lot at nineteen.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

suddenly steerless, bereft of will

Wales versus Australia in the Rugby World Cup kicks off at quarter to nine this morning, so the plan is to trundle along to the Charles Holden at half past eight and watch the game over a breakfast and a Guinness or two.

I fully intend to take my kit bag with me and trot along to the gym after, then perhaps to the office for a couple of hours, followed by music on the bandstand at Abbey Mills.

I can't entirely rule out the possibility though that I will just go home (with supplies from the off license) tune in to the channel 5 USA and veg out for the rest of the day on:

10:50 Columbo: Any Old Port in a Storm
12:50 Columbo: Swan Song
14:55 Columbo: Troubled Waters
17:00 Columbo: Murder - A Self Portrait
19:00 Columbo: It's All In The Game

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Me and Bobby DeeBee

I bounded out of the house at eight this morning on my way, so I thought, to my 590th yoga session but it wasn't to be. As soon as I moved off it was clear that the car's front nearside tyre was flat.

I pulled over, had a look under the carpet in the boot and found one of those dodgy "space saver" spares that you can't do more than 50mph on, along with a jack and a wheel brace. My heart sank as I imagined the struggle of changing it by hand only to have to drive it to a garage where they would change it again and fit a kosher tyre.

Luckily then I half-remembered a tyre shop in the high street. I walked round and found I wasn't imagining it. There - large as life was Dee Bee Tyres & MOT, though it didn't open until 8:30. I nursed a flat white (to go with my flat tye) at Coffee in the Wood before wandering back at half past. The guys there advised me to inch the car around to theirs with my hazard lights on, then sorted me out in minutes.

One day I hope to be looked at with as much awe, love and gratitude as I bestowed on them today.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Shady's back, tell a friend

The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the moment when Callum Hudson-Odoi wriggled into the Grimsby area in the 89th minute, checked inside, swerved to the left and cracked a low shot past James McKeown’s despairing dive. It was a fine way for the 18-year-old to celebrate his new five-year deal and the latest in a growing list of reasons for Frank Lampard to give thanks to Chelsea’s flourishing academy.
Six months on from his injury (Icons passim), Callum's well and truly back. Click the title above and then click the title on that page. The blog has been about him on 27 September for the last two years.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My old man

Man killed in industrial accident at Tata steelworks in Port Talbot
A worker has been killed in an industrial accident at the Tata steelworks in Port Talbot .
Emergency services - including the air ambulance - were called to the steelworks at around 2pm on Wednesday to reports of a person needing urgent medical attention.
No-one was taken to hospital but a young man has been killed.
When my dad was in his forensic-consulting-engineer pomp, I have very little doubt that he would have been asked to represent someone in the inevitable case that will arise from this Port Talbot horror story. Regardless of who engaged him, he would write the same neutral and unflinching report. Both the prosecution and defence would try and get him on board, but his own arbitrary but fair (damn the torpedoes) rule was that he would work for which ever of them managed to call him first.

When I saw him this week I had to explain the purpose of a paper handkerchief; when I wrote about it I wasn't taking the mickey.

All the best, mate, from your son
All the best, mate, from your son
My old man
My old man

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In a tube of fennel, as you may remember

The speech our Prime Minister made to the UN before hurrying home to deal with the unpleasant matter of the Supreme Court. a few quotes perhaps?
“In the future, voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object: your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese.”
“A future Alexa will pretend to take orders. But this Alexa will be watching you, clucking her tongue and stamping her foot.”
“You may keep secrets from your friends, from your parents, your children, your doctor – even your personal trainer – but it takes real effort to conceal your thoughts from Google.”
“AI – what will it mean? Helpful robots washing and caring for an ageing population? Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?”
“What will synthetic biology stand for – restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the tissues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables?”
“When Prometheus brought fire to mankind. In a tube of fennel, as you may remember, that Zeus punished him by chaining him to a Tartarean crag while his liver was pecked out by an eagle. And every time his liver regrew the eagle came back and pecked it again. And this went on forever – a bit like the experience of Brexit in the UK, if some of our parliamentarians had their way.”
Words fail me.

(I imagine this is the first time I have embedded a video from the Sun, but it was the fist example of the whole thing I could find.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Be ye never so high, the law is above you

My regular reader will know that I was out last night watching The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer at the BFI.

It was just as good as I had hoped and half-remembered, and couldn't have been more apposite on the eve of a day when our Supreme Court would rule that Prime MInister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful.

The director Kevin Billington, who was interviewed as an introduction to his film, was born on June 12, 1934 which means he is 85 and about three months younger than my father. His answers to questions were witty and generous and his recollections of fifty years ago seemed acute. When the movie started he skipped up a few stairs to row C (my row as well) plonked himself down next to his Mrs and gratefully accepted a glass of white wine from her. When I interviewed my dad today, he thought a paper tissue was a map of Hungary.

Monday, September 23, 2019

ImageNet Roulette

ImageNet Roulette is a provocation designed to help us see into the ways that humans are classified in machine learning systems. It uses a neural network trained on the “Person” categories from the ImageNet dataset which has over 2,500 labels used to classify images of people.
Warning: ImageNet Roulette regularly returns racist, misogynistic and cruel results.
That is because of the underlying data set it is drawing on, which is ImageNet's 'Person' categories. ImageNet is one of the most influential training sets in AI. This is a tool designed to show some of the underlying problems with how AI is classifying people.


Starting Friday, September 27th this application will no longer be available online.
I am 100% behind ImageNet Roulette because I have long agreed that deep learning AI as it exists today is, to all intents and purposes, a technique for amplifying and embedding prejudice.

I say this despite its accurate estimation of me when I tied it in to my webcam as:
person, individual, someone, somebody, mortal, soul > creator > artist, creative person > musician > composer > songwriter, songster, ballad maker

One the money I am sure you will agree. You have until Friday to try it out for yourself.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Just like last Saturday I heard new music on the radio as I made my way back from yoga yesterday. This time it was Don't Go the new Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark single, and for three minutes thirty I was young again.

It also gives me a chance to air once more, the world's funniest Joke.
Did you hear about the falconer who only ever did house work after the sun had set? Or kestrel man hoovers in the dark.
Ba-dum-tish. Goodnight folks, I'm here all week!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

On any given night, anything can happen

My brother is up for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. I have all sorts of plans. Whether they come to fruition is a different matter.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Yamaha may have just perfected the desktop amp with the all-new THR-II series.

Maybe you could all club together and get it for me as a combined Christmas and birthday present.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Man Who Rose Without Trace

As long ago as February 2007 (Icons passim), I wrote about the 1970 movie The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer and how it was eerily prescient about the Blair era in British politics.

Even though I have only seen it once, on the telly decades ago, the Boris Johnson circus brings it to mind all the time now over twelve years later.

I googled it in just such a reverie yesterday and found that it is playing in the BFI, with an intro by director Kevin Billington, at twenty past six on Monday.

That then is where I will be. The Antelope pub quiz team will have to struggle on without me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The future is a foreign country: they do things differently there

I went to Big Tech and the Future of Democracy at the RSA last night.
Roger McNamee was the ultimate Silicon Valley insider. A long-time tech evangelist and legendary investor, he had been an early Facebook shareholder and advisor to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
But from early 2016, his concerns about the company’s business model, culture and priorities became ever graver, leading to a crusading new role that turned him from fervent champion to fierce critic. In the years since, as tech-driven scandal and crisis has hit countries from the US to the UK, from Sri Lanka to Brazil, McNamee has become a leading light in the fight against the existential threats posed by Facebook and the big tech giants to our privacy, democracy and public health.
It was very convincing (and an lot more nuanced than I was expecting). I've added his book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, to my - admittedly long - reading list.

It was strange to be there on a day when Facebook announced a Supreme Court. There's also an upcoming Facebook currency called Libra.  That doesn't leave many boxes to tick before Facebook becomes its own country.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Greek to me

I would have been tempted by this if I'd known about it earlier. It would be a simple trip up the Northern line the Embankment as far as I can tell.

Monday, September 16, 2019

JImmy Rodgers on the Victrola up high

In 1933, the US country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers died of tuberculosis. Just 35 years old and at the peak of his career, his demise left a legacy of a life and career unfinished. This instalment from the US animator Drew Christie’s Drawn & Recorded series, which tells little-known stories from the annals of modern music history, recounts the improbable story of how, in death, Rodgers would go on to inspire not just luminaries of American music, but also the Kipsigis peoples of the Rift Valley in Kenya.
Drawn & Recorded tells the stories that fell through the floorboards of music history and brings them to the light of day via unique, hand-drawn animation and the raspy, baritone voice of T-Bone Burnett. Sometimes hilarious, occasionally tragic, always compelling - these anecdotes show a side of people behind the melodies that you may never have known. Darned if I can work out how to watch the series though. Any ideas?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Don't hate the iPlayer hate the game

A week or so ago I gave you Cardiff's Jim Driscoll and Bruce Lee. Last Wednesday, S4C (the Welsh Channel 4) showed a documentary Jim Driscoll: Meistr y Sgwâr (Master of the Square).

I don't know quite how, but S4C's programmes are on the BBC iPlayer, so I watched it with subtitles yesterday on where it will be available for another 26 days.

27 minutes in, when discussing Driscoll's famous fight with Abe Attell in New York, we learn that:
The sheriff turned journalist Bat Masterson, Marshall of Dodge City and once deputy to Wyatt Earp declared to the crowd, "If I was asked to name this performance, I would call it peerless. So I give you Peerless Jim Driscoll."
So that's how he got the nickname was have always known him by. Could it get any better?

24 minutes in we get:
Kitty Flynn was one of Jim's great nieces. She ran the Royal Oak pub in Cardiff which became a shrine to Driscoll's memory.
Which is where the story started for me.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On the Laish

As a rule I don't do twee, but I heard the new-to-me song University by the new-to-me band Laish via Absolute Radio's Frank Skinner show as I was on my way back from yoga this morning and thought it was rather sweet. Perhaps "on my back from yoga"  is the key. After a bad day at work the same track could well have reduced me to teeth grinding outrage.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Postmodern Jukebox

Prodnose: Most people don't notice the clown.

Myself: What do you mean, "most people don't notice the clown"? The guy is about eight feet tall, in white clown makeup and costume.

Prodnose: Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is an event where the effected person doesn't see new and unexpected things that suddenly appear within their visual field. This phenomenon is believed to be a side-effect of excessive stimuli in the visual field (too many things to keep track of at the same time) and can cause a person to miss important, but unexpected, items in their vicinity.

Myself: I can see the clown already! Who are you today? Jordan bleedin' Peterson? Can't we just take moment simply to recognize the fact that we now live in a culture where a small band with a clown in a suburban house can get 7 million YouTube views and it is in no way considered odd.

Prodnose: Habituation is a form of non-associative learning in which an innate (non-reinforced) response to a stimulus decreases after repeated or prolonged presentations of that stimulus.

Myself: And we'll never be royals......

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Entente Cordiale

Both the French and British courts handed down important rulings yesterday.

BORIS JOHNSON is facing furious demands for the immediate recall of MPs to Westminster after the suspension of parliament was ruled unlawful by Scotland’s highest civil court.
In a dramatic judgment, the Court of Session in Edinburgh found ministers had stopped MPs from sitting for the ‘improper purpose of stymying parliament’.
It said advice given by ministers to the Queen which led to the five-week prorogation was therefore ‘unlawful and is thus null and of no effect’.
The government immediately announced it was lodging an appeal against the ruling with the Supreme Court, with a hearing set for Tuesday.
A MARRIED man who died of a heart attack after having sex with a ‘complete stranger’ he met on a business trip was the victim of a ‘workplace accident’, a French court has ruled.
Mr Xavier — as he was referred to in court — had been posted to the Loiret département in central France by his bosses at railway construction company TSO when he met a local woman on a night out.
The health and safety officer, whose surname was not given, went back to the woman’s house and they had sex.
At about 10pm on February 22, 2013, he was found unconscious at her home, with police concluding he had suffered a cardiac arrest.
The appeal court in Paris has now backed a ruling made at the time that the death was an ‘accident du travail’, entitling Mr Xavier’s family to benefits from both his employers and the state.
You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


In better off countries like the Bahamas I would think twice about giving money in response to a natural disaster. Although the Red Cross movement is generally your best best in such countries, I *would not* suggest supporting the American Red Cross. The Bahamian Red Cross or perhaps the IFRC would be a better bet. Odds are though that the BRC has all the money it needs in the short term and although some funds will be needed in the longer term recovery they will probably put quite a bit into core funds.
The text above is the meat of this Facebook post by Brendan Paddy. (I am too dim it appears this morning to work out how to embed it.)

Back in 2010 (Icons passim) when I was helping out with the Disasters Emergency Committee Haiti Appeal, Brendan was their Director of Communications. In short he knows his onions. I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but I will pass his on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Who is the Speaker and why does he shout order?

We couldn't get a quorum for the pub quiz last night, so I fell back down the rabbit hole of the BBC Parliament channel as the House itself recursively fell down the rabbit hole of prorogation.

When I told my friend Rebecca over the weekend about my strange new hobby she told me that one of her boys (Charley or Harry? I can't remember) has been watching it too. I messaged her last night to say that I had fallen off the wagon again, but knew that at least one other person in the world might be with me and she replied with this article from the Grauniard.
BBC Parliament: the ratings hit that's Big Brother meets 24 – with added Bercow
As our politics has become a perpetual bin fire, the wonks’ TV channel has attracted record viewers. Can it replace reality TV in the nation’s heart?
Last Tuesday (the first evening I sacrificed on this peculiar video altar) it turns out I was only one among a million and a half viewers.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Class Act

Dan Biggar against Ireland this weekend tells the referee not to bother with the TMO as he didn't ground the ball. Class act.

Speaking of class acts I was disappointed to see Nigel Owens go off injured in the Cardiff Pontypool game. Just by setting the example of refereeing with a smile on his face, he has transformed mini-rugby. When Ben started playing at under 9s, refs always seemed very pompous, by the time he moved on to the next age-group they would usually have a laugh and joke with the spectators and do their best to keep the mood light. I think it is down to him.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Another life

I have been linking the titles of these daily posts to last year's equivalent for a while now, so I am reminded this morning that today is the anniversary of me going back to Cardiff because mum had broken her hip. Neither she nor dad has been able to live in Bronwydd Avenue since.

I've been going back every four weeks since she fell down the stairs and broke her arm before that. The same blog time machine technique gives me this link, which in turn shows me that first accident was fifty months (over four years) ago.

I don't have any great conclusion or insight. It just wears me out.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

From the Plaza to the Monico

How old would my posse and I have been when Enter the Dragon was released? It has been on my mind since yesterday's post.

I can remember we all bowled up to the Plaza in North Road one afternoon to try and see it, but - unable to convince the concierge we were 18 - couldn't get in. What would be have been? 13 or 14?

After that, we second-bested over to the Monico in Rhiwbina and saw The Day of the Jackal.

I have a very clear memory of the Monico's manager locking all our weaponry (catapults, sheath knives etc.) in his office for the duration and parcelling it back out again at the end of the show.

Police and social services would probably be called today if a "gang" turned up at the Odeon packing that sort of heat.

(Both Cardiff's Plaza and Monico cinemas are long gone I am sorry to say.)

Friday, September 06, 2019

Knowing is not enough, we must apply.

Take a look at the video above. Just over five minutes in (where I have teed it up, just press play) Cardiff's own Jim Driscoll (Icons passim) is revealed a a huge influence on, and hero of, Bruce Lee.

My cup overfloweth.

Dharma transmission vehicle: The Straight Left and How to Cultivate It.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

the mother of parliaments

I have been pretty much glued to the debates over the last couple of days as the House has bloodied Boris Johnson's nose.

You can get the Parliament channel on YouTube (above), the BBC iPlayer, and on Freeview Channel 232.

I found the early courteous exchanges, when the chamber was half empty and MPs "gave way" to each other much more impressive than the bear-bating finales.

Yesterday, Ken Clarke and Bill Cash (both 79 and in opposite Brexit camps) were by far the best briefed and most eloquent speakers.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

It could be worse; he could be from St Peter's

While we are all giving it up for Rhys Carre, let's not forget Leon Brown another current Welsh international prop from, what it is looking like we must call, St Joe's conveyor belt.

Yellow carded against Ireland last Saturday and then omitted from the World Cup 31. That must be hard.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Inna De Yard

I am off to see this in the Clapham Picturehouse (a venue I don't get to enough) on Thursday.

Memories of Jake's and Perry Henzell will no doubt ensue.

Monday, September 02, 2019


Back three
Liam Williams, George North, Josh Adams, Leigh Halfpenny, Hallam Amos
Hadleigh Parkes, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin
Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell
Gareth Davies, Aled Davies, Tomos Williams
Nicky Smith, Wyn Jones, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis
Ken Owens, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias
Second row
Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Cory Hill, Jake Ball
Back row
Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, James Davies.
The real surprise here is Rhys Carre who has only started four professional matches in his career. I am made up though because he started his rugby at St Joseph's in Cardiff.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Who do I think you are?

Episode 6 in series 16 of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? is about Paul Merton tracing his roots. His Irish grandfather was from Waterford in Munster, died in the Glamorganshire canal and is buried in Cathays in Cardiff.

Very much the same stock as us. You can see the programme on for another 27 days.