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Archive for November, 2016

It was another rather unimpressive display from Wales; we beat Japan thanks to a last minute drop goal by replacement fly half Sam Davies. Japan are a much improved side, and the days of thrashing them are over I think, but really Wales should have won this game by more. It was another stuttering performance, and we failed to take many of our chances.

It did seem that Jamie Roberts, who was dropped for the game against Argentina, was out to prove a point, as he had a very good game. But, I am not a fan of Jamie Roberts. What he does, he does very well, as good as anyone in world rugby. But, for me, he is far too one-dimensional. There is little variety to his game; he is a world class tackler and a world class battering ram, but beyond that I don’t see what else he does. I would much prefer that Wales go with the more varied and skilful play of Scott Williams, I think this can add variety to our attacking game in a way which having Jamie Roberts at inside centre cannot.

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Wales beat Japan 33-30, thanks to a last minute drop goal by replacement fly half

It will be interesting to see which combinations Rob Howley picks for our match against South Africa next Saturday. Luckily for Wales, this South African team seem to be amongst the worst in their history. On Saturday they lost for the first time to Italy, going down 20-18. This puts England’s thumping of them into some kind of perspective, but Wales cannot afford to lose next week to such a poor South African team. Not only do we need to win, but we need to win with a convincing performance, something we are yet to show this autumn despite two wins out of three.

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Since winning the 2016 Nobel prize for literature, Bob Dylan has remained very quiet. An acknowledgment of his winning the prize briefly appeared on his official website, before it was quickly removed. Numerous attempts by the Swedish Academy to speak to him apparently failed, but on 29 October The Telegraph newspaper published what it claimed was a world exclusive, the first interview with Dylan since his Nobel prize was announced. Here is a link to that interview, conducted by Edna Gundersen.

The Telegraph has also produced a list of what it considers to be the 30 greatest Dylan songs. As with any list, it is subjective and is obviously not going to be the same as the top 30 in the list produced by e.g. Rolling Stone Magazine, which I blogged about here. But, it is interesting to look at the list produced by The Telegraph. Below is the beginning of the list, from 30 to 26. The text in quotes being from the text written by The Telegraph for each song, the other stuff is me!

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Bob Dylan granted his first interview since being awarded the 2016 Nobel prize in literature to Edna Gundersen.

The Telegraph list, 30 to 26

I have decided to break the list up into 6 parts, so this week I will cover 30-26, next week from 25 to 21, then 20-16 the week after, etc.

From 30 to 26 the list is

  • 30 – Subterranean Homesick Blues
  • 29 – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
  • 28 – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
  • 27 – Ring Them Bells
  • 26 – Scarlet Town

The year next to each song title (in the text below) is the year that the song was officially released, which in some cases is not the year that the song was composed, or even recorded. Where these differ I will mention it in the text that I write about each song (the part that is not in a block quote).

30. Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)

The opening track on Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, this song announced to the world that Dylan had ‘gone electric’. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was recorded in January of 1965, and the album was released in March 1965. Bringing It All Back Home had an electric first side and an acoustic second side. When Dylan played some of the electric songs at the Newport Folk Festival in August of 1965 he was booed off stage. The booing continued when he took this new rock sound on his world tour in 1966, culminating in the famous Judas heckle in May 1966 at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, which I blogged about here.

Is this the first hip-hop song? Lyrics cascade in a relentless motormouth gush over jittery blues, with Dylan tearing up social norms in a surreal deadpan blizzard of internal rhymes. Don Pennebaker’s single camera black and white promo film established a perennial image of mid-Sixties Dylan’s skinny amphetamine cool.

29. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (1975)

From Dylan’s 1975 album Blood On The Tracks, possibly the greatest break-up album ever. This song was recorded in December 1974 and is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, yet it still shows Dylan’s pain at the breakup of his marriage. For an intensely private man, Dylan laying bare the pain in his heart in this seminal album is startling.

Written during a period of personal crisis, adultery and romantic complication that eventually led to divorce from wife Sarah Lowds, Blood On The Tracks is Dylan’s most fully realised masterpiece, crammed with lyrical blood and thunder and piercing observations. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome is its simplest, breezing song – yet it remains heartbreaking in its almost carefree surrender to the inevitability of romantic pain.

28. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (1965)

Recorded in early August 1965, it was released on Dylan’s album Highway 61 Revisited, which came out in late August. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is the penultimate track on the album, just before his epic “Desolation Row” (which I am amazed to see is not in this ‘top 30’ list!)

“When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Easter time too / And gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through…” Dylan’s hard, keen vocal holds the centre of this travelogue of mental and physical disarray as his band tumble and cascade around him, a freefall of piano and slide guitar conjuring up the “wild, mercury sound” that only Dylan could hear.

27. Ring Them Bells (1989)

From Dylan’s 1989 album Oh Mercy, “Ring Them Bells” is the 4th track on the first side. Oh Mercy is not an album I know that well; I have it but have not listened to it that much.

Written off by many after a period of indifferent Eighties albums, with Dylan later admitting to a profound artistic crisis, the bard found a new voice with producer Daniel Lanois. With its stately piano chord progression and lyrics of Biblical richness and elegance, Dylan offers up a post-apocalyptic gospel prayer for redemption and salvation.

26. Scarlet Town (2012)

Tempest is Dylan’s most recent album of original songs, released in September 2012. “Scarlet Town” is the 6th track on the album. Since Tempest, Dylan has released a number of albums in his bootleg series, along with two albums of cover versions.

On his most recent album [of original material], Tempest, the 71-year old contemplates the dismal state of the world with the morbid glee of a visionary perversely satisfied that, as predicted, the worst has come to pass. Dylan’s leathery voice depicts the bleak Scarlet Town as a frontier settlement on the edge of hell. “Help comes,” Dylan drily notes, “but it comes too late.”

Subterranean Homesick Blues (number 30)

The song of these five which I am going to share in this blogpost is number 30, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. As I said above, this song is the opening track on Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, and announced to the world that he had ‘gone electric’ (his going electric was behind the “Judas” heckle which I blogged about in May).

Dylan recorded this song on 14 January 1965, and it was released as a single on 8 March of the same year. Bringing It All Back Home was released just a few weeks later, on 22 March 1965.

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“Subterranean Homesick Blues” is the opening track of Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. The ground breaking promotional video was shot in an alley-way next to the Savoy Hotel in London. Just at the left of the image poet Allen Ginsburg and musician Bob Neuwirth are visible.

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” was Dylan’s first top 40 hit in the USA, it peaked at number 39. It got into the top 10 in the Disunited Kingdom. The song’s lyrics are essentially a stream of consciousness, and the delivery is often considered to be a precursor to rap and hip hop; “Subterranean Homesick Blues” has been called the first rap or hip hop song. The line “You don’t need a weatherman / To know which way the wind blows” gave the name to the underground 1960s radical left-wing group the Weathermen.

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
By the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tiptoes
Don’t try “No-Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows

Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles

The two videos to accompany “Subterranean Homesick Blues” which I have included here are the two versions which D.A. Pennebaker shot for his Dylan fly-on-the-wall documentary Don’t Look Back. In fact, the movie opens with the more famous video of this song, the first one which I’ve included below. It features the innovative idea of Dylan leafing through a series of cue-cards with keywords from the song; at the time it was one of the most ground-breaking music videos created. It was Dylan’s idea to do this, and it is an idea which has been copied by many others over the years.

Here is the alternative video. It also features the same cue-card idea!


Which of these 5 songs is your favourite?

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New images of the European Space Agency’s Beagle 2 have emerged recently, suggesting that it came closer to success than has long been thought. These new images have been analysed more thoroughly and carefully than previous images of Beagle 2, and with the help of a computer simulation it is being suggested that Beagle 2 did not crash land. Instead, this team led by Professor Mark Sims of Leicester University are arguing that Beagle 2 deployed, but not completely correctly. They suggest that, due to not deploying correctly, that it may well have done science for a period of about 100 days, before shutting down due to lack of power. They even suggest that there is a very slim possibility that it is still working.

I do have to take issue, however, with the way this story is worded on the BBC website. It implies that we now know, with certainty, that Beagle 2 operated for some period on the surface of Mars. This is not true. One study has argued that it did. One swallow does not make a summer. This particular team’s analysis and study will need to be looked at by others before we can say with any reasonable certainty that Beagle 2 survived its landing.

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New images of Beagle 2 taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have been analysed by a computer model, suggesting it may have actually worked for a short period of time.

As with any suggestion which flies in the face of conventional wisdom, this claim will need to be checked and followed up by others. But, if the evidence is sufficiently strong that Beagle 2 did not crash, then it will come as a relief to those who worked on it and have long felt that it failed in a crash. Sadly, even if it did work, we have not received any data back from it; and that is not going to change.

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At number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “In My Life”. This 1965 John Lennon composed song is one of my favourite Beatles songs of any period. It is the 4th track on the second side of their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It reflects a departure for Lennon, in that the song is more personal and introspective in an obvious and direct way than his previous songs. For me the song is simply perfect, Lennon at his best. In addition to being number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, “In My Life” is also ranked by them at number 23 in the 500 greatest songs (by anyone) of all time.

“In My Life” was recorded in October 1965 and was never released as a single, so came out with the release of Rubber Soul in December 1965. As I have commented before (but in case there are new readers of this blog), The Beatles rarely released album tracks as singles, and they tended to not include their already released on their albums. None of the tracks on Rubber Soul was released as a single in the Disunited Kingdom, although some were in other countries.

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At number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “In My Life”

One of the beautiful features of “In My Life” is, for me, the exquisite ‘harpsichord’ sounding solo. In fact, it is a piano solo, sped up. George Martin, The Beatles’ producer, wrote a piece  of music for this song with Bach influences, but found that he could not get it to match the tempo of the song. So, he played it on a piano, then sped it up to match the song’s tempo, the resulting sped-up piano sounding more like a harpsichord. It adds to the majestic feel of this wonderful song.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

Here is a video of this beautiful song. Apologies if the link stops working, Beatles songs on YouTube are often removed for copyright reasons, but as of my writing this the link works.

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Wales beat Argentina on Saturday (12 November) 24-20, but it was an error strewn and unimpressive performance in my opinion. Yes, it was a significant improvement on the woeful display against Australia the previous week, but with all the territory and possession Wales had in this game we should have won comfortably. Too may moves broke down due to poor passing or poor decision making. We still have a long way to go to get back to any kind of form, which we need to do before we face South Africa in two weeks.

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Wales beat Argentina 24-20 on Saturday (12 November), but it was a scrappy win and Wales are still way short of their best.

Wales scored two tries, with one being converted, and three penalties from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny. But, Argentina also scored two tries and were in the game right up until the end. Each time it looked like Wales had the game in their control, Argentina would come back with a score. Their playing in the Rugby Championship has certainly lifted their level of play, they are now far more consistent than they used to be thanks to the discipline of taking part in this annual tournament.

In the other autumn tests, England hammered South Africa 37-21, Scotland lost by a solitary 1 point 23-22 to Australia, Ireland beat Canada 52-21, France beat Samoa 52-8, and New Zealand beat Italy 68-10. England are now on a 11-match winning streak, with all 10 of their matches under Eddie Jones having been won.

Next up for Wales are Japan, with a 14:30 kick-off next Saturday (19 November) at the Millennium Stadium. On paper, it should be the easiest match of the four autumn tests, but we mustn’t forget the shock that Japan inflicted upon South Africa in last year’s World Cup. I  hope that Rob Howley and his coaching team do not make too many changes to the team for Japan. We need to be a settled 15, working as a unit and at our best to take on South Africa the following Saturday.

 

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Later this afternoon Wales will take on Argentina in the second match of their 2016 autumn test series. As I blogged about last Monday, we got thoroughly thrashed 32-8 by Australia in our opening match. I sincerely hope that we can put on a better display against Argentina; really nothing except a win will satisfy the Welsh fans.

There are six changes in all from the team that started against Australia, with perhaps the most noticeable change being Jamie Roberts, who has been dropped to the bench with Jonathan Davies back from the tight hamstring he sustained just before kick-off last week to partner his Scarlets team mate Scott Williams. Sam Warburton is back in the  Welsh side, but Gethin Jenkins retains the captaincy. Alun Wyn Jones returns after missing last week’s  match due to the death of his grandfather.

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Wales will play Argentina at 17:30 in the second of their 4-match autumn test series. Last Saturday we lost 32-8 to Australia, so today is a must-win match.

Meanwhile, elsewhere the other autumn tests kick-off with a vengeance. At 14:30 England take on South Africa in Twickenham, to see if they can retain their 100% record under Eddie Jones. At the same time, Scotland take on Australia in Murrayfield, and Ireland take on Canada in Dublin with a 19:15 kick-off. New Zealand have, at least on paper, an easy match against Italy, with a 14:00 (GMT) kick-off, and finally France take on Samoa with a kick-off at 16:45 (GMT).

What a feast of rugby!

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RIP Leonard Cohen. I’m going to spend the next few days listening to the songs of this incredible artist. This is one of my favourite songs by him. Simply perfection.

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I only have time for a quick post today as my students have a mid-term exam, so not much time for anything substantive. I posted this on my FaceBook account yesterday, but thought I would share it on my blog today. It is one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, “The Partisan”, from his album “Songs From A Room“.

Leonard Cohen as he was in the 1970s

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I’ve lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning
I’m the only one this evening

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