All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Hamas And Hezbollah - Strategic Challenges

This is a short video describing the challenges faced by Israel from these terrorist organisations. Well worth watching.

To view, please click here.

We Remember You, George

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of George Harrison's passing. The world without him is a much sadder place.

We miss you.

Peace.

'Strawberry Fields Forever': The making of a masterpiece

Forty years ago this month, The Beatles recorded their most complex track. Robert Webb reveals how 'Strawberry Fields Forever' took shape in the studio 29 November 2006

It was 40 years ago, in November 1966, that the four Beatles, chilled after a recuperative break, rolled up at EMI's Abbey Road studios to begin recording their eighth album. They'd had enough of touring, churning out the hits to shrieking fans who couldn't tell which song they were playing, let alone whether it was in tune. Spurred on by their experiments in sound on Revolver, notably "Tomorrow Never Knows", the new album would comprise songs that could be performed only in the studio. They had a flexible timetable and no ceiling on the budget. They couldn't wait to turn us on.

The project would morph into Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul McCartney's grandiose plan to send out a fictitious touring band in their place - on vinyl, instead of on the road. It ended up just a collection of tracks, as John Lennon put it. It was, of course, a masterpiece: the mindblower against which all envelope-pushing rock albums would be critically evaluated for years to come.

The session kicked off, as did virtually all Beatle sessions, with a Lennon song. During his break, the bespectacled Beatle had bunked off to Almeria in southern Spain where he wrote "Strawberry Fields Forever". Back at his Weybridge home, he demoed a version with an acoustic guitar (this early take was made public with the release of the Anthology 2 CD in 1996). The song was titled after a Salvation Army children's home, Strawberry Field (he added the "s"), in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. The Victorian edifice was a landmark from his boyhood and he had fond memories of attending the annual fĂȘte there with his Aunt Mimi. Filtered through his drug-addled imagination, however, the song had little to do with orphanages, fĂȘtes or the Sally Army.

In Abbey Road's Studio Two, Lennon strummed the somnolent, opening bars: "No one I think is in my tree..." Up in the control room, Geoff Emerick was bowled over. Emerick, then only 19 years old, was the Beatles' sound engineer. His inventive and nimble fingers had spliced tape and nudged faders alongside the steady hand of the producer George Martin on Revolver and would do so on most of the Beatles' subsequent recordings.

"It was just a great, great song, that was apparent from the first time John sang it for all of us, playing an acoustic guitar," Emerick says. "Everyone was fired up and full of creative ideas after the break. Most exciting was the idea that, freed from the rigours of touring, they no longer had to worry about having to play the new material live, so we literally could take the song in any direction."

McCartney loved it. "His main contribution, as I remember, was coming up with the signature Mellotron flute intro," says Emerick. "From that very first moment, you know something special is about to follow." George Harrison was keen to employ his new toy, a slide guitar. Ringo busied himself draping towels over his kit to achieve the song's distinctive muffled drum sound. A few takes later, it was finished and the Beatles moved on to the next song for the album, McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four". There was just one hitch: "John had been listening to his acetate of 'Strawberry Fields'... and he decided he didn't like it," recalls Emerick. It needed to be "heavier".

On Thursday 8 December, they reconvened and took it from the top. That evening, Emerick and Martin were attending the premiere of a Cliff Richard film in the West End. When they finally made it to the studio, it was midnight, and the session was in full swing. The band were on a roll and stayed until the early hours: Martin scored some trumpets and cellos, while Emerick experimented with backwards tapes to meet Lennon's demands for the song. Over the coming days, the sessions became increasingly intense as the sounds of strings, horns and other, more exotic instruments (such as Harrison's Indian svarmandal) filled Studio Two. Eventually it was done. The final mix, stretched and pummelled out of all recognition from its acoustic beginning, was labelled "best".

The open-ended sessions soon took their toll on the recording team. "More time was spent on 'Strawberry Fields Forever' than any other Beatles song," says Emerick. "It was, I believe, the first time a Beatles song had been re-recorded in its entirety."

But even with the revised version in the can, Lennon still wasn't satisfied. "John could sometimes be difficult to please because he was quite impatient," says Emerick. He had been listening to the early acetate again, and now preferred the original opening bars. In his recent memoirs, Here, There & Everywhere, which provide an intimate, first-hand view of the Beatles' recording process, Emerick recalls how Lennon casually told his recording team that he wanted the two versions joined together: "My jaw dropped. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see George Martin blinking slowly. I could almost detect his blood pressure rising."

Martin patiently explained that it simply wasn't possible: they had been played in different keys, at different tempos and the arrangements were radically different. "John appeared nonplussed," writes Emerick. "I'm not sure he even understood why that presented a problem." Today, a computer can easily alter pitch and tempo. In 1966, all Emerick had at his disposal was a pair of editing scissors, two tape machines, and a varispeed control to modify the pace of the recording. Martin glanced at Emerick. They elected to give it a go.

As December drew to a close, the final master of the song was made. They worked late into the evening, as Emerick, Lennon and McCartney skilfully edited the tapes together. Such close collaboration, says Emerick, was unusual. "In general, Paul and John didn't watch over my shoulder; they trusted George Martin and me to translate their ideas into reality. For the most part, they stayed in the studio working on the music and we stayed up in the control room working on the sounds." Emerick discovered that by speeding up the playback of the first take and slowing down that of the second, he could match them in both pitch and tempo. The join was made exactly one minute in. "George [Martin] and I decided to allow the second half to play all the way through at the slower speed," says Emerick. "Doing so gave John's voice a smoky, thick quality that complemented the psychedelic lyric and swirling instrumentation."

By the new year, EMI was demanding a single. With only three songs completed, the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, made his selection. Originally "Strawberry Fields Forever" was to be paired with "When I'm Sixty-Four", but fate - or Martin - intervened and it was diverted to seven-inch as a double A-side with "Penny Lane", in February 1967. Astonishingly, it was kept from the No 1 spot by Engelbert Humperdinck's cabaret evergreen, "Release Me".

When Sgt Pepper finally exploded into the Summer of Love four months later, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was not sequenced into its hallowed grooves - a decision Martin now says he regrets. If the song had taken its place as intended, instead of, say, the Lennon throwaway "Good Morning, Good Morning", would we love the album more or less?

It is now heard afresh on the new Beatles album, Love, in a spacey remix courtesy of Martin and his son Giles. Emerick is satisfied that they got it right first time around: "It wouldn't have been any better if it had been recorded on 24-track, rather than four-track." The sound engineer sticks by the mono mixes released in the Sixties. "Certainly the CD releases, made from masters done in the 1980s, sound very little like the original vinyl records - some of them, in my opinion, are almost unlistenable to."

'Love' is out now on EMI; 'Here, There & Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles' by Geoff Emerick is published by Gotham Books

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

The Teacher Is A Junkie

Every now and again, the gums around my lower wisdom teeth start to get inflamed and the pain is positively horrendous. I really should get them removed, but not having the nerve (geddit?) to go through a whole operation, I cowardly reach for the Neurofen and wait for the pain to pass.

Two days in and the pain was driving me up the wall. It's bad enough having to cope with a toothache, but doing so whilst trying to teach is tantamount to climbing up the north face of Everest with a blindfold, in a blizzard.

Lunchtime arrived and I begged Dana to get in touch with a dentist and arrange an appointment ASAP. When she called back to say that she'd managed to get me a 3.45, I didn't think twice and ignored the fact that I'd have to go along the private route to enjoy this privilege.

I begged a senior colleague to cover the last 15 minutes of my final lesson and after he begrudgingly agreed, I managed to get out of school in time to arrive at the appointment. I can't remember the last time I went to the dentist, but I certainly don't recall ever being asked to put on some lab specs, to avoid the bright light "damaging my eyes".

If that wasn't weird enough, they took an X-Ray with this strange machine revolving around my head zapping me with radiation. I noted how both the Dentist and her assistant fled out of the room to press the switch and leave me to fry, all on my own.

The dentist suggested that I should have the operation to get them removed, but I was not signing on. More importantly, she "irrigated" my gum in the most sensitive places and gave me a prescription for penicillin.

So for now, I'm started the five day treatment, promised not to imbibe any alcohol until well in 2007 and have started getting on first name terms with a packet of Paramol that is never more than a foot away from my feverish hands.

Fantastic.

What began as an annoying toothache has now led me down the slippery slope of popping Neurofens and antibiotics as though they were going out of fashion. I also don't give a damn either, as long as I can forget how painful one sodding gum can be.

Monday, 27 November 2006

nb:

Just as a point of note, in case you hadn't noticed, I tag nearly all of my posts into subject areas, so that you can follow the continual flow of topics related to (e.g.) school or even movies I've seen recently. If you click on the yellow tag entitled "labels", you will be able to read all the posts relating to that particular topic.

Saying that, I wasn't sure what to tag a post about tagging...

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Movie Review - Casino Royale




I think the highest praise I can give this movie is that it is the first Bond flick I've seen (and I've seen 'em all many times) that actively reminded me of the early Sean Connery era. For the first time in EONs (and yes, that is a pun for you fans out there), a James Bond movie concentrated on the man himself instead of the every increasing slew of silly gadgets and OTT computer graphics. This is probably due to the fact that it based on an original Ian Fleming story - at last!

The comparison with the Connery era was no accident. Looking at the locations (and the beautiful use of the DB5), you were eerily transported back to those early adventures...Nassau (Thunderball), Venice (From Russia With Love) and even the use of the Casino Royale itself (anyone remember the first few scenes in Dr No at the Casino?) - gave over the message that Bond was back - and Daniel Craig was no flash in the pan (a la George Lazenby)

My only complaints:

a) The worryingly excessive use of product placement - how many times do I need to be reminded that 007 only uses Sony Vaio laptops and Sony Erricson phones - which is all the more suspect, granted that Sony Pictures was one of the studios behind the movie.

b) Bond's propensity to heal ever-so quickly after near-death inducing escapades.

That aside, Daniel Craig is a fabulous 007. He has certainly made his mark and juicily placed the vocal army of naysayers in their sorry place. He was absolutely terrific and, to my surprise, even managed to replace Pierce Brosnan as the best Bond since Connery.

No, let me rephrase that.
He's the best Bond alongside Connery - yes, he's that good.

Teacher's Rating

**** ½

Sunday, 19 November 2006

CD Review: The Beatles "Love"


I would imagine that I approached this album in the same cautious way as any other dedicated Beatles' fan. Having heard it a number of times on the radio or off the beatles.com site, I'm a now a firm fan.

There are moments of sheer beauty on this album, for example, the segueing of the opening bars from Blackbird into a fully blown version of Yesterday. The entire medley (all 80 minutes of it) does take some getting used to, but once you've listened to it a number of times, I don't think you'll be too disappointed. True, some combinations don't work as well as others (I wasn't particularly enamoured with the combination of Octopus's Garden and Goodnight), but hearing the terrific version of Within You Without You coupled with the amazing drumming in Tomorrow Never Knows was nothing short of jaw dropping. This album needs to be listened to in one sitting to be really appreciated.

The danger was that this project would turn out to be a rehash of the hideous Stars On 45, but under the watchful (and respectful) eye of Sir George Martin and his son Giles, the Beatles' legacy remains intact.

The only poignant bit - what would John and George have thought?

Strongly Recommended, especially if you're a Beatles fan and as such, I'm giving it the Full Monty in terms of ratings. If you're not, borrow a copy...

*****

Thursday, 16 November 2006

For All Of You Artists Out There...

Have a look at this.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Bad News For Israel's Image

This is the text of an email I received this morning:

"Al-Jazeera launches a pan-Arab English TV channel

Dear friend of
JerusalemOnline,

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you once again for your constant support of JerusalemOnline.

JerusalemOnline’s primary goals are to strengthen the relationship between Israel and English speakers around the world and to bridge the informational gap that exists in the international media today. In addition – we try to improve Israel's image in the world by providing our viewers with honest and balanced content.

Israel and its worldwide supporters are facing a new challenge.

Last week we learned that Al-Jazeera is about to launch an English language offshoot of its pan-Arab television channel on November 15th. Al-Jazeera's plan is to broadcast its news content in English, on television and via the Internet, all in an effort to promote its agenda around the world.

To read more about Al-Jazeera plans -
click here

This latest development means that JerusalemOnline's purpose is more important than ever. Therefore, your help in distributing our web address, www.JerusalemOnline.com, to English speakers around the world, both Israel supporters and others, is needed.

Please send this e-mail to your e-mail database (friends, organizations' members, co-workers etc.) and tell them about JerusalemOnline, the first-of-a-kind, to-the-point, balanced news update that is provided by Channel 2 News, Israel’s leading television news source. In addition – we are currently seeking the resources needed in order to face this new challenge posed by Al-Jazeera. Your help is important. For more info please contact us.

JerusalemOnline was founded and developed as a business with a clear purpose. This is not just another news service. We really care about helping Israel in its uphill battle against biased media coverage. We really dream of a change in the region. We want to improve Israel's image by broadcasting true and accurate information.

With your support – we believe it is possible to make the dream comes true. Help us by sending the link and by joining our efforts to raise the necessary resources in order to face the challenges ahead.

One day the world will see Israel as it really is. It's all up to all of us.

Yours truly,

Doron Landau and Itai Green
The JerusalemOnline.com founders"

A Religious Iranian Bomb

Daniel Doron, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 13, 2006

The leaders of Iran, the ayatollahs, keep threatening that Israel, the Little Satan, and its master, the Great Satan - America - will be vanquished before long (three to five years?) by a triumphalist, nuclear-armed Islam determined to establish Allah's rule even at the cost of martyrdom. Yet the world does not seem too exercised. In fact Russia and China lend Iran a helping hand.

How serious is this threat, and, if it is serious, how to face it? At least part of the answer to these questions may involve factors, religious, nationalist and economic, that are not commonly discussed. Living in a secular culture, most of us underestimate the determination of true believers. We forget that only recently a relatively civilized Europe was engaged for centuries in the most bloody religious - and then ideological - wars. So we do not fully appreciate how martyrdom-seeking fanatics may take extraordinary risks and ignore the restraints that a balance of terror imposed on atomic confrontations in the past.

ESTABLISHING Muhammad's law by the sword, a basic duty for many Islamists (the Islamic empire stretching from ocean to ocean was not won, remember, by turning the other cheek), demands that Shi'ite Iran not only vanquish the Dar El-Harb (House of War) of Christendom, but also the intolerable Sunni heresy. The ayatollahs are therefore cleverly leveraging their war against Christianity and Judaism to also undermine, and eventually vanquish, Sunni regimes. For Jihadist Shi'ites, Sunni control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, by their most extreme sect, the Wahhabists, must be as outrageous as was the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem to the Crusaders. They must fervently feel that Saudi occupation has to be destroyed and replaced by Shi'ite rule.

But there are other, national and economic, reasons why the ayatollahs seek the destruction of Saudi Arabia, an ally of The Great Satan. A proud and racist (Aryan) nation, the Iranians have probably not forgotten nor forgiven Saudi support - and perhaps instigation - of Saddam Hussein's bloody war against them. It took decades, but the Iranians avenged America for deposing Muhammad Mossadeq's nationalist government. They killed hundreds of marines, kidnapped, tortured and brutally executed CIA operatives; they took American diplomats hostage and humiliated them. They will do the same, and worse, to the Saudis when they get a chance.

AS FOR economics: After having destroyed its prosperous agricultural sector by slapping on price controls that benefited its lower-middle-class supporters (the Bazareens), the ayatollahs have had to spend an annual fortune on the huge welfare system that supports millions of farmers who migrated to city shanty-towns. Welfare, allocated by family size, encouraged a population explosion that more than doubled Iran's population and created a huge burden on the national treasury.

The Iranians, who always pushed for higher oil prices even under the Shah, are now dependent for their survival on high income from oil. Saudi Arabia wants to curb oil prices to avoid development of alternative fuels and sources.

Control of oil prices is behind Iran's systematic military preparations to control the gulf's shipping lanes. It was behind the bloody Iraq-Iran war, and it is still a major Iranian objective. It made Iran occupy the islands in the gulf's exit and establish a base in the horn of Africa to stop US reinforcements coming through Suez. The possession of an atomic bomb will, at a minimum, neutralize Western resistance to Iran's gradual control of the flow and price of oil. Iran could counter any Western intention to intervene militarily against such control by a credible threat to blockade oil shipping or incinerate the gulf's oil fields and vulnerable loading facilities, thus plunging the West into a deadly economic crisis.

The West is not likely to confront a fanatic, nuclear-armed Iran over the price of oil. It will most likely compromise, namely, cave in. Iran will then be able to initiate a huge transfer of wealth that will gradually impoverish and strangulate Western economies and facilitate their "peaceful" domination by Islam (see what Arab oil money has already achieved in Europe).

If an opportunity arises then to demonstrate their determination and supremacy, the ayatollahs will no doubt try to annihilate Israel.

MEANWHILE, the Iranians cleverly exploit Arab, especially Saudi, hatred against the West and Israel, not only to distract attention from their ultimate goals but to actually assist them, as in Iraq, to gather jihad under the Shi'ite flag. Their sponsorship of worldwide terrorism, their undermining of any possible settlement of the Palestinian issue helps them rile up and distract Arab Sunni masses. They hope that, eventually, when the tsunami of Muslim anger finally breaks its bounds, as they predict, it will also sweep away corrupt Sunni Arab regimes and replace them and their by-then discredited dispensation, by a purer and triumphant Shi'ism.

This is an argument I made as long ago as the early 1990s (in The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The Jerusalem Post).

A strict oil blockade then, resulting in a severe cut in income, could have undermined the stability of the ayatollahs' regime, dependent on huge welfare payments. It would also have denied them the means for their costly atomic program.

Today it may be too late. However, it may still be worthwhile to test how the ayatollahs' welfare- and military-dependent regime copes with a severe drop in oil income.

Otherwise, military action seems the only alternative.
Copyright 1995-2006 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Movie Review: Borat


The way you view this film will very much depend on how you feel about this character mocking your average American....and yes, making him/her look pretty ridiculous and at times, frighteningly racist.

However, if you look beyond the surface, you will find that there's quite a lot of depth to the character created by a very proud Jewish young man, called Sacha Baron Cohen. This is movie that works on many layers.

I really really enjoyed this film. At times, I laughed so hard, there were tears in my eyes but I also cringed when I was meant to and at the end of day found myself feeling rather sorry for Mr Baron Cohen's brilliant creation.

Borat will either leave you feeling hot or cold. Fortunately, I went with the joke and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Teacher's Rating

*****

Thursday, 9 November 2006

My Beauties


This was taken two weeks ago....aren't they gorgeous? (of course they are!)