Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cold War Music Box "Oliver's Army"

Lot's of Cold War references here.  Elvis Costello was the alpha geek before being a nerd was cool (I was born too early to catch that wave).  I'll confess that I didn't catch that Oliver's Army can be a reference to the British Army (as in Oliver Cromwell) until my wife mentioned it to me much later on.  At the time it was released I thought that this song referenced mercenaries not the British Army.  Apparently Costello meant it to refer to any poor young man given a gun and sent into ugly situations, which could cover either interpretation.  It was written after his first visit to Belfast.

The video is from there "Top of the Pops" or Top of the Flops as my dad called it.  They are lip-syncing but such is the case with most videos and both the picture quality the syncing here is pretty good compared to some.  Plus he's playing a cool hollow body guitar!.

Oliver's Army

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cold War Music Box - "Radio Free Europe"

How to best describe the state of the world in 1983…hmmmm…

Yeah this about covers it.
Yep - the early 80s a happy free wheeling partying time was had by all.  The USA initiated the Star Wars missile system, launched the Space Shuttle to get it there, invaded Grenada and has its Beirut embassy blown up. The USSR was under the Andropov leadership (Gorby was just a gleam in Yuri's eye), shot down a Korean civilian airliner and nearly launched a nuclear war by accident (Oooops!).  The UK had a relatively quiet year following the Falklands War in 1982 and given the upcoming Coal Strike and IRA campaigns in 1984.  But in 1983 even Canada felt scary given the global politics.

Just in case we weren't getting the point, US Network TV had not one but two made-for-TV movies featuring fake newscasts of nuclear events - Special Bulletin based on homegrown American nuclear terrorism and The Day After based on the good old fashioned WWIII scenario.  I remember watching Special Bulletin and thinking it was well done.

Music from this era was often either boppy no braincell required stuff or edgy and tense.  From the edgy and tense school we have REM's first album featuring the single "Radio Free Europe".  The song's title is a definite Cold War reference but don't try to get much from the lyrics, Michael Stipe meant them to be "complete babbling" and one critic commented that the album's was aptly titled "Murmer".  However, if it had jangling guitars, a punchy beat and indecipherable lyrics I was all over it in 1983.  This is essentially ground zero for indy rock and college radio.

I love this video taken from Letterman - his original late night show following Johnny Carson's show when Dave was young and edgy himself.  Note that REM are unheard of and that Stipe actually has hair (and a lot of it too)!

Radio Free Europe

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On the Road…and Eventually Back Again

Just back from a weather extended work related-trip to Portland Maine.  I was supposed to return on Thursday night but flights got cancelled two days running.  So I got to know the hotel shuttle driver in Portland very well and ate an awful lot of extremely good sea food.  However, by the fifth day of a three day trip one just wants to get home.

Part of the problem was that Portland is a very small regional airport and the rest was afternoon thunder storms along the eastern seaboard.  So I took a 5am bus to Boston airport to catch a 9am flight west and thus avoid both issues.  Home at 3pm Saturday finally, very happy to see my wife and eat hoofed critters.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cold War Music Box "Heroes"

I should apologize for inflicting my music on you.  However, I will take the adult way out and blame Tim Gow and his Funny Cold Wars project, specifically his references to 1979 era Top of the Pops.

The music of one's youth is supposed to bring you back to the good times, but I'm never sure the good old times were ever so good.  This spring while in the UK I had a number of people ask why I had not moved back to the UK at some point.  My stock answer is the most likely time to do so would have been my early 20s, but the UK didn't look like a place anyone would want to go at that time.  I got to know Britain during regular (annual or semiannual) visits with my dad between ages 16 and 24.  This was between 1978 and 1986 probably the one of the worst periods to view the UK.  My first visit came during Christmas of the Winter of Discontent and from them I got the full gamut of IRA terror campaigns, the Miner's Strike the Falkland's War and Thatcherism in its full glory.  To an impressionable liberal minded Canuck, Trudeau's Canada looked a hell of a lot better than Thatcher's Britain.

Anyway for me the music of my youth reminds me of what a scary time the Cold War was both politically and economically.  And if I were to pick a single thing to represent the Cold War it would be the Berlin Wall (wikipedia it you youngsters).  And the song that comes to mind is of course David Bowie's Heroes.  To my generation it's song about young lovers trapped on the wrong side of a wall by  nasty global politics.  To a younger generation it's a love song from a bad Godzilla movie!   Or it's part of an actually pretty good medley sung by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge".

I first heard this on the 1977 Bing Crosby Christmas Special, the odd pop culture mash up that gave us the much loved "Little Drummer Boy" duet.  Incidently the video of the equally desiccated octogenarian crooner and the heroin addicted glam rocker was judged severely creepy by my daughter on first encounter as a preteen.

There are of course more versions of Heroes than can be easily counted, so I give you three You Tube videos to choose from.

1.  The official video from 1977 (so predating MTV)

2. The Live Aid Performance with Thomas Dolby on Keyboards.  Some say this is the best.

3.  The performance on Der Bingle's Christmas Special, which is actually pretty darn creepy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Have Been to the British Museum

During my trip to the UK last month I spent a day in London and as usual hit the British Museum.  I have visited the BM many, many times and have had my family drag me out into daylight on occasion.   Once I nearly got locked into a room featuring early Italian artifacts by a security guard on autopilot (there was a really cool looking Attic-Thracian helmet on the far side of the room).  Fortunately his co-worker spotted me in time.

Anyway this year they have a Vikings exhibit featuring lots of cool stuff.   Cool stuff in this case includes weapons, armour, house hold articles and A VIKING SHIP (or what's left of it).  I especially liked the hands on exhibits that allowed you to touch Viking era artifacts like coins, a sword and an axe head.  Now where's a Irish monk so that I can try this out?   Well worth the visit if you're in London this summer.

While the Vikings were the main attraction, I also visited some old friends along the way.

The Isle of Lewes Chessmen

Assyrian Lion Hunt

The Nereid Monument

The Sutton Hoo King

The really cool thing about the BM is that where ever you go you see something that catches your eye, often something that appears as a picture in a book on ancient or medieval warfare.  It's like the world's largest and most active squirrel.  Look it's the Rosetta stone!  Cool it's the Standard of Ur!  Squirrell!

On the way out I of course hit the gift shop.  Both my credit card limit and KLM's baggage rules  limited what I could take home - but I really want the replica stone carvings from the Parthenon and a Franck's Casket.  I had to make do with smaller stuff including
This great book

Oh yes and I brought my wife back a set of earrings and necklace featuring the Lewes Chessmen.  I have Lewes Chessmen cuff links and she has long since coveted them.  I described them as being among the geekiest things I had ever got for her and she loved them.  I guess I married the right gal.

Monday, June 2, 2014

When Reading and Current Events Collide With 90s Canuck Rock

Ok so currently I am reading Anthony Beevor's history of the Spanish Cicil War.

Highly recommended - a good read and good history and I am learning a lot about a period that I don't know much about.  His Introduction starts with the events of the attempted 1981 Coup which King Juan Carlos played a key role in stopping.

So today Juan Carlos announced that he is stepping down in favour of his son (this seems to be all the rage in Europe these days).  I am not always the biggest fan of monarchies in the 21st century but to me Juan Carlos earned his bacon on 21 February 1981.

IF you are Canadian and IF were into indie folk rock in the early nineties THEN you might have asked yourself some questions when you heard this news.

Will he work at Pizza Pizza?  Vaccuum the turf at Skydome (ok Rogers Centre)?  Or drive the Zamboni?

If not then I present for you education Moxy Fruvous
King of Spain

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Neu Kakstadt Finale

My AMX13 takes aim at Tim's forces.  Unfortuneatley it couldn't hit the broadside of a PT76 door.

In our previous episode, the East German hordes had debased from their BMPs and advanced on our Brave French lads (ok garçons).   Let's see how things unfold from the French end of things.  The PRAVDA side of events can be seen at Tim Gow's Ministry of MisInformation.

The DDR approach.  The AMX13 has advanced to support the infantry in the village on the right.

AM directs traffic. Note that his infantry has outpaced his own smoke screen.

Don't turn around, the Kommissar's in town.  Tim Gow takes over and tries his hand at mortar fire.

Tim deploys to attack the village.

Before departing AM lets rip with direct fire.  Yes we dropped darts onto targets and yes it works!
It's looking dire for the Frenchies.

A VCI takes a Sagger up the Jacksie.   Note to self - outrunning missiles doesn't work!

The village falls, the AMX13 burns and the French get ready to scram.

The old Sagger ATGW in the BRDM trick!