Author Archives: Tim Hall

RIP Sandy Pearlman

Sandy Pearlman Former bassist Joe Bouchard posted the sad news on Twitter this afterron: “Sandy Pearlman manager and visionary for Blue Öyster Cult and others passed away last night. Very sad”.

Sandy Pearlman was the producter and main lyricist in their early years, making him the effective sixth member of the band. With enigmatic lines like “By silverfish imperetrix, whose incorrupted eye/Sees through the charms of doctors and their wives” or “Don’t forget my dog, fixed and consequent“, the high weirdness of his lyrics came to define their identity.

Hopefully there will some hind of tribute to him (and plenty of songs with his lyrics) at Blue Öyster Cult’s gig at he Forum on Friday.

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Pushing the Self-Destruct Button

Labour are two parties, and it was only a matter of time before they split. According to James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Corbyn’s deselection threat means Labour’s civil war is now a fight to the death .

Jeremy Corbyn has today confirmed that the struggle underway in the Labour Party is now the political equivalent of total war.

He did it with these words, at the launch of his campaign to keep his job, when he was asked whether Labour MPs should face mandatory re-selection to stand again as Labour candidates at the next election:

“There would be a full selection process in every constituency but the sitting MP… would have an opportunity to put their name forward.

“So there will be a full and open selection process for every constituency Labour Party through the whole of the UK.”

The hard-left takeover of the previously moribund grassroots of the party means it’s not just the “Blairites” who are under threat. It’s everyone who won’t follow an agenda set by the Trotskyite hard left.

Yes, we all remember the breakaway SDP was all but wiped out in the 1983 General Election. But once you start deselecting MPs, don’t expect them to ride off into to the sunset without a fight. They will no longer have anything to lose from forming a breakaway party.

It’s not impossible that the breakaway party may end up with more than half of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which means that they, not Labour will become the official opposition.

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Goodbye Nero

So Twitter have finally had enough and banned the notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos, @Nero for his part in egging on the racist harassers of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Much of Twitter erupted in cheers. His 300,000-strong alt-right fanbase cried foul.

Let’s get one thing straight. Yiannopoulos deserved to be perma-banned from Twitter. He’s repeatedly and flagrantly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, not just sailing close to the line but driving a coach and horses through the spirit of the rules.

Kicking him off Twitter is probably a net gain for free speech. That’s because the fear of being the centre of a witch hunt has a silencing effect. The mob is as an effective censor as the bureaucrat with the red pencil, and as with all censors, the goal is for force people to self-censor, to make whatever things the censors don’t like become unsayable. And it’s all based on power.

Yes, it’s too little, too late. And it does look as though Twitter only acted because the latest ugly eruption involved a celebrity. Twitter does need to be consistent and transparent in the way it enforces its own rules, and needs to devote enough resources to do the job properly, things which are not currently happening. Making a public example of Yiannopoulos just looks like a quick-and-dirty fix, and a very political one at that. Especially when by no means are all of the awful, abusive people on Twitter on the right.

Twitter has had a problem with trolls and mobbings for years, and it goes back long before movements like GamerGate or the rise of the alt-right. Go back a few years and it was parts of the so-called progressive left who were leading the witch hunts and harassing people who said or did anything they didn’t like. The worst parts of social-justice call-out culture were a frightening thing, and one false move could put anyone in their crosshairs. That had the effect of legitimising the tactics that Yiannopoulos and his ilk would later use in the service of right-wing causes. One you claim there are no bad tactics, only bad targets, you hand a terrible weapon to your enemies.

Twitter does need a rethink about what it’s for and what it does best. At its best it’s a great conversation space that’s most effective for interaction with your peers rather than the unequal relationship between celebrities and ordinary people. And because it’s far more mainstream it breaks down when subsets of people try to import the values of subcultures that developed places like 4chan or Tumblr which become toxic outside of those spaces.

(Given the subject, comments are closed on this post)

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And Then There Was One

Today comes the news that Yes’ Alan White is being replaced for the next run of shows with a relative unknown, due to White needing urgent surgery to deal with a back injury. Though the plan is for White to return to the band once he’s fully fit, it does leave guitarist Steve Howe as the only remaining member of the classic 70s band.

I know the music is greater than the musicians, and they’re already without any remaining founder members since the tragic death of Chris Squire.  But isn’t it getting a little bit silly now?

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Opeth anounce the track listing for “Sorceress”

Sweden’s finest, Opeth, have announced the track listing for their 12th album, “Sorceress”.

1. Persephone
2. Sorceress
3. The Wilde Flowers
4. Will O The Wisp
5. Chrysalis
6. Sorceress 2
7. The Seventh Sojourn
8. Strange Brew
9. A Fleeting Glance
10. Era
11. Persephone (Slight Return)

The album is released on the 30th of September, and given the quality of their recent output this is going to be an eagerly-awaited record.

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The Bari Train Crash and Railway Safety.

It was overshadowed by the much greater tragedy in France just a few days later, and doesn’t give us any stock villains for three-minute-hates. But the tragic train crash in Italy, following so quickly from the very similar crash in Germany raises a lot of questions about rail safety.

On the RMWeb forum, which has a lot of knowledgeable people including many who work in the rail industry, the resulting discussion on signalling systems for single-track lines and how they might be improved includes positive words for the software testing profession.

The system itself would be cheap, but the testing needed to demonstrate that it’s safe (and idiot proof) to the appropriate regulatory authorities is going to be quite expensive. Proper software testers(*) aren’t cheap.

From what I can tell, the Italian system appears to be a variation on the Telegraph and Train Order system without the use of either a physical single-line token or a virtual equivalent, a practice long since superceded in Britain. There is a far higher risk of human error leading to a fatal accident.

Though there have been quite a few head-on collisions in Britain resulting from conflicting movements across junctions, including the Ladbrooke Grove disaster, I can only think of two single-line collisions in the past century, at Abermule in 1921 and Cowden in 1994. That’s some safety record.

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N Gauge Society announce a Carflat

Carflat
At the AGM yesterday, the N Gauge Society announced their next ready-to-run model will be the BR Carflat.

These vehicles were built from the mid-1960s using the underframes of redundant coaching stock. They were used both for freight services carrying newly-built vehicles, and for the distinctive “Motorail” trains carrying holidaymakers to Scotland and Cornwall.

Though the Motorail trains ceased in the 1980s with the growth of the motorway network, the Carflats continues in use in freight traffic until replaced by more modern wagons around the turn of the century.

The model will be made by Bachmann, and will be available in six versions. representing both Motorail and freight versions. Like all N Gauge Society models they’re exclusive to members, and the N Gauge Society is now taking pre-orders for delivery next year.

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Heather Findlay announces new dates and new lineup

Heather Findlay has announced some new live dates, a warm-up show for the Cambridge Rock Festival, at The Post Office Social Club on Monday 25th July, and four dates in The Netherlands in November.

There are also some changes to the lineup; the band says goodbye for the time being at least to Alex Cromarty and Chris Johnsom, who had been part of her band from the very beginning, and to John Mitchell.

Joining the band in their places for this run of gigs will be former Cloud Atlas guitarist Martin Ledger and Touchstone drummer Henry Rogers, alongside Stu Fletcher, Angela Gordon and Sarah Dean.

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Zero-Sum Fanboys?

Why do some many people put so much energy into hating things that simply aren’t for them rather then in celebrating the things they love?

Do they believe everything is a zero-sum game?

You see this in metal fandom every time Babymetal get mentioned. They’ve not to everyone’s taste, true, but the whole concept can be enjoyed as something entertainingly silly. But some metal fans seem offended by their very existence. You’d have thought the metal world was big and diverse enough to have room for Babymetals as well as Dimmu Borgirs and Napalm Deaths and Nightwishes and Opeths. But no, it seems one person’s entertainingly silly fun represents an existential threat to everything they hold dear. Why? It’s not as if they’re receiving massive and undeserved media hype that might otherwise have gone to Pig Destroyer.

There are parallels with the culture wars over the new Ghostbusters remake. But do we really want to go there?

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Labour is going to split now, whatever happens. Any leadership election will be about which faction gets to call itself the Labour Party. Classic rock fans will recognise the situation; Angela Eagle’s Labour Party vs. The Labour Party featuring Jeremy Corbyn. Like Barclay James Harvest only without the tunes.

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