“No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us…”
Jeff Wayne – The War of the Worlds
These words are an adaptation of the first paragraph of the HG Wells novel of the same name upon which Jeff Wayne based his superb concept album. They are spoken by Richard Burton who lends to them a gravitas which has the effect of chilling the listener to the bone. Wells was a visionary and Wayne’s rendition of his story in the concept album is no less visionary. When CDs first came out this was one album I had to get. It, like the book, is a true classic featuring Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and of course the incomparable voice of Richard Burton as the narrator.
If you are not aware of this work or have not experienced it then do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy. It will reward repeated listening as it is rich in detail and depth. The album art is also brilliantly rendered. I remember as a 10 year old boy growing up I had a picture of a tripod attacking the Thunderchild with its heat ray on my bedroom wall.
This is a must have for anyone who appreciates the narrative musical format and indeed anyone who appreciates great music.
Recently I was confronted with the term ‘biographical leverage‘ and thought to myself ‘…whatever could possibly be meant by that?‘
Turns out that biographical leverage is the sanitised form of the irregular verb – to blackmail.
This is a neat example of the doublespeak that is creeping into our every day language whether through political correctness, a desire to disguise moral repugnancy or to sanitise the otherwise unsanitary and indigestible for consumption by the average and right thinking man or woman in the street.
The verb ‘to blackmail‘ conjugates something like this –
Present Infinitive:- blackmail
Example: That’s blackmail!
First Person Singular:- biographical leverage
Example: I am exerting biographical leverage.
Second Person Singular:- keeping other’s secrets
Example: You are keeping his secrets.
Third Person Singular:- blackmail
Example: She is blackmailing me!
This is the sort of double-speak of which Sir Humphrey Appleby would be rightly proud.
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams and his marvelous trilogy (in five parts) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy remain one of the enduring memories of my childhood and greatest influences on me as I grew up. Wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced my young, impressionable mind to the routine questioning of accepted or received wisdom and let me believe that there was something different out there than what we had all been told to us by our parents, our teachers and our churches. More than anything else, however, it made the idea of knowledge, cleverness and learning about things fun.
Along with another great influence on my formative years, Carl Sagan, Douglas Adams is and remains one of my favourite thinkers and authors because of his unorthodox approach to the explanation of the every day and his preparedness to give established viewpoints a good hard shove in order to see what happens when they are tipped on their side, their head or onto someone else’s head.
Do yourself a favour and try to source the original BBC Television Series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It still stands up well even after 30 years. Also, avoid the American movie version like so many biblical plagues.
“Permit me to point out you have made three spelling mistakes”
Thomas de Mahy – Marquis de Favras
These are the words which were reputedly spoken by de Mahy upon reading his death warrant following a two month show trial for treason. That’s pretty badass and stereotypical of Gallic nonchalance.
de Mahy is regarded as a royalist martyr of the French Revolution and was in fact the first nobleman to be hanged in France during the revolution the guillotine not having been invented until after his death.
“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”
Henry Kissinger was US Secretary of State during the Ford and Nixon administrations as well as being the National Security Adviser concurrently. Long after his retirement from official duties his opinion was still valued and sought after by subsequent administrations.
Kissinger is a much honoured figure, a Nobel laureate and honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and no doubt one of his most prized honours and one in which he cannot be surpassed is that he was the first honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Continue reading