Friday, April 18, 2014

My Important Project

Noticing that this year would be the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I started thinking about doing blog posts on the anniversary of key Great War events. Then the idea grew legs and I started thinking about doing more and more posts, ending up that my plan now is to set up a dedicated real time First World War blog to try and pass myself off as some kind of expert in that conflict. The basic inspiration for this would have to be the wonderful @RealTimeWWII on Twitter, only not as comprehensive (it is important to know your limitations) and based more around slightly longer but less frequent blog posts. To this end I have started reading more about the First World War, with a current particular focus on the July Crisis. The plan is to start a dedicated real time Great War blog, set to auto-post to a dedicated Twitter account, which will start from roughly Franz Ferdinand's assassination and them, like the real war, peter out.

I have started developing slight cold feet about all this recently, for a number of reasons. The most pressing of these is the realisation that, obviously, other people are going to be doing the same thing. There is already a @RealTimeWW1 on Twitter, live tweeting events in the run up to the big event (recently mentioning the bizarre event in which the wife of a leading French politician shot and killed the editor of Le Figaro, an event whose non-occurrence could have prevented the war). As someone prone to self-doubt and all that, the realisation that I would obviously be one of many people doing something broadly similar makes me concerned that my efforts would be less interesting than theirs, making my Important Project effectively a waste of time. The realisation as to how the Important Project has grown legs and turned into a Very Big Project has also made me increasingly conscious of what a big commitment it all is. But I am not going to stop now. Maybe a year into my Important Project if it turns out that basically no one is reading it I will give up, but for now I will soldier on.

I had some ambitious plans to travel to Sarajevo, either for the anniversary of Franz Ferdinand's assassination or, more likely, earlier in order to take photographs that could accompany a post on the assassination. As I became more and more ambitious I started thinking about perhaps starting off in Belgrade and travelling overland to Sarajevo, like Gavrilo Princip and his colleagues, and then taking the train from Sarajevo to Vienna to see Franz Ferdinand's last uniform in that city's war museum (and then take the train home, because I wuv trains). But sadly it looks increasingly unlikely that any of this will be happening. We have received notice here in Panda Mansions that our lease is not being renewed, so over the next while we will be looking for somewhere new and getting ready to move into it. There have always been a good few things wrong with this particular Panda Mansions and in many ways I have not warmed to it and I do not dread the prospect of living somewhere else. But house-hunting and moving are terribly time consuming and depressing business and I fear that I will need to dedicate so much time to all this that there will be no opportunities for continental or foreign jaunts for quite some time. And if rents are really sky-rocketing as much as they are reported to be then it looks like even after moving I will not be able to afford to travel anywhere.

Before moving I need to get rid of a lot of superfluous stuff, so the charity shops of Dublin may soon be being flooded with CDs by obscure artists no one is going to be that pushed about buying. I will probably get rid of some books as well, possibly even some boardgames. And I may even accept that I will never be playing some of those roleplaying games I have and get rid of them as well. All of this makes me sad. But my misfortunes are minor compared to those of the millions who fought and died in the First World War.


@RealTimeWWII (I cannot praise this one highly enough)


Gavrilo Princip

Franz Ferdinand

An inuit panda production

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jesse the Cat's Eight Year Sabbatical

In May 2006 Jesse the cat was being brought by his owner Lesley Corbett on a routine visit to the vet. Jesse however had other plans. He threw himself violently against the door of his cat box until the door came off. Then he jumped out and ran away as fast as he could. Ms Corbett and her family tried to lure Jesse out of hiding by rattling his food container, but to no avail. Although they kept looking for him, they resigned themselves to the possibility of never seeing Jesse again, though they never gave up hope of his eventual return.

But then on the 28th of February last Ms Corbett received an unexpected phone call from the very veterinary practice to which she had been bringing Jesse in 2006. A stray cat loitering in the area had been brought in and then identified as Jesse from its microchip.
Jesse appears to have been well-fed during his eight years away, but now that he is home he is apparently being spoiled rotten. He is also proving very vocal, informing Ms Corbett's other cats of all the exciting adventures he enjoyed while on his travels.

more (BBC) (first picture)

even more (Pawnation) (second picture)

yet more (Stoke Sentinel) (third picture)

An inuit panda production

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vladimir Putin has a feeling for animals

Russian president Vladimir Putin is no friend of Ukrainians or the gays. However, he is known for his ability to mix easily in the animal kingdom and for his interest in wildlife. The BBC reports that in the past he has been seen tagging whales and intervening to save people from an enraged tiger. He has also flown in a microlight aircraft to help cranes migrate.

Before the Sochi Olympics, President Putin took journalists and Olympic officials to visit a nearby sanctuary for Persian leopards. The president is keen to restore these spotted predators to southern Russia, where they had become extinct by the 1970s. But the visit provided another opportunity for him to demonstrate his rapport with non-human life. When one of the leopard cubs in the sanctuary became agitated, attacking two journalists, Putin stepped in and calmed the animal down.

"I like animals," commented the Russian president. "It seems I have a feeling for them. We like each other."


Russia President Putin encounters Sochi leopard cubs (image source, BBC)

Vladimir Putin helps bird migration

An inuit panda production

Monday, March 03, 2014

Murderer caught after parrot sings like a bird

In a gruesome slaying, Neelam Sharma and her pet dog were stabbed to death in their home on the 20th of February last. The only survivor was Ms Sharma's parrot Neera. The parrot seems initially to have gone into shock after witnessing the terrible crime. However, Ms Sharma's husband, Vijay Sharma, noticed that Neera became agitated when his nephew, Ashutosh Goswami visited. This aroused his suspicions, which he shared with the police. They arrested Mr Goswami; he admitted under interrogation to having gone to the Sharmas' home to rob it, but was surprised by Ms Sharma and so murdered her (and the dog).

That is the outline version of this story appearing on the website of the Times of India. The Daily Telegraph reports further details. Apparently Mr Sharma read out the names of a number of possible suspects to Neera, and then when Mr Goswami's was mentioned, the parrot exclaimed "He's the killer! He's the killer!"

Local police chief Superintendent Satyarth Anirudh has however denied that it was the parrot's evidence that led to the murderer's apprehension. "We interrogated all the suspects," he said, "and the nephew of the victim confessed to the crime. We don’t know where the parrot came into it.”

More (Times of India)

Even more (Daily Telegraph)

An inuit panda production

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Wild beavers return to England

Beavers used to live wild in England, but they were exterminated in the 16th century. In more recent years, some have been reintroduced into the wild in Scotland, but there have been no organised reintroduction programmes in England and Wales. However, there now appears to be a wild beaver community in Devon.

After reports of sightings and signs of gnawed trees, retired environmental scientist Tom Buckley set up motion sensor cameras along the River Otter in east Devon. The cameras captured an image of two beavers playing together while a third gnaws at a tree in the background. The image is fascinating, suggesting that now there might be a breeding community of beavers living wild in England.

Quite where the beavers came from is something of a mystery. There are beavers living in a securely fenced compound run by the Devon Wildlife Trust, but they have all been accounted for and have not busted loose to set up home along the River Otter. The wild beavers may have escaped from some other site where they were being held in captivity. Or perhaps some mysterious person or group set them free deliberately. In England it is currently an offence to set beavers free, but there have been calls for their wider reintroduction as a way of combatting floods.

Scientists have called for the River Otter beavers to be left alone and carefully monitored to see how their colony develops. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said however that it was looking into the case and deciding what action would be taken; the DEFRA spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the beavers would end up being left alone, moved or killed.

Image source (Guardian)

"Bring back beavers to control flooding, environment secretary told"

Saturday, March 01, 2014

[live music] Julia Holter

I saw Ms Holter and her musicians play in the Unitarian Church. She sings! She plays music! And it all has a fascinating air of being both austere modern composition and tremendously accessible fun music at the same tyme. I liked it. I liked it all so much that I bought one of her records at random. It is called Tragedy and is based on some play by Euripides, though not so you would notice. And it sounded quite different to the music she played at the concert, though not in a bad way.

more insightful music comment coming soon!

Fu Bao the Panda

An inuit panda production; this post appeared in issue 138 of Frank's APA.

Dancing Bear Cubs

Valtteri Mulkahainen was travelling in the forests of Finland when he saw a magical sight: some bear cubs playing together, looking like they were dancing or playing a game of ring-a-ring-a-rosies.
Their mother kept a close watch to make sure nothing untoward happened.
More on this important story (Huffington Post; with more dancing bear cubs)

Valtteri Mulkahainen (more bears, and other photographs)

An inuit panda production

Friday, February 28, 2014

[record review] Neutral Milk Hotel "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea"

This is one of those famous records that lots of people like but which had somehow passed me by. I have had it vaguely on my radar as a record to pick up sometime, my interest piqued partly by the great All Tomorrow's Parties that Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel curated. The other thing that had me interested in this record was the range of people that talk about how much they like it, running from the likes of Charlotte Church to my friend K—.

I finally bought a copy in certain well known record shop, one of those famous independent record stores. The owner of the shop is an interesting presence on the internet, with insightful things to say about the plight of the little record shop today so I was curious to see how the shop was getting on.

Sadly, the shop was pretty much as it was last time I was there, several years ago. It feels like a shop about to close down at any moment, with hardly any new stock and a lot of unappealing locking old second hand vinyl albums and CDs in disorganised piles. And what new stock there was did not seem to have any obvious order to its organisation. I know from watching other records stores in decline that they run out of stock, as the record companies decline to supply them with anything for fear they will go bust and leave debts unpaid. Yet with this shop, it seems to have hung on in this strange half-life for years.

While I was browsing around, looking for something, anything I might buy in good conscience another punter came in and picked up the new Mogwai album and went to the counter to pay for it, striking up a conversation with the owner about the state of the record store business. Well, he may not so much have struck up a conversation as asked how things were going, which led to a long exposition on the nature of the business today. I am not sure if this was actually to the taste of the punter, though it was not uninteresting, if broadly similar to the kind of things the record store man says online. Basic summary: record stores are fucked. True enough I suppose, but it is a bit of a downer to have to listen through if you are just popping in to buy the latest kewl album and not something you have to go through when you are buying online.

Anyway, at this point I chanced upon the Neutral Milk Hotel and thought that, yes, I would make the plunge and buy this. So I did. Fortunately the owner's attention was still mainly focussed on the other punter so I was able to quickly hand over my money and scarper with my record and change.

So yeah, the record itself. Well I still have not listened to it too closely, but it is definitely likeable. One thing I did know about it was that one of the other band members went on to form the Gypsy-Balkan-etc. band A Hawk And A Hacksaw, but I was surprised by the extent to which this album nods in that direction. It is by no means a Gypsy-Balkan-etc. record but it has these undercurrents that make it unsurprising that the drummer went that way.

I may talk more about this album in due course, if it does indeed prove to be one of the greatest things ever or just something that is quite good or an album that would only appeal to people who were there at the time.

My beloved asserts that the album is too loud.

image source (Wikipedia)

Previously on Inuit Panda: A Hawk and a Hacksaw on record and live

Charlotte Church on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

An inuit panda production; this post appeared in issue 138 of Frank's APA.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

[live music] A trip to Cafe Oto

While in London recently I paid an exciting visit to that Cafe Oto venue place up in Dalston. This was exciting because I had never been there before and have long been marvelling at its fascinating line-ups in the pages of The Wire and elsewhere. This was for a night of music from some Glaswegian lot of music promoters called Cry Parrot, recommended by one of my Frank's APA pals. It proved to be a fun evening of eclectic music, helped by the good seats we had near the front thanks to our queuing outside in the bitter cold before they opened up and let us in.

First on the bill were Final Five, a kind of jazz trio, except I thought that maybe they were more improv than jazz. They boasted a guitarist, percussionist and a guy on double bass and they were on the forward thinking free jazz spectrum. They were entertaining enough but I found myself thinking that they lacked a certain sparkle.

Tut Vu Vu from Dave Allen on Vimeo

Act two was an outfit called Tut Vu Vu. Their thing was surfy guitars and warped loungey sounds, basically ending up making the kind of music that would be perfect for a David Lynch soundtrack. Indeed, they sounded not too different to a lot of the music I had heard at The Drowned Man on the previous night. We liked them.

The last act was Ela Orleans. She played on her own, doing funny synthetic stuff and that sampling her own voice to add texture to her vocals. That self-sampling thing can be very dull and formulaic but she was a real master at it. I notice that the Cafe Oto website blurb says that people often compare her to Broadcast, and listening again to a track there I can see where they get that, as there is a similar kind of dreamy retro-futurist quality to her music. We all thought she was great.

One unfortunate feature of the evening, however, was the amount of yappers in the audience. My friend D— had to politely ask some punters to be stop talking during the set of Ms Orleans. Afterwards he said that they appeared to be either people who had been onstage earlier or associates of the Cry Parrot people. This was a bit poor.

Image source (Cafe Oto's own guide to the artists on that night)

An inuit panda production; this post appeared in issue 138 of Frank's APA.