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And Then it Was All That

One of the blogs I follow is called And now it’s all this, by the mysterious Dr Drang. He writes mainly on engineering and provides lots of interesting Python scripts.

What I’m interested in his blog’s title and subtitle, though. “And now it’s all this”; and “I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong.” I’ve been reading it for years, and had only idly wondered about why it was called that, or what it really meant.

I’ve also been listening to, and reading about, The Beatles for years — for a great many more years. And so I was very familiar with John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” line, and the subsequent furore.

But not that familiar, it turns out. Or not with his apology, at least.

We recently watched the excellent Eight Days a Week film, which has lots of Beatles footage I’d never seen before, and puts it all together into a compelling narrative.

Of course, it covers the “Jesus” period. So there was John, at a press conference, making an apology of sorts. And out pops:

I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong. And now it’s all this.

Oh. OK. Right. I should have seen that years ago.

Of course there are two remaining questions:

  1. Why did the good doctor choose to name his blog that?
  2. And what does the “leancrew” mean in his domain name?

Saved Life

In International Clash Day I mentioned a life-changing song: “Wasted Life,” by Stiff Little Fingers. SLF’s anti-military song literally changed my life; or its potential direction, at least. I was probably moving in an anti-war kind of direction anyway, to be fair, but it was definitely a trigger point.

People say — or used they to, at least — that a song couldn’t change your life. By comparison, I don’t think there was ever a similar tendency to say that a book couldn’t change a person’s life. I suspect that is down to their comparative sizes: it seems respectable for something the size of a novel to have a major impact on a human’s psyche, while a three-minute song? Not so much.

Although if it were merely length, then people wouldn’t have complained if you said an album changed your life. I’m not sure that anyone ever said that,1 but I suspect that if they had, their statement would have been pooh-poohed just as much as the same claim for a song.

At this point I feel I ought to quote Springsteen, giving the opposite view:

We learned more from a three-minute record, baby,
Than we ever learned in school

he sings in “No Surrender.” Hyperbole, certainly, but there is a core of truth to it: the truth of the feeling you can get from listening to a great song.

With “Wasted Life” the feeling for me was of sudden crystallisation, or realisation. I had, for some years, been saying that I wanted to be pilot, join the RAF. This was before the horrors of the Gulf War, or for that matter the Balkans. Though it was in the heart of the Cold War, and British soldiers were stationed in Northern Ireland during the troubles — though not so much RAF staff, I would think.

But I was blind to all that, brought up as I was on a diet of Second World War films, Commando comics, and Airfix models of warplanes. I had, in short, a thoroughly romanticised view of war. And I just wanted to fly.

But I didn’t want to kill. I had always known that, I’m sure. But two lines of that one song made it real for me:

Stuff their fucking armies
Killing isn’t my idea of fun2

And that was all it took. I remember that it was a while before I could tell my parents that I had changed my plans. Perhaps because they would have asked why, and I didn’t want to have to explain it. Maybe because I thought they’d be disappointed. I’m sure my Mum wasn’t. My Dad kind of was: “But you were going to be a Spanish-speaking pilot,” he said. He had always been slightly amused that my school taught half of us Spanish, instead of the then-much-more-conventional French.

A life can hinge on such a small moment.


  1. Somebody must have, of course. 

  2. In an amusing followup to recent thoughts, I originally wrote that as “army,” but find that lyrics sites think this plural too. Correctly, of course. 

Misbehaviour Again

I’m sure you all pay great attention to the goings on at this here blog. You’ll almost certainly have noticed things going very strange yesterday, with the same post being repeated three or four times, in various forms and ways.

No? Well, in case: what we had is (probably) a glitch caused by a Wordpress plugin. Or maybe not. Maybe it was something else entirely. Really, we’ll have to see what happens when this one posts.

But I’ve turned off some of the sharing features for now. So you might not even see this if you’re used to being notified via Facebook or Twitter.

Actually since that’s where most of the interaction comes from, it would be interesting to know who if anyone is not reading it that way. Is anyone subscribed to the feed? that’s how I still do most of my blog reading.

Whether You Want To Or Not

Note: If you’ve seen multiple copies of this post, it’s because I had trouble with accidentally posting it in the wrong format, and then Wordpress refusing to let me change it. Hopefully be all right now.

Write even when you don’t want to,” say some people encouraging us to write every day. That would be me right now. The “don’t want to” part, not the “encouraging” part. It’s late and I haven’t written anything yet and I’ve made this daily rod for my own back.

On the other hand, I do love to write, and I can’t deny that I’ve done more of it in this last couple of months.

Though, not, as I hoped I might, any more fiction. I’m still stalled in the middle of the novel which in idea, at least is nearly five years old. It’ll be starting school soon!

And I need to get round to submitting some of the other, finished, things I have. Because they’re no use just sitting here on my hard solid-state drive.

Stiff Little Memories

I’ve just had two slightly odd experiences while researching Stiff Little Fingers.

SLF were the first band I ever saw live, and they had a major effect on my life — which is why I was researching them: I’m writing a longer piece about the effect they had on me.

So as I was reading the Wikipedia article about them, I became somewhat confused. Because it says they split up in 1983, and reformed in 1987. Now the breakup I’d forgotten about, but it seems right. However, I saw them on the tour in 87. I saw them two days in a row. I had tickets for the Brixton Academy gig, which I think was on a Saturday, and then when Time Out came out that week there was a small advert in the back (I’ve no idea how I came to see it), which said:

Tin Soldiers
Belfast’s finest. Shhh: a secret gig!

Or something very like that. It was on the Friday night at the Mean Fiddler. Which I don’t think I had ever been to at that time, and which was a bastard long way from Tooting. But I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see SLF in a small club.

What I mainly remember was that the Academy gig the next night was a bit of a letdown after the intensity of seeing them at the Mean Fiddler.

But anyway, the point of all of this is that as far as I remember things, this all was — or was billed as — their farewell tour. That’s why the t-shirt (which I still have) says “Game Over.”

Now obviously they’re around again, and I’ve seen them since, and bought albums they’ve released since. But my memory says they broke up in 87 (or it could have been 88, but I think not (though actually March 88 if this setlist site is to be believed)), and then reformed later. But Wikipedia and All Music both say I’m wrong.

I don’t know. Who would you trust?

Actually probably not me. I’m becoming more convinced as I look at that setlist site, that I must have seen them several times at the Academy, after moving to London in 87, and the supposed farewell tour must have been later. In which case the Mean Fiddler was a bastard long way from Walthamstow, but that’s still true.

The second odd experience was that I clicked onto the Wikipedia talk page to see whether the history was disputed at all. It isn’t, but around five sections in there’s a section entitled “the?”, in which someone asks whether they were ever referred to as “the Stiff Little Fingers.”

And back in 2007 some guy called “Devilgate” answered firmly in the negative.

Missed Again: What a Catastrophe

OK, so I didn’t post before midnight. But there’s a good reason: we were getting up-to-date with Channel 4′s Catastrophe, which is a great sitcom.

We only started watching it a few weeks ago. Luckily the whole thing is available on All 4. Thank the tech & TV industries for catchup services.

Channel 4′s even seems to have become stable, and improved its UI. It’s only about a year ago that we stopped watching Homeland because the playback was so choppy. And we couldn’t record it because it was on Sunday night at the same time as Downton Abbey, and we were recording that. (We only have a simple DVR.)

Though it had well and truly jumped the shark by then. What were they doing in Berlin?

Little, Feat…

Many songs these days involve one or more other artists guesting with the main one. Rappers adding a part to a singer’s track, for example. Nowadays such guests are always credited. Quite rightly: we’ve come a long way from the days when Billy Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs uncredited (though visible in the famous Apple Records rooftop performance).

As featured artists, such guests are nearly always credited using the abbreviation “feat.” “The Beatles feat Billy Preston,” to give an example that was never used.

But “feat” is a word on it’s own, of course, as well as an abbreviation. Which I think may be why I always find the formation slightly amusing. And there used to be a band called Little Feat, if I’m not very much mistaken (I’ve never knowingly heard them).

So I’ve been wondering how the modern crediting style would have worked if they had ever been guests, or had featured guests, on any of their songs. “Little Feat feat Joe Feet.” “Legs & Co feat Little Feat.”1

Alas, it was not the way back then. Though their Wikipedia article suggests they’re still around, so it could happen.

More surprisingly it tells us that they changed “Feet” to “Feat” as a “homage to the Beatles.”2 I had no inkling of that connection when I mentioned the Beatles above.


  1. Yes, I know Legs & Co were dancers. I’m just trying to make up mildly amusing names. I invented Joe Feet. 

  2. I’m assuming that refers to the story of the Beatles naming that involved them wanting an insect name like Buddy Holly & the Crickets, but changing the spelling so it read as beat music. 

The Writing Process

In What Writers Really Do When They Write George Saunders gives a great insight into some parts of his working process.

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.

Or “Writing is rewriting,” as someone once put it.1

It’s a good piece, and well worth reading. Oddly, in the printed edition (Saturday’s Guardian Review section) it was entitled “Master of the Universe.”


  1. Hard to find who, but it seems to have been Hemingway. Whose writing I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. 

Pivoting Around Words

I should start a new category here, for word-use. In fact, having written that, I just have: language (hopefully that link will work once I publish this).

Today I want to talk about the word “pivot.” As you know, pivot has come, over the last few years, to mean change direction, especially in a political context. A recent example from the New Yorker: Don’t Be Fooled. Donald Trump Didn’t Pivot.

It sort of makes sense, but like many knew usages, I can’t help but wonder why it has come into this use.

And for this one I also can’t help but wonder to what extent Friends is responsible.

You’ll know the episode I’m thinking of, if you’ve seen it: Ross is moving in to a new apartment, and being too cheap to pay the delivery charge, ropes Rachel in to help him move a sofa. Inevitably they get stuck on the stairs, and he keeps shouting at her, “Pivot! Pivot!” to try to get her to turn the sofa in an unspecified direction.

Of course, he might have been using it quite precisely: the sofa probably needed to rotate about a fixed point, which is what “pivot” originally meant.

What it has come to mean, in politics, is a change of direction less than a U-turn (or flip-flop); but still quite a substantial one. I suppose it has a sense of turning without moving forward at the same time. Though I may be overthinking it there. It’s quite descriptive, but it seems like it has becoming ubiquitous incredibly quickly; and is already practically a cliche.

Of course that’s just my view of the optics of the thing.