Tag Archives: Kraftwerk

Etymology geekery

I am reading The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth and it is so fantastic in so many ways that I can’t wait until I reach the end to write about it.

the _wake_paul_kingsnorth

Set in the aftermath of the Norman invasion, told in an ‘edited version’ of 11th Century English, these first few pages have been a daunting read. Reading a book like this on a tablet really lets the technology come in to its own, allowing for frequent looking up of the bits that have had me truly stumped.

To give you an idea:

of angland he saes i can tell thu naht. i colde tell thu of hams in wessex in the land of the golden wyrm and of the hwit clifs in the south where they locs ofer the sea in fear and i colde tell thu of the holtmen of the andredesweald who belyfs they is safe beneath the great ac treows… but i colde not tell thu of angland for this word is too lytel for all the folc of this land to lif within.

When I first began reading the book, I found that speaking the lines aloud helped, whereupon words like ac, treows, lytel, lif and the ever-present thu soon give up their meaning*. I could pat myself on the back for remembering from school that ham meant home, as it lives on today in many place names, Buckingham for instance.

Wyrm is obviously worm, or so you would think, but that is a false friend because really it means dragon or snake. The golden dragon of Wessex came from legend and appeared on their flag. Yet if some words are easy to guess, what is a reader to make of things like fugol – this was a bird – with the word having links to Proto-German (which could have been a rejected Kraftwerk song title), Old Frisian and Saxon. The word bird was used in Old English, but Kingsnorth’s storyteller is a Lincolnshire man, a well-bred and wealthy farmer and freeman, or socman, descended from a previous generation of invaders and so likely to use more Germanic words.

What we call ‘Old English’ was a blend of other languages, influenced by Latin, Norse and Celtic, with an array of local dialects depending on which tribe was doing the colonising. Cornish, Welsh, Cumbric and Norse would all have been spoken around the edges of the nominal boundaries of Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria and the Viking-ruled lands of the North.

Some of these old place names are still in use or, as with the white cliffs in the south, can be guessed at. Only an internet search enlightened me that andredesweald is Kent and the holtmen the people who lived near the woods that covered that area before the Normans arrived. Following the 1066 invasion, England’s geography as well as her language would be irrevocably altered.

There are many ideas of England that are peddled around by those with agendas and ambitions of their own. And while I wouldn’t like to second guess where this remarkably crafted tale is going to end, this history, to me anyway, has a lot to tell me about my country today. Rather than multiculturalism being some recently introduced change that could or should be reversed, we have always been a mixed up group of people, ruled by ‘cyngs’ of other nations, with our language adaptable and fluid in the face of outside influences.

Perhaps a longer post for another day. For now, it’s back to my reading.

* Did you spot all of them? The words were oak, trees, little, life and you.


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Computer love

The internet has taken an awful lot of flak lately, accused of all sorts from murder to drug dealing via rampant piracy.  It is little wonder that our brave Government feels the need to rush in and DO SOMETHING before the evil being emitted by our Netbooks and iPads swamps the earth.

As even casual observers will know, passing legislation on the hoof is rarely a good idea and unfortunately ‘doing something’ in this case has meant using end-of-Parliament rules called the ‘wash up’ to pass a draconian Digital Economy Bill without proper debate in the House of Commons.  Instead, party whips will negotiate between themselves to get the law onto the statute books before Parliament dissolves for the election.

The main causes for concern are:

  • A proposal to remove internet access from persistant file-sharers on a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy;
  • Making website owners responsible for all content, even if posted by users;
  • Forcing internet service providers to pass details of persistant offenders to copyright holders such as music or film companies

Each of these clauses has been amended and altered a couple of times, with the result that it is no longer clear exactly what will be outlawed by the law if it is passed.  This is an absurd situation.

So what can you do?

Campaigning organisation 38 degrees have set up a simple website for you to email your MP.  You just need to go here, fill in your postcode and the site will do the rest.  As they get ready for the election, let’s remind them that we are here, that we have a voice to be heard and that we want our internet to remain free.

Take the time to show your computer some love.

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Manchester views

A couple of pictures I took, when strolling around…
Channel M's Big Wheel

Channel M's Big Wheel

Channel M have a huge ferris wheel in town, by the Arndale centre.  They also used to have a music channel broadcasting local bands, but that unfortunately closed in May.  The story is here, and echoes a conversation we had on Thursday night after Kraftwerk about how Manchester’s musical past too often overshadows its future.  Everyone knows the legends, but who’s creating the new ones?

The Beetham Tower, looking moody

The Beetham Tower, looking moody

There have been a few changes to Manchester since I was last here.  It seems like every spare bit of land has its own block of luxury new build flats, at prices a Londoner could only dream of but alas, mostly empty.  The Beetham Tower is a hotel and apartment building with a bar at the top offering superb views of all the rain clouds (only messing, Mancunians!) and is home to Phil and Gary Neville, among others.  Although I took this picture from some distance away, so it looks like the entrance to Argos is the same size, the Tower dwarfs everything near it.  I like it and would love to see the views from the top, but I can’t help thinking it looks lonely and needs some skyscraper mates to hang out with!

Manchester in July

Manchester in July

This is really unfair, because it has been blazing hot sunshine most of the weekend, but hey, it wouldn’t be Manchester without the odd lashing rain storm, would it?

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We are the Robots

Kraftwerk at the Velodrome, Manchester

Kraftwerk at the Velodrome, Manchester

To Manchester!  The city sweltered in the unaccustomed sunshine, as the Manchester International Festival opened in style with Kraftwerk at the Velodrome.  The ‘living legends and globally revered innovators of techno pop’ (as noted in the programme) are also cyclist enthusiasts, so when we arrived to find the stage and standing section in the centre of the track, speculation mounted as to how they might use this unique space to full effect.  Sadly, they didn’t arrive at the venue on bikes as they have done in the past, but announced their arrival on stage with a boom from the speakers and a backlit projection of the familiar four figures onto the curtains drawn around it.  These then swept back as they launched into ‘Man Machine’.  The crowd, as you might expect, went wild. 

As ‘Tour De France’ began, all eyes began scanning the track, excited shouts going up at the arrival of four cyclists.  Ralf Hutter announced Team GB, with a wry aside to point out that their trainer is German.  The music was perfectly accompanied by black and white film of Tour cyclists toiling towards the crest of a lofty Alp and the gold-medal winners hurtling around the track.  The song ended to a wistful promise ‘next time we will bring our bikes’.

The rest of the set list took in ‘Trans Europe Express’, ‘Model’ and ‘Autobahn’, sounding at the same time retro and yet still fresh.  Then the curtains closed again before reopening for this:

We are the Robots

We are the Robots

Newer songs ‘Radio Activity’ and ‘Vitamin’ heralded the return of the human variants and a 3D extravaganza, all of us sporting the glasses like a 1950s B-movie audience.  As promised, it was a two-hour set, almost to the second but displaying a human and playful side to the men, alongside the ruthless efficiency of the machines.  Kraftwerk have influenced so many acts across all genres that seeing them live gives you the chance to hear the source material of all the music you have ever loved.  And you get to hear it played bloody loud on a great sound system while you dance like a madman.  The best kind of history lesson there is, I’d say.

To declare an interest, as I drank a fair bit of their champagne last night I feel duty bound to mention the utter aceness of the festival programme, which you can find here.  If I had a season ticket on Virgin Trains, I’d be back for the Durruti Column’s Paean to Wilson, Elbow and the Halle, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, perhaps also taking in Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna.  The weather has returned to predictable Mancunian inclemency today, but I’m sure that won’t spoil the party!

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It Felt Like a Kiss

I’ll be in Manchester this weekend, at the Kraftwerk gig (just had to mention… sorry!)

Now I’m also hoping I’ll be able to get tickets for ‘It Felt Like a Kiss’, a show put together by film maker Adam Curtis and theatre group Punchdrunk from rare archive footage.  There’s a taster available here and from the interview with Mr Curtis it sounds worth a look:

My aim was to try and find a more involving and emotional way of doing political journalism on TV.  I decided to make a film about something that has always fascinated me – how power really works in the world. To show that power is exercised not just through politics and diplomacy – but flows through our feelings and emotions, and shapes the way we think of ourselves and the world.

His film the Power of Nightmares looked at the way politicians create and then play on our fears to increase their power over us.  There’s an interview about it here, but in case you didn’t see it, the gist was that, like advertising which shocks you with a problem you never knew you had and then seeks to sell you the solution, politicians create bogeymen and then try to convince us that they are the only people with the power to save us from them.

The new one promises to include a look at America’s rise through the 50s and 60s, with pop, TV and film, and then show the darker side of the American Dream.  If I can beg, borrow or steal a ticket, I’ll report back next week…

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