Making Waves

The Pompadour hairstyle is certainly an interesting feature … on a man … playing music of Liszt.

This is neither a man, nor one playing Liszt.

It was some months ago when I had the good misfortune to be present at a lecture by a not un-well-known specialist on the subject who happened to be sporting one of these.

Why use a bottle at all?

“New wine deserves new bottles” declared good old Liszt, back when he was still alive and presumably interested in distillery. Ironically, he has and probably always will receive a fair degree of criticism as a composer of slightly melodramatic flair and fireworks at the expense of everything else.  I know, It’s a contentious subject, but the point of this lecture was to really sell us the other side of Liszt – the musical one.

It was a fascinating experience to watch this performer’s quiff. Unfortunately, for the purposes of the lecture, this wobbling hairstyle actually only proved that sooner or later, Liszt compositions tend to resort to double chromatic octaves; the waves of his hair became like watching a fast time-lapse video of the ocean breaking on the shore: predictable and unrelenting.

I ceased listening early on when the demonstrations started and decided to examine the compositions purely by hair-motion. The result? According to this measurement they were basically the same piece: For the intro, bold, stabby tuft flings, then a slow lyrical subject with little movement, and some form of development showing increased hair activity shimmering agitatedly and leading into the inevitable Grande. Finale. Brillante. With the octaves. And the TURBULENCE. Again. Did you ever wonder why Brahms fell asleep that stormy evening in Weimar?!

Artist Impression of Sleeping Brahms on that stormy evening in Weimar.

While a better piece/excerpt selection may have avoided this disturbingly resilient pattern, it was humorous to witness it either side of a passionate argument about the originality of form and composition. Analytically Liszt’s music may follow a variety of structures keeping with his whole ‘New Wine” thing, but form can take a number of … forms, and the emotional and indeed physical journey often seemed (and in this case visually and aurally) like the same old bottles.

Anyway, an academic appeared to be contradicted by his own hairstyle, and that probably doesn’t happen too often.


As you may or may not have judged from previous shark posts I have plenty of rational fears, but it turns out I also possess just a single member of the irrational variety: Balloons.

As far back as I can remember I’ve never been too comfortable around anything that has considerable amounts of (stored) potential energy, whether it be champagne bottles (pre-un-corking), gas cylinders, even everyday objects like unopened carbonated bottles or deodorant cans. It also applies to heights if there’s a good possibility of falling (gravitational potential energy), and for some reason I always gravitate precariously towards the very edges I’m trying to avoid. And of course this includes spring-loaded mechanisms, though more of the industrial sort.

This in itself is quite reasonable and rational, I assure you, as these things can dramatically release their stored energy at the slightest change of temperature or as the result of a feather-light touch or for no perceivable reason at all. So they are to be treated with suspicion.

I wouldn’t.

But the balloon is a special case. Although probably scoring quite low on the ‘lethality’ spectrum of stored energy devices, they nevertheless remain my biggest irrational fear. Let’s look at the evidence. The typical balloon is designed to:

  1. Inflate so as to be almost transparent
  2. Be cheap, easily accessible and deployed en-masse
  3. Burst at the slightest provocation
  4. Be played with (violently) by children at the age of poor motor skills
  5. Be played with by children who think loud explosions are fun or that the balloon has the roughly same durability as a soccer ball.
  6. Exist in a variety of easily identifiable bright colours to attract said children
  7. Decorate parties featuring either hoards of youngsters ultra-hyped on MSG (621), or inebriated adults on… I don’t know, probably inexpensive rum and/or some sort of vodka-and-sugar-based drink
  8. Be tantalising sources of combustive entertainment for the above parties when things get out of hand

In short, balloons are designed to explode and encourage people to make it happen. Not like fireworks (where one hopes the operator knows what they are doing and requiring a ignition catalyst anyway) but like cheerfully coloured land-mines for the claw-like mitts of reckless and careless individuals often below the criminal age of responsibility. Hell! They even bite them! *Shudder*

There must be far stricter limits regarding these time-bombs; restricting maximum inflation, increasing handling-age requirements, and lowering the allowed blood-alchohol toxicity of attending adults. Also all balloons should be securely attached to a surface at least two meters above the ground, and may never be handed in their singular form to minors.

Anyway, that’s my irrational phobia, and I swerve like there’s no tomorrow when I see a pram with a toddler attempting to strangle a balloon with its python-esque grip.

It just doesn’t end well for anyone involved

The Coin Age


We draw near the end of an era for a phenomenon that has existed across many cultures and several millennia – physical money. It will probably go the same way as bartering, a.k.a. taking a goat or handy driftwood out into a snowstorm to trade for vital medical attention and risk being laughed at by mounted Cossacks on the way, in favour of the much more secure electronic means such as cards and internet banking.

A Cossack with his Laughter Pole

However, coins do still exist at present and can be validly used for absurd studies for the moment and so I decided to take advantage of this fact.

We’ve all experienced the unparalleled thrill of finding lost coins on the ground, which tends to happen a lot in the UK due to the perseverance of the relatively worthless one and two pence piece. My question is this: Is it possible to realistically achieve minimum wage by looking for coins?

There are way too many factors for this to be taken seriously, but I’ll give it a go anyway, looking at value, volume and weight and determining frequencies. The process is such that I’ll look at the specifications of each coin and determine how likely it is to be ‘lost.’ Then compare the UK and Australia currency systems. As such, I assume a heavier, larger or more valuable coin is more likely to be retained and this is placed in proportion to the weight, volume, and value of the other coins. For instance I assume that a 2p coin will be twice as rare to find as a 1p, a 5p five times, etc.


Minimum Wage: £6.08 

One pence coin:Value: 1p Weight: 3.56g Volume: 518.36mm^3

Two pence coin:Value: 2p Weight: 7.12g Volume: 1069.51mm^3

Five pence coin:Value: 5p Weight: 3.25g Volume: 480.95mm^3

Ten pence coin: Value: 10p Weight: 6.5g Volume: 872.16mm^3

Twenty pence coin: Value: 20p Weight: 5g Volume: 672.30mm^3
Fifty pence coin: Value: 50p Weight: 8g Volume: 1085mm^3  (Approximate Volume)

One Pound coin: Value: 100p Weight: 9.5g Volume: 1252.46mm^3

Two Pound coin: Value: 200p Weight: 12g Volume: 1583.68mm^3

So percentage-ing against the total Values (388p), Weights (54.93g) and Volumes (7534.42mm^3) and averaging physical attributes (Weight and Volume), then averaging that average and value, and then weighting them relative to the One Pence Coin, blah blah blah, then we can come up with the following statistics for “lose-ability.”

Frequency of Losing Coins in the UK

So the £6.08 minimum wage would most likely be made up of something like: 151 One Pence coins, 37 Two Pence Coins, 28 Five Pence Coins, 7 Ten Pence Coins, 4 Twenty Pence Coins, 2 Fifty Pence Coins, and a Pound. 230 coins. All in an hour and seven times a day.

This seems unlikely. If you assume there’s a coin on every 100m stretch of street in any given inner-city area for instance, that’s 23 kilometres to cover per hour. I guess if you cycled and had good reflexes and eyesight you might manage… But it works out to one coin every 15.65 seconds.

The Australia

Australia has a much higher minimum wage of $15.96 but fewer coins and smaller, more lose-able valuable coins, thus improving your chances.

Five cent coin: Value: 5c Weight: 2.83g Volume: 384.67mm^3

Ten cent coin: Value: 10c Weight: 5.65g Volume: 874.87mm^3

Twenty cent coin: Value: 20c Weight: 11.3g Volume: 1597.09mm^3

Fifty cent coin: Value: 50c Weight: 15.55g Volume: 2338mm^3

One Dollar coin: Value: 100c Weight: 9g Volume: 1472.62mm^3

Two Dollar coin: Value: 200c Weight: 6.60g Volume: 1056.2mm^3

Total Values (385c), Weights (50.93g) and Volumes (7723.45mm^3). This means:

Frequency of Losing Coins in ‘the’ Australia

The $15.96 minimum wage would probably be made up of: 151 Five Cent coins, 36 Ten Cent Coins, 9 Twenty Cent Coins, 2 Fifty Cent Coins, and 2 One Dollar Coins. Only 200 coins an hour as opposed to 230 in the UK. 18 seconds per coin.

THEREFORE…. Regardless of how unlikely it is to earn a living by looking for coins, it is 15% more difficult to do so in the United Kingdom than in Australia.

Overall this tangible window of opportunity closing, with the emergence of an era of bank cards and iPhones, is seemingly something that really won’t be missed. Maybe our energies would be of better use towards creating a solution to our Cossack bartering troubles…


The Girl Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably.

Library Random Adventure No.2:

In fact, before I even regale you with this tale (for I have temporarily forgotten it) I will regale you with a tangent. A pretangent.

Unrelated Tangent:

The pretangent in question is about how when I was quite young, probably ten or so, my mother brought home from the library a rather large and thick book of limericks for me to read, as, like all of us, I was interested in them momentarily. I had read through a few such books previously, but never on the scale of this veritable tome.

It became readily apparent, flicking through, but clearly having escaped my mother’s notice,  that although the cover of the book was quite generic, A.K.A Giant Book of Limericks, or some such innocent title, the authors/compliers of the work were clearly under the impression that a limerick was any poem in the form of a limerick that dealt exclusively with sex.

At first I was confused. Was it just coincidence that the random poem I first opened up to was about a swan and a university student? Maybe it was just a dedicated chapter. No. Every poem, thousands of them. First to last. Though they didn’t always involve swans. Actually that one was my favourite, reproduced (pardon the pun) below:

Two Semantic Limericks by Gavin Ewart (1977)

1. According to The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1933)

There existed an adult male person who had lived a relatively short time, belonging or pertaining to St. John’s*, who desired to commit sodomy with the large web-footed swimming-birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygninae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motion when swimming.

So he moved into the presence of the person employed to carry burdens, who declared: “Hold or possess as something at your disposal my female child! The large web-footed swimming birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygninae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motion when swimming, are set apart, specially retained for the Head, Fellows and Tutors of the College.”

2. According to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary (Edition of 1765)

There exifted a person, not a woman or a boy, being in the firft part of life, not old, of St John’s* who wifhed to – the large water-fowl, that have along and very straight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fomething rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony).

In consequence of this he moved step by step to the one that had charge of the gate, who pronounced: “Poffefs and enjoy my female offspring! The large water-fowl, that have a long and very straight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fometimes rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony) are kept in ftore, laid up for a future time, for the fake of the gentlemen with Spanish titles.”

*A college of Cambridge University

Defending the Swans

So there you have it – an epic volume of dirty limericks.

Then I wondered: Was my mother trying to tell me something? Was this her way of educating me in these matters? But the innocent title and the cheerful red cover with little cartoonish figures merrily dancing around the border (it wasn’t exactly dancing on closer inspection) made it quite implausible that this was the case.

[EDITORS NOTE: I have remembered what the original story was]

Turns out though, boys and girls, that the novelty of such a book soon wore off. I never made it to the end. And along the way I discovered innumerable slang terms for sexual intercourse, relevant organs and all things associated. In fact, I suspected strongly that many of them actually weren’t used widely (or at all) in society except for their brief, one-off usage in their respective limericks, made to fit the strict rhyming structure, and combined with obscure and unconvincing sexual connotations, seemed composed entirely by an elite squad of English schoolboys. Perhaps these scholars then went on to create

In any case, nothing less than paraphrasing Blackadder could describe the systematic exploration of these poems on the topic of ‘doing anything to anything, animal, vegetable, mineral.’

Make it happen.

Library Random Adventure No.2, Cont’:

And this brings us back to Doh. As stated earlier the original library tale, involving borrowing books out at random led me one fine day to a mutli-volume treatise on the history of music philosophy. A series of white books, they smelled interesting enough. I learnt two things from it. The volume I borrowed was about Ancient Greece.

Thing No.1:

The Ancient Greek Philosophers believed different modes, or rather music in different modes, Aeolian, Phrygian etc, had different powerful psychological effects on humans. One philosopher even went so far as to boast he once broke up a riot by playing music in the Lydian mode on his lyre, soothing the angry young men involved.

Standard Police Issue: Ancient Greek Anti-Riot Gear.

Thing No.2:

Lesbos is a Greek Island, home to some 90 000 Lesbians.