Take a Polygraph

Posted: December 23, 2011 in music
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Since I first mentioned my chance discovery of a certain Ralph Mactelle’s music, I received this from his sister recently. Currently out on Polygraph Records, this is called Try


Don’t shoot the messenger

I was shopping again in that funky little bookshop in Nottingham and found this double ‘A’ side from my old friend Ralph Mactelle. Thought I’d foist it on you.

Foolish soundcloud.com/john-the-lodger/foolish-9

Tortured Souls soundcloud.com/john-the-lodger/tortured-souls-1

102 Uses For…

Posted: November 29, 2011 in moving pictures
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Old Jokes: Job interviews

101 Uses For…

Posted: November 29, 2011 in moving pictures
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An old joke: Picking someone up

The Instant Reibeyaice

Posted: November 23, 2011 in music, words
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‘Well, I Never!’ No. 4 – David Bowie, NASA, and the Instant Reibeyaice

A forerunner to the tamagochi, the Instant Reibeyaice was a life-sized robot advanced enough to be able to respond to commands, make decisions, have conversations, and even generate its own moods. Invented in the late sixties by American scientists working on the US space program, in conjunction with input from defecting Russian scientists, it was originally conceived of as a building block to pave the way for a possible linking of Russian and American technological know-how. The name was chosen to reflect this; a combination of the English ‘instant’ and the Ingush ‘reibeyaice’ meaning ‘friend’, a reference to the fact that it simply needed to be turned on to become your helpful companion.

It was notoriously expensive to develop, however, and was never fully perfected. There were numerous false starts, problems and one very public catastrophe: Glitches in its design and conflicts with in-flight apparatus led to it being instrumental in derailing the Apollo 13 mission of 1973. An extract from Group Captain Jim Sheladze’s unpublished autobiography sheds a little light on the incident;

“One of the more disruptive foibles of the Instant Reibeyaice was its propensity to query its surroundings, which at worst could manifest itself in a tendency towards depression. Its ability to discern human emotions and empathise with others led to it frequently becoming unable to operate due to the anxiety of those around it. In the confined atmosphere of a spacecraft this was especially dangerous. On the Apollo 13 mission, it was an active member of the crew responsible for all sorts of flight tasks, but after the mission hit its well-documented problems, the Instant Reibeyaice grew increasingly depressed, morbidly ironic, and unwilling to work. Eventually it self-destructed its own head. Now one crew member down and surrounded by robot innards, the remaining members were unable to work efficiently, resulting in procedural mistakes and the consequential failure of the mission. Officially, though, this was all later put down to mechanical failure.”

The incident was never public admitted by NASA or any of the other agencies working on the project, but it has remained a topic of rumour and speculation right up to the present day in many scientific circles.

The Reibeyaice programme was thought to have been scrapped immediately after the events of 1973 and no official explanation has ever emerged of the alleged events. However, the robot has managed to live on in various guises, especially in popular culture. It is widely thought to be the inspiration for the depressive robot character, Marvin, in Douglas Adam’s hugely successful ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ series; a tin toy produced in limited numbers soon after its inaugural mission is a choice and valuable find in charity shops and boot sales for amateur collectors; and the Reibeyaice also crops up in David Bowie’s 1980 follow-up to ‘Space Oddity’ and the chronicles of Major Tom, ‘Ashes To Ashes’. The lyrics outlining a hauntingly similar scenario to the events of the fated Apollo mission with Major Tom questioning both the death of his robot companion and the difficulty of continuing his own existence without it.

The Instant Reibeyaice may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.

I am a Lonely Plumber

Posted: November 15, 2011 in music
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I saw this recently in a bookstore in Nottingham. It’s an old Ralph Mactelle number, the b-side of his ‘I am a Lonely Plumber’ EP from before the war. I think it’s open access, so it’s safe to listen without fear. But for any afficionados out there, he’s using his open drop down D tuning. Tricky on modern guitars because they often only have six strings.


I woke in the middle of the night recently thinking about changing my name. And in the chill pre-dawn I came up with a few ideas. My first choice, Boutros Boutros-Ghali is a corker but, unfortunately, it’s already taken.  Haile Gebrselassie would look great on my letterheads, but again it’s obviously unavailable. Robert Nesta Marley flows well and is a little more prosaic. But maybe the man’s reputation adds a certain weight to his moniker. Slightly left of centre we have Oral Norrie-Ottey, which looks impressive, but is probably too much of a mouthful, or Ron-Robert Zieler which, while eye-catching for the double-barrelled Christian name, is just a little too showy methinks.

However, whenever I think about names that really stir the imagination I can’t help thinking of the racing drivers of yore. Who could ignore the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi or Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter, Jacky Ickx, Jacques Laffite? The list is endless. Of course, like Marley, their reputations add to their linguistic power: Juan Manuel Fangio, five times world champion; Gilles Villeneuve, heroic racer, untimely death; Tazio Nuvolari,… well, a bit before my time. And to add to it, their intrinsic non-Englishness conjures exotic images, tinged with a feeling of sunny days, beautiful girls and ready money – Elio de Angelis, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, and so on.

That’s not to say all the names from those days were classics. Au contraire, Jochen Rindt could have been a butcher. James Hunt probably more of a show jumper. Jochen Mass perhaps a well-respected scientist. But many, even the more anglicised names, have a certain dash or panache to them. Sterling Moss for instance, who, judging by his name alone, would fight tooth and nail before leaving you in his wake down the home straight.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few swashbucklers from the present day. Fernando Alonso can hold his head high while also possibly passing for a matador; Lewis Hamilton could wrap a starched scarf around his neck and terrorise the country lanes with Terry Thomas in tow, laughing like the bounder he always was;  and Will Power just about stays on the right side of the comedy fence. (Just as long as he remains a racing driver. If he were to become an executor, for example, or a battery manufacturer, he may not be taken so seriously.)

But, alas, in a purely aural comparison, Mark Webber (an excellent driver, I’m sure) is a pale shadow. Michael Schumacher is what his name suggests, a maker of shoes. Nigel Mansell, an estate agent and Mika Hakkinen, a Scandinavian fisherman. Not to mention Mr Button.

All in all, maybe I’ll stick to Ralph. It probably suits me after all these years.

Emerson Fittipaldi

(courtesy news.bbc.co.uk)