Thursday, 20 November 2014

Pink Banana Smoothie

Whilst the ingredients & recipe below might seem a bit improbable, I assure you this is a delicious smoothie with a delightful energy kick. Try it! The Blood Transfusion Juice recipe was slightly different on the day so I included the variation below. 

1 banana
2 dried prunes
20g scoop whey protein
Massive handful spinach, cabbage or kale
200ml Blood Transfusion fresh Juice
Whizz up in the Nutribullet for 30 seconds. 

Ingredients for Juice (makes 1 litre):
1 Kg Carrot
4 Apples
2 Oranges
1 Lemon
1 Beetroot
1 Head Celery

By North Utsire

Monday, 17 November 2014


Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny had been friends since school days in Newbridge, County Kildare, Lunny having taught Moore how to play both guitar and bodhrán. Before the formation of Planxty, Lunny had been playing in a duet with Andy Irvine after the latter's return from Eastern Europe and they had also launched their own folk club, downstairs at Slaterry's, called The Mugs Gig. Liam O'Flynn was playing in public and on the radio, and was well respected in traditional folk circles. All members were familiar with one another’s work to varying degrees, but were first brought together during the summer of 1971 to record Moore's second solo album, Prosperous, at his sister's house, in the village of the same name.

In January 1972, the four joined forces to form Planxty, recording their first single, "Three Drunken Maidens"/"Sí-Bheag, Sí-Mhór", in Trend Studios on 18 January 1972. The band performed on RTÉ's The Late, Late Show the following Saturday, and played their first show on 6 March, a 30 minute set at The Mugs Gig on a bill that included balladeer Paddy Reilly. They then assumed a weekly residency at The Mugs Gig, began rehearsing, and started playing live around Ireland.

The group's first major performance–opening for Donovan at the Hangar in Galway, at Easter 1972–was a huge success. Neither the audience nor the band knew what to expect, and both were pleasantly surprised. Irvine, unable to see the audience through the glare of the stage lights, was worried that the crowd might be on the verge of rioting. It took him several minutes to realize that what he was hearing was the expression of their enthusiasm.

"Planxty" was a word used by the classic harper Turlough O'Carolan in many of his works, and is believed to denote a tribute to a particular person: "Planxty Irwin," for example, would be in honor of Colonel John Irwin of Sligo. "Planxty" is thought to be a corruption of the Irish word and popular toast "sláinte", meaning "good health."

By North Utsire

The Bothy Band: Old Hag You Have Killed Me (1977)

The Bothies were possibly the greatest of new Irish traditional groups that arose in the seventies. Their fire and brilliance has long outlasted their three year history and the four albums they produced are prized possesions of many celtic music lovers.

In many ways they were a forerunner of the world-music groups that are with us today. Years after their demise, many still warmly recall the band's innovative mixture of traditional material and modern-style arrangements, with elements of jazz, classical and rock, all performed in a sophisticated and passionate style. [June Skinner Sawyers]

Forgotten or foot-noted in the rock 'n' roll encyclopedias they may be, but the music and inspiration of The Bothy Band is very much alive today in the memories and repertoire of almost anyone who is anyone on the Irish traditional scene. While Planxty gained a rock audience through a fresh and vigorous approach to Irish folk music, The Bothy Band did likewise with the deeper wells of Celtic tradition. [Harper]

The Bothy Band who hit for the underbelly of traditional music playing with a hard aggression not before seen. They were the ones that fired the public's imagination and one could see the number of similar bands sprouting up all over the place. [John O'Regan]

The Bothy Band: Discography
1975 The Bothy Band
1975 1976 Old Hag You Have Killed Me 
1977 Out of the Wind 
1979 After Hours (Live in Paris) 
1983 Best Of the Bothy Band
1995? The Bothy Band - Live in Concert

By North Utsire

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Workers' MP on a Workers' Wage

Photography: Dave Sinclair

Between 1983 and 1987 Liverpool's Labour council, then led by socialists, refused to transfer the burden of Tory government cuts, introduced by Margaret Thatcher, onto the backs of Liverpool's working people. The 'Liverpool 47' councillors adopted the slogan of 'better to break the law than break the poor', first used by the jailed councillors of Poplar in 1921.

Liverpool council -which included supporters of Militant, the Socialist Party's predecessor - was the only local authority that successfully extracted extra funding - £60 million - from Thatcher's government.

The council was never voted out, but pushed out by a combination of the Tories, the national Labour leadership (under Neil Kinnock, now a Lord), and the courts using retrospective legislation. The councillors had carried out their socialist promises, but there has been an attempt to bury the council's achievements in an avalanche of distortion.

What was achieved

  • 6,300 families rehoused from tenements, flats and maisonettes
  • 2,873 tenement flats demolished
  • 1,315 walk-up flats demolished
  • 2,086 flats/maisonettes demolished
  • 4,800 houses and bungalows built
  • 7,400 houses and flats improved
  • 600 houses/bungalows created by 'top-downing' 1,315 walk-up flats
  • 25 new Housing Action Areas
  • Six new nursery classes built and open
  • 17 Community Comprehensive Schools established following a massive reorganisation
  • £10 million spent on school improvements
  • Five new sports centres, one with a leisure pool attached, built and open
  • 2,000 additional jobs provided for in Liverpool City Council Budget
  • 10,000 people a year employed on Council's Capital Programme
  • Three new parks built
  • Rents frozen for five years

Dave Nellist, Terry Fields

Traditionally Labour conducts campaigns more as opinion polls. The canvasser is advised by 'professional agents' merely to obtain the voting intentions of the elector. Canvassers are told not to 'waste time' on Tories, Liberals, SDP, or even the 'doubtful'. In contrast, the Broadgreen campaign started off with the understanding that only through a campaign of explanation, discussion and attempting to convince people through arguments would it be possible for the seat to be won. Sometimes canvassers were asked into houses or were kept for 20 or 30 minutes on the doorsteps discussing political issues. A massive campaign of political education took place, with tens of thousands of workers understanding the issues clearly by the end of the campaign. The main demands of Terry Fields' campaign carried in Broadgreen Labour News were:

  • A crash programme of public works to build houses, schools, etc. and to provide jobs.
  • The immediate introduction of a drastically shorter working week, without loss of pay, to create jobs. This to be coupled with a national minimum wage.
  • The repeal of all anti-trade union legislation implemented by this Tory government.
  • An end to the scandal of council rents of £25 to £30 a week while the council has to pay 85p back to the money-lenders for every £1 collected in rent, and where home-buyers are having to pay the highest mortgage repayments in history.
  • These demands will be linked to the call for the public ownership of the nation's wealth and resources – democratically managed and controlled – which is being sold off by the Tories to their rich backers or invested abroad to the tune of £7000 million each year, while industry is being starved of investment.

Special leaflets were produced and appeals made to the youth and to working-class women to draw them into the campaign. A central feature of the campaign was the call for a 35-hour working week. This was official Labour Party policy but, although in the election manifesto, it was never featured by the leadership running the national campaign.There was deep scepticism as to how a Labour government would pay for its promised reforms. Moreover, many workers were searching for an explanation of the difficulties that would confront a Labour government working within the framework of capitalism.

The modern working class is more cultured than in the past, has much wider horizons because of the television and other mass media, and sees what is happening in the labour movement in other countries. Workers pointed to the inadequacies and the retreats of the French Socialist-Communist government. How would a Labour government avoid treading the same path? The right wing of the Labour Party, and also some on the left, contemptuous of the capacity of working people to understand an analysis, completely failed to give any explanation of the process at work in society.

In contrast the Marxists in Broadgreen did not restrict their campaign to a few slogans, but sought to raise the level of understanding and to prepare a bastion of working-class consciousness for future battles, no matter what the outcome on 9 June. Above all Labour's candidate, Terry Fields, never hesitated to explain that within the confined of capitalism any limited concessions won by Labour for workers could be snatched back by the capitalists at a later stage. Only a socialist planned economy, the idea of which is enshrined in Clause 4 Part IV of Labour's constitution, would eliminate the mass poverty and suffering which scars the Broadgreen constituency and Britain as a whole.

A Workers' MP on a Workers' Wage

One demand which separated Terry Fields not only from his political opponents but from other Labour candidates, was his promise to be a 'workers' MP on a workers' wage'. The slogan was displayed in thousands of leaflets and posters throughout the city. This generated colossal enthusiasm amongst workers, who were convinced that 'one of their own' would enter Parliament and would not be separated from them in his lifestyle or outlook. 

From the following books by Peter Taaffe:
Liverpool: A City that Dared to Fight, [1988]
The Rise of Militant: Militant's Thirty Years 1964 – 1994 [1995]

After being expelled from the Labour Party for the ‘crime’ of fighting valiantly for old time socialism & the people of Liverpool, Terry Fields stood alone as a socialist candidate in the 1991 election Battle For Broadgreen. A battle which he lost. Following that he opened a pub & was again in the papers for rescuing a woman from a fire at age 65. I think the phrase “working class hero” doesn’t come into it really.

I had the pleasure of meeting him during the unsuccessful 1991 Battle For Broadgreen. I was standing on the street with Terry & another campaigner, both of us breathing in the delightful smoke from his pipe, when he suddenly expectorated an impressive greeny which underwent a graceful parabolic flight and landed with a glistening splat on the pavement. We stood there for a while in the sunlight, staring at it, and with perfect comical timing, Terry Fields said: “That’s a Tory that”.
By North Utsire

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Why We Go To School

By North Utsire

Rachmaninov, Marfan’s & Acromegaly

Russian virtuoso pianist, composer, and conductor Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov (1873-1943) is perhaps best known for his second, C minor, piano concerto, popularized in the films Brief Encounter (1945) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). The third, D minor, piano concerto was also popularized by David Helfgott, in the film Shine (1996). In his lifetime Rachmaninov's prelude in C sharp minor was so popular as a concert encore that even he grew to hate it. And works such as the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Symphonic Dances cemented his popularity. His technical perfection was legendary.

It was said that his large hands were able to span a twelfth (an octave and a half or, for example, a stretch from middle C to high G). However, according to the Guinness Book of Musical records, Rachmaninov could play a left hand chord of C E Flat G C G. It is one thing to play a 12th but another thing to play a 5 finger chord. It is therefore possible that he could play a 13th.

After Rachmaninov's death, the poet Marietta Shaginyan published fifteen of the apparently many letters they had exchanged between her first contacting him in February 1912 and their final meeting in July 1917. Although she had signed her letters simply "Re", Rachmaninov had fairly quickly discovered her identity. The nature of Shaginyan and Rachmaninov's relationship bordered on romantic, but was primarily an intellectual and emotional love. Shaginyan and the poetry she shared with Rachmaninov during their correspondence has been cited as the inspiration for the six songs that make up Rachmaninov's Opus 38. In 1913 she dedicated her first set of published poems, "Orientalia", to him. Sadly Rachmaninov left Russia in 1917, never to return. Their correspondence ceased at that point.

Marietta Shaginyan, portrait by Alexander Deineka,1944

“Looking back on the last eighteen months of our friendship with Rachmaninoff, on Monday, January 18 of 1916 he was playing a big concert in Moscow… The program included The Bells, the Spring cantata, the Third Concerto for piano and orchestra and an encore of the Musical Moment played by a very inspired Rachmaninoff to a raving audience…” Marietta Shaginyan writes in her diary.

Big as he was as a composer, Rachmaninoff was absolutely fantastic as a pianist. His playing was so incredibly demonic, he could make you believe everything he wanted by just playing the instrument… Like, for example, his Musical Moment that was absolutely without any precedence in world musical literature…”

The spring of 1916 was a bad time for him: first, his wife fell seriously ill and then he himself was struck by arthritis in his hand joints which tormented him for the rest of his life. Advised by his doctors to get some treatment in the Caucasus, Rachmaninoff headed to a sanatorium where he was treated like royalty living in a two-room suite complete with a baby grand

Marietta Shaginyan, who was then spending the summer in the Caucasus, came down to see Rachmaninoff and was quick to realize how bad he was. “There were tears welling up in his eyes, his voice was trailing off as he said he was no longer able to work and write on, that he would never be more than just a “well-known pianist and a mediocre composer.”

“If I had always been like this it would have been much easier for me,” he said. “The problem is, I used to be a talented young man who could write just about anything sitting down in the morning and finishing in the evening… I still feel the urge to write music but it seems I’ve lost the knack and will never get it back…”

“His voice was horrible, dead, as is spoken by an old man, his eyes had lost their sparkle, his face was gray and tortured… I was trying my best to express to him my heartfelt sympathy and unwavering faith in his huge talent, to wrap him in my faith to make him feel better. When he calmed down a bit I opened my notebook with poems and we started looking for something he could use in his love songs…”

Diary of Marietta Shaginyan

It is widely thought that Rachmaninov’s hands were a manifestation of Marfan's syndrome, their size and slenderness typical of arachnodactyly. However, Rachmaninov did not clearly exhibit any of the other clinical characteristics typical of Marfan's, such as scoliosis, pectus excavatum, and eye or cardiac complications. Nor did he express any of the clinical effects of any of the rare Marfan-related syndromes. There is no indication that his immediate family had similar hand spans, ruling out familial arachnodactyly. Rachmaninov did not display any signs of digital clubbing or any obvious hypertrophic skin changes associated with the condition.

Rachmaninov may well have been myopic rather than suffering eye complications related to Marfan's Syndrome. In 1907 in Dresden at the age of 34 he suffered disabling eye strain. He wrote that after weeks of intensive proof reading of music "my eyes are quite ruined. In doing any strenuous writing or reading the eyes go misty and the head aches badly." At first glasses were prescribed, but within weeks an ophthalmologist had specifically countermanded this and the successful treatment consisted of eye massage and the avoidance of all reading and writing by artificial light. Possibly related to this eye strain were bouts of a severe, stabbing pain in the right temple that began in Russia before the first world war and increased every year in frequency and severity until in 1921 he spent time in hospital undergoing treatment, but without success. In Russia he had always attributed these pains to eye strain and continual bending over the manuscript while composing. After leaving Russia for the last time in December 1917 he was forced by this trouble to give up composition for three years, and he found relief from it only in his recital work. Both these problems, it has been suggested, were due to difficulties of accommodation and convergence resulting from myopia. Lastly, it would appear from photographs that Rachmaninov did not use reading glasses in his 50’s and early 60’s.

His life was plagued by minor illness, which had important consequences for his musical career both as a composer and as a performer. Thus, at intervals from his mid-30s, in addition to the eye strain and headaches, he suffered disabling back pain, stiffness of the hands, arthritis, and, for a while, a strange bruising of the finger tips while performing at the piano (a microvascular fragility, it has been speculated as the result of connective tissue disorganisation arising from the syndrome), all of which seriously interfered with his work. The stoical manner in which he faced his final illness makes it unlikely that these were trivial complaints magnified by hypochondria.

Marfan’s Syndrome

A tall, thin build
Long arms, legs, fingers, and toes
Flexible joints
Pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum
Teeth that are too crowded
Flat feet
Stretch marks on the skin that are not related to weight gain or loss
Heart and Blood Vessel Complications
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP)
Eye Complications
Nervous System Complications
Lung Complications

Blurred vision
Enlarged hands, feet & bone overgrowth
Swollen hands & feet
Thick, Course & Oily skin
Skin tags
Enlarged tongue, lips & nose
Dental bite disturbances
Deep voice
Enlarged sinuses
Fatigue & Weakness
Enlarged internal organs
Enlargement of face bones
Abnormal growth of head & face
Coronary artery disease
High blood pressure
Carpel tunnel syndrome

Marfan's Syndrome: Extreme presentation
Development of facies in Acromegaly

Acromegaly has been advanced as an alternative diagnosis for Rachmaninov’s health problems. From photographs of Rachmaninov in the 1920s and his portrait by Konstantin Somov in 1925 (below) at a time when he was recording his four piano concerti, the coarse facial features of acromegaly are not immediately apparent although the Somov portrait is suggestive. However, a case can be made from later photographs.

Portrait of Sergei Rachmaninov (1925)
by Konstantin Somov; oil on canvas.
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Yet contrary to rumors of Rachmaninov’s proposed "giantism" of “six and a half feet,” his physical height is documented in repeated U.S. Immigration manifests at Ellis Island as 6'1". However, conductor Eugene Ormandy (who teamed with Rachmaninov in many piano and orchestra performances) recalled in 1979: "He [Rachmaninov] was about six feet-three. I am five feet-five and a half..." Rachmaninov's height would therefore not really be considered a physical deformity or abnormality. However, the presence of "gigantism" is not diagnostic of acromegaly. It is true that childhood pituitary tumours can cause the bones to grow which results in extraordinary limb length, but pituitary tumours & abnormalities which occur after adolescence can cause thickening of bone resulting in enlargement of the head, feet and hands only. A late- onset pituitary tumour would explain Rachmaninov's relatively modest height and change in appearance only in later photographs.

Rachmaninov's repeated bouts of depression are also consistent with a diagnosis of acromegaly. On 27 March 1897, his First Symphony was poorly received in an under-rehearsed performance conducted by an inebriated Aleksandr Glazunov. This event, from which Rachmaninov fled in horror, is said to have triggered his first major episode of depression, which temporarily brought his composing career to a standstill: ‘all my hopes, all belief in myself, had been destroyed.’ It would not be until the latter half of 1900 that he returned to composition, with the help of a hypnotist, Dr Nikolai Dahl, to whom he dedicated his Second Piano Concerto, the second and third movements of which he brilliantly performed in December of that year. His second major bout of depression began during the Second World War, when he was living near Los Angeles, probably related to worries over the safety of one of his daughters and grief over the deaths of relatives and friends in the war.

During a heavy concert schedule in Russia in 1912, he interrupted his schedule because of stiffness in his hands. This may have been due to overuse, although carpal tunnel syndrome or simply swelling and puffiness of the hands associated with acromegaly may have been the cause. In 1942, Rachmaninov made a final revision of his troublesome Fourth Concerto but composed no more new music.

In 1943 Rachmaninov became ill in the middle of a concert tour after a recital in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was admitted to a hospital in Los Angeles with a rapidly progressing melanoma. A little over five weeks later he was dead due to the disease, which is known to be associated with acromegaly. It would be possible to confirm a diagnosis by testing Rachmaninov’s relatives using genetic assay techniques. Rachmaninov had two daughters, a couple of grandchildren and a few other relatives who would be eligible for genetic testing. Up till now such a test has not been performed.

When cancer was diagnosed, he looked at his hands and whispered;
‘My dear hands... Farewell, my poor hands.’

Info: British Medical Journal, J R Soc Med, Voice of Russia.
By North Utsire

Monday, 3 November 2014


By North Utsire

E F Schumacher: Small is Beautiful

“If greed were not the master of modern man--ably assisted by envy--how could it be that the frenzy of economism does not abate as higher "standards of living" are attained, and that it is precisely the richest societies which pursue their economic advantage with the greatest ruthlessness? How could we explain the almost universal refusal on the part of the rulers of the rich societies--where organized along private enterprise or collective enterprise lines--to work towards the humanisation of work? It is only necessary to assert that something would reduce the "standard of living" and every debate is instantly closed. That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of of "bread and circuses" can compensate for the damage done--these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence--because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.”

~ E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Image: Kate Gibb. Cover Illustration from H G Wells, The Sleeper Awakes, Penguin Classics

By North Utsire

The Biophilia of E O Wilson

“Each of these [bacterial] species are masterpieces of evolution. Each has persisted for thousands to millions of years. Each is exquisitely adapted to the environment in which it lives, interlocked with other species to form ecosystems upon which our own lives depend in ways we have not begun even to imagine.”

 “Consider the nematode roundworm, the most abundant of all animals. Four out of five animals on Earth are nematode worms — if all solid materials except nematode worms were to be eliminated, you could still see the ghostly outline of most of it in nematode worms.”

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

By North Utsire

Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

“Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.”

“The problem, then, is how to bring about a striving for harmony with land among a people many of whom have forgotten there is any such thing as land, among whom education and culture have become almost synonymous with landlessness. This is the problem of conservation education.”  

By North Utsire

Osho on Nature

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.  ~Osho~

By North Utsire

John Burroughs: The Healing Power of Nature

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
~John Burroughs~

By North Utsire

Meditations of John Muir

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
 ~John Muir~

By North Utsire

Margaret Fuller: The Prose of Life

I fear I have not one good word to say this fair morning, though the sun shines so encouragingly on the distant hills and gentle river and the trees are in their festive hues. I am not festive, though contented. When obliged to give myself to the prose of life, as I am on this occasion of being established in a new home I like to do the thing, wholly and quite, - to weave my web for the day solely from the grey yarn. ~Margaret Fuller~

By North Utsire

The Earth Laughs in Flowers

The Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

By North Utsire

Various Anthropomorphised Vegetables

By North Utsire

Faculative Necrotrophism

You might be wondering what a faculative necrotroph is. Judging by MS Word spellcheck, Bill Gates doesn't know either. A necrotroph is a pathogen which lives on a dead body. A faculative necrotroph is a pathogen which can survive on a living body as a parasite, but waits until it has killed its host to devour it completely. Below are a few documentaries about the despicable nature of some well known coorporations, which are bleeding humanity dry until such a day as there is nothing left but evaporated tears and ashes to merchandise to.

By North Utsire

Werner Herzog Documentaries

Two of my favourite & most entertaining Werner Herzog documentaries: Wheel of Time, a 2003 portrait of Tibetan Buddhism; and the 1989 Woodabe: Herdsmen of the Sun, about the customs of the nomadic Woodabe African Sahara/ Sahel community. Although these films may be considered to be ethnographic, Herzog commented that: "[My films] are anthropological only in as much as they try to explore the human condition at this particular time on this planet. I do not make films using images only of clouds and trees, I work with human beings because the way they function in different cultural groups interests me. If that makes me an anthropologist then so be it."

By North Utsire