Archive for the ‘Musical nonsense’ Category

Cancer from your pen top

March 29, 2010

In which Dr Aust enjoys some musical wit and whimsy

Via some of my new friends from Skeptics in the Pub, and Twitter, I encountered this rather wonderful song about One of the Twin Powerhouses of British Media Ghastliness (along with the Sun), the Daily Mail:

The Tweet that alerted me to this little masterpiece (and which came from a skeptical arts blogger) referenced the brilliant line:

“Cancer from your shoes, from your dog, from your pentop”

- which I think deserves instant classic status. The Daily Mail is, of course well known in UK bad science circles for what Ben Goldacre likes to describe as:

“[Its] bizarre ongoing ontological project to divide all the foodstuffs (indeed all the inanimate objects) in the world into those that either cause, or cure, cancer.” (see also here)

- to which I would only add that it is not unknown for the same foods, or inanimate objects, to show up in both of these lists, often at surprisingly short intervals.

Private Eye routinely refers to the Mail as the “Daily Fail”, though my favourite title for the paper, which I think was coined by much-missed recently retired medical blogger Dr John Crippen, is the “Peoples’ Medical Journal”. This owes its origin to what all my doctor friends regard as the misleading medical and NHS stories that the Fail runs, mostly about how doctors are useless/grasping/sinister. But it serves equally well for the Fail’s seeming obsession with cancer, and multiple credulous stories about Alternative Medicine.

For any non-UK reader who would like to learn more about the Peoples’ Medical Journal and its long and not especially illustrious history, Wikipedia offers a useful introduction.

Anyway, the video, which is both brilliant and funny, and is now getting quite a bit of re-tweet and blog action, comes from this/these chap(s).

And now – a  random musical discursion

If you’ve watched it, the discarding of the copies of the newspaper as a dramatic device rather reminds me of a famous early pop clip, the one for of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.

The Dylan video is actually the opening sequence of the famous documentary Don’t Look Back by DA Pennebaker. (The film itself is an absolute classic, and anyone even vaguely interested in the music of the 60s should seek it out at once,  if they’ve not seen it.)

Now, while the newspaper discarding conjures up Dylan, Dan and Dan’s general style puts me more in mind of the (sadly departed) Jake Thackray. Most younger people in the UK now will not remember Thackray, a whimsical and often very funny singer-songwriter most famous in the UK in the late 60s and 70s. Thackray, whose distant influence can perhaps be seen in a song like Pulp’s Common People, was himself much inspired by the French singer-poet Georges Brassens.  So here, as an introduction, is Thackray singing his (rather good) translation of Brassens’ famous anti-capital punishment song Le Gorille:

and the Brassens’ original for comparison (with subtitles from this blog):

Upcoming highlights (which may never appear)

If you listen to Le Gorille you will notice that it evinces a less than respectful approach to the gravitas of the judiciary. Which reminds me that we are expecting the formal Appeal Court ruling on the BCA v Singh “appeal on meaning” some time soon, and possible before the weekend. I am aware that I have been very slack about posting recently, so perhaps I will try and comment on the ruling when it appears, as Jack of Kent has been nagging me to do. And then there is World Homeopathy Awareness Week to come after that….

In the mean time, enjoy the music. And I’ll close with one other completely unrelated – though appropriately seasonal – musical favourite; in this case a song I like to sing to Junior Aust when we go for a walk.  Enjoy.

PS AND UPDATE – March 31st:

One of my senior academic colleagues reminds me of another piece of British newspaper-related beat poetry, this one from our youth back at the end of the 70s, and dealing with another mid-market tabloid, the Daily Express. In an interesting piece of serendipitous co-incidence the writer/performer, the wonderful John Cooper Clarke, famously pinched much of his own visual style from the early 60s Bobby Zimmerman, though its not easy to see that in this rather low-quality live clip. However, the poem makes up for the quality.

Back crack quack attack – the song

May 26, 2009

Not got round to doing any extended chiropractic debunking as yet, though I am enjoying tremendously seeing what the rest of the posse have been up to. Anyway, as a small contribution, I thought that perhaps the counter-Chiropractic unreality movement needed a theme song. So here is my attempt.

For the tune I have chosen a late 60s classic of pained disaffection with the state of the world. It seemed appropriate somehow. For full versions of the song see below.

————————————————————————–

Back Crack quack attack


Back crack quack attack

Lawyers’ fangs rip honest hack

Reality’s all out of whack

Nineteenth century Chiro sCAM

—————————————————————————-

Writs gag – rich man’s law

Chiropractors scream for more

Free discussion shown the door

Nineteenth century Chiro sCAM

—————————————————————————–

Back crack quack attack

Libel lawyers’ lips will smack

But beware! The nerds fight back

Nineteenth century Chiro-sCAM

—————————————————————————-

The little video above, which is actually just the last part of the song, comes from an early performance of the song 21st Century Schizoid Man when King Crimson supported the Rolling Stones at a famous free festival in Hyde Park in 1969. This was the festival a few days after ex-Stones guitarist Brian Jones’ death, and the performance at which Mick Jagger famously read Keats to the assembled fans in memory of Jones – a clip which turns up on many a TV documentary and indeed on Youtube.

And before you ask, of course I wasn’t there. I’m old, but I’m not that old.

The full audio of 21st Century Schizoid Man from the same performance (no visuals) is here, with the album version here. Finally, there is another version, apparently from a BBC session, here.

——————————————–

PS In an earlier version I did have a slightly different verse:

Laws to keep the truth unsaid
Legal maze and robes of red
Keep the rich and powerful fed
Nineteenth Chiro sCAM

- which might have been better, but sadly it seems that English High Court Judges sitting on defamation cases no longer wear the old red robes.

The twelve days of (alternative) Christmas

December 25, 2008

Holiday best wishes to all Dr Aust’s readers (all four of them).

partridge-pear-tree

As a bit of light seasonal fare, I decided on a Christmas song. Others may like to invent their own versions.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,

My true love sent to me

Twelve healers “healing”

Eleven chiros suing

Ten psychic surgeons

Nine worthless journals

Eight random needles

Seven magic crystals

Six placebo pills

Five sessions of homoeopathy (Or:  “Five alternative realities” )

Four nutritionistas

Three imagined allergies

Two crank diets

And a fictitious Ph.D. !


[BPSDB]

The First Nutritionista’s Song

November 19, 2008

In which Dr Aust gets all Gilbert and Sullivan on celebrity Nutritionistas and their airs

Dr Aust is into rhyming at the moment.

This is in part because the Aust-mobile (a twelve-year old tin box on wheels with the absolute minimum of features) finally gave up the ghost a few weeks back. The clutch started making strange groaning noises, and was diagnosed as terminal, and the gearbox is apparently also on its last legs. As result I have been travelling to work and back each day on our wonderful (note: irony) local public transport system, after a gap of nearly a decade. I now get 40 minutes* each way, daily, to read a book (too much paper-folding to read a broadsheet, the Metro is too brain-numbing to count as a newspaper, can’t face working), or to do some thinking.

(*median value: the range so far is 30-55)

Anyway, one of the more relaxing ways I have found to pass these journeys is to try and think up lyrics to comic (more specifically, parody) songs.

But who to write them about?

Well, recently I was thinking it had been a while since I wrote anything about our friends the Nutritionistas. And then I saw this amusing – if rather depressing – piece about an Old Friend of the BadScience Blogosphere who is something of a National Nutritionista celeb.

The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when my father, while visiting last weekend, told me that he was once in the chorus for a student production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.

For those not familiar with HMS Pinafore, Wikipedia notes that one of its underlying themes is

“pok[ing]…fun at… the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority”

G and S were rather good at puncturing pomposity and sending up those with inflated ideas of their eminence and importance. The particular scene that swam into my mind’s eye on this occasion was this one from Act One of H.M.S. Pinafore.

I have attempted a Nutritionist re-write.

Scene: A conference held in the Institute of Optimistic Nutrition.

An audience of worried looking people sit in anticipation. Many are clutching books with a picture of a bronzed and healthy-looking smiling man with short greying hair on the cover.

Enter THE CHORUS stage right. They are dressed as journalists, and carry notebooks, laptops and Blackberrys. Some are Lifestyle journalists, recognisable by their GoreTex bicycle clothing (men) or unfeasibly large handbags (women)

A second chorus of younger people (THE GRADUATES) files on stage left. They are wearing white coats and smart trousers and carrying clipboards and glossy brochures. Their leader is a glamorous blonde (the NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST).

Finally, THE NUTRITIONIST enters, smiling and waving, to applause from the CHORUS OF GRADUATES. He is clad in jeans and a collar-less denim shirt, and looks about 35.

[Note: If the production budget stretches to this, he may be accompanied by a MINOR CELEBRITY, for instance an actress, model, has-been singer or serial footballer dater, The MINOR CELEBRITY does not speak or sing, but should look at THE NUTRITIONIST adoringly].


Music: “Now give three cheers” (sometimes known as “I am the monarch of the sea”)

NUTRIONIST (N): I am the Great Nutritionist

On that my revenues quite insist

To whom packed lecture halls pay tribute

NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST (NT): And so do the graduates of his Institute!

ALL: And so do the graduates of his Institute!

The Graduates of his Institute!

N: I know what’s best for you and me

Vitamins A, B, C, D and E

My supplements are just as good as eating fruit

NT: And so say the graduates of his Institute!

ALL: And so say the graduates of his Institute!

The Graduates of his Institute!

N: When sceptics try to catch me out

To claim the rules of evidence I flout

I’ll just deny I made the statement in dispute

NT: Supported by the graduates of his Institute!

ALL: Supported by the graduates of his Institute!

And also by his clients who think it must be a science Institute!

(music changes to tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “First Lord’s Song”, sometimes known as “When I was a lad”)

The Nutritionist’s Song


N: When I was a lad I took a degree

In experimental psychology

In a library book I found the odd conceit

That schizophrenia is caused by what we eat

ALL: That schizophrenia is caused by what we eat!

N: I seized on this idea so avidly

That I now am a Nutritional Authority

ALL: He seized on this idea so avidly

That he now is a Nutritional Authority!

——————————————————–


(NB Repeats similarly for each following verse)

———————————————————


Finding that my skill was at the writing game

I churned out books and got a shot at fame

I found that people crave Eternal Youth

And pseudoscience makes my Snake Oil sound like truth

I flannelled away so semi-plausibly

That I now am a Nutritional Authority

—————————————————-

My Richard Gere looks and healthy glow

Won me a slot on a breakfast TV show

I plugged antioxidants and vitamin pills

Whilst denouncing the Poisons of the Pharma Shills

I smiled so winningly handsomely

That I now am a Nutritional Authority

——————————————————

To improve education I took a new route

By setting up my very own Institute

And no-one could have been more surprised than me

When it then awarded me a very special degree!

I burnished my CV so meticulously

That I now am a Nutritional Authority

——————————————————

Now I lecture round the country giving more hard sell

To my target audience of the worried well

I listen to their piteous laments

And then I plug my own-brand range of supplements

I’ve played this game so successfully

That I now am a Nutritional Authority

————————————————–


So nutritionists all whoever you may be

If you wish to rise to the top of the tree

The Golden rule is to smile – insist it’s “common sense”

And at all costs have no truck with evidence

Stick to this rule – and charge eye-watering fees

And you too may be Nutritional Authorities

[BPSDB]



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