Tuesday, December 24, 2019

4 records @ 50

As the year 2019 draws to a close, I celebrate four records which were recorded in 1969 and still sound as fresh as they did then. In order of recording ....

The Beatles - Abbey Road. I don't have any recollection of ever sitting down and listening to this record at the time although it must have been played frequently in the background. The only real memory that I have is of someone on the kibbutz where I was in 1973 who used to play 'I want you (she's so heavy)' constantly. As I have written before about the Beatles, their songs used to creep in by osmosis. But when compared to the other records in this small list, they were no longer the kings of music in 1969.

King Crimson - In the court of the crimson king. I wasn't aware of this record until about February 1970 but it had an extreme effect on me - at least, side one did. Now more than then I appreciate the woodwind arrangement of 'I talk to the wind'; this is excellent as it stands, but is light years better than the early versions of this song which exist.

Fairport Convention - Liege and Lief. Talk about extremes: this record is at a completely different place in the music universe compared to the previous record, yet they were recorded within two months of each other. I don't listen to this enough these days. I saw on YouTube a few weeks ago a documentary about Fairport - or more specifically, about Liege and Lief, which reawakened my interest in it.

Van der Graaf Generator - The least we can do. This was recorded in four days at the end of 1969 and is a companion piece to King Crimson, as I've written before. I heard this in its entirety a few days ago; the first two tracks are still as powerful as they ever were, whereas the other four songs pale in comparison to VdGG's later work (especially 'Godbluff' or 'Pawn Hearts') - but they're still better than the crimson king!

But in 1969, I had yet to hear any of these records (except for maybe 'Abbey Road'). I had my first guitar and was beginning to learn how to play it. I took it with me to the five day winter camp which would have started just before the new year. One of the leaders had brought an Israeli record which they played quite frequently, from which we learnt two songs. The first was about Russian Jewry, which was starting to become an issue at this time. The second was a song about peace, but what was striking about it was the excellent arrangement - already it seems that I had an ear for this. I worked out the chords (they weren't too difficult) but for some reason was relegated to playing 'bass guitar' when some of us performed the song at the closing party. We weren't to know at the time but the instrumentalists were to metamorphosise into the excellent Israeli group, Kaveret. When my parents went to Israel for the first time in April 1970, I asked them to buy this record for me (somehow I knew what it was called and who it was by).

Years later, I realise that the best song on the record is neither of the two that we played all the time, but rather the title song of the album - בהיאחזות הנח"ל בסיני. Over the past few months I've been working now and then on an arrangement of this song which I intend to present at next year's Yom Kippur evening. I've been working mainly from my memory of the song, which makes it slightly different to the YouTube version. I also found what seems to be a demonstration version by the song's author which is far worse than the YouTube version. 

This song is very interesting, both lyrically and musically. Each verse starts off with the author 'seeing' something, except that every verse uses a different verb. The song mentions 'Good old Israel' which I don't remember being a concept in 1969, although of course, I'm not an expert on this. Musically, each verse has a slightly different structure, which maintains interest. Even more interesting is that the most dominant chord in the song (which is played for maybe a third of the song) is a minor 6th chord, which is normally very sad and somewhat dissonant.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Another black Friday

As I was returning from my early morning walk with the dog, I met a fellow kibbutz member who told me of the death of one of our neighbours, Etti Kormes. I knew that she had been very ill and hospitalised, but I had been given to understand that her situation had improved as she had returned home from hospital. "So young", said the member, "only 71". Her funeral will be on Monday afternoon.

After telling my wife about Etti, a message came through on the kibbutz WhatsApp group: another member (Teo) had died. He was much older, whose eldest child is in her fifties; I accompany her singing at Pesach. As it happens, I referred obliquely to this member while writing about the funeral of another member: he is the "elderly kibbutz member who rambled". His funeral will be on Sunday afternoon, which is also the first candle of the Chanuka festival. It won't be a very festive festival.

Such is life.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sour grapes (Song festival 2019)

Let's say that you're sixteen years old and a member of the closely knit and highly supportive youth population of the kibbutz. There are two songs presented by members of this population in the song festival and you are allowed to vote for two songs. Who do you vote for?

Thus it was no surprise that with approximately 75% of the voting audience being under the age of 18, the two teenager songs came first and second (out of eleven). There were many older people in the audience but I suspect that many either didn't want to vote or couldn't understand how to vote (via a mobile phone application).

My song came last with hardly any votes. It's not surprising that I am bitter about the entire experience.

There was one other song which had a good chorus, but the ratio between verse and chorus was far too high which lessened the impact of the choruses. The other songs tended to wander around and were far too long. My song was concise and to the point.

I think that I proved my point about not wanting to sing my song; as I wrote six years ago: I don't like the competition aspect for two reasons: first, a kibbutz is supposed to be an egalitarian society and the idea of competition is supposed to be eschewed; secondly, people vote not necessarily on the merits of the song that they have just heard for the first time but more probably on the merits of the performance and also possibly according to family affiliations. The identities of the lyricists and composers were not disclosed till the end of the evening, but one could see who was singing; in certain cases, this could lead one to make an informed guess as to the identities of the writers. It's fairly clear that if I'm singing anything, it's going to be a song that I wrote.

I don't know how true the organiser's statement about having difficulties in finding singers (which forced me to sing) is true. On the one hand, one song was sung by someone who might still be in the army and learnt the song very quickly, giving credence to the organiser's statement. On the other hand, two songs were sung by trios (one person singing in both), several were sung by duos and only a few were solos. So someone could have been extracted from one of those trios or persuaded to sing two songs.

I'm fairly certain that someone called the evening a celebration; I call it a degredation. I feel much worse about yesterday than I did six years ago, because I felt that my song was very catchy and would have a good chance of winning had there been a level playing field.

The only consolations that I can take are
  • two performers told me on Friday morning that they couldn't get my song out of their heads after hearing it in rehearsal the previous evening. 
  • I sent the song to a few friends via mobile phone two weeks ago and they were very complimentary
  • while making a condolence visit a few weeks ago to someone whose mother had just died, this person surprised me by saying how much he appreciates the amount of time and attention that I invest in preparing songs for the Yom Kippur evening.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Business rules in a BPM screen

One can define rules in a BPM screen (the Priority documentation does not explain this acronym which I assume means Business Process Management) in the same way that one defines rules in screens. These rules generally allow users (or groups of users) to change the status of a document according to the value of named fields within the document; these rules can also prevent users from changing status.

I came across an interesting example this morning: in the Customer Orders BPM, there is a rule which allows members of a certain group to change the status of an order from 20 to 60 (the statuses themselves are not relevant here) as long as the 'product bundle' field is not CAD. I had to update this rule to prevent them also from changing the status if the 'product bundle' field is not GLASS. Although one can write a rule with three conditions, this can't be done if there are two 'not equal' conditions.

A translation of the rule into simple English would be: allow users of the group 'Engineering' to change the status of the order from 20 to 60 provided that the product bundle is not CAD and the product bundle is not GLASS. Let's test this rule in our mind: if the value of product bundle is 'Jim', then both conditions are true and so the user can change the status. If the value of product bundle is 'CAD', then one condition will be false, meaning that the rule fails and the user cannot change the status. The same thing happens if the product bundle is 'GLASS'. In other words, one can define this kind of rule as long as there are available conditions - unfortunately, versions of Priority below 19 provide exactly three conditions (I saw a demonstration of Priority v19 a year ago and I think that it allowed more than three conditions).

As it happens, the rule had a spare condition so I could have written the rule with two conditions checking the value of 'product bundle'. For didactic reasons, I am going to assume that there is only one condition available that checks the product bundle. In this case, a function has to be written, but it is somewhat counter intuitive. Here is the condition in simple English: check for equality between the order's product bundle and the value which gets returned from the following condition 'if the product bundle is GLASS or CAD then return ! else return the order's product bundle'. So, if the product bundle is GLASS, the condition checks the value ! against the order's product bundle, which fails, as would a product bundle CAD. 'Jim', on the other hand, passes.

In Priority-speak, the rule is
which is more concise than the explanation in English. 

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The new DVD: what I have learned in a week

First of all, the DVD is a Samsung SH895M model which is a pretty good machine. It comes with an internal hard disk with 250 GB capacity which can "record approximately 421 hours of video when in EP 8 hour mode". I don't need this capability as the Yes Max machine has the hard disk and can record two programmes at once.

The machine accepts both DVD+R and DVD-R disks, which is good as I have nearly 50 blank -R disks which were previously useless. Inserting a +R disk will cause the machine to format it whereas no formatting is required for a -R disk. At the other end of the recording process, finalising a -R disk will create a menu on the disk whereas a +R disk has no menu. I'm going to record the various tv shows which I have saved on the Yes Max (The Newsroom, Madam Secretary, etc) onto -R disks and record films onto +R disks.

I did succeed in connecting the DVD to the television screen via HDMI; I had to change the HDMI resolution to 1080i first. Unfortunately, the screen is displaying a message about problems with the HDMI cable which is annoying; I haven't found a way to solve this yet. I may try a different resolution and I may try replacing the cable (the current cable is very long, so a shorter one might be more successful. Also the socket on the television is problematic). At worst, this means disconnecting the HDMI and going back to a lower quality picture.

Today we had a short power cut which taught me several things. First of all, the DVD's clock had to be reset - not important and not a problem. The major problem was that the DVD had to have its input redefined to use the AV2 socket; theoretically this should be simple, but as both the DVD and the screen are made by Samsung, the DVD remote affects them both! This can make certain actions easier, but setting the input is not one of them. Every time I pressed the 'source' button, the source on the screen would change, not the source to the DVD. In the end, I turned off the television screen and pressed 'source' a few times until AV2 appeared on the tiny DVD screen. Then I turned the television back on.

One thing which I haven't discovered how to do yet is give each recording a separate title (e.g. S3E1). This isn't too important as I can title the entire disk, but it would be nice to know. It seems that there are certain functions (such as this or setting the recording format) which can only be accessed via the remote control. I think that this is a bad design and it would have been better to put these definitions in the control program of the DVD.