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The Back Page, part 3

By Mike Orr (Sluggo)

The Linux Laundrette, continued

Buoys (and the Netherlands, and music)

[Sluggo] CBC's As It Happens did a story about Dial-a-Buoy, an experimental program that lets boaters and kayakers call a phone number and get a computer-collected hourly report of weather and ocean conditions from any of ten buoys floating off the coast of Maine, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

But the radio talkbacks for the next three days focused not on this technology or its uses, but on the proper pronunciation of buoy. Some argued "boo-ey", others "boy". Yours truly has always heard boo-ey, but the most interesting call came from a mariner in Nova Scotia who insisted the word came from Dutch and should be pronounced boy. (Webster accepts both. OED Online wants $29.95/month to reveal the true answer.)

[Frank Rodolf (Frodo)] While I don't know the exact pronunciation in English, I can confirm that the word does come from Dutch. The Dutch spelling is "boei", and has two meanings. The first being "buoy", the other being "shackle" (as used to hold wrists or ankles in place, in old prisons).

In Dutch, it is pronounced like boy, but with a "longer" o. So, kinda like "booy".

[Ben] A lot of yachting terms (and quite a number of nautical terms in general) come from Dutch. After all, they started the whole yachting thing by giving a "jacht" ("hunter" - it was a fast-sailing ship designed to catch smugglers), "Mary", to Charles II on his restoration in 1660.

<grin> I only go with the best, of course. "Ulysses" was built in Holland (Hardewijk).

[Frodo] These days, the word "jacht" is used for just about any sail ship, longer than about 10 meters or so.

[Ben] A friend of mine told me that the difference between a boat and a yacht was that yachts have a barbecue grill on the stern. I guess "Ulysses" is a yacht, then.

[Frodo] Just a shame you call it Holland.

[Ben] <blink> I'm familiar with the term "Netherlands", but I wasn't aware that there was any reason to prefer one over the other. IIRC, Geert refers to the country as "Holland". Story, please?

[Frodo] K - the short version... Netherlands is the official name of the country. Holland is part of the Netherlands.

Basically, Holland consists of two of the 12 Dutch provinces, although - in the past - the name was often used to indicate the "7 provincien" (7 provinces), who were working together in the 17th and part of the 18th century[*], against the Spanish and other countries that for some reason or other wanted to take them over.

Nowadays, you will find that most people that say Holland instead of Netherlands are from those 7 provinces. I, being from Limburg, know better though. :)

[*] - I might be off by a few years, but you get the idea.

[Ben] Ah! OK, thanks. I've got a Flemish friend who gave me about a 20-page lesson on Flemish history when I asked what the difference was; wonderfully interesting, as European history tends to be.

[Frodo] Be glad I did not start telling you why Maastricht is part of the Netherlands, and not part of Belgium... *G*

[Sluggo] I got a (friendly) lecture from a Luxembourgish oi singer when I made the heinous mistake of calling his band a German band on my web page.

I told him I'd been to Luxembourg City once and described this beautiful bridge, and he said he lived in the very same district. I said I had seen screensavers with "unique letters" on them, i-umlaut, etc. He said Luxemourg became independent when the Luxembourgers realized the various occupiers couldn't understand a word they were saying.

[Frodo] LOL - Actually, it is a bit different... In 1815, after Napoleon was finally sent away, what is now the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg became one kingdom, under king William I.

In 1830, Belgium separated from the Netherlands, after a war, and became a separate kingdom. Luxembourg still had the Dutch monarch as its grand duke. Only in 1890, when king William III of the Netherlands died, and left behind only a daughter, no son, did Luxembourg became a separate country. In Luxembourg then only men could be the grand duke. Luxembourg then "switched" to another branch of the house Nassau.

Till about 50 or so years ago, most Luxembourgeois still at the very least understood Dutch. Now only some old (read: over 80) people sometimes still understand it.

[Sluggo] We also made a joke about "Luxembourgish" (as he said it) vs "Luxembourgeois" (as printed on French brochures, which has an, ahem, unintended connotation in English).

[Frodo] Uhm... Okay, it is clear I know too well, how it is pronounced in French... I have no idea how it would have an unintended connotation in English... lol

[Sluggo] The last part looks like "bourgeois", which means, well, ask Ben. Capitalist oppressors, enemy of the proletariat, that sort of stuff.

[Jimmy] Now taken as a synonym for the middle classes and their attitudes. (The opinions of a minority of the middle class are the main form of oppression felt by the working classes in many areas).

Ben continues talking about his "yacht"

[Ben] Of course, this means that I have to carry a Dutch dictionary on board for the manuals and such, but that's no hardship.

[Frodo] Dutch is an easy language, so that should be no problem for you, whatsoever.

Jimmy continues talking about buoys

[Jimmy] I always thought this was another AE (boo-ey) vs. BE (boy) issue. [American English vs British English]

[Sluggo] It could be. That would explain why Canadians go back and forth. Do any Americans pronounce "boy"? Although I do think buoyant is universally pronounced "boy-ant".

[Ben] It just reflects the difference in the usage at sea. Of boys, I mean. :)

  The cabin boy was Kipper,
  A dirty little nipper,
  They stuffed his arse with broken glass
  And circumcised the skipper.
-- from "The Good Ship Venus", a Limey forebitter

[Jimmy] Is that where that's from? I knew it from "Frigging in the Rigging" from the soundtrack to the Sex Pistols film.

[Ben] Shanteymen were singing that one long before the Sex Pistols were born. And the first verse does indeed say something about "Frigging in the Rigging". Last Thursday or so, I was over at a local pub singing shanties with "The Bilge Rats", the finest group of local singers that ever banged a beer mug on a table. (One of'em is from Lunnon-town, and a damn fine fellow.)

I should look up that film - it would be interesting to see the Sex Pistols doing that one!

[Jimmy] They only did it as filler; Johnny Rotton had quit by then :) I was pretty disappointed when I got that; though they do a good cover of "(Not Your) Stepping Stone". The film's called The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle.

[Ben] I never got into the Pistols, but it's now at least a small checkmark on my hopelessly long media list. :)

[Sluggo] Oh, you want some records to listen to?

- Skinnerbox (or anything with King Django, a singer in Philly; the Stubborn
   All-Stars is his latest band).
- The Specials: Guilty Till Proved Innocent, plus "Man at C & A", "Do the
  Dog", "Ghost Town".
- Madness: Madness
- The Selecter: Out in the Streets (live album)
- The Paragons: "Left With a Broken Heart" and "Got to Get Away" on the
    Skinhead Revolt comp (Trojan Records); I'm trying to find their
    other stuff -- it's a very unusual and mellow 1st-wave ska band.

- 4-Skins
- Oi! This is England (3-CD comp for under $20, by Dressed to Kill records)
- Ultima Thule (Sweden)
- Retaliator, Condemned 84

- Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
- Banielle Rouge (France)

- Radiohead: Hail to the Thief, OK Computer
- Striknien DC: Horses for Courses (Ireland)
- Flogging Molly (Irish from LA)

[ambient electronic]
- Orb: Cydonia, Orblivion
- Badorb: Bless You
- Future Sound of London
- Global Communication
- Dream Therapy
- Fuzzy Logic: Gray or Green Numbers
- (new "downtempo" bands)

[other electronic; techno]
- Kraftwerk: "Pocket Calculator"/"Taschenrechner", "Autobahn"/"Autobahn",
    "Metal on Metal"/"Metall auf Metall" -- the English versions are kind
    of forced; the German versions are much better
- Orbital: Back to Mine

- Einstuerzende Neubauten
- Front Line Assembly
- Front 242
- Skinny Puppy
- Digital Poodle (and scads of bands like that)

- Dvorak: Seranades Op. 22 > 44, New World Symphony, etc.
- Mendesohn: Italian symphony
- Schubert: Unfinished Symphony, Ave Maria, and lots more.
- Khachaturian: Armenian dances

- Bravo (Russia) -- pop with ska and jazz influences; Russia's #1 pop band
  in the late 80s and mid 90s
- Auction (Russia) -- rock band from St Petersburg

- Ray Charles (soul)
- Black Cat Orchestra (inspired by tango, klezmer, east european music)
- Damien Jurado (vocalist) -- plug for my friend's band

- If you buy one album, get Radiohead.
- If you buy one classical album, get Dvorak.
- If you buy one ambient album, get Orb.

[Thomas] OK, so I couldn't resist replying to this. I'd add:

- The Ramones: The Ramones
- The Sex Pistols: Never Mind the B*llocks
- Radiohead: The Bends, Pablo Honey
- The Horslips
- The Cranberries
- Caravan
- Captain Beefheart
- Elastica
- Screaming Trees

[ambient electronic]
Air: The Virgin Suicides

- AntiFolk (A huge movement from New York)
- Jeffrey Lewis
- Leonard Cohen

[Jimmy] And I'd add Minor Threat: Complete Discography, but I suppose that'd be hardcore punk.

Re "if you buy one album, get Radiohead"

[Thomas] If you want to kill yourself, listen to Radiohead.

[Jimmy] There are more depressing bands out there.

Re "if you buy one classical album, get Dvorak"

[Thomas] What? Good God... You cannot possibly say that, in my opinion. Mine would be Schubert's Trout Quintet, or definitely Wagner.

Re "if you buy one ambient album, get the Orb"

[Thomas] I'd prefer "The humidifier"


[Jimmy] In the early 80s Oi! was hijacked by the BNP in Britain, and for a long time was firmly associated with racism.

[Sluggo] ... in the media's mind. But many oi fans and bands hotly resented the hijacking. Is the Union Jack fascist just because the BNP abused it too? The National Front even tried to claim *Madness* as one of its own, against the wishes of the band, saying that white bandmembers = white power. Madness not only denied the charges but played in the "Rock Against Racism" concerts.

[Jimmy] The media pounced on punk in general, as far as I can remember. I can't say I'd heard that about Madness before though. They must've really been clutching at straws to come up with that!

I presume nobody else listens to metal, but the essential albums are:

Slayer: Reign In Blood
Metallica: Master of Puppets
Megadeth: Rust In Peace
Carcass: Heartwork
Opeth: Blackwater Park
In Flames: Clayman
Sepultura: Chaos A.D.
Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral
Ministry: Psalm 69
Tool: Lateralus
Helmet: Betty

If you can't deal with metal, I'd suggest the first Apocalyptica album (I can't remember what it's called) - Metallica songs played by a string quartet.

Or grunge:

Soundgarden: Superunknown
Nirvana: Nevermind
Alice In Chains: Dirt
Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream
Pearl Jam: Ten

Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque
Slint: Spiderland
Big Black: The Rich Man's Eight Track

[Sluggo] I don't like metal, but I will admit to having listened to it in junior high (early 1980s). Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest -- that must all be music to Jimmy's ears.

[Jimmy] Ew, no. I hate all that 80s hair metal crap. I started off with grunge (1993), moved on to punk, then hardcore, then metal. First I got into Nirvana, then the Sex Pistols. I bought a punk compilation, and fell in love with Discharge. At that point, I hated metal. Then I listened to Pantera - "Fucking Hostile" is a hardcore punk song and Sepultura - Chaos AD is as even a mix of hardcore and metal you'll ever find. I mostly stick to metal where the punk lineage is still in some way present (e.g., Carcass' guitarist started off in a Discharge-influenced band, Napalm Death started as a punk band etc etc). At first I started listening to death metal to improve my guitar playing, but now I actually like it. I've started trying to play jazz guitar recently, but I still can't listen to most of it!

Even with metal, which is commonly derided as idiotic, you get stuff like death metal, thrash metal, melodic death metal, black metal, symphonic black metal, NWOBHW, grunge etc etc.

[Sluggo] "symphonic" metal? "melodic" metal? Aren't those oxymorons?

[Jimmy] That's symphonic black metal and melodic death metal. Black metal is an even faster version of death metal, with overtly Satanic lyrics. Symphonic black metal is black metal using orchestras.

[Sluggo] Metal using orchestras??? Mendelssohn and Schubert must be turning over in their graves. I may have to hear this once in my life.

[Jimmy] Black Sabbath were a blues band.

[Sluggo] Blues??? "My honey won' come home, my honey won' come home, I ain't married no more" blues? Very vaguely maybe.

[Jimmy] It's true. Listen to "Planet Caravan".

[Sluggo] Metal was too satanic.

[Jimmy] Heh. As Ozzy Osbourne said, "The only black magic you'll find us messing with is the chocolates".

[Sluggo] [Reading several Wikipedia articles linked under "heavy metal music".] It says metal is a progression from psychedelic rock (the Beatles "Sergeant Pepper" and "Helter Skelter", Jimi Hendrix) and hard rock (Led Zeppelin, AC/DC). That seems to pull in a lot of things that we considered totally separate from metal in the 80s. I guess if you consider metal and hard rock as two subgenres of "non-danceable rock", it makes sense.

The next day...

[Sluggo] I was listening to Frontline Assembly last night and realized themes and cover art of them and Skinny Puppy do have a strong resemblance to Iron Maiden, and the chords/distortion too. But what I like about industrial and not about metal is the way the chords are clipped (stacatto) rather than whiny (a la Hendrix). Then I remembered that "Murders in the Rue Morgue" had a similar clipped style. Darn it Jimmy, now you've made me say I appreciate Iron Maiden!

[Jimmy] If it makes you feel better, they were possibly the first metal band to take a punk influence. Given that they also had a huge prog rock influence, you may scoff at that, but most of their riffs have punk-like, simple progressions.

[Sluggo] That does make me feel better. Interesting that I gravitated toward a similar sound years before I got into punk.

Since I don't know what "prog rock" means, I don't know whether to scoff or not. Is that a typo?

[Jimmy] Progressive Rock. Pink Floyd, Yes etc. I think Rush are prog rock, but I've never heard them.

[Jimmy] You haven't heard Rush??? Well, I haven't heard at least half the bands you mentioned. Rush is known for the excellent drumming and perceptive double-metaphor lyrics of Neal Peart. The first four albums (1974-76) were hard rock, or you might call it metal with clipped chords and without the gratuitous satanism (never mind the burning pentagram on 2112). Geddy Lee screamed like the metalheads but the music was much more interesting. But they always did their own thing rather than pandering to market expectations (or so they claimed).

Then with the ninth album Signals (1982), Rush totally changed direction. Gone was the screaming, the hard rock, the flirting with metal. The sound was much more poppy, but again unique. Grace Under Pressure is good. "Between the Wheels":

You know how that rabbit feels sliding under your spinning wheels
Bright images flashing by like windshields toward the fly
Frozen in the fatal climb, but the wheels of time just pass you by
Wheens can take you around, wheels can cut you down
We can go from boom to bust, from dreams to a bowl of dust
We can fall from rockets' red glare to "Brother can you spare
Another war, another wasteland, and another lost generation.

"Superconductor" on Presto shows Peart's double imagery.

Watch his every move
Orchestrate illusions
Watch his every move
Hoping you'll believe
Designing to deceive
That's entertainment

You must have heard "Tom Sawyer" (Moving Pictures); that was their most famous song. It was my favorite song in high school for a while.

A modern-day warrier, mean mean strude, today's Tom Sawyer mean mean pride

... No his mind is not for rent to any god or government
Always hopeful yet discontent, he knows changes aren't permanent ---
But change is

What you say about his company is what you say about society
Catch the witness, catch the wit, catch the spirit, catch the spit
The world is the world is, love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide

Notable instrumental songs: "YYZ", "La Villa Strangiato", "Jacob's Ladder". Fan site with discography and lyrics.

[Jimmy] Wow. Those are some of the best rock lyrics I've ever seen. I generally don't pay attention to lyrics (it's a guitarist thing), but Tool have lyrics of a similar calibre (I've seen Tool cite Rush).

Epilogue: editor's note

When I reviewed Jimmy's article about Songwrite for this issue, I followed the link to magnatune.com, the record company that isn't evil. (All their songs are available as free MP3s, you can buy higher-quality sound files for $5/album, they give the artist 50% off the top, and they don't demand an exclusive license to sell.) I browsed around and found several good ambient bands: Rapoon, Paul Augerinos, and Psychetropic. The Wretch (industrial) and Pizzle (punk) also deserve mention. Be warned that many of their "punk" stuff is misclassified.


picture Mike is a Contributing Editor at Linux Gazette. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991, a Debian user since 1995, and now Gentoo. His favorite tool for programming is Python. Non-computer interests include martial arts, wrestling, ska and oi! and ambient music, and the international language Esperanto. He's been known to listen to Dvorak, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Khachaturian too.

Copyright © 2004, Mike Orr (Sluggo). Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 102 of Linux Gazette, May 2004

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