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Arts

The Fringe Offices in the High Street

Festivals the world over depend on sponsorship for the financial viability. The largest of them — the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — is no exception. For some time, it’s been associated with a locally brewed beer. That link — with Deuchars IPA — is set to continue having reached agreement to renew its support for the next three years. The beer will again be ‘the ale of the Fringe’ and available on cask in venues through until the 2015 event.

Kath Mainland  Edinburgh Fringe Director

Kath Mainland
Edinburgh Fringe Director

Kath Mainland, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said that the Fringe was “…proud to continue our partnership with Deuchars IPA and are incredibly grateful for their continued sponsorship of the Fringe venue boards and maps, which help residents and visitors navigate their way around the city, making their experience of the festival even more enjoyable. The 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe promises to be the most exciting yet. Thousands of performers will visit the city this August, as well as audience members from across the world.”

For Stephen Crawley, Managing Director of the Caledonian Brewery, “having a world event in your home city makes the potential connection kind of obvious! We really value our associations with Edinburgh and both organisations are proud of their blend of history and modernity. Over the next three years we look forward to more tourists discovering and more locals enjoying a Deuchars IPA or two, whilst discussing the merits of the shows, which combined, make the Fringe such a brilliant event.”

This locally brew has been part of the “Scottish ale renaissance”. It’s known to be a favourite of people such as author Ian Rankin (not to mention his creation, Inspector Rebus) and comedian Russell Kane. It’s brewed by hand in an original Victorian brewhouse, which has Britain’s last remaining direct-fired open coppers.

Fergus Linehan Director Designate Edinburgh International Festival

Fergus Linehan
Director Designate
Edinburgh International Festival

Meanwhile on the Main Festival, there’s change in the air. The Edinburgh International Festival has appointed the Irish-born Fergus Linehan to take over from Jonathan Mills as director from 2015. Until last year, he was the head of contemporary music at the Sydney Opera House. Before that, he’d been artistic director at the Sydney festival from 2004 to 20099; there, he was credited with increasing both audiences and turnover.

Linehan becomes director designate on May 1 and plans to move to Edinburgh next year, His first festival will be in 2015 and his initial tenure will last until 2019. If his interests in Australia are anything to go by, his appointment may lead to a change of emphasis in Edinburgh. His predecessors, Mills and Sir Brian McMaster, had focused on classical music and opera. Mr Linehan is known to enjoy pop, rock and world music so his festivals could see and the kind of eclectic pop that has been a feature of, for example, the Manchester international festival (which this year has the xx in residence, as well as an encounter between Massive Attack and Adam Curtis), has been notably absent.

Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada <em>Picture: Remy Steinegger</em>

Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada Picture: Remy Steinegger

By Graeme Murdoch

Day 1, Toronto, 26 March. Minus 9C.

Chilly for Perpetual Minority Man premier Stephen Harper – a man with a plan. So here we go as the first blows are landed in the fourth Canadian election in seven years, and the question on most Canadian minds is: how will this change anything?

In 1995, Liberal finance minister Paul Martin confronted the crippling federal deficit by cutting transfer payments to the provinces. This put some space between the provinces and Ottawa.

Now the widely held view is that old, white and male Ottawa is irrelevant and that the low turnout among voters aged under 25 in 2008 is expected to be lower in May. Young Canadians, particularly women and visible minorities, perceive an administration that under-represents them.

So Harper’s election strategy is to set his sights on the voters who have often eluded him: women. Oh, how we guffawed in the bar. The women electorate should reflect on how Margaret Atwood excoriated Harper in 2008 when he stated that “ordinary people” didn’t care about something called “the arts”. Harper’s take on “the arts” is a bunch of rich people gathering in salons and galas whining about their grants, Sound familiar?

Shortly after I arrived from Scotland on Thursday, I picked up a program guide to “celebrate the arts in your community”. All around greater Toronto, events like concerts by youngsters, photo exhibitions, a women’s sound circle, an art alley mural project and an opportunity to design your own environmental bag are getting city and provincial support.

So, Mr Harper, there you have your campaign’s key platforms: the arts, environment and education. Get your sleepy head round that and the women’s vote and others will surely follow.

And here are two other suggestions: dump the grey suits and get to the gym.

Graeme Murdoch is part of Cultural Connect Scotland

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Picture: Scottish Government

Picture: Scottish Government

In response to Diane’s somewhat painful list, I thought I’d find some (mostly)nicer versions, this time from the world of cinema. Auld Lang Syne has appeared in dozens of films over the years – from the 1920s to the present day. Sometimes it’s pivotal to the action, sometimes not, and some are memorable perhaps not for the best reasons. Here’s a small selection, complete with clips where I’ve been able to find them.

When Harry Met Sally (1989) (twice)
Okay, so it’s a bit of a cheat including the same film twice, but there is good reason for it. Auld Lang Syne is particularly important in When Harry Met Sally and, arguably, makes good use of the song as a cultural signifier: it’s shorthand, if you like, for the end of the year, the start of the new year and the automatic celebration this is supposed to bring. It’s also sexy. Auld Lang Syne is used reasonably early on in the film when the eponymous characters are still in the “friend zone” – or are they? A Hogmanay party is the scene and they are dancing together quite the thing, when suddenly there’s a frisson between them. It could go either way but, as the strains of Auld Lang Syne begin, they almost visibly shake it off and kiss – somewhat uncomfortably, maybe, but platonically.

It’s a different story at the end of the film the song comes up again. At this stage, the lyrics even merit a discussion. Harry asks what the words mean, saying he’s been singing it all his life and doesn’t know. How can you remember old acquaintance if you’ve forgotten them, he asks, quite reasonably. Sally, a bit tearful, says that maybe you’re supposed to remember you’ve forgotten them, or something – but that in any case, it’s about old friends. (At that point, presumably, they go home to shag –see the power of this song?). Here is the ending:

Nora Ephron, who wrote When Harry Met Sally, clearly recognises the filmic value of Auld Lang Syne: she also used it to good effect in the lesser Sleepless in Seattle (1993), which itself was reprising its use in the Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr classic, An Affair to Remember (1957), and so on.

Sex and the City (2008)
I’m “indebted” to a US academic for drawing my attention to this Mairi Campbell version of Auld Lang Syne, as featured in the first movie outing of the Sex and the City girls. Indebted has the sarky quotation marks round it, not because it isn’t a beautiful version – it is, sung hauntingly and not to the usual tune – and not because it isn’t a fabulous sequence (it’s lovely, and apparently it’s the best bit – only good bit? – of the film). The scene shows Carrie deciding to bolt (or waft, rather, with a permanent look of surprise) down to the other side of New York to share the bells with a chum who is going through a hard time. Her race against the clock cuts away at various points to update us on what’s happening with the other characters. Anyway, my sarkiness is because the academic – who was giving a talk on the use of Burns in the movies at a Royal Society of Edinburgh event – treated us to a running commentary of who ended up with whom and who didn’t by the end of the film – with no spoiler alert! I had been planning to watch the DVD the following weekend – guess what, it’s still in its wrapper.

Youtube has it here:

The RSE Burns conference report is here:

Wee Willie Winkie (1939)

Sometimes something can be memorable for the wrong reasons.

A favourite scene in my beloved Chalet School books* involves a charming little girl known as The Robin, singing a Russian folk song called The Red Sarafan at the bedside of the heroine, Joey Bettany, who is thought to be dying after rescuing another girl from an icy lake in the Austrian Tyrol.

Joey survives and it’s thought that the sweet tones of The Robin saved her life.

Surely the opposite must be true in this 1937 Shirley Temple vehicle, directed by John Ford. Temple, whose nickname gives the film its title, sings a couple of verses of Auld Lang Syne while clutching a pith helmet to her breast (lest we forget we’re in Colonial India) at the bedside of a dying soldier. The highlight is her pronunciation of “gie us”. Unlike Joey, the good sergeant – a Scot – passes away as the little songbird trills by his side. One can only imagine it was something of a relief. Judge for yourself in this Youtube clip:

*The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. This particular episode occurs in The Rivals of the Chalet School, first published in 1939.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Home loans to poorer people under threat, slum landlords abounding, runs on the bank and a good man brought to his knees – it might be a film for our times. Given so much misery, however, why is It’s a Wonderful Life considered such an uplifting Christmas classic? Perhaps that’s summed up not so much by Clarence, the angel seeking his wings, but by the choice of the song which brings the townspeople together. A rousing version of Auld Lang Syne appears to break out spontaneously with – and does this ever actually happen in Scotland these days? – everybody knowing all the words. Youtube has it here:.

Director Frank Capra, incidentally, was quite a fan – using it in other films such as Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936) with Gary Cooper and that other famous James Stewart vehicle Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

Thanks due to Wikipedia, by the way, for this piece of Capra information. That source also reveals many other instances of the use of Auld Lang Syne in cinema, although its list isn’t exhaustive. It includes John Ford’s The Black Watch (1929), Blake Edwards’ Operation Petticoat (1959) (with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis) and The Apartment, where it is the backdrop to the Shirley MacLaine character’s decision to leave her lover.

It’s also played in The Poseidon Adventure – just before the ship begins to sink…..

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Joseph Farquharson's 'The shortening winter's day is near a close'

Joseph Farquharson's 'The shortening winter's day is near a close'

Look out of almost any window in Scotland just now – with hills, fields, roads and pavements caked under substantial amounts of snow – and the idea that there could be any doubt about the likelihood of a White Christmas is laughable.

There are, however, two types of White Christmas. There is the one we are undoubtedly about to enjoy, a deep and crisp and even (well, deep and skiddy and rutted) White Christmas – which, when the sun is shining, can look like one of those lovely Joseph Farquharson sheep paintings.

Then there is the one that Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote about on a hot day in California in July 1945, and which Smokey Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day – among many others – duly sang about. The one that goes Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

And it’s the Cahn and Styne version that the bookies dread. There can be any amount of the pretty Farquharsonian snow – the sheep could be completely submerged – but so long as not a single flake of the stuff falls from the sky during the 24 hours of 25 December, the bookies will make money. By contrast, even one brief flurry on Christmas Day during the mildest, most green-field-filled winter and the bookies take a hit. It’s weird, but that’s the way it works.

Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes deals with most bets, “unless it’s a horse or a greyhound”, so “novelty bets” such as Christmas Day weather-watching land on his desk. “We started doing it 30 years ago,” he says, “when it was just London – whether any snow fell on the BBC weather tower.” The bets proved popular, so it steadily spread to a wide variety of locations, including four in Scotland: Lerwick, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Donohue notes that uptake is “100% higher than last year” – not just because of the sustained cold weather itself, but through a knock-on effect with so much sport having been snowed off. “People go to their local Ladbrokes intending to put a tenner on a football coupon,” he says, “and when the matches are off they see we’ve got a book on a White Christmas near where they live, so they’ve been sticking the tenner on that instead.”

Rupert Adams at rival bookmakers William Hill similarly reports a record number of festive bets, and says that the firm is “sweating” on the possibility of a huge payout should there be widespread snowfall – even widespread single flakes – come the day. “The latest forecast suggests that there is a real chance that the infamous industry Million Pound Payout will happen for the first time,” he says.

The actual decision on whether there has been any snowfall in each of the locations rests – as might be expected – with the professional meteorological agency. “The Met Office send us an email on Boxing Day,” says Adams, “from which we either pay out or retire to our sunbeds in the Costa del Sol.”

Although nothing is certain in advance – this is betting, after all – and everything is in the hands of the weather gods, it doesn’t look likely that the bookies will be jetting off to their Spanish siestas this time round – even assuming Heathrow ever gets itself back in order.

Ladbrokes closed their White Christmas book at midday on the day before Christmas Eve, at which stage all four of their venues were odds-on. “When we closed the market,” says Donohue, “Lerwick was 1/3, Aberdeen 4/9, Edinburgh 4/5 and Glasgow 4/6 – so we reckoned it was more likely than not to snow in all those places.”

At the time of writing, the William Hill book remained open, but again it was odds-on across the board: 4/7 on snow falling at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen (some might say the team’s chances of relegation from the SPL are similarly short), and 8/11 at both Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow Cathedral.

Further south, the odds are a bit longer, but not much: William Hill is offering only evens for each of Newcastle, York, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, while London, Cambridge and Oxford are all 5/4. Even locations in the supposedly less Baltic south and west aren’t exactly value bets: Cardiff is 11/8, Exeter 6/4 and Dublin 6/5.

As to the actual Met Office prediction – and what is meteorology if not a form of educated betting? – with under 30 hours to go the forecast reads as follows: “Very cold and mainly dry on Christmas Day, just a few snow showers in the far east. Becoming increasingly windy from Sunday, with outbreaks of snow spreading slowly east later.”

That “mainly dry” will bring a smile to the lips of the people at Ladbrokes, William Hill and elsewhere. While they are surely going to lose money in some of the locations, they might avoid suffering a total whiteout – sorry, wipeout – after all.

Joseph Farquharson's 'The shortening winter's day is near a close'

Joseph Farquharson's 'The shortening winter's day is near a close'

Look out of almost any window in Scotland just now – with hills, fields, roads and pavements caked under substantial amounts of snow – and the idea that there could be any doubt about the likelihood of a White Christmas is laughable.

There are, however, two types of White Christmas. There is the one we are undoubtedly about to enjoy, a deep and crisp and even (well, deep and skiddy and rutted) White Christmas – which, when the sun is shining, can look like one of those lovely Joseph Farquharson sheep paintings.

Then there is the one that Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote about on a hot day in California in July 1945, and which Smokey Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day – among many others – duly sang about. The one that goes Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

And it’s the Cahn and Styne version that the bookies dread. There can be any amount of the pretty Farquharsonian snow – the sheep could be completely submerged – but so long as not a single flake of the stuff falls from the sky during the 24 hours of 25 December, the bookies will make money. By contrast, even one brief flurry on Christmas Day during the mildest, most green-field-filled winter and the bookies take a hit. It’s weird, but that’s the way it works.

Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes deals with most bets, “unless it’s a horse or a greyhound”, so “novelty bets” such as Christmas Day weather-watching land on his desk. “We started doing it 30 years ago,” he says, “when it was just London – whether any snow fell on the BBC weather tower.” The bets proved popular, so it steadily spread to a wide variety of locations, including four in Scotland: Lerwick, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Donohue notes that uptake is “100% higher than last year” – not just because of the sustained cold weather itself, but through a knock-on effect with so much sport having been snowed off. “People go to their local Ladbrokes intending to put a tenner on a football coupon,” he says, “and when the matches are off they see we’ve got a book on a White Christmas near where they live, so they’ve been sticking the tenner on that instead.”

Rupert Adams at rival bookmakers William Hill similarly reports a record number of festive bets, and says that the firm is “sweating” on the possibility of a huge payout should there be widespread snowfall – even widespread single flakes – come the day. “The latest forecast suggests that there is a real chance that the infamous industry Million Pound Payout will happen for the first time,” he says.

The actual decision on whether there has been any snowfall in each of the locations rests – as might be expected – with the professional meteorological agency. “The Met Office send us an email on Boxing Day,” says Adams, “from which we either pay out or retire to our sunbeds in the Costa del Sol.”

Although nothing is certain in advance – this is betting, after all – and everything is in the hands of the weather gods, it doesn’t look likely that the bookies will be jetting off to their Spanish siestas this time round – even assuming Heathrow ever gets itself back in order.

Ladbrokes closed their White Christmas book at midday on the day before Christmas Eve, at which stage all four of their venues were odds-on. “When we closed the market,” says Donohue, “Lerwick was 1/3, Aberdeen 4/9, Edinburgh 4/5 and Glasgow 4/6 – so we reckoned it was more likely than not to snow in all those places.”

At the time of writing, the William Hill book remained open, but again it was odds-on across the board: 4/7 on snow falling at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen (some might say the team’s chances of relegation from the SPL are similarly short), and 8/11 at both Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow Cathedral.

Further south, the odds are a bit longer, but not much: William Hill is offering only evens for each of Newcastle, York, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, while London, Cambridge and Oxford are all 5/4. Even locations in the supposedly less Baltic south and west aren’t exactly value bets: Cardiff is 11/8, Exeter 6/4 and Dublin 6/5.

As to the actual Met Office prediction – and what is meteorology if not a form of educated betting? – with under 30 hours to go the forecast reads as follows: “Very cold and mainly dry on Christmas Day, just a few snow showers in the far east. Becoming increasingly windy from Sunday, with outbreaks of snow spreading slowly east later.”

That “mainly dry” will bring a smile to the lips of the people at Ladbrokes, William Hill and elsewhere. While they are surely going to lose money in some of the locations, they might avoid suffering a total whiteout – sorry, wipeout – after all.

<em>Picture: Vicky Brock</em>

Picture: Vicky Brock

It’s Christmas time. For the past couple of decades, that meant there was a need, or certainly good cause, to be afraid.

From the 1970s onwards, it wasn’t just mainstream pop acts like Wham! and Shakin’ Stevens who served up three minutes of festive fluff. Glam rock, a genre perfectly suited to the shiny baubled mood of the month, delivered bona fide pop classics from Slade and Wizzard. (There is no need to explain why Gary Glitter’s Another Rock’n’Roll Christmas has been wiped from the annals of compilation history.)

Elton John, Lennon and McCartney, Queen, Abba – few of the accepted greats of modern music walked away from the temptation of their own seasonal song. This is less true of the more modern acts. Since the 1990s when Cliff, Westlife, The Spice Girls sat atop the festive tree, followed by The X Factor’s domination at Christmas, only brave souls like St Etienne dared leave base camp for the steep ascent required to climb the Top 40 in mid-December. (Yes, Rufus Wainwright and family performed a selection box of concerts of festive music in New York and latterly London but, unlike the 1970s, the Christmas charts stayed free of rockers wearing Santa hats singing about sleigh rides.)

Perhaps the 2009 sling-throw of Rage Against The Machine has strengthened their resolve but you can’t move this year for more traditionally respected acts following in Sir Noderick of Holder’s footsteps and tinselling up their act.

Paul Simon has released Getting Ready for Christmas Day. Annie Lennox’s album A Christmas Cornucopia has been out for a couple of months. Hurts’ All I Want for Christmas is New Year’s Day seems to be picking up almost as much radio play as The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

Coldplay are possibly trying the hardest to rekindle their own festive campfire with Christmas Lights. They’ve even made a video.

The $64m question is whether their efforts will join modern staples like Boney M, Jona Lewie, The Waitresses and David Essex in the pantheon of Christmas greats.

Things were so much simpler with the charts of olden daye. If something was riding high in the charts, it would be on Top of the Pops, on a loop of Radio 1 and immortalised in future Now That’s What I Call Christmas compilations.

Songs in the download age come and go without incident, there are various radio playlists all with their own diverse agendas, and so for instance Pet Shop Boys’ It Doesn’t Always Snow at Christmas barely troubled the scorers in 2009. George Michael’s December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) got rather lost in the X Factor/RATM rush, even if he did appear on last year’s final to promote it.

The biggest doubt would be whether Coldplay, Hurts and Paul Simon – who’s giving his song away free – will be remembered in future years, not through any fault of the song but modern Christmas songs seem to be one of the few items around this time of year which are not packaged and marketed aggressively. Certainly not in comparison with the X Factor winner’s single. They’re often quietly stuck online along with the kajillion other free songs the internet can deliver by fair means or foul.

Chris Martin is clearly a fan of the festive classics. After performing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on Conan O’ Brien’s show and The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles on tour, he’s taking no chances with Christmas Lights. Coldplay just wrapped an appearance on the Christmas Day Top of the Pops.

<em>Picturee: Phil Shirley</em>

Picturee: Phil Shirley

By Ewan Spence

After you’ve looked through the hundreds of stand-ups at The Fringe (and what is the collective term for that? A heckle of comedians perhaps?), you’ll come across the theatre section of the programme. For many people the Fringe is the theatre high point of the year.

It just upsets me when relatively few people coming to Edinburgh explore shows on offer that aren’t mainstream stand-up comics. No matter what label is given to a Fringe show, to me they all do the same thing. They tell a story.

What is a stand-up if nothing more than a someone doing a one hour monologue. Yes, there are audience interactions (sometimes) and certain things that stand-ups can do that others can’t, but there are theatre rules of thumb that I’m sure some of the comics would love to employ. If you’re up to the Fringe and only taking in comedy and “people off the telly” then you are missing out.

Forget about the image of needing to understand technique and study theatre, it’s there to enjoy as much as The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (Gilded Balloon).

While shows such as The Wake (Bedlam Theatre) are going to have reviewers discussing the structure of the piece as well as the technical achievement of the two actors covering multiple characters on stage, there is nothing wrong in going along to watch it because it’s a fun farce!

The key to the Fringe for me, is the simple fact that with so many shows on offer in a short space of time, you can explore, you can take changes, you can step out and see something that you would normally not consider. With the rise in prices and the cost of spending tie in Edinburgh during festival month, there is a tenancy for those visiting to play it safe and just see the cast of Mock the Week or The News Quiz, and not even experiment inside the comedy section, let alone look deeper into the program.

I wonder how many performers choose to go into the comedy section simply for visibility’s sake. The decision on what to label a show is arbitrary at best, and is damaging to audience numbers at worst.

Take the tightly scripted and perfectly measured pace of Edward Aczel (Underbelly). A bumbling character telling no traditional jokes, preferring to perform a SWOT analysis at the start of the gig. Yes it’s fun, but then so is Silent Cannonfire (Zoo Roxy), a swashbuckling look at piracy and debauchery, but in complete silence. The former is tagged comedy, while the latter is theatre.

But they both entertain.

Do you need to have an appreciation of physical theatre and dance/form to appreciate a piece like Another Someone (Bedlam Theatre)? I’ve never studied this, I’m not looking out for pieces for any academic reason, but I was asked along to see it, loved it, and would recommend it as something that is definitely worth seeing.

Which goes for pretty much anything in the program. Forget the labels, just browse, choose, and enjoy.

A lion: distinct lack of jungle/sleeping interface. <em>Picture: Drew Avery</em>

A lion: Note lack of jungle/sleeping interface. Picture: Drew Avery

Since the turn of the last century, there are three types of lyrics in music:

Witty, wordy and waspish: (this is something of a lost art, best exemplified by Noel Coward, Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Gilbert and Sullivan, Stephen Sondheim with current practitioners thin on the ground – perhaps Neils Hannon and Tennant, Jarvis Cocker, Leonard Cohen, Dylan (on a good day), Morrissey, Joni Mitchell and, at a pinch, Alex Turner.

Nonsensical: Doo-Wah Diddy Diddy Dum-Diddy Dooh. Obla-di-Obla-dah. Who put the bomp Iin the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?

Nonsensical masquerading as deep and meaningful: John Lennon’s Imagine, Robbie Williams’ Angels, most current bands who are best epitomised by Sting’s couplet from Don’t Stand So Close To Me: “He starts to shake and cough. Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.”

The second category is infinitely preferable to the third. The collective members of Keane, Snow Patrol and Coldplay, for instance, have never crafted a line in pop history as perfectly formed as “Stop. Hammertime”, “Whoo Hoo, well, I feel heavy metal” or “Who let the dogs out?”

There is another type of lyric, which is almost unclassifiable, unless you’re that tiny band of muso who listens to lyrics in their entirety. These are the songwords which do not stand up to scrutiny because they are factually inaccurate.

You may have your own suggestions – do add them below – but some artistic licence must be allowed. No-one of any note called Freddie Mercury “Mr Fahrenheit” and clearly he was limited by the laws of physics from “travelling at the speed of light”, but listeners went with it. Young MC in 1988’s Know How says “I make no errors, mistakes or blunders”. Young MC in 2005 took part in Celebrity Fit Club 3 with Chastity Bono and Kenickie from Grease, which suggests the opposite. Jay Z’s claims that “I’m the new Sinatra…yeah, they love me everywhere” are so far unverifiable.

What are verifiable are the lyrical errors, mistakes and blunders contained on the next ten records. In this age of the internet, every pop pedant can feel free to tut under their breath at the following:

1 The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The Tokens/Tight Fit sang: “In the jungle, the mighty jungle/the lion sleeps tonight.” Tigers sleep in jungles. Lions don’t.

2 Crystal

New Order said: “Here comes love/It’s like honey/You can’t buy it with money.” £1.72, 454g of ASDA Clear honey = New Order fail.

3 Smooth Operator

Sade: “Coast to coast, LA to Chicago.” Someone needs a new Rough Guide to the US, pronto. The “windy city” is 700 miles inland, luv.

4. Strong

“And that’s a good line“ Robbie v sings, “to take it to the bridge.” It’s not.

5. Ironic

Alanis Morissette: “It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.” This is not ironic (as comic Ed Byrne has pointed out). It is, like this lyric, just unfortunate.

6 Fireflies

Owl City:
“You would not believe your eyes/
If ten million fireflies/
Lit up the world as I fell asleep/
‘Cause I’d get a thousand hugs/
From ten thousand lightning bugs/
As they tried to teach me how to dance.”

You wouldn’t believe your eyes … while asleep? Fireflies lighting up world? Insects giving hugs … and dance classes? Suppose they don’t make songs No 1 on account of logic. If they did, no Ernie The Fastest Milkman in the West.

7. Year 3,000

Busted: “And your great, great, great granddaughter is pretty fine.” Based on Busted’s 2003 hit, only if she’s been cryogenically frozen.

8. Nine million bicycles

Katie Melua: “We are 12 billion light-years from the edge.”
Scientist Simon Singh has taken care of this one – insisting on 14 bilion. He was last seen counting individual bicycles in Beijing to further his argument.

8 ½. Jailbreak

Thin Lizzy: “Tonight there’s going to be a jailbreak/ Somewhere in this town.” Not strictly a factual error but there are craftier ways of fooling the local sheriff.

Market Place GlasgowStudents of the more rib-tickling side of the internet will have no problem discerning the common denominator among the following:

Sheffield United’s relegation, Oasis splitting up, Michael Jackson’s death, Kanye West insulting Taylor Swift, landing a ban from X Box Live, RickRolling, Emmanuel Adebayor asking Arsene Wenger for the same wages as Thierry Henry and Usain Bolt breaking the 100m world record – they’ve all been the subject of parodies of a 2004 German film about World War II.

The phenomenon really began to eat itself when Downfall clips began being taken down
and, finally, when Bruno Ganz’s Hitler flipped out at the volume of Downfall parodies.
These kind of internet memes, as is the thing with most virals, tend to last around 48 hours before they clear up – for instance, the Tiger Woods ad parodies.

At long last, Downfall is in the Potsdam stages thanks to the not-so-serious competition of Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ ode to the Big Apple.
Empire State of Mind generated its own form of video remix from other American locations like Newark, Minnesota and New Hampshire. There is even a Star Wars parody.

Just as Jay-Z went massive in the UK with Glastonbury, the spoof’s awakening on British shores arrived through the immortalisation of Newport in song

Trio director MJ Delaney, rapper Alex Warren and singer Temera Wainwright -the 21st century equivalent of The Barron Knights or Weird Al Yankovic – are hurtling towards 2.5m hits on YouTube, after Twitter love from Lily Allen, Stephen Fry and Rob Brydon.
Now that Newport State of Mind referenced Welsh institutions from Dame Shirley to the DVLA, other British cities are bound to want in on the action. There is of course a Glasgow version of the Alicia Keys Pt 2 song which hails the city’s charming heritage of drugs, Tennent’s Export and sectarianism. Not long now before Edinburgh (Trainspotting, Arthur’s Seat, big Sean Connery) or Aberdeen (granite, sheep, oil, Sir Alex Ferguson) have their own tributes penned. Any Jay-Z-Dundee remix would have to pay homage to jute, Def Jam and journalism.

<em>Picture: Jordan S Hatcher</em>

Picture: Jordan S Hatcher

Maybe it’s Glasgow’s currently secure ranking as Scotland’s visual art capital; maybe it’s the guaranteed presence of a massive and unusually open-minded arts audience for the duration, but there’s a winning dearth of angsty pretension or arcane exclusivity about this year’s seventh Edinburgh Art Festival programme.

It is characterised instead by a welcoming expansiveness and palpable sense of fun that deftly complements its older, bigger Fringe cousin.

From the heavyweight blockbusters – Impressionism and Surrealism at the National Galleries; Martin Creed at the Fruitmarket; US photographers William Wegman and Edward Weston at the refurbished City Art Centre; Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell’s first UK gallery show at Inverleith House – to new public art on Portobello beach, a poetic podcast soundtrack for a Royal Mile walk, and a mass procession of costumed tour-guides, there’s something to tickle most fancies.

Other UK or Scottish debuts include the Brazilian site-specific artist Iran do Espírito Santo (Ingleby Gallery), German filmmaker Hito Steyerl (Collective) and the traditional/conceptual Japanese stone sculptor Atsuo Okomoto (Corn Exchange Gallery).

Aligning the local with the international, meanwhile, Tram Spotting/Train Spotting (Schop) brainstorms Edinburgh’s thorniest transport issue, and Edinburgh People (Central Library) presents new portraits by blind photographer Rosita McKenzie.

Painting, from Old Masters to contemporary provocateurs, features particularly prominently this year, a strand that includes 2009 Turner Prize laureate Richard Wright’s new work, especially created for the Dean Gallery’s double stairwell. This is one of three Art Festival commissions backed by Scottish Government Expo funding – the others being Creed’s forthcoming permanent addition to the Waverley Steps, and a video installation in the City Observatory by Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth – together with four “interventions”.

These latter include a bicycle-powered mobile gallery, an intriguingly literal/lateral exploration of health and safety issues, a “viral publication” spread digitally through all festival venues, and the aforementioned tour-guides’ flash mob.

Art meets music in the Edinburgh Printmakers’ show Prints of Darkness, featuring 11 Scottish artists’ response to the history and iconography of record cover art, and accompanied by its own limited-edition LP.

At the Scottish Poetry Library, Plan B sees Irish Pulitzer-winner Paul Muldoon obliquely in dialogue with photographer Norman McBeath, “loosely around the theme of life’s cock-ups, contingencies and conspiracies,” while Catherine Sargeant at Dancebase unveils a text-based response to the language and expression of dance.

Beyond the city centre, and besides Portobello, there are plenty of other tempting cultural pretexts to escape the madding Festival crowd. The regular National Trust for Scotland tours of Newhailes, a 17th century house in Musselburgh, will be enlivened by Anna Chapman’s Subjects for Melancholy Retrospection, a mix of drawing, sculpture and sound art inspired by the building and its archives – and with Luca’s legendary ice-cream nearby for afterwards.

Sculpture park Jupiter Artland, near Wilkieston, kicks off its second year with newly installed works by Nathan Coley, Jim Lambie and Cornelia Parker, and if you follow the Antony Gormley figures down the Water of Leith, you can check out Gemma Holt and Richard Healy’s show at the Granton Lighthouse, along with pop-up interpretations of local waterfront regeneration proposals.

The Edinburgh Art Festival runs from July 29th – September 5th.