La ballade des gens qui sont nés quelque part

Posted in Journal at 22:58

In a twist that would likely inspire him to write another song were he still alive, Georges Brassens is considered one of the icons of modern French culture for his poetry and music. One of his pieces in particular applies quite well to the current climate. Any English translation is difficult as the plays on words are numerous; bear with me in my attempt.

The Ballad of People Who Were Born Somewhere

C’est vrai qu’ils sont plaisants, tous ces petits villages
Tous ces bourgs, ces hameaux, ces lieux-dits, ces cités
Avec leurs châteaux-forts, leurs églises, leurs plages
Ils n’ont qu’un seul point faible et c’est d’être habités

    How pleasant they all are, these little villages
    All these towns, hamlets, boroughs and estates
    With their castles, churches, and beaches
    They only have one weakness: people live in them

Et c’est d’être habités par des gens qui regardent
Le reste avec mépris du haut de leurs remparts

    People who look down from atop their walls
    With contempt for others

La race des chauvins, des porteurs de cocardes
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    A race of partisans and flag-wearers
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Maudits soient ces enfants de leur mère patrie
Empalés une fois pour toutes sur leur clocher
Qui vous montrent leurs tours, leurs musées, leur mairie
Vous font voir du pays natal jusqu’à loucher

    Shame on these children of their homeland
    Finally impaled on their bell tower
    Who show you their skyscrapers, museums, town halls
    Who have you look at their birthplace until you’re cross-eyed

Qu’ils sortent de Paris ou de Rome ou de Sète
Ou du diable Vauvert ou bien de Zanzibar

    Whether they come from Paris or Rome or Sète [NdT: Brassens’ birthplace]
    Or from the middle of nowhere or from Zanzibar

Ou même de Montcuq il s’en flattent mazette
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Or even out of Montcuq they don’t give a damn [NdT: Montcuq sounds like “mon cul” which means “my ass”]
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Le sable dans lequel douillettes leurs autruches
Enfouissent la tête on trouve pas plus fin
Quant à l’air qu’ils emploient pour gonfler leurs baudruches
Leurs bulles de savon c’est du souffle divin

    The enveloping sand in which their ostriches
    Put their heads could not be finer
    As for the air they use to fill their windbags
    The bubbles they blow are of divine breath

Et petit à petit les voilà qui se montent
Le cou jusqu’à penser que le crottin fait par

    And bit by bit their noses rise higher
    Until they believe that even the dung

Leurs chevaux même en bois rend jaloux tout le monde
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Of their horses, even wooden, is a thing to be envied
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

C’est pas un lieu commun celui de leur naissance
Ils plaignent de tout coeur les petits malchanceux
Les petits maladroits qui n’eurent pas la présence
La présence d’esprit de voir le jour chez eux

    Where they were born is no ordinary place
    They feel so badly for the unlucky
    Those incompetent folk who didn’t have the presence
    The presence of mind to see the light at their home

Quand sonne le tocsin sur leur bonheur précaire
Contre les étrangers tous plus ou moins barbares

    When the bell tolls for their precarious happiness
    Against foreigners all more or less uncivilized

Ils sortent de leur trou pour mourir à la guerre
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    They come out of their hole to die in wars
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Mon Dieu qu’il ferait bon sur la terre des hommes
Si on n’y rencontrait cette race incongrue
Cette race importune et qui partout foisonne
La race des gens du terroir des gens du cru

    My God it would be a fine earth for humankind
    If this odd race were never encountered
    This wearisome race that proliferates everywhere
    The race of local folk, of true patriots

Que la vie serait belle en toutes circonstances
Si vous n’aviez tiré du néant tous ces jobards

    How wonderful life would be all around
    If You had not created these fools from the nothingness

Preuve peut-être bien de votre inexistence
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part
Les imbéciles heureux qui sont nés quelque part

    Perhaps it’s proof of Your inexistence
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere
    These happy cretins who were born somewhere

Cat music on the Catnet

Posted in Catnet, Cats at 15:30

Susu selfie

I’ve been hanging out listening to music lately. Music for Cats, of course. My favorite there is “Spook’s Ditty.” On request of a commenter, I borrowed my human’s phone and took a selfie while pondering the meaning of life. As you can see, I am CLEARLY blue and black.

We’re all looking forward to the return of spring. A lot of humans have been tired this last month; mine says it’s a virus going around. I’ve never had a virus; I think it’s because I catch a lot of flies? Probably eating flies helps build resistance to that sort of thing. Humans should consider eating more of them. They are really crunchy.

Kanoko’s favorite song is still this one by Kraftwerk. He always purrs through the whole thing.

Minimalist media center

Posted in Home improvement at 19:19

Minimalist media center

I do still geek around the house! After 13 years of mediocre sound systems, I finally treated myself to a new amplifier, a Pioneer A-20-S. As my apartment is rather small, I don’t need anything more powerful than 50W, and once I plugged it in – to the same old speakers I’d had for 6 years – the clarity and range brought tears to my eyes. I grew up with a nice old amp, and studied music for decades, so hearing detail I hadn’t in my favorite songs, was wonderful.

The only drawback was that with just an amp, I had to play music through my PC, which, as quiet as it is, is not silent. I started out trying to see if the multimedia element of my Freebox V5 would work as a media center, but it truly is meant as a TV receiver: sound would only go out one port, and it required the remote control to work via on-screen menus. In other words, if I had it hooked up to my monitor, sound would go out the HDMI port, not any others. If I hooked it up to my stereo, I wasn’t able to use the box, since I couldn’t see what the remote was doing. So I packed it back up and began pondering how I could create a small, silent, economical media center.

Finally I remembered the Raspberry Pi, a minimal, yet powerful, board built for educational purposes. Sure enough, there were a few options for turning one into a media center. All I needed was a USB external hard drive, which after all these years, I still hadn’t bought. As luck would have it, the Fnac (a big home electronics, photography and book store here) had a “flash” sale on a very nice LaCie drive, so I picked it up and started planning the media center.

In the end, I have the setup you see here! Elements I already had were:
– A monitor. Mine can use multiple inputs, so I have my PC hooked up to its DVI port and the Raspberry Pi to its HDMI port. (The graphics on the little Pi are very impressive.)
– The Pioneer amp, and speakers. Since the amp can also use multiple inputs, I have my PC hooked up to its AUX and the Pi hooked up to its Network inputs.
– An Archos 43 internet tablet running Android. I hoped to be able to use it as a network interface so that I could play music without necessarily having to turn on the monitor, for instance.
– The Freebox, which has a WiFi transmitter (my Archos could connect to that) and 4 Ethernet ports. My PC is hooked up to one, the Pi to another, my laptop uses a third, and the fourth is still free.
– The USB 3.0 external hard drive, to hold my music library (FLAC files ripped from my CDs)
– Ethernet, HDMI, USB and micro-USB cables

Elements I purchased, downloaded, and set up:
– Raspberry Pi model B + basic white case + SD card with the Pi Debian port on it, just in case.
– USB 3.0 hub with its own power supply, since the Pi isn’t powerful enough to run the hard drive. This cost nearly as much as the Pi, since it’s a newer standard. It’s much faster than USB 2.0, however, so I didn’t mind – and we’re only talking twenty-odd euros!
OpenELEC for the Raspberry Pi, on a separate SD card. This is the Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center that runs XBMC, a clean, UPnP-enabled (networked) media center. Free. Took ten minutes to install, another fifteen to set up. Works like a charm.
Yatse XBMC remote for my Android tablet.

You can see everything in the photo up at top! Clicking through to the Flickr photo will let you mouse over the photo and see specific notes, if curious. I’m delighted with it. The Yatse remote was as easy as knowing the XBMC instance’s IP address, and I can even turn my monitor off and view my music library from its interface. The Pi is completely silent, its sound very nearly as good as my PC’s. My PC has a nice Behringer USB interface that’s crystal clear, whereas the Pi is putting sound through its 3.5mm analog jack. I only have an old 3.5mm – RCA cable, so probably all I need to do is replace it with a better, gold-plated one and I’ll be fine. The Behringer interface doesn’t work on the Pi, unfortunately, but it’s nice to be able to switch sound inputs easily with the Pioneer amp’s remote, rather than having to plug in the PC or the Pi each time I change.

So there you have it! A minimalist media center, responsive and silent, as well as ecological since it uses very little power, all for 80-odd euros (Raspberry Pi + case + SD card + USB hub).