Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Press Release of the month...

Girlinky - Newspaper Round


Overheard on the very delayed Leeds-London GNER train yesterday: an elderly couple expressing concern about the fact that our train would arrive at Kings Cross after the tube strike started at 6.30pm...

Lady: "But what if the train gets in too late and the tube isn't running?"
Man: (irritably) "For god's sake, you don't think they'd just leave us stranded, do you?"


Not the real Jim Cousins MP

Jim Cousins is the Labour member of Parliament (MP) for the Central Ward in Newcastle upon Tyne.

From the Jim Cousins (or "Not the real Jim Cousins Blog").

"This blog is not run by Jim Cousins nor is it endorsed by him. In fact at the time of writing this he will never have even heard of it. All posts are by me and will publicise his parliamentary speeches, appearances in the press, useful links and other interesting tidbits. I'll try not to put any bias into anything I put up but I can't promise that. For the record I think Jim, from what I have read so far, has pretty similar political views to myself. I'm sure I'll find out for definite the more I update this site.

The blog's primary aim is to let his constituents see what he is up to, to find out if he is their ideal person to represent them and most importantly to make their views heard.

If the real Jim Cousins ever finds out about this blog he can have it, and the associated gmail address, as long as he keeps it up to date. How good an offer is that? Nice, easy to use way to get in touch with his constituents. For free. Come and get it Jim".

What a great idea.

Leeds / Assistant go Evil Devil

Arrived back from Leeds, where I've been attending a work-related conference since Sunday, late last night, after hours of patient, numbing travel. I refuse, however, to get upset about the state of the British railway system. I may as well get upset about the weather.

Travelling for work purposes is something I enjoy, generally, being a rare chance to escape my desk; it is also a golden chance to be taken seriously. There is something about arriving as a 'company representive' which apparently suggests gravity, whereas in truth as often as not you're simply there to stand behind, well, a stand.

I arrive back, meanwhile, to discover that Andrew, architect of the excellent Bedsit Bomber (both band and blog) has remixed Assistant's new recording of 'A Century', digging out and sculpting vocal snippets to create something completely new - a remix as a remix should be done, taking elements of the original and building up something original from it; right click and download it here.

Elsewhere, Victoria writes to tell me "the name of the latest British soldier to be killed in Iraq? Gordon Gentle." Ironic, perhaps, but not a joke, alas.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Click opera - Shklovsky and me v. Heidegger and J-Lo

A great, funny, difficult post over on Momus's Click Opera site.

Click opera - Shklovsky and me v. Heidegger and J-Lo

"My problem with the idea of authenticity as it manifests itself in contemporary pop culture -- I call this Rockism for short -- is that it's a conservative and convergent value. The basic tenets of Rockism are that it's good 'to stay in touch with your roots', 'to keep things real', 'to look in your heart and write', 'to thine own self be true', and so on. The emphasis is on the past, on convergence, on origins, and on necessity rather than on the future, divergence, destinations, and freedom"

And any article which links Heidegger to Jennifer Lopez is OK by me.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I keep missing US presidents

At various stages in the last two or three months I've had posts planned on Reagan, Clinton and Bush and never finished any of them. All three are beguiling, frightening and amusing in their way; certainly it would have been possible for me to have posted two very different messages on each of them; the public rehabilitation of Reagan and (to a lesser extent) Clinton has been fascinating to say the least. Nightmarish thoughts abound as to how Thatcher will be remembered when she dies. Amongst the many stories I've read about Reagan recently (most of which have concurred with the new reading of him - that his methods and his diplomatic skill were gravely misjudged by his critics) the story I liked best was how he would alarm the Russians by earnestly explaining that, in the event of an alien attack, he saw them working together against the common enemy.

Most interesting about the nostalgic re-evaluation of his career is the implication that America (and the Western World) is suddenly hugely nostalgic for the days where American identity and security was - comparatively - a more straightforward matter. Communism was an enemy which may have galvanised America's collective aggression and fear but it elicited, especially under Reagan, a bold decisiveness, even if, in supporting the hotchpotch of dictators and bandits who resisted Russia ("my enemy's enemy is my friend"), the short and long term effects were catastrophic (although I concede, because it is in vogue, that the cold war was ultimately ended under Reagan). Under Reagan America seemed to have a common purpose (apart from get richer if you were rich or get poorer if you were poor). Bush may have gone after Saddam with the same eagerness to identify and destroy an 'enemy', but the people of America are gradually realising that the world is emphatically not a safer place for it. 270 injured in car bombs today.

Writing in yesterday's Guardian David Aaronovitch wrote, of Bill Clinton - who sought solace during the Monica Lewinsky scandal by reading the writings of Marcus Aurelius (a Roman emperor who shared Clinton's fondness for both affection and talking): "There is no grandeur to be had now. These days Reagan is a great president, because these are not great days. They are messy and difficult and bloody, full of awful choices. It is no good blaming Bill because, as Marcus Aurelius himself said, real life is more like wrestling than dancing."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Assistant will be playing the Spice of Life in Cambridge Circus, London, on Saturday 17th July, supporting the really excellent Girlinky. Doors open at 8 and it's £3. I'll post more details as soon as they filter through.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Myth makers? Look who is tocking!

In this great national debate who is going to contest the merits of chapter 183, clause 62, codicil 92 (c)?"

Simon Hoggart asks the right questions;
Guardian Unlimited Politics Comment Myth makers? Look who is tocking!

The 100 Greatest British Albums

Andrew links to the Observer The 100 Greatest British Albums list in his BB blog today. I'm actually pretty unimpressed with the list, full of lazy, easy choices, but there's a lot there I own (more than Andrew, yay, I win), namely:

(I've colour coded them:
red if I think the record is genuinely one of the 100 best ever
black if I think the record is good but wouldn't care if I never heard it again
blue if I think the record is totally over-rated)

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses; London Calling, The Clash; Exile on Main St, The Rolling Stones, Blue Lines, Massive Attack; Metal Box, PiL; The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, David Bowie; The Clash, The Clash; Never Mind The Bollocks, The Sex Pistols; Club Classics vol 1, Soul II Soul; The Specials, The Specials; Closer, Joy Division; Loveless, My Bloody Valentine; The Smiths, The Smiths; Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Pink Floyd; Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division; New Boots And Panties!!, Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Low, David Bowie, Lexicon of Love, ABC; Bummed, Happy Mondays; Entertainment, Gang Of Four; All Mod Cons, The Jam;, Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks, Cut, The Slits; Maxinquaye, Tricky; Power, Corruption and Lies, New Order, Screamadelica, Primal Scream, Quadrophenia, The Who, Original Pirate Material, The Streets; Parklife, Blur, Station To Station, David Bowie; Don't Stand Me Down, Dexy's Midnight Runners; This Nation's Saving Grace, The Fall; Behaviour, Pet Shop Boys; Boy in the Corner, Dizee Rascal; Dare, The Human League

Far more interesting than the list itself is the extracts from the voting, where pop luminaries explain their own personal top tens. Links to a few of these below:

Karl Hyde (nominates Hawkwind! Has the world gone mad!?)
Terry Hall (strangely conservative selection)
Tim Burgess (nominates himself - good work Tim)
Stuart Maconie (irritating use of capital letters, and incomprehsible choice at no. 1)

Although, confusingly, there's another page with top tens on it where Terry Hall's rather dull version above is replaced by a much better and more original one:

1. Young Americans David Bowie
2. The Clash The Clash
3. Roxy Music Roxy Music
4. White Music XTC
5. Greatest Hits David Essex
6. Parklife Blur
7. Songs From the Bathtub Vol 1 Pete Boyle
8. Sheet Music 10cc
9. Modern Music Be Bop Deluxe
10. Pin Ups David Bowie

Of course, there's plenty missing from the main list (of which, more later) and, obviously hardly any women (honourable mentions for The Slits and Kate Bush aside). But, as ever, Alex James has the last word, and, in nominating Soft Cell, Duran Duran and Adam and the Ants shows he has more sense than all the Stones/Beatles nominators put together. And, he points out, "making a list of best albums is itself a quaintly archaic notion", especially when the concept of 'album' is being stretched to its limit anyway.

"When vinyl went out of fashion it was already the beginning of the end. People can fiddle around with a CD and pick which tracks to listen to. And because the medium allowed it, albums became longer and longer. It's almost impossible to buy a new album now which you can enjoy in one sitting. The new album by the Streets is a brilliant exception. The last Blur album went on and on."

I guess it's inevitable that all this is leading up to me making my top ten. Hmm. I'll have to think about it.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Rooney and Paul Gascoigne

Like all England supporters, I'm really enjoying watching Wayne Rooney play at the moment, especially when - after an off-colour season - he's really playing the way we all hoped he would when he first broke through. But there's something I like about him even more - that boyish bashfulness. When he scores (plenty of recent occasions in which to observe this) his goal celebrations are wonderfully self-conscious - like Shearer in the way he just puts his head down, raises one arm and charges towards the corner flag (I'll exempt that worrying cart-wheel after his first goal against Switzerland - best leave that to slighter players), but he looks almost embarrassed when he does so, as though he can see the photographers looming. His face reddens, he breaks into a grin which seems to say 'I know - I can't quite believe this either'. It's funny to see this stocky, barrel chested man expose his youthfulness so candidly. I'm reminded of the teenage boy who suddenly becomes startlingly handsome (not something Rooney has had to deal with yet) and exhibits this knowledge with every fibre of his astonished being. Remember Prince William a year or three ago, all bashful grins, that trick of his mother's, looking up through his eyelashes. Now he looks like a horse so I guess he won't have to worry anymore.

Elsewhere, more tales of barrel-chested genius (gone astray).

Clinton Interview in the Guardian today

"Nevertheless, asked if the 'special relationship' was strong enough to bear a British prime minister speaking his mind frankly on issues that divided the two countries, he answers with an immediate and unequivocal: 'Yes.' ":


This is my new blogchalk:
United Kingdom, East Sussex, Brighton, English, Jonathan, Male, 26-30, books; reading of, accumulation of, records; accumulation of, thinking of. :)

Thing is, I didn't stop long enough to work out exactly what a Blogchalk is. Oh well.

Random Acts Of Reality

Sometimes you come across a blog which you know you can't compete with. Random Acts Of Reality, by Reynolds, is such a blog. Superbly written, in turn horrific and moving, his daily account of life as an emergency paramedic in a London ambulance is really fascinating reading.

A brief quote, just to give you some idea...

I'm writing this on the move, once more towards occupational health, however for once it's not actually for me, but instead my crewmate. (He has a dodgy shoulder). The first job of the day was a classic early morning job, 87 year old male who had collapsed or fell last night (he didn't know which) and had spent the night laying on the bathroom floor. The first thing he said to me as I entered the room was "Hello, how are you?". Luckily he wasn't injured but we took him to hospital for a check-up anyway. His wife told us he was 87, "which is old for a man". What annoyed me was that these two lovely old folk were living in a group of flats that had a drug-dealer and prostitutes working out of. It doesn't seem like a nice retirement for a lifetime of work, and service in the army during World War II., but it's something we see time and time again.

There's plenty more, and much that is genuinely affecting. Read it.

Money for Nothing

From the Guardian's New media diary...:

"Still on the subject of iTunes, which was launched at London's Billingsgate market in front of an admiring audience who lapped up every word of Steve Jobs's speech, most of those holes in the catalogue are down to the independent labels' refusal to play ball. Because the indies were offered worse terms than the majors, some of the hottest bands of the moment including Franz Ferdinand and the White Stripes are missing. Users of the service were quick to get the message across by subverting the iMix facility, which allows users to submit their own favourite mix CDs for approval by others. The top-rated selection shortly after launch last week was called 'iTunes needs indies!' and consisted of just one track - Money for Nothing by Dire Straits."

Friday, June 18, 2004

Brighton may elect first Green MP

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Brighton may elect first Green MP: "The air in Brighton's north lanes fills with the scent of incense and the sound of a didgeridoo player. Sun drenches the quaint maze of streets where shops jostle to sell 'oxygen sessions' and Thai massage; herbal tinctures and lotions; vegan burgers, semi-precious gems, fair-trade goods and 'recycled' clothes. "

Hmm - this is not the Brighton I know. All the same, the Guardian writes about the fact that this 'environmentally-aware Utopia' may be the place where Britain elects its first ever Green MP.

In Brighton, "They were the party that ensured the local council blocked the fluoridisation of water; led the suc cessful opposition to a carpark on the South Downs; ensured a school for autistic children did not close; and were the only party to oppose a £1bn PFI contract for an incinerator that will burn 250,000 tonnes of waste a year".

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Blurry photo


the (ahem) iPod professor

A little out of date, but Michael Bull, a lecturer at the University of Sussex, is conducting some interesting research into iPod usage. Tempting though it is to get carried away by all this, does anyone else find it amazing quite how much significance people are affording the iPod? Not that it isn't a brilliant gadget, but weren't most people already starting to re-organise their record collections, burn their own CDs etc before the iPod's ubiquity was confirmed?

And is it really that very different, come to mention it, to the endless, endless hours of home taping that I used to do when I was a teenager? Being able to listen to the cream of my record collection in the order I choose is nothing new to me, I've been making myself (and friends) mix tapes for years.

Bulletin - University of Sussex Newsletter - iPod professor tunes into music on the move - 12th March 2004

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Assistant rehearsal 15/06/04

It's odd being vaguley directionless again, and it's perhaps a feeling we should fight against. Nevertheless, we've spent the last two months either working towards finishing our demo or preparing for the gig at the Freebutt. Now that we've done those two things and have nothing else imminent on the horizon we arrived at the rehearsal on Tuesday kicking our heels and wondering where to go.

But by the time we had set up our instruments Pete had worked out a rough, grungy riff and we started to play around with it, ending up with a loud, new-wavey stomp, sans vocals. Moving on, Don't Ask Me has been hanging around for ages and has had it's share of phases (Soul II Soul, Can, RRRRock, disco, reggae) - and we really need to get it organised. Fearing it all sounds too messy, Pete worked out a loud and brittle chorus; hopefully the variety should make the song easier to play. I promised to work on the lyrics this week, and I will. So far not much happens in that respect, the song hinging around the simplistic

"Don't ask me
Where to go.
I'm not ready to go".

which is hardly Leonard Cohen. It's hard to see quite how to fit it all together, but we had a nice progression going where it started with pounding, Can style drums and heavy guitars and melted into a hazy, Clash style stroll in the latter stages, so maybe we'll build on that. I sense a melodica riff beckoning...

The studio can get unbearably hot, and Brighton is baking at the moment. Suddenly it seemed irredeemingly stupid to be couped up in such a tight, warm space, so we went and sat outside by the harbour, dangling our feet over the wooden jetty and watching for jellyfish in the water. Andy reflused to volunteer any critisicm of the sting-happy species, and Ali was, I sensed, a bit put out. If ever there are organised jellyfish trials, or mass hangings of the "many-mouthed hunter" outside Hove Town Hall, I think Ali should be rounded up and questioned. I'm not saying he'd be behind it, I'm just saying he might know something. He is a man with a very low jellyfish threshold.

It reminded me of having a drink with Anne-Sophie, Sam and Dan at the weekend. When all around were generally rubbishing spiders and running down their contribution to the vast web (ha) of life, Victoria refused to put the boot in. "But", Anne-Sophie said, as if trying to understand, "you like spiders?" as if one were either for or against them, as with marmite. For my part, I quite like spiders, too, as long as the size advantage remains in my favour.

Tramping back in, we decided to spend a bit of time glueing old songs together - the intro of Broken matched up with our bratty, BSP styled instrumental. Vaguely aware that we only had ten minutes or so left, we just bashed back and forth between the two parts until it was time to pack up. It sounded great. I wonder how many new songs we can cope with, given that we only tend to play six song sets, but doing new songs is exciting and fun, so...

I finally got my firewire cable through the post today, so I'm going to have a go at editing some of our video footage from the gig (and last night's rehearsal) tonight. May even be able to find somewhere to host a few clips...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

London Bloggers

A really great site below; a lovely idea beatifully realised. Like a lot of people who grew up in London I don't feel the same starry affection for the place as a lot of people who were raised outside it, and for whom it was always exciting. I was pleased to move away to Brighton when I did. But the tube map I find impossibly fascinating, somehow, with its wonderful graphics, lop-sided geography and ability to still throw up unfamiliar station names after all this time. Similarly of all the yba art from a years back, Simon Patterson's The Great Bear was always one of my favourites, up there with Chris Offili and Sarah Lucas's best stuff. Anyway, take a look at the link below.

London Bloggers

I've actually got a real backlog of stuff I've recently read online which I want to link to; perhaps I'll put tomorrow aside as a links day. In addition to the site above, then, here are a couple of entertaining links to get started with.

- Two great responses to The Streets's still-sounding-fabulous 'A Grand Don't Come for Free' from Jakester and Tim - is it just me or has, for all the hyperbole lavished on Wiley and the Junior Boys, Mike Skinner's LP provoked by far the most intelligent, thoughtful and creative music writing online?

Jakester: The Uncertainty Principle

The Rambler: did I link to this post already? Maybe

- There have been some interesting interviews in the Guardian recently; the Kilroy-Silk one I mentioned earlier, and Zoe Williams' take on Robert Smith, which is interesting stuff even if you don't rate The Cure. Zoe Williams will write nine annoying articles out of ten without losing her breath, but occasionally she is spot on.

"It's not a control thing", Smith pleads. But Williams interjects - "Oh, here we are again. It is! It doesn't mean it's a bad thing, but it bloody is a control thing.. Her involvement, her interest gives the article bite.

Elsewhere John Harris even makes Paul McCartney come over as an interesting subject and Hattie Collins pens an article which does the opposite for the usually dependable Ice T.

Casting all the pop aside, there is a fascinating interview with Clive Stafford Smith in G2 today; Smith gave up a career in journalism for law and has defended hundreds of death row cases (remarkably, he has only lost on 6 occasions) and will shortly begin acting for 45 Guantánamo Bay detainees. He is a remarkable man.

Lastly, and rather closer to home, I've been reading the blog of a fellow Brighton resident and Spurs fan over at the gratuitously named 'The World is Full of Pisswits'. It is, and her blog is good reading - witty, intelligent and self-effacing. We're as one on Ledley King, and miles apart on Sarah Lucas...


Hurray, it's National Insect Week. Surely that time of year hasn't come round already?

Guardian Unlimited | Quiz | Quiz: national insect week

Rather impressively, I scored 6 out of 10 on the 'Know Your Insects' Quiz.

"Busy bee. You certainly know your insects, but need to spend more time outdoors", it says here.

green politics and kilroy

I haven't time to go into this in anything like the detail I would like to, but Sam draws my attention to the 'Manifesto for a Sustainable Society', which, given that I voted Green in the European elections, I really ought to have read already. It makes for interesting reading, although it does not contain too many surprises; idealistic statements on the environment which it is difficult to disagree with , fine words on transport, asylum and taxation, rubbish on Europe and the single currency, wonderful on the hereditory principle and the royal family - generally quite impressive, Europe aside. I need to read it in more detail, though.

For a quicker synopsis, the dreadful Kilroy-Silk, and more yesterday concerning his role in the party's sudden success. As Michael Moore has long pointed out, if Oprah Winfrey stood for President of the United States she'd win with ease. Which makes me wonder quite how successful the Greens can be if the best they can do is Peter Tatchell?

Fall out once more?

Hurray! Mark E. Smith has been sacking people again!

PLAYLOUDER | NEWS | The Fall Fall Out Again?

Monday, June 14, 2004

400. Integumentary Systems

"The arming of a man began at the feet and as far as possible each piece subsequently put on overlapped that beneath it. The arming of a man, therefore, was carried out in the following order; sollerets or sabatons, jambs, knee-cops, cuisses, skirt of mail, gorget, breast and back plates, brassards, pauldrons, gauntlets and, finally, the helmet."

Just finished reading William Boyd's Armadillo, a very funny and very insightful book about the nature of identity, of disguise and of the conforming instinct, as well as much more besides. Characters lose and regain their names, are in turn fragile and secure, exposed and powerful. Milomre Blocj becomes Lorimer Black, who in turn shifts his appearance minutely from page to page. A collector of armour, he is at one point imprisoned in a £40,000 medieval helmet. At the hospital, it is sliced through as if it were stiff leather. At the book's close the text which surrounds this paragraph appears:

"Every living organism is seperated from its environment by a covering or integument, that delimits its body. It seems to me that the process of adding an extra integument is unique to our species and easily understandable - we all want extra protection for our soft and vulnerable bodies. But is it unique to our species? What other creature exhibits this same sense of precaution and seeks out this protective armour? Molluscs, barnacles, mussels, oysters, tortoises, hedgehogs, armadillos, porcupines, rhinos all grow their own. Only the hermit crab, as far as I can recall, searches for empty shells, of whelks or periwinkles, or indeed any other hollow object and crawls inside, to serve as shelter and protection of the body. Homo sapiens and Euparagus bernhardus - perhaps we are more closely related that we think. The hermit crab finds its suit of armour and keeps it on, but, as the crab grows, it periodically is obliged to leave its shell and travel the sandy undulations of the ocean floor, unprotected for a while, soft and vulnerable, until it finds a larger shell and crawls inside again."

There's lots of stuff on name-changing, which I find fascinating. I've gone through phases of hating my name (or rather, hating it's shortened versions) and have cycled through the alternatives; Jon, Jonny, Jonathan; for several years at secondary school I was Jo without an E, a name I no longer recognise if I hear it in the street (or rather, don't recognise it as my own). Having the luxury to make a decision in this sense is valuable, as valuable as putting on a piece of armour - an action which in turn can manifest itself in a posture, a pretence, a myth of our own making. Milomre Blocj, in Armadillo, adopts these poses because he wants his position in society, in life, to be secure and without humiliation. But there are problems.

"The armoured man had proved that his suit of tempered steel could withstand the most powerful weapons in use, but in so doing he had discovered that the increase in the heaviness of the metal in which he clad his body produced a weight that became burdonsome in the extreme and, finally, insupportable."

So I'm plain Jonathan now, and even when I pick the armour up I recognise that before long I'll outgrow it and have to find something else - or take my chances without - like the hermit crab.

Armadillo. 1577 [-sp. armadillo, dim of armado armed man, so lit. 'little armed man' :- L. armatus, pa. pple. of armare ARM v.]

Sunday, June 13, 2004

beat - dead beat

Well, not entirely surprising that England lost, in the context of the two teams' overall ability. But still a thoroughly galling way to lose, so late in the day. Located some choice phrases of Gallic incredulity from the BBC 'French slang' page and texted them to an exultant Anne-Sophie. Think that confused her.

Faintly appalling, once again, to be at the end of a weekend, especially one which felt at times that it offered that precious thing; enough time. Generally we went to bed late and rose early, meaning our days were long. Saturday felt like a Sunday. Yet now it is Sunday, late on a Sunday and all the time I had feels thrown away, because it's work again tomorrow and I'm still tired.

This is the way it is, though. Must sober up and go to bed. Je vais tomber dans les pommes.

Goodnight x

Blair / the John Barnes rap

Andrew, over at his Bedsit Bomber blog, is still digesting the results of the council elections, and musing on the Blair problem. Do we want rid of him now? After the election? At all? Michael Moore thinks he knows the answer, and has announced that his next film will concentrate on Blair's role in the Iraq war.

He likens Blair "to an older sibling of Bush's" and says that, "as a parent, when two children get in trouble, the parent usually questions the older one as to how he or she could let such a problem occur". Blair knows better, he says. Blair is not an idiot. "So what is he doing hanging around with this guy?". You can read more (well, essentially exactly what I've just re-hashed), here.

Andrew BB also maintains his excellent run of posts with another dazzling piece of investigative journalism, here.

"Former Conservative leader, Sir Desmond Plummer,", Andrew writes, wholly falsely, "was alleged to have ordered millions of oak saplings to be planted throughout working-class Bermondsey and Rotherhithe during the late 1960s. These would eventually have flourished, destroying the local housing and creating a forest teeming with fish, fowl, and game. Tory grandees would roam the open areas on horseback, hunting both cockney man and beast alike with hawks and spaniels.

European election results coming through tonight, of course, as well as the first England game of Euro 2004. Gonna stick my neck out for a 2-1 England victory, for no reason other than alien feelings of a rare rush of Englishness. Rooney and Owen to score. Yes, Anne-Sophie, you may use the comments boxes tomorrow to laugh at me if France thrash us. I reserve the right to edit your comments, however :-)

Someone left a football at our place last night after we had a few people back after a barbecue down on the seafront, so me and Vic strolled down to the beach for a kickabout earlier. I can report that she has fair-to-middling technique with an over-reliance on the toe-punt rather than the instep, yet her tactical astuteness and good looks secure her place in the Assistant starting eleven. And she's better at playing catch than me.

Right, off to the pub in a minute.

Friday, June 11, 2004

assistant blog in plain text format

I've added a link to my Blogger Atom feed to the sidebar (right). I've done this because I've wanted to add a plain text version of the site for some time but have not been able to put aside time to do so. In the meantime, this provides full, plain text entries. It doesn't, at present, have working links, so some of the shorter entries (which link outwards) mightn't make much sense - but I hope the longer posts prove readable and, dare I say it, enjoyable. If anyone has any tips on how to introduce more effective plain text alternative, please let me know.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Panda population on the up

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Eats shoots and thrives

"There is also the sex problem. Panda experts in China have tried Viagra and even panda porn videos in an attempt to encourage the reluctant creatures to mate."

Leave them alone, will ya? In their own good time, and all that...

Not waving but dancing

Victoria points me in the direction of a lovely story, here...

'Flash-mobbers' do the rush-hour waltz as new craze of mobile clubbing moves into Britain

"Rush hour at one of London's busiest stations: Tired commuters jostle for space at the turnstiles while others gaze at the information boards. Is this a typical journey home from the office? Not quite. In the midst of the bustle, something is happening that clearly does not involve commuters waiting morosely for the 7.19pm to Dartford.

At 6.58pm precisely, dozens of individuals dotted around the concourse at Victoria station, each wearing headphones, begin to dance".

Elsewhere, Andrew is on top form here:

UK Independence Party Manifesto Secrets

There's an article in G2 today about Modigliani's nudes (his 'Reclining Nude' is below).

My initial instinct was to read the article but one sentence jumped out at me and it is so pure in it's poetic brilliance that I won't read on, lest the rest does not meet this impossibly high standard.

"His black pubic patches are as neatly topiarised as Hercule Poirot's moustache"

exit poll...

Up early this morning to walk through the drizzle up to St. Marks church to vote. Funny to think that I only ever set foot in a church for two reasons; because I am on holiday (I always want to visit churches when I am away from home) or to vote. This morning the church hall was quiet (voter apathy or too early?) - the returning officer, looking bleary-eyed and shuddering out of semi-sleep, seeming rather surprised to see such early attendees. Voting still gives me, despite it all, the same peculiar mixture of pleasure and pride.

For those who have not yet exercised your democratic right, and - like me - found it very difficult to decide whom to vote for, the web throws up some useful links. Several sites, as Andrew has noted, make some effort to create interactive quizzes with the aim of attempting to pinpoint which party best represents the views of the voter. Sadly, I was unable to find anything which did so for the British electoral system, and it seems to me to be a resource which is badly needed. Elsewhere, one can encounter quizzes from Holland (the best and most detailed I encountered), Canada (of interest but less relevent) and the US (whose The World's Smallest Political Quiz is a model of economy, and the one that got the ball rolling).

The Guardian has attempted to confront the problem of voting Labour (or not wanting to vote Labour) in this election. If you can't vote Labour, who can you vote for? presents a variety of answers to the question with contributions from (amongst others)Michael Frayn, John Pilger and (talking rubbish) Tony Benn.

The Independent takes a more agressive stance than the Guardian, leading with "Mr Blair should suffer the electoral consequences of his calamitous war". Unfortunately (and ridiculously) I can't access this online without paying for it, so you'll have to read it in the newsagents during your lunch hour if you want that one :-)

Back in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee's article, Would-be protest voters need to get a grip on reality offers, as one would expect of a writer of her brilliance, a sensible and insightful argument for voting Labour today. For anyone undecided about which way to go it's essential reading - even if, in the end, I did not follow her advice.

Happy voting.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Assistant Website / New BB track / Voting anxiety

Anne-Sophie has given the slightly neglected Assistant website a bit of a spruce and spring-clean, and provided a nice big shiny link here. Take a look.

Elsewhere, Andrew's compositions over at the Bedsit Bomber blog are always worth a look. But his new one is particularly good, I think. He's been listening to a bit of contemporary classical stuff and it's filtered through a bit. Hopefully he won't mind me linking directly to East River (right click to save) - if he does, he can jolly well say so. If the song's not enough, the post where he announced it is here.

OK. Off to try and work out who the hell I'm going to vote for tomorrow... (and get some sleep).

High Tide

Currently reading 'High Tide: News From a Warming World' by Mark Lynas, and really enjoying it - it's wonderfully clear and accessible on a subject I know very little about, and beautifully written; Lynas conjures some wonderful images.

He writes very movingly about the pacific island of Funafuti, part of Tuvula, which is one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, and which, due to rising oceans, is basically disappearing underwater. At the time of his writing the island had entered into an arrangement with New Zealand to start sending 75 people a year there - not exactly an urgent evacuation, but the long term prognosis is unequivocal. Within the next ten to fifteen years they will have to move.

Lynas meets Panapese Nelisone, who is touchy on the matter. Lynas writes

"As we finished the conversation, I made the mistake of using the word 'evacuation'. He broke in sharply: 'It's not an evacuation. We have not yet reached the stage where we must evacuate people. We know there is the threat of global warming, and the government doesn't want to sit back and do nothing. So this is a migration programme, a gradual kind of thing over time, not an evacuation as such, where we have to move people".

Lynas's descriptions are wonderful, and it is awful to think that in perhaps 30 years the Island will have dissapeared.

"Once the harsh sunlight began to soften a little, I wandered outside to explore. A hundred metres on my left was the lagoon, fringed by a narrow beach, the water mottled with purples and light blues where the sea floor alternated between sand and rock. A few women stood chatting in the water, only their heads showing above the rippled surface - looking as natural as old ladies passing the time of day at a London bus stop. Every now and then someone would heave themselves out of the sea fully-clothed, and set off, dripping, back to their house. I marvelled at their almost amphibious lifestyle - being wet or dry made little difference in this equatorial heat".

Aerial view of Funafuti Island, Tuvalu, May 2002 (Photo: Bob Girdo)

'My thinking', says the former Prime Minister of Tavulu, 'is that now is the time for preparing a place so that when people move they can move with their traditions, their customs and their culture. Some people say no, no it won't happen - they don't believe in it. So I say, well, which one would you like - would you like to stay here and then every one of us will die and there will be no more Tuvaleans? Or that we prepare and move to another place where we can survive? ... But I want to stay on this Island, you know. I will go down with Tavalu. This is my thinking.'

Lynas tells a lovely story about Toaripi, met on the beach one day by some unsuspecting American squaddies who "asked him to do their laundry, without realising that they were speaking to the country's Governer-General". Of course, Lynas writes, he happily obliged.

Since Lynas's book was written the migration programme continues. Australia continues to refuse to help, or ratify the Kyoto agreement. The most recent article I found on the subject is here

There is a rather more cheerful page on the Islands here, from which the above photo was taken. Lynas's blog is at

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

You Should Know

Yet More product!

And here's that live track again, in case you can't be bothered to scroll down...

Assistant - New Demo

Ali handed me a CD with our new demo mixed up on it last night. It sounds excellent. Not certain if we're on the final version yet, as we haven't all heard it finalised, but I'll post a track on the blog in the next couple of days, so keep checking back.

Assistant! My Device! My Tour of Duty!

Assistant played our first gig in five months last night; long overdue but - from our point of view, at least - well worth the wait. It went really well. Debuting the new keyboard proved to be surprisingly straight-forward, and the Freebutt is, yes, a dark and dingy venue but also, conversely, a nice place to play. Making it most welcoming was a good turnout from the assistantees, including Victoria, Sam, Andrew, Sarah, Mark, Ruth, Dan, Natalia, Benedict, Poppy, Dave (who won the long-distance award) and several other people I either didn't recognise, recognised but didn't know, or recognised, knew, got on like a house on fire with and - today - have temporarily forgotten. Still, that's the kind of thing the comments boxes are here for, if there are more names due a thanks.

On first, we played six songs from about half eight onwards, although the set came in surprisingly close to a mere twenty minutes; once again when you play live it's hard rationing the tempo. Not a problem though. You Should Know opened the set, as is customary, and remains one of our best songs. Following that we had the triumverate of new songs, which we were finding a bit daunting in recent rehearsals. All three were near-perfect on the night however, I'm Shit sounding energetic and buoyant, Drinking With You rather harder and taut, and What It Means, sandwiched between the two, probably the most ambitious song we've attempted live; lots of stops, twists and turns, but it's my favourite now. You can download it on MP3 here (as indicated in this morning's message). The final two tracks are older numbers, but usually elicit the best responses of our set - Vine to Vine and Easy To Leave - and both went really well last night. If I was feeling confident (which I am) I'd tell you that neither me nor Pete will ever mess our guitar lines up on those two songs again. But perhaps I shoudn't tempt fate.

Much of the next half hour was spent standing outside (where it was still light!) scrutinising the video which Andrew BB (Bedsit Bomber, not Big Brother) had kindly filmed for us (and from which the MP3 derives), to the amusement of the guy on the door, who entertained us with stories of anti-Freebutt vendettas from the flats opposite, and who looked fairly non-plussed watching the footage.

Back inside I prepared myself to be unimpressed by My Device, and conceded defeat as their set spiralled upward as they went on; they were really excellent, like Guy Piciotto's Fugazi rather than Ian McKaye's - and interesting rhythms and vocals to boot. Andy got quite excited at one song which - he told me twice - apparently just went "aiaiaiaiaiaiiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiai". Or something like that. There are some demos to download from My Device's website, and they've got CDs to buy too. See them live, though - they're great. Highly recommended from someone who doesn't care if he never sees another 'rock' band again.

My Tour of Duty have a CD to promote too, and that's what the evening was about. I missed their first few tracks and wandered round ten minutes in, and was delighted by what I saw; like an even match between the off-beat pop of XTC and the pop-punk of the much maligned (but initially ace) Superchunk. Their songs are called things like 'Love is Torture' and they're fronted by a big, shaggy haired lovely great Andy Partridge; all hesitations, quiet smiles and funny ideas.

Live song for downloading...

Last night's gig at the Freebutt with My Device and My Tour of Duty went really well; lots more to follow. In the meantime, download last night's rendition of What It Means in MP3 format. Usual rules apply; click 'save target as' and download to your desktop. Very much appreciate your comments and thoughts, either via the comments box below or you can, of course, email me.


Friday, June 04, 2004

BBC NEWS | UK | Ducks 'quack in regional accents'


Ducks 'quack in regional accents'

Assistant Mailing List Message

Just a quick note to let you know that Assistant will be playing the Freebutt in Brighton (details below) on Monday 7th June (next week), supporting fellow Brightoners My Device and My Tour of Duty. We'll be onstage first, not long after 8 o'clock and will be playing a six song set, including three brand new tracks. It's £3 to get in. If anyone needs any directions or further information hit 'reply' or give one of us a call or something; as always we're happy to help, and hoping you can make it down to see us.

1. You Should Know
2. I'm Shit
3. What It Means
4. Drinking With You
5. Vine to Vine
6. Easy to Leave

Venue: The Freebutt, 1 Pheonix Place , Brighton , East Sussex

Other bands:
My Device:
My Tour of Duty:

Assistant -
Assistant blog -

Hope to see you on Monday,

If you would like to join the Assistant mailing list please fill out the form below:

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X-clusive: Blur Start On New Album

A bit more detail on that new Blur record; sorry, non, blur-o-philes.

X-clusive: Blur Start On New Album

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Click opera / Ikara Colt

Why have I never noticed Momus's Click opera blog before? It's great, and rather beautiful, too.

Went to see the spiky and fun Ikara Colt last night. "Thanks for coming to see us play at Po Na Na Curry House", the singer deadpanned, "We hope you enjoyed your meal". I.C were on form, starting relatively muted but whipping themselves up as the set progressed; by the end they were sharp and invigorating, blending N.O.U / Huggy Bear type energy (they really recalled the latter when the guitarist chipped in on vocals) with the taut post-punk stylings of Joy Division and, particularly, The Fall.

"Smash the place up", they suggested, when the lighting and the wooden fittings got on their nerves. "I'll take the rap, I don't give a fuck", their singer said. But he's not Mark E Smith (or even Kevin Shields, who once kicked off a mini-riot at a MBV gig when he suggested the same thing) and couldn't help smiling. Nor could we.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

the NME sez...

BLUR have started work on the follow-up to ’THINK TANK’.

The group have been in the studio this month, and are planning on going back in again after the summer to work on more songs.

Drummer Dave Rowntree told XFM: "We’ve done a week or so recording, and we’ll do another couple of weeks, I think in September. There’s no deadlines we’ll just chip away, like we did with the last one. It’s sounding very good.

"The basis of the record is Damon’s ‘Democrazy’ album so anyone who listens to that will have a good headstart on what we’re doing. That’s the basis, so some of those tracks will end up being on the record. No working titles yet though, no it’s far to early for all that rubbish. This is the fun bit where you don’t have to worry about ridiculous working titles."

No release date has been set for the new album.

Blur - new album details emerge - NME.COM

Picking the Bones

Never got round to plugging one of the better books I've read on the subject of politics and Iraq; Picking The Bones by Geoffrey Regan. The brief review which I wrote for the Amazon site is reproduced below. For anyone who is interested in the historical precedents and parallels in Bush and Blair's 'crusade', it's essential reading.

"The political influence, democratic soundness and wisdom of waging war in Iraq by George Bush and Tony Blair has provoked a seemingly endless stream of comment, debate, and books. But Picking The Bones takes a different approach to the likes of Dude, Where's My Country and Weapons of Mass Deception by examining the way in which political rhetoric has exploited a revisionist and highly selective kind of history in order to justify war.

America is, we are told, 'land of the free', 'where all man are created equal'. Yet America's history is awash with bloodshed, tainted by racism, and shamed by slavery. When Americans talk about freedom, what do they mean? Native and African Americans, the people of Hiroshima, Vietnam, the Philippines and Grenada (not to mention Iraq) have all been on the receiving end of America's military might and suffered from the savagery of war. Some, it seems, are more equal than others. Regan points to British atrocities too, skewers the myth that the French are 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' and demonstrates with remarkable clarity the historical precedents for America's 'War on Terror'.

If the book has a failing it is that it provides what feels like a surfeit of information; as the book progresses Regan demonstrates countless war crimes, lies, and double standards to the point where the reader reels from the facts. But when the author, at the book's close, nails American history as American myth-making, he makes his point astutely, having already given more than enough examples to back himself up.

This rhetorical power aside, he writes wittily and accessibly, with much evident enjoyment, articulating the threat which America, as much as any of Bush and Cheney's 'Axis of Evil', poses to world stability. His book is the historian's counterpart to Graham Greene's description of The Quiet American, who is "as incapable of imagining pain or danger to himself as he [is] incapable of conceiving the pain he might cause others".

"Fahrenheit 9/11" gets U.S. opening date

Looks like Mike's film will be released nice and early and in good time to really fuck up Bush's electioneering. Let's hope it does as much damage as Moore hopes it will.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" gets U.S. opening date

Dumb Britain; and the Wu-Brighton connection

Apologies for ripping Private Eye off so shamelessly, but there was a wonderful moment on ITV's The Vault last night.

Melanie Sykes: "What is the term used to describe constant worrying over real or imagined symptoms?"
Contestant 1: "Homophobia" (cue much audience laughter).
Melanie Sykes: "Afraid not. Anyone else?"
Contestant 2: "Munchausen's syndrome?"

K-Punk links out to a fascinating article by Abe on the culture of mix-tapes in US Hip Hop; a really interesting feature and something I didn't know about. I've listened to some of Ghostface's new 'Pretty Toney' album and it's wonderful; the idea that there are tons of superior songs floating around is exciting. Accordingly, I downloaded his My Guitar last night and Abe is right: it's stunning.

Rather tremendously, I just found that when the Wu-Tang were in Brighton a couple of weeks ago they stayed in a rather hip Brighton hotel which is notable, amongst other things, for being next door to our flat. The idea that the entire Wu (or those of them who made it over to England) were no more than twenty metres away from me just the other day is, frankly, mind-boggling.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Currently listening to....

1. Miss Kittin - I Com LP(gorgeous electro-house, and my favouriote chorus of the year:

"Mitsubishi, Suzuki, BMW, 123
Mitsubishi, Suzuki, BMW, XYZ")

2. New Order - Technique LP(this was never my favourite New Order LP. I can't think why. It is now).

3. Inifinite Livez - Bush Meat LP (really excellent UK Hip Hop)

4. Radio 4 - Party Crashers (nothing particularly striking about this, except that it does everything it's supposed to)

5. Shystie - One Wish (Really excellent; I've only heard this once or twice and it sounded brilliant. Need to hear it again)