Friday, July 30, 2004

Jude Law is Ian Curtis, apparently

According to the NME and Peter Hook, Jude Law is being lined up to play Ian Curtis in a bio-pic of the Joy Division lead singer.


The film will be based on Deborah Curtis's book Touching From a Distance. I find it odd to think that such a film is being made; Curtis's enigmatic appeal is certainly not hard to appreciate yet the idea that Hollywood would deem Joy Division an attractive subject... it's strange.

What appeals most, however, is the concept that the other players in the late 1970s music scene are likely to feature too; how wonderful and surprising it is to think that A Certain Ratio will have been portrayed in two separate and (presumably) widely-seen movies!? Would Vini Reilly ever have imagined that one day a pasty-faced Hollywood actor would be clutching a guitar and pretending to be him? Great.

Hollywood star to play tragic Joy Division singer? - NME.COM

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

no singing, no dancing northern white crap samples back

no singing, no dancing northern white crap samples back

Magnificent! Well spotted Tim, whose blog points me in the direction of The Architectural Dance Society and the author's marvellous approximation of The Fall - cobbled together entirely from cut up and pasted spam messages and samples from Fall-related songs. Excellent stuff.

Razorlight; hmm

One of the downsides of allowing yourself to be interviewed by someone who isn't a music journalist, and is thus not cravenly beholden to the 'rock star' myth, is that you open yourself to be stitched up and exposed as a fool, as Johnny Borrell no doubt discovered when he opened up Laura Barton's hilarious interview with him in the Guardian this morning. Not that it isn't his own fault.

For those who have somehow missed Mr. Borrell, lead singer of insipid indie hopefuls Razerlight, he has recently encountered some success with his band's debut album, and has let it go to his head somewhat, proclaiming himself a kind of Charles Dickens-Bob Dylan for the twenty-first century. Well, for those of us who still pick up a copy of the NME in the library every now and again and are inured to the silly, hyperbolic things that 'rock stars' say, this isn't too shocking - grand declarations of genius are all too common in the world of conservative indie rock, and the quotes are normally accompanied by the kind of journalism that is just impossible to take seriously - witness the recent fawning over Pete Doherty and this beloved (coughs violently) 'Albion'. For example, has anyone ever heard a Libertines record which is anywhere near as enjoyable as reading one of their ridiculous, self-aggrandising interviews?

Yet having somehow captured the attention of a large group of people (I wonder why no-one else noticed that their was a Richey Manic shaped hole in modern pop), Doherty does at least have some claim to influence. Borrell is stumbling in his wake. And he may be a nice looking chap, but that doesn't make the following statements any cleverer.

"Y'know, I could've been a poet," he swaggers, "but I've never seen anyone perform poetry and been anything other than bored out of my head. Cos it's a dead art form, you know? The whole point of Razorlight is to get something that means something and has some artistic merit coming out of your speakers in three minutes. That's why movies work. It's a shame theatre can't do that, but it can't."

Before I continue, I'll just take a moment to reproduce a little verse; I'll leave it up to you to work out whether this is from the pen of Johnny Borrell or Philip Larkin. See if you can work it out...

"Six in the morning and you rise and you fall, you got to
You got to grab what you can
Here comes your man, baby, he's a winner, yeah
He's a gunslinger"


An excellent writer (and rather a better poet than Borrell, I'd hazard a guess) like Laura Barton could rip this chap to shreds. Instead, she lets him do the talking while slyly poking a little fun at him along the way. The newfound pin-up status rests awkwardly on his bony shoulders, she writes, moments before allowing him to observe that "If I saw me I'd want to speak to me, too - I'd think, 'That guy looks like he's from Mars, he's somehow strangely compelling. I don't even look human". Borrell, needless to say, looks exactly like the lead singer of every post-Strokes indie band in the Western world.

Like the Libertines, Razorlight trade heavily on faux-romantic london imagery. He spies London's charm in some unlikely corners, however, waxing about "the dirt on the streets, King's Cross, the feeling of having no money, waiting for the night bus and not getting on the night bus, arguing with the driver and having to walk home." Sigh. How is this different to Brett Anderson's vision of early 90s London? Clue - it isn't. And it's a lot less thrilling, too. If the likes of Razorlight and The Libertines' boring rhetoric has a like-minded antescedent it isn't Charles Dickens or The Clash (some hope) it's the pissy, cliche-ridden period of mid-Britpop mod revivalists, it's Thurman's "Oh, wouldn't it be nice / To drink some English Tea?" And musically, of course, Razorlight are just anaemic, sub-Strokes tosh.

Of course, that's not why I wrote this - I could single out any number of dreary, unimaginative indie boy-bands for abuse, but rarely do so; whatever. But it takes an idiot like Burrell, proclaiming loudly that rock music is a 'valid art form' (uh, where have you been for the last forty years, we all agreed on that decades ago!), recycling all that tired crap about driving a motorbike "as fast as I can", tapping into "your mojo", and then having the ignorance to say of your songwriting process: "It's like Borges ... when he wrote The Zahir and I." Ahem.

So. That got my goat.

I feel better now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

spider cam

It is, perhaps, a sign that my heart is not really in it today that I have spent the last half hour pre-occupied with a spider that has decided to make my desk his home - he is a confident fellow; one minute merrily preparing a web from the side of my monitor to the desk divider, the next crawling over my screen, as if each letter I add to the back cover copy I'm writing is an insect he might trap. In fact, should any fly be unlucky enough to get caught in my spider's web, I fear he will not have too much too worry about. Bold he may be. Bigger than a crumb, he is not.

Looking away for a while I got a bit of shock to discover, when I looked up, that he had apparently decided to make my face the next stop on his ever expanding web, and was chugging along towards me, about two inches from the safety of my forehead. Needless to say, I resisted. I am a friend of spiders, yes, but I draw a line at being made their home - that's a step too far. That said, perhaps now is a good time to ask how?. I'm sure people have explained to me in the past how spiders make their webs but how had he got so near to my face? Upon what had he attached himself? Me?

So, schoolboy stuff - I've not yet named my eight-legged chum, and will happily name him after the first person who can use the comment box below to explain how spiders get their web spun across from Point A (my monitor) to Point B (my head).

Meanwhile, any more exciting spider action and you'll be the first to know.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Restaurant Review: Corianders, Hove

It was Andrew's birthday on Friday, so we went and had a celebratory dinner in Hove's Corianders, which, despite sounding like an Indian takeaway, is in fact a flashish and hard-to-find restaurant serving Mediteranean and North African cuisine. Unfortunately situated beyond the main run of shops on Church Road (and, we marvelled, how nice it is down there and so many nice looking places to eat; we increasingly refuse to budge out of Kemptown), it took a bit of perseverance to get to, and when we eventually found it in a run down parade of shops down to the sea, it didn't look too promising.

But inside, the decor was appealing; slightly dishevelled, far from ornate, but containing several attractive artifacts and - oddly - a very western, very average line of paintings on the wall, as well as two lovely round tables, tiled with mosaics. We sat elsewhere, however, by the door, and ordered wine and an excellent starter to share; a salad comprising of avocado, tomato and smoked haloumi (a minty, white cheese from Cyprus, it says here) in a 'corn tortilla bowl', which was excellent.

Priced a little high (most main courses between 13 and 18 pounds and, shamefully, rather more expensively than the online menu suggests) the restaurant obviously prides itself on its character. A little testily, the nevertheless personable waitor explained that we could not order our starter and main course seperately, it must be done together, and besides, "you'll have a long wait between courses anyway", he told us proudly. He was right, and the wait was a touch excessive, but when the main course arrived it looked impressive. Gossiping that the advantage of eating outside the normal, town-centre haunts (pizza express, thai, blind lemon alley) was the varied menus, we boasted that eating in Corianders meant you got food you wouldn't ordinarily eat.

That said, Andrew aside, we went for the more predictable meals; roast chicken with a side serving clump of corn stuff (my technical term) and black-bean stew for Vic and Pete, and a lamb, saffron and date tagine for myself, coming with cous-cous and a cucumber and mint yoghurt sauce. Only Andrew was more daring, going for Ostrich steak (I forget what it came with, roast potatoes I think) and giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up. He was right, I nicked a bit and it was good, kind of like chicken breast in texture and roast beef in taste. It looked super, too; we were all surprised, ignorant as we are, to see that it was a red meat.

Polishing off the last scraps and the dregs of the wine, we decided on our desserts - Vic and Andrew sharing a rich chocolate truffle cake and Pete plumping for a creme brulee; a creme brulee which, unfortunately, was neither burnt enough on top for my taste (I nicked a bit) nor, more damningly, very nice - it was excessively sweet, lacking that bitter aftertaste which good brulee's have. Never mind. My dessert, meanwhile, was magnificent - seduced by the promise of a chilli flavour I had gone for a selection of ice creams and sorbets; something mild and fruity, a capuccino ice cream which I liked (and I hate coffee) and the piece de resistance, the chilli ice cream itself. Now, surprisingly, this worked absolutely perfectly; nothing shocking or gimmicky, just a lovely, cool ice cream with a tingling, memorable aftertaste. Really wonderful. Kind of thing I could eat all day.

Oddly, despite the slightly over-priced menu (my lamb, while very pleasant, was nothing remarkable and pricy at £17.00 while Vic's chicken, despite looking magnificent, was not that full flavoured below skin level), the overall meal didn't come in that pricy; just over a hundred pounds for four of us (one starter, four main courses, two bottles of wine and three desserts - with lots of nice bread and olives thrown in for free); just over 25 pounds a head, which was better than I expected.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the location of this restaurant is probably its biggest drawback. Despite an adventurous menu and attractive decor, the place was never busy on a clear, bright summer's Friday night. Placed half a mile East, or situated on Church Road it would doubtless do a roaring trade. As it was, it was a really nice place to spend an evening. And as we left a group of diners, situated on one of those lovely tiled tables, were delivered their main course; and I saw I should have had the lobster.... it looked great.

All in all a good meal in nice surroundings. Recommended.

how exciting

good lord, it's easy to please some people.

"Next year's third and final instalment of the "Star Wars" prequels will be called "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," the film's producers have said.

The name was unveiled on Saturday for 6,500 comic-book fans at the 35th annual Comic-Con International in San Diego. Many in the audience jumped out of their seats, thunderously screaming in joy. Some even gave one another hugs."

Who can blame them?

Elsewhere in the (ahem) news, revelations that the captive Saddam Hussein has developed a penchant for horticulture and American foodstuffs lead to the headline 'Muffin-muncher Saddam loves gardening' on Yahoo! Is it just me or does that sound like it should be accompanied by a photo-shoot in Heat, where Saddam is snapped leaning lazily on his spade, gorging himself on a cake. A boxed picture to the right shows the disgraced dictator in leaner shape during his capture; Saddam, we're supposed to think, you've let yourself go.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Humble Bob

Robert Wyatt, creator of perhaps the best album on a fairly predictable Mercury shortlist (Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian, The Streets, the hideous Keane, Amy Winehouse, Wyatt, Basement Jaxx, the excellent Ty, Joss Stone, The Zutons, Snore Patrol and Jamelia) has declared that it would be a 'disgrace' if he won the award. He says...

"Others who have been shortlisted - Amy Winehouse, Basement Jaxx, Belle & Sebastian - are far more deserving. I'm in just to keep the contest broad."

I hope the judges ignore him completely; Cuckooland deserves to win.

The article:
"If I win it's a disgrace, says singer on shortlist"

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Get your diaries out...

Just a quick note to let you know that Assistant are playing at the Pavilion Tavern in Brighton on the 12th August, supporting Elite and Decora. Doors open at 8 o'clock and it's the Pav Tav, (beat) so it's free. We'll see if we can lick a new song or two into shape by then.

Or alternately; tell us what to play; comments box below...

Arthur Fowler's hold on Eastenders...

Just been reading back through Andrew's Bedsit Blog, and saw a post I missed from earlier in the week. Not wishing to spoil it, I'll isolate one sentence at random and you can see if you want to read more....

Popular stars who incurred the wrath of the deranged former road-sweeper - including Gita, 'Lofty', and Clyde Tavernier - found themselves expelled from the soap and ostracised from their former friends[:] victims of Fowler's insane ego, sacrificed and eaten at the climax of stomach-churning ceremonies in which drug-crazed, pagan drummers (possibly including Ian Beale, alias real-life actor, Adam Woodyatt) aroused Walford residents in a crescendo of evil.

I think we all suspected that something similar was going on...

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Die Acid House Die

Sean, via his excellent Die Acid House Die blog, reviews the new Dizzee Rascal single. It sounds incredible. ohmygodican'twaittohearit!

and more on the gig...

On after us, The Carolgees were an odd lot; opening with a dense, heavy blend of keyboards and bass and a light, vocodered vocal they seemed at first to have more interest in Daft Punk than guitar music, but their set evolved into a vaguely eclectic set of ambitious indie rock with dense guitars, samples and rich keyboards; more sound on stage than it seemed likely they could produce. Oddly introducing their most conventional and least ambitious song as their new single, they had much more to offer than its plaintive melody; occasionally some great bass playing brought New Order to mind and the vocal interplay towards the end of the set recalled the comparatively cheerful, winning pop side of mid-period The Cure, echoing synths and high, impassioned voices. During that last song, and a few places elsewhere, they were really good.

Girlinky play better each time we see them. Visibly wilting in the heat but not letting it effect the songs, they played a cracking, breezy set of bright, snappy punk-pop. The third band of the night (counting Grande Cobra and ourselves) to take the stage with an excessively cheerful drummer and somehow getting him through it without melting, missing a beat or even a high note (he sings as well as plays), Girlinky blend whizzing synths with stroppy guitars and some great tunes. The new single, Newspaper Round has been a permanent feature on my iTunes playlist since I first heard it a year or so ago and live it is really excellent, Sarah and Rob's vocals bouncing off eachother while Chris, er, bounces round the stage, falling into the audience in a moment of delirium. Later, during the bonkers finale to It's Not Cold In The Snowglobe, a new song which builds up from icy electronics to seething punk, his strap becomes detached from his guitar and, unable to fix it back on, he reasonably decides to carry on with his guitar dangling vertically from his wrist, before deciding just to bounce it up and down on the ground as Scott launches himself into the drumkit and brings the whole thing crashing down. Somewhere along the way my foot gets comprehensively trodden on and will hurt for a couple of hours, but it's a small price. Girlinky are great.

More on Nanowrimo

Two things following on from my post about Nanowrimo last week; firstly, having jabbered on about it to a few people and noted their aghast expressions ("50,000 words in one month!?"), I feel compelled to direct the reader on to the following quote from an FAQ on the Nanowrimo site.

"Did you know there is a group in Vancouver that writes novels in a weekend? Yes, and they are fools. Everyone knows that any deep and lasting work of art takes an entire month to make"

Well, quite.

Elsewhere, and more seriously, I remembered reading an article in The Guardian a while back about self-publishing and the new opportunities offered by print on demand technology, and it seems relavent in relation to the above, despite the notion of 'vanity' publishers being a well-publicised black hole. Nevertheless, Publish and Be Damned offer a bespoke publishing service which is unique for being straight-forward and good value. In essence, the principle is this; you send them a ready-to-print manuscript (in other words, your freshly completed Nanowrimo novel) and they print you a copy which you, or indeed anyone, can purchase. The only condition on your part is that you buy ten copies at £6.99 each.

There doesn't seem to be any other catch, other than the fact that you'll have to send 6 copies to the British Library System (or 2 if you're reading this in the States) and that, if you want to sell it commercially, you need to purchase an ISBN. But it's a wonderful idea. So if you fancy writing a novel in November in time for publication for Christmas...

Pete had the great idea that each one of Assistant should write a Nanowrimo novel and when it comes to releasing an Assistant record it'll come accompanied by the latest novel by your favourite member. Now that's what I call a concept album.

Monday, July 19, 2004

the gig is a blur

The gig was excellent, and the Spice of Life was outrageously hot. We arrived, via train and bus, at the venue at around 5.30 (actually in two groups, ten minutes apart, as when we tried to disembark from the back of the bus outside the venue half of us made it and half didn't - me, Vic and Pete getting whizzed on to Bloomsbury while the others, presumably, laughed) and met up with Girlinky, who were soundchecking a brilliant sounding and ambitious new song (which later closed their set). Moving upstairs for a drink and a curiously nerve-free pre-gig chat, we met up with the loyal and - frankly - beleagured Assistant fanbase (cough), some of whom had followed us all the way up from Brighton (Andrew, James, Becky - thanks), others from North London and, in the case of Anthony, who I spent just about every day with from age 4-12, direct from my past. A pleasure to meet Brin, too.

Eventually soundchecking, we dashed through What It Means and an almost-abortive run through the always difficult Engines and Anvils while the venue filled up around us, struggling in the heat already (jacket on, jacket off). Billed as the first band of three we discovered to our delight that we were in fact the second of four! Hurrah; our inexorable rise up the bill continues. First on were Grande Cobra (thanks Sarah), who played five short, extremely sharp and enthusiastic songs of a brittle, garage rock nature which I may otherwise shun. They were good, though, combining great bass lines, impassioned yelps and skilful footwork (toes in, toes out).

By the time we got on stage it was hotter still (jacket off) and our first song, as yet untitled but described here previously as 'the instrumental, BSPish one' was over in an instant. Watching the video back (Andrew filmed it for us) Pete displays some canny guitar heroics by improvising his way around the fact that I played the second verse in completely the wrong key. Never mind. You Should Know is an angry blur, played fast and loud with me jigging up and down on the spot and feeling hot and crazy. I tried to move about more this time, conscious that we sometimes appear static, and made some wonderful guitar errors in the process, but it was worth it. For a start I felt more involved, quicker. It seems funny to say that you can sometimes feel uninvolved when you're on stage, but it's true; sometimes songs skip by unnoticed. Not this time, though.

The triumverate of new(ish) songs, I'm Shit, What It Means, and Drinking With You went off without much in the way of hitches; during the former the abrupt stop after the middle eight brought a few cheers, which pleased me, and What It Means saw Ali recklessly tossing drumsticks around and not missing a beat; there's a great bit in the video when, moments later, he pauses, looks at Pete and gives a sheepish thumbs up. I'll have to see if I can grab a still of that. During Drinking With You I dashed over to Anne Sophie, intent on playing a duet with her and dumbly started playing the wrong (ie, turned off) keyboard. Ah well. Meanwhile, Pete wonders whether his guitar will melt in the torrent of so much sweat from the arm/hand area? It works out OK.

Vine to Vine and Easy To Leave almost seem like old hat now, but I continue to love playing the former (I do so little I can afford to drink a little beer, re-arrange my hair) and the latter just sounds ace when I get the guitar part right (I did), off-beat and melodic. By this stage the heat had become almost too-much, yet also appropriate. I threw myself around a bit more. Looking into the crowd, Vic looked a bit embarrased. Sorry V. Afterwards, Pete asks me to point out that it is at this stage that he is beginning to rue not having his hair cut, as skull surface temperature reaches critical.

Engines and Anvils remains our most exciting song. Having played it (or planned to play it) several different ways, the current method is for me, Anne-So and Pete to play over Ali and Andy's exacting template, pre-recorded and routed through the mixing desk on CD. It makes playing it faintly odd; I turn and see Ali packing away his cymbals, are we still playing? Oh, yes, of course we are. I try to concentrate, but I'm still giggling at the rhythm section high five at the end of Easy to Leave. The songs builds up and builds up, Pete's guitar line chattering with feedback at the song's close. My melodica sounded lovely. I'm concerned, right now, that I am slipping into writing in footballer's tense ("he brings the ball up the flank and crosses and I just twatted it", etc). Never mind.

We leave the stage knackered, hot and happy, and people look like they enjoyed it. Ah.

I'll get round to blogging the other bands in a bit....

Currently listening to....

1. Girlinky - It's Not Cold In The Snowglobe
2. The Futureheads - Hounds of Love (and everything else on their album)
3. The Carolgees - The last song they played at the gig on Saturday; excellent.
4. The Fall - Sparta FC 2
5. Rachel Stevens - Some Girls
6. Bedsit Bomber - English Electric (ace dub twist)
7. Australian Hip Hop (courtesy of Chris)
8. Arthur Russell - everything, still.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


Just preparing a few CDs for the gig tonight; it's really hard deciding which tracks to go with, especially when the songs I really want to include are our new ones and are, so far, unrecorded. Never mind - am burning You Should Know, Vine to Vine, Freaks and Easy to Leave. If anyone would like a CD tonight make sure you collar myself, Pete, Andy, Anne-So or Ali, and we'll get you one. Will bring along a book for anyone's details if they want anything else, from CDs of old songs or live videos to inclusion on our fabled mailing list.

Just in case you missed venue details: tonight we are playing The Spice of Life in Cambridge Circus, London; doors open at 8. We'll be there from about 5 onwards.

Friday, July 16, 2004

tube map 2016

This is beautiful...

Proposed changes to the London Tube Map: As it will look in 2016

What, no extension to Brighton?

midi size, and a girdle round about the earth

An interesting article on the Guardian website today about the paper's direction and reach - and their intentions regarding format. I'm not a fan of the tabloid version of the Independent (much less the Times) and was rather hoping that the Guardian would resist this fashionable change, rather as Roy Greenslade has been intimating in his media columns. Well, they have, after a fashion, as the article below makes clear that they will not adopt the tabloid format. They will, however, move "to the midi shape of some of the leading European papers, such as Le Monde and La Repubblica, which is considered a more modern and better-shaped receptacle for the Guardian ethos".

Hmmm. Elsewhere, today's Guardian carries an interesting little piece about King Tubby.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

reading list

Looking ahead at books due out later this year in The Bookseller, two catch my eye:

Philip Roth: The Threat Against America
Jonathan Cape, h/b, £16.99, October
A major new novel from Roth that will dominate the review pages; Cape is describing it as the author's masterpiece. The book explores the experience of a Jewish-American family as aviation hereo Charles A Lindbergh beats Roosevelt to the presidency in 1940 and promptly negotiates an "understanding" with Adolf Hitler


Sue Townsend: Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Michael Joseph, h/b, £16.99, October
The latest installment of Adrian's life, with Adrian now a 38-year-old single parent and war starting against Iraq.

Wow, can't wait for either.


Big Brother haters, skip this link.

Guardian Unlimited The Guardian Ahmania rules

Big Brother haters, I say you have no humour and no interest in human life.

Dracos-adapted UK Railways Live Departure Boards

I use online train timetables and departure boards a lot, and they all share one thing in common; rotten navigability. So Matthew Somerville, who has just been forced to take down his accessible version of the Odeon website, has created an easy and workable alternative to the railtrack websites.

Dracos-adapted UK Railways Live Departure Boards

And, for fun, why not look up whether my train home will be running on time tonight?

Trains through Chichester

More useful stuff you can thank Matthew for...
- Timetables
- BBC site sans adverts
- Navigable Hutton Enquiry site

Not quite sure whether you'll want to use the last link, with the Butler report so entertaining. Perhaps we could ask Matthew to produce an online version of that where Blair takes the rap?

Here's his site.

my bookmarks

Been setting up some social bookmarking for the last couple of days, using, a superb tool for storing and tagging interesting web stuff. With the odd exception I won't use it to link to blogs or commercial web-sites, but instead to articles of interest and oddities I link to within my blog itself.

Click here to view my bookmarks:

At the moment it's mostly populated with articles I've dredged out of my archives, so there's not that much new stuff. There's plenty to read there which is interesting, nonetheless. Will try to add some more current stuff as I uncover it.


Nanowrimo encourages people to do something that, without a bit of encouragement, they would never get round to doing. Namely, write a novel. Knowing that we all have an epic lurking unwritten somewhere beneath the service, the group (NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation of National Novel Writing Month) preaches a strict doctrine. In their words,

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Speaking as someone who has tried on several occasions to write a novel but inevitably been sidetracked by beer, work, books and the kind of ambitiousness which leads you down blind alleys of endless tweaking and re-writing, I think this is a really refreshing idea. It gives you that bit more freedom to not worry about consistency or accuracy and instead concentrate on getting something written. One can always go back and edit later, after all.

When the challenge was first run in 1999 only six writers limped past the finishing line. Last year 3500 managed it, so it's clearly not impossible. Most appealingly, it imposes a kind of disclipline on the writer, something that most people I know, now in their mid twenties and five years having passed since they wrote their dissertations or revised for exams, have not experienced in a long time. And may not want to again, granted. But it's only a month, and it's a great idea. And maybe we need to be made to do it, after all this prevarication.

The site boasts a suppportive forum with plenty of support and encouragement, and participants arrange local meet-ups to discuss their progress. There's even a section where you can take your ailing story to a 'plot-doctor' who'll get you back on the straight and narrow.

It has, too, I guess, enormous potential for bloggers, if one is not already tired of the concept of a 'blog-novel'. Yes, Plain Layne, I'm looking at you.

Well, perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it, as now it looks like I'm promising to do it. If I never mention it again (or worse, never mention it again after blogging enthusiastically for the first couple of days in November) just now that I tried, really I did, I tried.

Registration starts on October 1. Let's do it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

frantic defending of both penalty areas

"I wonder if you can help me," asked Aladair Maughan, a Guardian reader writing into the Guardian's regular football feature, The Knowledge. "I remember reading about a match being played in an African cup competition (I think) where both teams were trying to score own goals in order to try to make/try to prevent the game from going into extra time and being won on a golden goal. Does anyone know the exact details of this, or if it's just an urban myth?"

The Knowledge replies as follows. Apologies to those who care not for football. I hope this is amusing enough to warrant a long quote - I think so.

It might sound like an urban myth, Alasdair, but it's (almost) 100% true. The crazy events you describe took place in a Shell Caribbean Cup match between Barbados and Grenada in 1994.

Going into the last group game, Barbados needed to beat Grenada by two goals to qualify for the final stages. Anything less and Grenada went through. So far, so simple. Except that the organisers had decided that, in the case of extra time, a golden goal would count as two goals.

You don't have to be Einstein to work out what happened next. Barbados raced to a 2-0 lead before Grenada made it 2-1 with seven minutes remaining. The Bajans were heading out unless they scored a goal; any goal.

Fortunately for them, with three minutes left, they did just that - only not in the right net. Their deliberate own goal made it 2-2 and propelled the game towards extra time.

Now, farcically, Grenada needed to score a goal (at either end) to go through. Cue frantic defending of both penalty areas by Barbados until the final whistle.

Maybe it's just me, but I love that idea. You can read more on the same game at the link above.

An excellent article in the Guardian today by Julian Baggini, editor of the Philosopher's Magazine, entitled 'What Are Men Complaining About?'

"Ladies", he begins, "start peeling your onions for the modern man. This poor confused creature is no longer afraid of tears, especially if they are neither his own nor shed in public. And if you want to know why you should cry for him, just look around at what is happening as we speak."

Of course, the modern man, as Baggini shows, has not got it so very bad after all. Writing on the same morning (did they compare notes?), Polly Toynbee pours scorn on tory plans to capitalise on the growing movement for father's rights.

"They are right that mothers should be forced to comply with access orders. But Michael Howard, grasping at any passing hot cause, wants courts to grant automatic equal rights to fathers. However, children are not chattels: ask King Solomon. Courts must always put the child's interests first. Until some distant day when fathers do as much childcare as mothers, most children will choose the one who has nurtured them most.

As ever with women's rights, men get their backlash in first. They were slamming doors in women's faces to give them a taste of "women's lib" before women ever gained a shred more equality. Here we go again: you want men to do more childcare? Then give fathers rights before they've earned them."

Baginni lists the modern man's (legitimate) complaints, but, as he points out,

"There is something in all these complaints, but the fairest response a woman could give to them is: welcome to the real world. Yes, the modern male faces new and confusing pressures. But anyone who thinks western men are not still the most privileged group in human history doesn't know Kylie's arse from her elbow grease. On the whole, becoming a successful woman remains tougher than it does for a man, and the price of achievement is to earn the label of "hard bitch".

Clever women have been claiming stupid white men rule the world for years, but the first person to be widely lauded for saying so is Michael Moore, another stupid white man. A woman can make a point incessantly, but not until a man says it is it taken seriously".

Toynbee writes that "The pay gap still yawns too wide for most women to be breadwinners for their families. Domestic violence and the failure of rape cases is only now getting political attention, due to Harriet Harman. Motherhood is only now starting to get the help it needs from the state, thanks to Margaret Hodge. Women make up the great majority of the poor, from motherhood through to old age. So in next week's expected reshuffle, the cabinet had better be filled with women determined to put this right."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Brighton Bloggers Meet Up

Just in case anyone reading this is a brighton-based blogger who is not yet part of the Brighton Bloggers web-ring, there is going to be a meet-up on Thursday 29th July, upstairs at the Earth and Stars in Church Street, Brighton, which is a wi-fi pub, the more technically adept bloggers tell me. It's also a nice place for a beer.

More details here

Monday, July 12, 2004

controversy... what controversy?

Went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 at last today, and thought it was absolutely magnificent; many many times better than Bowling For Columbine and really moving in places, although also really infuriating. I keep reading, mind, that people object to Moore's brand of 'propaganda' but I don't mean that is what infuriates; rather the cheerful, bloody and smug ignorance of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice collective. If at times the fratboy Bush is almost likeable on the Golf course he is never anything but a disgrace elsewhere; his blase attitude just stunning. At one point, pressed on where Bin Laden is he remarks,

"And he's just, he's, he's a, he's a person who's now been marginalized, so, I, I don't know where he is, nor... and I just don't spend that much time on it, Ellie, to be honest with ya"

Um. Right.

Elsewhere, Moore notes,

"While Bush was busy taking care of his base and professing his love for our troops, he proposed cutting combat soldiers pay by 33% and assistance to their families by 60%. He opposed giving veterans a billion dollars more in health care benefits, and he supported closing veteran hospitals. He tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans and opposed full benefits for part-time reservists. And when Staff Seargeant Brett Petriken from Flint was killed in Iraq on May 26th, the army sent his last paycheck to his family, but they docked him for the last five days of the month he didn't work, because he was dead."

Where this film succeeds is where Bowling for Columbine failed. This time round, Moore has put together a riveting and cogent narrative. Having started with the phoney election, Bush's Saudi links and the 'war' in Afghanistan (he notes that only 11,000 ground troops were sent in, and it was two months before they reached Bin Laden's base) it seems natural that the film will turn its attention to Iraq. Yet Moore pulls away and begins to talk about the culture of fear in America (something he didn't quite iron out in his last film), and - in the film's best sequence - about poverty in the States, about how the army represents the best option for the disenfranchised of, say, (and here Moore finally shambles into view) his beloved Flint, Michigan. The film begins to wander...

But does it? Moore's structure is genius; when he moves, finally, on to Iraq he has done something documentary makers the world over would kill to do - he provides a marvellous contextual backdrop to the film's thesis: the young men and women of America who enlist into our armies (he says) are willing to fight and die for their country. They fight so we don't have to. They die so we don't have to. The only thing they ask of us is that we only send them into harm's way when it absolutely necessary.

The people he finds, listens to and interviews are ordinary Americans. Yes, he knows how to tug the heartstrings (his use of Arvo Part's 'Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten' as we see footage of 9/11 is wrenching, with that wonderful, chiming bell resonating through the cinema) but the film is not carried by the weight of his argument, or the bias of it. It is carried by the stories he tells. His surprisingly masterful direction is the icing on the cake.

A really super film, and it made me as angry as hell.

obsessed with edinburgh

Arthur's Seat Webcam (below)

"The ancient and extinct volcano in the east-end of the city dominates Edinburgh's skyline.

However, its imposing figure is something of an optical illusion as it stands only 250m tall and can be walked in around an hour through some fairly gentle slopes.

The walk is well worth the effort as the entire city of Edinburgh in all its glory stretches out around from around the base to the sea in the north and the Pentland Hills, part of the same volcanic range, to the south."


Friday, July 09, 2004

oho, my eyes are sharp

My visit to Edinburgh has been soundtracked by two records; Faith by The Cure, and Velvet Donkey by Ivor Cutler. The first is wildly innapropriate. Edinburgh is like no place I have ever been to, with its dark, dark hills behind the city and stunning, jagged topography (the sea suddenly appearing this afternoon behind a neglected corner - where did that come from?) but it isn't, for all the hills' efforts, a dark city.

It stays light late here (a blue sky at nine last night, yet I end up in an uncharacteristically awful pub and a quiz starts immediately. The first two quesions are about Scottish football. The third is "which part of the body is also a punctuation mark?". I drink up.) It's rarely like this, though, and I find the city invigorating.

I get the bus back from the city centre to the campus and try to concentrate on my CD, but couples on the street kiss, just where Robert Smith wails. Perhaps that sounds as it should be. It didn't work like that. Edinburgh renders The Cure cheerful. Smith should try it. I put on Ivor Cutler; that's more like it. I wonder whether to buy a strip of fridge magnets, they're Scottish words. Was Cutler from Edinburgh? I'll look it up when I get home (I'm in Edinburgh airport writing this, killing time). I decide to save the castle for when I come back, buying Vic a guide book so we have to.

And then I have to get the bus home, listening to Ivor and wishing I lived here.

"Oho, my eyes are sharp.
There's a man behind the hill,
he's running out of sight.
But when he rounds the corner I shall glimpse him.

Oho, my eyes are sharp.
"How do you know he's there,
if you say he's out of sight?"
I hear an old man say.

Oho, my eyes are sharp.
He's been out of sight for 60 years,
running awful slow.
I'm scared to go round to look
in case he comes round the other side.

Oho, my eyes are sharp."

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Blogging this from the departure lounge at Gatwick as I prepare to fly up to Edinburgh for a few days. Anyone who can not appreciate the giddy pleasure of flying has surely lost their pleasure in life; it is tremendously exciting. At the check in desk behind me earlier a woman arrived, looking nervous, with her two daughters. One said "look mum, if you want to go to Prague or Inverness you had better get in that queue, the gate is about to close". Mishearing, their mother tore across to the other queue in a moment of panic, leaving her offspring clutching their heads in shame, hissing "mum, we're not going to Prague or Inverness". It was a good moment.

Flying is probably the most exciting thing we'll ever do. Attending academic conferences (which is what I'm about to do) is not. But it is a wonderful excuse.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Brighton Bloggers / Assistant Gig

Not had an awful lot of time to blog, recently; having spent much of last week in Leeds I spent the weekend helping lovely Vic celebrate her birthday and yesterday out of the office meeting an academic from Sussex University. Today I've got a huge amount of work to do in preparation for another work trip tomorrow; up to Edinburgh for three days - a trip I'm really looking forward to, having never been to Scotland.

Logging on, there's lots happening; the Brighton Bloggers resource, which has lain dormant ever since I first discovered it, seems to be kicking back into life, with a summer meet up mooted and some new bloggers registering. For a list of brighton blogs click here. Anyone who does blog from the area and isn't registered; do so :-)

Brighton Bloggers

And in keeping with this new lease of life, the following turns up in the This Is Brighton magazine:

Just listened to, and very much liked, Andrew's new composition; Sylvan Wood. Right click and save on the preceding link to download a copy.

And as Assistant gear up for our London gig (supporting Girlinky at the Spice of Life on Sat 17th July - details below) and refine our set list, we've had another show confirmed. We'll be first on (always the bridesmaid...) at the cheery old Pav Tav on Thursday 12th August, supporting Elite, mates of our mate Andrew BB (it comes full circle). More details, as usual, to follow.

And while we're on the subject; current set list for the Girlinky gig is looking like:

2. You Should Know
3. I'm Shit
4. What It Means
5. Drinking With You
6. Vine to Vine
7. Easy to Leave
8. Engines and Anvils

The mysteriously titled 'New Song' is, surprise surprise, no new it doesn't have a title yet, but it a couple of minutes of blistering punk-pop, and highly regarded by the band / woefully under-rehearsed (note to self; delete as applicable).

Friday, July 02, 2004

farenheit 911 transcript

{REDLINERANTS} is a (affects expression of immense distaste) 'Blog for Bush', so has to work hard to get a link here. It manages it because it contains a complete transcript of Michael Moore's 'Farenheit 911'. I'm not sure I want to read it, preferring to wait for the real thing, but I'm definitely glad I can read it. The link above points to part one of the transcript. This is part 2. I believe there's one more to follow - I'll update when it gets posted.

An extract: The narrator, naturally, is Moore.

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States is prepared to lead a Coalition of the Willing that will do it.

PRESIDENT BUSH: When I say we will lead a Coalition of the Willing to disarm him if he chooses not to disarm, I mean it.

REPORTER: Who is in that Coalition of the Willing?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You will find out who is in the Coalition of the Willing.

(words "Coalition of the Willing" appear over a globe)

VOICEOVER: The Coalition of the Willing roll call: the Republic of Palau. The Republic of Costa Rica. The Republic of Iceland.

NARRATOR: Of course none of these countries has an army or, for that matter, weapons. (showing video clips of people pounding rocks, riding horses and such) So it looked like we'd be doing most of the invading stuff ourselves. But then there was also...

VOICEOVER: Romania. The Kingdom of Morocco.

NARRATOR: Morocco wasn't officially a member of the Coalition, but according to one report, they did offer to send 2,000 monkeys to help detonate landmines.

PRESIDENT BUSH: These are men of vision.

VOICEOVER: The Netherlands.

PRESIDENT BUSH: And I'm incredibly proud to call 'em allies.

(video of baboons sitting at a conference table)

VOICEOVER: Afghanistan.

NARRATOR: Afghanistan? Hm. Oh yeah, they had an army. Our army! I guess that's one way to build a coalition: just keep invading countries. Yes, with our mighty coalition intact (more video of primitive folk wrestling, riding bikes, being very non-Western European... except for the bikes), we were ready.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: One could almost say it's the mother of all coalitions.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Bug

It doesn't look like a normal radio, because it isn't! goes the advertising for Pure Digital's new digital radio. That's right. It doesn't look like a normal radio. It looks like the robot in Short Circuit.

The Bug

I want one. More info here:

Tune In to the Future