Monday, February 28, 2005

teeth brushing / hot water

Ah, never mind all that politics/pop music bollocks. My favourite blog post of the day is - no contest - Pete's thoughts on cleaning your teeth with hot water.

"I remembered my mother's stark warning about letting hot tap water anywhere near my throat but figured as long as I didn't swallow or anything I'd be okay, plus we have a combi-boiler so the hot water is as fresh as the cold.

The thing is, when I did this I noticed my teeth were much cleaner than usual. Which makes sense when you think about it. Washing things in hot water is way more effective than in cold and with my tea and cig consumption rates I need as much cleaning power as I can get."

Read on here.

the betrayal of cherished beliefs

Labour MP Brian Sedgemore stood up in the House of Commons at the end of last week and began,

"As this will almost certainly be my last speech in Parliament, I shall try hard not to upset anyone. However, our debate here tonight is a grim reminder of how the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are betraying some of Labour’s most cherished beliefs."

Sedgemore is standing down at the election. By the sounds of this speech, which I discovered over at Jack's Submit Response blog, he will be missed.

"Not content with tossing aside the ideas and ideals that inspire and inform ideology, they seem to be giving up on values too. Liberty, without which democracy has no meaning, and the rule of law, without which state power cannot be contained, look to Parliament for their protection, but this Parliament, sad to say, is failing the nation badly".

He finishes:

"It is a foul calumny that we do today. Not since the Act of Settlement 1701 has Parliament usurped the powers of the judiciary and allowed the Executive to lock up people without trial in times of peace. May the Government be damned for it."


Wow, a good week for the North-East Punk-Pop axis. Futureheads are in at no. 8 in the top 40 and Maximo Park go in at no. 20. Excellent.

duck flyer

good work Anne-Sophie!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

final recording bits

I had a day's holiday on Thursday and went back into the studio with Ali to put some final touches to the demo, which we're so pleased with that we're going to stop calling it a 'demo' and start calling a 'recording', as we feel this infers some greater significance and perhaps even implies that there is a public out there who, although they may not think about it often, do indeed think 'I wonder when the new Assistant stuff will come out?' at regular intervals. Perhaps at 11.30, when they're making the third cup of coffee of the morning. Or after sex.

Although we did do pretty much everything on the last round, we still had a synth line to add to 'What It Means', and Ali felt that my vocal for the same song could be improved, too, so we met up to finalise things. Doing so meant that I got to listen to the songs through, Ali having mixed them already, and I was surprised how good they sounded. I don't know what the 'lead' song is yet; Ali is inclined towards 'I'm Shit', which still sounds a bit tuneful to my ears. My least favourite of the newer songs I've written is 'Drinking With You', so I was surprised to find myself preferring that. All this assumes that our tinkering with 'What It Means' does not identify that song as 'the one' - which I think it did, as it happens.

Adding the vocals was fine; it's probably a bit testing for my limited voice, containing a few too many elongated high notes for my liking, but we definitely got a better take than last time, and double tracked it, too, so for an awful moment Ali played back the two vocals acapella, side by side. A cat's chorus.

Doing the synth line was better. Ali has got a great Jen synth which I really enjoyed playing, even if the chorus with it's fast, dancing finger pattern kept trying to get away from me. Playing with Anne-So's odd, fragmented piano run after the first chorus we misplaced the first note, timing it with the bass drum, which sounded spooky and effective, as if the drum was tuned to the appropriate pitch.

I think the whole recording should be mixed and ready within the next week or so, and I'll post it as soon as possible. After all, you must all be sick of saying 'I wonder when the new Assistant stuff will come out?', during coffee, or after sex.

five songs Vic told me about:

1. Josh Rouse - Winter in the Hamptons
2. David Byrne / Thievery Corporation - The Heart's a Lonely Hunter
3. Dresden Dolls - Girl Anachronism
4. Brendan Benson - Spit it Out
5. Louis XIV - Finding Out True Love is Blind

Maybe she will describe them in the comments section? Otherwise I'll come back to this. They're all recommended by her. And, now I've heard them, by me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

kingsley amis's 'Ending Up'

You really should go out and find a second hand copy of Kingsley Amis's The Alteration.

No, wait.

I've said that.

You really should go out and find a second hand copy of Kingsley Amis's Ending Up. I've just finished it. It's funny to think, as Martin Amis puts it in his Experience, back in 1974, in Hadley Wood, Barnet, just minutes from where I myself grew up, two novels were being written.

"His study was directly beneath the bedroom I still claimed as mine on weekends and other visits. So I could hear him that morning when, after an hour at his desk, he started laughing: the sound of a man succumbing, after a certain amount of resistance, to unshirkable amusement. He was writing Ending Up, I was writing Dead Babies (and Jane [Elizabeth Howard], down the passage from me, was writing Something In Disguise). Both Amis novels were black comedies set in country houses. In his book they all died. In my book they all died except one".

Ending Up, like Dead Babies, is a savage, exuberant, hilarious book. Both novels are, to a lesser (Martin) or greater (Kingsley) effect, lost novels. Martin's is juvenilia, not satire but farce - his pen not yet enlivened by the Thatcher years. Kingsley's novel is less justly forgotten (and more seriously so, for unlike Martin's effort, it is out of print); it arrived towards the end of a golden run of novels (The Green Man, Girl, 20 and The Riverside Villas Murder - The Alteration followed two years later) which nevertheless had failed to produce either a Lucky Jim or a The Old Devils (much less, thankfully, a Stanley and the Women). During this period Amis was sublimely in control: focused, savage, pointed and hilarious.

In a way, Ending Up is a marvellous rebuke to Dead Babies, where a group of young people - revelling in their freedom from responsibility - wreak havoc in a confined space and a short, bloody weekend. His father's characters are perhaps sixty years older, and their story takes place over rather longer (although the novel barely exceeds 120 pages, each packed with wonderful, acerbic descriptions), but their behaviour is a vivid demonstration - as was Kingsley's still-burning brilliance - that age and guile beats youth, innocence and a bad haircut. Kingsley's characters behave riotously.

Bernard Bastable (surely an inspiration for Dylan Moran's droll bookseller) is an outrageous, delinquent masterpiece of cynicism, bitterness and self-absorption. His (ex-)lover, Shorty, the foil for some of the best descriptions of drunkenness I have ever encountered. George, who suffers from nominal asphasia and can't remember common nouns, is a near-genius evocation of boringness, while Marigold (who refers to everything in baby talk) and Adela (a spinster victim of her own 'extreme ugliness') are capable of provoking pity, fury and laughter in equal measures.

Dead Babies I read when I was about 16, and had a massive effect on me; the denoument shocking and delighting me like few others have ever managed since. I should perhaps refrain from labouring the comparison between the two books too much, but Ending Up, the last five pages of which sent prickles up and down my spine as I finished it on the train home tonight, shares a savage spareness, knife-sharp - brilliant.

There was apparently something in the water in Barnet in 1974.

Three years later I was born, and everything - by then - had quietened right down.

Monday, February 21, 2005

123, fifth sentence meme

Oh, god, this is unbelievable.

I'm sitting at work flicking through my RSS feeder and I see this, which looks a little diverting, on world of nic.

Grab the nearest book.
Open the book to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Ok. But the nearest books are the ones on my desk, and they have titles like 'Pattern Oriented Software Architecture' and 'Algorithms for VLSI Design Automation', and they're not mine. So I reach over and pull the book I'm reading out of my bag ('Ending Up' by Kingsley Amis) and flick through to page 123, which says, in its entirety.

until he had uncovered a face. Because it was a face he knew only from photographs and the dimmest of infantile memory, he did not at once recognise it.

That's it. No fifth sentence. In fact, no more sentences at all.

Page 123 is the final page of the book. Damn.

The nearest book to me on the shelves, then, is titled 'Innocent Code'. Page 123, sentence five, reads:

If you want to learn social engineering from one of the true masters of the art, or if you like being scared, you should read Mitnick's eye-opening book.

Actually, considering the chances were the sentence would be some code-heavy and unintelligable (to me) technical detail, I can actually endorse this suggestion. So not all is lost.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

article shuffle

"Now, pass the jam while I listen to Sergeant Pepper and a Gregorian chant."

Hey, I read an article about maths this morning. Better, I even understood it. John Allen Paulos's lovely 'last word' in the Life supplement of the Guardian today was a peculiar, concise pleasure for someone who doesn't think about science or maths very often.

Ok. At all. But Paulos is sneaky, and he pulls me in by starting off talking about the iPod shuffle and its method of re-arranging components in unforeseen sequences, creating new associations and juxtapositions, and endorses the 'random' element as something we should explore more of in life, even if that just means taking different routes on the way to the train station each morning. Of course, about half way through the article gets a bit more taxing, but I liked the following:

"Imagine a blob of white dough moistened, moulded and compressed into a cube. Suppose that through the middle of this cube runs a thin layer of red jam. Now stretch and squeeze this sandwich to twice its length, then fold it smoothly back upon itself to re form the cube. The jam layer is now shaped like a horseshoe.

Repeat this stretching, squeezing and folding a lot of times and you'll notice that the layer of jam (I'm idealising here) is soon spread throughout the dough in a most convoluted pattern. Points in the jam that were close are now distant; other points that were distant are now close. The same is true for points in the dough. Smale used this "horseshoe" procedure to clarify the advent of unpredictable chaos in so-called dynamical systems, of which human beings are examples.

The punch line, of course, is that the activities listed above - listening to shuffled favourites, rifling through photo albums, randomly surfing the net - are all efficient means for doing to our minds what the stretching, squeezing, and folding does to cubical jam sandwiches. The stretching and squeezing correspond to our envisioning of the disparate events, different songs or people, and unusual situations, and the folding corresponds to what we do if we try to make sense of these weird juxtapositions. If there's a formula for serendipity, this is probably it."

So I feel better for getting to grips with that. Something tells me there's a lot left to learn. Like what prime numbers are, for example. I mean, I've had it explained to me, so I should know. But.... Hmm.

I can tell you, mind, that 31, 19, 79 and 1979 are all prime numbers, but I only know that because I read, thanks to the eagle eyes of graybo and Vic, the best newspaper article I've read so far this year.

"When I multiply numbers together", says Daniel Tammet, "I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."

"Daniel Tammet is talking. As he talks, he studies my shirt and counts the stitches. Ever since the age of three, when he suffered an epileptic fit, Tammet has been obsessed with counting. Now he is 26, and a mathematical genius who can figure out cube roots quicker than a calculator and recall pi to 22,514 decimal places. He also happens to be autistic, which is why he can't drive a car, wire a plug, or tell right from left. He lives with extraordinary ability and disability."

He is an autistic savant, one of an estimated 10% of the autistic population (and about 1% of the non-autistic population) who has an amazing capacity for mental ability. Yep, you know - Rain Man. But he's unique in that he is able to describe his thought processes to an extraordinary level, and this ability is as wondrous as his savant condition in the first place. Well, almost.

"Tammet is creating his own language, strongly influenced by the vowel and image-rich languages of northern Europe. (He already speaks French, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Icelandic and Esperanto.) The vocabulary of his language - "Mänti", meaning a type of tree - reflects the relationships between different things. The word "ema", for instance, translates as "mother", and "ela" is what a mother creates: "life". "Päike" is "sun", and "päive" is what the sun creates: "day". Tammet hopes to launch Mänti in academic circles later this year, his own personal exploration of the power of words and their inter-relationship."

The article is fascinating and touching, not least in its description of Neil, the love of Daniel's life, which turns the article, in some wonderful juxtapositional twist, into a fascinating and unexpected take on the Guardian's 'Why we love each other' column. When they first met (after they had first met online, I mean), Daniel says.

"Because I can't drive, Neil offered to pick me up at my parents' house, and drive me back to his house in Kent. He was silent all the way back. I thought, 'Oh dear, this isn't going well'. Just before we got to his house, he stopped the car. He reached over and pulled out a bouquet of flowers. I only found out later that he was quiet because he likes to concentrate when he's driving."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kyoto and America

A nice note on Kyoto by John B over on his Shot by Both Sides blog today, arguing that - as much as we would like to blame Bush for America's refusal to ratify the protocol - US resistence runs a lot deeper than the top man.

"As Bush apologists frequently point out, he didn't kill US support for Kyoto. Rather, the Senate voted 95-0 in 1998 to say it would not ratify any such treaty. Americans don't like being told by experts that they probably ought to stop being greedy fucks or lots of people will die."

Worth reading, too, for John's always appealing prose - any article which throws in a reference to Bush being "stupid, crooked and venal", much less a "smirking prick" is alright by me.

Over at Mark Lynas's blog, he's jubilant,

"It's been declared 'dead' by everyone from anti-capitalist protesters to George Bush. But Kyoto will go down in history as the treaty that refused to die - and as Kyoto lives, so too do our hopes of still greater efforts in future to avert the threat of catastrophic climate change."

And he finishes, "One last thought: the US saw fit to stand outside this historic global effort. History will judge its leaders accordingly."

On the day that Boeing launch their new 777 airbus, meanwhile, Mark had some cautionary words to say about it on yesterday's Today programme. Looking back on his appearence, he remarks,

"I was trying to get across a ... general message in a very short time. Most people haven't the faintest idea that flying is the most climate-destructive thing they ever do, so I wanted to mention this whilst simultaneously sounding reasonable about the opportunities that it offers for travel and so on. My point about short-haul flights being worse is because *proportionally* per mile travelled they use more fuel because more time is spent taking off than cruising. Also there are more easy alternatives for short-haul travel by rail and so on rather than flight. I think the most important thing here is not to try and find the most fuel-efficient journey, but - given many tonnes of CO2 will end up in the atmosphere either way - to reassess the need to fly at all."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

vote fuji

Our lovely chums Fuji Heavy are up in this week's demo clash on Claire Kember's Totally Wired show, and are up against a band called, um, Moosbrugger, who Andy - Assistant bassist and Fuji guitarist - told me this morning "deserve to lose, if not on musical merit, then for simply having a worse name than us".

Actually, they deserve to lose on musical merit too - so please spare twenty or thirty seconds to email Claire Kember explaining that you would like to see Fuji Heavy win this week's contest. Then you can see who you have supported by going to see them when they play the Cable Club on February 28th - by which time they will have, with your kind help, the enormous, crazed egos befitting of a garage-surf-rock band bestriding the Brighton music scene like a collosus. Or something.

More info on this week's demo clash.

the rights of spring

"It is now mid-February, and already I have sown 11 species of vegetable. I know, though the seed packets tell me otherwise, that they will flourish. Everything in this country - daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds - is a month ahead of schedule. And it feels wonderful. Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood"

It's still bloody cold in Brighton, mind.

I envy George Monbiot, and not just for his wisdom. If I had a garden (and I don't), I couldn't swear that I would not let it go to pot. Certainly I've never tended a garden before. But I find myself whimsically attracted to the idea, these days. I think it's because we nearly moved into a flat with a lovely little garden last year and the idea kind of took hold, me out there as the brilliant sun dipped behind the horizon with a drink in one hand and a fistful of runner beans in another - an idle fantasy, and maybe part of getting older, too - borne out of the same instinct that makes me want to know, suddenly, the names of flowers and birds. Of course, I do nothing about it.

But when the whether improves I'll be tempted all the more, and - as George points out in his excellent article in the Guardian today, from which the above quote was lifted - that's happening all the time. Because the one guilty thought we all hide when we get terribly upset about America refusing to ratify the Kyoto treaty is this: if the UK gets a bit hotter in our lifetimes - all the better!

That's one of the explanations that Monbiot offers for our continuing apathy towards climate change. Yet he offers a better reason why we get excited about, say, terror, but not the environment. He writes:

"When terrorists threaten us, it shows that we must count for something, that we are important enough to kill. They confirm the grand narrative of our lives, in which we strive through thickets of good and evil towards an ultimate purpose. But there is no glory in the threat of climate change. The story it tells us is of yeast in a barrel, feeding and farting until it is poisoned by its own waste. It is too squalid an ending for our anthropocentric conceit to accept."

new julian barnes novel on it's way

Just read news in the Bookseller that Julian Barnes has signed up with Random House for his next book, which will arrive via Jonathan Cape in July. It'll be titled 'Arthur and George', and - according to somone at RH - "it's much the most commercial - and the longest - thing he's done". I look forward to that.

No info on what it's actually about yet, but the article also mentions that Salman Rushdie (who, long ago, wrote several of the best books I've ever read), also at Random House these days, has his 'Shalimar the Clown' pencilled in for later this year, too. A quick glance at Amazon provides a little more info, and, besides the plot, a couple of brief extracts.

The ambassador had been slaughtered on her doorstep like a halal chicken dinner, bleeding to death from a deep neck wound caused by a single slash of the assassin's blade. In broad daylight! How the weapon must have glistened in the golden morning sun; which was the city's quotidian blessing, or its curse.

She didn't feel like an India, even if her colour was rich and high and her long hair lustrous and black. She didn't want to be vast or subcontinental or excessive or vulgar or explosive or crowded or ancient or noisy or mystical or in any way Third World.
Well, you never know, it might be good, although neither of the two quotes set my pulse racing. I remember reading 'The Satanic Verses' for the first time, fearing some dreadfully serious tome (not the most extravagently playful book since 'Catch-22'), and encountering those first few lines, and how exciting they were. I suspect we'll never get that from Rushdie again
‘To be born again’, sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! To land up on the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly. Tat-taa! Taka-thun! How to ever smile again, if first you won’t cry? How to win the darling’s love, mister, without a sigh? Baba, if you want to get born again …’ Just before one dawn one winter’s morning, New Year’s Day or thereabouts, two real, full-grown, living men fell from a great height, twenty nine thousand and two feet, towards the English channel, without benefit of parachutes or wings, out of a clear sky.

Friday, February 11, 2005

sorry, lazy blogging

a wholesale cut and paste job tonight.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A plan by a German zoo to test the sexual appetites of a group of suspected homosexual penguins has sparked outrage among gay and lesbian groups, who fear zookeepers might force them to turn straight.

"All sorts of gay and lesbian associations have been e-mailing and calling in to protest," said a spokesman for the zoo in the northwestern city of Bremerhaven on Friday.

He said the zoo concluded the penguins might be gay after seeing male penguins trying to mate with other males and trying to hatch offspring out of stones.

German media reported that female Swedish penguins would be brought to the zoo to test the theory, but when word got out about the plan, the phones started ringing.

"Nobody here is trying to break-up same sex pairs by force," the zoo's director Heike Kueck told public broadcaster NDR. "We don't know if the three male pairs are really gay or just got together because of a lack of females."

i can't read

Anyone else go through spells when you just can't finish reading a book? It's not that my desire to read books has gone, nor that I haven't the time (two hours on the train every day gives ample opportunity), just that I'm feeling profoundly fickle and keen to be reading six books at a time. Which is all very well but when most of your books are out of the library you get locked into an endless cycle of missing due dates, block renewing and endless carting around of back-breakingly heavy bags stuffed full of barely thumbed paperbacks.

To recap.

Books I've started since Xmas:
Francis Wheen - How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions
Michael Palin - Himalaya
Agatha Christie - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Kingsley Amis - Ending Up
Steve Mithen - After the Ice: A global human history, 20,000-5,000 BC
Iain M. Banks - The Algebraist

Embarrasingly, I've only finished the Agatha Christie one, and largely only because it only took a few hours to read and copping out half way through would have been a bit pathetic. I am, I should add, making great strides with the Amis, and not doing badly with After the Ice, given that it's 726 pages. All the same...

Am determined not to start Philip Roth's The Plot Against America until I've finished at least two of the above. I'm not hopeful. My concentration has just gone; as soon as I start one book I lose the thread, get distracted, start other things, forget where I am...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

eight songs for february

1. The Wedding Present - I'm from Further North than You. This gets better every time I listen to it. If this and 'Interstate 5' are anything to go by, next week's Take Fountain LP is going to brilliant.
2. Gorillaz - Dirty Harry. Typically loose and funky, and all the better for being a much-improved version of the oft-criticised 'I Need A Gun' from Damon's Democrazy; proof that he can work wonders with even the most basic of ideas.
2. Bloc Party - Banquet. Like
Ben, I didn't get round to listening to BP 'til recently. Last year's 'Banquet' is proof that I should have done so a lot earlier. I downloaded a bunch of varied stuff last week and put it all on an MP3 CD and came accross this listening on my way to work one day and couldn't work out who it was. It's a great blend of sizzling, post-punk guitars, modern rhythms and Cure-style melodies.
3. Handsome Boy Modeling School - The World's Gone Mad. When I heard this on the radio last week I assumed - thanks to the inventive production and Del Tha Funky Homosapian's langorous rap - that it must be the new Gorillaz single, and raved to Vic about what a genius Damon Albarn was. It wasn't, obviously, but it's still as good as I thought it was.
4. Roots Manuva - Too Cold. All the reviews of his Awfully Deep LP indicate that it's a massive improvement on Run Come Save Me. I'm not sure about that, I think he's just an artist whose time has come and the reviewers are reflecting that. Nevertheless, it's a great record.
6. Ben Watt - Pop a Cap In Yo' Ass. Vic told me about this one, a really brilliant bit of electro-house with a cracking vocal from Estelle. The sheer joy of a member of Everything But The Girl releasing a track titled 'Pop a Cap In Yo' Ass' is not to be underestimated.
5. LCD Soundystem - Daft Punk Is Playing at my House. Again, the LCD Soundystem has had magnificent reviews which are a bit over the top. That's not to say it's not a very good record, mind, and James Murphy somehow manages to record familiar sounds in a way which comes out a million times crisper and more immediate than any of his contemporaries. I get the same feelings listening to DFA stuff as I did to those Steve Albini produced records like 'Seamonsters', 'Rid of Me' and 'In Utero'.
6. Chemical Bros - Galvanise. Straightforward, joyful dance music which pushes the button.
7. J.O.Y - Sunplus (DFA Remix). The Slits are thinking of re-forming, apparently, which would make this superfluous. Still...
8. Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure. I really wanna see this lot live. My initial feeling is that this isn't quite as good as 'The Coast is Always Changing', but that song was one of the biggest growers I came across last year, so we'll see.


There are a couple of short contributions by me over on Andrew's Hove Labour blog, if anyone fancies taking a look. The site is a group blog aiming to increase local participation and secure votes for his Labour Party candidate, Celia Barlow, who is up against Nicholas Boles in the marginal fight for Hove and Portslade in the next election - one that even despairing ex-Labour voters like myself would like to see Celia win, Boles being - I am reliably informed - the next Portillo, whatever that implies.

The left-right divide and the fading of emnities
"I listened back to a Bill Hicks tape a while ago and heard him characterising Bush Senior thus, his finger hovering over the red button; 'Tell me When, Lord. Let me be your servant Lord'. Listening now it's hard not to think, Bill, you thought that was bad..."

Bertie Wooster and the Art of canvasssing
"When I was a sallow and very serious youth I did a little bit of flyer-pushing in Barnet, where I grew up. Nothing serious, no knocking on doors. I just pushed a bunch of leaflets through a bunch of doors, and all to no avail."

There's a good post reporting on a pretty mad idea for a commercial development just offshore in Brighton, too, which is well worth a read, if just for Andrew's picture caption...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

every singer needs a song to sing

Having recorded the majority of our demo last week we're going back into the studio tonight (well, the rehearsal rooms) to record my vocals, which is something I usually quite enjoy. But last night I realised, just as I was getting into bed, that all three of the songs I need to sing on have incredibly scrappy, half-finished lyrics which I never re-wrote.

The words to 'What It Means' evolved in rehearsals, largely variants on the same verse with 'you' substituted for 'he' and 'I' and other rather lazy edits. The finale to the piano break, which is the best bit of the song, just ends with me singing variants of 'I know', 'Oh no', 'God knows' and other related phrases. That said, when I sat down to re-write this (having dashed back through to the lounge to grab a pen and paper) I found that the lyrics - if not quite a work of genius - work in the surroundings. Having ambitions to sound like New Order is useful in one respect; you don't get lyrics much more banal than Barney Sumner's. I changed 'I know what it means' at the end of the chorus to 'Everyone's been left', but that was about the only significant change.

'I'm Shit', frankly, defeated me. I scribbled my way through a verse and a half, constantly re-amending and demanding that Vic come up with new and credible rhymes for 'trying', and then gave up. I went to bed convinced that I'd just do what I do live, which is sing the first verse over and over again in increasingly muffled tones, so that progressive verses start something like:

verse 1: I'm so sick of getting twisted.
verse 2: Mmm so sicka yeah yeah twister
verse 3: Ooh a wrist ya, gavin rah rah
verse 4: Nng Amritsar gargle barmitzvah.

But on reflection, waking this morning, that didn't sound like such a good idea after all, so instead of doing that dozing / suddenly-starting-upright-and-panicking-I'd-missed-my-station thing on the train this morning, I had another go at it, and worked out something a bit better, with one line in particular I rather liked:

"I'm so sick of getting buoyed up,
by all this self-centred discipline, "tonight,
you may be tired, but don't act tired"'.

'Drinking With You' was much easier to re-write, because it's dead simple and I don't mind repeating myself on this one. I suppose I should try at some point to square the fact that I so admire good lyricists with my utter lack of effort, but then I was saying that over two years ago and I haven't addressed it properly yet, so...

Should I be doing some breathing exercises to get ready for my singing tonight, or something?

Do re me so far la [cccrrrrkkkk hack cough splutter].

Monday, February 07, 2005


almost changed my mind

You know, in recent weeks I was actually toying with the idea of voting Labour again at the next election.

This morning I heard Charles Clarke on the radio describing 'people coming here' who are a 'burden on society'. Then Blair said that people who are worried about asylum are 'rightly worried'.

Nice one chaps. There's a couple of choice phrases for the Tories to put in their campaign literature.

My labour vote, meanwhile, has fetched it's coat.

Friday, February 04, 2005

musical chairs

My life rolls by without much in the way of conflict and then - suddenly - I am at war with a fellow commuter. Disturbing developments in what was previously a stress-free journey. I find that, after two years of sitting in my favoured seat on the Brighton-Chichester express, a fellow traveller (and one who clearly has less difficulty than me in getting out of bed in the morning) has decided that he too wishes to sit in the second seat on the right in the third carriage. I thought it was only me who had figured out that this is the best place to sit on the whole train but apparently I was wrong.

Monday: 7.48am. I climb aboard the train a minute or two before it pulls out of the station and find to my horror that my seat is taken. I sit, reluctantly, in the one in front and try to adapt to my temporary surroundings as best I can.
Tuesday: 10.40am. Hmm. I go in late today, so no problems. On the other hand, I worry, will this look like I have given up my seat - practically presented it to my adversary on a plate? No, I reassure myself, that was just a one off. Silly.
Wednesday: 7.46am. Situation is now back under control. I time my arrival at the station well. I am first aboard the train and straight into my appointed seat. Moments later, someone boards the train, walks past the first row of seats and makes as if to swing into mine. But aha! He finds me settled. Let's see how he likes that.
Thursday: 7.49am. Damn Damn Damn. I am up late and dawdle, catastrophically, in the newsagents, trying to decide between salt and vinegar hula hoops and salt and vinegar square crisps. When I board the train my seat is taken. Not just that, but I can't help but notice that my rival looks well settled, as if he has been there for at least five minutes. After yesterday's defeat, is he raising his game, I wonder?
Friday: 7.44am. I am on the platform before the train even pulls into the station. I position myself where I think the third carriage will stop but notice, incredulously, that my adversary does the same thing. Yet when the train settles against the platform and the passengers disembark I actually find myself politely gesturing him to board ahead of me. It is a moment's instinctive politeness and I suffer for it. He takes my seat.

What do you think? I know it would be cowardly for me to just give up, but should I take this as an opportunity to settle into a new routine? There are other seats, after all.

And yet... that seat is mine.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

indie revival gathers pace

OK, I'm getting sick of bands reforming now. Soon enough it'll be impossible to go to a major venue or a festival without seeing another bloody revival band; so we can now count not just on The Pixies, The Wedding Present, Gang of Four, The House of Love, The Happy Mondays and The bleeding Farm but also the Cocteau Twins, who have just announced that they are reforming for Coachella 2005. Ho hum.