Thursday, July 28, 2005

Assistant stuff

It's been a while since Assistant have recorded anything properly, even though we've got about 8 new songs, but we are planning to do some recording presently.

I'll post some new home demos next week, if you're interested in hearing some of the new songs in their earliest form, but in the meantime, I thought I'd provide a brief resume of some of the stuff we've already done. Right click and 'save target as' to download. As usual, comments welcome.

1. What It Means
2. Sleepwalk
3. Easy to Leave (Jonathan's home demo)
4. You Should Know
5. August Song (Jonathan's home demo)
6. Drinking With You (live recording)

Not necessarily our best stuff, but hopefully some interesting listening. Please excuse the quality of the home demos and the live song...

Our last demo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

scumbags at the express

I know I really shouldn't be surprised at the belligerant, racist and deeply unpleasant reporting at the Daily Express (the newspaper whose front page generally makes the Daily Mail look like the model of reason), but the appalling example of today's paper still shocked (and shocks) me. Unbelievable.

Thanks to for bringing it to my attention, even though it made me angry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

indie schmindie

some great stuff from the world of twee-indie;

C86 - finally someone provides mp3s of the seminal mid-eighties jangle-pop NME collection. Great to hear Velocity Girl again. Although I'm saddened at my predictable use of the word 'seminal', there.

CDR05 - because indie-pop isn't dead, you know.

See? - here's an interview with the Decemberists from today's Guardian.

Friday, July 22, 2005

bad science from sam

A bit of bad tempered guest-blogging from Sam...

I'm a regular reader of Ben Goldacre's Badscience column in the Guardian, and it's getting to the point where I can't control my anger and frustration.

As a psychology undergraduate I was astounded by students failure to grasp even the basic distinction between valid common sense empiricism and total nonsense. I lost count of the number of psychology students who didn't think that thought processes could be understood as arising out of neuronal processes, or that psychology shouldn't be a science (most psychology isn't science, or at least is bad science, but you can at least try!).

I had a conversation with an old friend of mine a few months ago. She is towards the end of her final year as a psychology undergrad, with straight-A marks. She was babbling about psychic healing, and some anecdote in which she has 'transferred' an injury from herself to her father through mind power. When I countered that this would violate some fairly fundamental laws of physics, she was incredibly defensive, and other people in the room reacted as if I was being the silly one.

I remember, when I was about 17, my school science department invited a 'well respected expert' to talk to us about 'parapsychology'. She rambled on for about 2 hours about 'quantum wave dimensions' in hyperspace, and the history of psychics (the ouija board is, apparently, a very effective scientific tool, if used correctly!). Afterwards, our physics teacher commented that he thought "she had a lot of good ideas" and that we should be open minded to possibilities, etc.

In Brighton, where I live, they distribute a free magazine called "Waves", which is stuffed full of adverts and editorial on alternative therapies. One of our favourites is the "School of Vibrational Medicine". Brighton must have more stupid people per capita than any other city or town in the UK.

Ok, I think I'm spent. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

beautiful old cassettes, i miss you...

Ah, this is the kind of thing that I love about the internet; some incredibly patient chap has scanned in loads of beautiful old cassettes - what's amazing is how many of these I remember using.

Somewhere back in London I've still got a crate of old tapes with god knows what on them; old John Peel shows and 4-track demos mostly, I think. It sounds absurd to fetishise such items now but in retrospect I spent so much of my teenage years wiping over, re-labelling and playing these tapes. I can still hear the clunking of their plastic frames together as I root through a pile of cassettes looking for something in particular.

And these tapes are really quite beautiful, too.

Here's the full list; pick one at random. (link via GromBlog)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

post-punk from brazil

Sometimes you get the feeling you're better off reading about a record than actually listening to it. I've been reading lots of reviews of a couple of CDs which document the lively post-punk scene in the mid 1980s in Brazil, of all places. Sao Paulo to be precise. The first of them, the wonderfully titled The Sexual Life of the Savages, is on Soul Jazz (which is as good an assurance of quality as I need), the second, more simply named Nao Wave, on Man records, looks equally fascinating.

The general thesis is this; Brazil, as one often hears, had an extremely fertile period of distinctive musical innovation - the 1960s, and the music of samba and tropicala, so influential and immediate, was the result. By the 1970s, however, the country’s oppressive governments had squeezed much of the life out of Brazil's musical heart, until the country was reawoken by revolution and the downfall of the dictatorship. Brazil began to express itself again, and by the 80s, the country's musical heritage had begun to reassert itself.

But in the clubs of Sao Paulo (partly due to the influence of DNA's Arto Lindsay – a Brazilian himself) the sounds of samba could not be further away. A small, excitable post-punk scene, fuelled by imported records by Talking Heads, The Gang of Four, Devo and others, began to establish itself . From this a series of local bands formed, and the musical output of these bands, spanning roughly three years (1983-86) is documented on the CDs.

What is most exciting about the records is also, however, their downfall. It's Brazilians playing post-punk, rather than Brazilians playing Brazilian post-punk. I've listened to a number of tracks from each compilation and what is immediately apparent is that, far from infusing the post-punk sound with exciting new rhythms (which, frankly, the likes of A Certain Ratio and 23 Skidoo were trying to do already), the Brazilian bands, despite the natural oddness of the entire idea, were essentially talented copyists.

Which is not to say that there's not plenty to offer. I'd take much of the music here over the recorded output of, say, The Rapture or Hot Hot Heat, and the extensive role of women in the Brazilian post-punk scene is a joy to behold. I didn't get to hear all the songs, but popmatters reckons that "As Mercen├írias, an all-female quartet … [make] the Slits sound tame", which is something I wasn’t previously aware was possible. The pop matters review (much of which informed this hastily written blog entry) goes on to say that elsewhere:

"there's plenty of subtlety to be found -- and it's the groups that put an unusual twist on their influences that have the most impact on the disc's overall story. Chance's subversion of samba via a stock drum machine preset on "Samba de Morro" shows one of the compilation's most original approaches, as the band layers it with atmospheric vocals and dissonant chords to create something more in line with the Tropicalia artists' liberal experimentation with traditional Brazilian song forms. Similarly, Fellini's "Zum Zum Zazoeira" substitutes a Farfisa organ for the era's customary synthesizers, momentarily blurring the temporal context with a retro sound that was far from fashionable at the time."

Listening to The Sexual Life of Savages is disappointing and rewarding in different measures. In places it's gratifyingly brilliant. What limits the success of the music documented on these CDs is the narrowness of scope being explored, the limited colours of the pallate. Dusted Magazine reports, a little pretentiously, that "the secret of tropicala's success is exactly what post-punk lacks: a quintessentially Brazilian sense of leisure. When you are a robot thrashing around in a solid lockstep rhythm, it's hard to notice the rainforest around you."

jason pierce seriously ill

Get well soon Spaceman.

more bombs in london

Sounds like there are more bombings in London, but thankfully it seems we can insert the word 'attempted' before bombings in this instance; an attempted suicide bomber at Warren St, apparently, and someone who dumped a rucksack and fled at Oval. Minor detonations occurred without - so far - any injuries.

Apparently something has happened on a bus on the Hackney Road, too, and they've evacuated the tube station at Shepherd's Bush.

The Guardian news blog is the probably the best place to keep up with developments.

Update: 4.18pm - there's some more info here. Apparently police have cordoned off University College Hospital, nr Warren Street. That's the station where the bag-dumper escaped; are they speculating that he may have gone into the hospital? Or is it a seperate alert?

Update: 4.31pm - from the guardian newsblog: Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police commissioner, says there are four scenes of explosions, or attempts at explosions. He says "casualty numbers are very low" and the devices are smaller than last time. The tube is closed down "for a short while", although mainline trains are running normally.

more tories trashing the brand

Funny thing, but for some reason I get the feeling that, although the build-up to their imminent leadership election seems to have been going on forever, the Tories are approaching the succession of Michael Howard in quite a sensible way. Had they gone straight into an election battle you'd doubtless have ended up with a Davis vs Cameron, traditional vs moderniser two horse race with not a great deal of discussion, argument or insight.

We'll probably still end up with that two-header, but the lengthy period before nominations open has meant that people who probably can't win the election but whom have something to say about conservatism (Willets, Redwood etc) have the opportunity to stir things up (although the continued silence from Ken Clarke continues to baffle. Clarke, rather mystifyingly - given his reticence to say or do anything thus far - told the Tory Reform Group yesterday that "The more I consider my options, the prospect of my becoming a candidate by the autumn becomes more attractive").

That said, their startling ability to shoot themselves in the foot should never be underestimated. The group of modernisers who arguably represent the party's best chance of turning around their electoral fortunes, seem to be failing in all the respects in which Blair's New Labour project architects were so successful in the early 90s. Back then, Blair managed to reform the party by substituting traditional values for attractive possibilities; the tory reformers just keep reiterating, as they have again today, that the Tory party is in decline.

We know that! Making the case for change is obviously important. But the party doesn't want to change, has no profile and these days only makes the news when it proclaims how useless it is! In as much as I like any tory (ie, not much), I like the realistic, modern instincts of Cameron et al. But all they seem to be able to articulate is their frustration at belonging to a party which doesn't share their values (or their desire to be elected, if you're cynical). That's a shame, because at this rate Davis will win.

Nick Boles, the young Tory who was defeated by Celia Barlow in Hove, is heading up 'C-Change', a new reformist pressure group. If the moderate wing of the party can avoid alienating the bulk of the party, they have a case to make. That said, Boles has "warned that it would take "confrontation, tension and conflict" within the party before it was in fit shape to win again."

Erm, hasn't the Tory party been awash with confrontation, tension and conflict for the majority of the last decade? And where has it got them???

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

marie fatayi-williams' speech in full (late, I know)

Sorry to dredge up old Guardian articles all the time, but this is really worth reporting; not the actual piece itself, by Tim Collins, but the speech it referred to.

"On Monday [11th July], Marie Fatayi-Williams stood near Tavistock Square, where her son Anthony is feared to have been killed in last week's bus bombing, and delivered a lament of extraordinary power for her lost son."

Collins gave a similarly widely reported speech a couple of years ago, but frankly his pales into comparison. Hers is the most gut-wrenching and brilliant speech I've read in many years.

In full, then.

"This is Anthony, Anthony Fatayi -Williams, 26 years old, he's missing and we fear that he was in the bus explosion ... on Thursday. We don't know. We do know from the witnesses that he left the Northern line in Euston. We know he made a call to his office at Amec at 9.41 from the NW1 area to say he could not make [it] by the tube but he would find alternative means to work.

Since then he has not made any contact with any single person. Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears. There have been rivers of blood, innocent blood. Death in the morning, people going to find their livelihood, death in the noontime on the highways and streets.

They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy. Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it's not true.Terrorism is not the way, terrorism is not the way. It doesn't beget peace. We can't deliver peace by terrorism, never can we deliver peace by killing people. Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them. What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family. In African society, we hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect them. This is now the fifth day, five days on, and we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Anthony. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Anthony, his father needs to know what happened to Anthony. Millions of my friends back home in Nigeria need to know what happened to Anthony. His friends surrounding me here, who have put this together, need to know what has happened to Anthony. I need to know, I want to protect him. I'm his mother, I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory.

Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers' hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed. I pray I will see my son, Anthony. Why? I need to know, Anthony needs to know, Anthony needs to know, so do many others unaccounted for innocent victims, they need to know.

It's time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. Look around us today. Anthony is a Nigerian, born in London, worked in London, he is a world citizen. Here today we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, all of us united in love for Anthony. Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together, for our common humanity. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He's the love of my life. My first son, my first son, 26. He tells me one day, "Mummy, I don't want to die, I don't want to die. I want to live, I want to take care of you, I will do great things for you, I will look after you, you will see what I will achieve for you. I will make you happy.' And he was making me happy. I am proud of him, I am still very proud of him but I need to now where he is, I need to know what happened to him. I grieve, I am sad, I am distraught, I am destroyed.

He didn't do anything to anybody, he loved everybody so much. If what I hear is true, even when he came out of the underground he was directing people to take buses, to be sure that they were OK. Then he called his office at the same time to tell them he was running late. He was a multi-purpose person, trying to save people, trying to call his office, trying to meet his appointments. What did he then do to deserve this. Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?"

Sorry, abundant quoting, and harrowing stuff. I'll get back to talking about Pavement tomorrow.

arguing about terrorism

You see, I started a long post the other day about the terrorist attacks on london, about what motives may have led the bombers to such an appalling act, and about the truly dreadful way in which the word 'evil' is used in modern society as a lazy, ignorant way of saying 'I know nothing about it, except that you're wrong, buster'. But I ended up with about two pages of pretty much unsubstantiated opinion which – although I think it was right – did work on the assumption that I am more able to figure out what was going through the bombers' minds than Christopher Hitchens (isn't it great having two idiot Hitchens all of a sudden – wow) or the guys over at Harry's Place. And frankly, I can’t claim that insight. So I scrapped it.

That's not to say that there's not plenty of stuff to be said on the subject, which is why I'll draw your attention to this post from John B on his reliably excellent Shot By Both Sides blog. It starts with a fairly simple (and delightful) premise proposed by fellow Sussex resident Chicken Yoghurt:

"A television advert. You round up 50-odd celebrities, sportsmen and women, the whole nine yards - a spread to appeal to the knuckle draggers on the Right and the wankers with their hard-ons for the virgins. Each celebrity says the name of one of those killed last week. At the end of the advert, a simple caption, black on white: 'If you think Muslims did this, you're a prick'."

But the devil, as so often is the case, is in the detail, and in this case the devil is Peter Cuthbertson, who used to maintain an oft-updated blog of his own until the lure of winding up 'liberals' on their own blogs overcame him. He incites a lengthy, thought provoking and occasionally hilarious debate in the comments section. It's a long read, but well worth it.

Things may have moved on by the time you read it, but a lovely final post in the comments box from Lorna at the time of writing:

"Oh, I'm sure I'll get around to worrying about it eventually. It'll just have to get in line and be patient, because first I've got to worry about heart disease, cancer, traffic accidents, murder by someone I know (feel free to make a snarky comment regarding provocation and my personality at this point), suicide, diabetes (with my family history, anyway), and all the other much more likely ways I could snuff it. (A thought that's almost welcome after being at work all day in this heat, really.)

I think I'm right in saying - though maybe I'm too tired to think up decent keywords, because Google is not playing nice - that hanging around friends, family, lovers and acquaintances is complacent, and in denial about the people who're most likely to kill or harm us. And yet we keep doing it."

It’s the fuckin gangsters I'm worried about. (see last post).

doesn't stop the business

With all the talk of Islamic extremists in the papers, it feels almost as if everyone's forgotten about last month's whipping boys – yobs. Well, that's probably a rather tame way to describe the subjects of Donal McIntyre's latest bit of undercover investigation – the young gangsters who run Manchester's drugs trade. They are, he claims, uniquely violent, emotionless and savage (perpetuating that age old myth that history's more glamourous gangsters lived by a strong moral code; something Dominick Montiglio went out of his way to deny recently). I'm reminded of Bill Hicks deriding British newspapers for running headlines describing 'hooligans' upsetting bins in 'Shaftesbury'. Except the other way round. More than 'yobs', perhaps.

This lot aren’t bloods or crips, yet, but the unedited transcript of McIntyre's interview with two young 'feral kids', reproduduced in the Guardian, makes for fascinating reading. Alarmingly, a kind of savage intelligence is quite apparent in them; McIntyre senses this too.

"In a moment of sentimentality, the film-maker offered Wayne a job in his TV production company, a chance to redeem himself. Wayne turned him down flat. "Why would I want to do that?" he said without a thought.

MacIntyre believes that youths like Wayne and Ryan - and he says he has spoken to about 50 lads in similar situations - are simply not interested in ordinary work. It is neither exciting nor lucrative enough. But they are not lazy: MacIntyre describes them as "goal-orientated" and tenacious; violent and immoral, certainly, but also ambitious, focused, entrepreneurial."

And it’s clear that they don’t even fear prison.

"Go and ask anyone that's in jail now and they say oh, 'it's not worth it, its not worth it', but when they get out they do the same thing, 'cause at the end of the day it is worth it, 'cause I've had a top life up till now. You can lock me up for five or six years ... but I'm not saying it's not worth it because if it wasn't worth it I wouldn't be in the game ... You can lock us up now, straight away we get out yeah, we're back doing the same thing, 'cause I know if I get locked, he's going to work my phone and if he gets locked, they're going to work my phone, either way I will get my money, out bars, in bars. Basically all they're doing is taking my freedom off me if they lock me away. Doesn't stop the business, doesn't stop our money."

Fascinating stuff. I'd write something liberal, sympathetic and blame-absolving about the pair if it wasn't for the fact that Laban Tall would write something mean about me if I did…

Here's the lead-in to the interview.
and here's the transcript again
Here's Laban being mean about me again. He says I'm gay!

Monday, July 18, 2005

rare reasons to watch pop music TV this week

Anyone catch Maximo Park on CDUK yesterday? I didn't, damn.

Oh well, they're on next week's Top Of The Pops (24th July, BBC2, 7pm).

Not the most entertaining blog post ever, I know, but it might at least serve to remind me to watch. I'm not very good at remembering this type of thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

back in london

I'm sitting, sweltering, in the studio of my parent's house, surfing the internet and listening aghast to the sounds from next door. My parent's neighbours are having a birthday party for one of their children, and have hired a bouncy castle and hooked up a big stereo accordingly. So far we've had one major argument, a great deal of shrieking, and the crazy frog song on endless repeat. Could be worse, I suppose, they could be playing Coldplay.

My mother's cat, so long terrified by very presence, appears to be getting used to me, and now does an impressive, fawning wriggle at my feet every time I pass. This consists of her spreading her not inconsiderably girth so that it creates a kind of flat cushion from which, with the simplest twitch of her spine, she can curl left or right, stretch or compress, so that she gives the impression of a large ball of white paper unfurling. Progress.

Travelling through London yesterday was peculiar; it didn't dawn on me that I would have to use the tube until my train from Brighton was approaching Victoria. I wasn't really uneasy, but it was a strange experience nonetheless; I saw no evidence of bullish stoicism nor panic on the faces of my fellow passengers, just that same weary look I'm used to, which says 'this tube is fuller than I would wish', or 'I need to get home'.

Then again, once or twice, unavoidably, you catch someone's eye and look away, but perhaps a few people held the glance a second or two longer than I'm used to, as if to say either 'I know', or 'I can't think about that'.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

We just observed the two minute silence, outside in the sun; as awkward as always - my mind races, my stomach churns, I am distracted, I worry that I'm not concentrating, I feel a moment of sadness. There's a slow, barely visible change in the stances of my colleagues, as if we are being buffeted by the wind, and we shuffle back inside. The shuffling back was the worst bit.

Monday, July 11, 2005

it comes in pints?

FUCK YEAH!; a compendium of good things about us.

sophistry and political autism

Disgusting drivel from one paper:

"Britain is crawling with suspected terrorists and those who give them succour. The Government must act without delay, round up this enemy in our midst and lock them in internment camps.

Our safety must not play second fiddle to their supposed 'rights'"

And the most articulate piece of writing on the 7/7 bombings I've read so far from another:

"We do not have a monopoly on pain, suffering, rage or resilience. Our blood is no redder, our backbones are no stiffer, nor our tear ducts more productive than the people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those whose imagination could not stretch to empathise with the misery we have caused in the Gulf now have something closer to home to identify with. "Collateral damage" always has a human face: its relatives grieve; its communities have memory and demand action."

Friday, July 08, 2005

latest band rehearsal

After such a peculiar day yesterday, rehearsing was like locking oneself into a bubble; we seemed very far indeed from reality. The distraction was welcome.

Although Assistant haven't played live in four months or so, we've been building up quite a collection of new songs; 'Known To Run', 'Sixteen Months', 'Anything For You', 'Getting Away With It' and 'Nothing Else'. Musically, they're amongst the best things we've done, I think; generally quite short, melodic and interesting. Having played them repeatedly for a few months we're at the stage where we know them well enough to start experimenting with the song-structures a bit; 'Anything For You' now ends with a surprising slowed down section which threatens to speed back up then collapses. It sounds great. My secret is that, having written it and played it loads, I still can't quite get the hang of the strange rhythm, but no-one else has noticed so perhaps I shouldn't mention it.

To this roster of songs we added two new ones yesterday. The first (and best), 'Criticism' is built around a shifting, dissonant loop that me and Andrew BB created a few weeks ago, although it's mellowed and evened out to a dislocated, housey beat and a few disembodied notes (we're re-creating it, rather than playing along). Over the top of which I play a quite simple three chord guitar riff which runs throughout the verse and chorus. It developed really nicely with a quite peculiar beat and some fantastic snare drum exclamation marks on the final chorus. It's certainly the oddest thing we've done in a long time. I'll stick the demo up on the blog sometime.

The second song is pretty weird too, and not quite together yet; it's called 'Breathe In' and features a contrasting verse and chorus; the latter a strong, guitary focal point and the verses a bass and synth heavy churn with a slightly counter-intuitive beat. So far we can play the verse and the chorus, just not together - there's something about the time signature that's not quite right. Still, we'll get there.

I reckon we're getting close to a new batch of gigs and recordings.

bizarre sheep story

Erm, a rather unusual story from Turkey on the Guardian website.

"First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned".

The famous idea about lemmings (that they jump off cliffs to their doom whenever they get the chance) is of course rubbish. It was started by Walt Disney, who used to make short documentaries to accompany their cartoons. Frustrated at the lemmings refusal to commit mass suicide (they do do it, very occasionally, apparently), they rounded them up and chucked them over the edge and filmed it. A popular myth was born. Charming.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

bombs in london

Of course there are plenty of bloggers in London who can give you far better accounts of today's terrible events than I can; Andrew and Quin, amongst others, were there and are OK. Working in Chichester the news didn't filter through to the office until around tenish, and then the awful hunt for information began. Working in an office with several hundred people, networks of communication were quickly established, carrying concerns and frustrations through the building. But despite the internet's wonderful capacity for providing information quickly, the demand was clearly too great. We spent two hours, most of us, watching slow-loading screens, trying to keep up. It goes without saying that the pictures, which I'm only just seeing, having been straight out to band rehearsals after work, are worse than I imagined.

Concentrating on work was very difficult; for every moment where the distraction of the awful events receded, the distraction of another's reaction would step in. It was incredibly hard to tune out of the many conversations running along in the background; of course, plenty of us knew friends who worked in London, or had family there, or were aware that a colleague of ours was there today. Occasionally someone would point out how statistically unlikely any such person being a victim would be, given the vast volume of people in London, but somehow this doesn't help at all - if anything it emphasises the brutality of it. The chance, the horrifying chance. Statistics are no use in the face of something like this.

Update: I'm getting loads of hits from people wanting to read about what the attacks on London - I'm sorry I don't have anything profound or new to say. This is the post you need to read. Thanks to Troubled Diva for drawing it to my attention.

Update 2: Paul's written a brilliant post on the subject which is well worth reading:

"I believe that killing is wrong. I believe that defending yourself can result in behaviour to which normal morality does not apply. The untangling of these moral ambiguities is tortuous - akin to undoing a Gordian knot. Often we just cut through it."

Read it here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

spinning while edinburgh burns

A good post from Paul over at Free Speed Nation about why he's removed the Make Poverty History banner from his site, something I've been considering too. The skilful repositioning of the government so that it is now part of the protest, not the focus of it, is surely the finest demonstration of spin thus far, for it has gone almost completely un-noticed.

Read his post here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

lunchtime shopping

The slow decline of shops that I go to in Chichester has been an observable phenonemon. I work just outside the centre of town, so it's only five minutes walk up past the station and up towards The Cross, the central point of the centre (the Cathedral aside), where the four shopping streets of the city collide.

But 'Jonathan's Law' rules that only three shops of interest must be open at any one time. When I started my job, there was an MVC (which is a very mainstream, if inexpensive record shop), a little Our Price, a Dixons and a Waterstones. But that was four shops so one had to close. Our Price did have a brief swansong as the absurdly named 'V Shop', but it's future was mapped out. It shut, leaving only the distinctly lacking-in-variety MVC for music-mooching.

Before long, Oxfam moved from it's previous, out of the way position up on North Street to the appreciably nearer South Street, gaining space in the process and stocking a pretty impressive set of books. Shit, back to four.

So Dixons closed. A world of batteries, cables, CD-Rs and flat-screen monitors flicked bewilderingly into darkness. Granted, by this time, I'd pretty much got bored of shopping in the same old shops every day, and had rarely ventured further than the train station at lunchtime, so I didn't notice this, nor the closing of McDonalds, the nearest off-license, or Tesco.

I did notice, however, that two out of Chichester's three musical instrument shops closed, leaving me open and exposed to aggressive guitar-string pricing manouvres by the sole - and triumphant - surviver (although this hasn't happened. And frankly, I'm not a conscientious enough musician to change my strings more than, ooh, twice a year, so I could probably live with it anyway).


One shop I'd never ventured into, The Army and Navy Store, did unveil a recent surprise when – mortified at my old-fashioned swimming trunks, faced with a company trip away and unable to find any which did not highlight my humourously skinny legs – a desperate attempt to buy some shorts there uncovered a delightful, if small, branch of Paperchase cocooned within. I bought some blank badges there. (Although even a permanent pen on a blank badge will fade if people keep trying to rub the ink off, I discovered.)

So the one nearby newsagent in town had to close, obviously, meaning if I want to buy a newspaper in Chichester I now have to walk half a mile to do so. Ridiculous.

Anyway, yesterday I walked into town and went to the brand new, surprisingly large, and very welcome indeed, HMV. Excellent stuff. Although it does seem that HMV is now primarily a DVD store rather than a record shop! Nonetheless, there's a vinyl section and everything, so I'm happy and once more willing to trudge through the disgusting July rain (what’s that all about?) to gaze at the new The Juan Maclean 12", or flick through the Fall CD section trying to remember which albums I've got and which I haven't.

The only downside, as far as I can see, is that one of Waterstones, Oxfam, or the last remaining place in Chichester where I can buy guitar strings, will have to close, presumably. Damn it.

Friday, July 01, 2005

tom cruise is right, godamnit.

Well, I certainly didn't expect to end the evening with a sympathetic word for Tom Cruise, who is a fairly pathetic actor and not a particularly likeable person. Granted Peter Bradshaw's movie reviews are always really good entertainment, but his take on War On The Worlds in the Guardian this morning was particularly good value for the Cruise baiting.

"The opening sequence, in which the Earth's crust slowly cracks open in a New York street and sends buildings, churches and cars hither and thither, is undoubtedly impressive, but all Tom Cruise can do is look stunned and smudgy-faced and then run away, to show that it's scary - but also keep looking defiantly back, to show us he's not a wuss. It would be easier for him to run slowly backwards in a sort of Chuck Berry duckwalk of courage. The metal three-legged thingies, when they emerge, emit a deafening synthesised honk in the key of C and zap folk with a death-ray, vaporising everything but the victim's trousers."

Ha ha. But it turns out that Cruise, when not getting engaged to nubile young actresses for publicity purposes (anyone else notice that although he proposed to Katie Holmes 'on the spur of the moment' on the Eiffel Tower, he still managed to arrange a press conference at the same location within an hour of the event?), has been stirring up controversy with what has been labelled a 'ridiculous rant' at the actress Brooke Shields. Shields dealt with her post-natal depression by taking anti-depressents, and has been forthcoming in recommending the remedy.

"Before I was a Scientologist, I never agreed with psychiatry," Cruise told the host of the American 'Today' programme. "And when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in psychology ... And I know that psychiatry is a pseudo science."

Disputing the effectiveness of antidepressants generally, Cruise said, "all it does is mask the problem." He added, "There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."

Well, using his ridiculous belief in scientology as a starting point for his argument was never gonna win him any friends, and I dunno whether it's possible to argue that no chemical imbalance ever occurs, but I'm very much minded to agree with him that in a great many cases the use of antidepressents is just a way of putting off underlying problems. I've heard many a story of people who have gone to the doctors, explained that they are unhappy and been given drugs without the doctor thinking to find out that, for example, they had recently suffered a bereavement or have another perfectly logical reason which underlies their unhappiness. So a rare conciliatory wave for Tom Cruise.

"Hi Tom!" (waves)

Incidentally, when Tom Cruise attends film premiers he has his 'people' build him a small ramp on the red carpet so that when he's photographed next to his leading ladies he doesn't look like such a short-arse. I've been thinking of building a similar ramp on my route to the station each morning.

[Update: some futher thoughts in the comments section: just to clarify - I'm not saying that all pyschology is 'pseudo-science', I'm just saying that I'm far from convinced that such a thing as a 'chemical imbalance' is a valid explanation for depression.]

dumb britain

quote of the week from Big Brother:

Maxwell (trying to climb into bed with Saskia): Can't we just say fuck the cameras for a bit?
Saskia: No, I don't like it. I'm not an exhibitionist. I've just come on Big Brother!

good photo-blog

Emilie Wood's photo-blog is one of the best blogs I've come across in a long time; Brighton is such a colourful and interesting place that it's not at all surprising that she's taken a lot of excellent photographs; yet like all the best photo-blogs it's the text which elevates it from the diverting to the fascinating. It's well worth a look. (thanks to Jane's eagle eye for brighton blogs for the link)

assistant / bloggers

Assistant had a proper rehearsal last night, by which I mean we were all there, all of us, without exception, and we played some songs that we remembered and some songs we forget. It was cool, and the fact that we were so rusty meant that we could play merry with our memories and lark about a bit, rather than be studious, meaningful and intense. Consequently we probably sounded pretty dreadful half the time, but hopefully pretty dreadful in that wonderful way in which it is misinterpreted as heroically slack. For my part this basically meant getting a few chords wrong, mumbling the lyrics, adding a few swear words, and making a nasty ccccrrrrr sound with my guitar at the end of every song.

In some ways I prefer Assistant when we're sounding shambolic, even though we're conventionally 'better' when we're practised and on form. Some of the new songs have a sleepy, churning sound; dropped shoulders, dropped knees, dropped lyrics. They wheeze 'fuck it', but not in a bad way.

Went to the brighton bloggers meet-up afterwards, which was weird because I was tired yet buzzy, that post-andrenelin kick; met up with lovely people I already know (Andrew, Jane and Val) as well as new faces (to me, anyway) like Paul, Gabs and another Paul. Obviously I was far too dysfunctional to actually introduce myself properly to at least a couple of people, so now for a belated, sheepish 'hi'.

Very nice to have a chat with Paul of Free Speed Nation fame, because I've been looking at his blog recently, and he at mine, so we had a nice chat and both tried to mention Sonic Youth and Pavement as many times as we could, which was probably more than necessary. Then I went and ruined it all by enthusing about Steely Dan with Andrew. I'm having a 70s albums week, and have been overdosing on 'Young Americans' by David Bowie and 'Pretzel Logic' by the 'Dan (OK, Regans, you were right...), all of which makes me very uncool, gah!

More brighton bloggers drink-ups please.