Wednesday, October 31, 2007

manchester (wagon) wheel

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Whitelocks, Leeds

A slightly overdue post, this, but I thought I'd take a break from blogging about Brighton in order to dodge backwards in time and reflect a little more on my recent trip to Leeds. In particular, to laud one of the best pubs I've ever been to, the wonderful Whitelocks, which is located down a narrow lane in the centre of the city.

I shan't bore you with a history lesson, but... oh alright, but just a quick one. A listed pub, Whitelocks (which was originally called The Turk's Head) was first granted a license in 1715, and while it may have changed a fair bit since then, it retains the essence of a proper English public house. It's dark, ornate and friendly, serving a wonderful selection of cask ales, beautifully decorated, and pulsing with life as if it were the very heart of Leeds. Although if the wall murals outside are anything to go by, it is a Leeds which is greatly changed.

Sitting with a pint of ale one afternoon on my recent trip I was interrupted by a passing customer, who needed me to move a chair so that his wheelchair could continue through the pub. Engaging him in conservation, it transpired that he had drunk in the pub after the war, and he was visibly touched to see that so little had changed. Despite his advanced years, he was as sharp as a needle, looking for ornamental details and signs of permanence and finding plenty to delight him. He had been an artist and explained that he had drawn the inside of the pub from exactly where I was sitting. I was moved and happy to be sat in a place so tangible and real, so resistent to change.

I heartily recommend a visit next time you're in Leeds.

disgustingly shoddy treatment

Watching Tottenham play Getafe in the EURO cup at the moment; the commentary team have just suggested that news has leaked during the halftime interval that Martin Jol, the Spurs manager, has been sacked. Apparently the new managerial team is Juande Ramos and Gus Poyet. Dunno if it's true, but they just showed the Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy sitting in the stand, his smug, slap-headed mug smirking at the cameras. I wanted to punch the televison.

Oh, it's true - watching football does make you violent.

darryl's drawings

There's no need for me to re-write this, as Pete captures entirely my feelings - I've been enjoying Darryl Cunningham's webcomics and drawings for a while now, and its distressing to hear that he's in trouble. If you can possibly help then perhaps you should. Over to Pete:

"The cartoonist Darryl Cunningham is in somewhat dire straights financially at the moment and reading his journal can get a bit painful at times. He’s got to the stage where he’s desperate enough to ask his friends for cash which seems an eminently sensible idea. (He’s offering art in return once he’s sorted but I don’t think that’s necessary - he’s given enough as it as.) Obviously most of you reading this won’t know Darryl from Adam but for those who’ve known him over the years and enjoyed his comics, and who might have the odd tenner to spare, I direct you to that link".
Here's one of Darryl's drawings - hopefully he won't mind my reproducing it.

wyatt and ayers

Although it's not in the least bit surprising that Robert Wyatt's new album is a work of typical, understated beauty, and a record I've been listening to a lot lately, it has been surprising the extent of press it's had, I think. Of course, an artist of Wyatt's stature and inescapable talent is always guaranteed good notices from the likes of Wire and Uncut, but it's been cheering to see him getting good reviews in the mainstream press too, and lovely seeing his endlessly fascinating face staring out from front covers (Wyatt has a face that looks carved from rock, and yet is perpetually welcoming and warm). So I endorse his latest, Comicopera, unreservedly.

More surpising is that Kevin Ayers, Wyatt's old ally and a man whose talent has been less well remembered, has a new album out and it is - apparently - rather stunning. I've not heard it yet, but Mike Troubled Diva's comments make me very keen to seek it out. His interview with Ayers on Stylus, meanwhile, is delicate, probing and fascinating - highly recommended reading.

There's an extract below; ordinarily I'd probably only highlight one short passage of an interview elsewhere, but this one only really reads well in sequence. Here's Mike asking Ayers about the 80s - not really Ayers' best decade, but a fascinating time.

Various albums then emerged during the Eighties, which are less well-known: Deia Vu [1984], As Close As You Think [1986]—which isn’t available on CD, and which few seem to have heard—and Falling Up [1988], which sounds like you’re just having fun. One of the Amazon reviews says it’s as if you’ve “just drifted up from the beach bar to the studio with old friends.” Was music perhaps less of a priority during this period?
I think Falling Up was a good record, though. [pause] I mean, hopefully what you said was right. It was coming up from the beach and having fun with friends? Well, that’s good then. Leave it there.

But there’s a track on there called “Am I Really Marcel” in which you seemingly hold your hands up to being lazy and lacking ambition, in a way that suggests that you’re very comfortable about it. Should we take that at face value?
Well, obviously I’m not that lazy, or else I wouldn’t have had a whole career in the business. But you have to be clear in terms of what “lazy” means. It just means that you don’t need to be involved in the day-to-day hustle, or hassle, of city life. You can actually exist as a person on your own, without all the trappings. “Lazy” means you don’t necessarily have to keep making an effort to make yourself liked.

Still Life with Guitar came out in 1992. Shortly after its release, Ollie Halsall tragically died—and then you didn’t release another album of original new material for fifteen years. It’s very tempting to draw certain conclusions from that.
Well, you’ve got it, yeah. [pause] I mean, you’ve answered… it’s a rhetorical question.

OK. Well, I could delve further, but I kind of don’t want to.
[evenly] No, I don’t think you should.

Let’s fast-forward to The Unfairground, which is being hailed as your best album in over thirty years. What gave you the impetus to return to recording after so long?
That’s a really tough one to answer. Firstly, I need to earn a living. Secondly, I need some kind of intellectual satisfaction, and life. I need to feel that I’ve been vaguely useful on the planet.

But there must have been a change in your general mindset… in your confidence, maybe, I don’t know…

Well, it’s probably been made more from a lack of confidence. I need to re-affirm that I still exist, you know? It’s my job; it’s what I do; it’s been my whole life. I kind of have to do it—otherwise I’m dead. Dead to myself.

Monday, October 22, 2007

blogging brighton

It's long been a frustrating fact that Brighton and Hove, a place with an awful lot of art, music and blogging activity, has comparitively few outlets for finding out exactly what is going on in our fine town. For ages I've been meaning to start incorporating more local information to Assistant Blog, except for the fact that I'm really not sure how many people will be interested.

As of today, then, I'll be blogging in two places - here, and on Blogging Brighton, a weblog which is going to try to keep Brighton's blogging population up to date on interesting events, shows and writing. It'll include choice listings, previews and reviews of local stuff. I make no promises at all about keeping it updated, except to say that I'm going to try.

Another thing I'm going to do is ask friends and fellow bloggers to help me out. So if you think you might be able to write me a weekly or fortnightly post on, say, films showing in Brighton, or reviews of theatre or gigs - or anything else that takes your fancy - let me know.

Here's the link -

Saturday, October 20, 2007

start animation

OK, I'm aware that this is a really shaky first attempt, but one of things I've been meaning to do for a while now is learn how to do stop animation. So this morning I strolled into town and bought some play-doh, and with the use of my camera and the tripod Dave bought me for my birthday, constructed the following. Yes, it's terribly basic and nowhere near as in focus and steady as it should be. But it's my first ever go, so...

Friday, October 19, 2007

trevor the tortoise

fear of drowning

I spent a few days in Leeds at the weekend, my third trip up there and one where I knew pretty much what to expect; Universities I'd been to before, a town centre I knew well and the intention to stop at familiar record shops and pubs when I wasn't working. I arrived on Sunday, and found Leeds curiously quiet for a weekend; I've noticed that the overwhelming busyness of Brighton on a Sunday afternoon is an anomaly, rather than the norm, and far from every pub and street being packed in other cities, the end of the weekend is more often quiet than riotous.

Walking through town, then, I turned down past the Corn Exchange and wandered down towards the river front, expecting crowds but finding none - instead the river was peaceful and grey and the area mostly deserted. I walked down to look at the water and stood, quietly, thinking. It was then that I heard someone shouting, so I turned around, half-expecting to be approached by someone. But there was no-one there so instead I turned my attention upstream, and saw to my considerable shock a man heaving up and under the water, perhaps a hundred metres along, yelping and screaming for help and giving the impression that he was about to be submerged and not come back up.

At a moment like that, when you are the only person around, you react in unpredictable ways; you want to help, of course, but you want to run, too. I stood for a moment, frozen to the spot, dimly aware that a big building along the river bank separated me from him, and also spotting that the deep concrete flanks of the river made his getting out extremely difficult. To my great relief, at this point - it must have only been a second or two after his shouts alerted me - two men who were much nearer ran to the water's edge and lowered a long plank, which they had lifted from a nearby skip, into the water. The drowning man flapped towards it and took hold. Once secured, he seemed at first to lack the strength to hold on, but he did so and began to slowly inch towards the bank.

By now several more people had rushed to his aid and the bridge beyond him was filling with interested spectators. The blood stopped thudding in my head and I realised he was safe, grateful that I had been spared any involvement. Gingerly, and feeling guilty for doing so, I raised my camera - which was in my hand beforehand - and took a couple of voyeuristic snaps.

That left, of course, the problem of the man actually getting out. Despite now having a firm hold of the plank, he was obviously still in lots of distress, shouting incoherently and struggling wildly. It occured to me that he was probably pissed. Slowly, encouraged by the men, he pulled himself against the side and began hauling himself up the plank. His clothes sopping and freezing, and still hoarsely crying out, it looked an impossible task, and sure enough he got almost to the top before crashing back down into the water.

By now, thankfully, the sound of fire engines and ambulances blaring was ringing out along the river bank, and a team of firemen swiftly raced to the water's edge and lowered a kind of inflatable hoop, serving as a lasso, and a hinged ladder to aid the man. It was still a struggle, but eventually he was dragged out, exhausted and freezing, onto the bank. He was bundled into a security blanket and the crowd began, reluctantly, to disperse.

Meanwhile I stood further down the river, looking on, wondering how close I had been to watching a man drown. What would I have done if I had been nearer? If it had been just me? It was a sobering, frightening thing to wonder. To have watched a man drown minutes within arriving in Leeds would have been a terrible, frightening, tragic thing to have witnessed, not least because there was manifestly nothing I could have done to helped.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

peter bradshaw is insane

I was really looking forward to seeing Control, Anton Corbijn's fim about the terribly sad story of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the dismal/incendiary (delete according to preference) Manchester group Joy Division. Not least because, although the film itself sounded terribly dark, the Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote:

"Control is a film about England, about music, about loneliness and love; there is melancholy in it, but also a roar of energy. I thought it might depress me. Instead I left the cinema walking on air."
Tremendous, I thought, so it won't be that draining after all! Wrong; a fairly jaunty first forty five minutes aside, the vast majority of the film was like being punched in the stomach repeatedly. At the close of this tremendously beautiful, excellently acted film (Riley is terribly convincing as Curtis, and Samantha Morton's portrayal of Debbie is as finely wrought as you'd expect from Britain's finest actress) I felt bereft and anything but walking on air.

But that's not to say that Control is not a fine film; it says a lot about the Manchester of the seventies, paints a fine picture of a tortured individual, and does a creditable job of recapturing the spirit of a fantastic band. But god, I felt rubbish afterwards.

If you don't think you can take the emotional kick of the film, can I suggest you skip it by reading this review; easily the best blog post I've seen in a while.

And if you have seen it and disagree with me entirely, then go read Matthew's comments over at Fluxblog. He hated it:

The film is just awful; basically a pretentious tv movie. Granted, virtually all biopics are terrible -- how could they not be when they are nearly always super-linear hagiographies with no real narrative momentum -- but Control is an embarrassing mess of cliches, on-the-nose musical cues, and trite sentimentality. Really, don't bother, even if you totally love Joy Division.


Not really used it yet, but I'm excited about the fact that I now have a copy of GarageBand on my mac - having played with Reason a fair bit over the last few years I'm kind of looking forward to the simplicity of a recording tool which I always hear good things about. So look for some GarageBand demos on this blog once I get round to a proper play.

In the meantime, there's a good article about the tool in the Guardian today, from which the following paragraph is lifted.

"People looking for the next revolution in music are actually looking in the wrong place," says Ward, who recently launched the Now Form A Band campaign, encouraging budding creators to tap into punk's DIY spirit and use free or open source software such as Luna Free, Ardour or Kristal Audio Engine. "The revolution is the internet. It doesn't matter if the music itself is not groundbreaking - the next revolution is how it's actually recorded and distributed."
And the quote below is from an interview with the divine Scout Niblett, who is a fan too.

What's your favourite piece of technology?
"The program GarageBand. I use it to put ideas down and then write my songs. It's really low-fi, even though it's high tech. I don't use any external mics, just the internal one on the computer - I just press record and sing at the computer, and that's how I get my ideas down."

on oona and i

Last night I watched, and greatly enjoyed, Nora Meyer's excellent documentary on Oona King, which aired on the BBC this week. Meyer, a friend of King, delivers an accomplished, very personal film about the former Labour MP's electoral battle with the fearsome and unscruplous George Galloway. Clearly sympathetic to King's dreadful treatment at the hands of the Respect man, the film-maker documents the daily barrage of abuse and pressure she is subjected to as a result of her decision to back the toppling of Saddam. King's position in British politics is unique; a headstrong, outspoken MP, and one of only two black women in parliament at the time, King had been made scapegoat for her local community's fury at Blair's disasterous foreign policy. Harangued on a daily basis by a mostly Muslim population, it's impossible not to feel sorry for a woman being made to pay a huge prize for a well meant, if bad, decision.

Meyer, despite her friendship with Ms King, makes clear - as does almost everyone in the film - her bafflement as to how King could have supported the invasion, but allows the MP the chance to justify herself. It makes for the most moving section of the film, where King expresses her absolute disbelief that it is not a subject the friends had discussed earlier. For King, it was a conversation which she had several times on a daily basis for month upon month. As she attempts to reason through her decision, her exhaustion is palpable. Her argument, too, is weary and unconvincing. She even goes so far as to describe George Bush as 'mentally retarded', making it all the more unlikely that she could have supported his actions. In the end her reasoning is half-hearted; if Bush owes Iraq to Blair, then he might feel beholden to him and compelled to sort out the Israel Palestine issue. As we all know, it didn't work out like that.

Since the documentary, King has recanted, admitting that in retrospect she was wrong to support the war. The tragedy is that she made the admission too late, and Bethnal Green and Bow ended up with a drastically inferior MP, the demagogue Galloway, who Oona King recently dismissed, refreshingly, as a 'cunt' in a Guardian interview. Yet Nora Meyer's film, which never takes the easy route, also shows a King far too happy to play the game in order to work her way up the greasy pole of politics, and for all her good work in her constituency, it remains hard to see beyond Iraq. I could never have voted for Galloway, but I would have had great difficulty voting for King either. Happily the presence of a Labour MP who voted against the war in my constituency meant it wasn't a problem I had to face.

Either way, I feel for King and wish her all the best. With luck, too, the people of Bethnal Green will be shot of their odious MP before long.

abandoned shoes

Saturday, October 13, 2007

not spoken to ant for a bit

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

liveblogging radiohead's 'in rainbows'

I'm not a big Radiohead fan, but I note that they're playing the new album, In Rainbows, in full on XFM today so I thought I'd listen in and jot down my thoughts as we go.

15 Steps begins with a clattering drum track and some slighly annoying faux-vocalising from Thom Yorke, who is apparently singing through a cold. But when some very pristine and lovely guitars break in the song builds in tunefulness, and I can even make out a lyric or two after a while. It gets pretty brilliant after a minute or two as the breaks complicate and some swooshy, churchy synths start dominating. Only the vocals really let this down, but that's a familiar complaint.

No such high praise for Bodysnatchers, which is pretty grim and a bit of a mess; it sounds like a cross between Blur's 'Bugman' and Kasabian, if such a thing is possible. Awful until the middle eight, which is a bit more respectable, if not actually very good. Then it all goes a bit glam rock. Aargh.

Nude is up next, and it opens with some lovely sampled strings and vocals and a beat, the combination of which make me think of Bjork, which cannot be a bad thing. It soon abandons this lovely start, however, and gets terribly mawkish, with Yorke singing in a high register over some understated guitar picking. I don't like it in the slightest, but I suspect that fans of the earlier, less experimental Radiohead will be in raptures.

Weird Fishes / Arpeggi is an immediate improvement, vastly better and very cool; more glitchy breaks and wonderful guitar playing. Yorke is back in good voice, all is well with the world, la la la.

All I Need continues the upward curve, riding in on a dated but satisfying hip hop beat and some lovely synth bass. Yorke's vocal is pitch perfect and melodic, cutting through the song's escalating atmospherics, all thunder-storm explosions, xylophone plonks, cymbal crashes and piano stabs. Amazing.

Next up is Faust Arp, a rather pretty acoustic song backed up by brooding strings. Its folky lilt and Yorke's vocal make it sound rather like a track from the recent Damon Albarn project, The Good, The Bad and The Queen. It's nothing amazing, but it's pretty, short and kind of beguiling.

This being XFM, we're now listening to a bunch of adverts, which is rather destroying the mood somewhat. On the other hand, it summons up that old fashioned idea of an album consisting of two sides, and for that reason I kind of like it. Two sides with adverts for MacDonalds and the Holiday Inn between them, to be specific.

Reckoner is our first song back from the commercial break, and it's back to the Radiohead which is most frequently derided; depressing Radiohead. It doesn't do anything but instill a vague feeling of torpor and irritation. What does it sound like? Oh, you know, like Radiohead. Nothing happening here, just Yorke's long, elongated moans, implying punch-me-in-the-face.

As is so often the case, every time I start wearying of this record, the next song pulls me right back on side. There's just no way that House of Cards could not work, built as it is on a truly irresistable guitar riff and, well, not much else - just a decent, careful vocal from Yorke and some more washy synths. This one's a beauty.

The album's going by fast. It's hard not to conclude that this is a much more coherent, conclusive record than their recent efforts. Currently playing is Jigsaw Falling Into Place, which is perhaps the best pop song on the record so far; neat guitars, a pleasingly simple beat and Yorke's best vocal turn in ages. It even builds up a bit of a head of steam, recalling mid-80s REM or the wonderful Go-Betweens. Like a few tracks on the record, it contains a wholly unnecessary string section, but that aside, an absolute winner.

To the last song, then, Videotape, which goes for a (surely overdue) elegaic-piano-ballad-approach. It's the kind of thing that Radiohead do well technically, but also the kind of thing that Suede, say, did a million times better. So it doesn't actually go anywhere as a song, leading the band to abandon that approach and reduce things to, or construct, a pretty and repetetive riff which occupies the final couple of minutes. It's a low-key end to what has turned out to be a fine album.

Overall, it's a clear seven out of ten record on first listening - only a few duff tracks and a couple of corkers. I suspect that elsewhere Radiohead fans will be giving it an ecstatic thumbs up, which it perhaps deserves but was never gonna happen here. Despite the fact that I haven't bought a Radiohead record since 'The Bends', I enjoyed that. Would I listen to it again? Probably not very often, 'All I Need' and 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' aside. Still, very enjoyable regardless.

no caption required

Monday, October 08, 2007

sport: a round up

rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugbyrugby rugby this made me laugh a lot rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby rugby

how much is your radiohead?

Curious about how much other people are paying for the new Radiohead album? I am. This site is full of clues, however - you can take the survey yourself or see how others responded.

I've been thinking about what I would pay if I went in for this - I think I'd settle on between four and five pounds, taking into account (a) that that's already much more than the band would receive from a CD sale and (b) that there's no physical product or packaging. What continues to impress me most about the whole deal is the quality of the diskbox, and I'm enthused that so many people are opting for that. Great stuff.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

First currently listening of my 30s

1. PJ Harvey - White Chalk LP (Her best yet. Really)

2. Shocking Pinks - Shocking Pinks LP (classic New Zealand indie rock in the Flying Nun vein; all the more surprising for being on DFA)

3. V/A - A kind of Awe and Reverence and Wonder LP (none-weirder compilation from Twisted Nerve, featuring prog rock, Eastern psych, folk and 'concrete siphoned from natural sources'. Impeccably packaged too)

4. Scout Niblett - 'Elizabeth (Black Hearted Queen)' (the new Niblett LP, This Fool Can Die Now is brilliant, and all the better for the presence of Bonnie Prince Billy and some Americana arrangmenents - this is the pick for me so far)

5. Buffalo Tom - Let Me Come Over LP (now, amazingly, fifteen years old - and still sounds awesome)

6. Port O'Brien - 'Close The Lid' (decent debut single from the Californian fishermen types; solid signing for the new End of The Road label, too)

7. David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide to Insufficiency LP (Quite astonishing at the End of The Road, I'm awaiting his new album with enthusiasm. In the meantime, this 2005 attempt is still dead bewitching)

8. Misty's Big Adventure - Crumpled Up Guy (best lyrics of the year, surely: "grave-robbing beast, grave-robbing beast, you drew a picture of me as a grave-robbing beast, so they sent for a priest")

That's yer lot.

Friday, October 05, 2007

fashion and race

This is Hadley Freeman in today's Guardian:

"A disturbing problem has appeared on the catwalks this season. It is one that suggests the fashion industry has not just a warped but a fully offensive mentality when it comes to judging how women should look. It is a problem that has been simmering for some time, but because talking about it might offend the designers and scare off lucrative advertising accounts, hardly anyone has spoken out - and things have only got worse. We now have a situation that could lead to serious problems not only for some models, but for the public as a whole, making millions of women feel ugly, undesirable and simply wrong. And no, this is not about weight - it's about race."
Read more here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

wikipedia slips up

Like most people, I'm very well aware that Wikipedia is not the Oracle - it contains errors (like most encyclopedias) and is obviously open to abuse. Despite knowing this, I use it pretty much daily and - perhaps naively - believe pretty much everything I read on it.

The following error, which has been subsequently repeated elsewhere, could hardly be less trivial. Nevertheless, it's instructive in demonstrating how far Wikipedia has gone in becoming the destination of choice for reporters. In future, perhaps they should be a little more careful. In practice, I suspect they won't.

From the No Rock and Roll Fun blog:

"Ronnie Hazlehurst did not write S Club 7's Reach.

Why would you think he did?

It might be because
BBC News, The Guardian, The Times, The Stage and Reuters all said he did, in their obituaries of the TV theme king.But why would they think he did?

Because Wikipedia told them so, and so when the - hurried, harried - journalists came to write their obits for him, they just took the information at face value."
And the sting in the tail:

The great thing about this sorry saga is that, by Wikipedia's rules, Ronnie Hazlehurst really *did* write 'Reach', since it can be cited from numerous sources.
Fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

talking about me

We're not far past midday, granted, and I have had lots of nice birthday messages from my friends, via email, telephone, text message and facebook, but so far Ali is my stand-out friend of the day, courtesy of this nice blog post, where she has been celebrating my 30th by, er, stalking a Jonathan-a-like in London.

"I carefully took my phone from my bag and switched on the camera, and pointed it in the doppel’s direction. I marvelled at the quirky combination of mismatching jacket and trousers, the dark combed forward and over hair and the heavy framed glasses. I took in what appeared to be a very worthy book title and it all fitted perfectly. It was a sign. I raised my phone pretending cunningly to text and the Jon-alike turned his head downwards so he was barely visible on my screen. He then looked up and no sooner had he done so, but a trendy tosser wearing a navy blue fitted jacket with the collar turned up stood in-between us."
You're ace, Ali!

this morning

Fallen fruit crunches beneath my feet
on the concrete path as I trot, half
hopping along, to avoid brushing branches
that sop with old leaves which are ready to drop.
Sullen and soft, as waxy and limp as old beaten cloth.
A cluster of soil from a broken pot is spilled
in the car park and not brushed up. The trunk
of a sunflower lies rotting on top.

It's autumn. For the last few days
I've been coughing a lot, feeling the air changing.
Today when I wake I feel vital and fresh,
and my lungs have cleared up. Everything's cooled
by several degrees and it's woken me up.
It's my birthday today. And the city glistens
with dew and smells of the sea.
I button my coat and walk through the gate
into my thirties.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

home video fun

I bought a video camera this week, as a present to myself in celebration of my 30th birthday (which is tomorrow, fact fans) and have spent the last few days trailing around with it, looking and hoping for things to film. On Saturday Andrew celebrated five years of living in Brighton and held a small party at his flat, so I took the camera along and passed it around so that my friends and I could capture elements of the (very enjoyable) evening. Until last night I didn't look back at the recording, but yesterday evening I plugged it into the television and watched close to an hour of fragmented, random and mostly rather boring footage of myself and my friends listening to music, playing guitar, talking and taking some fairly wild stabs at Andrew's dartboard.

There are some nice clips, actually - a few of us taking turns to bounce down the hallway on the space hopper which Anne-Sophie got Andrew last year, some moments where Vic digs out an old photo album and talks me through some childhood photographs. At another point, myself and Dan have plugged in a little drum-machine/keyboard tool of Andrew's and are constructing an avalanche of glitchy rhythms over Joy Division's 'Transmission', which is playing on the stereo. I remember quite clearly at the time feeling that we were making some decent, if chaotic, noises, so it's chastening to see in retrospect that the sound was deeply irritating.

Actually, chastening is a very accurate term for the whole experience; it's just so odd watching yourself drunk with your friends, especially when you're in an environment where people don't so much converse as yell things occasionally at each other. I'm sure if I had a recording of myself having a serious discussion with someone after a few beers, I'd find it equally embarrassing, but at least I might say something interesting. I was shocked to see how many moronic statements I came up with over the space of 56 minutes of film. Moronic statements and bad jokes.

Of course, I'm not the only one (although perhaps the worst) and it's equally clear that people were enjoying themselves. My friends, on film - and in real life - are lovely. And, of course, we all hate our reflections sometimes, and I can, if I think about, see that I have good points, too - I'm affectionate, high spirited, involved. All the same, I think I much prefer the more reflective version of myself than the party animal! Perhaps I shall arm myself - at the next party - with some cue-cards; clever things to say and do.

Or, I might just have a sit down and edit the film, judiciously, so that it makes me look brilliant.

roast ox crisps

I've just bought myself a packet of Handcooked Real Crisps, unable to resist the fact that the packet in question is branded 'Roast Ox Flavour'. Roast Ox! The ingredients are a fabulous read: "potatoes, sunflower oil, roast ox flavour'. Amazing. Did they try out for Ox in the first place, I wonder? Were they standing there, in the flavour-blending factory, saying "No, no - this tastes of beef! Try again!". Or, conversely, did they have beef in their sights, and yet everything they tried just tasted too, well, Oxy. Who can say?

Yes, that is all.

Monday, October 01, 2007

watching football in croatia

radiohead in rainbows

[Update: my liveblogging review of the album is here]

I realise that everyone is talking about this already, so the adding of my tuppence really adds very little value to this here internet - nevertheless, I think it's very interesting that Radiohead (perhaps typically) have decided to sidestep convention and release their brand new album, with very little fuss, on their own website, without any record company back up - and rather charmingly are not even dictating how much people have to pay to get it. You can have it for free, in other words, or you can work out how much you'd like to pay and pay just that. Great stuff.

Annoyingly, I don't like Radiohead that much, so I can't really join in the fun. But I hope the scheme is successful and that it sets some sort of precedent. It's a very brave move for a band as big as Radiohead and it's impossible not to respect them for it.

Ironically, thinking about it, my favourite thing about the band is ordinarily their wonderful artwork, so if I were to show an interest, it'd probably manifest itself in buying the diskbox - a beautiful, expensive package comprising heavyweight vinyl, CD and MP3 - lovingly rendered and about a thousand times more interesting than a bunch of MP3s. Still, fascinating stuff.

Here's some more via BoingBoing.

friends and mountains

I normally try to flag up Sam's posts, scribed between meals as he eats his way around Asia, but I've just realised I've missed a few, and done him a disservice, as they're fascinating. Here's a couple of short extracts, then, and links to the blog posts.

In Dali
"Yesterday we cycled through the local rice fields. Despite having spent some time now in fairly remote parts of the country, this was the first time that I really felt like I was seeing Chinese farming life for real, unchanged for hundreds if not thousands of years. These are the real poor, people left behind in the great push for modernisation. Most don't even own a motor vehicle for taking their rice back to the communal farming communes, instead pulling traditional carts by hand."

"The start of the climb gave some forewarning of the challenge to come. Within minutes we were both struggling hard with the barely discernible trail, which struck upwards at such an oblique angle that we were reduced to scrambling on our hands and knees at almost every step. The going eased a little after an hour or so, giving us false hope as the path then sprang up even more steeply than before, emerging through dense bamboo scrub into bleak rock-face, traversing an escarpment, dropping hundreds of meters to either side. I could easily have imagined myself in the highlands of Scotland, were it not for every breath reminding me that we were at altitude far exceeding anything on the British isles.

The day had stared with wisps of cloud, but rather than abating as hoped, the mist drew in closer, until visibility had dropped to 50 meters at most. Nevertheless, the penultimate marker before the summit, we stopped to share a sandwich, and debated our course of action. Each of us held just too much pride to make the decision to return, although each of us would have quickly accepted the decision had the other taken it. Therefore we pressed on despite the inclement weather."

Come home soon, Sam.


This is my slightly wonky impression of the view out of my parents' window in Buckden, Cambridgeshire.