Thursday, October 30, 2008

no brand awareness

Obviously this whole furore about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross is unbelievably overblown, and the news that the head of Radio 2 has now had to resign is just utterly ridiculous. The comments were in bad taste and an apology should have sufficed, and would have had it not been for the tabloid press and the large percentage of the 30,000 people who complained despite not even listening to the show. The eagerness of public figures to damn the two presenters is yet further evidence of Chris Morris's 'Brass Eye' thesis; that celebrities and politicians are only too happy to speak up over issues of which they have zero knowledge. Gordon Brown's latest comments demonstrate this ably; they are utterly fatuous. He said:

"I simply wanted to express the views of the general public that this was inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour on the part of leading personalities to whom many people look to as role models. I leave it at that."

To whom many people look to as role models!!?! What the fuck is he talking about? Brand and Ross aren't role models, they are comedians. This whole debacle has been massively disappointing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

job interview from hell

"I need a personal statement, this is all no good - I can't use any of this"

I pointed out that there was a personal statement at the top of the page, under the title 'personal statement'.

Just spotted this wonderful post from Richard de Pesando over at his busy Grey Area blog: pretty much everyone has a nightmare job interview story, whether they've been in the job market for months, years, or decades, but I'd like to congratulate Richard for handling his nightmare with coolness and aplomb.

I hope if I'm ever in a situation like this, I handle myself as well as he did.

Monday, October 27, 2008

edwyn collins' bird drawings

The story of the most recent few years of Edwyn Collins’ life is, despite being fairly traumatic, ultimately a cheering tale – for although his slow recovery from a terribly serious stroke in 2005 has been painful and limited, he has overcome huge odds to regain power over his life and his art, and is as a consequence once more playing live, writing songs, singing and performing. But the process of healing began not with a return to the studio but with the pain-staking process of learning to read again, and learning how to draw with his left hand, having lost the use of his right. Now, a couple of years on, Edwyn is once more full of hope and confident about the future – which is wonderful stuff. In the Guardian today, he writes:

"I drew my first bird, a widgeon. It's quite crude, but I was pleased with the result. Each day I drew at least one bird. I was tired back then, but my stamina has grown. I could see my progress with each bird. Up, up, up. It's encouraging. (…) When I draw there is no interference. Since my stroke, I am interfered with quite a lot. And this is not to my taste, although I have been very cooperative. But when I draw, I am in charge; I don't have a therapist or a wife bossing me about. I'm left to my own devices, in a world of my own. Drawing was the first skill to come back to me, so it meant the world. If I can draw, what else can I do? It gave me back my confidence in myself. And my dignity."
Edwyn Collins: British Birdlife, a collection of his bird drawings, is showing at the Smithfield Gallery, London EC1, until Saturday. Some samples below.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

broken doors

Strange goings on in my building today. It started before breakfast, when I was half-woken by a banging sound from downstairs, and developed when, mid-morning, I left my flat and trotted down the stairs to check the post then head into town. In the entrance lobby to my building there's a big shelf where post for the three flats tends to accumulate, but I was surprised to see this morning that the shelf was entirely clear - which was particularly troubling as I noted yesterday that there were a couple of bills there that I'd neglected to pick up.

Surprised, I placed my hand on the latch of the front door, preparing to twist it and pull, when the door swung back freely towards me. Moving through it I glanced down and watched the lock casing in the door frame fall away. Squinting closer I realised that the door had been crowbarred open; the wood in the frame splintered and broken. I frowned. Someone had broken in to steal the post?

I wondered what to do. And then turned and noted with surprise that the front door wasn't the only door that was open. So was that of the ground floor flat, which was an inch or two ajar. I hesitated then rapped on it. A moment or two later a guy arrived, looking incredibly dishevelled, and explained in broken English that he didn't understand me, as I stood pointing at the front door and the missing post. Eventually he understood that I was telling him his door was open, thanked me, and shut it.

I trudged upstairs to ring the freeholder and inform him of the broken door. And then I noticed that the door of the middle floor flat was open too. Extremely odd. I moved into my own flat and, by now feeling a bit nervous that something was up, locked it behind me. Of course, my darker suspicions were unfounded, and the guy who owns the building, once I'd phoned him, explained that he already knew about the door, had been round to see it and had taken away the post (which he took to be belonging to previous tenants) with him. Apparently one of my other neighbours had reported the door broken earlier, but his suspicion, he told me, was that they had broken it themselves having forgotten their keys, and had to break their own door too. The banging I'd heard had been a locksmith fixing their internal entrance, he'd surmised.

So really nothing to worry about, but the strange concatenation of events left me feeling quite edgy and bothered for a while afterwards. Since I returned to the flat after my afternoon in town, the house still doesn't seem to have quite quieted down. There's an argument going on somewhere in the building, much slamming of doors and a troop of noisy Poles standing in the garden out the back. Every time the house lapses into silence there's another odd noise, a bang or a whoop or a yell, which disturbs the peace again. It leaves me tense, always waiting for another small disturbance. In the meantime, the landlord never did send someone round to fix the front door, so doubtless we shall all be murdered in our sleep by opportunistic intruders...

jeremy warmsley

Brighton's Resident Records is easily one of the best and friendliest shops I've been too, and it often hosts mini-gigs on a weekday earl-evening - the most recent I attended was a set by the folkster Jeremy Warmsley, who only played four or five rather slight songs but charmed everyone in the shop in the process. I wasn't totally sold; his songs need to take the odd unexpected diversion every now and again to stop them being a touch safe; but generally speaking he's certainly talented and likeable, and he's got a great record in him somewhere, I think. He's a particularly interesting lyricist, combining a deft sense of humour, a knack for storytelling and a smatter of self-deprecation.

Here's a quick video, taken by Dan, of the last song he played; a cover of New Order's marvellous 'Temptation'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

wave pictures nearly carbon neutral

Surely making a play for being Britain's hardest working bands, or just intent on wringing every last royalty out of their record deal (I'm sure it's the former), the marvellous Wave Pictures have yet another new record out this week - the Pigeon EP. This would ordinarily be interesting in itself, for their ramshackle, naive and yearning songs have shone very brightly this year, but it's particularly interesting in that the band are promoting the single as the 'greenest single ever'.

In order to make what they hoped would be the world's first carbon neutral EP, the band (and their engineer) walked to the solar powered studio where they recorded the four songs (actually made in tandem with fellow Moshi Moshi labelmates Slow Club), then uploaded the results directly to the internet afterwards. There's no art work, no physical product, and no press-release to accompany it. Unfortunately they didn't quite manage their aim of going fully carbon-neutral, as they needed to fire up their servers to deliver the songs to iTunes - but that aside it's pretty impressive stuff.

What you really want to know, of course, is whether the songs are as good as those on the band's wonderful Instant Coffee Baby LP, or the even better Just Like A Drummer single which followed it. No fear of disappointment here - on a couple of listens every song is a winner, but the best is Long Island, a live-favourite of such wondrous beauty that is was almost inexplicable that it wasn't recorded for the album.

It's been worth the wait though. The Wave Pictures are not just busy and environmentally aware, then, but also bloody brilliant.


A couple of years ago I picked up Amadou & Mariam's stunning 'Dimanche à Bamako' album and was blown away not just by the wonderful songs but by the fact that on several occasions the vocal melodies the husband and wife duo struck up seemed like exact echoes of the melodies that Damon Albarn has been using - not just in the last few years, when his interest in African music has been well known, but right through his career. It seemed like an incongruous but strangely apt comparison, and one of those happy accidents of art which sometimes magically occur.

Their new single, the gorgeous 'Samali' contains yet more of these hypnotic melodies, but if the rest of the song also rings bells it's because it's been produced (and, one suspects, co-written) by Albarn himself, who spins a spellbinding concoction of echoey keyboards, beats and atmospherics around the vocal, producing along the way a song that sounds utterly modern without ever sounding contrived. It's a magnificent single, and deserves to be a hit. You can stream it here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

i hate you sarah palin

i like katie beaton's comics

Her website is here.

the movements of a plant underwater

This is from Tim Parks' lovely, teasing new novel, 'Dreams of Rivers And Seas':

Elaine was kind to him, but busy. In the past, she had been the vulnerable one. Now she had her rehearsals, she had a place in the world. Practising her mime in the sitting room, she swayed round the sofa with staring eyes, arms waving languidly. 'After the explosion,' she said. 'I'm supposed to be looking for my baby. But how can I really know what it would be like after an explosion?'

John watched her, her arms and wrists in particular. They were the movements of a plant underwater, he thought.

take it back

This is rather marvellous; Marcel Reich-Ranicki, a German literary critic - who has been made the recipient of a lifetime achievement award in the country's annual TV backslapping ceremony - has reacted in the customarily curmudgeonly way which we have come to expect from eminent literary types; he's handed it back and had a jolly good moan, too - wonderful.

From The Guardian:

"I don't belong here among all this rubbish," the 88-year-old critic and author said from the stage of the annual German Television Awards gala in Cologne. "I have been given many literature prizes in my life, but I don't belong in this line-up. If the prize was linked with money, I would have given the cash back too."
But not just declined to attend, obviously.

Monday, October 06, 2008

birthday fun

- It's two o'clock in the morning the day after my birthday, and I am standing in Dan's bedroom with my arms flailing around. To my right, Dan is doing the same. Victoria stands opposite, and she is bent double with laughter. Eva is shouting "Now!" at me. At that moment an inflatable globe hits from me, as if from nowhere, square in the face. The room flashes repeatedly from dark to light.

- My birthday is passed now, and my hangover fully faded, so I can look back objectively on another really pleasant anniversary spent in the company of my friends. On Friday I went for a quick drink with AS and Rich, which was ace, and met up with Dan, Morgan and Ant too before I dashed out for dinner with Siobhan, and then on Saturday night pretty much my whole group of friends accompanied me out to the Crescent for a night of drinking and cheering - and lots of lovely and extremely well-chosen present-giving, too.

- Lots of bird-related presents this year, which is wonderful. I appear to be fast developing a reputation as the bird-man of Brighton, although I think it vital that I point out that my love of my feathered friends is primarily aesthetic and cultural rather than ornithological; but Ant hit the nail on the head exactly with his present, Graeme Gibson's 'The Bedside Book Of Birds', which is the most beautiful anthology of poems, stories and illustrations pertaining to the amazing little animals. That may sound boring to some, but it's not, so anyone with an interest should scurry to the bookshop in search of a copy immediately. Elsewhere, I got a host of amazing pressies, including wonderful books from AS, Vic and Andrew and a CD from Dan which I've been listening to all evening; 'Nigeria Rock Special', which is a bewildering and brilliant compilation of psychedelic afro-rock and jazz-funk from 1970s Nigeria. Ace.

- At the end of the night we raided the late-night shops for cheap beer and repaired to Dan's; from which point on I only remember so much - fetching Ant a glass of water when he'd drunk too much, Ant throwing a tube of pringles at me, dancing to Blur with Ant in Dan's room. And lots of other cool things which didn't involve being drunk with Ant.

- And now we discover the strobe lights. Dan bought them for a party, so we position one at either end of the room, turn the effect to slow and switch off the lights. What remains is just a series of stills; four or five of us throwing a ball around and watching it shudder across the room, one moment visible and the next obscured. Perhaps three times out of ten someone will catch it. We holler and whoop and laugh, and miss again. I don't mind getting older one bit.

back in the day

A few years ago - as alert readers will remember - this blog was a (semi) focused thing, dedicated to blogging about, and publicising the scrappy, half-rehearsed antics of my band Assistant; which still sort of exists in our imagination and in hazy plans to get together and rehearse again, but which has a long-time since been publicly dormant: no gigs for quite a while, although never say never.

Back when we were young, we looked and sounded a bit like this.