Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm totally addicted to, a web service that allows people to save and share their favourite images from the web; it's full of utterly lovely visuals. Here are a few examples:

It's in closed beta at the moment, and I don't have an invite. Hmph. Probably cause they know the whole thing will work beautifully 'til they let the likes of me join in the fun...

fracturing alliances

Good article by Jonathan Raban on the US elections today in the Guardian:

"What's fascinating about this primary season in the US is how on both sides, Republican and Democrat, the campaigns are exposing all the underlying fault-lines in American society: in nearly 20 years of living in this country, I've never seen these fissures so clearly mapped before. First, Karl Rove's grand alliance of fundamentalist Christians, corporate CEOs, libertarians, neoconservatives and traditional small-government-big-defence types, which was designed to establish the Republicans as the reigning party of the 21st century, showed signs of breaking up into its original component parts in the mid-term elections of 2006. Now the fundamentalists have their own candidate (Mike Huckabee); the corporations theirs (Mitt Romney); the libertarians have Ron Paul; just hours ago, the neocons still had Rudy Giuliani, one of whose senior advisers was the altogether terrifying figure of Norman "World War Four" Podhoretz; and John McCain's old-soldier pitch is aimed at those surviving conservatives - a likely majority, it seems at present - for whom none of the above categories will serve."
All of which makes this a really fascinating election. Read the rest of the article, it's good.

online love

I've yet to play 'Second Life' or any of those big massively-multi-player online games, although I'm vaguely interested (and slightly appalled) by the concept. Last night BBC2 screened a program titled 'Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love', documenting the story of a mother of four who abandons her family for an online lover in another continent. Needless to say, it ends badly.

Thanks to the wonders of the BBC iPlayer, you can watch it for another six days ('til Weds 6th Feb). It's worth watching, and yet desperately sad; the concept of a second life preferable to your own is both dramatic and distressing.

It's all enough to put Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston off the idea of creating a character (he chose the monikor 'Rotting Albatross') and starting to play.

"I'll still do it, though. Rotting Albatross will have life breathed into him after all. But I've learned my lesson from Carolyn. He won't be a hunk at all; he'll be a shrivelled old hunchback, who lives in a hovel and goes around insulting people and killing dolphins. Everyone will hate him, and the sun will never shine. It will make my first life, in Dollis Hill, seem like paradise."

Very wise.

The show, incidentally, is part of the 'Wonderland' series which, so far, has been absolutely brilliant. Last week's show, 'The Man Who Eats Badgers' was even better. That's still available to watch, too, for another 4 days. The filming and editing are absolutely beautiful, so go see.

overdue: books in 2007

The best read of the year was, for me, the excellent ‘In The Country of Men’ by Hisham Matar, a brilliant fictional insight into the world of Gaddafi’s Libya; it was tender, direct and raw. Back in March I called it a "humane work of genius".

Also impressive this year was ‘Exit Wounds’, a beautifully rendered and moving graphic novel by Rutu Modan (reviewed by me here), Indra Sinha’s massively lively ‘Animal’s People’, and ‘The Lay of The Land’, an elegiac Richard Ford novel.

I loved dipping in to Nicola Barker’s huge ‘Darklands’ (but didn’t finish it) and Peter Ackroyd’s even-huger ‘Thames: Sacred River’.

I read a bunch of books on the Middle East and Islam in 2007, and the best were Ed Husain’s excellent ‘The Islamist’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ by the brilliant Zia Sardar.

Of the other Booker novels, Anne Enright’s ‘The Gathering’ was good, as was Lloyd Jones’s ‘Mister Pip’. ‘On Chesil Beach’, a slight, clunky and much-praised novel by Ian McEwan, wasn’t.

Worst read of the year was Chuck Palahniuk’s awful ‘Rant’.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

edwards stands down

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see John Edwards drop out of the race to be the Democratic candidate in the US election today. The furore over Obama and Hillary has obscured the fact that Edwards consistently talks about poverty and social justice, and the dialogue he established on the subject dragged debate leftwards, which was an achievement we should thank him for. Unfortunately, however, he was never going to rival the big two for the nomination, and his repeated third placings were less than he deserved.

What worries me about the other candidates, meanwhile, is that I fear that we on the left are being much too complacent. In the US, hatred of Bush does not automatically equate as hatred of the Republicans, and whether Romney or McCain win their respective battle, the Democrats will have a battle on their hands. What worries me is that in both instances the Democrats face the prospect of having a candidate who certain people, no matter what, will never endorse.

I'm bewildered by the general animosity towards Clinton, who I think is the stronger candidate and an unlikely hate-figure. But it seems to be the case that a great many people in the US (and elsewhere) do hate her. I like Obama, and would be happy for him to win, but compared to McCain he's terribly green and I worry he'll be made a fool of on the stumps. I think the Democrats are a long way, alas, from having the election sewn up.

Edwards, weirdly, might just have been conventional enough (smooth, educated, white, a Southerner) to appeal to a broader electorate.

But it's not his time and, alas, it looks like it never will be. A shame.

currently listening

1. Francisco Mora Catlett - 'Amazona (Carl Craig Edit)'.
Lovely, barely noticeable but beautifully intricate remix from the ever reliable Mr. Craig; the original is a delicious, warm concoction of jazz, funk and world music sounds. So's this version, really.

2. Vampire Weekend - 'One (Blake's Got A New Face)'.
There's something worryingly pastichey about the African-accented call-and-response backing vocals on this lovely slice of art-pop highlife. But y'know what, it bloody well works. All through Vampire Weekend's lovely debut, the guitars, drum rhythms and keyboards sparkle, as do the melodies. Ladies and gentlemen, the Paul Simon revival starts here.

3. Stephen Malkmus - 'Gardenia'.
Lovely, complex but tuneful fare from the new Malkmus LP, Real Emotional Trash, this is perhaps less likely to piss off those old fans who can't take the fact that Steve is now, to all intents and purposes, a hippy. Lots of prog noodling on the (wonderful) album, then - this one's a bit more straight-forward.

4. School of Language - Sea From The Shore LP.
I'm cautious about the fact that the totally genius Field Music's David Brewis is now pursuing other projects, and replacing the pristine constructions of his former band's perfect pop with a bit of noise, but early indications are that he's still absurdly talented. The School of Language debut is complicated, brilliant and poised to unfurl further treasures with repeated listens.

5. Holy Fuck - 'Lovely Allen'.
I like the way that Holy Fuck, who create organic, slightly Krautrocky dance music so lovingly re-create the build-ups and break-downs of contemporary electronica using live analogue instrumentation. Built around an amazing string sample, this is the best thing on their rudely self-titled LP.

6. Tetine - 'Slum Dunk'.
Part wistful electronica, part baile-funk, this awesome slice of Brazilian minimalism can be found on the excellent Soul Jazz Singles 2006-7 album; well worth a look.

7. Hot Chip - 'Ready For The Floor'.
I know this one is everywhere at the moment, but that's 'cos it's so good. What's particularly brilliant about it is the way it's gently calibrated to build and build as it progresses. It begins sounding vaguely mournful, and ends up damn euphoric. Ace.

Friday, January 25, 2008

fiery furnaces

This is great; for those of you who can't get enough of the US primaries; the Fiery Furnaces are hosting a caucus to determine the style of their next album. Genius.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

tony allen on africa, and in the UK

There's a great little interview with the incomparable Tony Allen, whose lovely Afro Disco Beat reissue has been all over my iPod this month, in today's Independent. Allen is - incredibly - now 67 years old. Anyone who, like me, saw him live this year and marvelled at his drumming will shake their heads in disbelief at this. Yet if anything he is speeding up rather than slowing down. He's about to embark on a reprise of last year's hugely successful African Soul Rebels tour (with Salif Keita and Awadi), is working on a new solo record, and reveals that he reconvened with Damon Albarn, Paul Simonen and Simon Tong in December to work on the new Good, The Bad and The Queen record.

I'm a massive Tony Allen fan in any case (his drumming on Fela Kuti's Africa 70 records has to be heard to be believed) but obviously I'm excited about him teaming up with Albarn once again. I'm optimistic that this time he'll be let off the leash somewhat, as the best moments on the debut album - and particularly on the accompanying tour - were those where Allen's drumming kicked off.

And as interesting as Allen's current activities are, it's a pleasure to hear him talk about his past. Later this year he's set aside time for a collaboration with some fellow African musicians and members of James Brown's band. An opportunity for him to set the record straight about Brown's legendary visit to Africa in 1970.

"We'd already heard him and assimilated what he did by then," he insists. "None of the Nigerian musicians got to see James Brown when he came to Africa because he played only for the rich people in a five-star hotel. What really happened was that his musicians came to our club to see us every night after their show. People like Bootsy Collins were writing down my patterns. I didn't mind, it was flattering. But the truth is that James Brown's band learnt more from African musicians than African musicians learnt from Brown."
I can believe it.

banished from iran

"After nearly three years, I am leaving Iran. Having arrived fortified only with superficial snippets of knowledge gleaned from books, I depart with a kaleidoscope of memories and images, a limited but (I like to think) rapidly expanding grasp of Farsi and an Iranian wife. So I cannot say the experience has not been beneficial.

The austere image fostered by the Islamic authorities is very different from the Iran I know. Far from being the religious monolith projected by the regime, it will be forever associated in my mind with glorious food, dancing, dramatic landscapes, dazzling mosques and stunningly beautiful women. My departure is involuntary. The authorities have refused to renew my residence permit and have resisted all entreaties to reconsider."
There was an extremely interesting article in the Guardian recently. Small events in Ahmadinejad’s Iran continue to disappoint, frustrating those of us who are optimistic that Iran is not in need of intervention from the West and is just following it’s own slow course towards freedom and democracy. In the latest instance, the aggressive, defensive president’s regime has expelled the Guardian Tehran correspondent, Robert Tait, from the country, without explanation.

In this article, Tait reminisces over his time in the troubled Iranian nation, drawing a complex set of conclusions over a fascinating, exciting and often horrifying society. More and more I get the impression that Iran is a palimpsest, a piece of parchment that is marked with competing stories, surface-level and hidden. Which Iran is real?

"Drawing the curtains to keep their illicit activities hidden from onlookers, women discarded their obligatory overcoats and hijabs before letting their hair down for an uninhibited knees-up.

The tumultuous scenes were a graphic and defiant demonstration of the national passion for dancing, which - contrary to common stereotypes - Iranians perform with a grace and subtle eroticism beyond most westerners.
But the unlikely setting was also deeply symbolic of modern Iran, where much of real life takes place behind closed curtains and where what you see on the surface is often not what you get.

To the outside world, Iran is a religiously devout Islamic republic in the grip of a rigidly ascetic revolutionary ideology. But that image conceals a multitude of surprises and wells of pent-up energy."
The division is often described, inaccurately, as one between Western-style freedom and Islam. Tait is more perceptive, pointing out that it is traditionalism, not religion, which continues to hold back Iran's inevitable march towards modernity.

I wish I could say that things are better than they seem. In some ways they are – in others, Iran remains a country desperately in need of change. I hope I don’t need to point out that an invasion is emphatically not the answer.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This is good. It must have hurt.

review; lust, caution

Me and Vic went to see Ang Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution, last night, and I was very impressed with it. It's a long, noirish thriller set in Japanese occupied Hong Kong and Shanghai in the early 1940s, in mood a slow, charged cousin of a Hitchcock movie with flashes of Won Kar Wai's exotic stylings.

It features two enormously impressive turns from an established and brilliant actor - Tony Leung - and a complete newcomer, Tang Wei, who puts in a mesmerising performance as a young student actress turned spy and charged with getting close to Leung's sinister, sadistic collaborator, Yee. Built around a back story which, courtesy of a two hour flashback, delays the film's denouement considerably, it's beautifully done and, with the exception of an unpleasantly long sadistic sex scene which I wanted to turn away from, done with real subtlety.

That said, it lacked the focus and clarity of Lee's Brokeback Mountain, and ended rather unsatisfyingly with Wei wavering in her determination to see through her mission. It is perhaps some consolation to know - as Leung's Yee surely does - that with the Americans around the corner, the end of his corrupt regime is nigh. It's this knowledge, along with Wei's increasing ennui and uncertainty, that finds release in the destructive passion of the film's protagonists.

Lust, Caution is a long, elegiac and rather tragic thriller, and probably one of the best films you'll see this year. I felt a bit dissatisfied at the end, but this is a film about war and what war drives people to - so a little dissatisfaction is not so very strange.

ashes to ashes

I've been watching the first series of Life on Mars again over the last few weeks, and marvelling once again at how brilliant it is; and all this is making me quite excited about the impending arrival of Ashes to Ashes, the 80s spin off which focuses on Gene Hunt and a new time-travelling companion - in this instance the rather dishy Keeley Hawes, which goes some way towards making up for the loss of John Simm's Sam Tyler.

Now that Ashes to Ashes is close, a couple of early reviews and previews are being published, making it easier to imagine the show. My feeling is that it will be quite different from Life On Mars, and these two previews bear that out. The first, courtesy of Ian Wylie at the Manchester Evening News, contains a few spoilers but is broadly positive. The second, a rather more objective response from The Times' Andrew Billen, is more cautious and negative, complaining that the new show is too glib and, bluntly, a parody of a parody. Discouraging words, and yet I can't help thinking the full series will prove Billen wrong, and be another success.

choice quotes

This is lazy blogging, I know - but it's irresistible nonetheless. Here are some choice Kevin Keegan quotes from the annals of history. Wonderful stuff.

"He can't speak Turkey, but you can tell he's delighted. "
"I know what is around the corner - I just don't know where the corner is. But the onus is on us to perform and we must control the bandwagon. "
"Hungary is very similar to Bulgaria. I know they're different countries... "
"In some ways, cramp is worse than having a broken leg. "
"The 33 or 34-year-olds will be 36 or 37 by the time the next World Cup comes around, if they're not careful. "
"It's understandable that people are keeping one eye on the pot and another up the chimney. "
"I'd love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time. "
"Argentina won't be at Euro 2000 because they're from South America. "
"You don't get two chances at this level, or at any other level for that matter."
"The Germans only have one player under 22, and he's 23."
"I've had an interest in racing all my life, or longer really."
"We managed to wrong a few rights."
"I'll never play at Wembley again, unless I play at Wembley again."
"He's got a heart as big as his size, which isn't big, but his heart's bigger than that'
"You get bunches of players like you do bananas, though that is a bad comparison."
"Nicolas Anelka left Arsenal for £23million and they built a training ground on him."
"As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist."

julie burchill returns

For those of you who, like me, had somehow missed the fact that Julie Burchill is now back writing for the Guardian... well, she is. So hurrah! A couple of new articles so far, and while they're not quite vintage Burchill, I'd take them over another Charlie Brooker column any day.

She loves Tesco, for example. "People who are against Tesco are the sort of people who, 50 years ago, would have been against labour-saving devices on the grounds that they might conceivably give women time to put their feet up, have a cup of tea and watch daytime telly for half an hour."

She hates self-pitying middle-class writers: "Graham Greene saw a writer's childhood as his capital; the same can be said of a writer's troubles, whether random or self-inflicted. Until recently, partly because they were determined to demonstrate their skill and partly because they didn't want to have people pointing and laughing at them, writers used to take life's little pile-ups and make bad, banal or brilliant fiction out of them. These days - obviously every bit as affected by me-me-me, I-want-it-now short-termism as any Jade Goody - lots of writers can't be arsed to do all that creative stuff any more; rather, they bang out a "memoir"."

And she hates pretentious actors: "A recent Daily Hell interview with the French actress Juliette Binoche was the cherry on the gateau. Fresh from laughing all the way to the banque with her cut of the very American Dan In Real Life, Binoche's remarks struck me as a great example of the prejudice that passes for politics in France. Get this. When cooking pancakes for the cast and crew, OF COURSE she had to have "real maple syrup sent over from Quebec" - nasty American stuff wouldn't do. (Sod the air miles!) And guess what one of the pretentious cow's favourite places is: "Iran is full of life and the history is very rich - we have to learn from them. They influenced all the philosophers when they first came to Europe. The Iranian women are like Italian women - they rule the house." Yep, it's one long picnic being a woman in Iran!"

The thing I like about Jules is the fact that I rarely agree with her, and yet always enjoy reading her - I know she drives people potty but I think she's great.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

wikipedia hails keegan's return

Presumably this will be taken off Wikipedia pretty soon. (click to enlarge.)

Update: Ho ho.

Friday, January 11, 2008



santiago sierra

I'm hoping to get up to London tomorrow to catch a couple of exhibitions, and one of the prospective shows is Santiago Sierra's latest at the Lisson Gallery. I've not seen much of his stuff previously, but my interest is very much piqued by Siobhán's interesting examination of his themes and approaches over the years, and in the strong anti-establishment current which runs through (and perhaps contradicts) his art.

Here's Siobhán, over at her Wigglymittens blog, on one previous work of his:

"Sierra takes the idea of exclusivity and the art gallery to an extreme. In 2003 he was chosen to represent Spain in the Venice Biennale. He erected a brick wall at the entrance of the Spanish pavilion, and set up a customs style checkpoint. You could only enter the pavilion if you possessed a Spanish passport. Once inside, the gallery space was barren and empty, but the point of the piece was not the space itself, as with the Lisson piece, it was what access to the space symbolized. The idea that the art gallery was run on a closed set of values put forward in ‘Inside the White Cube’ is what Sierra put into question in this piece, swapping one value system, based around art, for another one, based around nationality and normally common at border controls."
And here are some of Siobhán's thoughts from the end of her piece.

"If Santiago Sierra’s work were situated outside of the gallery context, it would not be art; it would be the everyday- people working in bad jobs for little money. Sierra needs the gallery space to give his work context, and however much he rails against it, it is vital in validating the pieces he makes as being art, therefore however much Santiago Sierra claims to challenge and highlight exploitation and power structures he still relies on institutions and people with the power to give his work context. Although he appears to be than biting the hand that feeds, he's merely sucking at it with toothless gums."
Click here to read her post in its entirety.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

cheep chickens

Currently watching 'Hugh's Chicken Run' on c4, a very laudable attempt to convince us to turn to organic chickens rather than keep eating intensively farmed meat. Quite right too, and the show is full of genuinely upsetting moments.

'Stop buying cheap Tesco chickens' is Hugh's message. Almost everyone in Axminster shops there. He wants them to go elsewhere. But where? The monopoly of the supermarkets is all but absolute!

Thing is, the folk at Tesco aren't answering the phone, and Hugh has other things to do. A cooking school, for one. His restaurant, too. Even a book tour. Oh, and one other thing, too. He's about to open an organic food store in Axminster...

That'll be handy, then.

alarming news

As any GCSE media student would be able to tell you, the Daily Express newspaper falls neatly into the category of British right-of-centre tabloid. I'd never read it, but I too knew that's where it political instincts lay. Along with The Daily Mail the Express acts as a news source to an ageing section of white middle class, mostly suburban middle-England. It virtually says so on the tin. The Express has also been much ridiculed for its formulaic approach of giving its readers the news. We've all seen the countless 'Princess Di' front-pages and more recently the obsession with the disappearance of Madeline McCann, stories of whom are now presented in red capitals.

Despite being armed with all this knowledge, I was shocked whilst flicking through a copy of yesterdays paper bought by a housemate and left on the coffee table in my lounge. Under the headline 'FURY AT 'NO-GO' AREAS RULED BY THE FANATICS' the Express yesterday (Monday) lead with a story that the Christian convert, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, had voiced personally-held concerns that Islamic characteristics are being imposed without consent in parts of the country. The Bishop's concerns apparently stem from his worry that communities are separating and that religion may be the cause. The sub header of this front page article written by the paper’s Political editor, Macer Hall, read 'Non-Muslims afraid to visit parts of Britain'.

Is this to lead the reader into thinking this is what Bishop Nazir-Ali said? Or is this a statement of fact based on some undisclosed survey? In either case it is not qualified. Neither is the claim of where this 'Fury' comes from. Is this just the Express's editorial privilege at work, and what tabloids do all the time?

Aside from a guarded welcome from the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis to parts of what the Bishop reportedly said, Macer Hall could find little to support this story and it fizzles out on page seven with rebuttals from other leading Tories and an eloquent dismissal from the Muslim Council of Britain. This is not before, however, the reader is shown a picture of veiled Muslim women in Blackburn, the caption of which simply reads, 'Warning'.

Readers are also encouraged to phone or text the Express and answer the question, 'Are you fed up with fanatics changing Britain'. I wonder if they count the fanatics in their midst at Express HQ?

One of these is surely Express columnist Leo McKinstry, who begins his column "At last a blast has been sounded against the creeping Islamification of Britain". Now the Express can really let rip with what's pent up inside it. McKinstry hits all the right notes for the readership of this paper who, according to him, are a powerless entity in multi cultural Britain run by an elite in denial. His language is provocative and at times racist as he uses the perceived protest by Bishop Nazir-Ali to lambaste the "politically correct brigade" and idealise his father's generation who fought to "protect our nation from foreign occupation". He despairs at state funded Muslim schools and housing projects and as an aside picks up on an earlier Express story about hospital beds being turned towards Mecca so that their occupants are able to observe their religion. Elderly people, we are told, are dying of neglect as apparently nurses are spending all their time turning every Muslim's bed to face Mecca five times a day. Another claim made, of course, without any apparent investigation or I suspect real conviction, but it is what we are lead to think Mr McKinstry truly believes.

Alas perhaps years of reading this nonsense has taken its toll on the Daily Express readership. Like all modern papers the Express has an online presence and whilst not as developed as many papers, still acts as a repository for its readers comments. This, I was to find, was the most worrying aspect of this journey into the world of the Express. In the paper's 'Have your say' section, under yesterday's question 'Are you fed up with fanatics changing Britain?' the responses were more shocking than I had thought possible for the publication of a supposedly mainstream British paper.

They have, I assume, been cleared by a moderator. StuartM619, for example, starts with "it's about time someone spoke out about the ways Muslims are being able to undermine our whole society and get away with it..." and ends with an eerie "God save the Queen". There is much support for the BNP amongst the 23 (at time of writing) comments on the forum, including this from a well-rounded chap calling himself Dylan: "The BNP is doing everything it can for the indigenous people of this country. It's time for the people to do their part and support them in every way they can". Dylan, however, is mild in comparison to RobbyEnglishman, who wants "my country back from multi-culti do gooders".

He's convinced that the BNP are the people for the job and, as a former state school teacher, RobbyEnglishman - who now is in the private sector - has "only English kids to teach, no African, no muslisms (sic), no eastern europeans, in fact, just real English kids". What a great man of learning Robby must be. He's using this knowledge, accumulated over a life of bitterness and resentment to recommend bringing the army back as, in his words, "we’re gonna need them..."

There were, in truth, some considered comments on the forum, but none challenged what had been written by the likes of Dylan and RobbyEnglishman directly. The Express would, I suspect, point out that free speech is an important virtue of any free society and indeed they would be right. However, I suspect that the editor would be uneasy with the content of some of the Forums on the Express website. That these comments come as collateral from the writing of columnist Leo McKinstry should also concern the paper. Would Mr McKinstry be happy to be associated with the BNP or some of the more hate filled irrational comments found on the Express website associated with him? What role and responsibility does the Political editor or indeed the Editor himself play?

Today's edition of the Daily Express is back on 'safe' familiar ground, with a lead story again on a perceived development in the Madeline McCann disappearance running alongside a picture of Princess Diana. I sometimes wonder if the Express's photo library is close to running out of pictures of the Princess to put on its front page. The paper calls itself the 'Greatest in the World'. It isn't anywhere near, and with declining numbers of readers, consistent displays of editorial bankruptcy (in the week beginning August 27th 2006 the paper had a picture of Princess Diana on the cover for every single day) and no need for its non-news as a viable internet news source, its days lets hope are numbered.

[Blogging by Dan]

Monday, January 07, 2008

panorama drama

An utterly absurd edition of Panorama is currently airing on BBC1. What annoys me is that the topic being discussed - grown men grooming children online - is obviously in the public interest, and yet the delivery is so utterly absurd and so clearly designed to elicit maximum impact. A show which purports to tell the truth about contemporary issues is categorically failing in its purpose if it is forced to heavily dramatise and editorialise every journalistic insight.

The whole thing is shocking - presenting, Jeremy Vine is pure Chris Morris; every sentence pronounced with heavy portentous gravity, and when genuinely distressing scenarios are recreated on-screen, the results are calamitous. Every voice which represents a sex offender is delivered swamped in echo; every offender observed typing furtively in a darkened room, his heavy breathing insinuating danger.

"Do not trust your children when using the Internet", Vine wheezes. The whole thing stinks. Of course we must - as parents and as children - be careful, but there is nothing to be gained by presenting a serious subject, as this surely is, in such an ill-considered and alarmist fashion.

Soul Jazz / Kompact stuff

This post is an aide-mémoire as much as anything else but it may be of interest to others too; I've spent a lot of the last week listening to Singles 2006-2007, Soul Jazz's recent 3-CD round up of the last year's 12"s, which features some really storming stuff, ranging from Detroit techno to dubstep, microhouse and baile-funk. And by far my favourite songs so far are the two efforts from Matias Aguayo, who is usually associated more with Kompact than with Soul-Jazz. But the cuts from his recent A Night At The Tilehouse are tremendous - deep, complex, moving house music, and come very highly recommended.

Googling his name to find out a little more about him, I discovered this, which I'll download later and suggest you download right now - a thirty seven minute set of, apparently, "brooding techno" posted on the fabulous Allez-Allez blog. Not heard it yet, but I have high hopes. There's a Ewan Pearson mix up there that looks awesome too...

Friday, January 04, 2008

clear cold sky

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

developments in qatar

Before Christmas I contributed a post to the excellent Hii Dunia blog, which is one a few blogs I read which has a global rather than Western-oriented focus. My article covered the intriguing Gulf state of Qatar, and attempted to give recognition to a nation which, while being far from perfect, is making strides forward and offers hope to a part of the world currently mired in trauma. One of the leaders giving hope to the country is Sheikha Mozah, an open minded, intellectual woman at the forefront of this fast-developing society. From education to women's rights her influence is real. Yet she says:

"The physical landscape has changed but the real difference is in people's minds, in their style of thinking. Pride and confidence allow them to be open to the rest of the world without hesitation. Now they feel they are part of this process [of change], and they feel responsibility. If you want to achieve a prosperous society, you need that. And I like to think we have achieved that."
I hope her influence continues, and that the country's progress does not go unnoticed by the West. Click here to read the complete article. Any thoughts or comments most welcome.

mix tape usb stick

Woo, look how long I've been away! Sorry everyone - I've got no internet at home so I'm back in front of a computer screen (and back at work) for the first time in ages today. I need to teach myself to blog all over again. In the meantime, here's a nice little gadgety link I meant to post before Xmas, but never did.

Take a look at the Mix Tape USB stick. Awesome.