Friday, 31 December 2010

Random Art Wibblings

This has spun off from a conversation happening online about creative people and has a big chunk of all ready seen material :-)
NAturally, I have artists chums and I wouldn't hang out with them if they behaved in the way I talk about. So basically, if you are an artist and reading this, you can 99% guarantee I'm not talking about you.

The thing is, I genuinely see no difference between artist-as-a-job and plumber-as-a-job. It baffles me that there are no fansites for good plumbers. Not just plumbers, but anyone who does a good job. I mean, whenever we've had people round to do the plumbing, electric, roofing, I've been totally in awe. It's something I'm not capable of being done well with a skill I don't have and it's fascinating to watch.

So what is it about 'creativity' that makes people behave in such a way? I don't do art for fame (which is just as well, haha!) nor did I do music, radio and theatre for fame. Whenever I approached 'recognition', I sort of imploded and self-destructed. When I worked in bands, I'd wear masks and/or make-up, same with theatre; on radio I couldn't be seen and I completely freaked out if, as happened a couple of times, someone recognised my voice. As a job, puppetry offered me the best blend of creativity and hidden-ness but te bottom dropped out of the puppeteering market a long time ago.

I suppose what I'm saying is that creativity is a job.




I find it intensely sad that I'm drawn to 'creative' environments only discover that most creative types haven't a brain cell to share between them. If they do have one, it's usually devious and self-serving. Creativity attracts knob heads. Worse yet, it attracts people without an ounce of talent who exploit those that do have some. I find it virtually impossible to work with creative types as most of them haven't a clue how to navigate the 'real' world. Creativity is brilliant, but the structures that surround it and the attitudes that are attendant with it doom it to failure.

I'm always pissed off that Art doesn't get more money from our government(s), but in many ways I"m sympathetic to that because you give a stack of cash to an artist and it usually gets pissed away. Until art has structures in place that, say, sport has, artists won't get money. When it does have such structures in place, it will signal the death of art, much as 'sport' is now less about the playing and more about making money. Ooooh paradox :-)

Modern Art is essentially a sham. It's a tradition based on misinterpretation. When you go back to the origins of art you find out some interesting things about how this misinterpretation happened. What most people consider to be art had a function other than making a space look nice. Take, for example, Greek statuary. In situ, these pieces had a function; they told tales of gods;how to behave; what would happened if you crossed the gods or the authorities. They were created not by 'artists' but by technicians using the principles of 'techne'. It was only when these statues were removed and placed in a big white room that they became 'art'. What should have been the last laugh - MArcel DuChamps 'Fountain' turned out to be an inspiration fro million people without a clue . . .

Painting were status symbols. There's a language to portraiture that speaks of class oppression; it's undeniable. They were designed to boast; not as an expression of art, but as an expression of wealth and dominance. It's possible that artists did non-figruative/non-portrait/landscape works prior to, say, expressionism, but it being non-commisioned, the chances of prolonged survival were slim.

So people emulate the things they see in galleries. Things that are out of place and out of time; misinterpreting the motives for producing the pieces and adding their own spin, thinking they're part of an ancient tradition. But the functional aspect, the raison d'etre, has been eliminated. So what is art for, now? Given the element of the grotesque that has crept into modern art, it's not to make a place look pretty . . .

Art seems to exists for artists to justify being a bell-end. Which is fine. I"m fairly certain that there are plenty of people who think I'm a bell-end, too. That doesn't mean I have to do the matey, camaraderie thing with other artists. I live for the day I can stomach working with another artist, but it might be a long time coming. . .

I have a peculiar relationship with galleries and museums, too. I’m not sure I really like them much. There are so many reasons to like them; reasons of accessibility, culture; beauty, entertainment, education…. and all of these as well as the sheer joy of immersing myself in the world of art is enough to keep me going to them. However, I get this uncomfortable niggling feeling in galleries that despite the beauty and wonder, what I’m seeing is false, or at best, only half of the story.

As I mentioned, I have often wondered what this artwork would be like ‘in situ’, that is in the place that the work was actually designed for. Caravaggio’s paintings in the churches they were commissioned for, Rothko’s Four Season paintings in the correct location, even the Mona Lisa in the home of Francesco del Giocondo. Instead, we get an ‘art zoo’; a collection of pictures and objects divorced from their natural habitat, their appropriate surroundings, and given a new context in the aggressive environs of a white cube gallery where multiple pictures vie for attention.

There is, of course, a clear delineation between art that has been taken from it’s natural habitat and art that has been made specifically for galleries and it is of the former where my malaise sets in. Galleries have become cathedrals of art where silence and reverence rule. No one can get excited; just nod in sage appreciation. Frankly I want more than that from my art experience.

Galleries are simply ‘Art In Captivity’.

Art should not be an elitist endeavour, nor it’s appreciation. It should, to my mind, be completely and fully integrated into society and be a part of its essential fabric. In ‘Towards a Situationist International’, the text seems to advocate creating ‘art ghettos’ – no better than the art zoos - in what they consider to be the ‘basic unit’ of unitary urbanism, the architectural complex. It is unclear whether these complexes were to be ‘purpose built’ or whether they were simply to be the subject of Situationist interventions.

These concepts and ideas appear to arise from the atmosphere of left wing politics and petty factionalism of the time and seem to be contradictory and confused. The argument about the necessary purging of their organizations and associates is highly reminiscent of Reg ousting members from the ‘Judean Popular Front’ in ‘Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”’

Enough. More wibbles later. HEaven forbid, I might even come up with a conclusion...

Movies of the Year.


This is a difficult one as, tragically, I've not been to the cinema much this year; a mix of not much cash, not much time and not much I've fancied seeing. To be honest, I'd be hard pushed to make a 'Top 10' I've not really seen that many more and I didn't like all of those.

In no order:

Iron Man 2
As much as I loathe Mickey Rourke and his randomly inflating face, I have to admit he was good fun in this. Sam Rockwell, who I usually like, was pretty awful. Not the best comic based movie ever but good brainless fun.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part one

Remarkable. Much derided for the dancing sequence and much bitched about the lack of plot, but what do you expect from half a book? You're not going to to get any kind of resolution, so look at it for what it is which is a great first half. It more than adequately portrays the lose of innocence and dislocation felt by death of Dumbledore and the decision to abandon Hogwarts for a life with consequence. It shows that although being forced to grow up, Harry, Ron and Hermione are still children struggling to fit into an adult world. There are some great set pieces and genuinely moving end to a previously un-liked character and it sets up the next movie beautifully. Strangely, though, my favourite section was the telling of the Deathly Hallows story from Beedle The Bard. Beautiful Shadow Puppetry!

Howl

Brilliant. Not actually out in the UK yet, (innocent whistle) but a fascinating account of the obscenity trial surrounding Ginsbergs epic poem. Cut into dramatisations of the court case are animations of the poem. Marvellous.

Prince of Persia

The phrase 'based on the videogame' is rarely a good omen, but with a huge amount of surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed this strangely old fashioned confection.

Alice in Wonderland
Clash of the Titans
Tron Legacy
Voyage of the Dawn Treader


3D is a double edged sword. In theory, it makes perfect sense to try and achieve the kind of realism 3D offers but in practice it means a lot of unnecessary things being thrust at the viewer. At least with Tron:Legacy and Dawn Treader, they were creative with the 3D and it was never less than interesting. Those two, of course were made in 3D, Alice and Titans were '3D-ised' later on. It shows. Post-prodection 3D simply doesn't work. Personally, I'd rather see a well made 2D movie than a half arsed 3D movie.

I rather enjoyed Alice, despite having little to do with the source story, but as usual with Tm Burton movies, the design is the thing that enthralled. Even Planet of the Apes, dog of a movie that it was, was beautifully designed. Neither were particularly satisfying as movies, although Alice was about 40,000 times better than POTA. But they looked lovely.


Kick Ass

Had it's moments. Sadly the ones that annoyed me outnumbered the ones that thrilled me. Didn't know whether to pitch itself as a brutal gangster movie or a comedy superhero movie and got the balance wrong on almost all counts. Some great performances - Cage's Adam West pastiche was a thing of Joy - but rather cruel and bad tempered.

Book of Eli

Humanity is heading this way. Try and stop it, there's a love.

Human Centipede

Found myself fast forwarding through this to get to the 'gorey' bits only to be disappointed when I got there. Dull, dull, dull.

Nowhere Boy

I'm a sucker for a movie about Lennon. This is a particularly good one. Not quite as good as the Eccleston one on BBC4, but a fascinating account of the women who shaped Lennons life. Definitely worth a watch!

Exit Through The Gift Shop
Catfish


Two documentaries that may or may not contain fake elements. Being a huge fan of Banksy, I have to be honest and say I found the movie extraordinarily dull. POstmodern self referentialism is all very good, but for gods sake make it interesting! Catfish was a much more fascinating movie. The makers insist it's 100% real, but the beats and dramatic events do seem a little too perfect. Essentially, it a story about a facebook relationship between one of the filmmakers and someone who clearly needs help. She has set up a number of false identities and manages each one so well that they filmmakers thank that they really are talking to discrete individuals. When the truth is revealed we discover a disturbed woman and a house of cards. Amazing. Which reminds me . . .I must watch The Social Network. And Monsters. And Skyline.

Actually, looking back, there wasn't a lot of merit happening, was there?

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Earworm #1


The Ultravox sample in Take That's "Eight Letters".

How annoying is that? I didn't notice the sample until I checked the writing credits on the album. "Eight Letters" was listed as being written by Take That/Ure/Currie/Cann/Cross. I re-listened and spotted the very obvious keyboard riff from the 'this means nothing to me" section of Vienna.

I really don't like Eight Letters. I think I'd like it more if the 'eight letters' bit was excised and replaced with something that's not a cloying, sickly, diabetic coma inducing cliche.

I really love Vienna and now it's sort of tainted by Eight Letters. Either way, that bloody piano run has been rattling round my head for the last two days.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Overheard Bus Conversation #32


Not actually from a bus but an hospital A&E reception desk:

Receptionist: What religion are you?
Patient: Pagan.
Receptionist: Hahahahaha! I'll put you down as C of E.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Mad Comic Ramblings

I was once briefly stalked by Chris Claremont.

This was way back in the 80's when he was gaining godlike status for writing The Uncanny X-man, a comic that I was extraordinarily fond. The Dark Phoenix Saga had come to a conclusion - well, I say conclusion, it's been rewritten and resurrected so many times it's actually pretty much negated the emotional punch it once had - and Claremont was doing a tour of the UK. I'd never engaged in fandom of any sort at this time, but when I saw he was going to be making an appearance at the Sheffield Space Centre, had to go! The Space Centre had not long moved to it's new home on The Wicker from the far too convenient spot in Meersbrook; convenient to me, anyway. It was directly opposite the post office I cashed my giro at. My dole money didn't last long, but I digress.

Claremont arrived, The Space Centre was packed out and I was not exactly first in the queue, but certainly near the front. Claremont spoke. He introduced himself, sat behind a desk and then addressed his subjects. At length. I don't think I've ever been in the presence of someone who was so far up himself, so arrogant and egotistical. Two hours of him telling us how fabulous he was. Tragically, the shop was so packed, there was simply no method of escape. I had to endure this appalling talk for it's entire duration.

When he finally finished, the assembled hordes went mental; cheering, whooping and sycophancy being the order of the day. I just wanted to get out. Finally, I escaped and went on to the rehearsal space for a theatre group I was working with. It was maybe 20 mins walk and I just had to drop something off and leave. So ,45 mins later I walking past the Space Centre again and bloody Claremont is just leaving. To his credit, he didn't have an entourage, but he recognised me. Probably because for two hours, I'd been standing in front of him with this incredulous aghast look on my face which he had clearly misinterpreted as awe.

Anyway, he decided to talk to his fan. And continued talking. Asked if I knew where his hotel was and could I give him directions and then said ' well take me as far as you can'. Now, other than turning round and declaring I was going in the opposite direction and thus away from my own destination, there was little I could do. So I ended up walking him into town. I made my excuses and said I had to leave now as I was meeting my friend. He asked where ; as I wasn't, I just wanted to ditch him, I just pointed at the nearest pub. "Oh, I'll wait with you 'til he comes" was the response. Fuck.

This is before the days of mobile phones, so I couldn't fake a text, make a call or whatever. In those days, you waited until your friend arrived. Or until you go bored, but Claremont continued talking and telling me how fantastic he was. After an hour of waiting for my mythical friend. I got up and said I had to go. He looked really hurt.

But fuck him. I wanted to go home and rid myself of the most tedious man I'd ever met.

Still love the comics, though. Can't say I've read much Claremont stuff since. The last time was his atrocious run on Exiles. I'm not a huge superhero fan anymore, but every now and again something comes along that I enjoy. In the case of Exiles, it was inexplicable. It was really soap-y nonsense but would actually make a neat TV show, but for the attendant baggage, but when Claremont took over, it became unreadable. Hey Ho.

I'm sure he's mellowed . . .

Friday, 24 December 2010

Why I don't do Christmas.


A number of people have asked me recently why I don't do Christmas. I usually say 'because I'm not a Christian' and leave it at that. For the most part it's true and certainly the major constituent of my reason for not doing Christmas.

Thing is, I don't get why it's such a big thing. When I was a kid, it was an important part of the year, but then I didn't really know any better but as I grew up, I became more and more uncomfortable with it.

It's partly because of the increasing commercialism and the unrealistic expectations people have about it; partly because I will never understand why people get themselves into appalling debt for the sake of one day where expectation is so great that it will inevitably be a disappointment; partly because you're made to feel like a freak if you don't do this massive celebration and getting drunk thing; partly because the effect of all this supposed goodwill is to increase suicide rates, increase calls to support services like The Samaritans but mostly because I don't believe in the whole birth of Jesus thing. I did for a while and had some lovely meaningful Christmases with friends but I don't anymore.

My personal morality makes it impossible for me to celebrate Christmas simply because of the Christian connection. I'm aware of it's meaning to Christians and would feel completely hypocritical celebrating something so meaningful without having the belief.

Similarly, I don't do Easter, Valentines Day, etc., because of the Christian meaning and having no specific spiritual beliefs anymore, I feel uncomfortable celebrating Saturnalia, Solstice, etc. From a pragmatic point of view, solstice does at least have some meaning outside of spirituality. If I celebrated anything, it's probably be that, but being so unconnected to the seasons and the cycles, celebrating that seems a bit weird. If I were connected to the land in some way, it would have a point, but my connection to the seasons these days means the occasional visit to a farmers market and watching birds migrate.

Also I don't see the point of one day where you are expected to be nice to everyone and give presents. I prefer to give presents to people I like when I see something they'd appreciate, or when they need cheering up. I don't like having to fake appreciation of presents given by someone you only see once a year and doesn't know you from a hole in the ground.

"It's a time for family" you cry. Well, yeah, but we're not a close family. I love my Mum and Dad but for a variety of reasons, we don't see each other often. Maybe once every five or six years. Other than my parent's, I've not seen any of my other family since I was 13 - I've recently been in touch with some of them for the first time in 30 years via Facebook/Friends reunited, so yeah, not close. Family is where you find it.

Now if you do Xmas, and aren't a Christian, I"m not accusing you of being a hypocrite. Your reasons for doing it or not are completely valid too. But that's your choice. I don't want pity. I don't want people feeling sad for me because I don't do it. I just don't do it. It's not a big deal to me. Obviously it is for other people. I like that people enjoy it, although I hate the panic and bad moods it elicits. But I don't do it, thanks.

I do like a lot of the foods associated with Christmas, though.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Music of the Year


This year has been a bit weird. During the first half of the year I didn't have time to listen to music, during the second half of the year, I didn't have any money to buy any. In terms of what I've had time or money to listen to, it's probably been thinnest musical year I've ever experienced. That's not to say the list below is in any way sub-par as some of the albums are without doubt the finest the bands have come out with....not all of them, but some...

So. In no particular order....well, except the first one.

Take That – Progress

A blinder and a career best. Returning Robbie to the fold has really made the band up their game, take risks and produce a fabulously subversive pop masterpiece. With the exception of the execrable "Eight Letters", an unwelcome throwback to the mawkish Barlow ballads of yore and completely out of place here- Progress is astonishing. The bonus track "Flowerbed" is breathtaking and probably my favourite ever TT track; the America/Kinks referencing Kidz, Pretty Things and the anthemic single The Flood -which had me at the northern pronunciation and Star Wars reference - are simply wonderful. Album of the Year. No contest!


Shriekback - Life in The Loading Bay


A strange one, this and oddly sedate with a lot of the usual spikey edges ironed out. This both works and doesn't. It might be because for the first time since about 1987, Carl Marsh is back. Somehow, the more obvious Marsh tracks don't sound like Shriekback, but they are still fantastic songs. Simpler Machines, The Dreamlife of Dogs and Semi-Delicious are the standouts here.

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

The final album? What a way to bow out! Drunk Girls, for all it's Lodger era Bowie pastiches storms along beautiful and out classes The Sound of Silver by several miles!

Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Eno is God. That is all.

The National - High Violet
Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Steve Mason – Boys Outside


Albums I've only listened to while travelling to and from Leeds. I should really sit and listen to them properly. I can't think of a better way to travel, though.

Jonsi – Go


I love Sigur Ros, I loved the Jonsi and Alex album and this tops them all. Tornado is achingly beautiful.


Scissor Sisters – Nightwork

Yes, I'm gay. I've had many an odd look while listen to this. I get lost in in and start dancing down the high street when I"m listening to it on my iPod. Nightwork, Harder You Get and Fire With Fire stand out, here.

Amplifier - The Octopus.

Have to be honest, I only got this today and I know nothing about the band, but the first listen blew me sideways. As did the second. Astonishing rock/prog/ace-ness.


OMD – History of Modern

Now this is an odd one. I couldn't not like this despite it obvious flaws and it's inevitable weaknesses.
This is something of a concept album but I"m not even sure the band are fully aware of that. it's never been mentioned in interviews about the album, anyway. They have a vague idea about the title being "what happens when modernism is no-longer modern", well, there's post-modern, then alter-modern, if you bothered to do your research, but...they've actual managed to pull off a pretty neat postmodern trick here. Each song, to great of lesser degrees, contains an element or allusion to an old OMD song and self-referentialism is the epitome of post-modernism. In some tracks, it's a slightly submerged phrase or an atmosphere or in the case of Save Me, pretty much the entire song with a new melody and lyric.

The down side is that it does sound a bit like a greatest hits album and I really hoped that they would return with new stuff as inventive and as groundbreaking as the first couple of albums and particularly the still magnificent "Dazzleships" oddly the only album not specifically referenced on A History of Modern. Still, a reminder of my New Romantic/Futurist clubbing days and welcome for that.

and finally, two soundtracks that were much better than their accompanying movies:
OST - Prince of Persia - reminds me of Ann Dudley and Jaz Coleman's 'Songs From The Victorious City'. Never a bad thing. The movie was brainless fun.
OST – Tron:Legacy - Daft Punk at their finest. Strangely Phillip Glass-y in places but never less than enthralling. The movie was very pretty, sounded amazing but would have benefited from a plot. . .

Review of the Year (1)


It's been shit

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Community


I feel somewhat diminished.

I'm a big fan of community and have active sought to be part of one at almost all points in my life. Post-school, I was part of a couple of communes, a spiritual groups - including a buddhist gompa, a couple of covens, a christian church, etc. - and thinking back, it was the community aspect, not the 'dressing' that was important to me.

Where ever I am, the sense of community is important. Even a good work vibe can be enough to satisfy this need. It doesn't take much to transform a dour office into a community.

University confounded me. There wasn't so much a lack of community as the feeling that I wasn't allowed to be part of it. Age, you see. Being the only 40+ year old in a group full of 18 year olds is tough. Being the only gay person in the group further alienated me. I mean, jesus. A Fine Art degree and only one gay person? What is the world coming to?

But anyway, the point is, I feel really lost without a community. I have Andy, and he's fab, but other than that, I have to fight to see anyone. The longest conversation I've had since moving back from Leeds has been with a barista in Starbucks. He was on his 10 minute break. Lovely bloke, but isn't that just a bit sad? it gets worse. The second longest conversation I've had is with people from a yahoo group, even that's down to six people and most of those I've never met. Wouldn't want to be without them, mind you.

But having been back in Southampton for about 5 months now and for all intents and purposes been stuck on my own, I'm reaching breaking point. I need people. I need community.

I may have to try and start something up.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

THESE THINGS CONFUSE ME #0048/49


I'm watching TV.

On BBC News, there has just been a documentary about Elle MacPherson. They play ed out with Air's "Sexy Boy". Have I missed something?

**********

Tesco Ad:

Graham Norton says something along the lines of "Christmas and Kids. Why not get them quality DVDs? Sorted!"

The visual shows a selection of 12a, 15 and 18 movies.

What's wrong with this picture?

I like food.


I'm not vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't like meat for every bloody meal. Possibly a throwback when when I was a vegetarian and then briefly a vegan. I've since switched to being a happy meat eater believing the argument is not so much about eating dead flesh, rather how the animal lived and died. Where possible, I liked to know the provenance of pretty much everything I eat and I like to cook as much for myself as possible.

Even now I find most veggie cookbooks are so horribly *worthy* and joyless; they seem to be more about ramming a point home than showing you the absolute delight that a vegetarian diet can offer. Yotam Ottolenghi's book 'Plenty' isn't one of those books. It's an absolute joy. I've had the book a short while now and made a few things out of it; the Surprise Tatin being the favourite; the leek fritters and black pepper tofu (both recommended by my good chum Tru) were a spicy treat.

Now, I'm not going to give you any recipes from that book here; instead, I'd urge you to buy it. Your tastebuds will love you forever. Instead, I'm going to give a couple of slightly adapted recipes, one from Ottolenghis "New Vegetarian' column in the Guardian and another from Waitrose Magazine. Further veggie Treats, with notes.

With the first one, you’re supposed to use butternut squash but we forgot to buy it and substituted sweet potato. We then did it was half and half and eventually with all squash. All variants work really well, but I think the half and half is best. Also, we used canned corn once and that was just as good as fresh. The recipe is for four people but halves really easily.

Baked Squash, corn and goat cheese with pumpkin seed dressing.


1kg Squash/sweet potato
Olive oil
3 corn cobs (or two cans)
2 big garlic cloves, chopped
2 chillis, finely chopped
200g goats cheese, crumbled
Juice of one lime
Chopped coriander

Dressing
80g pumpkin seeds
2 cloves of garlic
2 green toms if you can get them, if not red are fine
2 crunchy lettuce leaves (romaine or cos)
1 tsp coriander leaves
2 green chilli
2 tbspn olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop up squash in two 1-2cm chunks. Put it on a roasting tray and mix in oil and salt a pepper. Roast at 190C/375F Gas 5 for about 30 minutes until the bits are just going brown..

Shuck corn cobs and boil for 10 minutes (or open cans and heat up)
Mix corn, squash, garlic, chilli in an oven proof dish and put back in the oven while you make the dressing.

Toast seeds, add all dressing ingredients into a liquidizer or goblet of one of those whizzy wand things. Add a bit of water and re whiz if it’s too thick. It should be fairly thick, but pourable.

Take stuff from oven and fold the goats cheese through it. Whack it back in the over for about 10-15 mins until the cheese oozes. We like it to cook ntil the cheese just starts going brown, but it’s not essential.

Sprinkle lime juice over, drizzle the dressing over and sprinkle with coriander leaves.

Trough!




Roasted Vegetable salad

2 red peppers cut into chunks
I large Sweet Potato cut into chunks (we did batons)
1 Aubergine cut into chunks
Olive oil
1 Lemon Juice and zest
2 tablespoons pesto
2 cans of lentils
100g spinach.



Roast veg for 30 mins at 200C/gas 6 with oil, lemon juice and Seasoning.

Heat Lentils.

When the vegs are ready, stir drained lentils into veggies. Add the pesto and zest and stir well.

Fold in the spinach leaves so that they just begin to wilt. Serve NOW!!



We did this a couple of times with different lentils. We liked it best with puy, but brown works well. Red go mushy and unpleasant. You could used dried lentils but I wouldn’t know the ‘conversion’ rates. Experiment!

Also, it makes enough for 4, so we successfully reheated it for lunch the day after. We also stuck some grated cheese on top and put it under the grill for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

eh?


So, I'm still unemployed and finding it very difficult given the level of debt I"m in. University is bloody expensive, especially on a Fine Art Degree where you get no materials given to you. If you want to do, say a bronze statue, you pay for it yourself. I wanted to do a steam bent wooden sculpture; the cost of hiring the equipment, buying the wood, receiving the training to use the equipment would have amounted to about £8K for six week work, so I simply couldn't afford to do that. I hated having to compromise my work to suit my budget. It made a lot of my stuff look shoddy. Okay most people didn't notice as they did know what I had planned in the first place, but you take my point. I don't have a cheap imagination unfortunately and even with the compromises, I found myself in unfathomable debt.

But I've already deviated from what I wanted to say here.

So back on track...

Being unemployed, I find myself signing up to a lot of job agencies and recently found one online called 'Staffbook'. it's every bit as rubbish as any of the real world agencies. They take you through a complex process that involves you assessing you skills, pointing out your strengths and weaknesses, etc and it all seems terribly well thought out.

So why, when I've put down a million and one office skills, an aversion to public facing jobs and bloody awesome management skills and expressed a wish to work in the Southampton Area, have I been Offered a Front Of House/Bar job in Nottingham???

I despair.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Carbonara.


My current Facebook status reads "A Proper Carbonara is a thing of exquisite joy".

And it really is.

Thing is, most people are only aware of the stuff you get in jars which contains cream, cheese, and other weird shit. I mean look at the ingredient list of Asdas Cabonara Sauce.


Water, Double Cream (15%) (Milk), Single Cream (15%) (Milk), Cooked Smoked Streaky Bacon (11%) (Pork Belly (98%), Salt, Sugar, Dextrose, Stabilisers (Tri and Polyphosphates), Antioxidant (Sodium Ascorbate),preservative (E250)), Pecorino Romano Medium Fat Hard Cheese (8%) (Milk), Grana Padano Medium Fat Hard Cheese (8%) (Milk), Mascarpone Full Fat Soft Cheese (7%) (Milk, Citric Acid), Modified Maize Starch, Garlic Puree, Cracked Black Pepper (0.1%).

Where are the eggs? Where all that cream and cheese comes from is beyond me and instantly negates the name 'carbonara'. Call it something else. Creamy Bacon sauce, maybe? And isn't it slightly disturbing that the main ingredient is water??

Now, it's a fairly recent dish, 1950's by all accounts and came about when American Miners requested Bacon and Eggs in an restaurant while working in Italy. The restaurant misinterpreted the request, adding pasta and mushing it all up. Adding black pepper was partly to disguise the coal soot the miners brought in, partly as homage to the miners.

What you need for an authentic carbonara is this:

Pasta
Eggs
Bacon
Black pepper

You cook the bacon, throw in the cooked hot pasta along with a little of the pasta water, throw in the eggs and stir like crazy until the eggs are cooked. Grind black pepper over the top to taste.

If I'm feeling inauthentic, I'll throw in a bit of garlic with the bacon, but if you have a good pancetta, this is completely unneccesary. Cheese isn't essential nor is it authentic, but I do sometime sprinkle a bit of parmesan or gran panado over the top if I'm feeling saucy. But really, try this. Don't be put of by the lack of cream or a conventional 'sauce'. And don't over cook the eggs.

Yum.

Sorry vegetarians, there is no substitute for bacon, how ever you might attempt to convince yourself.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

THESE THINGS CONFUSE ME #0047


Why, when we're all so concerned about high definition, super clarity and seeing things clearer than ever before are so many movies made with hand-held, out of focus wobbly-cam?

Why do we need to see blurry things so sharply? Personally, if I pay to see a movie, I like to be able to see what I'm paying for. Cloverfield epitomised the crapness inherent in wobbly-cam. It's fundamental flaw that we saw what the characters saw. Now, okay, the immediacy of the hand-held was a fine idea, but for most of the movie, Hud was simply looking in the wrong direction, swinging round to just miss something that had already passed and focusing on the relationships between a group of largely unlikeable people.

We got mayhem, we got destruction, (believable and well executed), we got a bunch of people I had little empathy for and all the while Monsters were eating Manhattan, mostly off-screen. I know what I wanted to be watching!

But yeah. Wobbly-cam sucks. HD is a good idea. Never the twain . . .

Friday, 10 December 2010

THESE THINGS CONFUSE ME #0046


So. Apparently, there are now 5 signs of fatigue. Along with 7 signs of Ageing.
What L'Oreal haven't made clear is whether or not these 5 signs of fatigue are actually 5 of the 7 signs of ageing or whether we're actually now supposed to look out for an astonishing 12 signs of not looking a hot as we could?

Does anyone actually look in the mirror and think "Oh no, I appear to be exhibiting the 7 signs of ageing" and what the hell are they anyway? Are they actually skin damage things, like crows feet, or wrinkles or tumours? Or is it simply behaviourial things like, a lovely early night, wearing slippers, effecting a comb-over and taking joy in a big mug of horlicks? Nothing is clear.

Quite why this annoys and confuses me is also unclear.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Whose Forehead is This?


Okay. I haven;t slept.

Last night I got a text. A photo was attached and the number was unknown. The photo was blurred and not displaying properly, so I bluetoothed it to the computer to see if I could make it any clearer and got the picture you see. I texted back asking who is was and got back "It's me, Dell. Just posing for you".

The only person I know called Dell died in 1996. So you can imagine, I'm a bit freaked out. I texted back and said, I think you have the wrong number. I got a reply saying, sorry, he was trying to get a picture to his friend Will.

Even more freakage. I haven't replied as I'm too weirded out. And I don't know anyone who would randomly send me a picture like that.

So, does anyone recognise this forehead? Or know anything about this?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Art.


Well.

After the horror of my undergraduate degree, I'm actually considering going back for a MA. Not to Leeds Uni, dear gods, no! But Winchester is looking attractive. I've been a bit anti-art of late, thanks to the shit time I had at Leeds and haven't really produced anything since just before the degree show. This is probably the longest I've ever gone without producing art. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to draw an interpretation of a character from a new and as yet unpublished comic. That's it, to the right, there.
Thing is, I don't draw, or paint. I got through an entire Fine Art Degree without having to do either, which suits me fine. Annoyingly, it's made me realise how much I miss producing art.

The plan was to do an MA after a couple of years working, so that I could save up a bit and get my head straight. With fees set to rocket, I have little option to do it pretty much straight away. I can't afford to do it at £3K p.a., let alone £9K. SO if 'm going to do it, the time is now.

More sonic art is likely. I found my niche there and with the exception of Motet for 40 voices and Phil Hardings silences, most sonic art - including the piece at the Tate Modern - is pretty lacking. I've also go this mad plan including Clash of the Titans and too much velour. And some animation stuff reducing big budget, high CGI movies to matchstick men.

But the big issue is funding. How the hell do I go about funding an MA? Answers on a postcard, please...

Friday, 19 November 2010

Misunderstanding


When I was little, I was always confused when politicians went off for a 'summit'.

I couldn't work out why they didn't know what they were doing.

I heard it as going off for a 'summat', you see.

These days, of course, I know damned well they don't know what they're doing. . .

*****

In similar warm and fuzzy recollections, I watched four aeroplanes fly overheard and my Dad mentioned something about a 'formation'. Soon after we saw another five more fly over, so I assumed that was a fivemation.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Awful thought about the next season of Doctor Who . . .


Speculation and possibly a bit too ming mong.

River Song, according to Father Octavian in Flesh and Stone/Time of the Angels, 'killed a good man; a hero to many'.

I read that one episode is being shot in America. A two plus two = five moment makes me think this:-

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON"T LET RIVER SONG NEAR THE GRASSY KNOLL!!!

That would be awful.

And besides, Eccleston was in the crowd. REAPER ALERT!!!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Times and Attitudes


This is going to be a weird an rambling piece and may not come to any sensible conclusion, so bear with it and forgive it it's foibles.

I grew up in a forces environment. There was a huge weight of expectation on me to join the military - specifically the air force - when I left school that I point blank (irony in choice of words there) refused to do. Mostly because I didn't want to, being born in the 60's and affected by the hippies more than I thought possible, and also by the punk movement and partly because I wasn't out as gay. The military didn't take gay men and women at the time. I was deeply anti-war, put on CND benefit gigs and supported and participated in non-violent direct action against nuclear bases up and down the country and was heavily involved in the almost legendary Sheffield Peace Centre squat.

I don't regret any of that. However typically freudian rebellion knee jerk, etc.... I don't regret anything I did.

I'm, obviously, much older now. Priorities and ideals change. What we did back then hasn't really achieved anything tangible.
Wars continue to be fought, people continue to die. It still all seems a terrible waste and the hippy in me wishes we could all get along and celebrate and respect our differences without attempting to convert or kill, etc...

But something has changed.

There was a period where you mentioned war and I went into a self-righteous monologue, refusing to accept any arguments for the necessity of an armed force. Now, well, I'd prefer it if there were no need for it, but see it as a necessity. Rather than sweep it under the carpet as an unfortunate and embarrassing necessity, I find myself in total admiration of those who willingly put their lives at risk so that I can live a relatively carefree life. To that end I found myself almost apopleptic with rage this morning when two women refused to stop talking during the two minutes silence. Luckily I wasn't the only one and several people gave them a good mouthful when it had ended. It shamed them into leaving.

It's easy for me to say, oh but they were young, I was like that once, yadda yadda yadda... but when I think about it, we were taught all this stuff at school. HOw can they not know about it? They weren't making any protest, just yammering about boys and Lady Gaga, so how could they not be aware of what was going on? How could they not care that they were upsetting a lot of people? If it was a protest, I could respect that, to a degree, but this was just obliviousness and vacuousness. How did they not get what was going on when it had been announced a couple of minutes earlier? How could they not know or care?

It's kind of embarrassing, in a way, the reversal of my beliefs came about as it's mostly because of popular culture. I certainly wouldn't have put myself into any arena where by neutrality or positivity towards the forces was likely - in my arrogance - so it crept up on me unawares with things like Blackadder goes Forth and A Few Good Men. THey opened my eyes to the possibility of nobility and sacrifice in the armed forces. The War on Terror sort of consolidated that. As much as I disagreed with the need for the war, I am kind of in awe of the fact that people were willing to go and be killed so that I can lead a life of freedom.

I still wont wear a poppy, white or red, but that's more because I don't like public, communal displays. I know how I feel about it and don't feel the need to display poppies. If people misinterpret that as not caring, then they are wrong and let them.

But I'm still saddened that all that anti-war stuff in the 80's came to nothing.

No doubt I'll witter on more about this later.....but in the meantime, I've just remembered the most shocking Memorial Sunday faux pas. About 6-7 years ago, we were in town on Sunday morning; the Memorial Service had just finished, the shops were opening and one bright spark starts to set up a small vending table. To sell replica guns. On armistice day. Unbelievable. He didn't last long. Apart from the constant verbal abuse he got, loads of people just went straight to the police and got him shut down.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

I'm going to hell

I walked past a Salvation Army band today. They weren't playing, just chatting. As I walked past the guy with the euphonium, he blew a bass note right into my ear. "FUCKING JESUS!!!" I yelled. The looks from the Sally army band were priceless! :-D

Overheard Bus Conversation #30

Woman: Do you go to our Carol's house?
Bus Driver: Dunno where is it?
Woman: You're fucking bus driver! It's next to Vic and Sheila's.
Bus Driver: (door shuts leaving mad bitch on the pavement)

Todays joyous conversation brought to you by First Buses and Stella Artois.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Sparks


I've just been reminded of this piece I wrote for Popshifter. It's a review of my the Sparks Gig during the "21 Nights:21 Albums" run in Islington a couple of years back.

Sparks Spectacular:
No. 1 in Heaven
July 30th


No. 1 One In Heaven: A Tale of Tragedy, Annoyance, Enormous Pain, and Ultimately, Transcendent Redemption

Things started off badly; I don’t travel well. Since moving from Southampton to Leeds, the relatively painless journey to London has become something of a nightmare. The option of flying is right out; airplanes terrify me in a way that probably only readers of Lovecraft can comprehend. The train, my preferred method of transport, was prohibitively expensive for one surviving on a student loan, which left the choice open to hitch-hiking (nuh-uh!) or the National Express coach.

The National Express? Ron, Russell. . . do you see how I suffer for you?

Four hours and twenty minutes on a coach was just about do-able. Or at least it would have been had it not been for some very large sporting function taking place at Wembley. The coach was full of people whose idea of a good time was to sing/shout loudly at the top of their voices to no recognizable tune about the prowess of people I’d never heard of. To make matters worse, they were scaring the four babies on the bus, all of whom responded by screaming for the entire journey.

Of course, I said four hours may have been do-able. Factor in road works and two fans going missing at a service station break and it becomes more like six hours. Once the service station farce was over, we were back on our journey. Journey implies movement in time and space, doesn’t it? I’ve ever had such a timeless journey where no progress seemed to be made. The guy sitting next to me decided to quiz me about my team allegiance. I didn’t even know what sport was being played, let alone what teams were playing. Oh, the joy of being pointed at and abused for three hours. How many people walked up the aisle to “look at the bloke who doesn’t like sport’”?

I was in Hell and, fittingly, waiting for Heaven.

It didn’t come at the hotel, that’s for certain. The room was damp, the wardrobes moldy, the windows made mostly of glass (but patched up with rotting cardboard), and strange things that probably once had a use were partially removed, the remnants jutted forlornly from the walls, their embarrassment covered by a thin layer of distemper. The strange red stuff oozing from the wall was best avoided. The lights above the bed didn’t work and the only place you could plug the kettle in was above the sink, meaning you had to hold it while it boiled. A single sheet tried to cover a double bed.

The bathroom was shared by four rooms and not en suite as advertised, didn’t have a functioning shower, and the guttering needed fixing. We knew that by the constant torrents of water falling outside of our window. It was a converted cellar, interior design by Josef Fritzl.

The kitchen next door woke us at 6:30 a.m. preparing breakfast so outlandishly bad the Geneva Convention should really be informed. The triumph being “raw toast” and instant coffee in a cafetière which they “plunged” for you at the table. Why? Anyway, we left to look for fun and found some at the British Museum in the form of prints by American Artists of the 1920s through the 1950s. Then we went to find food.

The next day (gig day!) was more fun. We found a good exhibition of Artists’ Books at the V & A, met friends for lunch at a cracking Japanese Bento specialist, and prepared ourselves for No. 1 in Heaven.

When we arrived at the venue, we settled into a good space and with good grace gave way to those with a more burning need to be nearer the front. Except once it became full and we really couldn’t move, some idiot about a foot taller than me and several feet wider did probably the rudest and most painful thing anyone could do in that situation. Without so much as an “excuse me,” he put his leg in front of me, trod on my foot, and at the same time pushed my leg back. He barged his body in front of me and trod on my other foot, effectively pinning me to the floor by my feet. He then thrust his arse back to “move me,” forgetting I was pinned, and in the crush, broke my little toe and tore the muscles and ligament in my left calf.

There are words for people like this. I’m sure you know most of them. I couldn’t move and he wouldn’t, despite being pushed and yelled at directly into his ear. My partner had to take something of a flying leap to remove him from my feet. He propped me up for the rest of the gig. Whoever that bloke was, I wish you nothing but pain, you arrogant wanker.

But, onwards. With many gins inside me (hic) and a stash of painkillers usually used for my back, I got through the gig. The healing power of music anyone?

I got through it and enjoyed it enormously, although previously I had been sort of apprehensive. I’ve said before that that only reason I was going to No. 1 in Heaven was to hear “My Other Voice” live for probably it’s one and only airing. This sort of damns the rest of the album with faint praise and that really wasn’t the intention at all. I love the album, the only reservations being with “Academy Award Performance,” which I have a love/hate relationship with.

However, On Came Ron, complete with the ill-advised haircut of the No. 1 in Heaven album photo. Marvelous. Definitely worth an outing just to see that! Some wag yelled, “Get your hair cut!” but Ron just rolled his eyes.

The synth-drums started and we were suddenly into “Tryouts For The Human Race.” When the beat kicked in, I tried to dance. Not the smartest of moves given the situation, but I bobbed happily. I don’t recall seeing this song live before, although I believe it may have been played relatively recently (maybe the Ocean gig which I left early because the sound was so painfully bad). I really don’t remember the album having such punch; “Tryouts” was a triumph! What made it work so perfectly was the two guys on backing vocals. I’m so pleased this was live, rather than keyboard/sample/backing track/whatever. It added so much to the immediacy, the passion, and the overall “liveness.” This was something special.

Next up, “Academy Award Performance,” the one I didn’t really want to see. Consider me converted. Again, the punch—the “liveness”—added so much and the do-do-do choruses were insane, frenetic, manic, and perfect. More nearly-dancing took place, the adrenalin, Paracodol, and gin easing the discomfort and facilitating more movement. (At this rate, I thought, by the time “Beat The Clock” comes round, I’ll be in a frenzy!)

What confused me at this point is that as much of a joy as the live performances of these songs have been before, the sound has always been a bit thin, a bit weak. . . so where the hell is all this power coming from? How are they making it sound so wonderfully visceral? It can’t be just the addition of real drums, although that really, really is helping.

Strangely, “La Dolce Vita,” was a sort of lull in the proceedings. It worked well, did everything it was supposed to do, and somehow didn’t quite hit the heights of the previous two songs. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; it simply wasn’t as revelatory as the previous songs. “Beat the Clock” was “Beat The Clock” only moreso, again sounding a million times better than previous incarnations, and clearer—so much clearer—with so much more verve.

It’s strange. The next song came as something of a surprise. Yes, yes, I know they were doing all the albums and all the songs from all the albums in order, but MY GOD! THIS IS MY OTHER VOICE! Cue girly scream. Honestly, I’m standing there and they are playing “My Other Voice.” No really! They really are! And it’s wonderful. It’s often overlooked, and Russell seemed a tiny bit embarrassed about playing it (a comment like “Well this rocks, sort of” along with a grimace led me to believe it’s not a favorite of the band), but it’s what I’m here for!

30 years I’ve waited and there it is being played live just, in my little fantasy world, for me. I’m utterly lost. Russell sings and, again in my fantasy world, validates Sparks’ entire output in the space of four lines of song. Transcendent. When the second verse comes along, complete with vocoder/processed vocals, I just lose it. Tears fall, I have to hang onto Andy for dear life. He didn’t really understand the sobbing and weeping, but then he’s not really a fan, rather an incredibly patient partner who understands Sparks’ importance to me. . . from a slightly bemused perspective. I could die now and feel my life is complete. I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo gay!

Luckily, having died, I get to go to Heaven. It’s the first time I’ve heard “Number One In Heaven” played live in its entirety ( I was always frustrated by the segue into “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” in live shows) and. . . oh hell, I’m totally lost, totally ecstatic, and dancing like an idiot. The sobbing subsided and I developed a Cheshire Cat grin which lasted for some time.

The encore, “Dancing Is Dangerous,” is a song I was aware of, but which I had never heard. I can’t say it’s the best thing Sparks have ever written, but it was worth hearing and acted as a perfect cooldown. I’ll try and track it down and give it a proper listen. But it was fun and good to see people singing along at the end.

And with that, they were gone. I was very very happy.

I even grinned all the way through the hospital visit. Yup. Broken toes, torn ligaments, strapped up, and on crutches. But I wouldn’t have missed that gig for ANYTHING.

The hotel was just as bad when we got back, the coach home slightly less unpleasant, but I’d seen “My Other Voice” live.

Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Dream (2)


A band that I managed put out a new album. Having spoken to the singer a month or so previously, I was surprised that it hadn't been brought up in conversation that they were back together and writing. The band consisted of three of the original members and a guy called Rhod Waronker.

The first I knew of the it was when I came across the album on the listening post in Virgin Records in Sheffield. THe album was called "Franz Ferdinand Versus Berlin - Germany Wins" and I managed to listen to a few tracks before waking up. One is burned into my mind. it wasn't the best of those I listened to, but it was a good tune.

The lyric, in it's entirety is:

"Carole Lester
I just met met her
She seems okay."

I"m going to recreate it as soon as I learn how to use that damned software!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Signing on

It's signing on day and, as usual, the last three nights have been spent not sleeping worrying about what indignities I have to go through when I hit the DWP building.

Unemployment is stressing me out in a way I never thought possible. I"m a child of Thatcher, I spent much of the 80's un employed or underemployed, but now, having worked and having been to University to get a degree, unemployment is hitting me really hard.

I don't think I've been this down in years; I hate having to be berated for not wanting to do basic English and Maths courses as I've got Open University modules in both at a higher level, I don't see the point, but apparently this means I"m unwilling to find work; I hate being looked at like I've just crawled from the sewer; I hate being treated like I"m trying to screw the government and steal money and I hate being told how to find jobs when I"ve been working longer than the mindless grunts on the front line.

Unemployment is making me ill. I do not want to be unemployed. I do not want to be patronised or treated like shit simply because I've just left University.

Today is likely to be unpleasant as I've now been unemployed for 12 weeks. At 13 weeks, you have to do a course on how to find work. I know how to find work. This particular course involves being sat in a room with 15 people all of whom have to look for work using a cranky computer. Just one, between 16. I look for work everyday using my mac. I don't need to be bored out of my skull waiting for 15 others to do it. 2 weeks of this. Fucking outrageous.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Curse of Channel One - Voyager Boobs.


Despite popular opinion, I was always very fond of Star Trek: Voyager and I've started watching it again on Channel One nee Virgin One. There are three distinct phases of voyager: pre-Seven of Nine, pre-Naomi Wildman and, "oh no not another Naomi Wildman Episode".

But this isn't really what I want to talk about.

Is anyone else having problems with Channel One? The signal seems to be extremely compressed and causes some weird effects to be displayed when watching live. What seems to be happening is that whenever there is a dark scene (which happens a lot in Voyager), the picture doesn't fully refresh and the TV gets confused as to where the edges of objects are.

Rather disturbingly, it's most noticeable on Seven of Nine's Boobs. More times that I care to count, Seven of Nine's boobs have stayed stock still and the rest of her body has rotated round them. It occasionally happens with Janeways face, her head revolving around her features and it could be happening to Chakotay, although given the wooden expression normally, it's difficult to tell.

But Jeri Ryan's pneumatic boobs were disturbing enough without having this extra level of weird. Maybe she has borg boob implants and they're doing some energy scans or something. They should be checking for structural integrity and other anomalies cause that ain't right.

I always suspected boobs had a life of their own. Brrrrrr :-(

So why would Channel One sabotage their own output by transmitting such an appalling signal? And why the rebranding to Channel One? It's an awfully generic name. Are they trying to steal BBC ones thunder? Are they sudden'y embarrassed by 'Virgin'? How strange to disassociated yourself with one of the most recognisable brands in the UK.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

It's getting worse

I"m noted for being terrified of clowns. I mean, sometimes hysterically terrified if I"m approached by one. They genuinely scare the living shit out of me. Coulrophobia is a weird thing. A lot people find clowns a bit creepy. I find them utterly, utterly terrifying. I've noticed something peculiar of late, mind you. My phobia is getting worse and expanding to anyone who hides their face and wears a costume in public. This includes things like charity collectors, people on fun runs, cosplay, etc....

Why? I"m baffled!

I was once accosted by a mime on Briggate in Leeds. Leeds is plagued with buskers. I was in a pretty foul mood anyway and this bloody mime starts pretending to sweep stuff across my path. Generally just getting in the way. I warned him not to fuck with me as I wasn't in the mood and he put his hands up smiled in apology and walked away...except he came back in what I presume he thought was an endearing way and annoyed the crap out of me again. He didn't take the hint and I shouted at him. He put his hands up in apology yadda yadda yadda....and back for a third round of annoying me.

At this point I clearly and calmly state "Once more, and I punch your fucking lights out".

By this time, a number of the other buskers had become interested and wandered over. The mime hung back and, in an almost suicidal display of completely misreading the situation, came back for a fourth and final round of comedy sweeping.

I punched his fucking lights out.

I"m not a violent man. I"m really not. In my entire life, I've probably hit fewer people than I have fingers on either of my hands. But he deserved it. A clown; an annoying twat; a bad mood; an irrational fear. This is not a good mix.

The clown hit the floor and then started shouting at me. As it turned out, he was an unlicensed busker and the other buskers were incredibly pissed off with him for taking away their trade. When he hit the floor, I got a round of applause.

Call me Mime Slayer...

No picture this time...can't face clowns/mimes.

Next!


I'm a fat old bugger and find it really difficult to buy nice clothes in my size. I'm fed up to the back teeth of MArks and Spencers stuff - which is the only town centre shop to do things off the peg in my size - despite some of the stuff actually being quite nice. I was delighted to discover the Next do large sizes through their catalogue and I've been getting the odd thing from them of late. I found them when search for some new black and orange gloves online.

Anyway, I ordered a Jacket the other day and arranged for it to be delivered on Friday Morning. On Thursday evening, I got a call saying it had been sent to the wrong depot and would be a couple of days late. No problem, I arranged for it to come on Tuesday instead and shifted what I was doing on Tuesday morning to Friday Morning. When I got in on Friday afternoon, my jacket had arrived and been dumped on my front door.

I then received a phonecall from Customer Services to tell me that my coat will be delivered on Tuesday ! I pointed out I already had it and they said I couldn't possibly have it.

I said it was a bit of a disaster and that I'd been kept on the phone for 25 mins last night ostensibly for no reason and they said they'd reimburse me £5 for the cost of the phone call. I pointed out that they called me, but they were insistent. They'd also reimburse my postage charge. So I've got a coat I wanted on the delivery dates specified and now have £9 off. Something weird is going on. Karma is beginning to swing my way in small stages. I say this purely because it's the second instance today of getting something cheap or free. I got a free coffee in Starbucks this morning, too....

Friday, 22 October 2010

Today is a bad day.


Okay, I've suffered from depression since I was 14. It's borderline bipolar apparently, which explains the years of productivity followed by years of pretty much being unable to move. I"m in the grip of a fairly debilitating downswing at the moment which is being exacerbated by a catalogue of shite over the last 3 years that I've never really recovered from. You know when you get a day off and sods law demands you get flu? I'm sort of suffering from a massive dose of that at the moment.

I suppose I'm processing all the crap that happened while at university including the horror of the actual course, the deaths of 7 friends over the it's three years, breaking my wrist and thus fundamentally changing my artistic output, the treatment I received at the hands of senior staff, Mum contracting cancer and when all that was over and done with, losing a promised job the day before it was due to start, finding an artistic collaborator - a very good friend of many years - and getting genuinely excited about doing art with him only to have some drunk driver smash into his bike and kill him. Then there's the house in Leeds.

Given the state of things, I'm extremely bitter about having spent so much money to do a degree that isn't worth the paper it's printed on, being in so much debt because of it and still being jobless and in the worst financial state I've ever been in.

So if I'm a bit offish, miserable and look like I'm about to kill you. . . it's probably going through my mind, actually...

I stand by my description of myself as being a misanthropist hippy. I love humanity, I just hate the people....

Now kindly fuck off.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Overheard Bus Conversation #29

"We had a big roast Dinner yesterday"
"Lovely"
"Roasted Beef with every vegetable you could imagine"
"Really?"
"Yeah. Peas, beans AND carrots"
"No roast potatoes?"
"Well, yeah, but they're a fruit."

Raised Eyebrow . . .

I have a job interview.

Weird.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

germ free adolescent by sex patels


germ free adolescent by sex patels

Truly fantastic version of the X-Ray Spex Classic

More Carpet stuff and Tourettes


Okay. So the new carpet went down in one piece. The carpeter goes back to the contractor, gives him our house keys back and is promptly sacked.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I mean, he apologised and paid for the replacement carpet out of his own cash; that would have done for me, but I guess the contractor has a reputation to consider and he is a very good contractor. Hmmm....

------

How did Victorian/Edwardian Tourettes manifest?

I have strange visions of well to do men screaming 'LAWKS', 'BLIMEY', 'CRIKEY', at inopportune moments. . .

Employment Agencies. What's the point, exactly?


When my job at the University fell through, the first thing I did was sign up with Barna Shields, a temp agency.
In three months, they've sent me for one job. Unfortunately, it was for a call centre which for a variety of dyslexia related issues, I can't do. I'd even told them this and not to send me for call centre jobs.

They told me it was administrative support for a call centre, not an actual call centre job but on arriving for the interview it was apparent after 5 mins of very pleasant and positive interview that this was a call centre job.

I put a stop to the interview, said thank you very much but no thanks.

Subsequently, I've signed up for another three agencies and received a grand total of no job interviews. So what exactly are they for?

And why am I signing up to Brook Street today?

Gah!

Stupid Carpet Fitter

In an addendum to the previous story, we had an email last night from the contractor.

The carpet fitter didn't replace the carpet yesterday. As he's being made to pay for it himself, he wondered if we'd mind if the hall carpet was fitted in two sections. Apparently the carpet does come as wide as we ned it long, so instead of being able to buy a 1.75 piece from a roll, he'd have to buy a 4.5 metre piece. It would be bad, he said, just a join half way up the corridor.....

We said no.

The contractor said "I don't blame you"

The carpet fitter is a bit miffed.

If you fuck up someones carpet, giving a half arsed replacement is not good enough.

The value of honesty.....

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Little Blog of Calm.


In January, we paid £600 to a roofer to fix the tile, sort the flashing and repointing round the chimney and to clear the gutters out.

We moved out f the house in July, having put it on the market because we had to move back to Southampton. TUrns out, no-one can get a mortgage right now, so after dropping the price on the house and still getting nowhere, we decided to prepare it for renting out.

The house had been empty for a couple of months, so we were expecting it to be a bit cold. We did not expect it to be wet.
There was a massive leak in the bedroom ceiling and the carpet beneath was sodden. We called a different roofer out, one that the estate agent had recommended and he came to look very promptly. He got his ladders out, went up on the roof and told us that none of the work we'd paid for had been done. Moreover, we had a tree growing through the roof.

Now, I'm sure you're sat there thinking "well why didn't they go into the attic and check?" Well, the attic is inaccessible until such time as we build stairs up to it, so the only way we could get to it at the moment is via the roof. A previous owner had actually sealed the access point up, you see. Anyway, attempts to contact the previous roofers were fruitless. We had been royally ripped off. I saw them turn up and erect the scaffolding, even made them a cup of tea and gave them some homemade cookies and the bastards just sat there all day and did nothing.

TO add insult to injury, that weekend it decided to piss down like nothing on earth. So much so that the sewers couldn't handle it - not having been looked after by Yorkshire water - and they burst filling our cellar, and several more up and down the road, with either rainwater, rancid black water or raw sewage, depending on the luck of the draw. Guess which we got?

We called Yorkshire water who came round and sent people scurrying into the sewers. They came back very quickly with high pressure water jets and attempted to clear away the fat, crap and tree trunks that had accumulated in the sewers. Bearing in mind that it was the wettest day of the year, many people were flooded out - I felt particularly sorry for our next door neighbours who had just converted their cellar to a beautiful kitchen - and the main drainage was leaking, we couldn't work out why, after 30 minutes, they stopped and disappeared. We called Yorkshire Water again and they told us that 'they had run out of water'. Irony, thou art a heartless bitch.

Now, unfortunately, we had to leave to get back to Southampton but arranged for the carpets to be replaced and the cellar to be cleaned out out. We got back the following weekend and the carpets were laid in the hall and up the stairs . . . a bit bland for my tastes but okay for rental. People who rent don't do colours, apparently. Anyway, we noticed that one of the grips had been installed incorrectly and instead of it being one sided, they put a two sided one down and left large shards of metal sticking up through the carpet. We contacted the contractor who said he'd get someone to sort it out. No probs, so we set about painting the kitchen floor. We did all but one small space that we couldn't get to and decided to leave it til the following weekend to finish.

The contractor phoned us on Wednesday to say the job had been finished. We came back the following Friday and didn't even look at the grip assuming it to be done. Andy finished the painting and we left, settng the alarm. When we got back after seeing friends, we noticed that the alarm was off and got a bit worried. No contractors should have the key and the estate agent wasn't supposed to go in without informing us.

To our horror, we discovered that there were red foot prints all over the new carpet. It turns out that the carpet fitter had lied to the contractor about finishing the job. He hadn't given the keys back, despite several requests and didn't know we were going to being on Saturday. He also hadn't banked on there being wet paint around.

What absolutely baffles me is that on discovering he'd traipsed red paint through the house, ruining the carpets he laid the previous week, he finished the job. He didn't stop and call the contractor to say what had happened, he didn't call us to say what he'd done, he just carried on and finished the job.

It's not like we wouldn't have noticed and pretty pointless finishing a job that he'd completely screwed up. It took a number of calls to sort out what had happened, including one frightening one to the estate agent who admitted that they hadn't a clue where the house keys were - but it has been sorted. The contractor was amazing and was round sorting the problem out in minutes. His sub-contractor faired less well.

The house is now ready to be rented out, but what a farce!

Know anyone who wants to rent in Leeds?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Land of the Living?

Not really. The catalogue of recent disasters is voluminous and has left me in a very fragile state.
Watch my slide into madness . . . it all starts here . . .

Heh.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

No Recent Posts



Had the worst news on Saturday which is why I've not been posting

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8401455.Tributes_to_biker_killed_in_motorway_crash

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Food Rant 1

I’m an unashamed foodie. As far as is possible I try to see through the anglicisation foods and get to the root of a country’s cuisine. Obviously, there are limitations, like I don’t have my own tandoor handy, so tandoori is only ever going to be an interpretation, but I will spend days trying to track down the right sumac for a regional Moroccan recipe. Pre-made spice mixes such as Schwarz madras curry powder WILL NOT DO! I’d rather make up my own masalas and use those. They don’t take long to make and reward you wit h a much richer flavour.

I avoid highly chilli’d Indian food as it’s not particularly authentic. Again that’s more of an anglicisation. The majority of asian cuisine survived quite nicely without the chilli, using black back to ad a fragrant heat rather than the tongue tearing chilli heat.
English curry’s, on the whole, are for people who don’t like curry; no, that’s not quite right. They are for people who don’t like food. How can you cliam to like something that strips away the flavour of everything you put in your mouth, replacing it with seething, tearing hate?

Asian food has so much to offer in terms of fragrance, flavour, etc., why fixate of the one thing that takes away these elements? Why turn food into macho bullshit? I used to know a guy who would go to restaurants and ask for a ‘Chicken Korma, Phal hot’.
Why? My experience of anything phal hot is that flavour no longer exists. Just pain.
That isn’t food. It’s a pointless endurance test.

Bastardising cuisines is a particular bug bear of mine. I don’t see the point and actually think it’s pretty insulting. A guaranteed annoyance is seeing things like “Chicken Goujons” or “Barbecue Kievs”. Why? Well a goujon is a cut of fish. You cannot have a goujon of chicken. It’s the wrong animal. A Kiev is a very specific recipe that involves no element of barbecue. Add barbecue flavour and it’s no longer a kiev. I saw a korma kiev the other day my partner had to physical remove me from the shop, such was my apoplexy.

And as for pizza? Jesus! The culinary dustbin! A proper pizza is a joy and mostly unrecognizable as what we would call a pizza being a peasant ‘leftover’ food mostly made of stale bread (think bruschetta and you’re along the right lines) what possess people to put what ever fashionable crap on them an have the nerve to call it pizza is beyond in. I’ve seen, Chicken tikka pizza, Chinese stir fry pizza, thai chicken pizza, teriyaki beef pizza and any number of combinations that has absolutely nothing to do with the Italian originals.

I’ve no problem with people eating whatever the hell they want to eat, but there’s a level of respect that should go with food that the Brits seem to have completely forgotten about. Chefs are artists. Those who create something enduring should be celebrated, those who change the recipe should have the decency to call it something else rather than ride on the coat-tails of the real creators. How did food become so dishonest?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Overheard Bus Conversation #28

“Yeah, I did some Greek History at the weekend; Julius Caesar and all that stuff”

Yes, I do Feel Better

A couple of months ago, I put as my facebook status “Will Vigar just scared some chavs”. I did it again today and it was the same thing that caused the behaviour that scared said chavs.

The invention of the iPod is a miraculous thing; me and personal stereos go back a long way; I used to own a Sony Stowaway for gods sake! Sometime’s I miss cassettes and sometimes I get annoyed with how listening to music on an ipod has fundamentally changed how I listen to music. I never sit down and actively listen to an album anymore, I just drop it into the great black hole that is ‘shuffle’ and sooner or later a track from a new album will turn up. I won’t recognise it and will fumble for the ‘next’ button. When a track I recognise does turn up, it’s like greeting an old friend in a room full of needy strangers…
Which is where the chav scaring comes in.

I once wrote a note to a friend telling him that “Yes” by McAlmont and Butler is possibly the finest song written in the last 25 years. I stand by that. The problem is, I get so lost in it, I forget I’m wearing my iPod and find myself dancing along the street, wailing at the top of my voice and quite often doing that sort of self-righteous pointing and sneering thing that seems to initially bemuse chavs and eventually, in the face of a sustained dance/point/sing, scares the living crap out of them.
They clearly think I’m mad. In some ways, I feel like Pee Wee herman in the biker bar doing “Tequila!” but the most important thing is that there are so few songs that make me lose myself in such a way. Yes, I love you.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Pink Industry - Enjoy the Pain



Possibly the finest band to come out of Liverpool in the 80's. Three strange and gorgeous albums and they were gone.

Beautiful

This is from the first album, Low Technology.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Watership Down revisited

Online Whinge Alert

Right. I’m seriously pissed off.

I’ve been back in Southampton for about 2 months now. Most of the time I’ve been back, I’ve been ill. I’ve hardly seen my friends, I can’t get so much as a job interview for love nor money and I am bored out of my fucking skull.

I’m viewing my time at University as a colossal waste of time and money and am absolutely incredulous that I’m having to take more exams in stupid office skills that I already possess. Pretty fed up of hoop jumping, finding goalposts changed and mixing metaphors.

Gimme a job damn you!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Me and the Music Industry

Today is a strange day. As of today, I have spent as long out of the music industry as I spent in it.
I’m not sure how that makes me feel. I miss writing songs and the creativity involved, but the bits after writing and recording pretty much all suck. I don’t miss that at all.

I didn’t mind the A&R-ing, Band and Tour Managing and all that, but the actual industry, I don’t miss at all.

So why is it the only thing on my mind at the moment; pernicious and pervasive. If I could just write and leave it at that, I’d be fine. Maybe I should focus on that.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Curry

I’m doing a huge curry feast for some friends tonight. I’ve not had people to dinner for a while and I”m really getting into the whole asian vibe since I discovered the fantastic international food store on Portswood High Street. it was a Woolworth when I left Southampton and this gem of a shop when I got back.

Anyway, the menu is:

Sweet and Sour Okra
Spicy Black Eyed Beans and Mushrooms
Bengali Spiced Aubergine with yoghurt
Tandoori style chicken
Dry Coconut lamb
Savoury semolina cake
Maybe some spiced rice
Naans
Raita.

All sounds great but . . . not only have I run out of turmeric, but I seem to been running a fever and feel like absolute shite.
Oh the trials and tribulations!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ground Zero Mosque Article

Charlie Brooker sticks it too ‘em. From The Guardian, Monday 23rd August, 2010.

Things seem awfully heated in America right now; so heated you could probably toast a marshmallow by jabbing it on a stick and holding it toward the Atlantic. Millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphalist Muslim extremists are about to build a “victory mosque” slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero.

The planned “ultra-mosque” will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin’s call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for “victory” is.

I’m exaggerating. But I’m only exaggerating a tad more than some of the professional exaggerators who initially raised objections to the “Ground Zero mosque”. They keep calling it the “Ground Zero mosque”, incidentally, because it’s a catchy title that paints a powerful image – specifically, the image of a mosque at Ground Zero.

When I heard about it – in passing, in a soundbite – I figured it was a US example of the sort of inanely confrontational fantasy scheme Anjem Choudary might issue a press release about if he fancied winding up the tabloids for the 900th time this year. I was wrong. The “Ground Zero mosque” is a genuine proposal, but it’s slightly less provocative than its critics’ nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it’s not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn’t a mosque.

Wait, it gets duller. It’s not being built by extremists either. Cordoba House, as it’s known, is a proposed Islamic cultural centre, which, in addition to a prayer room, will include a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool. Its aim is to improve inter-faith relations. It’ll probably also have comfy chairs and people who smile at you when you walk in, the monsters.
To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you’d have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you’re heading an angry mob who can’t hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged bellowing.

Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is “two minutes’ walk and round a corner” from something else isn’t actually “in” the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen’s pillow. That’s how “distance” works in Britain. It’s also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn’t, for daft political ends.

New York being a densely populated city, there are lots of other buildings and businesses within two blocks of Ground Zero, including a McDonald’s and a Burger King, neither of which has yet been accused of serving milkshakes and fries on hallowed ground. Regardless, for the opponents of Cordoba House, two blocks is too close, period. Frustratingly, they haven’t produced a map pinpointing precisely how close is OK.

That’s literally all I’d ask them in an interview. I’d stand there pointing at a map of the city. Would it be offensive here? What about here? Or how about way over there? And when they finally picked a suitable spot, I’d ask them to draw it on the map, sketching out roughly how big it should be, and how many windows it’s allowed to have. Then I’d hand them a colour swatch and ask them to decide on a colour for the lobby carpet. And the conversation would continue in this vein until everyone in the room was in tears. Myself included.

That hasn’t happened. Instead, 70% of Americans are opposed to the “Ground Zero mosque”, doubtless in many cases because they’ve been led to believe it literally is a mosque at Ground Zero. And if not . . . well, it must be something significant. Otherwise why would all these pundits be so angry about it? And why would anyone in the media listen to them with a straight face?
According to a recent poll, one in five Americans believes Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though he isn’t. A quarter of those who believe he’s a Muslim also claimed he talks about his faith too much. Americans aren’t dumb. Clearly these particular Americans have either gone insane or been seriously misled. Where are they getting their information?

Sixty per cent said they learned it from the media. Which means it’s time for the media to give up.
Seriously, broadcasters, journalists: just give up now. Because either you’re making things worse, or no one’s paying attention anyway. May as well knock back a few Jagermeisters, unplug the autocue, and just sit there dumbly repeating whichever reality-warping meme the far right wants to go viral this week. What’s that? Obama is Gargamel and he’s killing all the Smurfs? Sod it. Whatever. Roll titles.