52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Friday, March 31, 2006

just because you were right before, doesn't mean you're right

Earworms of the Week

10. "My Girl" - The Temptations / "In the Morning" - The Coral

You might remember that the guy who sits next to me at work - Gareth - is extremely susceptible to earworms. Yesterday he started singing the opening bars to a song, over and over again. After a couple of minutes, this became a little annoying, so I asked him what the song was. He couldn't remember. A couple of minutes later and I had picked up the song and was singing it down to the chorus - "My Girl" by The Temptations. It's a great record. It wasn't what Gareth had in mind, but we agreed it was probably a far better song anyway and that it would do.... Until a couple of minutes later, when Gareth was back to singing his original couple of bars. This time I caught it properly and my earworm radar detected the Coral.

I was right. The Temptations are better.

9. "I'm Only Sleeping" - The Beatles

I haven't listened to the Beatles in a long time, but this song dropped into my head this morning. It feels dreamy, as if you were floating downstream with the lyric.

8. "Cecilia Ann" - The Pixies

Kick-arse instrumental - no nihilistic shrieking to be heard on this one. Makes me want to bounce.

7. "Late Night Maudlin Street" - Morrissey

I seem to have lots of Morrissey in these lists, but this one came up on shuffle this afternoon and I've always had a bit of a soft spot for it. It's long for a Morrissey song and it has a distinctly otherworldy feel to it. His new album's out on Monday (Mark's review of it is here) and by all accounts it's pretty good, so I'm looking forward to that. Mind you, I'm still smarting from having those tickets for his tour in May snatched away from me by those ever incompetent nincoompoops at SeeTickets. £150 for a pair on Ebay though.


6. "'Til I Die" - The Beach Boys

My favourite Beach Boys song bar none. People bang on about "Pet Sounds" and "Smile", but for my money you can't go wrong with "Surf's Up" (happily available together with the also magnificent "Sunflower" for less than £6 here). If you are only familiar with their "California Girls" and "Little Deuce Coup" type stuff, then you should definitely check this stuff out. Very few people have made music as beautiful as this.

5. "Nature's Law" - Embrace

I find myself liking Embrace a little reluctantly. In the main, I think that Danny honks like a sealion and would struggle to carry a tune in a bucket... but.... I quite liked their last album (and not just the Coldplay song on it either), and this song - their current single - has really grown on me.

Mind you, if this lot are the best that England can do, then we really are destined for mid-table mediocrity. I can only assume that James Blunt was busy... (that was a joke, by the way).

4. "Hoppipolla" - Sigur Ros

This is being used as the background music for the trailers for the magnificent BBC wildlife programme "Planet Earth" (which week after week is turning out some of the most staggering wildlife photography I have ever seen: the polar bears, the sharks, the snow leopard.... breathtaking).

Sigur Ros are the perfect soundtrack.

3. "No Surprises" - Radiohead

Don't ask me why, but I was watching VH2 after midnight the other day when this record popped up. It's a gorgeous song anyway, but I'd forgotten about the video.... the one where Thom Yorke is wearing some sort of helmet that slowly fills up with water. Amazing.

Watch it here.

2. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" - Poison

Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. I can't hear this without thinking of Bill & Ted.

"They melvined me..."

1. "Gleaming Auction" - Snow Patrol

I think this initally popped into my head this week when I read the review for their new album.... this is the third track in on "Final Straw" (£3.96 in Amazon? really?), and it's as good as the rest of them. I've had this album in my car for about 2 years solid now, and I can't bring myself to take it out. I was listening to it on the way home today.

The new album's supposed to be good, too. I do hope he's had his haircut though.

Have a good weekend y'all. C is away on business, so I'll mostly be moping. Well, either that or watching TV and playing Football Manager anyway....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

life is but a dream...

From one British institution to another. At 16:35pm on Sunday afternoon, the crews will be lining up on the river Thames for the start of the 152nd Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. There will be one cox and 8 oarsmen in each boat (coincidentally including Paul Daniels... not the same one, I'm guessing), around 250,000 spectators crammed along the river banks between Putney and Mortlake, and a television audience estimated to be around half a billion people. Let's not get into the debate about what constitutes a billion again - let's just agree that it's a hell of a lot of people to be watching an amateur race.

This is an event with quite a history: the first one took place in 1829, and it has taken place every year since 1856 (except during the First and Second World Wars). That's older than many nations. You might also be interested to know that, amongst the many other famous names to have taken part in the race, Hugh Laurie - Dr House himself - rowed for Cambridge in the 1980 race.

Do I like it? No. I think it's overrated, over-publicised and overhyped and I despise it. Don't get me wrong... I think it's an incredible physical achievement to row 4 miles and 374 yards, and you only have to look at the crews at the end of the race to understand how much effort they put into it.... It's just I hate everything around it. It's not that I don't like rowing either: I was present when the British Men's coxless four won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and it was one of the greatest sporting events I have ever been lucky enough to see. You wouldn't catch me dead at the boatrace though. There's something about the people that do go (and I know that this is a massive generalisation) that really sets my teeth on edge. Hooray Henrys with lots of champagne and little or no interest in sport. You also see them at Twickenham for the rugby and at Lords for the cricket, but somehow it's at the boatrace that it bothers me the most. I also totally fail to understand why millions of people with no connection with either Oxford or Cambridge will happily sit and watch it, or why the coverage of a race that lasts about twenty minutes needs coverage lasting several hours.

I was going to make a point about how the majority of the crews will be foreign international rowers "studying" a variety of dubious one year courses but actually imported especially to row in this race ... but then I saw that Thomas Edwards - the Cambridge President - is studying for a PhD in Medical Genetics, focusing on the role of intercellular membrane trafficking in motor neuron degeneration.... so maybe I'll keep that particular thought to myself.

Still. I don't like it, I don't care who wins and I won't be watching it. So there.

If you like it.... enjoy..... and perhaps you'd care to explain the attraction, and who you'll be cheering for and why.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

one golden glance of what should be...

Blog of the Week #10 - Paul Daniels' Diary

You can stop your sniggering right now - Paul Daniels can probably lay claim to being the most successful TV magician of the Twentieth Century. He's a very different breed of magician to the ones we see on TV now. I don't think you'd catch Paul Daniels hanging in a box doing nothing for several weeks, nor do I think you would find him sticking his head in a tiger's mouth or 'flying' across his audience. Nope. Paul Daniels' stock in trade is far less showy but just as impressive in it's own way: sleight of hand, card tricks, illusions and the like, all delivered with the little man's unique brand of humour. You're going to like this.... not a lot.... but you'll like it.

In 1983 he was named "Magician of the Year" by the Hollywood Academy of the Magical Arts - the first person from outside of the USA to receive the award. In 1985 he won the Golden Rose of Montreaux for the "Paul Daniels Easter Magic Show". His TV shows have been screened in 47 countries...

He's a legend.

And he's got a blog.

This was pointed out to me by the lovely Yoko (she insists that she doesn't go looking for these, but coming hard on the heels of her MC Hammer recommendation, I'm not sure I believe her....) In many ways he's a throwback to a more innocent age, but there's no shame in that. I grew up watching this guy on TV, and after spending a bit of time reading this, I felt moved to drop the man an email. I wrote to tell him how much I was enjoying his blog, and how much I used to enjoy watching his shows on TV. I told him how one trick in particular had stuck in my mind when he appeared to eat a goldfish. It was brilliant, and was made even better and more memorable when he broke the rules of the Magic Circle to reveal to us how the trick was done, thereby saving the lives of many thousands of innocent fish.

About ten minutes later he emailed me back!


Thanks ST

I MUST try to get up to date tonight cos I go away tomorrow.

Silly things like work keep getting in the way!



He's an absolute legend, and this blog salutes him.

Besides, how could you not love a man who lists the following in his profile:

"Dislikes: Inefficiency, Idleness,"centre lane drivers", War, Violence and Murder especially when they come in the name of religion. Turning down charity and Party invitations but Due to the amount of work it leaves little family time."


Blog of the Week.

[Previous blogs of the week: Delrico Bandito, I have ordinary addictions, Girl With A One-Track Mind, Ditch Monkey, Skinny Legs and All, Wandering Scribe, Sarah, MC Hammer, Lisa Whiteman]

the morning rain clouds up my window

I have to admit that I was amused when I read that the British Army has got the hump because Norman Kember apparently neglected to thank them for rescuing him. Kember is a 74 year old peace campaigner who had been held captive with some of his colleagues for the last four months and who was freed by a multinational force including the SAS last Thursday.

The head of the British army, General Sir Mike Jackson said that he was “saddened that there doesn’t seem to have been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their lives to save those lives”.

Whilst it's true that a simple 'thank you' would only have been polite (if indeed Kember didn't offer one), I wasn't aware that one was required. I wonder how many other hostages have been left chained to radiators by over-sensitive special forces troopers simply because they didn't say the magic word.

Maybe the British army have just grown accustomed to having Iraqi civilians falling over themselves to thank them for all their excellent work in bringing peace and prosperity to their troubled nation....

the kids are playing up downstairs....

I completely forgot to mention:

If you're wondering what's happened to Alecya.... she's moved here.

So update your links and go pay her a visit. She didn't say as much, but I'm sure a nice girl like her will have at least laid on a glass of wine and some nibbles for her guests.....

Monday, March 27, 2006

the table is set, the oven is hot

I made an outstanding Chilli Beef Soup yesterday.... so outstanding I'm going to share the recipe with you lot.

You will need:

250g minced beef (I mince a steak - leaner and tastier)
A large onion, roughly chopped
A red pepper, roughly diced
A dash of olive oil
A chopped red chilli (seeds included)
A heaped teaspoon of ground cumin
A heaped teaspoon of paprika
2 cloves of garlic - chopped finely / crushed
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
750ml of chicken stock
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
A tin of chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
A tin of kidney beans
The juice of a lime

Here's what you do:

1. fry off the mince, onion, red pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic & cayenne pepper in the olive oil for about 15 mins

2. Blend the tomatoes with half of the tin of kidney beans

3. Add balsamic vinegar to the mince mix and cook for another minute

4. Add the chicken stock, the tomato / kidney bean mix, the tomato puree and the bay leaves and simmer for 45 minutes

5. Finish off with the rest of the kidney beans and the juice of the lime. Fish out the bay leaves and serve with soft tortillas and soured cream

I found this recipe on the side of my sandwich packet at Pret A Manger a few months ago, and ripped it out for future reference. It's lived on the fridge door ever since, but yesterday I finally got around to cooking it. You know what? It's delicious - the lime juice really lifts it up and makes the whole thing mmmmmmmmm lip-smacking good!

Worth a try, I reckon.

Just call me Delia from now on.

bork! bork! bork!

I've got the time tick-tick-ticking in my head

Today was going to be a productive day.

International jet-setter that she is, C. had to get up at something like 04:30 to get off to the airport for a business trip to Switzerland. She was as quiet as a mouse, but inevitably I still woke up. I managed to get back off to sleep, but leapt out of bed before my alarm went off to go for a run. It's not easy going out into the drizzle for a 35 minute amble around the Embankment, but it feels great to have done it and you get to start your day in a warm glow of self-satisfaction.

I don't like to think much about work when I am at home, but I've got a bit of a logjam on at the moment, so I had spent some time over the weekend just working out in my head what I needed to get done. Naturally, I didn't get any of it done. My day happened instead: going to meetings, setting up meetings, impromptu meetings at my desk, meetings on the phone.... to cut a long story short, I found myself sat at my desk at 19:30 about to start work on the thing that I had opened up the moment I arrived at my desk this morning. My run this morning meant that I was under no kind of (self-imposed) obligation to go to the gym or anything and C's trip meant that I would only be going back to an empty house, so I was sort of planning to just sit there in the quiet and get some work done.... but I decided to come home instead.

In the end, I decided that life's just too short to spend any more time in the office than I already do. The work will still be there tomorrow, and I could certainly do something more relaxing with the rest of the evening.

It's only just gone 20:15 now, so there's still some time to make something out of my day - even if that something is only to read a book.... I've certainly got the time to do something productive for myself, anyway.


At 2am on Sunday morning, the clocks here went forward by an hour to move us onto British Summer Time (BST). It never fails to amaze me how many people feel the need to remark on how much lighter the evenings suddenly are. Of course they are, you clowns.... we've changed the bloody clocks! These are, of course, the very same people who remark once the clocks have gone back an hour in September how the nights are suddenly drawing in.


Actually, the change in the clocks will have meant that 04:30 this morning will have felt like 03:30.... ouch..... that's the glamorous world of international business travel for you.

Friday, March 24, 2006

but you assume on your own

I paid another visit to the neurologist this afternoon. It's been nine months now since the symptoms first appeared, and three months since my last visit to the specialist. Last time around, there hadn't been any substantial improvement, but there hadn't been any new symptoms either, and we decided that the best course of action was to wait for another few months. I had mentioned that I didn't know if I was feeling better or if I was simply getting used to it. My neurologist decided that we should be positive and think that things were starting to improve. I was feeling a bit better, I suppose, but mainly I was in no hurry to go onto any kind of steroids or anything like that. My symptoms were annoying, but not really inhibiting.

Three months on and little has changed. There have still been no new symptoms, but I am increasingly being bothered by the old ones: mainly this is a weakness across my left shoulder and pins & needles and numbness in my left hand, but on a bad day I can also feel this in my other arm, across my ribs, down my legs and in my feet. Over the last couple of months though, these symptoms have been more physically limiting than previously (you might remember me moaning about it in February). I know that these things are all relative - after all, I still have the use of all of my limbs, I can still get up and about and do the things I normally do - but it was still depressing.

Over the last few days, I've been wondering about what I could possibly expect from the neurologist this time around. He's previously mentioned that this kind of thing usually hangs around for about 6 months before disappearing. That 6 months is long since up. Would I get any more diagnostic work? Perhaps another MRI scan or a lumbar puncture. Maybe he would feel he already had enough information to make a definitive diagnosis? I thought about all these things, but I decided that I needed to steel myself for him to tell me to keep waiting and seeing. The not knowing is actually the hardest part of this, and although I'm in no hurry to be diagnosed with something for which there is no cure, in some ways being told to keep on keeping on would be the most frustrating result of all.

Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Wait and see. Come back in 6 months and we'll see how you are getting on.

This time around it was a little different though: we had the same conversations about how I've been getting on, how I'm feeling; he carried out the same examination as he always does and came to the same conclusion - that we should do nothing but wait. The language has changed though. We are now talking about "an episode" and that although there is "still a chance" that this would heal completely, there is also a "high percentage" that I will have "another attack". For the first time in my presence, the neurologist took out my MRI scans and put them up on his light board. He showed me the patch of inflammation on my cervical spinal cord that is causing all of my symptoms. It shows up as a very clear white patch. The damage to the myelin sheath of my spinal cord is what is causing me to experience these symptoms, and suddenly we were talking about a two year period of recovery. He also got out the scans of my brain. The purpose of all this waiting and seeing is to see if I develop new symptoms. New symptoms will mean that I have further patches of inflammation and will enable a positive diagnosis - and let's not beat about the bush here, the diagnosis would likely be Multiple Sclerosis... two words that the neurologist is noticeably careful not to use. The clinical diagnosis of MS is simply to have more than one of these patches of inflammation at any one time. The thing is though, that there are already a couple of patches in my brain that have caused some debtate between my neurologist and the hospital neurologist who first checked the scans. There are a couple of white smudges in my brain - and today I was shown them for the first time. They are clearly white marks inside my brain, but they are apparently not as clear as the one in my neck. I totally understand my neurologist's point of view. Why rush to a diagnosis until we are absolutely certain what it is. There is absolutely nothing to be gained as there is no treatment anyway, and certainly no cure.

So. There is a "high percentage" that I will have further attacks, and all we do now is wait and see if they happen.

Ho hum.


If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, this is something of a saga that has been ongoing now for about 9 months. If you want to learn more then you should start here, them move on here, here, here, here, here.... that should keep you going. Do be sure to check out my brain though (if you look at the image on the top left of the first set of scans on there, you can actually see one of the ambigious white smudges - right in the middle of my brain, level with my eye socket...click to enlarge!)


Earworms of the Week

Because it's not a proper week without a few ohrwurms, is it?

10. "Kathy Wilson" - Wolfsbane

One of the shortest albums I own, and one I hadn't listened to in ages. Untouchable genius. He never should have left to join Iron Maiden.

9. "Jackson" - Johnny Cash & June Carter

I was reminded of how good this song is when watching "Walk the Line" the other day, but I stumbled across it again when I was listening to "The Man In Black" in the office. Guaranteed to raise a smile (as is "One Piece at a Time")

8. "My Sharona" - The Knack

What an intro.

7. "All Sparks" - Editors

Very much flavour of the month, but I listened to this album again the other day and it's really standing up well.

6. "In the Midnight Hour" - Wilson Pickett

Because you can't beat a bit of sweet soul music every now and again, can you?

5. "The Downeaster 'Alexa'" - Billy Joel

Not many musicians capture the troubles of the blue collar worker better than Billy Joel. I love this song, and I don't even know what a "striper" is, never mind why it's a bad thing that you can't sell them anymore.

4. "Stockholm Syndrome" - Muse

Pompous? Yes. It's great though, isn't it?

3. "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson

Fiendishly addictive. This song is a guilty pleasure (your hear that Leah? yay!).

2. "Farmer in the City" - Scott Walker

From his last album, "Tilt". It's bonkers and seems to make no sense at all, but it's still brilliant.

"Do I hear 21? 21? 21? I'll give you 21. 21. 21"

He's a legend. Roll on the new album.

1. "It's Tricky" - Run DMC

Do I really have to explain why this is stuck in my brain? Just go and listen to it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

that's one for you, nineteen for me....

Not for the first time, I've been fired up by something I read over at Foxy's place. This time around it's the news that Gordon Brown has allocated an extra £1b to the UK's defence budget for the next year. This takes Britain's defence spending to £33.4b. As the Ministy of Defence proudly trumpets, this makes us the second biggest spenders in the world. Yay for us! (although before we get too pleased with ourselves, we should probably bear in mind that the USA spent $590b on defence in 2005 - more than the rest of the world put together. Even allowing for the fact that a US billion has one fewer zero than a UK billion, that's still a substantial amount of cash, no?)

I won't go on about this too much because there's some good stuff along these lines in the comments on Foxy's post. What I do want to add though is this:

As a UK taxpayer, I am an investor in Great Britain plc. The government is open enough to tell me how much of my money they are spending on defence (and on all of the other stuff like health and education and so on), but I want to know more: I want to know what kind of value for money I'm getting on all that expenditure.

What's the value case for that £33.4b? What kind of a return are we getting on that kind of investment? This government has bought an awful lot of tanks and guns with our money, I think we have a right to know what kind of depreciation we're getting on those assets, don't we?

How about Iraq: what was the business plan for that particular aquisition? What do you mean it was written on the back of a fag packet and is so smudged you can't read it? What kind of a way to run a business is that? What the hell would your shareholders say about that at the next AGM?

Enough is enough. Maybe it's time to sack the board.

....on the other hand, perhaps we shouldn't be too hasty. We've donated so much of our cash to this government since 1997 that we're probably all due a peerage or something aren't we?

Stay forever and ever and ever and ever....

The Art of Noise's A-Z of music has now reached "O".... and I've done "ohrwurm":

"It’s a German word that literally translates into English as “earworm”, and refers to a song or tune that becomes lodged in one’s head. According to scientists, an earworm is a tune that creates a cognitive itch in the brain that can only be scratched through repetition. Professor James Kellaris of the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration (and, I kid you not, an earworm researcher) reckons that between 97-99% of the population are susceptible to earworms, that women are more susceptible than men, and that musicians are more susceptible than non-musicians."

Read more about Ohrwurms, 'Obsessive' by Sidi Bou Said, occupational hazards, 'Ohio River Boat Song' by Will Oldham, omnipresent, 'Once More With Feeling', 'Ooberman', Beth Orton & Otis Lee Crenshaw here...

(there's also talk of an A-Z party at the West Bridgford branch of the Co-op (the big one, not the little one by Trent Bridge).... we bloggers sure know how to have a good time!)

well that's like hypnotizing chickens...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy

In the company of Lord B, I went to go and see "V for Vendetta" for the second time this evening. I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. I was able to relax into the film from the very beginning, and even the bits in the third quarter of the film that seemed to drag a little bit before were absolutely fine on a second viewing. As I watched, I did marvel all over again that this film ever got made. Forget about the terrorism, here is a film that challenges you to think and to question, and how rare is that?

The trailers they showed before the main feature just emphasised the point: "Firewall", starring Harrison Ford as your average blue-collar man who is roused when his family is put in danger (yawn - hasn't he made this film before?), "The Da Vinci Code" starring Tom Hanks and based on the book allegedly written by Dan Brown, "Mission: Impossible III" - some bombastic, plotless shite starring Tom Cruise....

All utter tripe.

I had to smile when a Vicky Pollard-a-like stormed out of the cinema with her boyfriend about halfway through the film, at the point where Evie is being interrogated. I was sitting on the aisle, and as she brushed past me as she flounced out, I heard her say, "I don't have to stay here and watch this crap no more..." Oh dear.

Too many words and not enough brainless slaughter, innit.

Go see. It might encourage them to make more like it.

Watching the trailer for "Firewall" I got to thinking about what inordinate amounts of money Harrison Ford has taken at the box office over the years. Watching the "M:I 3" trailer then got me to wondering how many other actors were in the same kind of ballpark as Ford and Cruise.

Not many.

In terms of pure box office takings though, how many major league actors are beaten by the pair pictured above though, eh? Brad Pitt? Johnny Depp? Julia Roberts? Ben Stiller? Pacino? De Niro?

I'd say that was a good thing, only I fear it might encourage George Lucas to make some more. Oh. Too late. I hear he's planning to make a Star Wars TV series set between Episodes III and IV. Oh sweet Jesus. Hasn't he done enough?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel...

Blog of the Week #9 - Lisa Whiteman

"Hi, I'm Lisa. I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I do web production work for an environmental nonprofit organization. Also, I'm a freelance photographer."

I've just rediscovered this. I used to read it religiously a few years ago, when it was a constant source of inspiration to me. I absolutely love the way that Lisa writes; it is so beautifully descriptive of the people and places that she passes through that it is just like seeing the world through her eyes. Each post is a little vignette of her life, and a little snapshot into the life of someone else. Here's a post that I first read in October 2004, but has stayed with me ever since (I'm going to quote the whole thing - although you can also find it here):


"Nothing was coming, so I walked diagonally through the quiet intersection. A man from a utility company (I didn't notice which one) was walking toward me, carrying an orange cone to place on the road. I paused for a second to put in my headphones and then half-smiled at him, though I don't know if he saw me. He mumbled something back at me.

Did he say, "C'mon, miss"? Was he annoyed with me? There was nothing revealing about his tone. Did I get in his way? I hope not. I didn't stop for very long, but maybe it was long enough to piss him off. Could he have really said, "C'mon, miss"? That doesn't seem very likely. Oh, wait. No. He said, "Good morning." Oh no. Now it's too late to reciprocate. I'm glad he didn't say what I originally thought he said, but this might be worse, because now I'm at fault, because I didn't respond. He must think I'm rude. Maybe he'll assume I didn't hear him. I hope he knows I didn't hear him. He's probably not even thinking about it. Why am I still preoccupied with it?

I thought about it for ten more minutes. Agonizing over nothing, essentially. I do it all the time."


I wish I could write half so evocatively.

This feeling that you are peering in on someone else's life is reinforced by the wonderful photos Lisa takes (there are plenty of them on her blog - like this one of a scene she stumbled across in the street when out for a walk - but do also go and see her Flickr stream). These pictures always remind me of the Harvey Keitel character in the film "Smoke" who takes a photo from the same spot on the street in Brooklyn at 8am every morning. He has over 4,000 of them, and although the street in each picture is exactly the same, each is subtly different.

There are no comments here either, and it allows us to hear Lisa's voice entirely uninterrupted.

It's a lovely site, and I urge you to immerse yourselves.

Blog of the week.

[Previous blogs of the week: Delrico Bandito, I have ordinary addictions, Girl With A One-Track Mind, Ditch Monkey, Skinny Legs and All, Wandering Scribe, Sarah, MC Hammer]

Monday, March 20, 2006

to see if I still feel...

I generally have a will of steel when it comes to exercise: if I have decided that I am going to do some exercise, then come hell or high water I will bloody well go and do some exercise. During the week, I tend to exercise in the evenings after work, so I will put my kit together in the morning, pop it in the car and head to the gym whenever I finish work. I always plan to leave the office at around 6pm so that I can exercise and still get home at a reasonable hour and with plenty of time to cook dinner and to unwind.

That's the plan, anyway.

Usually what happens is that I look at my watch and realise that it has gone 7pm. I still go to they gym, but it just means that I don't get home until 9pm, and I won't be eating until nearly 10pm.

It's my own fault, I know, but it's no wonder I don't get to bed until late.

Anyway. Tonight I was going to go for a swim. I went for a run on Saturday, took Sunday off and I'm going to the osteopath and then to the pub quiz tomorrow.... so tonight I had to exercise.

Do you know what? I couldn't face it. I left work at 8pm and just went home. I felt tired, run down; my arm, shoulder and legs were feeling full of the WTs and to cap it all I think I might have cracked a rib playing football on Thursday (my stupid body is falling apart!). So I just went home.

I can't leave it there though, can I? I'm going to get up early and go for a run before work.

You'd think it wouldn't hurt to have a day off now and again, would you?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

who cares what picture you see?

Having not been to the cinema for a good couple of months, and perhaps not since Christmas, another visit was long overdue. So I went twice. On Saturday night we went to see "Walk The Line" and this afternoon we went to see "V for Vendetta". More about Johnny Cash later, but let's deal with 'V' first....

Right. I'm not one of those über fans who has cherished the first edition releases from 1981 (I only read this for the first time last year), but let me say that if you haven't read the Alan Moore comic book that this film is based upon, I strongly urge you to do so. It's an utterly beguiling and powerful read and, as you might expect, contains layers of subtlety and depth that no film could possibly hope to cover. I'm guessing that the reviewer from The Times who gave the film a one star review and called it "V for Vacuous" hadn't read it:

"It's hardly surprising that Moore washed his hands of the film. His creepy freedom fighter, V, is a disfigured über-terrorist who blows up the Old Bailey one night with fireworks and announces on TV that he will do the same to the Houses of Parliament on November 5th. He delivers his threats in Shakespearean doggerel and spouts pseudo-waffle about the immortality of ideas...."

For someone who has read the book, that isn't so much criticism as an affirmation that the film has been faithful to the original. Of course, that doesn't invalidate the criticism. If reading the comic is a pre-requisite to enjoying the film, then the film will die on it's arse... and judging by the fact that it only came out on Friday and my multiplex only has it on a single screen and about three showings a day, that's exactly what will happen to it commercially.

I thought it was okay. There are inevitably one or two amendments to the plot, but nothing massive, and that in itself is something of a triumph. Lest we forget, this film is about someone whose ideology is fundamentally opposed to his government; someone who believes that violence is both necessary and justified; somone who is prepared to strap himself with explosives and hold a government to ransom; someone who blows up the Houses of Parliament and other landmarks in the London skyline. In many ways, I'm surprised that this film got made at all. We are about to surrender more of our civil liberties so that our government can better fight its "war on terrorism" - how comfortable do we feel watching a film where we are asked to take the side of the terrorist? Or is he a freedom fighter? Ah, it's all a question of perspective, isn't it?

The lovely Natalie Portman - especially for Lord B

About halfway though the film, I realised that I was actually really quite enjoying it. I'd heard that the effects were ropey, that Natalie Portman's accent was appalling, that the central premise of having a masked character as your lead simply didn't translate to the screen. Not true..... (Portman's English accent is certainly no worse than Stephen Rea's wandering Lancastrian burr). It was going really well, and then I felt that the film lost a little pace and it began to feel like it only had just the one point that it was emphasising again and again and again. All that 'people shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people' stuff .... Very good, but in a film stretching over two hours long and with some of the subtletly of the original plot taken out, it began to feel a touch heavy-handed (to be fair, this is a criticism levelled by some at the original comics too).

It's far from a bad film though.... worth seeing, definitely, although possibly not worth repeat viewing.

I'd be really interested to hear what someone who hasn't read the comic thinks of it....

'Walk the Line' is a different kind of film altogether, but it is one that I could easily imagine myself watching again. Of course, both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were nominated for Oscars for their performances (Witherspoon winning, and Phoenix losing out ot Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and both are excellent. Both stars did all of their own singing; a big risk, but ultimately the fact that they are so good was probably the making of the film. I'm a big Cash fan, and it's a tribute to both stars that it's not until the final credits that I am anything less than convinced by their vocal performances: as the credits roll we hear the voices of the real Cash and Carter singing for the first time in the film. As soon as I heard it, I was struck by two thoughts: that Witherspoon's impersonation of June Carter had been uncanny, but also that Phoenix hadn't quite captured Johnny Cash. Of course, Cash had such a deep singing voice (daddy sang bass and all that...), that it would have been an almost impossible task, and it's credit to the quality of Phoenix's performance that a direct comparison with Cash didn't really occur to me until I was putting on my coat and heard the real McCoy.

Not that it matters all that much, but I'm also not sure how much Phoenix's performance was about Johnny Cash, and how much was about him making full use of those big, puppy-dog eyes. Those big close-ups of his face with his eyes brimming with tears and his face a picture of hurt and bewilderment.... seen it before. (and as a historian, I am honour-bound at this point to mention that this view of the Cash-Carter story naturally plays down the parts of other key players like Cash's wife and Carter's first two husbands.... hell, they're just collateral damage in the wake of one of the great love stories, aren't they?)

I'm quibbling though. It's an excellent film, and I really enjoyed it. It made me want to go home and put on some Cash records, and you can't say fairer than that. I hope it has that effect on everyone who sees the film.

So that was my weekend (oh, apart from going for a run, viewing a recently refurbished house, watching about six hours of rugby on the telly, watching the "Firefly" pilot....etc. etc.).

What did you get up to?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal

Well. It turns out that I can be arsed to get a Guest Editor this week after all. Well, I say that, but to be honest it was more a case of me receving an email from someone who was so taken with the whole concept of the earworm that they had been religiously writing down the tracks that were passing across their brain and was wondering if I would be so good as to let them have a go. Naturally I was only too happy to oblige, particularly as this person has recently expressed a love of the V for Vendetta comic book. Someone after my own heart then, and someone well suited to the unique rigours of this challenging slot.


Anyway. Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado.... it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #36 - Stef from Life. One Post At A Time

This last week I've been travelling a lot so I've been raiding my CD/MP3 collection and stuffing my head full of tunes, some of which have lodged into my conscience. It is for that reason that I volunteered to bring you this weeks Earworms - I'm over-run with them and feel the need to share! Be warned though, it's a really mixed bag!

To add to your listening pleasure I've uploaded the tracks on to the net, just click on the song title to start the download. They should be there for about a week thanks to the nice folks at YouSendIt.com

10. Sisters of Mercy- Marian

Mark, Last weeks earworm DJ, and I have been discussing all things goth for a while and he suggested that the poppy This Corrosion by the Sisters was the greatest goth song of all time. He is of course wrong, it's Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus. However it is this gem from the Sisters' first album that got stuck in my noggin.

"To take the water down and go to sleep,
To sink still further,
Beneath the fatal wave.

Now that's goth!

09. The White Stripes - I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman

Forget Seven Nation Army and most of the Elephant album, The White Stripes are based on stripped-down blues rock formula that I love. Not only is Jack a great musician but a fantastic song-writer. You may not like his music but with lyrics like these...

"Well I'm finding it hard to say
that I need you twenty times a day
I feel comfortable so baby why
don't you feel the same?
have a doctor come and visit us
and tell us which one is sane

I just lose track of the number of times I find myself humming his rhythms and reciting his lyrics. This is a real gem that's stuck with me this week.

08. Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone

"How does it feel?"

There's nothing I can say about this song that hasn't already been said a hundred times by people more knowledgeable and articulate than me. I'll just say that this is one of the few tracks that I can (and often do) play over and over, singing my little heart out as I do. "

You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

07. Mark Ronson - Just

Mark Ronson did that lame R&B/pop track 'Ooo-wee' a while back that was... Crap. This however is just fantastic. It's the classic Radiohead track from back when they were good done in a more laid-back, less pretentious way - but with a horn section. Superb!

06. The Honeydrippers - Impeach The President

Talking of horns, this is a great bit of original funk that has just been lodged in my brain. It sounds as fresh and as relevant today as when it was made and Nixon was in power. Pure class.

05. Arctic Monkeys - Fake Tales of San Francisco

Over-hyped? Yes. Talented? Yes. I hate to jump on a bandwagon and I do think they're over-rated but I can't get this track out of my head. Not as catchy or immediate as I Bet You Look Good... but with lyrics like "So all that's left is the proof that love's not only blind but deaf" you can't go wrong. The fact that the same song then goes on, moaning about people pretending to be something they're not, by saying "You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham" is just great.

I've listened to this album a few times in the last week and its this track I keep coming back to; it hasn't been played to death on the radio

04. Different Gear - Worry

A little slab of electronica for a change, one with a bassline so filthy it's positively disgusting!

The breathy vocals over the top add to that sense and add a sense of humour. She basically just vocalises about all the things she worries about, some of them silly, some of them not. It makes for quite an interesting/unusual track with a bassline that just keeps looping in my head.

"I worry that don't pay attention to smart people and that I laugh too loud at inappropriate things"

03. Jurassic 5 - Concrete Schoolyard

"I live in America but fuck this government!"

This isn't any 'gangsta' hip-hop rapping about guns and bling *yawn* but intelligent, laid back rhymes and rhythms very much in the style of 'old-skool' hip-hop. I've actually been listening to more DJ Format (from the mean-streets of Southampton!) than J5 but this track is just incredible. If you haven't checked Jurassic 5 or DJ Format out, even if you don't like hip-hop, you really should.

02. Salt 'n' Pepa/ The Stooges (mixed by 2-Many DJs) - Push-it/No Fun

A really good DJ can give you a night out like no band can. The problem is that so few people have seen a really good DJ do what a club DJ should do: cut up records to make something new, something crazy. Done live on the decks this truly is musicianship in its own right.

The 2 Many DJs album starts off with ELP's version of Peter Gunn overlayed with the vocals to Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At. Crazy yes but it just makes me want to jump up and down and shout like a mad man. It's later in the CD that the DJs really get creative though. It's the dirty, grimy riff of The Stooge's No Fun overlaid with Salt 'n' Pepa's ghetto-kitsch lyrics to Push It that really makes me smile and wish I was jumping and shouting like a mad-man on the floor of some club.

01. Hot Chip - Over and Over

Did someone say kitsch? Oh yes... A while back a friend sent me a link to the video for this track and since then this catchy, poppy, electro sound has just been looping around in my head; "Over and over and over, Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal." It really has to be heard to be believed.

Well, that's it, that's my first (and probably only at this rate!) Earworms slot. I thank you and good night!


Thanks mate. There's some quality tunage in there and mistake. That 2 Many DJs album in particular is an absolute show-stopper. If you haven't had the pleasure, then go listen.

Next week? Who knows. If you fancy a go, let me know (first time applicants only need apply, I'm afraid. I know Mark had a second go last week, but that was a competition prize.)

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Did you never call? I waited for your call...

an Earworm by any other name....

I was in the office today when someone tried to explain a concept to me. You know when a tune sinks into your head and you find yourself singing it for no apparent reason? Apparently the Germans have a word for it: Ohrwurm. Roughly this translates as.....

Oh - you're familiar with this concept?

I've been tagged by Phil. I don't usually go in for this kind of thing, but it's basically asking me for some earworms. As I've got a guest editor for tomorrow, I thought to hell with it...it's my go.

The rules:
List 7 songs you're into right now. No matter the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening to.

1. "Standing On My Own Again" - Graham Coxon (thanks Mark)
2. "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley
3. "All Sparks" (acoustic) - The Editors
4. "Sewn" - The Feeling
5. "Stonehenge" - Spinal Tap (thanks to Statue John)
6. "Killing in the Name" - Rage Against The Machine
7. "So. Central Rain" - R.E.M.

So there you go.

I'm now supposed to tag another seven people, but I'm not going to inflict it on anyone, I don't think.... although if you fancy it, knock yourself out.

Think of this as a warm-up for tomorrow's guest.

(By the way - we're up to 'N' in the A-Z of music over at The Art of Noise. Guess what I'm doing for 'O'....)


Apologies if I haven't been around all that much over the last week or so.... much to my annoyance work has meant that I haven't had as much time as I'd like to get around and about the place. I'll make it up to you, I promise.


Today's post has been brought to you by the Jerusalem Artichoke. Mmmmm. Smokey.



I have to break the rules and add 2 more songs to the list:

8. "Heart In A Cage" - The Strokes
9. "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson (I know! 79p well spent I reckon!)

I'm going to bed before any more tunes creep into my head.

oops. Too late.

10. "Famous Blue Raincoat" - Tori Amos (thanks bedshaped)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I can see him back again

Regular readers will recall that I am a huge Scott Walker fan. In my opinion, no other male vocalist can get anywhere near the peaks reached by his honeyed baritone (look - I know I always describe it as a 'honeyed baritone', but it just fits, alright?) Almost as interesting as his voice, though, is his mystique. Here is a guy who went missing from the Walker Brothers when they were at the absolute peak of their success and was eventually found in a monastery (apparently he was traumatised by the experience of the group's car being rolled over by hysterical fans and of being left concussed by a fan stampede in Chester). Here too is a guy who hosted an extremely popular television show ("Scott") whilst at the same time releasing records filled with songs about existentialism and death, and featuring covers of songs by artists like Jacques Brel, Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht as well as his own compositions. His records initally continued to sell in huge numbers: Scott (1967), Scott 2 (1968) and Scott 3 (1969) all burst into the top 3 in the UK album chart. The honeymoon was soon over and his confused public quickly gave up the ghost - Scott 4 (1969) failed to chart at all... although artistically it was probably his finest album to date, featuring a song about Stalinism ('The Old Man's Back Again'), and one ('The Seventh Seal') inspired by Ingmar Bergman and telling the story of a knight playing chess with Death.

After that.... not very much. There was a Walker Brothers reunion tour in 1975 and a brief flirtation with country & western, but essentially Walker became a recluse. He's released four albums in the last 30 years - none of them in the least bit commercial, and culminating in 1995's Tilt, which doesn't even really go in for conventional devices like a tune or recognisable verses and choruses.

It's utterly amazing. An incredble piece of art, albeit not one that you will want to listen to every day.

And now comes the news that Scott Walker will release a new album - The Drift - later on this year. There's a snippet of news about it in this month's Q magazine:

New track 'Psoriatic' begins with the sound of a giant pea rolling on a table and features percussion on a wooden box covered with dustbins. Another, 'Hands Me Up' ("Written around the fulcrum of celebrity television"), includes a bizarre instrument called a tubax. "It's a giant saxophone, even larger than a tuba," says Walker. "There are only two in the country." The album's most potentially controversial track is 'Jesse'. Written a month after 9/11, it brings together the attacks on the World Trade Center with Elvis Presley's still-born twin brother, and "deconstructs" Presley's 'Jailhouse Rock' along the way. "It starts with the basses sounding like planes coming in," he says, "while substituting the 'Jailhouse Rock' drum riff with whispered 'pows' for planes hitting the towers."

Giant peas? A tubax? 9/11? I think they'll struggle to file this one under "Easy Listening".

Coming soon to an earworm list near you.... maybe.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Yo, sound the bell. School is in suckah!

I've been pretty slack at this slot, I know.

The thing is that I'm determined to only link to sites that I think are genuinely worth looking at. I don't want to just be recommending a site simply because I need one for my 'Blog of the Week' feature. Thus it is that over the course of the last few days I've been steadily adding fresh meat to my blogroll. The more observant of you may have spotted some of it already, but other bits are marked as 'private' for me to spend a bit more time reading and assessing before I make the links public.... plus a couple of them are a little smutty (along the lines of "Girl With A One Track Mind", but I want to see if they are consistently worth reading - like Girl - or if they are just smut. Not that there's anything wrong with smut, but you can find that for yourselves....)

Having said all that... Yoko sent me a link today, and I simply can't resist.....

Blog of the Week #8 – MC Hammer Blog

"See it. Hear it. Talk about it."

I really, really want to believe that this is real. In fact, I don't care if it's fake. It's ace and fills my head with all kinds of promisingly insistent earworms.

[Previous blogs of the week: Delrico Bandito, I have ordinary addictions, Girl With A One-Track Mind, Ditch Monkey, Skinny Legs and All, Wandering Scribe, Sarah]


The presentation went okay, I think.... I actually went back later on in the afternoon to take part in the judging too, and as expected they blew me away. It wasn't so much their ideas as some of the other stuff they came up with in their presentations. As well as their product idea, the kids had to present some stuff on their proposed sales and marketing plans, their finances and their HR policies. In spite of my piss-taking yesterday, it was actually this last one that was the most heartening. Every single group - every single last one - made a point of saying that under no circumstances would they tolerate racism, homophobia, sexism or any kind of gender or trans-gender discrimination in their company.

It kind of gives you a little grain of hope, doesn't it?

The last time I did something like this with work, I came away with a similar warm glow. Maybe the lesson there is that I should look to do this kind of thing more often, right?

Mind you. Having spent all of that time out of the office, I have spent all evening catching up. This is getting to be a habit.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

don't mind doing it for the kids...

Only last week I was moaning about having to take some work home with me. Yet here I am, happily spending my Sunday putting the finishing touches to a presentation I am going to be giving tomorrow morning.

The difference? I will be giving this presentation to a group of 14-15 year old kids on behalf of businessdynamics - "a business education and enterprise charity that aims to bring business to life for young people. Volunteers from companies introduce students, aged 14-19 years, to the opportunities and challenges of business as well as improving their key skills in preparation for the world of work."

In this case, the students will be spending their day setting up a company, thinking up a product and working out how they would sell it. During the course of the day they will be receiving a number of presentations from people like me about different aspects of company life. Apparently the session was supposed to have been cancelled, but on Thursday I received a panicked phonecall from the coordinator saying that it was still on, and that I had been recommended to her as someone who could deliver a presentation at short notice. I've probably got more pressing things I need to be doing tomorrow, but none of them will be as interesting or as useful as this. Relatively speaking, I've also drawn the long-straw. One of my colleagues will be delivering a 50 slide presentation on the role of a Human Resources department (what are the other 49 slides for?). I'm up first, and I'm giving a presentation on the IT side of a business and introducing the teams to their challenge: they are tasked with thinking up a "new" Bluetooth product that they can bring to the market and how they would sell it.

Last time they ran this, the kids came up with heaps of ideas, including:

--> a device that could be embedded in the sole of your shoe to inform the police when you were speeding

--> a chip embedded in your mattress that scanned your body monthly and reported any changes to your doctor to help with early cancer detection

--> a white stick embedded with a GPRS and a headset for the blind which would aim to put all guide dogs out of business

...and so it is that I have spent my afternoon learning that Bluetooth technology is named after Harald Blåtann, a Tenth Century Danish king who briefly unified the warring tribes under his leadership. So why Bluetooth? Apparently he had a fondness for blueberries....

Saturday, March 11, 2006

this monkey's gone to heaven...

AngrySeaHorse (a.k.a. Adem and Phil) have been busy beavering away on a design for my header. I am turning out to be an incredibly fussy customer, but they've come up with a couple of designs that I quite like, and I was wondering what you thought:

Design 1:

This one's quite clean, and I love the monkey motif. It fits pretty well with my current template too. I'd probably only have the "Ou est le singe?" bit of the tag-line (the logo supplying the punchline), but otherwise it's good.

Design 2:

This one's a bit more mysterious. The monkey is an almost threatening figure clinging to the side of the tree. I like it.


I think I'd happily use either one of these, but I'm kind of curious to know what you guys think. Which do you prefer and why? Which one do you reckon I should use?


ok - done. Let's try this one on for size for a while and see how we go. Thanks to AngrySeaHorse -- it's a definite improvement.

I use the NME...

“Inky Fingers: the NME story”

I have a love/hate relationship with the NME. When I was a student I used to buy it every single week. Every Wednesday without fail, I would go into the newsagents and would pick up the new issue and take it with me to the library. I would read it, and very week without fail it would make me want to scream. It was self-referential, self-important, unfunny and intensely irritating. It only seemed to have two modes: it was either praising a band to the skies, or it was tearing strips out of them. The speed of the backlash was often amazing – last week’s hero was the next week’s villain. I suppose it’s funny at first, but when it happens week after week after week, it becomes boring and predictable. Every week there seemed to be a new scene: the most famous of these is of course Britpop, followed closely by Madchester, but do you remember shoe-gazing? new wave of new wave? new acoustic? fraggle? No? That’s because they were mostly all made up.

The programme naturally dwelt on the paper’s golden period around 1976-7 when Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons and Nick Kent were writing about the explosion of punk. I was struck by how we all unthinkingly subscribe to an incredibly orthodox view of musical history: in the 1950s music was crap, then Elvis and the Beatles came along and changed everything, peace and love, Led Zeppelin and then the long descent into prog rock pomposity before punk swept it all away.

I was thinking about this, and it’s bollocks, isn’t it? Punk music wasn’t invented by Malcolm McClaren and the Sex Pistols - The Ramones were formed in 1974 for one thing, and people have been making loud, angry guitar music since they invented the electric guitar. By the same token, Prog rock wasn’t swept away by Punk either. Yes had a number one album in July1977 at a time when Britain was apparently punk mad. People have made an awful lot of pompous music since 1977 too - a lot of it by Oasis, who presumably like to think they have more in common with Johnny Rotten than with Rick Wakeman. I can’t hold the NME entirely responsible for this brainwashing, but it’s definitely true that it’s a version of history that suits them because it implies that they were far more important and influential on the shaping of popular opinion than they actually were (they're name-checked in lyrics to"Anarchy In the UK", of course they want to talk up the role of the Sex Pistols).

I’ve long since stopped buying the NME now, but I still pick it up from time-to-time and have a browse – either for old time’s sake, or because they’ve put Morrissey on the front cover. It hasn’t changed much, or it doesn’t appear to have done, and I just can’t be doing with it.

I must be getting old.

Maybe I should take out a subscription to Mojo?

Friday, March 10, 2006

baby it's cold outside...

The 2006 Winter Olympics Games in Turin are now behind us* and the 2010 Games have already been awarded to Vancouver....but the campaign for Hoth 2014 starts here.

(link courtesy of John)

* Actually the Winter Paralympic Games in Turin started today and are running through to the 19th March. I always find the Paralympics incredibly moving and inspiring - often far more so than the able-bodied games - so if you get the chance do check it out.

Like a rhythm guitar in the wrong song, like a broken record that’s been going on so long...

Evening all.

It's been a little while since the last one, so it's high time we had another Guest Editor around these parts, isn't it? I didn't have to go very far to find the leader for tonight's Earworm devotions. Indeed, he's something of a regular round here, and indeed he has done this slot before, and thus has the honour of being the first person to have been granted a repeat visit. His first attempt was memorable (and featured the Crazy Frog), so the bar has been set pretty high for his return.

Well come on then. Let's be having you.....

Without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your Earworming pleasure....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #35 - Mark from Fear and Loafing in England

A rare honour! After playing Swiss’ A FRIDGE TOO FAR, I find myself a recipient of the Earworm Challenge, on the business end of a special SwissMixCD, and still surrounded by the snow on the way back from Dudley.

Nonetheless, I have to present you with the Top Ten Earworms that have been mercilessly stuck on my IJ since the last time I did this.

01. GUNS N ROSES “There Was A Time”

Recently the Intermaweb has been awash with rumours about Guns N Roses. The elusive Axl has even booked a festival tour (his second tour in thirteen years), and four demo songs from ‘Chinese Democracy’ have recently surfaced. This is one of them. Imagine, if you will, that “Chinese Democracy” is a love struck metal version of “Smile”, and you’ve pretty much got it. Dense, rich arrangements, enormous choruses, that type of thing. This one is the most epic of the recent songs, being 7 minutes of a lovelorn, almost melancholy expanse, with orchestra, lyrics about Being Done Wrong To By A Woman, Axl using his voice as another instrument, duetting with a guitar solo. But what does it sound like? Like Guns’N’Roses, but with all the Bon-Jovi rock clichés sawn off and a backing of semi industrial, dirty, epic metal. Nobody else sounds even vaguely like this. Rumour has it that the current configuration of ‘Chinese Democracy’ is as a three-CD box set, or as three separate CD’s released a year apart throughout a two year tour.

On the strength of what I have heard, when GNR do finally release the album, it will be fucking massive. Absolutely enormous.

02. THE WONDER STUFF “We Hold Each Other Up”

Taken from deep within their current album, this is very possibly their best song of the past ten years. Over an undulating, rotating riff, a gentle crescendo of fiddle, Miles sings tenderly of a world where ‘nobody else could feel as much, nobody else could know as much, we didn’t need what others need, we walk alone in open crowds, we hold each other up’… Have you ever lain in bed in the arms of your lover and thought that nobody could ever feel like this, that somehow we live in a different world to everyone else, where we see things that they couldn’t see, that others look with the same eyes, but see a world much less, that they settle for so much less, and that we, you and me, truly are a rare breed, a world apart from the rest of the world? That it’s their world, and whilst we only live in it, we see it for what it truly is? That’s what this song sounds like.

03. FLAMING LIPS “Thank You Jack White For The Fibre Optic Jesus That You Gave Me”

Firstly, look at the title for that. How could you not love a song with a title like that? The rest of the lyric is just as individual : an ode to the redeeming qualities of a Fibre Optic Jesus that was presented to the Flaming Lips by the White Stripes (with their ‘modern backwards liberal family code, playing rock n roll and doing it on the road’ ) on their tour. The music is also memorably individual – a perverted version of an old fashioned country & western porch twang. It also has a brilliant verse about how much their tour bus smells. It’s also full of affectionate mockeries of the blues genre (“Nice One!” “Hiya!” “YEAH!”) during the banjo solo.

04. KARL BARTOS “Camera Obscura”

It’s the most played song on my iPod. That’s a TALL order to reach. If you’ve had a mix CD off me recently, its probably got this on. Compact, robust electronic pop music. A timeless rhythm, reminiscent of the type of perfect, sparse drum patterns that populate Kraftwerk records (Bartos was Kraftwerk’s rhythm section, programmer, keyboard player and occasional co-vocalist for six albums, from “Radioactivity” to “The Mix”), wrapped in the shape of someone who isn’t ashamed to make pop music. This is the type of production that would storm charts if sung by four sixteen year old girls, not if it was the brainchild of one 48-year-old German Music Professor. Is it any wonder then, that the geezer from OMD plunged all his money into Atomic Kitten and cleaned up? And it’s efficient. There’s not one wasted beat, not one extraneous note, everything that’s there has to be there. To me, it’s easily better than “The Model”.

05. FRANZ FERDINAND “I’m Your Villain”

I downloaded an MP3 of the demo for this about a year before the album came out, and have found it rather difficult to forget it. In fact, I could probably condense why I love this song down into the intro, which is just four bars of a drum solo. But there’s also the lyric about “Like a waiter, hating the rich, but taking their tips”. And the fact that they can’t seem to go about thirty seconds in any direction before changing tempos to a gallop, a leisurely stroll, or a drum break. I know FF are huge, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in five years, they’re headlining stadiums. They’ll be the next U2.

06. FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM “In The Year 2525”.

This one’s a bit harder to write about. I know it’s a cover version, but I can’t for the life of me remember the original. All I know really is that it goes for ten minutes, rocks like a motherfucker - and whilst I hate to use such generalisations, it really is a Wall of Guitars that never relent, just keep pounding away in the inside of your head like God himself, or that guy in 2000AD who found that he could receive Mega City Four’s Radio Stations in his head, 24 hours a day, and thus, committed crimes solely so he could be sent to iso-cubes and be driven mad by DJ Snotting Hell*.

(*name may vary according to accuracy of my memory)

Oh, and the kind of apocalyptic lyrics that would make Leonard Cohen jealous. I often find it’s just tiny snippets of songs – a line, a verse, a guitar break – that comes back to me in the oddest places. For this, I’ve pretty much had to live with Carl McCoy threatening that “In The Year 8510, God Will Shake His Mighty Hand, Tear It Down and Start Again.” None of that wimpy love bollocks – we’re talking about the end of the world here. This may possibly the most suitable song to listen to as the Tripods evaporate our civilisation with green lasers and tower over our land. I for one welcome our Alien Overlords.


Perhaps somewhat sadly (for me anyway), I got into PiL with their penultimate “9” album, and it was the video for this, which featured the band in a series of appalling 80’s outfits pulling shapes on a LA rooftop that was broadcast on the James Whale Show – a 1am televised version of a drunken phone-in, notable for Wayne Hussey’s shitfaced interview where he threw shoes at the camera and was forcibly removed, or Mr Methane performing the National Anthem by medium of flatulence – that really intruiged me.

Like stadium rock, but smarter. And with John Lydon singing. In fact, in some ways, this song was very influential in my thinking. “This Is My Land – I’ll Never Surrender – I Take No Prisoner – I’m A Warrior”, he sings. And though it’s actually written from the perspective of Mother Earth taking revenge upon the pollution of mankind, it encapsulated, for me, my world view. Whilst I am, in person, fluffy and a bit soft, my sense of justice is immense, and I don’t forget or forgive the trespasses against me. Which may explain why I am a Rubbish Christian. Or, for that matter, I protect my own interests with a passion verging on homicidal if I think I’m being fucked with. Oh, and this song sounds ace, with indian strings and a machine gun percussion that sounds like a military tattoo. This song is John Lydon’s “My War”.

08. BLACK FLAG – “My War”.

I haven’t got this on my iPod, because I’ve heard it enough times. But I really really really want to hear it now. It’s the sound of a bomb going off for three minutes captured on vinyl. “My War – You say you’re my friend, but you’re one of them, one of them, ONE OF THEM – My War.” And who hasn’t felt like that some time? It’s no surprise that one of their records is called ‘Revenge’.

09. EMINEM – “Lose Yourself”

This is what it should sound like. Whilst it’s not as good as anything from Cypress Hill’s “Skull & Bones” album, the crossbreeding of the beats and the insistent, rising, semi-Kashmir guitar riff lifts the song, elevates. And the lyrics – a single, simple distillation of everyone’s teenage dream. To grab the moment, seize the opportunity, take up to the mike, and let it out. And Eminem raps so fast, its almost as if there isn’t enough space in the beats, or time, for his mouth to keep up with his brain : “You Only Get One Shot. Do Not Miss Your Chance To Blow. Opportunity Only Comes Once In A Lifetime.” Which sounds very very much – far too much - like Gene Simmons 3,000-women-later mantra that ‘Life is not a rehearsal’. But it’s about time someone sat that fucktard Pete Doherty down, made him listen to this, and made him realise that whilst not everyone can be an artist, anyone can be a junkie.

10. THE TIMES – “Manchester (George Best Remix)”

In which Ed Ball, sometime keyboardist for The Boo Radleys, sole member of The Times, provides his very own tribute to the greatest city in North England, all about Hooky doing a DJ set in a club. Unlike the original, this remix seems custom built around including as many samples of Madchester songs in a 4-minute lump. This really should have been the theme tune for ’24 Hour Party People’. Samples include New Order (“Round & Round”s percussion, “Blue Monday”s bass, “Best & Marsh”s keyboards- in fact the entire backing track seems to made out of old New order 12"s with football commentary bolted on and Ed Ball's vocals), A Guy Called Gerald, 808 State, and lyrical steals from the Pet Shop Boys, Stone Roses, Morrissey, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, all built on a chorus of “Manchester. Manchester, England. Manchester, I’ll Always Love You.” I swear if I am ever in a band that plays Manchester, this’ll be the music I come onto stage at in that town.


Thanks Mark. Banjo solos? 2000AD? James Whale? (God, he was responsible for Ezio wasn't he?). Nice. A worthy repeat visit.

Next week: someone else. Possibly.

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil]

what a way to make a living

I just spent my whole evening on my laptop working.

What's that all about?

I don't mind leaving the office late - I'm usually there until about 7pm every night - but I absolutely loathe taking work home. They have enough of my life already without me spending my spare time working too. Besides, even though I work around 50 hours a week, I only actually get paid for 37 of them.

Man, I'm stupid.

I hate having early nights too (which is part of the reason I'm sat here at a little after midnight writing this). C. works late too, and by the time I've taken some exercise, most nights it's gone 9pm before we have our dinner, and often it's nearly 10pm by the time we have finished. I always feel like if I have an early night, I will have absolutely no time to myself to unwind.

So I sit up. C. goes to bed, but I stay up a while longer. The result? I get more and more tired, and then spend most of the weekend asleep.

But today I got home and I had to work. I had to spend all evening in front of my laptop working when I was really hoping that I'd be able to spend all evening on my laptop surfing the internet and stuff.

I'm quite the catch, huh?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I can't be your friend unless I pretend

The Feeling @ The Social, 8th March 2006

The Social is a great venue. It's pretty small and probably holds about 150-200 people at the absolute maximum. It's a bit like going to a concert in your front room. It's even charmingly s-shaped, so that if you are standing near the doors at the back, you can't actually see the stage at all. I've been here several times before, but this is actually the first time I've come in for a gig, and as soon as I walked through the door, I felt as though I should come more often. It's a proper venue for seeing and discovering bands. It's nice and intimate. Even from the back of the room, you're pretty close to the band. Or maybe I only think that because my last gig was in an Arena.

The Feeling don't actually need discovering. Their current single - "Sewn" - was released last week and has just gone into the UK singles chart at number 7. They're doing pretty well, thank you very much. The band are just finishing off a tour of smaller venues before they head out on tour supporting The Charlatans. Needless to say, they've been getting quite a lot more interest at their gigs over the last couple of weeks since the single began to get significant airplay.

Lord B and I turned up late as usual, and arrived just in time to catch the band playing their first song (can you imagine if you come to see a band like this and they play the song you know first? It's the kind of thing radiohead would do... ). They didn't play "sewn" first, but the crowd remained politely interested in their other stuff. They are pleasant enough. As guitar bands go (they comprise 2 guitars, keyboards, bassist & drummer) they are at the poppier end. I was just trying to put my finger on who I would compare them to (I was thinking someone like Electric Soft Parade or Haven - something like that), when Lord B leaned over to me and absolutely nailed the comparison: The Feeling sound exactly like 10cc, possibly with some Supertramp or ELO thrown in, and with just a tiny dash of Huey Lewis & the News. Snigger if you want, but there's definitely more than a little hint of 1970s MOR about their sound. Sometimes it's just blatant theft. I honestly didn't think it was impossible that they would play a cover of "Life is a Minestrone". Still, stranger things have happened. The mullet is back for one thing.

I was a little disorientated by this revelation, but they were still perfectly pleasant to listen to. There was a little bit of chatter going on during their set, at least behind me, but not too much, and this soon stopped when they played "Sewn". It probably goes without saying that they have been getting quite a lot of attention recently as a result of this song. I have to say I think it's largely deserved. It's a little bit more contemporary sounding than their other material, and features some nice harmonies and has some killer "na na nas" in the chorus. What more do you want from a song? This sounds like damning it with faint praise, but it sounds like the kind of song that wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack to some glossy US TV show like "The OC" or something. It's gentle, melodic, tuneful and catchy. It sounds sunny. It's a good record, and we all sing along. It brings the house down (and for the first time that I can remember at a gig, I saw more than one camcorder being wielded in the crowd as people try to grab a piece of the action). The Feeling are starting to happen, and it's this song that's making it happen for them. They got up at 6am, they tell us, because they had to go and queue at the American Embassy for the visas they will need when they go out to promote this single. Claudia Schiffer jumped the queue apparently. Does she not know who they are?

A little oddly, it's not their last song. "This one will be our last song. It's called...." at this point there was a fatal pause and I wanted to scream out "....anticlimax", but I didn't and the band pressed on anyway as people began to leave. It was a good enough tune though and at one point the singer commanded us to stop being cool over near the bar and to clap our hands over our heads. The room is so small, and Lord B and I are so tall, that I actually think he was talking to us, so we rather self-consciously joined in....

And that was it. The whole set lasting about 45 minutes. Oh, and by the way, apparently the bassist (on the right in the picture above) is married to Sophie Ellis Bextor (in spite of the fact he looks about thirteen). As we left, the bouncer was busy singing "Murder on the Dancefloor" to himself, so I assumed she was in the venue somewhere and we'd just missed her. Oh well (she could have been the support act for all I know).

The verdict? Not bad. Where bands like the Arctic Monkeys have obviously taken their cue from punk and new wave bands, it's kind of refreshing to see a band whose influences are totally different (and make no mistake, some of those cheesy MOR bands had some amazing tunes). They're a little poppy for me though. I like to rock a bit more, and this lot may be the weediest 2 guitar band I've ever seen. That's just me though. They tick all of Lord B's boxes - he thinks they're great.

6.5 / 10


Thanks for all your birthday wishes, by the way. I had a nice day and I really appreciated them all....