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

Monday, June 30, 2008

How does it feel?

Monday morning at the Glastonbury Festival. Always a little bit sad when the tents start to come down. Still, at least it's not raining this year, eh? Thanks once again to Michael Eavis. See you in 12 months.

Posted by ShoZu


Sunday, June 29, 2008

The milkman of human kindness

Sometimes all you need is one man, a guitar and some socialist politics (coupled with an unshakable sense of righteous conviction and some bombproof common sense - missing in a couple of the Union leaders who were taking part in the rally in here earlier)!

Billy Bragg is the only way for me to finish up my festival. Who needs The Verve?

Posted by ShoZu


Everybody knows

Sundown with Leonard Cohen.

Posted by ShoZu


Red, red wine

Neil Diamond and the only truly appropriate beverage.

Posted by ShoZu


Play it now

One of the greatest performing songwriters alive today struts his stuff on the pyramid: Neil Diamond in action. One of the others, Leonard Cohen is on in a bit. And then it's the best of all: Billy Bragg....

Posted by ShoZu



Tony Benn rightly draws a huge crowd in the Leftfield. What an inspiration. His great grandfather remembered slavery, and when he was born, his mother didn't have the vote. He met oswald moseley and told him that he couldn't speak english when he arrived in this country either...as a baby. There are simply not enough people like this left.

Posted by ShoZu


And sweet marie...

A brass band play amarillo at the park stage.

Posted by ShoZu


Sunday morning

The tiny tea tent in the green fields: a sunday glastonbury tradition. Delicious fresh coffee off the wood stove. Mmm.

Posted by ShoZu



I was feeling just a touch skanky this morning, so...i did fear the queue somewhat, but walked right in. God bless you greenpeace.

Posted by ShoZu


Saturday, June 28, 2008

99 problems....

I'm actually looking forward to this.

Posted by ShoZu


I'll give you laid back

Hot Chip at the other stage doing "over and over". I am so doing jay z next. For real.

Posted by ShoZu


Me, myself and I

Your correspondent, waiting for elbow. Sun out, you'll notice.

Posted by ShoZu


Wild horses

Where else would you see this, eh? Strolling around the circus field as we avoid blunt on the pyramid.

Posted by ShoZu


I was a miner


Posted by ShoZu


Green door

The old magic is still very much on show. Legend.

Posted by ShoZu


Fix the shingles...

Waiting for shaky

Posted by ShoZu


Friday, June 27, 2008

Richard and joo-day!

The enemy. And it's not raining. Yay! Kings of leon next for a nice bit of southern fried rock.

Posted by ShoZu


Found the cure...

I really like Ida Maria. Bonkers in a nice kind of scandinavian way.

Posted by ShoZu


Don't worry be happy

It has pissed it down for hours, but I reckon it's not so bad.

Posted by ShoZu


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cider drinker

Amen to that.

Posted by ShoZu


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mojito on ice

Tents up, so time for a homemade fresh mojito with ice. Who says Glastonbury is middle class?

Posted by ShoZu


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

we saw the green fields....

Right. That's more or less it.

For the next few days, this blog is going to go into a temporary stasis as I head off to a (hopefully) sunny Pilton and the 2008 Glastonbury Festival.

You'll no doubt still be able to find me over on Twitter, and if I can remember how Shozu works, I might even try and post a few photos up here through the magic of modern mobile telephony.

...but then again, I might just kick back for a few days, catch up with some friends, watch a few bands and drink some cider.

See you on the other side.



It looks like I can still add photos via Shozu... so I may well be doing some of that in the next few days. Nice one.


Monday, June 23, 2008

sweep the streets that I used to own....

Even though the singles charts are probably of no more than a passing interest to anyone and are clearly no longer worth the paper they're not printed on, I have to admit that I smiled then I saw this week's number one record: "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay.

I smiled for a couple of reasons really. Firstly because somehow it's the embodiment of the seismic changes happening to the music industry at the moment: here we have a song topping the singles chart that has not actually been released as a single, is not available in any shops or any any other form except download. Hell, it wasn't even the band's choice - they decided to release (er....give away... ) "Violet Hill" as the lead off track from their new album instead. Nope, it's been chosen from the album by the good people of the general public, who have voted with their mouse-clicking fingers and who have downloaded the song in their droves, thus making it Coldplay's first number one single. The second reason, of course, is that I have an enduring love of Coldplay that I have waxed on about here many times.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I simply don't understand why people seem to hate Coldplay so much. If you say that they are bland, that the lyrics are crap, that they are wet, that they are so worthy and liberal it makes you want to cry... well, that's fine. I don't much like Westlife or Daniel O'Donnell either. I don't buy their records and I try my best to avoid them, which isn't really that hard. Each to their own, right? I certainly don't waste any energy on hating them. What would be the point? I'm largely indifferent to them. For me, that's a more understandable reaction to a band you don't really like. Indifference, in the main, is fine - Coldplay have sold millions of records worldwide, but there must also be untold billions of other people who have either never heard of them or who simply don't care about them. Fine. What I don't get is the people who take this further and somehow make out that Coldplay in general, and Chris Martin specifically are worthy of hatred. These people seem to dislike what they take Coldplay to represent as much as the actual musicians themselves. Chris Martin might be a sap who has given his kids slightly quirky names, but is that enough of a reason to hate someone? It's all a matter of opinion, but he generally seems like a nice enough guy to me. He's concerned about the environment and about the people who are starving in the world and he seems to be doing the best he can to lead as normal a life as he can given that he's one of the biggest rock stars in the world and is married to an Oscar winning actress. Yet he seems to be hated in an almost abstract way for what he represents, and without any specific reference to any crimes he might have committed. You might not like "X&Y", but Coldplay aren't quite Milli Vanilli are they?

Coldplay's music touches me, and although I often think that some of the lyrics are a bit crap, I like them and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Recently though, I've taken to defending them in some weird places. I was reading a column written by the English rugby player, James Haskell, the other day. The week before, Haskell, a hulking great big back row forward, had mentioned in passing that he liked Coldplay. The following week, the comments on the blog post were filled with smart-arses taking the piss out of him and out of the band. I couldn't help myself: I waded in. It was as if liking Coldplay was somehow inappropriate for a big, tough man like Haskell, and that admitting that he listened to them was tantamount to saying he was soft. Rubbish. For all we know, Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain, listens to Katie Melua and the tellytubbies, for heaven's sake. Obviously, I was on a hiding to nothing.

One of the posters on that blog linked to this article in the Independent: "Why I Hate Coldplay" by Andy Gill.

"The strange thing is, I can't seem to find anyone who bought X & Y, or who intends to buy Viva La Vida. For that matter, I have never encountered one person who has a kind word to say about Coldplay. None of my personal or professional acquaintances, nobody in the street or the local café, not a single soul will admit to liking Coldplay or purchasing their music. Indeed, most seem to agree that they epitomise everything that's wrong with modern rock music. So who's buying all their albums? Who are those masses politely arrayed in their thousands at stadiums when Coldplay play? Is it some secret society, an Opus Dei of dreary anthemic music? And where do they congregate, other than at stadiums and arenas? Do they have parties? And if so, how many slash their wrists at these parties? What's the attrition rate?.....Their music sounds like Radiohead with all the spiky, difficult, interesting bits boiled out of it, resulting in something with the sonic consistency of wilted spinach; it retains the crowd-pleasing hooks and singalong choruses while dispensing with the more challenging, dissonant aspects and sudden, 90-degree shifts in direction."

Oh, so Coldplay aren't Radiohead and that's their major crime? Well, how many bands are Radiohead exactly? And by the way, how many people would rather listen to anything Coldplay have done than listen to "Kid A" or "Amnesiac"? Honestly? I admire Radiohead but listen to Coldplay an awful lot more often.

Not content at stopping there, Gill widens his focus to some other bands that are apparently as much disliked as they are loved:

"In this respect, the band's name is one of the most appropriate in rock. It's redolent of pale complexions and dead emotions: whenever I hear it, it always evokes a glassy-eyed fish on a fishmonger's slab, ice melting from its scales. Ironically, it was coined by Tim Rice-Oxley, who had stopped using it for his own band as he considered it "too depressing". Rice-Oxley was apparently invited to join Coldplay, but instead chose Keane, which suggests a serious frying pan/fire interface. Still, at least it wasn't Snow Patrol or Athlete, the weediest of the Coldplay copyists trailing in the band's wake."

Oh yeah, yeah.... have a crack at some more easy targets who sell records, why don't you? Not content with this lazy swipe, he then has a crack at Martin's family... a cheap punch to the guts:

"On another, possibly longer, list, there's plenty more to dislike about Coldplay – most of it, admittedly, concerning Chris Martin, the world's least impressive rock star by virtually any criteria connected with rock'n'roll as we know it. There's the celebrity-spouse syndrome that casts Chris 'n' Gwynnie as the scented-candle, low-fibre equivalent of Brad 'n' Ange; the scrubby non-beard that Chris Martin shares with Jensen Button (have you ever seen the two of them together in the same place?); calling a child Apple, rather than, say, Veal (far tastier, and less likely to get bullied at school); and much more besides."

Given that Martin and Paltrow seem to go out of their way to avoid being seen together and to take part in celebrity culture, that seems like an especially cheap shot to me. Still, I'm sure lots of people find that kind of stuff amusing. I just thought that it was a cheap and lazy piece of journalism and it was unedifying to see a musician and critic like Andy Gill stoop so low. He almost sounds jealous. It's not as though Coldplay are claiming to be as influential as Gang of Four, is it? Besides, I'm not sure a man who has produced a record by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is really in any position to criticise Coldplay as representing all that's bad in modern rock music. [ST's addendum: OK, so it's not *that* Andy Gill. Mea culpa and thanks to Eloi for picking up on it and pointing it out. Apologies to Andy Gill the musician and producer. My basic point remains though: it is a horrible article full of cheap shots by Andy Gill the journalist]

Even the BBC is at it. They've just hosted a whole "Coldplay at the BBC" thing (available here for another couple of days), but even they couldn't resist spinning one story. Apparently Chris Martin "stormed out" of an interview on Radio 4's "Front Row". Well, that's putting it a bit strong, to be honest. Go and listen to the clip for yourself here. There's not a whole lot of "storming" going on at all there. In fact, Martin actually asks the interviewer - a touch apologetically - if it's okay if he steps outside as he's not really enjoying the interview very much. When the interviewer then asks the drummer, Will Champion, if he thinks he has upset him, Champion comes back with the fantastically polite, but patently untrue, "No, no. I don't think so". It's a very British kind of a storming out. Not very rock and roll, anyway.... but that's no doubt part of the reason people hate them.

I'm a bit tired of it, to be honest. You may well disagree, but I like my rock stars to be a bit more questioning, awkward and unsure like Chris Martin and a lot less posturing, boastful and Neanderthal than people like Liam Gallagher. Christ, he's less annoying than Bono, surely? People are entitled to their opinions, of course, and feel free to have a crack at Coldplay all you like..... just don't accuse them of being lazy, wishy-washy and unimaginative in a lazy, wishy-washy or unimaginative way. Well, don't do it without a sense of irony, anyway.

If you want to have a crack at Mick Hucknall though, please be my guest.....

Labels: ,

Friday, June 20, 2008

once again without emotion....

Earworms of the Week - Glastonbury anticipa...pa...pation edition

It's the last earworms slot before I head off to Glastonbury next week... so it seems appropriate that I do a list themed around bands that I'm hoping to see at the festival. There seems to have been a huge amount of fuss made about the supposed lack of quality on the lineup this year, but you'd be a fool to let any of that nonsense put you off. To be perfectly honest, I never really bother to pay the lineup too much attention before I get there. All the best laid plans and carefully planned schedules can quickly go to pieces in the face of a bit of mud, a drop or two of cider or simply laziness. There's so much to see that you'll go mad if you don't just relax and take it as it comes. Having said that, you might be wise to have at least a cursory look at the schedule, or else you are in serious danger of accidentally catching a band as monumentally awful as Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong - who are playing no fewer than three times in various places at the festival this year.

After a quick glance at the lineup, here are the ones that jump out at me.

> Oh My God - Ida Maria (Other stage, Friday)

She's one of those people who 'sees' music as colours, apparently. Hmmm. She's shouty scandinavian indie rock, anyway, and I first saw her on "Later..." performing this song. As is often the way on that programme, I was sort of expecting not to be impressed and was just marking time before James played, when actually this song grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let me go. I'd really like to see her performing live, and it looks as though at about 11.30 on Friday morning, I'm going to get my chance. I should be able to hear this stage from the place where we usually pitch our tent, but I hope I'm going to be prepared to make a bit of an effort and actually walk down the hill to have a proper look.

> Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend (Other stage, Friday)

They're very 'of the moment' and are playing a few times over the weekend, I think, but this is the time I'd be most likely to catch them, I think. Their blending of New York indie with vaguely African sounding guitars probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I like them. This song in particular is a corker. There aren't enough sweary songs about punctuation, are there?

> Slow Show - The National (John Peel stage, Sunday)

It will be a bit of an epic trek if I can make it from the Leftfield tent where I will have been watching Billy Bragg, over the top of the Pyramid stage, where the Verve will be closing the festival, and over to the John Peel Stage, but I would really, really like to catch a bit of this band. I discovered their album a little bit late, but it's effortlessly the best thing I've heard in the last 12 months or so. Real slow-burning genius. Chances are I won't be arsed, but it will be very much my loss, I'm sure. Perhaps it's heresy, but maybe I should try and watch the Braggster on one of performances at the festival and make sure I turn up here early doors? (like that's going to happen!)

> Aggro - The Enemy(Other stage, Friday)

They're unpromising looking scallies from Coventry, but it only took the first ten seconds of this, the first track on their album, to realise that this band have really got something. Plus, we'll get to shout out that line about "to stay at home with RICHARD AND JOO-DAY" when they play "away from here".

> The Bucket - Kings of Leon (Pyramid Stage, Friday)

Some people raised an eyebrow when they saw that the KoL were headlining Friday night at the festival... but not me. They're a great band and they play pedal-to-the-metal southern styled rock and roll. They're going to absolutely nail it and it's going to be brilliant. Just don't expect to hear Caleb Followhill say or sing a single word that you can understand... they will still be the coolest band at the festival and - most importantly - THEY ROCK!

> Turn Tail - The Young Knives (John Peel Stage / The Queen's Head, Friday)

A great band and I would imagine an extremely good festival band as they have quite a lot of sing-a-long songs about loneliness and alienation. Yay! Feel good! The sun's out, so let's all sing along to a song about an accountant gassing himself in his garage!

> One Day Like This - Elbow (Other Stage, Saturday)

Elbow will be brilliant full stop, but I'm picking this song because it will definitely have the best crowd sing-a-long of the festival. Guaranteed.

> This Old House - Shakin' Stevens (Pyramid Stage, Saturday)

Well, you have to, don't you?

> Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond (Pyramid Stage, Sunday)

Ditto. It's either this or "I'm a Believer", innit? The man's a songwriting legend, and the sunday afternoon slot at Glastonbury, a slot where I have previously seen Van Morrisson, Brian Wilson and Jimmy Cliff seems just about perfect.

> New England - Billy Bragg (Leffield, Sunday)

Well, he's usually a festival highlight.... He's playing at the festival three times in all this year, and I may well see him elsewhere this year, but this is where it's at. I may end up missing the National just so I can see Billy in his element in the Worker's tent at the Leftfield. Keep the red flag flying, brother. Not to mention the fact that the Leftfield tent has the cleanest toilets on the site - cleaned every hour by the workers co-op - with soap and everything. And it's near the cider bus....

> Robots - Flight of the Conchords (wherever I am, all weekend)

They're not actually playing, but there's always one song that sinks into my head that has nothing to do with the festival at all and I just can't stop singing it. Last year it was "Carry on my Wayward Son" by Kansas, and I have a feeling that this year it's going to be this wonderful piece of nonsense by New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo.

The humans are dead
The humans are dead
Yay, dead, dead, dead.
We used poisonous gasses
(With traces of lead)
To poison their asses.
(Actually their lungs)
Binary solo:

Genius. If you're coming to the festival with me.... you have been warned.


Would I watch Jay-Z? Yes I would. I've nothing against the man, and "99 Problems" is just a great record, isn't it? As it happens, I'll either be watching Massive Attack or the Proclaimers when he's due onstage... so....

Of course, I may very well not watch any of this lot, and may spend my time in the circus tent learning how to juggle with fire instead... but that wouldn't be time wasted either, eh?

Hey - have a good weekend y'all.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I see that the first British female soldier to be killed in Afghanistan has been hailed by her husband as a hero. Carl Bryant, a corporal in the Intelligence Corps, said:

"Although I am devastated beyond words at the death of my beautiful wife Sarah, I am so incredibly proud of her. She was an awesome soldier who died doing the job that she loved. My wife knew the risks, she was there because she wanted to be, and she wouldn't have had it any other way."

Her father added:

"There are so many people both in the military and locally where she grew up that are not only going to be touched by this but also devastated at the loss of such a beautiful girl. Nothing much seems to have changed since the days of Churchill's famous speech. Never have so many owed so much to so few.

She was killed by a roadside bomb alongside three other British soldiers whilst supervising a checkpoint manned by Afghan police, just east of Lashkar Gah. Their deaths bring the total of British servicemen killed in Afghanistan to 106 since the US led assault in the wake of the 9/11 bombings in 2001.

Des Browne, the Government Defence Secretary added his tribute:

"They have made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their life alongside those of their comrades in pursuit of the aim of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan."

Look. I don't want to take any comfort away from her husband and from her family: Sarah Bryant's death and the death of her colleagues is certainly a tragedy. But was she really laying down her life in the name of some greater good? I can understand that her family want the death of this woman to mean something, but what has it achieved really? What have the deaths of any of the other 105 British troops achieved? What have the deaths of any American or Taliban soldiers or any of the civilians caught in the crossfire in Afghanistan really achieved? Or in any other pointless skirmish around the world in this unwinnable "War on Terror".

Nothing. It's just more dead people in the name of another spurious cause. Their deaths mean nothing except misery for the people they were close to.

You can't defeat Terror. It doesn't have a flag and it doesn't have convenient national borders or a tinny, overly-long anthem they play before football matches. You're as likely to find Terror in a cellar in Austria or in Jersey as you are at a roadside checkpoint in Afghanistan, and I don't see us sending taskforces full of young and idealistic soldiers there.

Does anyone really think that the presence of our troops in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or anywhere else are really likely to bring about peace and stability? Since when did soldiers armed with bombs and landmines and tanks really bring about stability anywhere? Even if you can enforce "peace" through force of arms, which seems like a contradiction in terms to me, at some point you're going to have to leave, aren't you? What then? Do you go home with your head held high and with any serious expectation that your hard-won peace and stability will actually last now that your guns have gone?

I have the greatest of respect for the troops fighting these battles. I don't think much of their career choices, perhaps, but I wish them well and hope they all come back in one piece. All of them. On every side. But really, isn't it time that we stopped doing this?

Sarah Bryant was 26 years old.

What a waste. What a terrible waste.

As a species we fancy ourselves as being something pretty special, don't we? At the end of the day though, we just keep on proving that we've learnt fuck all in several thousand years, except perhaps how to kill people more efficiently. Of course, nowadays we prefer to think of our wars as being less about conquest and more about freedom and justice, but at the end of the day, they're still wars and people still die.


no rain....

We're leaving for the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Arts first thing on Wednesday morning. Needless to say, I'm quite excited about this, and I'll happily spend the next few days rounding up my gear and making sure that I've got things like waterfree soap, batteries for my torch and plenty of wet wipes. I'm sure it's hell on earth for some people, but the few days I spend down in Somerset every year are definitely amongst the highlights of the year.

Of course, when most people think about Glastonbury, they tend to think about the weather. The enduring image of the festival always seems to be that of people slogging their way through mud. The festival gets saturation coverage (no pun intended) whatever the weather, but it's the muddy ones that really seem to capture the imagination of the people watching the event from afar.

The 2008 festival will be my seventh, and the score for me is 3 - 3: I got very lucky to start with and 1993, 2002 and 2003 were all dry years, even if only 1993 was really hot and sunny throughout. After that, my luck and the stormclouds broke, and 2004, 2005, 2007 were wet, even wetter and absolutely sodden.

2008 is going to tip the balance one way or the other.

The forecast is reasonable - not very hot and not very sunny, but not especially wet either. I'm not especially bothered about this one way or the other and I take a pair of wellies with me whatever the forecast.... but after three years wading through the sludge, it would be really nice to be able to sit down on the grass and enjoy the music.

Less of this:

and this:

and a whole lot more of this:

Is that so much to ask?

Ah well, whatever we get, one thing is for sure: there will be pies......plenty of pies.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

from despair to where.....

For the first time that I can remember, I actually experienced a feeling of hopelessness and despair the other day. I like to think that I'm generally a fairly phlegmatic person. I know that I can worry and fret about the smallest of things, but on the big stuff, I've always been fairly calm and relaxed. Any yet, sat in my bedroom the other day, I despaired. It only lasted for about thirty seconds before I snapped myself out of it, but it was definitely there.

The reason for my despair? Self-pity about my condition.

It's just about three years now since I was first diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis. I have a lesion on my cervical spinal cord, just on the left-hand side of my neck. The damage it has caused there interrupts the transmission of nerve signals from my brain down my body, and had led to feelings widespread numbness, loss of sensation and a generalised weakness, loss of power and consequent muscle wastage across my upper body. It's apparently very rare, and you could say that I'm very unlucky to have got it. On the other hand, I've read that sudden onset Transverse Myelitis can be devastating - one chap describes how over the course of a horrifying ninety minutes, he permanently lost the use of his legs and is now in a wheelchair. I've been unlucky, certainly, but at the same time it is very clear to me that I've also been relatively lucky: I am inconvenienced by condition, sure, but it hasn't actually stopped me doing anything. I run, I swim, I play football... hell, I walk, I am continent (mostly), I can swallow when I want to swallow and I have the full use of my hands.... It could have been so much worse. On the whole, I'm grateful for small mercies, but at the same time, I wouldn't wish what I already have on anyone.

So what was it that made me despair the other day? Nothing was particularly different about the way I was feeling. My symptoms never go away completely and they vary from day to day: I have good days and I have bad days. I had perhaps been feeling a little more tired than usual, and my left shoulder was perhaps giving me a bit more grief than usual, but I'd felt worse, I reckon. The numbness in the soles of my feet and in my sides, the tingling in my hands and the burning feeling in my right thigh? They're always there, and over the last three years, I've more or less got used to them. Hell, it might, if I develop any more lesions, get worse.... but I've never been too fussed about that. Why worry about what might (or might not) happen tomorrow?

So what was different now?

What was different was that, for the first time since my diagnosis, I stopped and thought about how this was never going to go away. These are thoughts that I would prefer not to have and fight to keep locked away: there is no cure for this; I'm not going to get better; my hands will always tingle like this; I will always struggle to carry anything across my shoulders for long and I will probably always have to do a set of specific exercises three times a week just to stave off widespread muscle wastage. Just this once, those thoughts came bubbling up through my consciousness and, just for a minute, they overwhelmed me and I felt a genuine despair.

I pushed it away quickly enough.... after all, what the hell's the point in wallowing in self-pity? Where's it going to get me? This condition is nobody's fault and it is what it is. No one can do a damn thing about it, least of all me, and I have little choice but to get on with it. What's the point of despair? Am I going to spend the rest of my life worrying about it and feeling bitter that it happened to me? Of course I'm not.

But now that I've experienced it, I can't forget what I felt. No matter how quickly I shrugged it off, I can't help but remember what it felt like to be sat on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands, contemplating my future with the tears welling up in my eyes. I know that those thoughts are all still in there somewhere, but I don't want them to come bubbling back any time soon.

I went running this afternoon, and it was bloody hard work. I've been extremely tired recently, and I have no idea if that's anything to do with the myelitis or if it's simply the consequence of working long hours at work and having a great weekend with my friends. For thirty-five minutes, I dragged myself through the wind and around my normal route alongside the river near the office. I'm now back in the office, preparing to work late into the night on the release of some new functionality. My hands are buzzing, my thigh is burning, my shoulders ache and I get a sharp jolt of electricity down my spine from my neck every time I tip my head forwards.

So it goes. I chose to go running. Running makes me feel good in other ways. If this is the price I have to pay, then that's fine.... and tomorrow I'll be playing football, I'll swim on Friday and then go for another run on Saturday. That's my choice. Bollocks to the WTs.

I'm not moaning about it and I don't want sympathy. This is just the way things are for me. I simply can't afford to stop and think about it too hard. That way despair lies, and I've got a life to live.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

a matter of trust....

A few days ago, David Davis, the Conservative MP and Shadow Home Secretary resigned his position as the Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden. He did so to force a by-election for his seat that would enable him to stand again for election and to force a debate upon the erosion of civil liberties. The issue that particularly enraged Davis was the Labour Government's plans to extend the period that the police can hold terrorist suspects without charge up to 42 days, but he also wants to trigger wider debate upon the increased use of CCTV, the proposal to introduce compulsory ID cards, and the planned extension to the DNA database. As Davis put it in his resignation speech, these policies represented "the slow strangulation of fundemental freedoms by this Government".

Now, I'm not sure I thought that I would ever have cause to say this about a Conservative politician, but on this David Davis and I are in total agreement. I simply do not understand how we have allowed first Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's Labour party to hoodwink us into calmly allowing this ridiculous legislation to make it into the statute books without more of a fight. I understand that the post 9/11 world seems like a very cold and frightening place, but I have yet to see any convincing explanation about how these measures will actually protect us to win the ridiculously ill-conceived and somewhat hubristically titled "war on terror". I heard the Government minister, Hazel Blears, on the radio the other day trying to articulate Labour's response to the resignation. The best she could manage was to suggest that ID cards would really help to prevent these really very determined terrorists out of the country and would help to protect our way of life. Really? And there's me thinking that the July 2005 London bombers were all British citizens from Leeds. I'd like to know how an ID card would have prevented these men, all previously unknown and unsuspected by the authorities, from meeting up in Luton, strapping bombs to their bodies and going on to kill 52 commuters and injure some 700 others. Would their DNA have been on record? No. Were they caught on CCTV? Yes, but that was only discovered after the event. Ridiculous nonsense. None of this legislation makes any of us any safer. In fact, knowing that I can now be locked up for 42 days without any kind of a charge makes me feel somewhat less safe. Let me say that again: FORTY-TWO DAYS. That's basically a month and a half. That's an awfully long time to be shut away without anyone needing anything so tedious as a reason to keep you there. Of course, no one has ever been falsely imprisoned in this country, and anyway, if you've got nothing to hide, then you've nothing to fear? Right? Right?


What was it Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said? 'Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.'

Seems about right to me, and it looks like that's exactly where were headed: neither safe nor free.

So why can't I bring myself to believe that David Davis might genuinely be interested in defending my liberties? Why am instinctively suspicious of his motives? Why do I think that somehow this is all some big publicity stunt to raise his profile and to set him up for another challenge for the leadership of the Conservative party? Why can't I believe that he's really doing this for us?

I went to see Daniel Kitson performing the other day, and in the course of his outstanding 2 hour stand up tour de force, he asked himself (and us) the same question: when did we all get so cynical? Why do we always have to assume the worst of people?

Well, whilst that's an excellent question under most circumstances, the reason I'm sceptical about David Davis is threefold:

1) He is a politician. Is there a less trustworthy job?

2) He is a Conservative politician, and was a minister in the last Tory Government.

3) I remember the last Conservative Government, and they were a bunch of evil, self-serving shits. Even worse than the current one, I reckon, although the gap's narrowing with every day that passes.

His essential point is a good one. I just don't think he has earned the right to be trusted. I can't help but think that he will make the most out of his time in the sun and will then do nothing to genuinely change anything for the better. I'm happy to be proved wrong, of course, but that's where I am at the moment....metaphorically standing with my arms crossed and a disdainful expression on my face, waiting to be impressed and expecting to be disappointed.


Monday, June 16, 2008

king of the world...

I think it was Jean Paul Sartre who said that "L'enfer, c'est les autres": Hell is other people. On the whole, I prefer to think that he's wrong, but almost every day, my faith in people's inherent goodness is sorely tested. Of course, if we're looking for evidence of man's inhumanity to man, there's the big, obvious stuff like wars, preventable diseases, terrorism, oppression and things like that. You only have to read a newspaper or watch the news on the telly to see what a godawful mess mankind is making of the world. Actually, though, it's the little things that trouble me the most; the things that people do to each other on a much smaller scale; the small acts of rudeness or inconsiderate behaviour that slash at my optimism and slowly infuse me with cynicism. At work, it's those people who think nothing of putting other people down so that they might advance themselves. This is anathema to me. If the only way to get ahead is to climb over other people, then I don't want anything to do with it. Actually, I don't believe it's the only way, and I think one of the great achievements of C's career is that she is moving forward on her own merits. Sadly, this doesn't appear to be something that is valued where I work, and one of the things I detest most about my job is that the people who do this, the people who are clearly pursuing their own interests above anything else, are often the people who seem to be getting ahead.

It's not just the snakes in my office who get me down though. I can compartmentalise my job easily enough: work is not the centre of my life and I refuse to let it upset me. When I leave the office in the evening, I am more than capable of putting the behaviour of a few idiots behind me. Sadly, it seems that idiots exist outside the hermetically sealed world of my office too, and I can't so easily ignore them. They're all over the roads, for starters. I like to think of myself as a considerate driver: I don't drive too fast, and I try to retain an awareness of other people on the road. I let people out at junctions, I slow down to create a gap to let cars change lanes, I assidiously thank people who do the same for me. Is it too much to expect that other road users might extend the same courtesy to me? Apparently it is. I'm sure that most people are essentially considerate drivers, but it's always the other ones that stick in my mind: that guy who forces his way out of a junction; the car that pulls over a red light and forces you to brake and wait when your light has long since turned green; the person who elbows their way into the gap you have left for them and doesn't even acknowledge your presence with a simple gesture of thanks, as though that space magically and conveniently appeared just when they needed it most, and had nothing to do with my consideration for them at all. It's the air of entitlement that gets me: the road is there purely for their benefit and every other road user's needs are of secondary importance. They know when they are turning off on that roundabout, so why bother to indicate? Why be concerned that the lack of a signal has meant that other people have had to wait before pulling out? Sure, it only delays me for about 10 seconds, but it's a needless 10 seconds, and it's not the wait that's the issue for me - it's the arrogant assumption by that other driver that they are the most important thing on the road and to hell with everyone else.

I can't even escape this kind of behaviour in the gym either. I went for a swim the other night and was pleased to see that the pool was relatively quiet and I was only sharing my lane with one other swimmer. I think it's important in these circumstances to have an awareness of the needs of your fellow swimmer: if the person behind me in the lane is swimming faster than me, then I try to keep an eye on where they are relative to me and wait between lengths to let them through so that they are as little inconvenienced by me as possible. By the same token, if I am the faster swimmer, then I also try not to crowd or hurry the person in front of me. It doesn't take a great deal of energy to be alive to the other people in the lane, but because I display this consideration myself, I expect other people to do the same to me. On the whole, people are pretty good. They may not realise at once, but over the course of a few lengths, I find that I generally reach an unspoken understanding with the other swimmers in my lane as we grow accustomed to our relative swimming paces. Some people are terrible though, and the guy I was swimming with the other night was the worst of all: at the end of every length, and irrespective of how close behind him anyone else might be, he turned and kicked off. There were three of us in the lane, and both of the other swimmers were moving faster, which meant that we had to interrupt our swim on a regular basis to deal with the issue of how to get past him. The other swimmer took the approach of stopping before the end of the length and turning around before he had the chance to touch and turn. I took the approach of either dipping into the lane next door (when it was clear) to overtake him, or trying to time my swim so that I hit the end just as he did and turning and kicking off before he had a chance to react. I don't even think that this guy was being deliberately inconsiderate as he swam, but I do think he was guilty of being totally unaware of anyone else's needs but his own, and I find that kind of selfishness hard to forgive. I understand that to some extent you have to look to your own needs, and I know that I'm far from blameless myself, but don't we all have some responsibility to each other? Aren't we all in this together?

In their own way, I find each of these little slights as painful as reading about the bigger issues in the newspaper. Why? Well, there's arguably not very much that you or I can do to directly influence events in Iraq, but each and every one of us can do something to make all of our lives a little bit more tolerable. What's the cliche? Think global, act local? Be the change you want to see in the world? Pay it forward? Or may Bill and Ted put it best: Be excellent unto each other.

Whatever. If we all stopped behaving like we were the centre of the world and started showing each other a little more basic consideration and respect.... then maybe, just maybe the world might become a nicer place.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 13, 2008

Have some more chicken, Have some more pie...

Evening all. I've just had a splendidly productive day working from home, catching up on all the documentation and other assorted nonsense that it's seemingly impossible to complete in an office environment. I love working at home: it's a ten second commute, so I get a bit more sleep, I drink my own tea from a proper mug, I get to assess the new Coldplay album and to listen to Interpol and British Sea Power on my iPod through proper speakers and without anyone having a fit.... and I get to pop out to a decent deli and have a properly tasty sandwich for lunch instead of the usual processed crap they sell at work. A good day then.

Well, for a work day, anyway.

... I mean, if given a choice I'd have just played Guitar Hero and read that new Sebastian Faulks James Bond book all day....

Anyway. Earworms time.

This week... a volunteer! Now, I'm happy to let anyone have a go in this slot. I'm much more interested in what other people have got floating around their heads than what I've got floating around mine... I'm sure you probably feel the same way too, and I reckon you certainly would if you had to read a list of my 'worms from this week, which mainly consist of silly songs by Flight of the Conchords - especially Hiphopopotamos vs the Rhymenocerous - and a bit of Coldplay (and frankly I haven't got the energy to defend them from all the ridiculous levels of hatred that they seem to attract whenever they're mentioned. Not today, anyway.)

So. Stevious asked if he could have a go at being Guest Editor, I said yes... and here he is. It's that simple. If you want a go, all you have to do is ask.

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

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #90 - Stevious

Well hello there. Want to read about my earworms? Well, you'd better, because here they are:

1 - inní mér syngur vitleysingur - Sigur Rós.

Since seeing their road movie Heima at the end of last year I've been mildly obsessed with Iceland's finest - barely a week's gone by without a spin of Takk, and even the ceaseless use of Hoppipola on TV hasn't ruined it for me. This is a track from their imminent album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (yes I am copy/pasting these titles, Icelandic keyboards must have a zillion keys), which is being touted as their most commercial release yet. From what I can tell, that means there's some shorter songs and a bit less reverb, but for me they still seem to be able to capture those indescribable emotions and fit them into a few minutes of brilliance. The song I've chosen here (track 2 on the album) is a rush of pure joy, and if it doesn't make you smile then you're probably not well.

2 - I Will Possess Your Heart - Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab are another band who are apparently making a break for the mainstream on their own terms, which is beautifully illustrated by the lead single from their new album. The first four-and a half minutes don't really go anywhere, but the bassline is irresistable and that's what keeps you hooked. When the vocals finally arrive, you're greeted with typical Death Cab lyrical brilliance:

How I wish you could see the potential/The potential for you and me/It's like a book elegantly bound/But in a language that you can't read...yet.

It's an almost terrifying song about obsessing about a girl who doesn't fancy you! It's eight-and-a-half minutes long! See you at the top of the charts, Death Cab!

3 - 20000007 - Modeselektor feat TTC.

I love this. It's manic electronica with chopped up French rapping all over it - what's not to love? The problem with it being in French is that in my head all the lyrics are replaced with words from my limited French vocabulary. So it's a song about Ibuprofen and grapefruit then. To be honest the earworm in my brain is probably closer to this than the original. Baguette!

[ST's note: hey! Flight of the Conchords! Binary solo: 0000001 00000011 0000001 00000011 0000001]

4 - Black and Gold - Sam Sparro

Radio 1 have played this a lot recently, and my hatred for it has grown with every listen. It's bad enough that it's a desperately mundane and average slice of electro-pop on the surface, but what really gets me is the content of the song. He's pushing the idea that a universe without God is meaningless, as if some sort of magical importance flows through us all because of his imaginary friend. The fact that 'a bunch of matter' has randomly assembled itself into the incredible world that we live in is pretty cool in itself, stop ruining it with your silly made-up stories about a man in the sky who controls it all. If there is a God, I'd hope he hates pish like this.

[ST's note: did you hear the Guillemots' version of this on the Live Lounge? I'm no fan of theirs, but it was a distinct improvement on the original]

5 - There is Only One of Us - Bikeforthree!

More electronica/hip-hop cross over, this time courtesy of a collaboration between Buck 65 and Greetings From Tuskan. I'm a huge fan of Buck - I love the fact that while what he does is still hip-hop, it bears almost no resemblance to what you'd expect hip-hop to sound like. Here he tackles the loss of a lover with his usual heartbreaking clarity whilst Greetings...'s sparse production builds almost into a dancefloor banger. Probably my favourite non-Icelandic song at the moment.

6 - A Tender History in Rust - Do Make Say Think

It's post-rock meets acoustic folk. To me it's the sound of sitting on a rock in the middle of a river in the middle of Glen Rosa on Arran, watching the birds, insects and clouds go about their daily business. I almost always have to hold a tear back when the horns kick in.

7 - My Year In Lists - Los Campesinos!

I usually hate bands who are as twee as this. It's possibly because I suspect they'd get beaten in a fight even by a weakling about me, so I have no respect for them. Either way, this is a perfect pop song.

8 - Eat It - Weird Al Yankovic

Fall Out Boy have been polluting the airwaves with their version of the original, which has forced this from memory. It's far better. I identify with Weird Al because I have a pathological tendency to replace the lyrics of songs in my head with things I find funny (for me Rhianna's chart-topper from last year is about Salmonella) and he saves me the effort. Not sure if I could listen to a whole album of his though.

[ST's note: his version of "smells like teenspirit" is nearly as good as the original.... Nearly. I had a whole album of this stuff when I was 13. It seemed alright then, but I imagine it might wear a bit thin now]

9 - Low - Flo Rida

I don't really like this song very much, but I do like singing the Chorus in the club style.

10 - Mogwai Fear Satan - Mogwai

Mogwai recently re-released their debut album Mogwai Young Team, which arrived in my flat on four slabs of beautiful vinyl. I remember first hearing this song live back in '97 and deciding there and then that I had found what I was looking for in music. There's no words, no real melody, just three chords thrashed to bits at various volume levels (and at one point on the album, a flute), but when you're stood in the crowd and the waves of noise crash into you there's no purer, more complete feeling. I'm pretty sure I could listen to this on loop for the rest of my life and be happy.

Right, that's yer lot from me. Thanks Mr Swiss for letting me squat on here for 10 songs ,and I hope the occasionally awkward links haven't put you off listening to some of this stuff.

Smell you later!


Thanks Steve - nicely done, and a fine example of how some earworms are good, and others are very, very bad. Either way, you're stuck with them, I suppose..... so I guess as there's more good than bad, you've not done too badly this week. I'm still struggling to shake off REO Speedwagon, to be honest. That's weapons grade earwormery. EMD: earworms of mass destruction.

"I heard it from a friend who...heard it from a friend whoooo...."


Anyway. Thanks for playing.

If anyone else fancies having a go at this and exposing their internal jukebox for our inspection, then please drop me a line at the email in my profile, or leave a comment here.

Have a good weekend y'all.....

[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, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III, The Great Grape Ape, asta, Ben III, Earworms of the Year 2007, Cat III, JamieS & Wombat, Pynchon II, Briskate, Craig Cliff, Fiery Little Sod, Cody II, J, Yoko II, Rol, Lisa, Pollstar II, Joe the Troll, Eye in the Sky III, Jerry Cornelius]


Thursday, June 12, 2008

the falling sands of time....

When I was at work yesterday afternoon, I popped upstairs to see an old colleague of mine who had heard that I might be able to help him out with a problem he was struggling with. I first met this guy about ten years ago and worked very closely with him for three or four years before I moved on into my current job. He's a nice chap, so I was more than happy to do him a favour.

I sat down at his desk and we spent five minutes or so working through the matter in hand before he suddenly looked at me, frowned and blurted out:

"Bloody hell. You're going grey!"

Now, whilst this is undeniably true, of all of the things that might be noteworthy about my hair, I've always felt this one isn't the obvious one. With this in mind, I pointed out that my hair was probably falling out at a faster rate than it was turning grey.

"Oh yeah, but I wasn't going to mention that."

Right. So it's alright to point out that I'm getting old, but not that I'm going bald? Eh?

....And then it dawned on me that he wasn't really making a comment about me at all, but was really making a general observation about the passing of time. Kev is about ten or so years older than me, and when he first met me I was about 23 years old, more or less straight out of University and very green about the gills. I wouldn't be surprised if a part of him probably still sees me as that kid, and seeing that I am now going grey was a sharp reminder that we're both ten years older and that the sand of our lives is slipping down through the hourglass even as we both remain in the more or less the same place and doing more or less the same things.

I experience something similar every time I bump into another old colleague of mine in the corridor.

"Hello Steve. How are you? How's the nipper?"
"I'm good thanks mate. She's not so much of a nipper now though - she's 9!"

It seems as though, every time I ask him, this poor girl has aged in an increment of years, when in my head she's still about 6 months old. Next time I ask, I imagine she'll probably be 23 and a surgeon or something. Perhaps she exists in some kind of a parallel universe where time runs more quickly?

No. That's not it.

I think it's far more likely that I am stuck in a universe where time runs very, very slowly and where things remain immune to change as the world outside moves on relentlessly without me

.... although judging by my hair, it's sadly not a universe where I'm immune from the ageing process.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

wake up....

Finishing your exams at University is an amazing feeling. All that pressure and the weight of expectation is suddenly lifted from your shoulders. All of those long hours in the library desperately cramming in information can be consigned to the past. There are still results to come, but just for the moment they feel a long way in the future. Right now, the whole summer is stretching out in front of you and you can finally start to relax with your friends before the end of term, and perhaps the end of your University career.

I think it's entirely understandable that, in these circumstances, you should go out and have a blow out. After all, you probably need to let off some steam to work the last vestiges of stress out of your system. The exams are in the past and the anticipation of things to come can wait until tomorrow. Now is the time to live absolutely in the present.

Enjoy yourself. You've earned it.

One thing though.

It would perhaps be better if you could manage to restrain yourself from spilling out onto the quiet residential street where you live at 4am in the morning to conduct loud, drunken conversations in the dead quiet of the suburban dawn. Tomorrow may be the start of a brighter future for you, but for lots of other people living here, tomorrow is just another working Wednesday with only tedious commutes and even more tedious meetings to look forward to. A whisper at this time of the morning can carry a long way, and a noisy blackbird can keep people awake, nevermind a bunch of shouting, leery students.

Many of us living here were students too though - it's that kind of a neighbourhood - so we do understand what it's like to finish exams and we also understand the urge to blow off some steam. Hell, we're probably more than a bit jealous of you, truth be told. That's why no one was too angry at you for waking up the whole street this morning, and only that one chap stuck his head out of the window and asked you if you minded popping inside. If I'm honest, I'm not sure there was any real need to call him a "wanker" before proceeding to make just a little bit more noise before finally taking your shouted conversations indoors.

So although I rejoice on your behalf that exam-time is now over, when I drove past your - now silent - house this morning, you've no idea how tempted I was to stop and make damn sure that I disturbed your beauty sleep before I went into work to see how you liked it. A few loud honks of the horn, maybe. Some banging on the door, perhaps. A short, sharp clubbing to the sides of your selfish heads with a broken brick....

But, as I say, I remember what it was like. I understand. I kept driving.

Just don't do it again tonight.

I'm tired and I might snap.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

you're not alone, you know....

I don't really make a habit of plugging things on here, but I'm going to make an exception for this:

It's a compilation of stories submitted by various bloggers and compiled by Peach. I'm not expecting you to buy a copy of this just because I say you should, so I've come up with a list of reasons why you should consider it:

1) The book only costs £12.50, and for that investment you get an awful lot of entertainment out of other people's lives, with entries from over 100 bloggers.

2) Of that £12.50, a whole £6 will go directly to the Warchild charity. War Child is an international charity that works with children affected by war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. They work with former child soldiers, children in prison and children living and working on the streets giving them support, protection and opportunities. That's an extremely good cause. Think how *worthy* you'd feel. What's more, if you buy the electronic version of the book, then £10 of that £12.50 goes directly to Warchild, which is nearly twice as worthy.

3) Peach is lovely and has worked very, very hard to pull this all together. Buying it would help to make her feel happy and fulfilled that this was time well spent. Apart from anything else, selecting entries to go into the book must be a very time-consuming and frustrating experience. For every excellent entry that made the book, there are likely several equally excellent entries that haven't got in. Making those kinds of decisions can't be easy - and Peach has gone well out of her way to make sure that everything has been done as fairly as possible, with every submission being read and voted on by a fairly diverse panel and no entry going in on any one person's say so.

4) There are entries by some fantastic writers. Some are famous and published already and stuff, but some are people you know and love, including Cat....

5) Did I mention that the money all goes to charity?

Oh, and I'm in it too.

But don't let that put you off.

Buy it now and bask in your own worthiness.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Thank you.

That is all.

More details here.

Labels: ,