Monday, July 14, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Farage is a bulletproof fusion of novelty and familiarity. Among a crowd of guarded political automatons, he's Mr Novelty, poking his head through the window like a wacky neighbour in a sitcom, breaking the monotony with some side-splitting anti-Romanian slurs. The news can't get enough of him, because in TV terms he adds a bit of colour – ironic considering what he represents."

Charlie Brooker on fine form a couple of months back.

Farage wasn't the only politician in his sights, though - on the contrary, they all were: "The more they criticise Farage, the more of their uncanny lifeforce he absorbs, because his entire schtick relies on seeming different to them, which isn't all that difficult considering they all look and sound like wind-up waxed pigs possessed by the spirit of Tupperware, harder to relate to on a basic human level than a Playmobil character or a deck chair"...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Nick of time

A while back I suggested that it wouldn't be too much fun to have Richard Dawkins as a dad. Judging by this excellent recent profile piece in the New York Times, being the spawn of Nick Cave doesn't sound so bad, though. I might have to instigate Inappropriate Film Night with Stan, just to see if we experience "a wonderful bonding moment" over Dawn Of The Dead...

Nice to see, too, that, like many music-obsessed parents, he's regularly aggrieved by his offspring's taste: "They’re just grabbing stuff, on Spotify and all that, and occasionally they’ll find something that’s really mind-blowing. But sometimes I hear what they’re playing, and I just want to cut my wrists".

Rewind to 1988, and few people who came across NME journo Jack Barron's account of his explosive encounter with Cave could have ever imagined he'd ever go on to have kids and become the sort of person who not only keeps disciplined office hours but actually goes to an office to work. I think it's fair to say age has mellowed him somewhat - that, and kicking the drug habit...

(Thanks to Phill for the link.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Master of the dark arts

I don't know why there should be such surprise and consternation at the fact that Mike Ashley's Sports Direct have been flogging Burzum T-shirts. Selling the merchandise of a band whose frontman has served a murder sentence and was recently arrested on suspicion of "plotting a massacre" is surely only to be expected of someone who was more than happy to leap into bed with a company that gets fat on the misfortune and straitened circumstances of the poor and thinks nothing of inventing law firms to put people under pressure to pay up.

(Thanks to Dave for the link.)

Shit shit-stirrer

Oh dear. They don't call it the Daily Fail for nothing, do they? Witness one hack's comically poor recent attempt at trolling some Muslims on a messageboard...

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Wearing pink or blue shoes, [the squad] might as well wear women’s knickers or a bra. The liberal ideology of globalism clearly wants to oppose Christianity with football. I’m sure of it. Therefore I am glad that the Russian players have failed and, by the grace of God, no longer participate in this homosexual abomination."

Russian priest Alexander Shumsky does his best to trump Ann Coulter in the Bigoted Mentalist Mouthing Off About Football stakes. All I can say is that I'm glad your nation made a swift exit too, Alexander, but that's because they were bloody awful to watch.

(Thanks to Owen for the link.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Swans grounded

Much as I feel sorry for anyone who bought an ATP Iceland festival ticket purely because Swans were on the bill, I'm more relieved and pleased that it wasn't their May tour that was affected by Michael Gira's illness. Here's hoping he's back chastising his bandmates and deafening his audience before too long.

Things are looking up down

The more I read about shoegaze documentary film Beautiful Noise - in this instance an interview with director Eric Green - the more I'm looking forward to it. The UK focus will be particularly interesting, making it required viewing for anyone who thinks Britpop constituted some sort of golden age...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Quote of the day

"Make no mistake. With very few exceptions, albums are edging closer to extinction. Playlists are the future."

Thus claims Radio 1's Head of Music George Ergatoudis. While my immediate response is to want to shout "FUCK OFF" in his face, I have to concede that,sadly, for a lot of people that may very well be true. Taking in an album takes time and patience - both things that are generally in short supply, the desire for instant gratification making flitting from discrete song to discrete song more attractive. Which makes me want to sigh in despair - why is it seen as so arduous to show artists a little respect?

Reports of the album's death are premature, though. As Ergatoudis has since himself conceded, the age of the mass-market blockbuster that everyone has to own may be over, but some hardy souls will plug away with recording LPs, continuing to participate in what is a "minority sport" and believe in their value. The revival of vinyl and more recently the cassette offer hope that the album format too will prove far hardier than the doom merchants and industry bigwigs predict.

And that would be cause for celebration - there's nothing quite like immersing yourself in an album, or for hearing a song take on a whole new life when hearing it in context (often in creative juxtaposition) with others. Ergatoudis' context-free, playlist-focused future is not one I'm in any hurry to embrace.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Sexism doesn't sell?

I'm not sure what's more remarkable: that Loaded have decided to drop their "lewd content" and become "far more discerning and sophisticated", that they think that that approach allied with putting Oasis on the cover might be somehow in keeping with the times and a way to win back readers, or that the magazine is even still operational...

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Soldiering on

It's nothing new for a bunch of musicians to have to decide what to do after the demise of the band that's made them famous. But for the former members of Lostprophets, the situation was much, much bleaker than that. So, despite the fact that 'Stay' - the first single from their new project No Devotion, a collaboration with Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly - is godawful stadium rock fluff, their determination to pick themselves up and persevere should be applauded.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Freedom - within limits

This pretty much sums life up for me at the moment - without the bit about travelling. By endorsing the general viewpoint of the article, I don't want to sound as though I'm complaining - after all, it was my choice to go freelance, and there are definite benefits (flexibility for childcare being the primary one, but not having to take time off to wait in for deliveries and repair men proving a real boon too). However, some co-workers (and their baking skills) wouldn't go amiss at times, and I'm still struggling a bit with the discipline issue - not so much getting myself to do work as getting myself to stop. When you've got a mountain of work and the opportunity to do it at all hours, that's what generally happens. I blame my boss...

(Thanks to Jen for the link.)

Quotes of the day

"The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM."

"She grew on him like she was a colony of E.coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef."

"It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools."

Just three examples of Washington Post readers' attempts to submit purposefully awful analogies.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

"Books change lives"

Back in March, when I put up a post endorsing Kathy Lette's indignation at of the ban on books being sent to prisoners, I'll admit that a small part of me wondered whether this was just my not-so-inner liberal leftie speaking, taking little or no account of the views of inmates themselves. For all I knew, they might not have given a toss about either the ban or those of us appalled by its introduction.

Well, it turns out I wasn't alone - but, unlike me, Scott Pack actually decided to follow up that thought and investigate further by contacting someone who works across several prisons as a Reader Development Officer. Their email exchange, reproduced in full on Pack's site, is an enlightening read - as well as an reassuring one for us both, with his correspondent confirming the existence of the ban, its depressing impact, the dismay of the prisoners and the general role and value of books within a prison context.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Know Your Enemy

"When you're not busy objectifying women, making light of rape and justifying sexual violence, how do you like to relax?"

Twitter user Jo Liptrott, just one of many to take up VH1's invitation to pose questions to Robin Thicke. When will people realise that the use of hashtags can't be controlled?

The end of the Yellow Brick Road

... or, at least, it was back in the 1970s, for a Wizard Of Oz themed amusement park. Not that it shut its doors forever, though, with annual Autumn At Oz events offering visitors the chance to see what happens when people leave nature to have all the fun.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

No air guitar

Metal Box may be the title of a Public Image Ltd album, but it would also be apt as the name for this art installation, in which death metal band Unfathomable Ruination (former tour-mates of David Brent's Foregone Conclusion, perhaps?) will perform in a soundproofed box, "determining and restricting the performance’s duration to the length of time in which the oxygen is expended".

Surely the artist behind the piece, Joao Onofre, has missed a trick by not choosing this bunch of bruisers instead?

Monkey magic?

What could be better than the news of a new Shellac album on the horizon, their first since 2007's Excellent Italian Greyhound? We already knew that it would rejoice under the name Dude Incredible, but how's about the fact that the cover features one monkey holding another one aloft like some kind of trophy? The inclusion of tracks called 'All The Surveyors', 'Mayor/Surveyor' and 'Surveyor' suggest that Steve Albini may have had some house-buying trouble of late...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"I've held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."

Even by Ann Coulter's usual batshit-crazy standards (which effectively render the Onion redundant), this article about football is spectacularly absurd. Key criticisms include the fact that you can't use your hands, the fact that it's un-American and the fact that it uses the metric system...

(Thanks to Phil for the link.)

Joining the dots

Might there be some kind of causal connection between the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of butter in the US as a whole? Seems unlikely, but the correlation is staggering. Ditto the age of Miss America plotted against the number of "murders by steam, hot vapours and hot objects". I think Spurious Correlations might just be my new favourite website.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Caring and sharing

I already knew I was very much in the minority as regards having taken parental leave, but appreciated that the circumstances were right for me if not for many men. What's evident from the likes of this article is that the change in the regulations was just the start, and that workplace culture is also going to have to change if more men are to feel able to take up the opportunity. It's farcical that in the twenty-first century there should still be a stigma associated with men taking an active part in childcare.

It was also interesting (though not surprising) to see that more men are refused flexible working requests than women, though the figures are still relatively low (18% and 10% respectively) - all of which naturally makes it more frustrating that my own request fell on deaf ears...

Bangers 'n' mush

It had to happen, really: Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst immortalised in wurst.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quote of the day

"It would take a particular type of person to go to an event and enjoy it and then complain that they enjoyed it."

That may be the case, James Ward, but then you're probably more likely to find that particular type of person if the event in question is the Boring Conference.

This year, one of the invited guest speakers was Vincent Connare, creator of that most heinous of fonts, Comic Sans. Frankly I'm amazed he agreed to having his picture in the Guardian, let alone to standing on a stage as a sitting duck...

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Sad but true

It may very well simply be a case of correlation rather than causation, as scientists would put it, but there's something interesting in the fact that heavy metal appears to be most popular in countries with wealthy and contented populations (Scandinavia, basically). So much for a passion for metal being symptomatic of dissaffection and anger.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Urban wastelands

Once upon a time, America was in love with out-of-town shopping centres - but, it seems, no longer. This Guardian article on the death of the mall - illustrated with evocative images by photographer Seph Lawless - is a fascinating read.

The decline and abandonment of so many malls gives the lie to the great capitalist myth of perpetual unfettered growth - of the economy, of jobs, of choice, of opportunity. The stark reality is ugly suburban wastelands - empty buildings that are extremely hard to repurpose (except, apparently, as megachurches) set on land that is privatised rather than public space.

In the UK, the situation is much less pronounced. We may have initiated city centre regeneration schemes much sooner here than in the US, but here, where the population density is higher and there is far greater pressure on space, suburban sprawl was more restricted and so fewer such shopping centres were built in the first place. Nevertheless, vacant purpose-built retail space isn't uncommon in Cardiff, for instance (along Newport Road and down towards the Bay), while in Pilsworth outside Bury, what was once (I believe) the largest multiplex cinema in the country stands empty, with little hope of it ever finding a new use.

Our shopping centres have tended to remain within city centres, though that's not to say they've all retained their appeal for consumers and businesses. New developments in Nottingham, for instance, have left the Broadmarsh a shadow of its former self, while in Birmingham the much-lauded Bullring has effectively dealt a fatal blow to other shopping centres such as the Palisades and the Pavilions. Of course, that was always on the cards - but I imagine the developers were rather happier to ignore it and instead waffle on about improved quality and choice...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Quote of the day

"This appetizing documentary follows world-renowned chef Ferran Adria as he plans and perfects a new menu from the long-ago sperm bank donations."

Just one of the many amusing outcomes of a glitch in a Netflix app that is mixing up the last lines of programme summaries.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mogwai fear Satan comparisons to Metallica

Mogwai may have dissed Metallica on the eve of their Glasto showdown, but the Rockabye Baby version of Ride The Lightning track 'Fade To Black', at least, suggests that the two bands are rather more alike than the Glaswegians would care to admit.

As for The Festival That Should Not Be Named, I'm crippled with jealousy at all those enjoying their first full day on site and wish them nothing but rain and mud. A wedding in the remotest part of Northumberland, with no TV or internet, is probably just about the best place I could be over the weekend...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Clear as mud

Textbooks exist to explain and clarify concepts in a lucid, straightforward and sober style, right? Not always. Having been alerted to this site, I'm now going to keep my eyes peeled for more suitable examples during the course of the day job. You'd be amazed at how many academics manage to complicate things unnecessarily even while claiming to be simplifying them or choose bizarre examples and analogies in attempting to illustrate their points. You'd also be amazed at how many throw words at the page like monkeys throwing shit against a wall, haphazardly and in the hope that some stick...

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Creation records

And the prize for the most inappropriate use of the word "science" goes to Northwest Science Museum, which is peddling creationist myths, most notably that Noah found room for some baby dinosaurs on his ark. A wise move: fully-grown adults would have taken up too much valuable space.

(Thanks to Owen for the link.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"His appointment is a slap in the face. Some of the other patrons want Leveson’s recommendations to be implemented but the point about Stoppard is that least he does have a long and honourable record of defending freedom of expression elsewhere. Whereas Coogan by his own admission, as far as I can see, has never been involved in any such defence of free expression or anything even remotely connected with freedom of speech or the press except for being involved in Hacked Off."

Private Eye deputy editor Francis Wheen explains why the appointment of Steve Coogan as a patron of the Index On Censorship has led him and the magazine's editor Ian Hislop to quit in protest.

An over-reaction, perhaps? The organisation have made clear they're not about to change their position on the Royal Charter that came out of Leveson's recommendations. In any case, the charter calls for the establishment of a framework to ensure and promote ethical, responsible reporting rather than for outright censorship. Such a framework is necessary as the phone-hacking scandal has made it obvious that self-regulation simply doesn't work. It's a delicate balancing act, though, of course - without press freedom, the Guardian would never have been able to break the phone-hacking story in the first place.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Heads for heights

These photos might not capture anything quite as spectacular as the view from the top of the crane on the roof of the second tallest building in the world, but they do attest to the peculiar human passion for phenomenally precarious situations. Needless to say, they make me feel nauseous just looking at them.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)