Friday, May 22, 2015

Watching and waiting

Meet Joseph Mitchell, the New Yorker journalist who was so meticulous in his writing and researching style that he went thirty years without even submitting a single article for publication. It's fascinating, too, that despite this apparently fastidious attention to detail, he nevertheless indulged in the odd spot of fictionalising. Suddenly that fifth and final season of The Wire doesn't seem quite so far-fetched after all.

(Thanks to Terry for the link.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"It's evil"

So the new Savages album is shaping up to be "very heavy, very mean" and is apparently influenced by Black Sabbath, Swans, Bo Ningen and "a lot of harsh-sounding electronic music". Having very much enjoyed Silence Yourself, I'm not sure I really needed my appetite whetting any more. Suffice to say it's on the shopping list.

A farewell to the steaming spires

You've got to feel for Didcot - forever cast in Oxford's shadow, and when the town does finally get some national TV limelight, the programme in question focuses on the demolition of its most famous landmarks.

(Thanks to Terry for the link.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quote of the day

"After I had finished my shift I made my way home as I had to begin filling up the mountain of paperwork required to declare any financial interests I have. Although considering my last job was in a chip shop, I think I should be fine."

First her superb swearing abilities, and now this diary from her first week in Westminster, which makes clear she's not overawed by her surroundings or in danger of forgetting that the House of Commons "is not a museum, it is a place of work - it is the place where these wrongs can be changed". Mhairi Black is definitely my new favourite MP.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)

"Fan y Big? How very dare you!"

Hearty thanks to whoever put together this map of every rude place name in the UK. Nice to see Northumberland well represented, though I'm a bit disappointed it doesn't feature Upper Ramsbottom as well as Ramsbottom (in Lancashire). I've always wondered how people might react when you tell them you're from Upper Ramsbottom.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

And the award for the Most Tenuous Grasp Of The Concept Of PR goes to ... Qatar!

Qatar invites BBC journalist and crew to inspect accommodation for migrant workers helping with building work ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Qatar then throws said BBC journalist and crew in the slammer for having the nerve to attempt to do just that. It's almost like they've got something to hide, isn't it?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nine lives

It's taken a while, but I've finally finished catching up on the second series of Inside No. 9. Better than the first (which was very good indeed in its own right)? Possibly.

As before, each episode was a self-contained story bearing no relation to any others in the series - the only connecting thread being that the action takes place at No. 9. That could be a house, of course - but it could also be a call centre or a couchette car.

The subject matter and tone was as varied as the location, ranging from farcical romp ('The Trial Of Elizabeth Gadge') to campy gothic horror ('Seance Time') to psychological thriller ('Cold Comfort') to surprisingly poignant drama ('The 12 Days Of Christine'). The latter episode, starring Sheridan Smith in the title role, was probably the series highlight, though I did also love 'Cold Comfort' and its tale of life behind the scenes at a Samaritans-esque crisis helpline.

The conceits and plot twists were well handled - anyone saying they were obvious is probably doing so with the benefit of hindsight - and the creative freedom afforded to Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton by the BBC was perhaps most evident in the fact that they had both the confidence and the licence not to have to churn out the gags. To pigeonhole it as merely a comedy series would be to do it a serious disservice - it was far more than that.

This latest series was apparently commissioned before the first one aired (to relatively disappointing viewing figures) - here's hoping the BBC continues to back them for a third instalment.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Come together

In Reginald D Hunter's Songs Of The South, segregation was portrayed as a thing of the past - albeit a past that the Southern states haven't forgotten and are still coming to terms with. So it was with some surprise that I noted that these photos - which kicked up controversy and ultimately helped to end the prom night apartheid in Montgomery, Georgia - were taken as recently as 2009.

(Thanks to Jenni for the link.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Know Your Enemy

"The holograms, the virtual sets. The British media has contracted a devastating case of CNN-itis. It’s when a news organisation spends a great deal of time creating visuals and set pieces, which have no discernible purpose and shed no perceptible light and actually distract you from what it was they were trying to find out."

Jon Stewart on the BBC's election coverage. You might well replace "CNN-itis" with "The Day Today-itis". I bet Robert Peston can't wait to wheel out the Currency Cat.

At least none of the BBC's news reporters have started using the word "cunt" in their pieces yet. Eh? Oh.

(Thanks to Damian for the link.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

No left turn

Last week's election results seemed to confirm that the Tories and their friends in the press had managed to dupe the great British public into thinking (among other things) that the budget deficit was all Labour's fault and that harsh austerity measures impacting most severely on the vulnerable are essential (hint: they're not). Now they appear determined to convince us all that Labour's crushing defeat is evidence of them being out of touch with the electorate because, under Ed Miliband, they decided to take a fateful step to the left.

Thankfully, Diane Abbott is on hand to dispel that particular myth, and in the process underline the fact that the only true party on the left at present - the only one to actually challenge the austerity mantra rather than swallow it hook, line and sinker - are the Greens.

Hip cop

Well done, internet. No sooner has an impeccably hirsute policeman snapped keeping the peace during a recent confrontation between EDL supporters and anti-fascist demonstrators become a meme than a cartoon strip has sprung up in his honour.

(Thanks to Rob for the link.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The art of noise

The implication of this Guardian article that there is suddenly a "new wave" of noisy, disaffected, leftfield rock bands should be taken with a pinch of salt - they've always been there, it's just that people (or, more specifically, journalists) have only recently taken a renewed interest in looking for them. Equally, it's questionable whether Viet Cong, Metz, Algiers and Spectres really have so much in common for them to be legitimately bracketed together.

But, carping aside, it's great to see Viet Cong getting more attention (their superb debut album certainly merits it) and the article has served as a very useful introduction to the other three bands.

Know Your Enemy

"Snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive"

UKIP MEP, economics spokesman and election campaign director Patrick O'Flynn on his party's leader Nigel Farage. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Back to the future

Here's something for anyone who, like me, has fond memories of the Lego Space range, back before Lego embraced sexism and film tie-ins. Swedish designer Love Hulten has recreated some of the classic bricks from models in the range as large-scale retrofuturist gadgets that actually work. Needless to say, I want that phone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Post apocalyptic

An equalities minister who - like her boss in the Department of Education, Nicola Morgan - voted against gay marriage? A Culture Secretary who did likewise, as well as backing the Iraq War, the replacement for Trident and cuts to welfare benefits but opposing the ban on fox-hunting and a proposed banker's bonus tax? With these appointments, Mr Cameron, you're really spoiling us.

No, seriously, Dave, stop trolling.

(Thanks to Cat for the second link.)

Quote of the day

"There are writers whose every word is just not quite right. If you were to try to fix all those words, you would have a new piece and an enraged second-rate writer."

New Yorker copy-editor Mary Norris on the joys of her (and my) job.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Them's the brakes

Despite having being an Liberal Democrat voter in the past, I couldn't help but feel a bit of Schadenfreude at the party's horrific showing in the election. That, I thought, will serve you right for jumping into bed with the Tories just to be able to have the illusion of being in power. But left-leaning members of the electorate like myself may have done them a serious disservice - while they may not have actively pushed through worthy legislation, they did - it seems - perform a valuable role in putting the brakes on some (if not all) of the Tories' more right-wing proposals.

Now, without anything holding them back and buoyed by the unexpected election success, Cameron's mob are likely to lurch to the right - kicking off by attempting to consign the Human Rights Act to the dustbin. If that concerns you (and it should), then there's a petition to sign that calls for a referendum rather than unilateral action by the government. Appealing for clemency from Michael Gove, in his new guise as Justice Secretary, might seem somewhat futile, but any means of putting the pressure on should nevertheless be seized.

(Thanks to Tom for the petition link.)


Swans, Fucked Up, The Thurston Moore Band, The Flaming Lips, Fat White Family, Iceage, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and tons more - all for £85 (or less, if you get your arse in gear before the 22nd). Why did no one let me know about Liverpool Sound City sooner? Unfortunately I can't go, but I'll be insanely jealous of the friends that are.

Monday, May 11, 2015

"The nuns can get tae fuck"

Politicians have a reputation for being remote from and out of touch with the electorate, but that's not an accusation that can be levelled at new SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Mhairi Black. The 20-year-old's stunning election victory over shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has prompted the Independent to trawl back through her tweets, which prove that she had the taste in booze and Malcolm Tucker-esque aptitude for swearing that you'd expect from a Glaswegian teenager. I'm not sure quite what the paper's implying, but there's nothing to be ashamed of here - apart, perhaps, from expressing rabid enthusiasm for Oasis.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)

Excuse me, I'm feeling a bit fragile

The premise of my friend Ali's prize-winning debut novel may be a little far-fetched, but it turns out that there is such a thing as "glass delusion", whereby you feel as though you're made of glass - and the BBC have interviewed him for their article about the condition.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Build 'em up to knock 'em down

Most people are familiar with the feeling of their work going unappreciated - but not many of us work on a major project in painstaking detail for months if not years only for it to be unceremoniously destroyed soon after completion. Spare a thought, then, for architects, whose designs may often be intended to be permanent but are sometimes razed within a few months or years, having falling victim to the whims of others. And that's where the Rubble Club comes in - "a kind of AA support group for distressed architects", according to secretary John Glenday.

You do wonder how the experience might affect architects in the long term. The ones I've met haven't been short of self-belief, to put it slightly kindly - perhaps it's a prerequisite for the job, in that you spend much of your time trying to convince others of the merits of your designs and it helps if you look convinced yourself. But I imagine that having your work quite literally rubbished in front of you must deliver a hefty blow to even the most supremely confident person.

There may be trouble ahead

More cuts affecting vulnerable people, more stealth privatisation of the NHS, renewable energy schemes dumped in favour of fracking, scrapping the Human Rights Act: just a few of the things we can look forward to over the next five years of Tory government. Seriously, Britain, we would have been better off had dogs voted instead of their owners.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A bitter taste in the mouth

Kickstarter has proven a very valuable means for many creative types to realise their visions, but the backers of some projects seem to forget the element of risk and the fact that there's no guarantee of a return on investment - as illustrated by the tale of ZPM Espresso. So if you're ever tempted into parting with cash, it's best to go into it with your eyes open and your expectations in check.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)

If you build it, they will come

Golden Cabinet: proof that leftfield experimental music scenes can thrive far beyond the confines of metropolitan arts venues. That said, I don't see Sunno))) playing in Abingdon any time soon.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Friday, May 08, 2015

And as if the election results weren't bad enough...

... just consider the fact that it means five more years of Katie Hopkins. Shoot me now.

Nick knocked

If you're searching for a website to sum up the election results in a nutshell, Nick Clegg Looking Sad hits the spot.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The green revolution

The transformation of the Green Party from a "single-issue environmental pressure group" to "the electoral expression of the emerging new left" is, Adam Ramsay suggests, a large reason why membership of the England and Wales branch rose from 18,000 in September 2014 to an astonishing 43,500 just four months later. Fingers crossed the only true party on the Left can take another few steps from the fringes towards power today.

(Thanks to Kaajal for the link.)

With a little help from their friends?

The Tories and their allies in the press seem to have been determined to portray a possible Labour/SNP coalition as a monstrous and horrifying prospect. So let's take a look who they would be likely to jump into bed with: the Democratic Unionists, who have vilified LGBT people, opposed abortion in any circumstance and endorsed creationism. And then there's UKIP, of course, who themselves aren't too picky about who they choose to cosy up to.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Quote of the day

"To my mind ... the biggest issue facing the UK today [is] the corruption of reasonably 'fair' market capitalism and our return to the Robber Baron capitalism the late nineteenth century. It’s the vast and growing disparity in wealth. It’s the fact that even though you need over 17 per cent more to join the rich list than last year, the average household’s income hasn’t changed for the best part of a decade. But, don’t worry your pretty little head with all that. Go, rich people!"

When even the Telegraph is publishing articles lamenting growing financial inequality in the UK, and the fact that neither of the two main parties have adequately addressed it during the course of their election campaigns, then you know the Tories have gone too far and need to be stopped.

(Thanks to Wan for the link.)

Red going green?

Long-term thinking? "Progressive politics"? "Implementing systemic reform"? "Fighting the excessive power of capitalism and putting that power back where it rightly belongs, in the hands of the people"? Fair play to Charlotte Church for getting involved (I genuinely mean that), but, much as I agree with her general sentiments, I can't help thinking that backing Labour in the hope that they morph into the Green Party when in power is somewhat bizarre.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)