Posts from 5th January 2004

5
Jan 04

Sherburne in Chile

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Sherburne in Chile: photos, worth it for the Jan 4 one alone really!

ELVIS PRESLEY – “Jailhouse Rock”

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#67, 24th January 1958

Presley’s first No.1 was all about the voice and the rhythm just did the job it had to. “Jailhouse Rock”, his second, is nothing without its beat. The lyrics are funny, of course, and Elvis as skilful as before (his specific trick here is combining a breakneck holler with the pinpoint comic timing the song asks for). But without that tension-racking drum and piano rhythm, half heartbeat half roll, “Jailhouse Rock” would just be a skit. Every time those piano chords hit and linger it’s a promise made to your hips that good things are just seconds away: so much of the fun in dancing (in pop) is rooted in that anticipation.

The main reason

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The main reason I never liked football was that I could never play it. Football at school involved skilfully dodging people who were charging towards me – fine had I been a striker, less so as a defender. Nobody in my family liked the game enough to watch it on TV, so the upshot was I never got any idea of the shape and tactics of football. Even when I got into the drama of the game I would watch games in wary ignorance of what was actually going on pitchwise.

That may finally be changing, thanks to the miracle that is Pro Evolution Soccer 3. Ten days of playing it over Christmas led to a wonderful moment: I sat down yesterday afternoon to watch the second half of Liverpool-Yeovil and I – I – I could see!. It was just a game of football, not an especially great one, but I could understand what people were trying to do and why, and even why it worked or didn’t. This comes naturally to the rest of you I’m sure but it was a revelation to me.

(The only problem is that I see everything in Pro Evo terms, especially the goals. At one point Heskey put a shot well over the bar, and in my mind I could feel his pushing that square button too eagerly – my PS2 controller has given fresh meaning to the word “tap-in”.)

The one saving grace

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The one saving grace of C4’s Top 100 Worst Singles programme (apart from it being compulsive point-and-shout watching, bah) was the way the director was clearly on the side of POP against the mealy-mouthed mutterings of SMUG BASTARDS. Almost every time a talking head delivered what they considered a ‘killer’ one-liner, the camera would linger on them for two or three seconds more than neccessary, enough time for them to laugh at their own joke and then look nervous and a little ashamed. After hearing the “Do You Think I’m Sexy – the answer is No!!!!” joke for the third time in three hours this became a source of true relief and pleasure.

Re: Dave Stelfox on content and context

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Dave Stelfox‘ stuff on music and cultural context got me thinking a lot towards the end of last year — since he’s brought the subject up again lately, time to reply. Stelfox’ basic point — more attention to content and context please — I don’t disagree with: the definitive word on grime is unlikely to come from a middle-class thirtysomething with a blog and a P2P connection. But who wants to claim their words are definitive anyway?

What I don’t buy is the opposition Dave seems to set up between the people who get in there and really understand the cultural context (or come out of it) and the people who distance themselves and just treat it as sound. I don’t think it’s that simple. If you’re going to write about anything critically your first duty is to be honest about your own context and background: do that and you give the reader a fair chance to work out whether what you say is worth reading.

For instance: I’m a 30 year old white bloke, open-eared but musically lacking commitment, fairly comfortably off, married. I know next to nothing about grime: I bought the Dizzee album like everybody else and I have a few MP3s, Toby very kindly did me a CD-R, that’s about it. Whose writing about grime do I want to read? Someone who has dug into the context or someone who I can relate to as a listener? Easy — I want both. I want Heronbone and World Of Stelfox AND Woebot and Skykicking. What I don’t want is people pretending they’re the former when they’re really the latter. But on the blogs there’s less of that about than you’d think.

(This is why Simon R is so respected, I reckon — he is both. He’s a polite indie kid who threw himself completely into the ‘ardkore continuum but has never tried to deny or disguise his background and his limits.)

I have come to really loathe the idea that writing on music should always be about knowing more than your readers – not cause knowledge is bad but because the attitude leads people to fake ‘authority’ out of a kind of fear of being found out, and to dismiss the stuff they have no expertise in. Admit who you are and where you’re coming from and what you don’t know and the rest of criticism is easy. You don’t have to be self-deprecating, you just have to respect the readers and give them the means to figure out whether they can use what you say. Be better-informed if you like, but be honest first.

There’s bigger, nastier questions behind all this, too – if there are people who don’t have the right to write about a music, are there people who don’t have the right to listen to it? Well, maybe, but they’re going to anyway.

(Stelfox made another point way back about the way the whole dilettante listening culture is P2P-driven and how the economics of that are particularly harsh on people putting out white labels and 7″s. That one cut a lot deeper and I don’t really have an answer for it.)

Underated Vegetable of the Week: Parsnips.

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Underated Vegetable of the Week: Parsnips.

I must admit I was never a fan when I was a kid. It sat on the unpopular side of the Christmas dinner plate, relegated even below the sprouts in my pecking order. There was something unsettling about the sweetness of this over sized anaemic carrot. I have come round, as with most things, to appreciate this contrast. Though this is not why the parsnip requires a fresh look. Curried Parsnip Soup is.

Simple, and yet again stolen from Lindsay Bareham’s a Celebration of Soup. Ingredients: Parsnip, Potato, Onion, Garlic. Fry in butter for ten minutes. A teaspoon of your favourite curry powder, or paste (I have a Sri Lankan one I swear by). Two pints of beef stock. Boil, puree and if you fancy add some cream. This is why we have winter I think.

Why is it that when mainstream Hollywood wants to show rebellious teenage girls

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Why is it that when mainstream Hollywood wants to show rebellious teenage girls, they are always in punk bands? Jamie Leigh Curtis in Freaky Friday would have been a prime age for punk the first time round, and now her daughter idolises the Ramones. Philip French in his review of this version of Freaky Friday said he thought it would make a decent double bill with thirteen (except that with the solvent abuse in thirteen only over eighteen’s could see it). The question is what order would you show them. The harrowing but vaguely hopeful thirteen first, or the ridiculously unreal teens and parents in this Disney production.

Mobile phones are used as a signifier for overly busy, neglectful people in both films by the way. Though JLC having three separate mobile phones does seem to misunderstand the way technology works. Plus ca change for Hollywood, the only place after all where you can continue enhancing and zooming into digital photos until one assumes you get to the atomic level.

Dim The Brights

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An article in the recent issue of Skeptic magazine researching public reaction to the cringe-inducing, gauche and generally unnecessary “The Brights” campaign. The article (by Skeptic founder/director Michael Shermer) doesn’t come to any conclusions (beyond “hey, skeptic is a good name already”), but the evidence is clearly negative.

Disappointingly both Dawkins and Daniel Dennett (a personal hero of mine) have used their media-wonk status to give this campaign a PR nudge towards the tipping point. But this is one meme that is not going to take off. Chris Mooney at http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/brights/ puts it best with

“… though Dawkins and Dennett may know a lot about evolutionary biology, the packaging and marketing of ideas … might not be their strongest suit.”

To follow up Mark’s post below

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To follow up Mark’s post below, there are some special editions of boardgames which seem incomprehensible to me. Having viewed the Betty Boop Monopoly set some weeks before Christmas I am still no closer as to how the standard board has been altered to fit the somewhat obscure world of the watermelon headed sexpot. You win a beauty contest might work but getting sent to jail. Bad Girls Betty anyone. Maybe other Out Of The Inkwell characters get a look in too.

The big problem I always had with Cluedo was that it was a game that was bundled up by Waddington’s as a game all households must have. In comparison to the other rmust haves Monopoly (and perhaps Risk) Cluedo is ridiculously short. A game is over in twenty minutes. This always struck me as odd, though now as an uncle I see some good points in not spending three hours playing only to lose. Also Cluedo, along with Mastermind (world dictator with sylph-like associate version), is a great game to play without any board at all to pass a boring train ride, though it does require a degree of trust. Trust which i am not sure I would have if I was playing with Sistrah Becky: Uri Gellar is a cheater and a fraud after all.

DO YOU DEE?

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DO YOU DEE? Weighed down by its own “ironic” shtick and dreary self-awareness, DEE CONSTRUCTION: THE SIMON DEE STORY (C4, Dec 29, 10pm) nevertheless contained some gruesomely fascinating moments – almost all directly involving the star of Dee Time, the (UK) pioneer of the live TV chatshow, a major late 60s celebrity (average audience: 17 million viewers) who self-destructed overnight and vanished from all screens anywhere over 30 years ago. In other words, the story was interesting, but his angry and drunk ansafone messages to the producer (of this documentary, during its making) were unmissable, as was his squat, brooding, furious, agonised presence as one of the panel of bagodix pundits at the end, discussing his own case with the likes of John Mortimer, Bonnie Greer and Professor Laurie Taylor… the latter scene especially good, as it became clearer and clearer than no one present dare i. say anything (to his face) that laid even a part of the blame on his own door, ii. counter (to his face) his unchecked paranoia (Dee himself blames the CIA for everything, more or less), or iii. analyse (to his face) celebrity culture past or present in any way disparaging to Dee (or which those present believed he might consider disparaging). In the end, everyone agreed to bash Jade Goody instead (Jade wasn’t there): “You had a genuine talent,” they kept all telling him, and he scowled like Banquo’s Ghost.

I remember Dee Time, which at the time I thought wz v.boring (“pah, more grown-ups talking, when is Titch & Kwakkers on plz?”) but afterwards they confected a present-day episode of Dee Time which seemed to demonstrate (OK I fell asleep halfway through) that,
A. Dee still totally has it (whatever “it” is), and
B. His rise-and-fall was in fact everything to do with the dynamics of Reality TV, pundit conclusion notwithstanding.