Posts from 8th January 2004

Jan 04

But X-ray crystallography is totally punk rock!

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 973 views

But X-ray crystallography is totally punk rock! Analytical chemistry methods in descending order of punk rockness:

1. X-ray crystallography
2. NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy
3. MALDI-mass spectrometry
4. Column chromatography (elute with bad-ass solvents obviously)
5. GC-Mass spec
6 Anything involving radioactivity (it’s in the air for you and me!)

Not punk rock: Those wussy biochemical experiments with pastel-colored buffer solutions, gel electrophoresis done with pre-poured polyacrylamide gels, high-performance liquid chromatography (just lame), experiments done in those dreadful tiny 96-well assay plates (live a little, people!)

A pair of Jacks

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 638 views

According to Michael Jackson (and he would know) “If your thinking about my baby, it don’t matter if you’re black or white”. Well this certainly seems to be the case if the baby is called Jack. Black vs White in the battle of which Jack is more annoying. Let us look at the evidence.

Jack Black

A comic actor turned rock act. I could happily explain at great length and with a selection of instruments invented by Chilean torturers to Mr Black how there is nothing funny about taking the mickey out of music, in the medium of music. You are merely perpetuating the horror. And what horror it is when the piggy faced Mr Black straps on a guitar as part of his rock duo Tenacious D and proceeds to pretend to be a rock god. Of course the Greek Pantheon of gods had plenty of lousy gods as well as the big guns like Mars and Hera. Using this comparison, Jack Black is a bit like Faris, the Greek God of bodily waste. I note with horror that his new film is called the School of Rock, and appears to involve Black indoctrinating youngsters into liking music. And dressing up like the members of AC/DC who should have been jailed for paedophilia years ago.*

Jack White

A comic rock act turned actor. Equally I could happily use said torture instruments to quickly point out to the pasty faced loser that musicians make terrible actors. Especially terrible musicians. There I was in the civil war drama Cold Mountain, happy that it was set in the days before music when who do I see brandishing a mandolin but White. Everyone knows that there was no music in America before Souza. Well White went on to prove it. At least he did not have his pouty wife/sister/granny with him on kick drums and being kicked.

So Black or White? Which is worse. You do not expect me to answer this. They are both as evil as each other of course. So much so that perhaps they should be in a band or film together, for surely as opposites their co-presence would wipe one enough out. Oh happy day.

*Actually the charge doesn’t matter. As long as they are locked up.

Being educated in a three school system

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 275 views

Being educated in a three school system meant that at age eleven my gang were kings of the School. (this not actually true, bullys were kings of the School but showed a lax attitude in this reign except getting tribute from those too weak to argue). Anyway we could swank around with a degree of insousiance and affect the airs of the sophisticat. I say this because I still find two litre bottles of fizzy pop to be somewhat aspirational and this attitude stems mainly back to these days.

I remember in the summer wandering home from school with my mates, and on the way stopping off at the sweet shop where previously our only interest was in the solids. All of a sudden the large bottles took our fancy. I can only assume a new demand on fluid making in our pubity wracked bodies was leaving us dehydrated and in need of sugar. Well we were kids, we were always in need of sugar. So our hard won pennies, instead of being sopped on Fruit Pastilles or Black Jacks stretched to Happy Shopper Cola two litres. With bottle in hand we would swank out of the shop and swig from the bottle like an alcoholic on his first can of Spesh a day.

It soon became clear that our various tastes in pop diverged. We all found R Whites Lemonade two harsh bubblewise for bottle swigging, and my developed taste buds found Happy Shopper drinks a bit too weak. The others baulked at Dandelion and Burdock (the fules) and had a penchant for 7-Up which annoyed me since it only came in 1.5 litre bottles and was therefore BAD VALUE. There was one thing we were all agreed on though. Brightly coloured liquids ruled. Cherryade was a favourite but nothing ruled the roost like Limeade. Being a colour completely unlike limes, and not really tasting like limes, this light sabre of a drink marked us out as the top nobs of the high street. Until one day in the shop we saw a bottle of Mellow Yellow.

I am still not quite sure what Mellow Yellow is or was. We could not afford it (it was in the premium bracket and we could pool enough for Londis Cherryade only). It was quite patently a thick radioactive yellow though. We were only used to translucent drinks, even the broown drinks of our acquaintance were see through. But Mellow Yellow looked almost gloopy in its radience. I think it might have been made by the Coca-Cola company, and had the logo of something that was decidedly not fly by night, but my memory could be playing up since I have never seen it since.

Some research suggests that it does exist as some sort of Mountain Dew knock off. Since MD lasted about four months over here (see entries passim) it is not surprising that Mellow Yellow was so elusive. The fact it existed at all is remarkable. But I still look upon two litre bottles with fondness, despite knowing the bulk is generally a false economy. And I can still drink one handed out of one, without the plastic crumpling under my firm grip.

I have a brand new impression

Do You SeePost a comment • 199 views

I have a brand new impression. I am not what you would call a mimic, yet it struck me that along with my screwed up Old Man Steptoe face, I could also do a fair to passable caricature of Renne Zellweger in Cold Mountain. It is rather simple, blow your cheeks in and out, squint a bit , slap your thigh and say something like “Gosh darn it, my pappie sold me for a jog of ale when I was ten, and you don’t see me a hootin’ and a hollerin’ about it”. It helps obviously if you have a tall ginger bird as a mate who can act as if this is normal behaviour.

Cold Mountain is deathly dull until Zellweger turns up. Hers is a comic turn par exellence, which might be a problem since i am not completely convinced that it is supposed to be. Certainly whilst Kidman and Law are trying to express the longing that their seperation is forcing upon them the whole thing is deathly dull. And then in stomps Zellweger’s Ruby Tuesday (RubyThewes to be precise but this film does not do precise) who puts paid to this self indulgent nonsense. Equally on Jude Law’s side of the story Phillip Seymour Hoffman attempt to nick the film. Only for a succession of special guest stars to wrestle with him for that honour. Oh look, that’s Ray Winstone under a beard, isn’t that Nathalie Portman there, Brendan Gleeson if I live and breathe, Jack White well I do declare, even Cillian Murphy gets a minute in. Its like Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but with better gags.

Cold Mountain is trying so hard to be meaningful that it becomes almost a parody. It is sumptuously made but is stitched together out of set pieces which are more comedy sketches than anything else. Law and Kidman have the responsibility of making us care, unfortunately it is much more interesting watching Zellweger puffing her cheeks in and out like a gurner. And it is slightly difficult to take seriously a film where the romantic lead is called Inman. Isn’t it Mrs Slocomb.

‘Ordinary life can be pretty complex stuff’

Do You SeePost a comment • 127 views

‘Ordinary life can be pretty complex stuff’. So runs the tagline for Sundance audience winner American Splendour. No shit. You’ll be teelling me the pope wear a silly hat next.

What is remarkable about American Splendour is not that it is a critically lauded and successful, slightly quirky autobiography of a grumpy old comic book writer. The amazing thing is that people are lauding the tiniest deviations in it from the Hollywood norm. A biopic of an almost nobody, done in the style not a million miles away from the autobiographical style of said nobody’s underground comic. When Pekar suggests writing a comic about the basic irritations of his life it is presented as the most innovative thing ever. Diary Of A Nobody may not have been a comic (or real autobiography), but the idea is old as the hills and at least in that case it was satirical.

All biography, auto or not, is selective. If the innovation is merely not to flatter the subject then both the comic and the film works. Pekar does not come across as a hero, even in Paul Giamatti’s slightly softer and more comic presentation. He is a loser that got lucky in as much as he got to also write about being a loser. I am a bit fearful for the audience that over-identifies with him. The selectivity of this presentation is to make him appear even more grumpy and curmudgeonly for vaguely comic purposes. Yet the film skips around with its timeline with gay abandon ignoring key issues about the formation of this character.

The film starts with his second wife walking out on him. Second wife! How much of his misanthropy is based on these two wives, a childhood we see nothing of, and the film is not interested in. The film begs these questions and ignores them. The adopted teenage daughter who is the daughter of an artist friend is glossed over completely. One minute she is a vaguely annoying visitor, next moment she is part of the family because the actual parents cannot be arsed. We never really see enough of the comic strip to see why it is people identify with trite grouches about waiting in line for shopping. Instead there is some play with deconstructing the form by presenting Giamatti as actor Pekar and the real Harvey Pekar side by side. The nerd who seems terribly caricatured is shown in real life just to show that he really does talk like that. The film is not however interested in deeper questions of a documentary or biopic form. Just because it does not glamorise the subject, does not mean it aspires to any greater truth.

American Splendour was a let down for me, merely because all its apparent innovations appeared to me to be nothing of the sort. If you want to spend two hours in the company of a misanthrope then by all means go see it. But do not expect to be enlightened about the human condition. In the end that is the problem with the style of film and comic Pekar is involved in. Just because other people are as rubbish and as miserable as we are, it does not justify the rubbish and miserable lifestyle. The title American Splendour started off as ironic, I am not sure if it has remained so.

efinK a ekiL stuC

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 749 views

efinK a ekiL stuC: So, in summary –

1) Jim DeRogatis utilizing the “I knew Jack Kennedy” routine to roast Ryan Adams – vaguely amusing, but not impressive. Don’t blame the kids, Jim – blame the parents (or the corporate overlords parenting their media decisions). And, hell, even if Adams isn’t worthy of even lancing Jeff Tweedy’s sabacious cysts, he’s a sight better than that awful tart pop & immoral gun-toting hip-hop, yeah? Shyeah – like I need to convince NYLPM of that!

2) Ryan Adams calling DeRogatis on the phone to pitch a bitch about the bad review – vaguely amusing, but not prudent, and unfortunately not unexpected nowadays. Also feeds into the DeRo theorem regarding the Love / Adams similarities. (Damn you critics and your hipster thoughts!) (And damn you hecklers, too!)

3) DeRogatis countering the Adams misstep by playing said message on his radio show so folks like me can be amused by the foibles of misunderstood artistes – vaguely amusing, but just about as classless as the actual message. (I will give Adams credit for hiding the vituperative and vindictive nature of his call with the friendly & casual “just calling to say hi” greeting. Well played, kid.) (MP3 over here for a limited time.)

4) “Ryan Adams” posting on one of “his” fan sites to address the DeRogatis maneuver – oh, Calgon, take me away already. Downplaying the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES as just a “local paper”, pulling the 4th Grade Punning for Dummies book off the stacks (cf. Jim Derogatory) (yeah, and may your hair grow inward), the “I write my own songs” argument (as if “what we are up against now” is the Popstar), invoking the names of Dave Matthews and John Mayer as a DEFENSE, and all this because the word of one critic obviously carries more weight than the multitude of fans willing to PAY to see the show, fans willing to write DeRogatis and tell that dull old square who’s what, fans that are actually willing to buy 5 of your CDs in one calendar year, never mind quality control, market saturation, creative dry heaves, cholera, grass stains, little bunny foo-foo … FIVE DOLLARS? getouttahere…

I’m sorry, I had a point in there somewhere.

5) WFMU’s Tom Scharpling spending 15 minutes dissecting this bulletin board post – take a guess. (MP3 over here for a limited time. Belated thanks to Fluxblog for their assistance in these trying times.) Oh, wow, jokes about bad grammar and spelling in Internet bulletin board posts – hey, did you hear the one about the chicken and the road? And where the HELL did the Steely Dan hate come from? Reel in those ears, Doctor Wu! I should give this chucklehound a call. Fucking stupid bullshit, man. Fucking stupid bullshit.