Posts from 23rd January 2004

Jan 04

Stephin Merritt–All The Umbrellas in London.

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Stephin Merritt–All The Umbrellas in London.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a song for every feeling, like the perfect wine for every meal. I have been feeling so meloncholy of late, so deeply sad about the state of my life and the world at large. Stephin Merritt comes through, with this equisite song, its the standard indie pop of his pre 69 Love Song days–so it’s all about lyrics like “all the umbrellas of London couldn’t stop this rain” . It is like no matter how much effort he makes he will always be depressed…but he lives and he moves on…there is hope here, a hard slog through the dread of dead wood.

I went to see Elizabeth Price’s new show

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,360 views

I went to see Elizabeth Price‘s new show (it’s at the Jerwood Space in sunny South London) during my lunch hour. It was perfect: much of her work involves a painstakingly producing low-impact items: ‘Boulder’ is a huge, smooth ball of brown sticky tape which grows from exhibition to exhibition; the ‘Instructions Faithfully Received’ series she faithlessly creates facsimiles of more-or-less empty notices.

I find myself drawn into the compulsive element of the process of making these, of colouring the ‘5 note so completely black. I like the way you can imagine her just getting on with these pointless tasks: making the ball bigger, making the fiver blacker.

Why spend your time doing something with such little impact, I find myself wondering as I get back on the bus to a repetitive, low-impact afternoon. For all Price’s apparent low impact, I haven’t shaken this show out of my mind since lunch. Praise indeed.

The world wide web has failed me.

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 304 views

The world wide web has failed me. Pink Clove, the gloopy dark red drink which came back into my life last year (see entries on the Harlequin ) has zero presence on the interweb. Now I don’t expect all drinks to have all singing, all dancing websites – especially not drinks which skew above 70 for its demographics. Nevertheless for there not to be one on-line reference, supermarket or off licence willing to flog the antiseptic liquer to me is stunning.

Of course it may be a conspiracy by all those fools who don’t like the taste of the stuff.

Lords of the Rhymes

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Lords of the Rhymes are only the rappers that the Beastie Boys COULD have been. Let’s not fool ourselves though, at heart the Beastie Boys are no cooler than rapping in Elvish.

A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna miriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-diriel
Which means?

Elf booty got soul!
Elf girls like to rock’n’roll!
Elf booty got soul!
Elf girls like to rock’n’roll!

However, Bombadil and Quickbeam are macking on the elf chicks?! GROO.

What is the importance of Tokyo in Ozu’s Tokyo Story?

Do You SeePost a comment • 491 views

What is the importance of Tokyo in Ozu’s Tokyo Story? The disaffected kids of the Hirayama’s live there, but is the film suggesting it is Tokyo that has made them a pain in the arse? It is a suggestion that Hanif Kureshi filched in The Mother – the kids in that had been spoiled by London. But while The Mother uses this trope to spin a less than universal tale of cross generational betrayal and sex, Ozu does not need such narrative fireworks. It is a simple tale of parents visiting their children potentially for the last time. It is in part a morality play, a story about family and its underlying sweetness appeals to the good child in all of us. Surely none of us are as unfeeling as the younger Hirayama’s, trying to kick out parents out, sending them back home just after they have come to visit. Surely we are much more like the nice widowed daughter-in-law Noriko, treating her elders with friendship and respect.

Except our parents are our parents and we have all spent a lot of time with them already. What may seem a perfectly sweet elderly couple to outsiders could be monsters from our youth, tormenting our waking hours with sub-vocalised criticisms on every aspect of our lives. There are hints in Ozu’s film about this nice elderly couple not always being as perfect (but hey, what’s a bit of excessive drinking). It is far to easy to judge the kids: I like to think I am a good son, but lord knows what my parents really think of my occasional visits and phonecalls. Tokyo Story is probably hailed as a masterpiece for walking that line of mawkishness and sentimentality extremely well, but it is also a film that allows us to feel good about our own elder relations. Everyone in the cinema walks out thinking (hoping?) they are a Noriko.

Hey! Hackers!

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Hey! Hackers!! Leave my Cube alone! This of course being the news that a linux preview program has been unleashed upon the beautiful innocent GameCube. What does the program do? Why, draws a penguin of course. If you fancy yourself as a homebrewer extraordinaire and want a bish at your little silver/purple/black box of joy, read more about it at Gamecube Linux. Whilst being in favour of the majority of homebrew hacker projects myself, all I’m saying is that NO WAY IS THIS COMING ANYWHERE NEAR MY ZELDA BOX*.

*not that I’m over-protective or anything. It’s not as if I’m planning to knit a cover for the Cube, oh no.

Wanted: Easy Games!

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,180 views

Wanted: Easy Games! – I will test the muscle of our new comments system with a request. Isabel wants some new computer games to play, for the PS2 or GameCube. They must be fun – she is no fan of shooters, survival horror, cyberpunk etc etc. They must also be EASY. Jak and Daxter difficulty level or even a bit lower. I’m stumped – any ideas?

Fantasy Reader

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 429 views

Fantasy Reader: titled with admirable honesty this is a blog run by somebody who reads fantasy books and then writes about them. It’s a neglected genre (justly in some ways?) so it’s interesting to see the enthusiast’s own perspective. I read a fantasy novel over New Years – Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg. I’d read it before, at 14 or thenabouts, and had pleasant memories of it which the re-read rather spoiled. It’s a questing-companions novel of sorts and follows the usual pattern of these – the day-to-day bits at the start before the hero discovers his True Destiny are much more enjoyable and interesting than the actual quest. The specific problems with this book are that the hero’s birthright means everyone he meets obeys him without question even the villains, and that Silverberg keeps on introducing new travelling companions who then do absolutely nothing. This leads to a jolly read becoming repetitive and boggy: I didn’t finish it.

Special bonus question: are all fantasy heroines possessed of “firm high breasts”?

JogBlog 2: Kit.

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JogBlog 2: Kit.
I hate the word ‘kit’. But it’s not the association with school PE kit, with scabby knees and wet shorts, cold fields and being completely unable to kick a ball in a straight line, that puts me off. Oh no. It’s the way the word is used by the hardware junkies who populate science and especially the military, for whom ‘a piece of kit’ could refer to a billion dollar remote-control space exploration vehicle, some harmless new spectrometer or the latest hi-tech murder machine. In that context it always seems a pathetic lads-mag way of trivialising slaughter: Colonel Cock-farmer and his jolly boys salivating over their new rifle sights the tax-payer has sprung for. In comparison the idea of PE kit seems innocent, even naive.

But running these days necessarily means kit, and lots of it. Upgrading my running shoes last year I asked what the big difference the extra twenty pounds I was prepared to pay this time around would mean. The shop assistant didn’t answer, but picked up my old trainers and, grasping them at either end, twisted her hands in opposite directions — like wringing out a cloth. The shoes crumpled, buckled and twisted under her grip, before springing back when released. Same procedure with my prospective new shoes: they hardly moved at all. If you imagine the pressure the foot faces as it comes down on uneven surfaces, at all angles, and particularly if — like me — your feet have a tendency to roll in of their own accord as your foot strikes the ground, you should be able to see the advantage of having a little more support! I was sold, and didn’t blink as we finally found something to fit my feet — too wide in the wrong places — a few quid over my original limit.

Kit at the moment means being able to run in temperatures close to zero. I’m not up for running in the rain, but given I live in Edinburgh not Glasgow, it’s cold that’s the real bugger… Or at least it was until I could step out of the flat in skintight thermal leggings and a heavy duty long-sleeve T-shirt. NB we picked the leggings which didn’t make me look too much, in CB’s somewhat-alarmed phrase, like ‘a ballet dancer’ below the waist. NB also, I am using the euphemism ‘leggings’ for what should I think, properly be called ‘tights’. Other essential for early mornings = workies’ flourescent tabard, scrounged off a mate in civil engineering, which though about eight sizes too big is at least visible to even the most hungover road-hog of a commuter driver.

I’m never quite sure what to make of the hard-cases you see out and about in all weathers in shorts and a T-shirt: or apparent novices running in layers of sweatshirts and jackets made from decidedly un-breathable materials with none of the special gimmicks and thingummies which the kit manufacturers claim will help you ‘perform’. (And don’t all those promises of enhanced performance sound like something the spam merchants have been offering me in my inbox all year?) I’d like to be able to run by smugly in my warm cocoon of hi-tech fabrics: but I can’t help suspecting that telling youself you need the proper gear before you go out might actually be just another way of putting off the inevitable confrontation with your own unfitness. Of course such doubts will only last until the point where I turn a corner into the kind of wind they use to test the aerodynamics of grand prix cars, but blowing directly from Scandinavia.

The stir fry 2:

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The stir fry 2: January is a month for trying out recipes from books received over Christmas. So far Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Bible has yielded some lovely potatoes with ginger and a super-tasty coriander chicken dish. Actually the latter is particularly satisfying to prepare because of the quantities of thick green goo involved. The other book to have entered our hands over the festive season is a little guide to stir fries, possibly intended to help us quit our high-maintenance relationship with DIY Thai, the carry-out shop at the end of our street.

Although some serious rummaging in the Chinese supermarket round the corner might possibly solve the problem, the stir fry book falls down a bit on demanding the impossible (or at least the unusual) ingredients-wise. But as a source of inspiration it has been dynamite. So much so that our wok is now blackened, scratched and generally a bit shot to shit.

The success story has been cooking pork in a combination, loosely inspired by a recipe in the book, of red wine vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, sugar, garlic, ginger, chilli. However this has highlighted one problem with my approach to cooking — or some might say to my personality, period. When following a recipe I am a total jobsworth: stickler for exact quantities, specific ingredients and accurate timing. Not good for the morale of anyone you share a kitchen with, and probably not good in general for a discipline which is, after all, hardly an exact science.

But when improvising I go to the other extreme. Sluicing a wok in sauce and vinegar is all very well when it turns out some exquisite pork slices: but when you’re asked to repeat your achievement and have no idea how much of anything went in… well, less impressive, certainly. Somewhere there’s a happy medium, I assume. If anyone has any pointers to where it might be found, you can now comment below to let me know!