Posts from 6th July 2004

6
Jul 04

Vinyl Festishism vs Download Fetishism (Vol. Quite A Lot)

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Vinyl Festishism vs Download Fetishism (Vol. Quite A Lot)

If odd bits found lurking in the name of Marie Curie or Sue Ryder are your thing, this is pretty indispensable. It’s a veritable online encyclopedia of charity shop nonsense.

The guys that do that site run a label in the form of Licorice Soul. They say they deal in ‘high quality, officially licensed funk reissues’. But their latest release is that plus some. It’s by a motley crew called The Roundtable and is, I kid you not, the product of sixties jazz sessioners fusing with early music academics playing medieval sackbuts and harpsichords. If novelty and eclecticism is anything like the sine qua non of the Music We Like, you gotta hear this. It sounds like a lucky-shot download issued as a seven inch, distilling that hard-sought kitsch with a straight-laced seriousness. Very poe-faced and groovy.

And – ‘straight to your crates’ and all – because it’s designed for vinyl fetishists, you can get it on MP3 via the site.

The confusing things about my buying a box of Orville Redenbacher Cinnabon-flavored microwave popcorn are

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1) I don’t like microwave popcorn: I like it popped with just enough oil to keep it going, on the stove, in a pot. I like the butter, if there is any, to be butter. I like the salt to be light.

2) I don’t like sweet popcorn, generally — if I’m putting anything but butter and salt on it, it’s cayenne or garlic. The exception is caramel corn, which I feel is an entirely separate thing.

3) I don’t like Cinnabon at all: it looks decent on the webpage there, but they make probably the worst cinnamon rolls I’ve had, and I’m including even generic store-brand cinnamon-rolls-in-a-tube in that “probably.”

4) I wouldn’t say I’m a cinnamon snob, exactly, but ever since discovering Ceylon cinnamon — real cinnamon, as opposed to the cassia (aka Chinese cinnamon, aka bastard cinnamon) that usually passes for it, at least in the States — I’ve had different expectations for it. Ceylon cinnamon has an almost citrusy note that made me understand why Cuban, Persian, and Mexican cooking all combine cinnamon and citrus.

And yet, I kinda sorta liked it.

You get a bag thing of microwave popcorn, you know, the kind that microwaves up into these puffs splotched with yellow from the dyed canola oil, only in this case it also has cinnamon on it — and I haven’t checked the ingredients, but I’m not even sure if it’s real cinnamon. It might be a cinnamon-inspired powdered topping with trace amounts of cassia oil, I don’t know. What it tastes like is the cinnamon they use in cereals and whatnot, your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, your Cinnamon Life, your Cinnamon Fruity Bombs A Go Go.

THEN THEY GIVE YOU FROSTING.

I mean, that white frosting that goes over cinnamon rolls? The stuff that SHOULD be pretty much confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar in the UK, I think, right?), water, and maybe some kind of stabilizer, but for some reason always has shortening and xanthan gum and beetles in it, or whatever? Yeah, it comes with a pouch of that that you drizzle over the popcorn.

Remember back in high school, when you’d come home from the bus stop, pop some popcorn, and pour some frosting over it?

No, you don’t. Because that would have been really dumb. Even when I was completely in the thrall of adolescence, microwaving marshmallows with chocolate chips to eat with a spoon, pouring butter on my French fries, even then, I wouldn’t have put frosting on my popcorn.

I don’t know if it’s the courtesy of giving me frosting for my popcorn, or the audacity of it, that made me kind of warm up to this Cinnabon popcorn. I mean, it’s a nice surprise at first, and then you realize you have a bowl of popcorn with frosting on it. And that you’d look dumb eating popcorn with a fork. But if you don’t, you’re going to get frosting all over your fingers. It’s like this weird evolutionary pop quiz.

P.Y.O. spells SUMMER

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P.Y.O. spells SUMMER
It’s that time of year again when middle-class families don the suncream, stock up the Volvo with punnets, and drive down A-roads until they see the magic words: Pick Your Own.

I’m not sure if they have the PYO concept in other countries; it seems a very British thing, inextricably tied up with our work ethic, our obsession with getting a bargain, and our vague, guilty love of the countryside and its traditions. Strawberries are the classic PYO fruit, which is odd really as they are actually quite difficult to pick, requiring much bending down and rummaging. All in keeping with the British belief that one shouldn’t have TOO much fun during the summer holidays, then. In fact, kids tend to quite enjoy PYO despite it being technically Work, mainly because they get to eat/throw/squash more fruit than they take home. But as I found out on Saturday, it’s not all soft fruits and stained lips. Roundstone Farm in West Sussex is a huge, fantastically well organised operation, with ‘tractor trains’ to take you to different crops, signs everywhere saying what to pick when and how, and a massive range of produce. As well as strawberries you can get raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, peas, sweetcorn, onions, carrots, mangetout and loads more. We picked strawberries for ice cream, more strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants for summer pudding, and peas for… well, because fresh peas are too good NOT to pick.

It was unfair of me to call it a middle-class hobby really, as half the people there on Saturday were clearly buying their week’s food, not just fooling around with a few strawberries for a dinner party. And it makes perfect economic sense, as you could easily see from the price comparison charts Roundstone had kindly provided. Everything was half the price it would have been in the supermarket, if not less. With twice the taste. And you get a fun day out in the fresh air (albeit with Worthing disturbingly close).

Who’s a posh boy then?

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Who’s a posh boy then?: parrots invade the London suburbs!

I went to an auction!

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 137 views

I went to an auction! An art auction! At a proper auction house! On Bond Street!

I’ve been getting very into several 20th Century British Printmakers for a while. This Print Sale was not the first I’ve attended, but it was the first time I’d been without moral support, and the first time with a real possibility of buying something.

Here are some reflections on how it feels: first of all, it’s extremely intimidating. I felt like a kid in a room full of grown-ups. The whole affair reminded me of a game of cricket with a good deal of purposeless messing about followed by swift blasts of action. And, like cricket, auctions seem structured to suit those who don’t have to care too much about the money they’re spending.

Then BANG! We’re up, this is it. Holding up your hand that first time to bid is daunting. Deciding when to stop holding up your hand to bid when things are rattling on is intensely difficult. There is very little time to think and that’s the key trick of the auction: no time to step back, take another look, decide whether it is worth that next increment.

I lost the print I went in for, after allowing myself to be pushed from a very reasonable starting price to quite a long way over my budget. On coming to my senses and shaking my head, I was surprised that I’d bid money I’d struggle to afford. I’m not talking about ruinous sums, but enough to leave a major hole in my month’s cash. So I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed: once you’ve decided you like a bit of paper enough to pay lots of money for it, it’s gutting to see someone else get the thing. Maybe if I’d just gone that extra ’30…

No time to worry about that though, because I’m bidding on the next lot, same artist, same low-ish starting price (there’s a bid ‘on the books’, someone’s bid in absentia). I’m in and then… nothing. The book’s out. No-one else in the room is interested. I’ve made one bid and I’m winning the lot. I realise my heart is beating like all hell. She’s saying she’ll sell and, with a little bang of the gavel, does so. I can feel myself flushed as people are looking at me, then I realise that I’m supposed to hold up the little paddle with my number on it. I’m being sniggered at but I don’t mind so much because I think I’ve got something of a bargain, and because I’m only just getting over the stressy-adrenaline thuddy deafness.

Then it’s just the paying and (with the Buyer’s premium and the VAT charged on this lot) realising that the price I paid would be about 30% higher than the hammer price. I’m very pleased. I buy art!

Two questions about GROCERS

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Two questions about GROCERS

I will swap you them for a FACT about grocers I learned in my book on Krakatoa, viz. the name comes from the London Guild of Pepperers, who were licensed to trade spice in gross amounts. The spice must flow!

Here are the questions:

1/ Does the weird curly script used by all greengrocers on their handwritten signs have any kind of name? Did it inspire graffiti script at all (there are similarities) or vice versa for that matter? How do you learn it if you are a greengrocer? (This is several questions about the same thing, yes.)

2/ Vegetable names used only by grocers. Due to space reasons the stall outside Tooting Library called asparagus “GRASS” and cauliflowers “HEADS”. Any other examples?

FT Top 100 Films

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FT Top 100 Films

69: JOAN OF ARC: THE MESSENGER

mark sinker says:

This is in the 100 because GOD’S ANGELS spoke to me. If you disagree then I shall raise THE FIGHTING MANHOOD OF ALL FRANCE and drive you from our blog. IT IS STYLISH AND FUNNY and BETTER THAN ANY OTHER HISTORICAL um EPIC EVER!!

Pete Baran says:

Have you noticed that the E and the x on the side of a Fed Ex van forms a lovely little arrow? Now that’s a proper messenger.

Yesterday we saw the start of Luc Besson and Milla Jovovitch’s marriage. Today we see the end. Which is odd becuase looking at her roles you would have put money on them being the other way round. In The Fifth Element she is eye-candy comic relief, the least convincing supremem being ever and wearing a few bits of masking tape. Here she is Joan Of Fucking ARC! Darling of the French. Proven to be a witch by the British. And whilst she has to wear possibly chaffing armour for much of it, its the kind of portrayal obviously written by an adoring husband for his wife.

What the film gets wrong though is the suggestion that Joan was anything other than a witch. Perhaps she was duped by the devil into believing her visions of Our Lady Of Lourdes. Maybe she was to dim to tell the difference. But why on earth would God, cricket and tea included, incite a peasant girl into fighting against the English? Either dim (which the film hints at) or a real actual witch (which would make a great film) – but not some sort of female French Rambo figure. I thought history was written by the winners.

Sport Relief is upon us like a

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Sport Relief is upon us like a nettle knicker rash. Sitting in the middle of a summer of sport like a rancid boil on an otherwise attractive partners arse, are sporting people making tits of themselves and non-sportsmen trying to make sportsmen of themselves. But what is Sport Relief all about? Frankly its name says it all.

Sport Relief is a sporting version of Comic Relief. That is clear in its clunky title which means nothing. Comic Relief is a telethon which intices us to spend money in theory by offering us lots of comedy specials and suggests we get in the spirit by equally doing something “funny”. There are massive flaws in this description, but the idea generally is we make the world better and make ourselves feel good at the same time (even if dried custard is still stuck to our pubic hairs for months afterwards). Sport Relief borrows much of the trapping and tries to make a direct parallel between comedy and sport. Something we like to watch, but can also participate in.

Which is where this years big idea comes in. Run A Mile for Sport Relief. (Run a mile from Sport Relief sticks in my mind), and are pimping particularly fat celebs to show that all of us can do it. Fine, great, all of us probably can run a mile. But if all of us do run a mile, who is left to sponsor us? Run a mile because it makes you feel good, run a mile because you can and give money to charity too. And a charity that has thought it through a bit better.

Once Caldas win Copa Libertadores

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Once Caldas win Copa Libertadores

TV coverage of the Copa Libertadores is frustratingly hard to find. Eurosport provide brief highlights and Channel 5 occasionally add a segment onto their Argentine league show in the early hours, but it’s not seen as big business for Sky. A real shame.

The Liberator’s Cup is essentially the Latin American equivalent of the Champions League, although the scale is slightly bigger and stadium riots more likely. Boca Juniors have been champions six times and made it to the final again. They were up against Colombia’s Once Caldas, a defensive side who have never prospered in international club competition. Boca were firm favourites, yet both legs ended in draws. Boca then Beckhamed every one of their penalties and Once Caldas lifted the trophy.

It’s easy to draw comparisons with Greece’s Euro 2004 victory, but there’s another element to bring into play, one we don’t have issue with in European competition. Once Caldas are based in Manizales, over seven thousand feet above sea level. They never lost a match at home and scored plenty of goals in the second half as opponents began to wilt in the thinner air.

In Colombia, the fans hit the streets, “Now we are going to celebrate. We are going to throw flour, dance and drink and dance,” predicted one fan. Right.

Coma – Alex Garland

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Coma – Alex Garland

Has Alex Garland got over his rumoured writer’s block? Well, Coma doesn’t really suggest so. Released without media fanfare, it’s a short story trying to disguise itself as a novella.

There are no page numbers and each chapter is buttressed with blank pages. If that doesn’t shout desperation, he gets his dad to thicken it out with 40 woodcuts (Alex’s father, Nicholas Garland is The Daily Telegraph’s political cartoonist). Most of the ‘chapters’ are little more than a page in length and yet it’s retailing for ten quid. All that would be forgivable if the story measured up. It doesn’t even begin to.

Treading a similar theme to his African based short story in the Weekenders anthology (RSS), Coma deals with the borderlands of consciousness in a recovering coma victim. Garland’s graphic description of a horrific beating by thugs in an underground train sets a vivid scene. Then he lets it slip. The reader is left to sieve through dreams and consciousness and ends up in an untidy grey area between the two.

Following the trouble in paradise tale of The Beach and the three story weave of The Tesseract, he’s written the screenplay for 28 Days Later (a film I’ve watched three times and fallen asleep in almost precisely the same place) and now adds the disappointment of Coma.

Based on the descriptions of people and locations in those initial two novels I’ve often thought Garland would make a decent travel writer and his ad-hoc journalistic forays suggest he would be well suited. As a novelist, his powers appear to be waning.