Posts from 13th August 2004

13
Aug 04

“These Greek vases are classic – in every sense!”

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“These Greek vases are classic – in every sense!”

A colleague lured me to the boozer so I missed the Real Actual Opening Fandango but arrived home in time to see the parade get going – British Virgin Islands and their only competitor passing as I type. However a BLIGHT has settled over the opening ceremony, namely DIGITAL CAMERAS and PICTURE PHONES being waved by competitors from the first world countries. Australia’s team were particularly bad for this, every second athlete stopping to take pictures of the crowd with their top-of-the-range Nikon. This meant that their parade went to pieces and ended up looking like a bunch of tourists wandering down Oxford Street. One member of the French team meanwhile was actually ON HIS PHONE as he walked into the arena – “I’m at the Olympics! Hi!”*.

The German team organisers have worked out how to avoid this international indignity by issuing their entire team with comedy hats to wave about, thus cutting down on the camera phone nonsense. Gut for them.

*except in French I assume.

In praise of Apollo Heights

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In praise of Apollo Heights — who I’ll be sorta surprised if anyone reading this has heard of, but no matter, that’s why I’m posting it! This week I’ve been indulging in the past four (well, three and a half) albums by the Veldt, a brilliant and all too unique band from North Carolina that was stuck with the simplistic tag of ‘black shoegazers’ for a lot of their career. I have one of my more unhinged entries in my 136 list about their 1994 album Afrodisiac, and while it’s still my personal favorite of all their work, all their albums show the combination of what a friend once called ‘Smokey Robinson fronts the Boo Radleys’ — a better comparison though still imperfect. The beautiful soul vocals of Daniel Chavis are just plain flat out great — there’s nothing stodgy about them and if you want to discount them because they’re not modern hyperprocessed in nature, your loss, my friends — while the fluidity they brought to their music, working in blissout tropes and with more than a few of the figures who brought it to bear — Lincoln Fong, Ray Shulman, the Jesus and Mary Chain — results in something that can make you dance as much as lose yourself in the feedback. “Heather” could be the greatest song that A. R. Kane (very much idols of the band from the start) never wrote, and in fact people might even find it a bit better than them.

So they never got famous and they seemed to have disappeared, but a couple of years ago I heard that Daniel and his brother Danny, the core of the band, had a new act going, Apollo Heights — but there was barely any place to find info on the band. Happily, that’s now changed and a page is up, and apparently they’ve been selling an EP and CD at shows — I’m hoping to get a copy of those soon! Posted on the webboard they have there and heard back from Daniel — they’ve been playing a lot with This Year’s Hype TV on the Radio, and though I’m not as fond of them in turn, it’s meant more exposure for a band that has long deserved it. Apparently both Veldt and Apollo Heights albums are being worked on, and I’m all for that.

There are sound snippets throughout the page and more will end up there over time, I’m sure. Keep an eye out, keep an ear open — this is a group that defies expectations and stereotypes because they are quite simply themselves, and at their best, they absolutely SEND me. It could happen for you as well.

RIP Julia Child

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RIP Julia Child — I’m not too sure what her reputation outside of America was in the food world, so if others could chime in, but in it, she was hands down the queen when it came to famous chefs. Like many my age, I think I first learned of her less by her work than by the affectionate parodies she inspired by being herself — a tall, humorous woman who used her appearance and voice to brilliant effect at capturing an audience, someone perfectly balanced between an easy showmanship and a random happens-as-it-does conversational flow. I still recall one of my dad’s officers doing a hilarious, perfect imitation of her style — had she only been a raconteur or comedian, say, she would have been memorable for that reason alone.

But of course, she was more than that — a veteran of World War II via work in America’s Office of Strategic Services, literally a world-hopper, she took the opportunity of a marriage and stationing in Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu, and from there did exactly what every truly great popularizer did, brought her knowledge to anyone willing to read and then to watch and discover on their own. Taking advantage of TV was a stroke of genius, pure and simple, and the result is something that finds the right balance between the Food Network’s hyperedited slickness and the goofy oddness of local access cable, but literally combining the best of both. She wasn’t a god or goddess, she was a very, very good cook who could show and teach, and that’s what matters.

A far more eloquent description of her legacy is found in this ILE post from my friend Stripey. Well worth the read indeed. Tonight I’ll be eating at a French restaurant with a friend, so it won’t be a home-cooked meal — but I’ll definitely raise a glass to someone who, above all else, wanted to share and demonstrate and encourage. That, right there, is a role model.

The Best Pub in London

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The Best Pub in London

C’mon, you know I’m right. Say the Mission are playing the Astoria, you’re dressed in black, wearing pointed boots and your arms are jangling with bangles. Need a pre-gig pint of Snakebite and black? Welcome.

Easy Food: number x in a series

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Easy Food: number x in a series

This is what I did for tea last night, it is peasy, and also nummy.

Ingredients:
Two Tuna Steaks, one a bit thicker than the other (mrs carsmile likes hers a bit pink, whereas I like mine cooked through, you see)
3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce

2 courgettes, julienned (or sliced however you prefer)
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Knob of butter

Panful of new potatoes

Method
Put the potatoes on to boil
Go away for ten minutes
Put the courgettes in a little pan with the butter on a medium heat and put the lid on. Give it a shake every minute or so, to make sure nothing is sticking.
Get your frying pan v hot and put a dribble of oil in.
Slap the tuna steaks in the pan.
After two minutes, turn them over, then after another two minutes add the balsamic and soy. This will bubble away in about a minute so after about 30 seconds turn the steaks over again so they get the lovely brown goo on both sides.
Bung the cherry tomatoes in with the courgettes and stir round.
Serve up the potatoes and the tuna first to give the toms a chance to cook slightly.

EAT. GO MMMMMMMMMMMMM.
(the tuna cooking bit is nicked from Rick Stein’s “big book of fish” by the way)

HELEN SHAPIRO – “You Don’t Know”

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#123, 12th August 1961

Polished as a pebble in a pocket, but there’s something about this I can’t warm to, a pall of drabness around it. Maybe it’s the arrangement, stately with prissy chirrups of strings. Maybe it’s Helen’s mopey sultriness: unrequited love songs can be heartbreaking, but they can also be unpleasantly inert and passive. Shapiro’s prematurely smoky voice is quality, but her delivery is distanced and distracted – where’s the motivation for the mystery boy to notice her? Love isn’t a right.

If you overlook its swathes of parkland

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If you overlook its swathes of parkland, London and hot weather really don’t go together at all. The city’s simply too dense, the transport system painfully ill-equipped for the heat, and I have yet to be convinced of the appeal of al fresco dining next to a bus stop on Clapham High Street.

Nevertheless, I approve wholeheartedly of attempts to bend London into a more summer-friendly shape. Like this Reclaim The Beach lot, for example. Who needs Brighton when you can build sandcastles on a small stretch of mud next to Festival Pier? And the beach parties look fun – I rather like the idea of attempting to turn Southwark into a mini-Koh Samui with aid of a big sound system. I somewhat doubt that the idea of paddling in the Thames will ever take off, mind.

In related news, RIP Charlton Lido. Where does one go for a decent outdoor swim in South London these days?

ResFest

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ResFest looms once again – along with OneDotZero this is a key event in the medium of artistic digital film, primarily showcasing cutting edge film-making, animation and effects. Needless to say I will be there at the NFT when it happens, glued to my seat drooling over Shynola’s gorgeous work and similar.

Res the magazine provides a DVD every issue featuring short films, music videos, tracks and whatever extras they can muster. On the latest disc I was surprised to find a new video for Michael Andrews ft Gary Jules ‘Mad World’ directed by one Mr M Gondry…
Even before it starts you know it’s going to better than the terrible (tho perhaps appropriate) video that accompanied the song’s release last Christmas…and yes it is.

Why have Universal chosen to commission a new video for this song? Perhaps the popularity of the track lingers in some quarters of the world previously unexposed to the dreariest Christmas number one ever? And why choose Gondry? I can only assume they share the view that the original video was dire and it would be nice to have something a bit more stylish to go with one of the best selling songs of the decade so far (at least in the UK).

We are in a city, on a building roof. By we I mean the camera, looking down onto the street where a collection of children are starting to form shapes. They form a face…it’s all a bit British Airways isn’t it? Reminiscent of his classic clip for Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ too. The kids assume other forms together, a car, a dove, a dog with disturbingly thin legs…occasionally the camera (us) pans slowly (in Gondry’s typical haunting ‘uncertain/mesmerised’ style) to the left where we see Mr Jules himself, still wearing that darned flat cap, looking down on the kids just as we are. Cars trundle by on the road, the skies are a cool grey with a low yellowish hue in the distance – hard to tell if it’s morning or evening. It looks cold but it probably isn’t. Eventually the camera shifts right and around and we see Mr Andrews (presumably) at the piano, his back turned to us, with the Empire State Building perfectly poised and majestic as ever in the distance. Ah…

A chaste affair but ordinary by his standards perhaps. Still what’s admirable here is the obedience in applying an organic theme to an organically rendered song – the use of people, rather than computer effects, to pull off the usual Gondry hallmarks of transformation, mirrors without smoke, the clockwork behind the clockwork, or just a really neat idea so simple anyone could conceive it, especially for something as supposedly trivial and throwaway as a music video. But still nobody conceives of it quite like Gondry does. It doesn’t quite save a poor cover from poverty but it does provide it with a much more comfortable bed to sleep in.

A LONDON SONGBOOK

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CAETANO VELOSO – “London, London”: “A group approach a policeman / He seems so pleased to please them” – Veloso wanders in London, alone, knowing nobody, slightly melancholy but safe. The song drifts like its writer, doubling back on itself, curious and distracted. The things Veloso knows about London – its politeness, its peacefulness, its police – seem odd until you realise that perhaps this is London as a Not-Rio. (It’s a fair point: live in London and you become focussed on the place as a presence, but as with any city whose population fluxes daily it’s also a collection of absences; the not-home of commuters, business travellers, daytrippers, tourists, visitors…) Veloso spends his time, beautifully, looking for flying saucers in the big London sky.

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – “Last Train To London”: ELO accomodate disco, uncomfortably. Provincial disco at that: where is the song set? (my bet is Cinderella’s in Guildford).

Get a New Life

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Get a New Life

Last night on BBC, the show featured a couple who’d decided to try emigrating to Oz. They asked the wife what her thoughts were. She said:

“I miss my key people”

WTF? Key people? We call them family and friends here on planet earth, you management theory obessed cretin.