Posts from January 2005
In January 2005 Blog 7 was a blog about resolutions.
Even more on Team America: World Police…
Leaving aside the slightly absurd suggestion that Michael Moore poses as much of a threat to the world as suicide bombers and terrorists, does anyone else find something a little distasteful about Parker and Stone’s depiction of everyone’s favourite lefty documentary-maker? Not so much out of any great respect for the man, but more to do with how it seemingly sweeps under the carpet Parker and Stone’s own (fairly pivotal) contribution to Moore’s Bowling For Columbine?
Day 15: Boston
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES
Orange is not a colour that suits me. I tried to tell the prison wardens this but apparently it is the duty of the American penitentiary system to make people look as inhuman as possible. At least they could not make me over to look like Meatloaf, which is more inhuman than possible.
Apparently I was due up in court first thing in the morning so after a cursory breakfast I was chained, manacled and put in the back of a van for the trip to the Boston court. I t was a pity about the breakfast, as I always liked porridge. Indeed Porridge the sitcom was probably my favourite TV comedy due to lack of a theme tune. But I digress, back in the van I was chained to a young woman names Simone who apparently was up on some sort of shoplifting charge. We chatted briefly, she commented on my perfect elocution, and all was going well until I asked her what she had shoplifted.
“CD’s,” she replied.
“You know, Compact Discs. Naz, Jay-Z all that shit.”
My blood ran cold. Here I was chained in the back of a police van to someone willing to go to prison to obtain music. But it was only going to get worse. After a moment or two of deliberately giving her the stare, we we stunned by a terrible squealing noise and then a massive wallop as the vans wall came to meet us.
Seconds later when I regained my composure, I saw the back of the van had been peeled away by a car accident. Not only that but Simone was on her way out through the hole.
“Come on,” she said to me.
“I’d rather stay. You see I have only been arrested for bearing a passing resemblance to Angela Lansbury-”
“I don’t care if you have been arrested for passing a bear through Angela Lansbury, you’re coming with me.”
I did not have much time to argue. She yanked the chain and I stumbled into the downtown canyons of Boston with her. I was now a fugitive, shackled to woman whose very ideals I despised. It was a bit like that film with Tony Curtis in it truth be told. Crispian would have known what it was called.
BOSTON: More Than A Feeling
What can be more than a feeling? A sensation? A wave of nausea? A slap round the back of the head with a house-brick? All of those films would be preferable to listening to Boston’s More Than A Feeling. A song which was invented seemingly to crystalise the who genre of Adult Oriented Rock, and that crystalisation seems to be lead guitars that sound a bit like bagpipes.
More Than A Feeling itself is supposedly a wistful song about a girl leaving the lead singer. Of course she’s left him. He is the lead singer of one of the dullest bands in the world. How long do you think it took them to think of the band name? Was it a finger in the atlas, was it looking at the address on the court order that told them to SHUT THE FUCK UP.
Apparently the Boston debut album, on which More Than A Feeling was the debut track was the best selling debut album in the US. I can only assume that this was also a record year for landfill sites all over America.
THE FT TOP 100 SONGS
91. Ike And Tina Turner – “River Deep, Mountain High”
At the time, notoriously one of the biggest records ever made. But if there’s one thing the recording industry has worked at since 1966, it’s making its product sound larger. “River Deep” still makes the effort but next to the casual compression on every radio it’s a losing struggle.
But cathedrals aren’t the biggest buildings around these days, either, and it doesn’t make their intricacy and ambition less impressive. There’s detail and passion in the bluster of “River Deep”, even if those things weren’t top of Phil Spector’s mind (or Ike’s or Tina’s) at the time. The scale makes a kind of sense of the song too, the transition from dolls and puppies to the all-or-nothing crash of the chorus drawing some of the sentimental sting. Even so there’s something a little creepy, a little hysterical about the record – as close to tantrum as it is adoration.
Side note: my notebook doesn’t actually say “Ike And Tina Turner”. It says, naturally, “Pike And Tuna Turner”. This was the punchline to the joke in a quiz we did. The rest of the joke is lost. In fact the rest of the joke has to be lost, since, given the answer “Pike And Tuna Turner”, it is very very hard to construct a question which keeps the element of surprise. “Who recorded River Deep, Mountain High… in a river?” Which soul singers… are actually… fish?”
QUOTE OF THE DAY!!
“I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven’t got the guts to bite people themselves” ?
dave q August Strindberg (1849-1912), Swedish vagabond (?) playwright
haha sometimes i totally heart fact-checking by google
The Politics Of The Future II: From ultra-market, to communism: China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh. Written in the eighties, when the idea of China’s economic plan was only just taking shape, a world dominated by China’s communism was plausible only really in a militaristic sense. McHugh, whose book is set two hundred years into such a future, is much more interested in the cracks in her system than the system overall. Hers is a economically free, but ideologically straight-jacketed future, where the US has been conquered in a very violent war (rendering much of in uninhabitable) and has been communist for quite some time. However this is a communism of favours, of massive racism (only true Chinese will ever amount to anything) and as an extrapolation of China is probably more plausible than it was in the eighties.
This is a loosely connected jumble of short stories either about the titular character (New York born Chinese) or people he occasionally interacts with. For such a loosely structured book, the world created is very well integrated. The science is again not the point, though some great ideas about architecture do come out of it. But what is most impressive is the deft prose which bolsters a lot of these bitter-sweet stories which end up generally being about love and life, and not so much about a 23rd century communist world (despite a rather sophisticated grasp of politics demonstrated in the final chapter).
This month I resolved to abolish a tube station. Tooting Broadway, you are dead to me. Well, almost dead. Ailing, maybe.
The idea was to walk a bit more, combined with a general tendency to eat a bit less. From that point of view, it’s been a great success. Lots of hearty treks across town, admittedly with a tendency to end in a licensed premises. The specific idea of adding an extra 30 minutes walk each day by ignoring Tooting Broadway has been less well honoured, mostly because I’m chronically late as it is. On the way home I’ve ended up walking a bit, though given how awful the Northern Line is at the moment there’s a suspicion I would have done anyway.
Do I feel better? Hard to say. After congratulating myself on a largely sickness-free 2004 the last week found me the roughest I’ve been for a few years – walking was the last thing on my mind. But I have enjoyed walking, that extra time to myself to think a little. I cautiously feel that the foundations for better behaviour are being successfully laid.
Scientists find tumour-causing gene – hurrah!
Scientists give tumour-causing gene lawsuit-causing name – pika! pika!
GLORIA 1: THE CASE OF THE BILINGUAL BALLOONS
Thankyou for your many comments on the thorny question of whether Nena’s German original “99 Luftballons” is better than “99 Red Balloons”. We have fed the two records, your commentary, and any other relevant data into our infallible Poptimizer (see below) and can now publish its results.
LANGUAGE: As the recent success of Schnappi Der Krokodil proves, German is a formidable pop language, also one with a certain amount of novelty value (and dare we suggest snob value) for the English speaker. Several comments noted with approval the “angular” rhythms of German speech – certainly to the non-native it seems a good language for conveying urgency and avoiding whimsy. Is that what the song requires?
GENRE: Frank Kogan noted that “Luftballons” is a ‘new wave’ rather than a ‘europop’ song. But is “Red Balloons” europop? One might argue that the halting English presses the right buttons for many listeners. Also that the slightly twee English title, and the linguistic infelicities, actually subvert Nena’s neue welle style and make her into a more generic ‘kooky’ performer, pushing “Red Balloons” into the novelty hit market where much Europop plies its trade off-continent. So here is another point of division.
So far we see things dividing quite clearly. The German version is urgent new wave, the English version a girlish Europop novelty. Which of these is better? To decide that we must consider the song itself.
LYRICS: Of course it’s hard to properly assess the German lyrics, as an English speaker. But the actual story doesn’t vary between versions. Nena and her friend buy some balloons, which set off World War III thanks to the trigger-happy military, after which Nena finds a solitary balloon, all that is left in her ruined city. The main difference is that in the English version the balloons are red – which actually helps, in that it’s the colour of danger and Sovietness.
Now nuclear war is a serious subject and one which the German music scene might understandably have dwelt on. I was once in a car with a German who enthused over Fischer Z, massive in West Germany in the 80s due to their cold war obsessions. “99 Luftballons” would have fitted right in. But it’s a parable more than anything else, the story is pointed whimsy but whimsy nonetheless. For that reason lines and phrases like “hurry hurry super scurry”, “standing pretty”, “little toyshop” create and hold the mood very effectively.
So – the verdict? Her native language probably suits Nena’s voice and image better. But the childlike naif act of the English translation and performance is a better fit for the tragic tale of the balloons. It’s a very close call but the Poptimizer’s final verdict must be a win for English. Gloria not upheld.
(Check back for another Gloria later this week – or suggest your own examples…)
The all new Assault On Precinct 13 is good value for money. A Frankenstein film of epic proportions, it gobbles up the original (an odd word given this plot) Die Hard 2, The Matrix and any film in which Gabriel Byrne has been rubbish in (all of them) to its own entertaining effect. It could be said that Carpenter’s version was a stripped down purring engine of plot, soundtrack and not much else. The new one is pretty much the opposite. The plot is thoroughly implausible, the soundtrack rubbish. But in the way it efficiently hits its genre buttons are a joy.
Oh – but as for that soundtrack, wait until the very end. KRS-One turns in a track which not only recounts the entire plot of the film you have just seen, but also does the job of the credits in telling you who played who. Not since MC Hammer chatted over the end of the Adams Family film have we had such a good reason to stay for the credits and watch with amazement as KRS-One does even more to end his career than working with R.E.M.