Posts from April 2012

Apr 12

inuit science and the commodification of victory: scott versus amundsen a century on

FT10 comments • 2,349 views

(WARNING: Very VERY wordy piece still in a rough-ish state: really REALLY don’t read unless you’re an obsessive too! And to explain a little: all this is an ancient passion for me, the tale of how Captain Scott was beaten to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen in early 1912, and failed to make it home. As far back as I can recall the elements in the story called out to me, even as a small Lord Sukrat laying on my grandparents’ snug yellow fitted carpet in mild-weathered Shrewsbury, leafing through the gorgeous photographs in their battered old blue copy of Herbert Ponting’s The Great White South, spooking myself with Ponting’s extracts from Scott’s final journals, or his image of Dr Atkinson’s hideous frostbitten fingers, and dreaming of fabulous bergs and snowponies and famous men who would never return. In 1979, a change in the way the tale was told, catnip to a bolshy teenage Sukrat. Polar historian Roland Huntford published Scott and Amundsen, which upended all pieties: to such a scandalous degree that in the mid-80s it was renamed The Last Place on Earth to coincide with a television dramatisation (feat.Martin “Dub Dob Dee” Shaw as Scott and Sylvester “Who7” McCoy as Bowers, and scripted by ultra-lefty playwright Trevor Griffiths, whose Comedians I admire enormously). I’ve read and reread LPoE dozens of times over the years, growing oddly fond of Huntford’s abrasive and occasionally lumpily repetitive style, repelled by (but also drawn to) the sheer violence of his name-making dislike for Scott, and fascinated (if not always convinced) by his unsentimental examination of conflicted in-group dynamics, what went sour in each party, and the immediate and long-term tragedies arising. So when — a little over a year ago — this controversial historian returned to his break-out subject, with Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen (RSP), aggressively recapping almost all his earlier debunking assertions — well, I was always going to be writing something. I just didn’t quite expect it to have to be so much. Skip to the end for an acronym-glossary, and to the footnotes for how this all fits in with my other interests, if it does [1: note — footnotes not yet written]; for the vast and still somewhat unvarnishedly bleurgh sketches-to-self of what I have to say and how I think, sketches I vaguely hope of a much better piece than this yet is, read GINGERLY on... )

Apr 12

Split And Polish

FT6 comments • 374 views

So what was that poll all about then? (This poll, the one I linked on Twitter and Tumblr – a basic tick-the-box job on the best-selling music acts of last year)

Well, the truth is it was trying something out for my day job. I wanted to try out DIY split-testing tool Optimizely and see how easy it was to run basic experiments.

13 Worst Films Of 2011: 2: About That Radiohead Embargo

Do You See9 comments • 697 views

Expectations are often the problem, rather than a bad film, when you go to the cinema a lot, like I do. And many a time I have drifted out of Screen 1 at the Renoir disappointed that a favourite boutique arthouse director had not lived up to his previous work. The problem being that their previous work I probably went to with no expectations at all and was pleasantly surprised. Pleasant surprise has the habit of becoming awestruck respect, and in some cases films which you “discovered” are hugely over-rated. And thus their poor, but not significantly poor successors end up in this list because the expectation outweighed that of what any film could seriously provide.

Apr 12

FREDDIE MERCURY – “Living On My Own”

Popular26 comments • 3,970 views

#693, 14th August 1993

The original “Living On My Own” was a highlight of 1985’s uneven but likeable Mr Bad Guy album, one of the tracks where the disco backing had enough muscle to carry Mercury’s imagination. That track rides on a steady, ambulatory pulse, creating the space for Freddie to run free, scatting and shrieking. For its 1992 remix, on the posthumous Freddie Mercury Album, the skibbedy-bobbedy stuff was pruned back and the mix focused on the track’s whoops and war cries, leading off with a swaggering yodel. And then for this release – carrying the song to the top of the charts – “Living On My Own” was remixed further, turned a little more sombre, that triumphant opening shout replaced with a slow synth build, in case we’d somehow forgotten that Freddie Mercury wasn’t with us any more.

Apr 12

Lost Property Office 8: Hawk-Ado

Lost Property PodcastPost a comment • 173 views

This week in the Lost Property Office I have an actual real life guest, so no talking to myself luckily. And even more luckily the guest is the inestimable Mark Sinker, writer about music, film and crisps as he has billed himself elsewhere (the excellent Silent London Podcast). We chew the fat on a number of items, whilst marvelling at the Pathos Of Spring, a CD which doesn’t quite live up to its billing. Mark is rather gready with his land grab from the office, but finds some fascinating objects (including what may be called CONTRABAND). On the way the conversation takes in green rubber monsters, the kind of mould a wallet picks up in the countryside, Chinese Faxes, the migration of the Pashtun, murder mysteries, and whatever happened to Kes (he died – SPOILERS).

As ever if you recognise the Pathos Of Spring, or any of the items discussed drop me a line in the comments below. And if you would like to join the growing band of Lost Properteers, feel free to let me know, I am always looking for interesting guests. For the comments just click “more”.

Apr 12

TAKE THAT – “Pray”

Popular40 comments • 3,221 views

#692, 17th July 1993

From my perspective, Take That’s ubiquity was as sudden as a snowfall and apparently as permanent. This viewpoint – 20 years old, indie-leaning, straight, male – was quite irrelevant, and quite wrong: I simply had no tools to conceptualise what the band were doing and what they might mean. I don’t think I even knew what a “six pack” was, for example. For the likes of me, a clip kept circulating – the boys in an early promo vid, in leathers, having – from memory – some kind of jelly fight. Don’t worry, the clip told us, this is camp at best, these are himbos. This will pass.

Apr 12

GABRIELLE – “Dreams”

Popular50 comments • 3,772 views

#691, 26th June 1993

Gabrielle starts as she was to go on: a voice apparently soaked in personality singing songs with a total absence of it. Gabrielle’s throaty, worldly tone marks her out as this year’s version of that recurring chimera, the Great British Soul Hope. The GBSH – last seen on Popular in the form of Lisa Stansfield – tends to play out in a broadly similar way each time. A girl, or guy, or group with good voices and the best intentions enjoys early success, but the toxic mix of acclaim and dull material does for them.

Apr 12

Lost Property Office 7: Apple Armbands

Lost Property Podcast1 comment • 311 views

There is a rule wherein every newspaper columnist is allowed one “Get Out Of Jail Free” card, where they can write a column about the process of writing a column. It is fantastically self serving, self indulgent, and an easy well to go to if inspiration dries up. Well in the case of podcasts there is a analogous situation, which I explore in this weeks podcast which truly shows the danger of letting me loose on a microphone without a safety net. This weeks music comes from a lost SD card, and is probably Brazilian, and on the show today’s Lost Propertier finds some food, a little bit about human anatomy pre-1940 and talks at great length about a scary trailer park in York. Dogs are discussed, as are flip-flops, the great lost cash card scams of the 1990’s and there is a moment reflection when I realise I may never, ever go into space.

Its a very special show this one so make sure you don’t miss it (or at least listen to the first three minutes to decide if you want to miss it). If you recognise the music, or want to enter the competition (YOU CAN WIN SOMETHING WITH THIS PODCAST) either e-mail, or put you details in the comments. We’d love to hear from you as ever.

Apr 12

UB40 – “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”

Popular59 comments • 5,103 views

#690, 12th June 1993

Pop reggae wasn’t invented in Gothenburg, more’s the pity. Back in 1983, UB40 had made a record celebrating the Jamaican music they grew up loving, and discovered that a lot of other people had loved it too, and even more loved the idea of loving it so long as it was filtered through the curatorial larynx of Ali Campbell. Labour Of Love made the band a fortune and froze their career: gentle weddings’n’parties reggae was what they did now.

Apr 12

ACE OF BASE – “All That She Wants”

Popular53 comments • 6,290 views

#689, 22nd May 1993

Of all the hundreds of microgenres that make pop the funnest kind of butterfly collecting, perhaps the greatest is Swedish Reggae. The first person I heard talk about Swedish Reggae was Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields at the end of the 90s, but by then its heyday was long gone. It was a holiday romance, opposites attracting, never really meant to be – a union of the sun-hardened authenticity of reggae and kitschy Scando popcraft which couldn’t truly produce anything lasting, or could it?