Posts from 15th December 2003

Dec 03

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 15 December (14%-15%) – Martini & Rossi Bianco

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 506 views

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 15 December (14%-15%) – Martini & Rossi Bianco

Rossi must feel a bit pissed off, up in the great cocktail bar in the sky. It was a clever trick naming the key ingredient in the flagship suave cocktail after the cocktail itself, it is just adding the name of Mr Rossi that skewed things. The Fabulous Mr Rossi a younger me would have cleverly said: it being that younger me who had bit of a thing for a swift Martini and Lemonade on my lunch break.

My mother is a Cinzano/Martini Bianco and Lemonade kind of person. A drink which was the acceptable British face of a White Wine Spritzer. And for the odd treat as a child I used to get insanely weak versions made for me. This all changed when, at age thirteen I changed schools and decided to start coming home for lunch. This usually meant half an hour in front of the televsion as I at bowls of leftover stew from the previous night, experimented with the spices on the spice rack as accompaniments for dairylea and occasionally toyed with the drinks cabinet. Occasionally as in once a week. Tuesdays to be precise. Tuesday afternoon was Games. Tuesday lunch was Dutch courage / anaesthetic.

Martini Bianco and Lemonade was chosen for several reasons. Firstly I was used to it, and hence knew exactly how much I could drink to provide the warm glow than meant being shoulder charged in a game of rugby would hurt that little bit less. It did not smell strongly on my breath. Most importantly as it was my Mum’s drink, she was less likely to notice any missing, as her own pouring would be very variable.

I kept this regime up for about a year until I started bunking Games altogether (on and off – the bastards insisted on putting me in the Rugby team and even I wasn’t having Vermouth for breakfast). It was quite some time until I realised that that was Martini was a Vermouth. I always imagined James Bond getting awfully messy when someone shook him up a Martini, the lemonade fizzing everywhere.

These days I rarely have the stuff, though I have a bottle at home in case I want to make proper Dry Martini’s. My mother however would be appalled, putting olives in a drink. And part of me is too. To me a Martini is not sophisticated, not the epitome of taste. It is a drink for kiddies to make sure that getting their head buried in mud won’t be so bad. And a fine accompaniment to a Dairylea, paprika and oregano sandwich.

Very true

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 414 views

Very true: also what is it with headline writers thinking that writing out – or even worse PUNNING ON! – the “uh-oh!” hook from “Crazy In Love” is a good idea? It’s so rhythm dependent it just looks stupid in print – “uh-oh uh-oh uh-oh”, could be anything! – also the sub-editors using it to show how down they are with the funky hot sounds of 2003 chartpop have clearly forgotten that another really great single spent ages in the Top 10 with an “Uh-oh” hook and actually put it in its title. Confusion ahoy! A tiny and pedantic gripe to be sure but what else is blogging for, eh?

CLIFF RICHARD — ‘Santa’s List’

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Why do Cliff’s Christmas records always sound so cheap? With his money and connections you’d think he wouldn’t have to resort to the same bell presets as the Fast Food Rockers. Anyway as you might expect this is bilge. Cliff bastes it in strings and (eww) soloing guitars to disguise the fact that he hasn’t written a proper tune. ‘Bit like the Darkness then!’ I hear you saying, but there’s no gusto or charm or self-knowledge here, just a lecture from some horrible old Uncle who turns up barely invited every year and then complains that you’re wrapping presents and guzzling sherry rather than going to Midnight Mass. As I believe the young folk put it: PISS OFF GRANDAD.

Mmmm, Piney goodness.

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 325 views

Mmmm, Piney goodness. Needs must and all, I remembered as a youth being doused in strongly smelling pine fragranced baths. If you are doing the dates coming back on the calendar thing in your head you are probably remembering that way back when Radox only came in pine smelling green sludge. But Radox was far too posh for us (ahem – slips into Four Yorkshiremen voice).

When I was under five, possibly bathing with my sister, the pine fragrance came from a source which is now not really associated with bathing. Dettol. The rich, brown disinfectant that goes instantly cloudy in water and kills a lot of known germs dead. Running out of my usual Matey bubble bath* the other day I faced the horrors of an unperfumed bath. So I returned to my youth. And in the Dettol label it is still there
“Bathing: One to two capfuls per bath”.

I went nuts and went for the full two. Not much foam (boo) but there was that pine fragrance cutting through the dirt and my sinuses. Not bad as a decongestant actually, I was breathing deeply within minutes. Without the annoying bubbles it was a lot easier to read too. And when I got out of the bath I smelt fresh. Perhaps, as Alan says below, fresh like a Magic Tree, yet crawling into my freshly made bed I felt like I was five years old again. And this time, I had not had to share the bath with my sister, and risk drowning.

Feel free of course to react with the modern day horror that I am sure this tale instills in all of you and tell me how I have killed all the active t-cells and free radicals in my body.

*Actually Palmolive Aroma Sensation which, with its active ingredients of Cinnamon and Red Food Colouring makes a few desultory bubbles and has a barely noticable smell.

Finally, finally: Pavement

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 490 views

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Even for someone like me whose single step would preferably be into the back of a chauffeur driven, mini-bar equipped limousine, this holds. The reason I bring up this trite aphorism? Because, dear reader, I never got round to Pavement.

There are good reasons for this. In all my hatred of music, man and machine made, I hold a special fear for one kind of music. The music of idiots. Malkmus’ merry band of men(ks) fit so readily into this group that it was always unclear where to start. Equally just when my ire was raised to breaking point they went and did the most decent thing a band can do (bar die in a plane crash) and split up. This act of generousity won them what can only be described as goodwill. But now Malkmus is out them making the same kind of half-arsed racket with some band called the Jicks I feel I can call off the dogs no more. I just hope no-one calls the RSPCA on me.

Imagine the school orchestra in a special school for the uncoordinated. Now imagine the kids left out of the band. You have just imagined the nascient form of Pavement. Now imagine that their racket needs some sort of form, some sort of template to aim at so at least there is a goal for this unendurable racket to equate to. Imagine that goal was The Fall.

In an entry regarding the Fall a few years ago I mentioned that Mark E. Smith’s plagarism paranoia was hardly served by being primarily fed by Pavement. This insult works both ways. Of all the singularly unsuccessful bands one could rip off, The Fall seems worse than picking – say Stiff Little Fingers. Grumpy, discordant, generally unlistenable; Pavement took this fomula and copied it to the letter – possibly leaving out the grumpy bit. This made no change to the unlistenable bit.

To pick a song at random: Cut Your Hair. A fine sentiment, one which could have applied to many of their peers at the time. But then you examine the faux-stream-of-consciousness* ramble and discover that it suggests that you should not cut your hair. Because it is another song about being in a band. Like the world needs more songs on that subject.


1: Start the tape.

2: Drop your instruments.

3: Stop the tape.

Never was there a more aptly named album than Terror Twilight, at least they stuck to their word. It was the end of the horror they inflicted on us. The profligacy of Pavement was enough to almost make me agoraphobic, for fear of accidentally stumbling on yet another Pavement Album. In the end I just used to stay in the pub. In the end, who would name their band after the place where the dogs crap?

*Faux as you could never be quite clear if Malkmus was ever truly conscious for most of these recording sessions.

The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan

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The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan 4 days left… Iain Lee
RI:SE’s last week and the source for much fun-hater joy. But I for one (quite literally the only one) will be bereft. Nothing else can quite fill the gap before Bewitched/Kilroy and after a groggy wakening. So I am going to post each day this week to confess my sins, hoping that by Friday I will feel renewed, absolved, and that the stain of shame will have lessened some.

Where I was once quite unrestrained in joining in with the universal loathing of Mr Lee, I now feel the imminent loss of the spectacle that is his childish behaviour ‘ he was always in his element and at his most agreeable with kid guests. I’m not mental enough to be a member of the Iain Lee fan club, but I do recognise that he flip-side of being an egoist, a loudmouth, a mock-lad geek, is that you can keep this sort of live “nothing-to-say” telly going ‘ and on occasion he would engage in remarkable Robin-Williams-scale riffs which did have me smiling with the occasional LOL OMG!!!11. Acting up to the class like this, whether drug-fuelled or not*, is the mark of a performer of a stripe perfectly suited to this sort of telly, and it’s a shame for him that he isn’t better known for this than for the delivery of the 11 o’clock show’s largely woeful “topical” “gags”.

*”not” obviously, for all the lawyer readers out there

wrote this a month ago

Do You SeePost a comment • 261 views

I wrote this a month ago and it has languished in my bag for so long (for the length to do Mac to PC conversion). Already Little Britain, a BBC3 exclusive, has transfered to pretty much prime comedy time BBC2….

Two hours of Special BBC Comedy. Special because this is the stuff we pay for with our licence fee, but do not get to see. For a few months at least. Comedy on the NEW six channels, which are new in as much as YOU HAVEN’T GOT THEM YET – apologies to people who have and know what they are worth.

1) Little Britain. Loosely linked character based sketches of the absurd to grotesque style. Strange to say but work like this lives and dies on how funny it is. There is, aftr all, nothing new in the concept of a charatcer based sketch show. And is quite funny. Matt Lucas and David Walliams rein in some of the excesses they show elsewhere, but have built a remarkably taut set of rather funny characters who, on occasion, do funny things. Nowhere near as innovative as it might be,its now the third comedy show using the idea of Tom Baker as a lynch pin. Nevertheless, as Time Out might say, chucklesome.

2) Monkey Dust. Cartoons. Funny? Not is you saw Bob and Margaret. A slightly different idea of doing the not laugh a minute animated comedy. To be fair we are not a million miles away from Little Britain. Except darker. Darker usually means ‘less funny’ here it means bitter sweet jokes about closeted homosexuals being beaten up and comic police beatings. It knows who its best character is, and flogs said characters variable catch phrase to death. “I never did it,I just said I did it to stop them feeding my scrotum to the rats”. Funny? Well nearly anything is funny in a high pitched Geordie accent.

3) Over to BBC4 now, for more grown up humour. Apparently. Rich Hall’s Fishing Show, a show where Rich Hall (American comedian) and Mike Wilmott (American comedian) go fishing and bitch about Britain. Rich Hall is a funny man, a great low-burn scabrous comedian. Fishing is not his element. The gag, apparently, is they go fishing but never catch anything and just talk. Except they do rather lousy character cut-aways, slip poor sketches into the mix and Hall actually catches something. At this point BBC Four = Comedy Poor.

4) Curb Your Enthusiasm. BBC Four being its natural home because, like Seinfeld but with its foot off the gas, the Beeb realised this would not get an audience on a channel that could get an audience. The long unravelling of two parallel farcical plots, peppered with celebrity guests and copious swearing, I really liked it. But I did not laugh for about ten minutes. Then I was laughing quite often (for people who follow this kind of thing, its the one with the stolen shrimp and the saying of cunt).

Conclusion. Three out of four ain’t bad. But you will get to see Monkey Dust and Little Britain on BBC2 before long I warrant.

Soul Mountain – Gao Xingjian

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,297 views

Soul Mountain – Gao Xingjian

What does it mean to win the Nobel Prize for literature? Alfred Nobel was a scientist, should we therefore assume that it will be for science fiction? The literature prize, even more than the peace prize (but perhaps not as much as the economics prize) seems relegated to some odd set of criteria which globe-trots through posterity much like Late Junction does through world music.

So what does it mean that Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain won the Nobel Prize for literature? Nearly all of the judges would have read it in translation, if they read it at all. Is it really possible to judge all of the worlds literature against each other?

You have probably guessed that this preamble is warming up to me saying that despite the prize, I did not like Soul Mountain. Not strictly true. There is something beguiling about the novels complete lack of focus and structure. It is tempting – as I am sure it was for the Nobel panel – to tie this down to the mysticism of Chinese religions which is often brought up in the book. This would be a mistake though, as Chapter 72 acknowledges, an argument between a critic and Xionjian about the status of Soul Mountain as a novel at all. The critic suggests that by having no characters beyond the itinerant narrator and various undefined pronouns, and consisting of about seventy dialogues, folk tales and musings that this does not have a coherent story. Xionjiang’s made up critic defends him from actual critics, not that this bothered me. It is a pleasant book to dip into, wistful about the vanishing past, possibly autobiographically questioning. But it is not a million miles away from being the Little Book Of Eastern Curmudgeonliness. Why did it win the Nobel Prize?

Prizes like this are political. It could be that there had not been a Chinese winner for some time, if ever. The cynic in me smells the liberal noting the potential implied criticism of the Chinese State in some of these tales and hence the bravery of an author under such a restrictive regime. The line ‘Written in Beijing and Paris 1989’ should put a lie to some of these suggestion of the plucky artist under the jackboot. A worthy winner? Of a prize that means little – probably. As Chapter 72 ends: ‘Reading this chapter is optional, but as you’ve read it, you’ve read it.’ The same could be said about the Nobel Prize for Literature: winning it is optional, but as its won it, they can put the sticker on the cover.

HARRY BELAFONTE – “Mary’s Boy Child”

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#65, 22nd November 1957

Elder statesman of Caribbean music he may be but Belafonte is still best known in Britain for this and the “Banana Boat Song”. I’ll give a pass to most music at Christmas but this arrangement is too slow and syrupy to really enjoy, despite the richness of Belafonte’s voice. He has a proud record as an anti-racist activist – perhaps ironically, Belafonte’s biggest record shows perfectly the acceptable limits of ‘blackness’ in British pop of the time. You can hear a Jamaican tint to his accent throughout the song, but the enunciation is always perfect, finickity almost, even when the lyrics bear traces of patois. “Them find no place to born she child”, for instance is sung with all the pace and vigour of the Queen’s Speech.

The effect is an odd, antique one. Almost ten years after the Windrush passengers arrived, this cosy exoticism was clearly Britain’s preferred version of black pop. But with another four decades passed, Belafonte’s curious delivery seems patronising to its origins and – more slyly – to its white audience. A comically genteel version of how those funny colonials talk, yes yes, but doesn’t that careful consonant-counting remind you of how Brits tend to speak – Ver-y. Slow-ly. In. Eng-lish – whenever they meet Johnny Foreigner? And what does that say about the record’s large and eager audience and which end of the stick it got?