Posts from 19th May 2004

May 04

Songs About Science

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,867 views

Songs About Science in MP3 format. I’d be amazed if we haven’t linked this sometime before, but who cares – it’s 1950S SCIENCE SONGS IN MP3 FORMAT!!??!!

“Purple is the international colour of equality”

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 1,415 views

“Purple is the international colour of equality”

Hein?? Clearly it’s been taken up by some groups as such, and this lot seem, well, harmless enough – but the choice of purple still seems odd. Until the 19th century and the development of colour synthesis purple on clothing meant the precise opposite of ‘equality’ – it was the colour of ostentatious wealth and status from the Roman Empire down to the artistocracies of old Europe. Purple ribbons today have a less settled meaning (unsurprising given the land-grab of colours since awareness ribbons started to take off). Most prominent are campaigns against domestic violence but prostate cancer and animal abuse get a look-in too. Fathers’ rights basically don’t.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 295 views


This is the first travel book to be written about Molvania. Why has it taken so long to write a guide to this Central European backwater? Well, it’s had its fair share of civil wars, natural disasters and brutal dictators, but also because it doesn’t exist.

Molvania is a spoof travel guide and certainly not a subtle one. The opening chapter looks at economic exports (mainly beetroot) and the country’s principal religion (Baltic Orthodox). It’s like Catholicism, but you can smoke in church. The native language is a tricky one with its silent letters and triple negatives (can I drink the water? becomes is it not that the water is not not undrinkable?). The National Anthem’s contentious third verse* is the talk of Parliament, which itself is run by warlords.

Travel guides can be irritating, self-important, factually incorrect and unhelpfully subjective. Molvania is all these things and more. Alongside content it satirises format, using bolded type and bizarre icons to highlight areas of the text. Phrases like ‘terrible human rights record’ and ‘inflammatory disease of the knee’ jump out of the page.

It raises the wider question of what to put in and what to leave out. If you go away for a weekend do you really need to know the influence of the Visigoths or a two page analysis of agricultural reform? Lonely Planet seems to be the main target with its pithy accommodation guide and half drawn maps, but other guides are also sent-up.

The unchecked promotion of eco-tourism takes a deserved kicking along with the sanctimonious tone of environmental responsibility. The line is drawn between the constitution of useful information and the author preaching about the destruction of the planet.

Personally, I believe guidebooks should break their accommodation reviews into Pricey, Budget and Likely to Feature Pissed Australians. The authors of Molvania will no doubt add this to their forthcoming Kazakhstan on a Dollar a Month.

I’m amazed it’s taken so long for a book like this to appear and rather annoyed I didn’t think of it myself.

Harmony and peace shall reign
All invaders will be crushed
Crushed we sing now, crushed
We shall drive the gypsy curse from our land


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,115 views


More updates on our least favourite alcopop, the foolish watered down long Bailey’s drink know as the Glide. Remember this is the only drink actually improved by a couple of drops of Malt Vinegar in it. Well Emma pointed out the other day that the Glide has a new add campaign. Said campaign is trying to suggest how light and lovely this unlight and unlovely drink is. How does it do this? But likening drinking a Bailey’s Glide to drinking feathers.

I hope you all did the involuntary shudder that I just did.

We give this product six months more, tops.

JUVENILE – Juve The Great: Screwed & Chopped

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 472 views

JUVENILE – Juve The Great: Screwed & Chopped
DAVID BANNER – MTA 2: Baptised In Dirty Water: Screwed & Chopped
LIL FLIP – You Gotta Feel Me: Screwed & Chopped

In late 2003, thanks to David Banner’s star turn for what had previously amounted to the questionable activities of recreational drug users, everyone was quick to compare screwin and choppin to dub. And sure, there were some neat surface parallels that made for a good hook: “street culture merges untutored neurochemistry with cheap tech to creat new art form” or whatever. Working in a record store gives me more opportunity to check out stuff I would never buy, even moreso than SLSK with a dialup connection. And these three albums highlight the dub/s&c connection…but probably not in the way its defenders would like. But mostly they knock it down.

First of all, s&c is never as “out there” as the most out there dub. Dub remixers attacked tracks from the rhythm up, whereas s&c is a much more surface tweaking (sloooooow it down and then chop it up). So the results are largely reliant on the qualities of the original song, how it takes to the process. A lot of the thrill seems totally random: new sounds, structures, noises appearing from a simple tempo change…hidden ghosts in the music being released, unwittingly. While more adept/adventurous s&c technicians (and surely that’s the only word for them) might get a little more deconstructive, they never rebuild tracks from scratch. (There’s no s&c King Tubby, in other words.)

And while adepts claim that there’s infinite variation in dub records, most of us just wonder about the quality of their weed. Maybe there is; I don’t know. (We all have our particular obsessions where we rhapsodise evangelical about minute differences the general public might never notice.) But dub is a specialist music, and one I’ve resigned myself long ago that certain cultural factors (that I’m not a black Jamaican in the 70s; that I don’t smoke a brick of skunk a day) are going to prevent me from loving it whole heartedly. As with s&c…call me a prude if you must, but sippin on syrup holds no thrill for me. And without engaging with the music on its own terms, I am destined to begin to hear monotony where others here ecstatic fractalization. Too much drag-assness in the tempo, too many (pointless?) stu-stu-stutters on certain phrases or hooks. There are always going to be specialist albums that even the most general listener can sit back and go “wow” (King Tubby’s Meets Rocker’s Uptown, Pick A Dub, or the s&c version of the first Mississippi: The Album). And one thing that I think gets lost in all the dub-scientist-we-invented-the-remix-fool rhetoric is that even at dub’s most across-the-board popular, the vocal cuts still ruled.

To be sure, there are moments on here that outstrip their album counterparts, or completely reinvent them, or otherwise just make you step back and say “goddamn”. The new version of Banner’s “My Lord” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard all year, and I’ll be grateful for a long time for having heard it. But I am beginning to question the accounting logic of seemingly every southern rap record showing up with an attendant s&c version a few months later, all backed by major labels, and appearing in the racks of a record store in suburban Pennsylvania. EIther there’s been a growing epidemic of cough syrup abuse among middle-class white kids, or some Houston jokers are laughing all the way to the bank. Either way, music aside, I couldn’t be happier.

Glad to see that deranged Narnia site getting wider linkage

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 328 views

Glad to see that deranged Narnia site getting wider linkage. Like a lot of crackpot Interweb sites it’s taken a small nugget of insight into the books and magnified and spun it in all sorts of crazed directions. In other words it’s mad but not necessarily wrong. The nugget it’s powered by is the realisation that C S Lewis’ was – in the Narnia books at least – really bad at presenting Christianity. The Christian elements in the books are constantly weakened and subverted by the much more entertaining other stuff.

It is too early to say what the loss of Jeff on Coupling will mean to the dynamic of the show.

Do You SeePost a comment • 281 views

It is too early to say what the loss of Jeff on Coupling will mean to the dynamic of the show. It is impossible to think though that a show like Friends – which Coupling is so based on – ever losing one of their cast.

On the pro-Jeff front, he was easily the funniest of the (male?) characters. The surrealist who strangely logical flights of fancy were often high points of the episode. HE was the inexperienced, rubbish at it guy who thought he knew all the rules. Richard Foyle who played him also looked funny and had a Welsh accent which stood out in the otherwise bland estuary middle class set.

On the anti-Jeff front, he was the character whose story arc could only make him less funny. He could not continue to be rubbish. And indeed he did not, the series progressed with him becoming on the whole more confident. Steven Moffat was very good at devising more farcical embarrassing realms for him to stumble into, but without development the character was increasingly turning the same trick.

Whether replacing him with a similarish farce happy character was a good idea remains to be seen. The episode on BBC3 on Monday was still pretty good (actually it was a masterful phone episode). The reveal with the new character just felt weird – and this sci-fi geek has not been distinctive enough yet. But Coupling can survive, it is written well enough. Though as Jack Davenport insisted on Monday – ‘This is not an American sitcom’.


TMFDPost a comment • 207 views


There are few purer ways to waste money than Panini sticker albums. Devoid of free gum or trading-card game status or any kind of real-world use they represent the collector impulse at its simplest. According to the website there is not even the complication of limited edition or deliberately rare stickers in a Panini collection. It’s a mathematical problem: given a pool of collectors n, fair and unweighted trading, and stickers produced in equal proportions, what is the minimum amount each need spend on 5-sticker packets for all to complete a 300-sticker collection?

In the real world of course trading stickers is decidedly unfair – woe betide the boy whose got – got – need – got – need chant was interrupted by a gasp or “wow”. Trades though were only part of the joy of Panini – what came back to me most strongly when I bought their Euro 2004 album on Friday was the private pleasure of sticker collection.

I was a bit nervous about buying the thing – for one thing it is plainly and obviously not something an adult ‘should’ be doing. I stuffed it in my bag quickly, keeping out my cover purchase – the much more respectable Word magazine. But even beyond that there was the risk that sitting down with album and stickers would give me the same slightly embarrassed, hollow feeling that you get when you play a rubbish old Spectrum game on an emulator. When I opened the first packet and held the tiny stickers clumsily in my suddenly giant hands my fears seem well-founded.

But then gradually the memories came back. I was into football stickers before I was into football, and part of the thrill was of getting a player I’d actually heard of. The predominance of Latvians in the stickers I’d bought this time made this an easy pleasure to recover – step forward, Dietmar Hamann. And then step forward again – my first swapsie. Then came the second pack and I was slipping into an old ritual – pull the bunched stickers out, quickly flick through for a foil one and put it to the back if found, trying not to look at it. Then the click of nail against edge, and the unpeeling, and the satisfying pile of discarded backings. The careful placement, especially of the two-part team stickers. Tucking the swaps into the back of the album and lastly a flick through, admiring completed rows, sighing over pages lacking a single sticker.

Some things have changed – there are less stickers on most pages, it seems to me, and the neat, formal rows have been replaced with more fluid and colourful placings. The stadium stickers have gone – a shame – but the dubious practise of making lesser teams cram their players on two to a sticker (always something the African teams at the World Cup fell victim to) has been abandoned too. Panini’s lock on the market is gone too – all my local newsagents have Merlin’s even smaller stickers with their nasty free bubblegum; I can only get the Paninis in Smith’s. But the most satisfying aspect of collecting remains – the wonderful weight and thickness of pages as the album inches to completion.

(Several FT staff members are collecting Euro 2004 stickers – readers are urged to write in for potential swaps.)


I Hate MusicPost a comment • 545 views

Mai-Tai – History

Obviously this piece is about Mai-Tai teh band, not just the song history. Oh, but wait, let us look at their discography.

1985 – History.

Well that’s it. I rarely stoop to eviscerating one-hit-wonders, mainly because I have never wondered why they only had one hit. Clearly in Mai-Tai’s case it was because the word was not ready for a German Three Degrees. In my opinion the world will never be ready for a German Three Degrees, and if it ever does become ready for one I will crawl off into a hole waiting for the cockroaches to take over.

The rock family tree of Mai Tai is a thing of ramshackle beauty in itself. The various members had spent ten years in different bands with American sounding names trying to break the charts. Jetty Weels had been in Rockaway Boulevard, American Gypsy, Streetlight and Braak; Carolien de Windt had starred in Fruitcake and Precious Wilson and Mildred Douglas had toiled in Hans Dulfer, Fruitcake and Rockaway Boulevard. Frankly naming yourselves after New York Subway stops is not going to convince anyone of your Yankee credentials. Mind you, the only authentically German band name on the list “Braak” would send any roecord shop owner laughing into his drug peddlars beard. History – without a doubt.

So there is a website out there; it shows all of the images that Lichenstein cribbed his famous images from

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 149 views

So there is a website out there; it shows all of the images that Lichenstein cribbed his famous images from, and its making me rethink the whole comic book/benday dot thing.

I thought that the big and important thing about Lichenstein was his restructuring of high and low, working through this common images, rescuing them like a good and rich widow rescues orphans in Victorian melodrama. Now he seems like a common thief.

What was once abstract, archetypal, common to the American mindset has now moved to a specific object, and through that the images are more rarified. They are more rarified for other reasons, because the brunettes are turned to blondes, because the text is no longer integral to the images, because they are cleaner, brighter, larger.

I never realized this, but by taking these works out of an explicit narrative context he is not making a statement about how important comics are, but making a statement about how everything is transubstantiated into high end merchandise when the rituals of the gallerist are finished.

He is not the messy and chaos-ridden Rauschenberg, making dirty jokes with tyres, goats, clocks and Kennedy, and he is not Warhol, meditating between the Madonna and the Marilyn. He is a burgher who likes to go to the burlesque, in the words of the song by Pulp–where those comic artists “pretend you’ve got no money” and Lichenstien laughs and says,”Oh you’re so funny.”

I know that he rescued Romance Comics, that he made us realize the nature of the object, that the author is dead and the meanings multiply like carpet beetles on his corpse. But the original geniuses get screwed–and all of the theory doesn’t put bread on the table.

(Maybe i am looking at issues of ownership and originality too narrowly, there needs to be a recognition that texts need to be played with, that texts are only alive when they are being used, when they are being mucked around, brought to the high shelf and then the low shelf–and the care of technical mastery over theoretical conceit makes Lichenstien a way to approach vernacular imagery formally, something that has been neglected–do we still think of these works as anything more then kitsch–does the issues of violence/gender/sex/social text/the blonde mean anything more here because we expect art to be about these issues, and is it not in the romance comics because we expect them to be silly ? )

what i want to see now, that i did not care about before i saw the site, was the narrative of the comics that Lichenstein drew from, maybe because I didn’t assume that the work had narration.

website here