Posts from 9th September 2004

Sep 04

I can’t sleep tonight….

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 1,056 views

I can’t sleep tonight….

I feel somewhat guilty for nominating in ILM’s 1990s poll in the first place (I did it by email, so there), and even more guilty for changing my singles nomination: from Thieves’ “Unworthy” (which would get three votes at most) to 2Pac feat Dr Dre’s “California Love” (which will get HUNDREDS. I hope.) The simple top-of-the-world-ma force of “CL” won me over when I played it last night, but I’d hoped to make amends by offering “Unworthy” here – it’s well out of print, sadly. But my CD single has gone missing. So if anybody does have “Unworthy” on MP3 could they gmail it to me at the freakytrigger address?

(Update: Thanks kind readers! I now have the radio edit AND full-length version, ta!)

More petulance please!

TMFDPost a comment • 219 views

More petulance please!

Here on TMFD they’re called petulant and sulky. On ILx our own D. Boyle calls them “blimmin’ prima donnas” and suggests that they are refusing “to be held to account by the people who pay their wages”. I’m delighted the England players have decided to shut up for a bit, and not just because when they do speak they’re dull as ditchwater.

The abuse poured on Sven-Goran Eriksson over the past few months has been grossly disproportionate. His England team are not beating the world, it’s true, but only loonies would expect them to do so. They’ve only narrowly exited the last two major international tournaments, both times at the respectable quarter final stage, and both times to finalists. That this achievement is being billed as “failure” seems bizarre at best. What’s more, I don’t believe that there is significant pressure from within the FA just now to sack Sven: surely after the chastening experiences of this summer (plus the FA’s uncertain financial position), the beblazered buffoons must know that letting things ride for a while is the correct (and perhaps the only) option. So I can only assume that the massive “pressure on Sven” which we’ve been reading about over the past week or so has been generated in large part by the press themselves.

The way the press – the only exception I can think of being the Guardian’s marvellous McCarra – go about reporting the England team destabilises, pressurises and demoralises the side, and it all seems to be done in the name of support. Today, Scott Murray whines miserably because the players seem to be acting collectively to try to have the relationship between themselves and the media a little more on their own terms. I can’t see what’s wrong with this, and I’m “the support.” Murray’s argument seems to be that, by undertaking lucrative product-related interviews, the players have a debt to the press which should be repaid by making themselves available elsewhere. But if the media want to sell papers on the back of product-placement interviews then it seems to me they’re bound in a self-sustaining advertisers-players-press triangle. I don’t understand how players should be the only parties in that arrangement who emerge with further obligations.

The relationship between the football industry and the press is obviously symbiotic, and when the players behave in ways which the press finds unacceptable, we hear about it. Strangely, we don’t hear nearly as much about media abuses (no-one’s that interested, I suppose). But when the press controls (sometimes distorts?) the messages the public receives, silence seems pretty much the only way to express dissatisfaction. The point they’re making, surely, is that the pitch at which recent attacks on the England team have been conducted is making symbiosis difficult or impossible. Looked at from this point of view, it’s the press who ‘want it both ways’.

I can’t see why people should be able to write exactly what they want about footballers: I mean, I can see the importance of the freedom of the press when it comes to the politicians and corporations who run our countries, but the absolute freedom to hound a football manager from his job unnecessarily? That doesn’t seem fair.

Now, I’m not saying that all’s well with English football and its players, far from it. It’s just that I’m not unhappy with a touch of righteous(ish) petulance from players when it’s directed towards a press whose behaviour often poses as big a problem to the stability of the English game as the players’ does. And I’m temperamentally disposed to appreciating a little petulance now and again. Sometimes, it’s good to ask yourself: “what would Vic Godard do?”

I dream of other worlds

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 86 views

I dream of other worlds — Michael Benson is my kind of freak, and Beyond — official book website here — is my kind of book. Ever since I was small I was fascinated by things astronomical — one of my most valued books to this day is H. A. Rey’s The Stars. Yes, that’s the guy who did Curious George, but he also applied his talent towards a conception of the constellations that helped make the night sky clearer for me from an early age. Then there was the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe, a great end of the seventies ‘here’s what we know’ summation that was great for inquisitive kids like me (and hey, the cover rocked). Patrick Moore’s The New Challenge of the Stars, Timothy Ferris’s Galaxies, and of course Cosmos, which, book and series, remains one of those cornerstone moments of my life.

Beyond is a summation and celebration of what humanity — predominantly of the US and NASA-based sort, granted — has been able to do with probes and satellites and more over the past years. It’s as good a collection as could be assembled in a mass market version of what each of the major bodies in our solar system look like, taking advantage of the Internet, public archives and more besides. The book’s links page can serve as a good starting point for what you can do, if you’d like — the image gallery online for the book itself is the merest sampling.

It seems right I saw this book the day after I saw Hero, since both are triumphs of the manipulation of images for maximum impact. Benson takes the time to explain the nature of space photography and how color is not always what it seems to be in so many of the familiar and unfamiliar images. But you don’t need to know that information to be awed and calmly stunned by the results.

Actual images — not artists’ guesses, not hoped-for projections, but actual images — of towering escarpments on Mars, of a frozen moon floating above Jupiter’s roiling surface, of a shattered Mercurian landscape, of twists and tangles and tortured earth on Venus, in many cases more clear and vivid than ever hoped for, a peek into where we are and what’s around us that was literally impossible mere decades ago, in some cases even a couple of decades ago…it’s a powerful feeling, an enthralled one. It’s an example where I couldn’t pay my tax dollars enough if these were the results.

And of course the book is already slightly outdated, thanks to the Spirit and Opportunity probes on Mars earlier this year and the Cassini probe’s arrival at Saturn. And then there’s Mercury Messenger, recently launched and well on its way. Next, who knows? But for right now, Beyond is a vivid, visceral, necessary experience, something larger than any of us could comfortably imagine.

A Tale Of Two DJs

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 307 views

A Tale Of Two DJs: one of whom was me, so I’m a bit biased. I DJed last night at a London bar, for a friend’s birthday party. When she asked if I could do it before their proper DJs started, they told her to fax my CV over! These people take their DJing seriously (in fairness I could have wrecked their rather nice equipment so it was good of them to let me).

I was on from 6.30 to 9, not the ideal time but I got a half-dozen people dancing – that was satisfying. It was also good to play a lot of hip-hop and R&B, the sort of stuff that doesn’t seem to get people going at Club FT, even though hardly anything I put on was remotely obscure. The likes of “California Love” and the Pharcyde surely count as Big Tunes (told you I wasn’t being obscure!) but don’t get the end-of-night plays at FT, though they surely will in future, I loved hearing them loud.

Anyway the point is that I came off at 9 and another DJ came on, with a very different outlook: he was playing funky house, and little but funky house. Nothing commercial, either – he made that very clear when my friend asked. About the same number of people were dancing to his stuff as mine, though. I was too exhausted to stay long – I’d never realised how tiring DJing for 150 minutes is – but I quite enjoyed it.

It brought home to me the distinction being made on an email conversation last week, between a disco and a club. At the former, people have come to dance to tunes they know. At the latter, people have come to dance. There’s definitely truth in this distinction but it’s fluid too: the crowd at a club will go mental for a big hook that they’ve been waiting to hear; the crowd at a disco may well keep dancing even if they don’t much like the music, because there’s no other option.

For both sorts of DJ the trick is striking a balance between the will of the crowd and your own tastes. In the disco situation the crowd has more power and the test is how much the DJ can empathise with their mood and requests. In the club situation the crowd have to trust the DJs knowledge and taste though of course empathy still plays a part. Both can go wrong. At the last Club FT the set I played was too reliant on the same old stuff I always play, too keen to keep the people on the dancefloor. Last night the house DJ was playing the set he’d come to play, but he was (I’m told) inflexible, never really built the crowd and when the party ended he had an hour to play to an empty floor. I always feel sorry for ‘proper’ DJs in the bar environment, spinning their exclusive mixes to a deserted venue, paid to take the people on a journey when the people would be just as happy with a Bar Culture Mix CD.

Like a lot of things I love, DJing always makes me gloomy and introspective afterwards. I briefly felt rubbish last night – playing corny stuff and not even able to mix – then this morning people were very nice and the trickle of offers of paid work continued. We might even start taking some of them up: I can feel that nagging desire to take this seriously. Even though I know I’ve still got a lot to learn.

(We have been offered the work christmas party, pending financial sign-off from the Big Boss. If it goes ahead it will be a captive audience of 500. Uh-oh! etc.)


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 286 views


An engineering experiment that pushes all of my buttons at the same time: chocolates, Legos, and totally geeky (i.e. awesome) DIY projects. You, too, can follow the progress of the 3D chocolate printer, built out of Legos.

Food Blind Spots

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 397 views

Food Blind Spots

I have a tiny blind spot when it comes to two items of food. I find it almost impossible to distinguish by sight very thin green beans and green chilli’s. Now considering that the chilli in question is astoundingly hot, and the bean in question is tasty and crunchy this has often led me into trouble. I love green beans. I quite like chilli’s. But a whole chilli of this sort, like say the one I ate in the aptly named Chilli’s curry house a year ago scarred my mouth for a month.

So a couple of nights ago, grabbing a quick bowl of noodles in Busaba I was wary of the green things. The dish had been marked as hot, I was just hoping for a lovely slow build up of heat rather than tongue shaving. I contented myself with the smoked chicken, the prawns and the noodles before ventureing on to the green things. Water handy (though i know that just makes it worse), I plunged in. Half a green….


Phew. I was so relieved I did not notice the big sliver of scotch bonnet that went in the next mouthful. Like I say, at least the water was at hand.

Context may not be everything, but lack of context is much worse

Blog 7Post a comment • 204 views

Context may not be everything, but lack of context is much worse. Tourism is partially about trying to work out how different countries work. You do not speak the language, you may not be able to read the labels, or understand what is going on. That is the day to day reality of traveling, so it is surprising when something after the tourist shilling makes it just as hard. For instance in Bruges, a remarkably anglophiliac town, the museums made life hard rather for the tourist. In particular the Memling Museum, which had no labels on its exhibits at all.

They did those long backscratcher/mobile phone things which would tell you about the art, which I suppose would be acceptible if
a) you weren’t deaf (and surely the visual arts are of particular interest to the deaf)
b) the stopped when they told you what it was.
Instead these things have wonderfully designed soundscapes which often bang on for ages about the flax industry in Flanders before getting down to who made the art. And then telling us why it is great. That bit I want to do myself.

In the end the museum was more notable for its physicality than many of its exhibits (except the last couple of pieces, highlighted on that website). Perhaps not worth its eight euro entrance in comparison with the Groeninge Museum (especially as that got you in free to the Brangwyn Museum.

Write captions for the Tate

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 381 views

Write captions for the Tate. The Tate is asking for submissions for captions for its artworks if you think you can do better. This is nicely open in as much as the staff admit that there could easily be punter sout there with more expertise than then on particular artists. It however does not seem to be soliciting facetious or misleading tags, which is a bit of a pity.

I actually think much of the labelling in the Tate is pretty good. It is a difficult subject after all. You do not want to lead the viewer into making connectiosn they would not necessarily make from the work. It is an adjunct, unless the name is part of the art (which of course it often is). But at least they have labels unlike some places: say the Memling Museum in Bruges.

Stuff and what we call it

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 409 views

Stuff and what we call it:

the old ones are the best – tin, gold, diamond – and that’s not just bcz they’ve been around a long time and we got used to them: it’s also bcz ppl at the head of the stuff-naming queue got to pick the best words – antimony, oxygen, radon… the ppl choosing names for new drugs have a tough row to hoe. The ppl choosing important-sounding new names to elicit pseudoscientific pomp on behanf of hairciar products I sometimes suspect are well aware of the ridicule directed their way, and behave accordingly. Anyway it’s fun to be watching during the Nip/Tuck ad-break and discover that there’s a L’Oreal skin cream currently available containing “Boswellox”…

Step into my office, baby

TMFDPost a comment • 228 views

Step into my office, baby

I was at Darlington’s ground two weeks ago and was struck by the fact that the Chairman’s office is right in reception. In most organisations, the more senior your post, the further you get removed from contact with the public – you pay people less senior to deal with that. In football, the passions aroused tend to make this a pretty iron law – the admin offices might be out front, but the Chairman’s office most certainly isn’t.

So when Chairman George Reynolds approved the plan, what was he thinking? Was this an unprecedented degree of openness and transparency? I doubt it, as he wasn’t the kind of guy who did transparency.

It seems to me that he wanted to know everything. Who came into the club, who was talking to whom, how long people would take for lunch. Every employee was potentially about to take the mickey, and every senior employee was potentially about to conspire against him. No-one then could come in without him knowing.

I’d heard that Reynolds used to buy houses and cars for employees so as to own them body and soul, so this fits. He’d probably have loved to wire the whole place for CCTV like in the film Sliver if he’d had the money