Monday, January 30, 2006

The Extremely Uneventful Music project

Over on the Bowlie Forum, there was this thread about extremely uneventful music that evolved into a mix-CD exchange thing. The idea was that people would make and distribute CDs of uneventful music. There was rather a loose definition of what the musical subject was. It did seem initially to lean towards minimalism and 20th century classical, but a lot of what made it into the discs was more like ambient music generally. Unfortunately, it kind of goes with the music that a lot of it does not stand out, but I have had great fun lying on the coach while these discs play, hovering in the zone between sleep and wakefulness.

I tired to pitch the old Frank’s APA to the people to whom I sent discs, but I do not think any of them have bitten. If you are interested, here is the tracklisting of my disc, together with my comments thereon:

1. ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ by Philip Glass. From the album “Koyaanisqatsi”, soundtrack to the film of the same name. I think this film was my introduction to the crazy world of minimal music. Koyaanisqatsi is some Hopi Indian word meaning ‘life out of balance’ or ‘a way of living that calls for another way of living’. I recommend the film highly; it is a spectacular marriage of music and moving images.

2. ‘Tjatrik’, recorded in Java by Suryabata & David Lewiston, from the album “The Jasmine Isle: Gamelan Music”. Gamelan is a style of music played in parts of Indonesia and some neighbouring countries. It is very percussive, based around people hitting xylophone type instruments or ringing little bells and stuff. Apparently it was influential on some 20th century Western classical music, notably that of Debussy who caught some at a world fair somewhere. I like the way it sounds almost electronic, despite being entirely acoustic. Javan v. Balinese Gamelan seems to be the form’s big divide. Based on what I have heard, Javan is the way to go, as Balinese is just a bit too frenetic sounding.

If you ever get a chance to see Gamelan being played live, go for it. It looks and sounds amazing, even played by Whitey.

I think Tjatrik might actually be a particular type of Gamelan rather than the title of this piece.

3. ‘Birth of Liquid Pleijades’ by Tangerine Dream, from the album “Zeit”. Scary Krautrock.

4. ‘Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs, & Orchestra’ by Gyorgy Ligetti, from the soundtrack to “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. Bleak, scary music.

5. ‘Vessel’, by Philip Glass, from “Koyaanisqatsi”. This features the classic Philip Glass switch from slow to fast music.

6. ‘Lux Aeterna’ by Gyorgy Ligetti, again from “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. More scary music, probably the visual accompaniment to Dave Bowman experiencing the alienation of space’s remote depths.

7. ‘Rainstorm Blues’ by Flying Saucer Attack, from the album “Further”. I know very little about these fellows.

8. ‘Aguirre I (Lacrime Di Rei)’ by Popol Vuh, from “Aguirre – The Wrath of God”, soundtrack to the film of the same name. This is the film by Werner Herzog in which Klaus Kinski plays a raving madman attempting to carve out an empire for himself in the depths of the Amazon basin. He ends up trying to organise a load of squirrel monkeys into a crack fighting force.

9. ‘Hell-O)))-Ween’ by Sunn-O))), from the album “White 2”. I cannot recommend going to see Sunn-O)))) live highly enough. Make sure you bring earplugs.

I could probably do up another copy for anyone who has not already heard all these tunes.
Talking of CD giveaways, check out “My Christmas Gift To You”, especially if you like World Pop. I've been a bit overwhelmed by demand for that one, so the one person who asked for a copy is up against a bit of a backlog. But it's all manageable.

By the way, copyright Nazis, all this talk about making copying CDs is entirely for the purposes of humour. As The Arctic Monkeys record label can vouch, digital transferring is killing music.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The timeless wisdom of political realism

"OK guys, how about we do a deal? Hand over me kecks at least and I'll forget the whole thing".

Thursday, January 26, 2006

In the country of cute animal stories

A deaf dog in Devon is being trained to recognise sign language. His favourite sign means "good boy":

Meanwhile, a fireman in Cornwall saved a kitten by pretending to be a dog.

The West Country seems to be the UK's cute animal capital. Back in August the BBC ran an article about Cornwall's football playing dog.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Comics round up

So what comics did I buy last week?

First up, there is “Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy” # 1. I grew up on UK war comics, so it’s interesting to read this new one from Joe Kubert, the US master of the genre. The art is very different from what you would get in UK comics… it does not have the almost trainspotterish concern with accurate depiction of military hardware, but it has a spectacularly kinetic quality that draws the reader in. The story is a bit outlandish… in the middle of 1943, some super secret mission requires that the Americans parachute a squad of soldiers into Lithuania, only instead of sending in special forces they’ve just picked Sgt. Rock and his random squad of grunts. It also does not seem like any great thought has gone into planning how the team will be extracted, although this kind of slapdash thinking is typical of the military mind. The comic has an admirably up and at ‘em quality, and it also features a nice little puppy.

Then there is “Planetary” # 24, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by John Cassaday. “Planetary” is one of the greatest comics to have appeared in the last number of years, but this is one of those issues that treads water, particularly after the excitement of the last couple of issues.

And finally, “All Star Superman” #2, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quiteley (in association with Jamie Grant). A dying Superman has revealed to Lois Lane that he is indeed Clark Kent, and carried her away to that Fortress of Solitude of his. It’s all kind of nice, but isn’t every second issue of “Superman” the one where Lois finds out that Superman and Clark are the same person? Still, Frank Quitely art is great, and no one writes the mainstream supers like Morrison. It does also call to mind the general Superman thing about how he is so powerful that you can’t really do stories about him fighting the bad guys… instead everything has to be about corny emotional entanglements with Lois. Ah well.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

talking politics

I have joined a mailing list called Helicopterview. It was set up recently following a thread on ILX about how it would be nice to have somewhere to talk seriously about politics.

At the moment the list is small and invitational. If you are interested in joining it then I suppose the best thing you could do is go to the original ILX thread "Where do you go to discuss politics?" and either post there expressing interest or e-mail Catherine Leech, the threadstarter.

The list archives are not currently online.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tayto, Tayto, Tasty Tasty Tayto

Paul reports that Tayto have threatened to sue Toasted Heretic over their record which uses a design reminiscent of a Tayto crisp packet. You know, this one:

Baffling news.

The odd thing about all this is that the last time I heard Paul talking about crisp packets it was in connection with Samantha Mumba... but that's another story.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Yeah yeah, like you care about my essay writing problems. Fortunately, they are over. I have found THE POSTMODERNISM GENERATOR. With this little baby I can generate me a fully footnoted essay with the click of a mouse. And because each one is unique, no embarrassing plagiarism problems! So if any of my spy school buddies are reading - click away without fear!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hey, nice blog!

Abba, The Smiths, Mike Oldfield, and trash TV from the 1970s - the gang's all here: Exit Flagger

Saturday, January 07, 2006


I read that book "Rubicon" by Tom Holland before Christmas. It is a narrative history book, telling the story of the Roman Republic's last years, starting more or less with the Marius-Sulla civil war. I enjoyed this book a lot, relishing the way it was sufficiently analytical to get beyond being a succession of events, while at the same time letting you be carried along by the story. Holland is helped by his subject and by the parade of larger than life characters that pepper the history - the sluglike Crassus, the self-important Cicero, the shameless Clodius, the insufferable Cato, the completely amoral Octavian, et al.. Caesar seems almost normal and mundane compared to this parade of grotesques. Holland is also helped by the sources he can pull on, and one of the great strengths of this book is that it has me itching to read the ancient historians on these events, or indeed the commentaries of actors in the drama themselves. I think, though, that Holland transcends his sources and has produced a wonderfully compact synthesis. I recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about stuff.

I looked up Holland on the Wikipedia, and discovered that he has an exciting parallel career as a writer of fiction. And he got a double first from Cambridge. Here is a picture of him:

Doesn't he look amazingly fogeyish, and nothing like the handsomely square-jawed bloke who stares out from the back of his books? Yet when I said this on an internet discussion forum, I was informed that actually he looks like me. But I only got a 2-1. From Dublin.

Gallon Drunk

Poor Charles Kennedy has resigned. My old friend and quaffing partner Nicholas has some interesting thoughts on the matter.

It is good that the Liberal Democrats get rid of a leader who isn't pulling his weight, but I have a couple of worries about how things might not unfold. Some of the Lib Dems have been talking about lurching to the Right, and maybe with Kennedy gone the capitalist roaders will take their chance to act. This would suck big time, as Britain surely does not need a third rightwing party. I also suspect that the Lib Dems would not win the massive bonanza of votes the right deviationists expect. A lot of of Lib Dem MPs are winning votes through anti-Tory Bastard tactical voting, and if the Lib Dems become a little Tory party then a lot of those voters are going to stay at home or vote uselessly for Labour.

My other fear is that Kennedy's assassination will make Britain more of a no-fun nation of dry shites where only the blandest and most blemishless people can aspire to high office. Again, I'm not saying that a problem drinker whose boozing stops him from functioning should remain as leader of the Lib Dems, but that this is going to be the thin end of wedge whereby anyone who likes to drink socially in large quantities will now find themselves forever out of the political running.

My suspicion also is that if the Lib Dems are now in danger of succumbing to the Fine Gael/Conservative disease - of thinking that it is their leader's fault that more people don't vote for them, and thus of changing their leader every ten minutes when the masses fail to rally round the flag. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Why am I so chatty lately, you'll be wondering? It's because I have to write a 2,500 word long post-postivist analysis of the Iraq war by next friday, so suddenly a great many other things are looking very interesting.

The struggle for Narnian freedom

I've finished one of the books I got for Christmas. It is "Prince Caspian", by C.S. Lewis. Oddly, it seems to be an allegorical commentary on the Palestinian situation. Narnia is under occupation, and its indigenous folk have been pushed to the margins by the settlers. That Lewis sees the liberation of Narnia coming from a scion of their oppressors' royal family is interesting. Maybe the time will yet come when Omri Sharon leads Palestine to freedom.

You do have to wonder about Narnia. For a magical place, it seems to be a bit lacking in solid governmental institutions. In both of Lewis' first two books, the country's government has been overthrown by invaders. I wonder is Lewis' message that the Narnians would have been better off spending less time partying in the woods and more organizing a well-trained militia equipped with the latest weaponry?

Much has been said about the way Lewis works his religious propaganda into the Narnia books. This one is no exception. Not merely does a pagan river god show up, but well-known Graeco-Roman deity Bacchus makes an appearance, together with his retinue of Maenads and some old geezer on a donkey. At one point they show up in a convent school, chase away the nuns, and then one of the schoolgirls is helped out of her overwear so that she can join the wild girls who follow Bacchus. This marks out C.S. Lewis as the originator of the video for 'Prime Mover' by Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction.

Sticking with Bacchus for a second, I was reading how well-known theatre director Conall Morrison is looking to do a new production of Euripides' "The Bacchae" for the Abbey Theatre. He is going to set it in the Green Zone of today's Iraq, and make it all about the occupation and stuff. This could be very bizarre, as it is hard to see how a story about the introduction of the cult of Dionysis to Thebes can be shoehorned into saying anything meaningful about current events in that country.

Friday, January 06, 2006

He was a great man for the peace

I was going to write something ironic about Ariel Sharon, but then I thought that would make me like one of those political bloggers. So instead, here are some puppies:

Monday, January 02, 2006


I want to get a t-shirt emblazoned with these words, following a friend's emigration booze-up, which took place in a drinks bar full of said young people. Why can't those cockfarmers find their own music to listen to, instead of partying on to the tunes that were out when I was their age?

Sunday, January 01, 2006