Sunday, May 27, 2012

Overheard in Dublin #35

"Yeah bud, yeah. So what's your name anyway?"

"Barry… No, Mick. It's Mick."

Stray Dog Joins Road Race, Runs for 1700 Kilometres

Xiaosa the dog has become a sensation in China, after he joined cyclists in a road race and ran for 1700 kilometres. The plucky little fellow had befriended the cyclist Xiao Yong and decided to run along with the bicycles, travelling up to 60 kilometres a day. The journey saw the dog climbing 12 mountains.

Xiao Yong now plans to adopt Xiaosa, who has started his own blog.


Even more (with video)

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Indian Film Festival 2012

Indian Film Festival
The Indian film festival is back! This year it has moved from the Swan Cinema in Rathmines to the Dundrum Cinema. Here is their website. The only listing they seem to have showing the films that are on with times is in a cumbersome PDF version of the programme. As a service to all lovers of Indian cinema and film generally, I have extracted the information and created the following list. All of these films are on in Dundrum, apart from Mughal-e-Azam, which is being shown in the Chester Beatty Library.

Friday 08/06/2012

Gala Opening Double Bill:
18:30 India by Song (2011) – documentary / musical (seems to be a Bollywood version of the Rock and Roll Years) IMDB
20:00 West Is West (2012) – family drama / UK set (sequel of sorts to East Is East) IMDB

Saturday 09/06/2012

13:00 This film is being shown in the Chester Beatty Library Mughl-e-Azam (1960) – Classic, Historical (Mughal era) IMDB
14:00 Delhi Belly (2011) – some kind of wacky caper film IMDB
16:00 Hisss (2010) – SF / horror, US co-producion, directed by Jennifer Lynch IMDB
18:00 Jodhaa Akbar (2008) – historical (Mughal era) / musical IMDB

Sunday 10/06/2012

14:00 Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) – Classic / musical IMDB
17:00 Dirty Picture (2011) – biopic of tragic Bollywood actress IMDB
19:50 Ajintha (2012) – musical / historical [mysteriously unlisted on IMDB]

Monday 11/06/2012

11:00 Chillar Party (2011) – kiddie film IMDB
13:30 Aarakshan (2011) – political / controv (deals with caste issues etc.) IMDB
16:00 Pakeezah (1972) – classic / historical / musical IMDB
19:05 One Dollar Curry (2004) – contemporary, set in France IMDB

Vijay Singh, the director of One Dollar Curry and India by Song will be in attendance, as will Ila Arun, who appears in West Is West and Jodhaa Akbar.

Any pointers on things to see? The one real essential for me is Hare Rama Hare Krishna, which features the famous Asha Bhosle tune 'Dum Maro Dum' and which casts a caustic eye on the Hare Krishna movement and the stoner hippies from the West who had descended on India. I will probably try and go to at least one of the historical epics. Dirty Picture might also be an interesting depiction of the dark side of the Indian film industry, a Bollywood Sunset Boulevard.

There is also a black tie gala dinner with live entertainment on the 9th of June, to raise money for an orphanage in Delhi. See the Indian Film Festival website for details.

My previous experiences with this festival: 2011, 2010. It upsets me that I never got round to saying more about Omkara, one of the best films I have ever seen. Such is life.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't Be Afraid Of Your Fantazy

I am planning to go to Egypt later this year. The country has many sights – temples, pyramids, giant statues, places of religious worship… and Fantazyland. This is a theme park near Alexandria, where the entrance fee varies from seven to thirty Egyptian pounds a person, depending on how much respect the cashier plans to show you. It boasts many attractions, some of which may even be functioning correctly when you visit.

even more

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Terrifying images of the past

Oh, you beautiful child

Mainly, but not entirely, bands from the past - featuring the kind of people who were expelled from Swedish showbands for their poor dress sense.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Obelisk first view
I recently went out to Killiney and walked over the hill from there to Dalkey. This is probably the most definitively rich part of town, where the wealthy live behind high walls and gates with intercoms. Many of the streets and houses have Italianate names that evoke the Bay of Naples or the hills above Sorrento. I used to find this a somewhat laughable affectation, but now having been to that part of the world I can see why one place would remind of the other. On a sunny, day as you climb the winding but leafy paths of Killiney you could easily imagine that you were in the hills above Sorrento – except that there are more mansions and less olive groves around you.

du côté de chez Bongo
One other thing you do not see above Sorrento is loads of U2-related graffiti, the sighting of which suggested that I was near Bongo's Killiney home. I did not pay him a visit.

There is a park on top of the hill between Killiney and Dalkey on which a number of interesting items are to be seen. The most famous is probably the Obelisk, a mysterious item that was apparently built in the 18th century by whatever nobleman owned the hill back then. It is probably no more than a decorative folly, but it is easy to imagine it being part of some sinister cult's activities; I seem to recall that it makes an appearance in the book that reveals Dublin's Occult Grid, but then so does every other structure of note in the city and county. I have heard rumours that on certain nights people gather at the Obelisk to worship Satan, but it sounds a bit unlikely. I would imagine that devil-worshippers would prefer somewhere a bit more secluded. I suspect that more typical night-time visitors to the Obelisk and its environs are worshippers of some kind of cheap and nasty god of cider drinkers.

Near and slightly below the Obelisk there is a little pyramid. It has steps running up and looks more like a very small version of those Aztec Pyramids than the Egyptian pyramids that more typically appeal to the Masonic types who build obelisks. I do not know what it was for, if anything. You could just about imagine a priest to some thirsty deity ripping out the still-beating heart of a sacrificial victim at its apex, but only if both priest and victim were not very big and had a superb sense of balance (even after death in the case of the victim).

Littli Obelisk
And beside the pyramid is a second obelisk, the much smaller one known as The Witch's Hat. It is now hidden by trees from the big obelisk, but would be very visible on the seaward side.

Aircraft Safety Aid
Beyond that on towards Dalkey, the hill also boasts an aircraft safety aid (possibly to prevent aircraft flying into the hill during poor visibility) and what was once telegraph station and now seems to be abandoned but nevertheless bristles with mysterious aerials.
Telegraph Tower

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vanished Music Museums of Dublin

I have never previously had to consider whether I am for or against music museums, but the subject came up in the pages of Frank's APA after one of our members mentioned visiting some. It was also mentioned that Simon Reynolds in Retromania has argued that they are a Bad Thing in some way.

There were two music museums in Dublin, both of which have closed down. One of them was the Dublin Rock Music Hall of Fame, which I think consisted of some of Bongo's used kecks (for foreign readers – kecks are not musical instruments) behind a glass case and a couple of back issues of Hot Press – that'll be a twenty quid, sir. The other was called Ceol (Irish for music) and which dealt with Irish traditional music.

I liked Ceol and went to it a few times, mostly when attempting to demonstrate the great culture of Ireland to visitors. It used technology in what seemed like an innovative way and seemed to successfully convey information and give a sense of the various forms of the music it was covering. But it did not get enough visitors and was unable to attract public subsidy so it closed down. I think maybe its timing was unfortunate – it was located in a part of town that has since been redeveloped (not entirely successfully, but God loves a trier) and connected up to public transport, so it might do better now. But the time has passed.

Museums are often interesting in and of themselves, not for what they contain but how they choose to present it. One of my friends has said of Dublin's Natural History Museum that it itself should be in a museum. This is a subject I hope to explore further, with other examples.

Someone else was less impressed by Ceol.

This guy liked it more (and is not a smartarse).

image source

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Saturday, May 19, 2012


I am still going on about the Jeff Mangum curated All Tomorrow's Parties Festival, in Butlins Minehead.

And then to Group Doueh. As noted in the Executive Summary, the SADR sensations were a bit less trippy than on the record I have, but they did serve up an appealing stew of desert guitar music. Mr Doueh took a relatively modest role (apart from when he nonchalantly played guitar behind his head), letting the band's two women singers front things. They also did a bit of getting down and dancing, which was endearingly odd considering that they a good bit more modestly dressed and round than is the case with western dancers.
All Star Jam
After Group Doueh had finished we were about to drift off to see Sebadoh (largely for the want of anything better to do) when some excitable fellow said to us that he had heard that there was going to be an All-Star Jam taking place down here. At first we were unsure, but as the place started to fill up with hipsters – and as the supposedly finished venue made no efforts to throw people out –we wondered if maybe he was onto something. And yeah, he was. Members of bands such as the Sun Ra Arkestra, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, a Hawk And A Hacksaw, Roscoe Mitchell and many many others appeared onstage and started banging out a chaotic yet enjoyable barrage of music that seemed largely to be based around an Arkestra groove. I felt a bit trend being there with all the people taking photos of everything to prove that they had been There, but it was one of the most fun ATP things ever.

That is largely that for me and the Jeff Mangum ATP. I did not see enough stuff on the ATP TV channel to say much about it except that i) the Rutland Weekend Television stuff reminded me of how impressive Eric Idle's technique is and ii) the production values in The Life of Brian were much higher than I expected; I particularly liked how they decorated the walls of Pilate's study with copies of the murals from the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii [so called because the confusing audio guide makes finding its famous wall paintings a rather mysterious process].
I did find the lack of chalet-mate sociability a bit of a drag (my beloved can be so grumpy!), so I would not be too keen on the two-person chalet again, for all that they do the job. I must therefore give a shout out to ILX superstar Aldo Cowpat, his lovely wife and their friends (who all have names but it is more exciting on the internet if I make them sound mysteriously unnamed) for having us round for tea and cake. And vodka, they are Scottish after all. We watched a bit of that Sherman's March film (a documentary about this guy who starts off trying to make a film about Sherman's march through Georgia but ends up using the "Hi, I'm making a documentary" line as a way of meeting but not actually copping off with loads of women).

And so my account of this festival trails away…

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Natasha's Dance

I have been reading War and Peace since January, a chapter a day. The book has three hundred and sixty six chapters, and 2012 has three hundred and sixty six days, so it seemed like a good idea. And it is, the book is among the greatest things ever, and the chapter a day pace suits it really well. I think at the start maybe reading only five pages a day seemed a bit restricting, but as you go along you get into the rhythm of it

Before reading the book, I did not too much about it. I knew, obviously, that it was set during the Napoleonic Wars and made a big deal of Napoleon's invasion of Russia. And I suppose from the title I could deduce that it featured stuff relating to people's peace-time lives as well. And that really was it – or almost it. I did have one other piece of advance knowledge, thanks to a partial reading of Orlando Figes' book Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. When I first approached that book I took it that the "Natasha's Dance" bit of the title was metaphorical, but it turned out to be a layered metaphor – it refers to a scene in War and Peace where a character called Natasha does a dance, the dance and the scene being metaphorical. That gave away two spoilers – firstly that there is a character called Natasha who will do a dance and secondly that this Natasha is somehow important to the book as a whole, something that would not immediately have been apparent when she first appears in the novel (and something which is only beginning to become apparent now that she has done her dance).

But what is the dance thing all about? Well, Natasha is from a minor noble family whose menfolk are all fuckwits who are bringing the rest to the brink of ruin with their feckless and incompetent ways. Like all of the nobility, their lives are focussed on the cities, either Moscow or St. Petersburg, and the jockeying for position there. They speak French rather than Russian and are disdainful of the plain countryfolk and their way of life. But in this chapter, Natasha and her brother (amiable fuckwit Nicholas) find themselves back in the house of a very minor noble neighbour of their country estate, a man so barely noble at all that he lives on terms of easy familiarity with his serfs in his ramshackle house. He serves a simple meal (featuring pickled mushrooms, which sound like the best thing ever) and some drink to his guests and then his serfs play some music on a balalaika, and then Natasha is invited to dance – and she does, but she does not do one of the poncey French dances that she would have been thought in the cities, but a true Russian peasant dance whose steps she somehow just knows from the depths of her being. I think this says something about the Russian national character, or Tolstoy's view of it.

It is a lovely scene, independently of whatever meaning Tolstoy wants to communicate in it, with a lovely sense of unbuttoned joie de vivre very much at odds with the uptight lives of so many of the characters. It is one of the moments in this book that brings home what a great writer Tolstoy is and why so many people say that War and Peace is the greatest book ever written.

A review of Natasha's Dance

and another

image source

Later – oh great, trying to find a YouTube video of Natasha's Dance from one of the book's many adaptations I have come across a BIG SPOILER.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 6: More Music Action


And now to bands that I had heard of but was seeing at the festival for the first time, beginning with A Hawk And A Hacksaw. I think my Frank's APA pal Mr Henry the Cow likes this lot. Well, now that I have seen them, I like them too! The faux folkies were providing musical accompaniment to a showing of the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by the roffling Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov. It tells the story of people in the past in Ukraine or somewhere like that, only because we were seeing it in Crazy Horse the flat floor and low stage meant that the subtitles were largely invisible and the story impossible to follow. However, from having seen the film before I can reveal that even with the subtitles the film is not very plot-oriented, so it is best appreciated as a succession of beautifully shot scenes of people doing folkish stuff. The Hawk And A Hacksaw musical accompaniment (tinges of Balkan and eastern European folk music) worked perfectly like this. And again, the sheer darkness of Crazy Horse made this all a rather magical experience.

Joanna Newsom was one of the big draws for me at this festival. I had hitherto been relatively uninterested in her oeuvre, seeing her as one of those quirky voiced beautiful women who sell truckloads of records to people who think they are sensitive. But I liked the Joanna Newsom track Scott put on one of his end of year discs (a song which would have been the first Joanna Newsom track I have heard in its entirety). So I became keen to check her out.

I found her live set a bit of a slow burn – at first it seemed merely quite good, but by the end I found the performance mesmerising. I was struck by her technique, both as a musician and as someone who can work a crowd, the whole idiot savant thing being clearly a pose. I was also fascinated the basic instrumentation of the songs (with her playing the harp or piano being the sole accompaniment to her vocals). At the end of the day, the harp is an instrument that makes beautiful sounds so it is easy to like Ms Newsom's music.

Two things struck me about Joanna Newsom's vocals. Firstly, her lyrics often dwell on animals, always a good thing. Secondly, some of the tunes featured wordless vocals, with her singing voice sounding far less mannered on these. Make of that what you will. Her normal singing voice is a bit odd but I can see why people both like and dislike it. Overall, though, there is something about the songs that gets under the skin. And, unlike my beloved, I do not think that Ms Newsom would be improved by a face transplant from Mark E. Smith.

NEXT: The Final Episode

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Prince Philip Latest

The Duke of Edinburgh recently met some people, one of whom was a woman who was wearing a dress with a zip.

"I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress," commented the controversial member of the Royal Family.

More on this important story


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Monday, May 14, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 5: Syria

More Jeff Mangum curated All Tomorrow's Partiesaction

I have surprisingly little by them on record, but on the strength of their live appearances Low are one of my favourite bands. As you know, they are a clean-living husband (vocals, guitar) and wife (drums, vocals) joined by a succession of hell-raising bassists [libellous supposition, your honour]. And they make music that is basically a bit miserable. I think of them as the Carter Family of our times. It seems like an age since I last saw them so I had almost forgotten how good they are, to the extent that I suggested to my beloved that we would be well advised to rest our little feet by sitting at the back while they were on. That stupid idea lasted about two songs and then we had barged our way up to the front. OK so I then had to put up with some fuckwitted Dutch people near me having a stupid conversation about some foreign language shite while Low were playing 'Sunflower' (current candidate for greatest miserable song ever), but being close to my heroes more than made up for it.

One thing you may have noticed from the news is that in the faraway country of Syria people have been engaging in protests and the government has been killing them. Around the time of All Tomorrow's Parties this had escalated to a new pitch, with government forces using heavy artillery to flatten the disaffected city of Homs. This has attracted relatively little attention from the kind of people who protest about things, I suspect because events in Syria do not fit the narrative of seeing everything bad that happens in the world as being the fault of the US government and its British catamites. Where is this going? Well, Alan Sparhawk of Low mentioned the Syrian crisis a couple of times on stage and seemed genuinely quite cut up about it. He was not saying anything like "We should send in the Marines", more stuff like "That shit is fucked up". And he is right, it is. No other performer mentioned Syria or alluded to any political event occurring outside the festival.

more festival action coming soon

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

A post about bikinis

This blog has the word "bikini" in its URL, but I have never posted about bikinis - until now. For it has reached the time of year when shops start to advertise clothes that people might want to wear on their summer holidays. As happens every year, the chain H&M have put up posters advertising bikini tops for sale – for the eye catching price of €4.95. However, they continue not to run advertisements for bikini bottoms. This has me wondering what mysterious game they are playing.
Bikini Top €4.95
I have two theories. One possibility is that these items are being advertised as a loss leader, and should a woman want to buy a complete outfit she would have to spend €500 on a bikini bottom. The other is that there is a whole secret world of holiday resorts where women wear only bikini tops. The former appears most likely, as the models in the advertisements are clearly photographed wearing bikini bottoms. But I wonder if any Inuit Panda readers can shed any further light on this mystery?

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Like I promised I would, I have deleted almost all of my 2009 and 2011 Nanowrimo attempts from this blog. If you are some kind of weirdo and find the fragments so intriguing that you want to read the rest then contact me and I will send you the whole thing as a PDF.

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Cate Le Bon sings a song

I have been going on about Cate Le Bon to anyone that will listen for some time now (albeit without saying too much about her here apart from one album review and a couple of other mentions). But now the Welsh neo-folk sensation has a new album out which maybe will mean that this astonishing talent starts getting the attention she deserves. The Guardian at least seem to have caught up with her, inviting her in to sing a song for them. And here it is:

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 4: Real Festival Write-Up Starts Here

My adventures at the Jeff Mangum curated All Tomorrow's Parties continue

By now you may be wondering – did I actually see anything at this ATP? Well, yes, I did. See Executive Summary for a full list. But let me talk about a few of these acts in a bit more detail, starting with some people who were completely new to me.

Feathers proved to be an interesting proposition, being an all-woman band playing music that nodded back to synthpop of yore without sounding like electropop revivalism. They also were striking in their visual appearance, being done up to look quite glamorous, none more so than their lead singer Anastasia Dimou. Now, I am a bit suspicious of bands comprised entirely of beautiful women ["O RLY?" – Reader's voice], but there seemed something a bit different to this lot that made them come across like a fascinating art project than just something for the dads. It also helped that in Ms Dimou they have a striking and unusual front person. I feel this band would repay further investigation and I note that they have a some songs people can listen to on the YouTube.

I had not heard of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble either, but they do what they say on the tin, being an ensemble from America and playing contemporary music. But of course, you have to be wise to the lingo – contemporary music does not mean all music that is contemporary, so they were not playing Katy Perry covers, but rather it is contemporary classical music [And yeah, I know some people do not like the term "classical music", but do they have an alternative?]. And they were playing at midday on Sunday morning, so it was like one of those concerts at the Hugh Lane Gallery I sometimes go to. They played a couple of pieces, but the biggie was this Gavin Bryars thing called Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, which features a sampled voice repeating some little song about how Jesus' blood has never failed him yet, over which the musicians play their stringy modern sounds. It was very involving and in the darkened environment of the Crazy Horse venue it made for an affecting and otherworldly experience.

Now let me move on to talk about people I saw at ATP whom I have seen before. Maybe you have seen them before too. We wandered along to see The Fall with no great expectations – they had been a bit below par last time we saw them in Dublin. People always seem to tell me that The Fall are patchy live but up until that time they had always been exceptionally good, so for me a below par concert raised the worrying prospect that this once great band are in terminal decline. But they turned out to be great, huzzah. The line-up was apparently more or less the same as when we saw them before, I think, so maybe they have just become more used to Mr Smith and his funny ways. In fact, the band generally were great, playing out the songs well with a great "who gives a shit, we are not long for this band" demeanour. And the latest Mrs Mark E. Smith on keyboards seemed less visibly terrified of him than the last time, which was nice. Mr Smith himself was flying, rambling incoherently in a most engaging manner. An emblematic moment was when between songs he muttered "[something-something] Joanna Newsom [something]". Could he be already lining up the elfin harpist as the next Mrs Mark E. Smith?

Stay with Inuit Panda for all the latest ATP action.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Have you seen this tortoise?

A Dublin family are missing their 100-year-old tortoise. Florentine seems to have slipped out of their garden in Rathgar when a member of their family left the side-gate open. The family believe Florentine to be still alive – if he had been run over on the road you would know all about it, and tortoises are otherwise rather robust and can survive for astonishing periods without food.

Tortoises have been recorded as living for 177 years, so it is possible that Florentine's break for freedom represents some kind of midlife crisis. If you do come across him, you can contact his owner via Twitter.


Even more

EDIT: Panic over - Florentine has returned home. Or, rather, he has come out from where he was hiding in the garden.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Art v. Puppies

Germany took another step towards a return of fascism this week, when a court in Berlin stepped in to ban a show by an unnamed performance artist. The show was to have featured the live strangulation of puppies by the artist, as part of a protest by him or her against the strangulation of puppies. The artist had argued that the German Basic Law guarantees artistic freedom, but the court told him to "Gehen Sie weg und scheißen Sie!", pointing out that the harming of animals on stage is illegal.


unrelated puppies picture

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 3: Bands I Did Not See

Being a continuing account of the occurrences at the Jeff Mangum curated All Tomorrow's Parties

By now you if you are still reading you will not have come across any discussion of bands I had seen at this event, apart from the Executive Summary. Let me keep it like that for a bit by talking about some of the artists playing the festival that I did not see. First up we have Charlemagne Palestine and Robyn Hitchcock. They were not playing together, which would have been awesome, but they were playing at the same tyme, so it would have been necessary to pick seeing one or another, but as both of these fascinating acts were playing before our bus arrived at the festival this was a choice we did not have to make. We were talking to a Glaswegian gentleman who was at Charlemagne Palestine and he was being annoyed by some people who were yapping away to each other through it, so he had to use the magic of being from Glasgow to say in a threatening tone something like: "Good sirs, I have politely requested you once already to refrain from disturbing me with your inane chatter. Now I am asking you again, with the warning that if you continue to upset me with your prattling I will not request your silence a third time but will have no option but to take my cane to your persons and administer several sound thrashings". That did the trick, but he did feel like he had done the reputation of Glasgow no favours.

I also did not see Sebadoh. I think maybe we were on the point of drifting off to see them after a wonderful set by Group Doueh when someone said to us that they had heard that an all-star jam featuring all the forward thinking bands on the festival line-up was about to take place, so we stayed for that instead. It would have been nice to see Sebadoh again, but fundamentally less appealing than seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra playing with Boredoms and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

We went for a pizza when Magnetic Fields were on. I mean, come on, I have to eat. I suppose we could have got a takeaway pizza and sat at the back eating it, but maybe we needed a break from music. And ultimately, while I like Magnetic Fields, I have seen them quite a few times and do recall getting diminishing returns from their live appearances. And don't they play really quietly now as a result of some hearing problem Stephin Merrit has? So we probably would not have been able to hear them over the sound of our munching (and nor would anyone else), so it was probably best for everyone that we stayed away. I'm sure they were great.

I stayed up really late to see some of the kewl Oneohtrix Point Never, but as soon as they started I thought "I am too tired to enjoy this", so I went to bed.

And I also did not see Jeff Mangum. I do not really know too much about Mr Mangum. I understand he used to be in a band called Neutral Milk Hotel, who were around in the early 1990s or something. They somehow passed me by, but the ATP programme says that people liked them a lot. And people did seem to be very interested in seeing Jeff Mangum play, as both times there were huge queues to get in to see him, queues sufficiently long that we decided not to bother and go see something else instead. It did not help that anyone we knew at the festival said nothing more compelling about Mangum than that he was "alright", so I am not sure if we were missing much. I may at some stage acquire a copy of the classic Neutral Milk Hotel album (which has a nice cover) to see if I might just have missed the gig of the century.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Subordinate Meerkats Solve Problems

Meerkats are cute little animals who live in southern Africa. They are famous for their cooperative social structure, but their society is not egalitarian. In a given Meerkat troop there will usually be a higher ranking male who bosses around the other males of lower status (I am not sure where female Meerkats fit into this hierarchy).

Now scientists have discovered that the subordinate Meerkats are better at solving problems than their higher status fellows. Meerkats were presented with openable glass jars containing scorpions (a tasty treat for the social mongooses). High status Meerkats rapidly gave up trying to extract the scorpion, but the lumpen-Meerkats would toil away until they had the jar open and the scorpion scoffed.

Persistence seems to be the characteristic that allows the subordinate Meerkats to solve problems. They appear to open jars by trial and error, and when presented with a new jar identical to the old one they spend the same length of time fiddling about with it until they open it, suggesting that they are incapable of learning and remembering how to do it. But scientists believe that this persistence is an important characteristic of junior male Meerkats, as they are the ones who leave their home troop to go off in search of mates. High status Meerkats, meanwhile, are like high status humans – they do not need to solve problems as they can profit from the work of others.

More (includes film of a Meerkat solving a problem)

Even More

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 2: Introductory Chit Chat

Let us go back. I have long been saying that I would love to go to another Spring All Tomorrow's Parties. The Christmas ones are great and I always like going away then, but that time is often a bit busy for work and I am always afraid that I will be told at the last minute that I cannot take time off. Spring is much better work-wise, and the stories I have been hearing of the fun people have had at the Matt Groening and Pavement ATPs have reminded me of how nice it could be to travel to a festival then. And then they stopped doing Spring ATPs, so it looked like I would never get the chance to go to one again. So, when the Jeff Mangum curated ATP was suddenly postponed from December to March I decided that this was a once-off opportunity that had to be grabbed, particularly given how much fun we had at the recent December ATP. Also, I found myself with the creeping sense that the whole ATP thing might just be coming to an end, making it important to grab any last of their festivals that look interesting.

I was fortunate in that in this matter my beloved's thoughts were similar to my own, so I did not have to try and bunk in with strangers or put together a full chalet at short notice. And we did leave it pretty late to commit to going, so we had no time to look for chalet-mates and instead booked one of the two-berth non-self-catering chalets. The festival mocks you as you approach these, as the way to them brings you past the really swish elite chalets the bands are in. "Maybe we have been upgraded and put into one of those", we wondered, before turning a corner and finding ourselves in the part of the campsite dubbed "Auschwitz" by one of my friends (It is important that I attribute this quip and make clear that it is not my own, because obviously it is very offensive to the many victims of the Nazis, who would probably have quite liked to stay in one of the non-self-catering chalets at Butlins Minehead).
We were slightly lucky in that we were given a four bed instead of a two bed, which meant more room, and I would have to say that the chalet did the job of providing a comfy place to sleep and so on, but it was not the kind of place you would hang out in, which meant that we spent little time lounging around watching ATP TV and lots of time out seeing bands – ROCK. Oh yeah, one final thing about the chalet – if there are four of you, do not under any circumstances ever get a four berth non-self-catering chalet at ATP, unless you like only being able to access the bathroom by walking through one of the bedrooms.

An inuit panda production