Thursday, November 30, 2006

eMusic finds

What I quite like about eMusic are the serendipitous finds that you can
come across that just make you go all wibble.

For example, what is not to love about An Pierle's cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" which as eMusic describes it "sees the song deconstructed into a Tori Amos-meets-Bjork piano-and-voice stunner". Too blooming right.

There's more of her stuff on snippet sample via eMusic and I rather fancy getting some more of her stylings. The current website is here and they also have a Myspace site which allows you to hear some full tracks by her and her band White Velvet. Pity that so far they only seem to play mainland Europe; someone entrepreneurial should get them a gig here!

NOTE: tried to post this yesterday but Blogger had a wibble!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Musical joys

Just been listening to the wonderful Momus collection of his Creation Recordings, "Forbidden Timemachine". I had thought it had been deleted as everywhere I tried earlier in the year had blank expressions and information indicating it had gone the way of back catalogue 'not-being-re-pressed'. So imagine my delight when I spotted it and now have got it in my sticky hands. "A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)" is worth the price of entry alone.

Then again he is a boy from Paisley...


That issue is almost becoming spooky...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Harley Gallery and Nicola Dennett

Hee. I love it when you can do nice things. Today was nice things: we went here because Cloud had seen an artist's work on sale in Nottingham on Friday and hadn't had cash to hand to buy more than a postcard.

So having driven to the spectacular Harley Gallery venue near Worksop (yes, really, Worksop!), we managed to purchase a couple of nice prints from Nicki Dennett. You can see her work here. She really is lovely and her work is delicate and beautiful. We're really looking forward to getting the work up on our walls... though we know we will have to do some work first to sort the images we currently have and hang then better...

Still, something to look forward to!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Fenimore Cooper

If anyone can take him seriously after reading Mark Twain's essay, let me know. Cloud has a good piece on Mohicans, Mohegans and Cooper/Twain here.

Marie reviews the Bond film and Brian Jonestown Massacre with great panache

Jeez, to write as Marie does here and here. Checking bloglines after a few days break always reminds me of how good she is.

"Its political incorrectness gone mad!"

HolyHoses Rob gets that quote in via the responses to this scary post over at Struggling Author.

Quite, quite scary. Like Clare said, "I wouldn't like that".

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Disproportionate acts

How can a 2am raid be appropriate? (And for the record as the comments discussion makes clear, the raid was conducted ONLY on the grounds of 'overstaying'. Yes, because clearly working as a nurse doesn't make it a valued contribution to society...)

URGH. I hate this country's pandering to anti-immigration and anti-'workers from abroad'.

Darren's redesigned site...

... and the inevitable Jarvis mention.

Courtesy of Will Rubbish, Darren has got a spiffy new site design. It's very clear and cool.

And he posts the sing-a-long video for Jarvis's classic contribution to political discourse, "Running the World".


Sorry folks

Been off work. Not been up to blogging. Nothing major, just back/shoulder pain but bad enough to have me off work.

I'll try and resume business as usual soon.

In the meantime let's hope no one steals my URL as they did to Emma. You can now find her here, where Chrissie in particular will be chuffed to find another Todd Rundgren fan.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Paying to go the wrong way

M6 Toll Road. Getting multimap is not enough. It helps to know whether you are going North or South. Because even though we were overall heading south, we actually needed the Toll Road Northbound. So we ended up PAYING to go in the wrong direction.

How typical is that of us?

And now was just like then...

My sides hurt from laughing. Not only was it just lovely to see my friend and her family but we laughed like drains so much it hurt my ribs and sides.

She'd repressed how bad Neil's jokes are though (can't blame her for that).

Anyway, a good time and a good weekend.

After all the driving, Mr Cloud is taking a day off work. Thankfully he's agreed to rescue me from the office promptly tomorrow.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The past is then and now is here

I'll hopefully be back online tomorrow; today I'm off to meet an old friend I haven't seen for several years. I can't believe how bad I have been at keeping touch.

It feels odd because she met her partner through me - he totally saved my sanity when I had a bad day at Uni once - and they are so totally suited it seemed to be fate that they met. They probably would have done anyway even if I hadn't been there.

See ya tomorrow.


Hee. Just watched Jarvo on Newsnight Review (thanks for the tip Chrissie!). Especially nice to see Candida on keyboards...

Friday, November 17, 2006

JJ and Marie - a great exchange of comments

Following Marie's definition of an orgasm as "a miniature eclair-like cake" (something she reconsidered to be the definition for profiterole), JJ leapt in to add this:
Chambers dictionary defines an eclair as "a cake, long in shape but short in duration". So depending on circumstances you might be on to something.
Priceless, just priceless. That sort of remark should not be lost to the comments box.

Last year's dilemma again

Arse. I really don't dig 'Children in Need' so how do I again get over my urge to throttle Wogan and the overall 'itsforcharidy' excuse for doing dumb things in order to see the between events appeals by the Doctor and his new companion? (Last year's mini-ep was kindly taped and loaned to me).

Ah yes, YouTube after the event... Sure to help out!

PS I'm not against charity, but rather the excuse of doing 'mad things' for charidy. I'm very happy to donate to charities in all manner of ways - selling and buying raffle tickets, donating to charity shops, buying from Oxfam gifts, sponsoring people for walks and runs, contributing to fundraisers, giftaid etc etc. But the whole "I'm going to dress up as a Xmas pudding and do forward rolls for 24 miles and then sit in a bath of beans and eat them (but I'm not crazy really: itsforcharidy!") ...


My TARDIS keychain

How absolutely fabulous is this? I have a bad day (Wednesday) and immediately my lovely friend Chrissie packs off a parcel to me! Not only does she forward on a stunning little pair of stripey socks from her sweet daughter Eve, but also pops in a goodie of cheer for me.

A TARDIS on a keychain!

Not just that but a TARDIS with the sound effect and TALKING!!! So at the push of the button on the top (the light as would be on the proper one) I can get the sound of the TARDIS (so evocative) or lovely lovely Mr Tennant's voice saying either "No second chances; I'm that sort of a man" or "Did you miss me?"


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bloggers Xmas Social 9 December

Well, we have accommodation --- we just have to get there now and all being well you will be able to find me and Cloud at the Bloggers social as discussed here!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lang Lang in concert with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Wow. I'm still a bit reeling from the experience of seeing Lang Lang and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on Monday night. As the second of our visits to the Nottingham Classics season of 2006-7, it more than matched our previous experience where we saw the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra with Igor Tchetuev on piano playing Tchaikovsky's ‘Dance of the Jesters’ from The Snow Maiden (it may have only been four-five minutes, but it was an exhilerating start), followed by Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 (32’) and Shostakovich's Symphony No.10 (52’). All very fine, and with some lovely encores as well (there is a mini review here).

This time around, the programme was as follows:

Dvorak Symphonic Variations (24’)
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (24’)
Dvorak Symphony No.8 (36’)
Jiri Belohlavek, conductor and musical director of the Orchestra, truly demonstrated how each conductor has their own style. Whereas Alexander Dmitriev with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra seemed to send his conducting through his fingers, out of his hands and into the musicians in front of him, Belohlavek seemed more contained, less flamboyant - but no less effective. Perhaps some of this is explained by age (Dmitriev is around 70, Belohlavek is around 10 years younger), though perhaps not in the way one might expect since the older conductor seemed far more expressive. Of course, I am a complete ignoramus on conducting so cannot judge which is 'better' - if indeed that is an appropriate judgement at all - but I did find it interesting to observe.

Where an even greater difference appeared was in the two pianists. Whereas Tchetuev brought a serious fluidity to his playing, it still felt as if he was 'playing' the piece. Lang Lang's approach is on an altogether different level - it is as if he lets the piano take him over. When pieces are slow, his style is subtle and languid; when fast he is breathtakingly dexterous to the point where you wonder where his fingers actually are. And to watch him is a sublime experience.

Now I have to confess that my knowledge of classical music is limited; I can't recognise most pieces even though I know quite a lot as familiar. And I am a sucker for the swooping sounds of certain works: so that 18th variation in the Rachmaninov gets to me every time. Sorry, I know its cheesy and over-used in film etc, but damn it just breaks me each time I hear it.

Anyway, after the brilliantly idiosyncratic opening piece, the symphonic variations, the Rachmaninov was a beautiful transition. Unsurprisingly, there were a series of ovations for the young pianist (he is just 24 and has now outgrown some of his earlier puppy-fat to become a somewhat lithe and elegantly starry performer). Bless him, he even came out at the interval - having finished his performing with a contemplative encore (Chopin? God, I'm so useless at recognition) - to sign copies of his CD and programmes. There were some very glitzy eyed young Chinese girls and not a few anxiously thrilled elderly persons pushing to the fore for that.

Returning after the interval the second Dvorak was excellent as well, making wonderful use of the percussion (which was also well used in the encore pieces as well). I have a real admiration for percussion work, because if you get it wrong it can absolutely sink a performance in a way that more subtle or group instruments may not. You hit a drum or a cymbal wrongly and you're pretty much done for; here it was done very well and the strings - especially my beloved cellos - were in fine form.

So, all in all, a great night. Sorry it took me a while to write up. And even bigger apologies for my lack of musical knowledge. I'm still learning!

I never knew that: from BBC's Coast

Caught the end of tonight's repeated episode of "Coast" from last week - well, there's a Scottish accent presenting and I'll take my kicks where I can - but was fascinated by the tale of the munitions factory that spawned the towns of Gretna and Eastriggs.

I have to admit I never knew that Gretna only dates back to World War One, and - along with the neighbouring town of Eastriggs - was especially built to support a newly constructed munitions factory designed to relieve the government's shortage of cordite for the WWI mililtary campaign:
Their solution was to create one of the worlds largest munitions factory's in 1915. Codenamed Moorside, the scale of the project was enormous. Not only was it nine miles long and two miles wide, but it brought a massive influx of people to this quiet stretch of coast on the Solway, creating two new towns to house them, Eastriggs and Gretna.
Along with the detail that, of course, it was largely a female workforce that kept the factory running, it was a particularly interesting narrative in a programme full of visual delights and unfamilar stories. Even if the tales of Galloway and 'The Wicker Man' were of course highly familiar, that tale of Gretna and Eastriggs was something very new to me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Michael Moore and the pledge to Conservatives

Moore can sometimes be a tricky character and not always as infinitely reliable as he at first appears, but this letter from him is largely witty and smart and very pertinent.

I particularly liked 9 and 11.
9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

The 'warbling Barbie'

Gert is my new heroine. Well, she has been for a while, but her posts on 'the Warbling Barbie' (TM Gert) have been hilarious to read.

Here and Here.

I have a bit of a phobia about a lot of female opera singers (especially the pseudos) and this eloquently explains it.

I especially like her plug-your-ears recommendation of listening to Everything I Do - aka Quello faro on the KJ website. Just painful to even think about!

Fanvid trailer: Doctor Who is...

Oh my... this is hilarious and disturbingly well-made. Very good to watch indeed.

Go and watch here.

Hat-tip to the makers via the LiveJournal community.

Clearly not quite the 19th century in this man's head

That would be the 'delightful' Mr Newell, who, belated and forced apologies aside, is basically a sexist twat.

See lovely Kerron for a good discussion on this and this priceless line in his comments from Jimbo Jones:
I love the line "I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist" possibly the worst argument I have ever heard espoused (and working in the HoC you hear some pretty shabby arguments)

I just cant wait to use that in future. "I know this sounds stupid but i am stupid"

Hidden in the comments - best predicted song on the CD "Christmas inspired by Lord of the Rings"

Mordor on the Dancefloor?

Offered by Stu_n in the comments at Marie's place.

Just brilliant.

Oh yeah, you should also read her suggestions on areas for anti-social gig goers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Eat! My inner Sesame Street character!

You Are Cookie Monster

Misunderstood as a primal monster, you're a true hedonist with a huge sweet tooth.

You are usually feeling: Hungry. Cookies are preferred, but you'll eat anything if cookies aren't around.

You are famous for: Your slightly crazy eyes and usual way of speaking

How you live your life: In the moment. "Me want COOKIE!"

Who isn't surprised I got this answer?

Irony? George and crew take on Craigellachie and the whisky



Because there is nothing like listening to Clare

Woo and hoo!

Clare has found a link to the wonderfulness of Woman's Hour featuring none other than Clare herself!

Go here and then go listen!

In praise of Ghost

Yes, it may seem unlikely but here's the 'fess: Ghost was the first film that Cloud and I went to see together at the pictures.

No, we did not go to the local Indie cinema to see a foreign language, deeply worthy film with subtitles: we went to see a cheese-fest with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze about good and evil, death and mourning and very soppy scenes of mushy romance.

Oh yeah, and the most singularly hilarious (inadvertantly?) scene of sexual activity ever. With a potter's wheel...

So, Ghost. It was on last night. I saw it in the schedules. Cloud saw it in the schedules. I was still full to burst from eating the most enormous dinner at The Swan in Mountsorrell with Nick, Sue and Cloud.

"Shall we watch Ghost?" he says.

So there we are, hunkered down on the sofa with the cat, the pair of us sobbing. Jeez, I have lost count of how many times we have seen it (certainly nearly every time it has been on TV). And you know what?

It still works. It's a total fromage-fest, but it works. It's funny, it's silly; it has bad guys and good guys and THAT ridiculous song. And yet.

Shucks. We're just softies at heart...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NCIS - when is the next series going to be shown in the UK?


Last night we get the end of season 2 of NCIS on channel Five. Caitlin (Kate) is killed! Five clearly got the series as part of a package because it has that difficult-to-compete-against-anything-else slot of (usually) 7-9pm on Saturdays. They've shown two complete series since around April, recently with double episodes before the CSI/L&O slots.

But what will happen next? They're already into series 4 in the USA. Will it move to one of the Five off-shoot channels? In which case, by hook or by crook I WILL be getting bloody Freeview is I have to track down an aerial installation guy and the most perfect Freeview box in the world. Or will it just be back later in the year on Five?

I'm sorry, I have to know.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I will...

Can you guess who for?

"Asked to leave and he wouldn't stay"

Why does that sound perfectly logical and yet simultaneously completely baffling?

It's from here btw.

Cute pictures alert

Here (the lovely E as always) and here (dog and child: way cute and a lovely tale told as well).

What more can you say?

Pulp Movies: re-invented

Paul over at PulpMovies has had a redesign and clearing of his focus.

It looks cleaner, brighter but with just as much brilliance as before. Go enjoy and encourage!

Rock chick

Which Rock Chick Are You?

Courtesy of John.

I wonder how the hair has gone down?

JJ's that is...

At the moment I'm in one of my 'hibernation' moments with my hair. I'm trying to ignore that it is really too long and needs cutting but with my working hours and a hatred of having haircuts on Saturdays I'm putting it off til closer to Xmas.

I may throw some colour at it to disguise the somewhat lank shape it now has. I really cannot get into having it chopped regular.

The firework season

I doubt Nottingham is much different to many other cities, where the 'firework season' starts in September and continues until Spring, with plenty of people letting them off in daylight (why?!) and plenty of harrassment and injury caused along the way. [Thanks to LeftLion magazine for providing the initial variant of that line].

Kerron has a close shave and his cat injured: unsurprisingly he wants to ban the general sale of fireworks.

I empathise. Better policing of existing laws aside, I still think that a general public sale ban would be worthwhile - or at least having to apply for some kind of formal licence in advance. I mean, basically, a firework is an explosive: why not put some greater control on their sale?

My envy of Marie

No way around it, I'm just bursting with little green envy bubbles at this post from Marie.


Anna Waits: star of TV Scoop


Go read here. As ever, well written and sharply observed. Go Anna!

Friday, November 10, 2006

(It was) A (Very) Good Year

Oh it really shouldn't have been, but I have to admit I had a huge hoot of a time going to the flicks on Wednesday with the lovely Helen Lisette to wallow in the daft and slated film A Good Year.

It has had some stinky reviews, although I also initially came across some more tolerant ones as well; most of them focus on not feeling that Russell Crowe has a grasp of comedy. That seems awful harsh. It's not a Marx brothers film, or a Jack Lemon/Walter Matthau classic; it's not up to screwball standards, and it can't rival Shaun of the Dead. But taken on its own terms, by heck I did laugh. And heaven knows there are enough 'comedies' which have induced in me Not One Giggle.

Okay, watching it with Helen has its own frisson of hilarity-inducement (she has a certain L'amour fou for the brusque Australian), but even accounting for that it still made me laugh.

I really can't say fairer than that. Stereotypes in every direction; some very ropey dialogue; the usual Peter Mayle 'Englishman abroad' brushstrokes of character and place: check, check and check. But it was lush, entertaining, and had a happy ending. Shucks, it was even 241 Wednesday and this time I got it right (unlike last time). I had a blast!

Touchwood (sic)

Took time off doing family history research last night - more on that in a mo - to watch the episode of 'Torchwood' I taped Wednesday night (more on that later too).

I've called it 'Touchwood' in the title after the inestimable Nick M called it that, and the 'sic' could easily have been 'sick' for this week's ep. Yes, yes: you're a grown-up programme. But do you have to keep shifting to look at the dead and bloody and semi-cybered body over and over again?

Still, it was more exciting than other episodes, but lordy you have to admit it really isn't up to the Who standard (even the Who standard of recent years). Enjoyable though it is - "urgh" factor aside (and this from someone who has 'happily' sat through the Tetsuo films: maybe it was because the TV-ish film stock used gives a different level of realism) - it really is a stocking filler rather than a 'must-see'. And I was seriously disturbed by the complete forgetting of the cyber-scientist's body once the sheet was pulled over him, never mind the hapless pizza girl who had her head chopped open and whose fate seemed to raise none of Gwen's earlier concerns to 'focus on the victim'.

Nevertheless, as said, in the absence of much else - and my inability to access BBC4 and the impending British Science Fiction fest - it will have to do. And at least Cloud tolerates me watching it.

Next task: get him to ask a toy shop for a Doctor Who David Tennant giant cut-out. Mmmmmm...


Oh dear god, it's like pR0n...

Seriously though, this kind of debate just gets me going so much. With around 3,000 books - nothing like the collection of my boss and her husband (for example) who have 15,000 - we have a suitably sizable collection that is not easily accommodated in one room, even if we had perfect shelving (which we don't).

Funnily, we have several of the books about books mentioned in this article as well. Not like we obsess about it. Actually, WE don't. I'm the anal organiser even though my messy urges also don't help. Heaven forbid if Cloud moves a CD to the wrong location or complains about not being able to find a book ("well, if you put it in a logical place..."). I've never forgiven him for buying a second copy of "Immortality". This issue is now doubly painful for him as he recently bought a second copy of the pocket-sized book on 'philosophy of science'.


Last night's tea

This will be really boring for many but can I say that we cooked ourselves a really lovely tea last night? We read and abandoned Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall's Guardian recipe for stuffed squash (apart from the concept of being "ripe for experimentation"). So we cut the squash in half, removed the seeds etc, put in butter and chopped garlic and cooked for an hour. We then removed from the oven, scooped out the inside flesh, mashed it up and then added it back in with layers of chickpeas, halved cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, sliced mushroom, and slices of goats cheese. Topped off with more goats cheese and finished in the oven, served with the remainder of the left over filling which had been heated in a pan with lemon juice.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Roll up, roll up! Musicals poll result is now in!

Norm has the low-down.

Go read, enjoy and then go and remind yourself of how good your favourite musicals are!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A gigantic David Tennant cardboard cutout

Do you think that Toys 'R' Us will notice if I sneak into their store this weekend? I have had it on good authority that children's toy stores have large DT cut-outs on display with him pointing his sonic screwdriver (ahem).

They won't miss one, will they?

Emma's Movie Tag

I may well take this up myself when I get chance, but I wanted to say I really enjoyed reading Emma's take on this movie-tag.

I particularly liked her answer to question 11:
11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?

Alright! Well, first, I’d get Marty Scorsese and Rupert Grint in the same room, and introduce them to each other. The movie is called “GCSEs,” and it’s all about a dude who’s trying to study for major exams in his life, whilst there’s stuff going on his life at the same time. Sound familiar? Now. I’d also get Tarantino directing Gyllenhaal, Bernal and McAvoy in a convoluted love triangle story (hot menage a troises, please), and Thomas Newman scoring that. No doubt. I’d disallow Orlando Bloom, Hilary Duff, Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Radcliffe from finding work, and I’d let Massive Attack score any films they like. I’d get Chris Doyle as chief cinematographer more often. I’d write scripts and force people to make them into films. Oh, and I’d find work for Miranda July, Ang Lee, Ethan Hawke. And there should be a biopic of Jen Aniston made, with Frank Lampard as Brad Pitt. That’s right, Frank Lampard. He's got to be good at something, hasn't he? And I'd also like to see Nicholas Hoult and Rupert Grint fight crime. That'd be nice.
Hilarious but also sharp. I especially like the idea of Maqssive Attack appearing in my film scoring.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Looking back, and the future

Marie writes, as ever, a glorious post - in this instance about rewatching "This Life" before musing about where we see ourselves in the future and where we might have seen ourselves in the past.

"it's always interesting to see what your view of the future is, it tells you a lot about where you're at in the present."
Matt_c picked out the above comment of hers as being particularly insightful - hereby retrieved from the ultimately swallowing doom of the comments box.

He's right; like reading a history book will probably tell you as much about the time when the history was written as it does about the period it comments on, our predictions can be exceptionally revealing of our selves at the time of prediction. I recently found a small box of old diaries and unlike Clare* have not yet faced the thought of re-reading them (let alone posting extracts online). I doubt I am half as radical as I thought I was - hindsight being an amazing eyeglass.

Anyway, can I just add on the topic of "This Life" that I STILL can visualise the way I leapt off the sofa, punching the air and yelling "YES!!" when Milly punched Rachel. Still makes me tingle!

* Clare's posts can be found under the heading "Girl's Fun", but I'm having trouble with what links become visible on her site again as purplecity fights it out with!

Wrongly digested?

In bloglines I got a notice from Guardian Books about the 'digested read' on Victoria Beckham's book.

Hmm. The actual digested read is so-so.
'The digested read, digested' read: The bland leading the brand.
But bloglines' summary read: 'We all make mistakes. I once wore Armani to a Dolce & Gabbana party! How dumb was that?'

I actually think bloglines better summed up the vapidity of the book by choosing that sentence than the 'digested, digested' version offered.

"Come on in, David Crosby, your time is up!" aka Fuzzboy strike again

Another epic piece of writing on popular music culture by the Fuzzboy.

WARNING: do not attempt to read aloud as use of punctuation may make your nose bleed and your lungs seize up.

It's a brilliant bit of polemicism though!

Monday, November 06, 2006

A great review

The lovely Gert can always be relied upon to turn in an excellent music review, and her latest 'opera stars' post is no exception. Not only does it have some cracking photographs, but the commentary is informative, warm and witty - and she gives a detailed set list at the end.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Rules of Rullsenberg

Matt_C asked for some, so here are a few:

  1. Be passionate: about something, anything, many things, but avoid becoming obsessive.

  2. Be angry and do something: they can always pretend there is nothing wrong if nobody tells them

  3. Pursue knowledge and information but think about where you get it from: the internet, the news, books, and people are all great sources of knowledge and information, but always ask questions. Interrogate your witnesses/sources and think what might be influencing them and their opinions.

  4. Be yourself (or many selves), but always be true: we can all have - and sometimes need - different personas, but don't be untrue to your overall self. Other people may be unhappy living with the consequences in the short-term; you have to live with yourself for longer

  5. Life is too short to to just keep doing things out of duty or fear: obligation and feeling scared of the consequences are not particularly good reasons for doing stuff you hate or maintaining a front for the sake of it (see above for related points). If you really HAVE to do something you have always loathed, find some reward for yourself for doing it. And, as a non-believer, for me that has to be something more concrete than 'I'll get my reward for being so selfless in heaven'.

  6. Try to enjoy things on their own terms: if you don't come out of a gig full of excitement and delight, it's probably been at best mediocre. In the high of something immediately finishing you should feel exhilerated by the experience. The critical faculties will come back, but the delight should suspend them temporarily. Basically, if you start reading a chick lit book to be intellectually challenging and deep there is a high chance of disappointment before your critical faculties ultimately return. Be sensible and engage with it for what it is or don't start. Why waste your time and money?!

  7. You can never go back: less a rule, more a statement to be aware of. Life goes forwards, as much as we may wish otherwise. We have to live with events and find ways to move on. Otherwise we end up like Dark Willow*, trying to bring Tara back to life and taking it out on the world when we cannot. Mind, I really wish she hadn't ended up with irksome Kennedy.

Less serious rules (but nonetheless to be considered as mine):

  • Thou shalt know Jarvis as a great musical genius and meddle with the works of Pulp at your peril (William Shatner, that means you)

  • Scottish actors are hot, especially using their own accents, but also when they just look bloody gorgeous and can act the pants off many other so-called stars. They shall be acknowledged and adored because there is always the horrible possibility they will get swallowed up by the American movie industry when they become too successful. Sigh.

  • There will never be a better political drama than The West Wing, especially when looking at those first two stunning series but also its overall arc. So TV dramatists should all stop trying to do that right now.

  • Good TV comedy will invariably be better than a comedy film. The last really great comedy film I saw at the flicks was probably Shaun of the Dead. Given its pedigree that says a lot about the quality of TV comedy.

  • Hmm. Those were my first thoughts. They probably suck and I may change my mind about any or all of them! But I hope you enjoy them!

    * Sorry about the music, not my choice but the clips are great.

    On names

    UPDATE REMARK 9/11/2006:
    The ITV error mentioned below has now been corrected!
    Interesting note here identifying that ITV can't always spell its stars' names correctly. They're not the only ones to do so as I have come across other references to Douglas that spell his name that way. And not just the often unreliable range of DVD sellers and film sites. do it here for the recent release of Down Among the Big Boys. For the US book "The Scot Pack: The Further Adventures of the Trainspotters and Their Fellow Travellers" (2000), has two reviews: one by Publishers Weekly gets the name right as Douglas Henshall (there is apparently a chapter on him in it), but the second promo lit review by the Library Journal mentions him as Douglas Henshaw (did they not even read the contents page of the book?!).

    Over at Textualities, they have an interview with Christopher Brookmyre where they transcribe his remarks about his preferred actor for the role of Jack Parlabane in "One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night". There's an MP3 link at the bottom of the page saying you can "Download the original audio recording of this Q&A session to hear the author's opinions expressed in his own voice." I wish they had bothered to check the spelling of Douglas Henshall then, rather than going for Douglas Henshaw.

    But even photographers seem to get the name wrong, as here for example where you can scroll across to view the delightful image that hangs in my left sightline behind this computer in my study. Maclellen's picture is divine, but the spelling to me suggests one of two things: either the name is deliberately spelled to avert excessive interest (seems unlikely for a photographer who might want to sell their most desirable prints); or the photographer believed that was the accurate spelling.

    Either way, it wouldn't take much to work out that the majority of spellings are as "Henshall". For both Dougie and Douglas Henshaw, the combined google results are just 510. For the same with Henshall, its 91,640. Now go figure why Amazon (or even ITV) cannot get the name right.

    Great food


    Sorry, am still feeling pigged out from last night's superb tea. Our lovely Cele came over with a bag of veg and proceeded to make her incredible Veg-based Irish stew. Tons of potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onion, leek, garlic and veg stock. Cooked on the stove in a big pan until everything was cooked through. Served with a whole loaf of bread. The three of us demolished the whole lot.

    I think I've worked out why this was a concern...

    Still, it was a great night and we got to snuggle in on a cold autumn evenings in front of the fire with the cat on my lap and watch NCIS.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    The Sound of Silence: or, how HAL took over our smoke alarm system

    At last, at last.

    Over the past two nights our sleep has been disrupted by an intermitant high-pitched beep every minute. To say it was driving me a little crazy would be an understatement.

    At first, we thought it was the battery in the battery powered smoke alarm at the top of the stairs. We had mains powered ones put in when the house was re-wired last year so we didn't think it could possibly be those.

    Except that even after we dismantled the old battery smoke detector the noise continued. Not ALWAYS continuous, but near enough. We investigated the mains one. Nope. Couldn't suss it. It stopped, temporarily, again. Then last night it restarted again. Slightly hysterical by now, we discovered there was a back up battery slot inside the mains unit. Could we get into it? Could we heck.

    Back in bed, still trying to drown out the incessant beeping, Cloudy Neil suggested if it was mains run, why not try the fuse box downstairs? I tried that whilst Neil tried again to take the battery out.

  • * Dying battery inside - it beeps

  • * No dying battery inside but mains switched on - it beeps

  • * No dying battery inside but mains switched off - IT STILL BLOODY WELL BEEPED!!!

  • Okay, that is a little HAL-esque for my liking. "I can't let you do that Lisa".

    I understand the logic: it's a smoke alarm, and yes I would quite like to not die, suffocating from smoke inhalation [notice that word inHALation? Co-incidence? I think not]. But really, it was like something from a nightmare: sleep-walking up ladders, Cloud would try everything to stop the noise, but still it continued.

    We bought a new battery. It has now stopped beeping. The sound of silence: bliss. Nerves a little frayed, and we're a little scared by our own smoke detection system. But at least we hope to get some better sleep tonight!

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    It's the "Go, Go Clare!" cheerleading!

    Go on!!!!

    The Writer's reply: Michael Bywater

    For those who don't always get chance to read back over old post comments, you may like to know that Michael Bywater took the time to respond to my rant!.

    In other news, this writer is feeling a bit tired after being woken at 5am by a grumbling fire / smoke alarm. Not a battery one; a main-powered one. Apparantly it thought we hadn't tested it enough recently so beeped at us. After removing the battery from the nearby battery-powered one and not resolving the problem Cloud investigated the other. We think it is now resolved!!!

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Growing Up, Growing Old: A Rullsenberg Rant

    ARGH! Michael Bywater!

    I can't even begin to express how cranky this piece made me yesterday, not least because of its inconsistencies.

    It's not all bad. For example, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are okay. 8, 9, 10, and 12 have merits. 11 presents an uncomfortable possible truth that maybe even undermines my own railing against the piece. 23 is very apt in a world where Jimmy Carr is deemed suitable for a Front Row focus on Radio 4. Urgh. And as for Kirsty interviewing Madge: I know it has political ramifications but really, isn't it an excuse to have celebrity at the forefront of debate? And 24 and 25 have a positive idea within them even if they are - ironically - rather childishly phrased (yes, the words we use ARE important: that's why I want to scream at the "political correctness gone mad" crew; yes, excuses for 'surveillance are to be thwarted, though I think phrasing this as "Hide" doesn't help articulate this as a rational adult argument).

    Equally, 27, the idea of "commensality" promotes the valuable idea that eating is public is unnecessary and should be dropped in favour of eating with family and friends. I can't disagree with that, except to say that the basis for the circumstances that urge people into eating in public (longer working hours, managing lunch-breaks etc) maybe deserve a more thoughtful analysis than provided here. 28 and 29 I have no problems with, although 30 does raise some problems less to do with the idea - "Demand - and display - good manners" - than with the manner in which the list that is given after it creates a litany less effective than its individual parts ...

    Still, those were the ones I more broadly agreed with. The others got onto my less-than-happy radar...

    Firstly, example 1: Pro-autonomy. Seems fine on a superficial glance. But am I alone in thinking this smacks a little of "you should not depend on anyone for anything"? Which seems only a snapshot away from sounding a tad like community/society is a myth propagated by lefties who believe in (horror, horror) helping and supporting other people. Not a route I wish to go down.

    How about example 3: "Don't be affronted". Again, seems superficially okay, expecting the world to conform to your world view has proved the basis of many a reactionary ideologue. But scratch at it and you come to the idea that getting angry about things, wanting to change things, is itself a bad idea. I am affronted by the daily acceptance of poverty, of talking about human beings as if there was a 'deserving poor' and an 'undeserving poor'; as if to get help you have to be 'worthy'. Presumably, by Bywater's stance, being angry and wanting to talk about the basis of such ideas, wanting to change those attitudes, is immature. Erm, no actually. It's called humanity.

    13 and 14 present some problems as well: "Do not love yourself unconditionally." Well, I think his emphasis is on the 'unconditional' element rather than saying 'do not love yourself'. At least I hope so, because [a] if you can't love yourself how can you expect others to do so? and [b] I'm in favour of good quality self-pleasuring. Anyway, back to Bywater. "Unconditional love is for babies and comes from their mothers [emphasis added]". Urgh. Okay, bit retrograde for a start in identifying mothers (and not, say, fathers, might have a role in this. And surely it relies on the idea that mothers inherently give their children unconditional love. Am sure that all those mothers who have felt ambivalence and struggled with post-natal depression or even difficulty of loving their child at all will feel greatly reassured by Bywater's statement. Obviously they are damaged and not normal and socially inferior. Yeah, your remarks are gonna help them a lot.

    And as for 14... Whilst saying "Self-hatred is a problem too" is fine, that he continues with "But rather too much self-hatred than too much self-love" suggests that I wasn't too far wrong to question whether he was emphasising the word 'unconditional' in his attack on loving yourself. I don't get it. How can self-hatred help anyone? That too has often been the basis for damaged people hurting themselves and society. How does this help?

    How about 15 and the dismissal, even despising, of "Desiderata". Whilst I personally find the 'verse' a bit on the syrupy side, a bit too 'Hallmark' for my liking, there are a number of elements that articulate wise suggestions. It also seems at odds in a piece about how people should 'grow up' that he should take against a verse that says "Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth." Has Bywater actually read "Desiderata" recently or is he just working on old memories? Okay, the idealism of the hippies hasn't prevented some catastrophic managing of the earth. And the idea of the "universe unfolding as it should" rather suggests passive acceptance of the status quo that I find unsustainable. But seeing ourselves as part of the wider eco-system of life and universe doesn't seem so unreasonable. Surely it has been humanity's lack of consideration for the planet and prioritising of our own needs that has brought earth to the brink of potential eco-disaster that we now face. A little more care for seeing ourselves as just one element of the universe - instead of (God's) special creatures with inalienable rights (to bear arms/plunder natural resources) - might just help humanity survive.

    Let's take 16 and 17: "Ignore fashion". I've been reading Marjorie Garber's collection of essays "Quotation Marks" (picked up from the LRB) and it's full of great stuff. I've just finished reading her essay on 'fashion'/'fashionability' and the meaning of these concepts. It's an insightful interrogation of the critical views embedded in uses of the terms. In regards to clothes, I kinda get his point. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have little time for fashion or even for dressing appropriately (which is why I'm dealing with Bywater's example 18 separately). But in terms of his discussion on music, I really got cross. If you're going to bemoan adults liking pop music as an attempt to be 'down wiv the kids' or even as an extension of childhood at least have the decency to talk to a young person to find out what is hip at the moment. Invoking Eminem is just so off-base. Or maybe that was his point, to choose a ever-so-slightly-several-years-ago-hot-thing? He goes on "A middle-aged person 'Keeping Up with the Trends in Music' is as lamentable and as infantile as a middle-aged person in Lycra." Hmm. Well, it kinda depends on the body of the person wearing lycra as well as what it is they are wearing. Few people over 12 probably wear items entirely made of Lycra anyway, but as a part of the material it can help add shape to an outfit. Or presumably as soon as we hit 40 we should just all wear sacks? Thanks. Why not put bags on our heads while you're at it (or does that cross over to other debates)? But back to music. Again, as with fashion I make no pretence to be up-to-date. I know what I like and am open to discovering new things. For Cloud, at the moment, a lot of those new things are quite old: e.g. classical music or from well-established genres e.g. country, folk, Yiddish music. For both of us, we continue to like things that sound new and exciting. Things like they cover on Radio 3's Mixing It featuring Lullaby Arkestra and the Modified Toy Orchestra, and obscure examples of music from Africa. Some stuff is new, current, and from young artistes. Others as I say are just new to us. And there is always the complex issue of what current trends actually sound like: there is a lot of offensively inoffensive/bland rubbish out there. We have long since reached the point where, say "the stuff we liked when we were young" (to quote Bywater) is actually far more radical than much current music, or that current stuff is merely a re-hash of that stuff from our youth. Sometimes these returns of styles from the past are great reinvigorations: Post-Rock may be a reinvention of some of Prog's finer moments but when it's top quality stuff it can rival the best of classically inspired music (GodspeedYouBlackEmperor, Rachel's, Mono to name but three artistes). We're not "keeping up with current trends", we're prepared to like what we like regardless of fashionability, whether its fashionable or not. So being a story-song kinda girl I stand by my right to love "When the Sun Goes Down" by the Arctic Monkeys without caring whether anyone else likes it or not.

    So we get to 18: don't follow fashion especially if you're a woman. Hmm. Well, we're back to the semi-agreement points in terms of me saying I'm against fatuous pursuit of 'youthfulness' whatever the cost (plastic surgery! 55 hours at the gym per week! Creams and cover-ups for wrinkles - aka polyfilla for skin). But "You don't want to look like a teenager forever"? I accept that some may find my style, my dress sense, rather ridiculous. And I can 'scrub up well' for occasions that demand plainer or formal attire. But I neither look nor feel right in 'plain clothes' (in all senses). Maybe that is down to a lack of confidence, but I am as much 'performing being Lisa' as anything else. And doing that demands I get into 'costume'. I have enough character traits that make me lose confidence without not being able to use clothes as a boost to my persona. (Indeed, colleagues will usually ask if something is wrong if I'm NOT wearing something of a vivid colour or stripes, so much has it become associated with myself.) Besides, my style is more under-12s than teenager. A bit Helena Cardboard-Box crossed with the dress of your average 5-8 year old...

    How about 19 and 20 (I'll come to 22 in a moment and 21 is just laughable: it's the full expression of someone's beliefs that I want to challenge and if they want to believe in God, Allah, green fairies, or Harvey the rabbit that's fine by them. I'll reserve the right to get them to talk through their justification and their beliefs but I won't inherently distrust them until they start spouting garbage that damages humanity, like condemning homosexuals to death) Anyway: "Denounce relativism at every turn" - specifically in religious debates since if we believe something is right we will try and defend and argue it is right against those that disagree rather than accepting things having equal relevance. Well, that seems fine to a point, but seems awfully tied to the agnosticism of 20 which is less convincing. Why not atheism?

    22 on God loving us? I refer readers to the fine series of graphic novels "Preacher". A fine discussion of God's role in the universe.

    And what might 26 mean: "Eat it Up"? Whilst the rise of western culture's 'faddism' is one thing, there is a difference between eating choices and allergies, physical reactions, and in some instances death. I prefer not to eat nuts because generally I don't like the taste. But if the food is tasty I have been known to unknowingly - or with wilful ignorance of my tastes - eat the damn things. But I won't develop a body destroying allergic reaction as some people can do, have done, which in some instances can seriously impair their health if not kill them. Are our bodies more picky because of our over-developed selective tastes or is there a genuine health risk for some people to eat certain things? Well, I suspect that evolution isn't working THAT fast so I'm prepared to reserve judgement and in the meantime not force people to eat anything and everything. Otherwise you end up eating the diet prefer by Heston Blumenthal, and that would just be wrong.

    And finally, let's take his example 31: so it's a good thing to lie and let people down. Yes, that's an adult trait I really want to commit to.

    Hmm. That was quite a rant. And I should fully expect some people to take issue. Oh well, I can deal. I know what to expect...

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006