Tuesday, October 26, 2004

John Peel RIP

Awh - to say I feel gutted is a cliched understatement.

He was crucial in introducing me to more bands than I can count: his show has been a mainstay of inspiring my music collection for more than 15 years.

Condolences to his family: the shows from Peelacres made us all feel that we knew you and we shared so much of your family's life.

Many will miss him, but to honour him we have to keep looking forward.

Cheers John - what a hero you were.

Please post your thoughts on John Peel's death here at BBC Radio 1 website

Friday, October 22, 2004

Cover versions: the new originality?

I love a good cover version of a song...

Movies? Pah! Remakes rarely capture any kind of nuance and often end up being bland, boring or plain insulting to sentiments of the original. Can I just say The Day of the Jackal of 1973 with the cooly suave and ultra 'fit' Edward Fox, versus The Jackal of 1997 with an utterly unconvincing Bruce Willis...? What a waste of celluloid.

A good cover of song though, can make you hear the original in a different light - as well as adding another track to your catalogue of 'good songs'.

Dramas for both television and the cinema can be especially good at tracing quirky covers, or at least versions that stir the emotions differently to the original. Witness the phenomenal response to Mad World by Gary Jules (from the seriously wonderful film Donnie Darko). The original, from the album The Hurting, was - like the primal therapy that inspired it - painful, raw and quite brutish: lyrics almost spat out. The cover version crept up on the film's audience: I suspect few could identify what the track was until some way into it. The words were familiar - to those of us at a certain age - but the tone of the piece was changed utterly by this stripped down version. Just a piano and the ever-haunting sound of a cello, plus a vocal style that was far removed from the brittle anguish of the original. This version was unbearably moving; sad in a way that could not quite be defined - rather like the images that accompanied its occurrence in the film.

Slowing down a track can be a very effective way to change its mood and its impact: The almost baroque lushness and intensity of The Flaming Lips cover of Kylie's hip-swivelling poptastique song I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Head made its listeners wonder how anyone could hear Kylie's version again without feeling a twinge of regret at its fluffiness. And I still recall with astonishment how I felt when Travis covered Baby, One More Time at Glastonbury. How did they get from schoolgirl pouting to this mournful pean about losing love? I know that the Britney version was itself a cover (by ? anyone sure on this?) - much the same way as Natalie Imbruglia came to fame on an obscure non-english song (from Norway?) - but when I heard Travis covering it I found myself singing along and thinking "why does this seem to be in my head? ... oh my god!? A Britney cover?!"

So amidst the random quotes and ramblings on this blog, I am adding a category of informing the world about excellent cover versions. You know you want it. Look at how much the Covers Project can tell you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Rullsenberg Rants: Who wants to be the "new Immanuel Kant"?

... certainly not many of our current intake of undergraduate students. As a new series of Teachers looms forth to our C4 screens (sadly it seems from the trailers minus the hilarious presence of Brian and Curt ) my cynicism about what teaching is really like in the 21st century is confirmed by the horrors a friend/colleague faced recently.

Confronted by students who saw that her reasons for teaching were limited to selling her labour, my friend was shocked by this generation's consumerist ideology. (Sadly I wasn't).

"I think you're being very idealistic if you think that we've come here to spend 3 years fantastising about becoming the next Immanuel Kant"

They are there to get jobs, well-paid jobs. The degree is irrelevant, and they sure as hell do not expect to have to work (for a Cultural studies degree?! Hmm, they haven't swallowed the media/government line about 'soft' subjects have they?). Like those approaching a shop assistant, they want the item in their colour and their size: so it's a case of "what are YOU going to do so that I can pass this degree?"

Sell it me like this...

In a world of customers and consumers there really IS NO ROOM for learning and education. Why the hell would they need to be?

NOTE: not sure what jobs they think they will walk into after they 'achieve' their degrees... still, let's face it, there is little inccentive for institutions to throw them out no matter how blatantly the student fails to work hard enough...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Little Britain - The new Dick Emery Show

... do I need to say more? Victims of the 1970s will well recall the "hilarity" [Deep Irony Quotes necessary here] of The Dick Emery Show and men dressed as women and "playing" the stereotypes of sexuality.

Just because we are more knowing/postmodern/easily duped does not mean Little Britain is any more sophisticated as comedy.

Why are so many people suckered by this garbage when there are truly hysterical programmes like Green Wing on the planet?

I will not even dignify Little Britain with a link.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Douglas in Malibu

Oh bless... Well, here it is, my review and comments on the final performance of Darwin in Malibu.

How I WISH I had had the schedule and proximity to go and see it more than once! Yes, it was a huge disappointment that Nigel Planer was "indisposed" for the performance (a real blow to my friend). But Michael Jenn acquitted himself handsomely and the direction of the play lent itself well to seeing Planer's performance still there, just in another body.

First produced at Birmingham Rep in 2003, the play has a freshness that clearly draws from its contemporary origins. More importantly, I think it was absolutely right that Hampstead brought in Cressida Whyte from that original Birmingham production. It's a pivotal, if unassuming, role; one whose significance creeps up on you as the play progresses.

In the promotional text from Hampstead, the play is summarised as follows:
Malibu, California. The present.

Charles Darwin has wound up on a beach house overlooking the Pacific with a girl young enough to be his daughter. One hundred and forty five years have passed since the publication of The Origin of Species, and over a hundred and twenty years since Darwin's own death.

But his peace is rudely disturbed when his old friend Thomas Huxley washes up on the beach, closely followed by the Bishop of Oxford. And Darwin suddenly finds himself entangled in a sparkling comedy of life and death, love and loss, and the sex life of hermaphroditic barnacles.

...but in some ways, this synopsis is utterly inadequate to what happens and the emotional journey on which the performances take the audience. The debates are presented through a mix of farcical humour and philosophical/theological discourses. Characters shift from rambunctious verbose fools to psychologically wounded casualties of their personal misfortunes (no prizes for guessing whose character that applies to). Seemingly scatter-brained musings about beach-based encounters are rendered moving communiques across time and space, revealing deep truths - or at least potential interpretations - regardings the status of "life" and "death".

Whatever your standpoint on the debates about creationism, the "meaning of life" and the role of evolution in the modern world, this play was likely to touch a nerve within you (if only to stir furious thoughts). The performances were excellent; the staging beautifully intimate - did I say how wonderful it was to be in an audience of under 400? Overall, I am just delighted to been able to see this production at least once (oh how I wish...!) and in the inimitable phrasing of Mr Cloud "Oi'll give it foive"...

Friday, October 15, 2004

"We lost nine minutes...."

At last, at last... After months of withdrawal symptoms I treated myself to the X-files season 1 cheapo DVD box set. Yes the packaging is crummy. Limited extras (Neil says "pah" to extras anyway) but oh yeah... Season 1 Scully all sweet and naive and awh, bless...

Still get a thrill when the nine minutes goes missing... I have whole days like that...

"Why so absent from your blog my dear?"

Because I am ever so slightly distracted by the fact that it is raining, and I really could have done with better UK weather tomorrow as I am off to London to catch the final performance of "Darwin in Malibu" starring Douglas Henshall.

And I was SOOO looking forward to trying to get my friend his autograph...

Purely unselfish reasons...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Cooking to Hook Up

Oh bless you Lily, the quiz on Cooking to Hook Up is just hilarious!

As another "Indie Girl" - cheers Lily, though I agree that the category still feels limiting - I can honestly say I recognise myself in the Nick Hornby quote if nothing else...
It's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party.
-- Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Remember, I am the girl who organises her CDs alphabetically - except for compilations which are by genre - and longs to have an iPod to do some serious genre-busting allocation of categories to the Rullsenberg and Cloud music collection.

BTW eclectic does not mean non-judgemental: there just ain't no place for Celine Dion or Cher, even on an ironic level (that's a no to Titantic and a big fat NO to Cher ... inspired by Buffy's dealings with demonic Kathy's "super" repeat playing of "Believe" from Living Conditions Season 4 ep.2).

...and I'm sorry, even the excellent and hilarious non-presence of Cher in The X-files episode The Post-Modern Prometheus cannot redeem the uplifted grande dame of camp.

Rullsenberg Rants

I considered setting up a new blog specifically for some rants but managing two blogs under my current circumstances seems rather like inviting a Stressed Ericcollapse. (For those who did not catch this excellent animation, Stressed Eric was a short-lived series of animations wherein the hapless central character, Eric Feeble, would find himself overwhelmed by life's torments and nearly strangled by hypertensed blood vessels.)

Consequently, this entry is completely out of place to the general nature of the blog but will make links to the topics of focus for this site to illustrate my sentiments.

Today's Rant Is...

How exactly have I ever been able to save money towards a pension? I sat last night and calculated what had happened over my 20 years of working life.

For approximately 6 of those 20 years, I was unable to contribute to a pension due to being on benefits or receiving other unearned income such as study bursaries or grants (from which you are barred making contributions to pension plans --- not as you can afford to save any money when you are living on those meagre amounts). I know the costs of Higher Education are spiralling in the UK, but even then it wasn't easy - just moderately easier than it is now (Let's hope to avoid the difficulties faced in the USA - so ably explored in The West Wing season 4).

Between 1985-1992 I was living at home with my not-well-off parents. I started working in 1985 on the grand sum of £2000 per year, which was pretty pathetic even that period's standards. Net income £148 per month. £50 to home for board plus travel and work clothes costs. That left a lot of money for being a teenager (we REALLY need a "typeface for irony" as Tom Stoppard's Alexander Herzen notes in the play trilogy The Coast of Utopia --- and for those not savvy, that sneaks in a reference to the beloved Douglas Henshall who starred in these plays).

By September 1992 I was earning, whoo-hoo, not quite £8000 - but that figure was what my gross earnings had risen to for just two months before I left to go into full-time higher education. At which point, my income more than halved to my student grant plus my Student Loan: ah, the joys of the Student Loans Company. (Yes, I qualified for a grant. But I was born in October and therefore did not qualify for the additional mature students' allowance. When I left for university I left home for good and had to keep paying bills over the summer. There was no going home to mum and dad or summers bumming round Europe. Full years of rent and bills and home insurance).

So post-graduation, what happened? Well, I have mostly been working in Further and Higher Education as a lecturer. Well-paid? Think again. For several years, despite working frequent 60-hour weeks, I was often earning less than I had received in student grant income. So far I have had only two years where my earnings have been at or above £12,000 gross.

And I count myself as quite lucky. I do not have children and I am not working in a life-long minimum-wage-type job (though my past income has often been significantly lower than that level). How do you save when your income barely covers your essential outgoings (food, housing costs, work travel - family expenditure)? At the moment, I am lucky enough to be in post with a good work's pension scheme, but how long will that be for? Temporary posts or fixed term contracts are now the norm not the exception...

We can flippantly say that Obesity = the solution to the pensions crisis (or "Eat Fat and Smoke Tabs" as Mr Cloud phrases it), but ultimately a whole raft of people just fall outside of being able to save AT ALL, not just enough, and not just for pensions. Yes, consumerism has spiralled out of control and the corresponding level of debt is closely related to that. But in a culture that criminalises poverty, categorises the poor into the worthy and the unworthy, is it any wonder that few can see as far ahead as the mythical future?

Rant Over... nornal service will be resumed shortly (unless you advise that a Rullsenberg Rules rant blog should be set up?)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Peggy Guggenheim - in print

Since I have spent over 10 years of my life reading about Peggy Guggenheim (oh yeah - and writing my PhD on her), I have something of an interest in the material written about her. This year has seen yet another biography added to the archive of work on this 20th century art collector, this time by Mary Dearborn.

Dearborn's book Mistress of Modernism is, as all the works on Guggenheim are, a valuable contribution to the scholarship on this complex figure. However, despite a feminist slant this time around, the text remains problematic and emblematic of the difficulties faced by those wanting to write about her. Tied to the "telling of the life" format of conventional biographies - narrative, chronological progression - the book is inevitably limited in what it can contribute to our understanding of Guggenheim. I would heartily recommend reading it - Guggenheim is always fascinating and never dull - but the phrase "a pinch of salt" seems a reasonable coda of warning.

Guggenheim's character does not easily suit these kinds of narrative and the detail of her life and experiences pretty much always undermines the readings such texts are compelled to provide. For a taster of the difficulties, I would recommend readers start with Guggenheim's own words: her autobiography Out of This Century: Confessions of an Art Addict which neatly demonstrates her contradictions.

Nevermind blog hell, computer nightmares are everywhere!


Sorry. Just had to let rip. Our system at work is so shoddy at the moment it is difficult to get anything constructive done.

Even writing on my blog...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Blogging hell is...

...when you type up a mail, do all the amendments and insert all your hyperlinks, go back to proof-read it and then your system crashes and when you re-log in to Blogger you find it isn't on your editable list of postings so you have lost all your thoughts and labours....


At some point there will be a posting on the new book by Mary Dearborn on Peggy Guggenheim. In the meantime I am considering some low-level crime: "let's go get sushi and not pay" (Repo Man, dir. Alex Cox).

Friday, October 08, 2004

Nearly my Birthday!

On Sunday it will be my birthday - scary. Still, my birthday's cannot be as bad as Buffy Summers had... her honey Angel goes all Angelus on her (Surprise Season 2: 13/14); The Watcher's Council nearly kill her and her mother (Helpless Season 3:12); Giles is turned into a Fyarl demon (A New Man Season 4:12); Buffy's 'sister' Dawn cuts herself when she finds out she's actually a glowing green energy Key (Blood Ties Season 5:13); Buffy's party goes on way too long when Dawn's wish that everyone would stay is granted by a vengeance demon (Older and Far Away Season 6:14); and in Season 7 ... well I know there was the first evil and all them Ubervamps, but really, the girl just turned 22, did the writers think we would forget?!

Maybe they were using Spike's line as a justification...?
SPIKE: So, you ever think about *not* celebrating a birthday? Just to try it, I mean.
(Older and Far Away)

As usual I have the spectacuarly useful Buffy Dialogue Database to thank for supplying me with that gem!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Quote for the Day 7 Oct 04: BtVS & thinking about Death

I was thinking back over the year recently and recalling the wonderful conversation I had with a friend about their watching The Body, the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 5: 16) where Buffy finds her mother Joyce dead and the aftermath of that traumatic event.

It's a stunning episode, full of wonderful and very real moments. But one of the best is the reaction of Anya - thus far too often used as a foil for humour (being an ex-demon she struggles to comprehend human emotions and is brutally honest in her opinions). Throughout the follow-up action to the finding of Joyce, Anya has been asking lots of questions and finally Willow snaps at her.
ANYA: (desperate) But I don't understand!

Willow and Xander look at her in surprise.

ANYA: (crying) I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, (sniffling) there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid. (still teary) And, and Xander's crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.

What the scene highlights is that sometimes it takes an outsider to truly see, to ask the difficult questions in order to understand the world around us. Of course, though Joyce's life seemed horribly and unnecessarily cut short, we all get the same allowance...
"You lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more. No less."

Bernie Capax and Death, in SANDMAN #43: "Brief Lives:3" By Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Quote of the day 6 October 04: Canadian submarines and The West Wing...

Had to laugh today. Turns out that the British Government has been flogging of refurbished submarines to the Canadians that are less than brilliant (they leak - pretty fundamental you would think!)

As people sent in their text messages on the fiasco I could not help but amend Sam Seabourn's passionate argument in The West Wing (Season 2: ep.2) In the Shadow of Two Gunmen: Part two of two.
Sam: Instead of buying these ships? Don't
buy these ships. Buy other ships. Better ships. That's my idea.


Mr Cameron: But Sam, we want these ships. This is as little as we've ever paid for a fleet.

Sam: Well, there's a reason why they don't cost a lot of money. They're 20-year old single hulled VLCCs that nobody wants. When they hit things, they will break. And they will hit things, because they don't have state of the art navigation systems. They don't have G3 tank gauging, or EM-5000 engine monitoring, the recommended staletronic, or electopneumotronic ballast.

I can't help feeling that with a little tweaking of the terminology this was a conversation I wish someone had had with the Canadians (though what the British MOD were thinking flogging them this rubbish is beyond me...)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Quote of the Day: "Pull the Wires from the Wall"

Pull The Wires From The Wall
Creeping round my house at dawn
I'll keep my curtains closed
If you're feeling fond of feeling wrong
Fully clothed
For a second time you're on my mind
Planted on this still
You forget I do not pay in kind
Kind's not there
For the eyes to see through
All that I do
For instance I don't have to try
I'm falling over all the right lines
We only have to leave this last
Resist all falling at the wrong times

Safe in knowledge, safe in college
I know all there is to know
To have never stepped outside this ring
Fools they flow
For the self-assured I have no cure
I only wish I was
As my entertaining thoughts grow fewer
Stills my cause
For the eyes to see through
All that I do

For instance I don't have to try
I'm falling over all the right lines
We only have to leave this last
Resist all falling at the wrong times
For the accent, for the day (don't walk just swim)
For the incidents they'll happen and they'll happen anyway (it's gonna pass)
When you leave here, leave this way (one last request)
You are far enough to be impressed
But not so far to be depressed
Drink your souvenirs and go your way
For instance I don't have to try
I'm falling over all the right lines
We only have to leave this last
Resist all falling at the wrong times
For instance I don't have to try
I'm falling over all the right lines
We only have to leave this last
Resist all falling at the wrong times

By The Delgados

The Delgados & Sons and Daughters: Review of Rescue Rooms gig 3 October 2004

What a night! The Rescue Rooms proves its worth again!

Sons and Daughters were a blast of brilliance. The male singer, Scott Paterson - who also shares guitar work with female vocalist Adele Bethel - has an awesome seriousness to his demeanour that is the chief indicator of the band's youth, but it is entirely good thing. Ailidh Lennon - Bass, mandolin, piano (though all three front players handle the bass to give the band a powerful driving pulse) - is, a complete honey. David Gow handles the percussion with a deftness that suits the rhythm of the band and its energetic performance.

In addition to performing most of their current mini-album Love the Cup, they also performed a number of other tracks, including one so fresh from writing they needed a lyric sheet to perform it! Although there was some initial scepticism amongst an audience mainly there for the headline act, Sons and Daughters won them over with great style. I missed seeing them earlier in the summer so was thrilled to see them on the support slot for The Delgados.

The Delgados easily fit into the BBC6 Music schedule but should really be everywhere --- they have a really distinctive manner and a very appealing approach to songs. From the moment they come on stage they are in command of the audience, and though they often take large pauses between songs to sort themselves out they can apply the skill that comes from experience to keep the moment going and the audience enraptured. Founders of Chemikal Underground, the label that brought us Arab Strap and Mogwai, the band are a tight unit of beautiful harmonies and touchingly realistic lyrics. Emma Pollock - damn, she's a fine gal! - and Alun Woodward create these songs, but it's the band as a whole who brings them to life (Stewart Henderson on bass is a real hoot on stage and Paul Savage rounds off the foursome with some gutsy percussion work. Tony Doogan puts the sound together and makes the swirling landscape of thir music truly sing).

They end the night on two older tracks: Pull the Wires From the Wall and No Danger, still two of their best tracks and frankly, they couldn't have made me happier by ending on those two glories. Sweaty but happy, Mr Cloud and I went to get the car home: a good end to his birthday weekend!

The place was packed - probably the fullest I have ever seen the venue, and it is a great venue - and fully enthused. The Rescue Rooms has to qualify as one of the coolest places on this planet to see bands, just for its intimacy. Ballboy (twice - yet more fantastic Scottish music!), Saloon (link provides a nice review of their second album When We Meet In The Future), Mono (Japanese post-rock), and David Thomas and the Two Pale Boys (the current offshoot project of the Pere Ubu founder and all-round cool dude DT), just to name a few of the acts I have seen here. If you are in Nottingham, try to get there. It's part of the Rock City complex, but much better (I spent a large portion of the early 90s at Rock City but the RR are actually much nicer). If you ever get chance to come to Nottingham, find out what's coming to The Rescue Rooms and drop in, if only for the atmosphere of its bar. It's a grand place, fine music at all times and some cracking bands/artistes perform on its tiny stage.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Dialogue for the Day: October 1 2004 The West Wing

Today's wonderful quote comes from the episode He Shall from Time to Time

President: ...And how do we make the American dream of opportunity a reality for all? I came to this hallowed chamber one year ago, and I see we’re spelling “hallowed” with a pound sign in the middle of it.

Sam: We’ll fix that.

President: The pound sign’s silent?

Leo: Move on, Mr. President.

President: I came to this hallowed chamber one year ago on a mission: to restore the American Dream for all our people, as we gaze at the vast horizon of possibilities open to us in the 321st century. Wow that was ambitious of me, wasn't it.


President: We meant "stronger" here, right?

Sam: What does it say?

President: "I'm proud to report our country's stranger than it was a year ago"?

Sam: That's a typo.

President: Could go either way.

For those not fully au fait with The West Wing, one of its real glories is not just that it HAS dialogue that is witty and sharp but that it is delivered at such pace. Read the transcipts at places such as TwizTV which has a growing store of transcripts for US TV shows both recent and not so recent. Highly recommended!

Psst Cloud In Trousers has a birthday 2 October!

Love from Ms Rullsenberg xx