Saturday, January 31, 2004
Auspicious Fish is a year old! Admittedly it didn't really get going until March last year, but I first set it up at the end of January. Wow. Feel free to send me presents in celebration of this magnificent anniversary.
1/31/2004 04:40:00 pm
1/31/2004 04:32:00 pm
I've added some new ones. They're still not in any kind of order, nor will they ever be.
1/31/2004 03:13:00 pm
When I was 15 I did a week's work experience in a local primary school. The teacher I shadowed had a copy of this on the wall by his desk.
This poem was handed to a grade 12 English teacher in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Although it is not know if the student actually wrote it himself,
it is known that he committed suicide two weeks later.
He always wanted to say things. But no one understood.
He always wanted to explain things. But no one cared.
So he drew.
Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything. He wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky.
he would lie out on the grass and look up in the sky and it would be only him and the sky and the things that needed saying.
And it was after that. that he drew the picture. It was a beautiful picture. he kept it under the pillow and would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every night and think about it. And when it was dark, and his eyes were closed, he could still see it.
And it was all of him. And he loved it.
When he started school he brought it with him. Not to show anyone, but just to have it with him like a friend.
It was funny about school.
He sat in a square, brown desk like all the other square, brown desks and he thought it should be red.
And his room was a square, brown room. Like all the other rooms. And it was tight and close. And stiff.
He hated to hold the pencil and the chalk, with his arm stiff and his feet flat on the floor, stiff, with the teacher watching and watching.
And then he had to write numbers. And they weren’t anything. They were worse than the letters that could be something if you put them together.
And the numbers were tight and square and he hated the whole thing.
The teacher came and spoke to him. She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys. He said he didn’t like them and she said it didn’t matter.
After that they drew. And he drew all yellow and it was the way he felt about the morning. And it was beautiful.
The teacher came and smiled at him. “What’s this?” she said. “Why don’t you draw something like ken’s drawing?
Isn’t that beautiful?”
It was all questions.
After that his mother bought him a tie and he always drew planes and rocket ships like everyone else.
And he threw the old picture away.
And when he lay out alone looking at the sky, it was big and beautiful and all of everything, but he wasn’t anymore.
He was square inside and brown, and his hands were stiff, and he was like anyone else. And the thing inside that needed saying didn’t need saying anymore.
It had stopped pushing. It was crushed. Stiff.
Like everything else.
1/31/2004 02:09:00 pm
I just checked the other disc, which I thought was hideously corrupted beyond salvage, and it's fine. 38,000 words in one file, and it appears to be OK. The disc has been gathering dust for four years.
Having a quick look, my worst fears are confirmed - it's almost entirely utter shite, semi-autobiographical and written when pissed and miserable and frantic. But... there might be enough to salvage a short story from the wreckage. I shall see what I can do...
1/31/2004 11:09:00 am
For Leon & Sam (and anyone else who ever tried to write a book on a whim but had no idea how or why...)
Some years ago, while still an undergraduate and essentially functioning as an alcoholic, I decided to write a novel about a boy who could fly. All that remains, four years later, are three badly corrupted floppy discs packed with something like 40,000 words. Inspired by Leon's short stories about falling in love at university, I've dug out a section from this never-finished novella, which goes some way towards demonstrating that drunk young romantic men are all of a kind, whether they be at Harvard or University College Northampton, born in Chicago or born in Exeter. The following 2,900 words is the last thing I wrote for 'Flying' before I gave it up as a bad job. As I said, the discs are corrupted, so the final 1,500 words or so of this way well be littered with strange juxtapositions and errors where I've tried to salvage the mess of page-breaks and symbols into something readable; this is what the 'almost rescued' part of the title refers to. And just in case you're wondering, no, this isn't based on real people, although some of the events and places have been stolen from the lives of people I have known.
Flying (part 2 - almost rescued)
The page curves away from me, bending and arcing through the space before me, like a sheet that someone has just billowed out into the wind of a summer’s day, shaking loose the dust and grime that has gathered over time. I can’t so much see its curvature as sense it, feel it, I know it is no longer laid flat and smooth in front of me, it is trying to escape, to pull itself free of me.
There is a breeze flitting across my face, coming from where? My left? My right? Above me? I cannot tell, I do not wish to tell. It is simply enough that I can feel it at all. I know that there are many others who cannot feel it, who have never felt it. But I, right now, here, in this space, this arc of the page, I can feel it.
All our senses are descended from touch, the touch of moving air upon our eardrum, the touch of scent particles on our sinus membranes, the touch of flavour on our tongues, the touch of light upon our retinas. Colour is nothing, it is a lie, all we see is light, the same light reflected in infinite different ways, focused on our eyes, pulled in to them, telling our brain that the world has hues and shades and tints that are not really there.
The thoughts within your mind that you hold so dear, that you feel are so special, are merely electrical pulses within your brain, fluxes in the electrical aura that all things with mass posses. Electrical fields are sensitive, they are sensed, affected and changed by the presence of other electrical fields, they interact. Your thoughts are just electricity. They can be sensed. I can read your thoughts. I can shape your thoughts. I am doing so.
What is a dream, if not a means of escape? A moment when your mind is able to unleash its potential and create worlds for you that do not exist, worlds that you cannot consciously control, but that spring from the recesses of your soul. The every day, the things you hold as real, melt away and your dreams take you over, your mind seizes control from your consciousness. You are the author of your dreams, but you are not in control of the stories they weave, the paths they take. Anything can happen in a dream. Anything at all.
Do you care for me? Do you care about my life, my thoughts, my troubles? You have no control over me or my situation, you cannot understand the way I feel or why I think the way I do. So why are you still turning pages of my life? I am less than a dream to you, because I do not come from you, I do not pass through you, I am someone else’s mind, someone else’s dream.
I don’t know if I’m awake or sleeping, I’m not sure now if I’ve ever slept. I’ve heard horror stories of American soldiers during Vietnam being given drugs to help them stay awake, to make them more efficient, and they were given the wrong doses, some of them didn’t sleep for a moment in years. They weren’t able to. Do you understand me? There are holes in my life I can’t account for, gaps in my story that I haven’t told you, that I can’t tell you because they aren’t there for me to tell. Are you concerned that you care for me while I can’t tell you what has happened in my life, do you not mind that I’m keeping secrets from you?
If a dream is an escape, then what is a story? A story is an escape as well. If they’re both escapes, are they the same? I’m not in control of myself or my thoughts, you’re not in control of what is happening to me, you could put me down, wash your hands of me, the pages can go unread. Do you see the pattern? The picture has no frame, it has no ending, there is no start to this. I can’t finish it. If you stop now, do I stop with you? Don’t leave me alone.
Siobhan was an energy, a positivity I hadn’t come across before, and I was scared, I didn’t know what to do. She had friends, a circle around her everywhere, but they weren’t close, they weren’t confidantes, not like I have confidantes, not like you have them. Because she was open with anyone, she kept no secrets, she had none to keep. There was nothing in her past that she regretted, no loose ends that had knotted themselves around her neck and held her down. She could walk into any room and she’d know someone she could speak to. And if she didn’t, she would fix that. It was simple, logical, a mind that ran like that could do… just about anything, I thought.
But she wasn’t logical, she wasn’t working through problems or equations, she just moved and things moved with and for her, expanding or contracting as she needed them to. Doors could open, bridges could be built.
She could paint, she was sculpting an image from a dream when I first met her, in a studio, tall, the air was high and light but warm too. Off-cuts from a machine that moulded things from plastic, these shapes that seemed to be moving and liquid, but that were set as hard as stone, she hollowed areas out of them, applied pigments to the outer shells, placed light bulbs in the hollows that she’d made, let light come from within. She said it was “for touching, for seeing and for taking in,” and she smiled as if that was obvious. It was. I had to run my hands over it, and little gasps came from me as I realised it was warm to touch, as warm as it looked, a yellow and a blue and an orange. I took a step back, and I saw it felt like love. I’d only wandered into the studio because I was looking for a pen to write on a board with.
We had seen each other around, at the same clubs in town, at the students union, we got talking. We both loved music, our tastes crossed again and again. She knew about art and I knew about society, we talked simple philosophy, got to know each other over drinks and in canteens. Bumping into each other while we were doing other things, nervous ‘hellos’, forlorn ‘goodbyes’, until she said to me “let’s go somewhere tonight” outside a science lab. So we went somewhere, and we danced and drank and
The page curves away from me, bending and arcing through the space before me, like a sheet that someone has just billowed out into the wind of a summer’s day, shaking loose the dust and grime that has gathered over time. I can’t so much see its curvature as sense it, feel it, I know it is no longer laid flat and smooth in front of me, it is trying to escape. I think I understand now.
It was late September, the start of my second year, when we first spoke properly, and we continued speaking with each other, more than speaking, being with each other, being nearly part of each other… we were like that until the worst of the winter. We came together in sunlight and warm days, an Indian summer like my parents used to talk about. We stayed with each other through changing clocks and persistent rain. I’ve never given a present at Christmas to a lover before, but that Christmas I did, and I felt good doing it. It seemed right. I always bought presents for my family, just because they were my family and you do that, always, sometimes for friends too, but only if times were very good or very hard, never if things were just normal. To give someone a gift, just for because you could and you wanted to, that was… good. It gave a purpose to the whole event.
Sometimes, when the sun was out in those first five weeks when it was hot, we’d lye on the grass, with our heads close together, and just talk. She would tell me all the things she planned to do, her ideas for the future, what she wanted to do, to be, and I would avoid answering when she asked me what I wanted. Because I didn’t want anything. Except, sometimes, just to lye with her on the grass and for that split second of ‘now’ to last a little longer. I never had a vision of the future. I didn’t need one. I still don’t understand why so many people do.
Even when it rained for days on end, when we had work piling up for us to do, we didn’t care. We stood in the rain, once, twice, three, four times, getting soaked, giggling because we were doing silly things and not minding, talking, kissing, dripping rain-water off our noses. It didn’t matter. Was I comfortable? Yes, almost. Was I happy? I think so, for a while. Yeah. Yeah, I was, I was happy, just being part of something, being with someone.
But we couldn’t last the winter through. We couldn’t deal with the cold in January, the bitter winds in February. The air chilled, and I think I did too. I’ve never been good when the weather turns to winter, when the plants and flowers and trees look dead and the animals all stay in bed. Normally I start to crack as soon as the nights get dark so soon I have to close the curtains before eat in the evening, but this time I lasted until the cold drew in for real. I had company, didn’t I? I had someone to hold me when it got dark. It made it not seem so bad.
Wrapped in two jumpers and a thick coat bought for £20 from a charity shop, with a scarf and gloves, standing in the wind, I didn’t feel like holding anyone. It was all I could do to hold on to myself, never mind Siobhan too. I stood alone, because it was romantic, to be alone and cold and holding onto yourself in the wind. Never mind real feelings, I had notions to uphold. So I betrayed myself. I let myself get caught up fictions, waiting for things to be right before they could happen. I didn’t realise I could have made it better, made it bearable, just by… making the effort.
To pull itself free of me.
There is a breeze flitting across my face, coming from where? My left? My right? Above me? I cannot tell. I do notice the colour of the sky. Everything I do I choose, it all expresses who I am. All of it. How I tie my shoes! I would look at the ground, scuffing my shoes, my hands in my pockets, expressing myself, too, without knowing
“Don’t you worry? Don’t you ever think too much?”
She looked at me and sighed, an exhalation of not just air but hope and pain as well. I’d been saying things like this for too long now. I’d been saying things like this since the sun lasted less time each day than the moon. Normally she’d shrug, sigh, look at me like I was a petulant child, and she’d tell me not to think bad of things that couldn’t be fixed, things that didn’t concern. She could only take so much, though. No one can deal with that cloud every day.
This time, she didn’t shrug. The sigh lasted longer, she seemed to exhale all the breaths she’d ever taken, like she was trying to push something else out of her along with the air. She was pushing me out, at last.
Her eyes glazed, she shook her head, frustrated, fatigued suddenly, enough is enough.
“What the fuck is there to know?! You’re not a fucking thing, you’re not a piece of information, you’re a fucking person, people change, they grow, there isn’t a finished article, there isn’t a thing to know! Why are you doing this? Why do you say these things? You have choices. We could be so happy, I know we could. We don’t have to be two people.” Pause. The bedroom is enormous, it’s expanding in every direction, we’re so far apart. I still feel claustrophobic. She stumbles as she pulls on her jeans and top, her shoes and coat. Stands in front of me. I’m there again, it keeps happening to me, keeps reappearing. “If you want it you could just take it. It isn’t difficult. It needn’t hurt.”
Tears not just in her eyes but all over her face, and I just sit there in bed, a balloon inflating in my stomach, pushing my guts apart, making me feel nauseous when I should feel upset. I can’t say anything, I can’t move. I’m afraid she takes my stasis for disinterest; when really it’s paralysis, fear. I know I’m making a mistake, I know I’m pushing us towards the cliff, but I can’t stop it. I’m not in control.
“I’ve seen other people without half as much as we have, I’ve seen them make it, make it last, why the fuck can’t we? Why won’t you let us even try?” Her eyes are puffy and red through crying, she’s gulping, every word an effort because it hurts to cry this much, physically hurts, and she has to speak nevertheless. “Why are you doing this? Killing this? It isn’t fucking fair on me, that you’re not telling me why, and it isn’t fair on either of us for you to end it.” Angry water fills her eyes along with drops of sadness. “You’re not even fucking finishing things properly, you don’t even have a fucking reason, do you? Bastard. You’re different to that. You’re better than that.”
I feel as if I would die if I was to utter a word. So I keep quiet.
She’s going, walking out of the door, I don’t know if she’ll come back. I let her go. It’s not my place to stop her, is it? I can’t control her. But that shouldn’t be an issue. I shouldn’t be concerned with control or blame or anything apart from seeing that this is good, that it could last, that I ought to care more. Try more. I know I’ve made a mistake.
If I’d held on, would it have been through love or through fear? Was letting go brought about by fear? Maybe. Probably.
Since then, nothing. A few encounters with anonymous people, not meaning anything, more through drunkenness than affection or feeling. Nothing to make me feel good, nothing taken anywhere. Nothing. It’s been more than two years since her. I can’t focus on anyone else, I can’t see them in three dimensions, everyone seems hollow to me, everyone who comes too close.
I still have a photograph, one she took, but it was of both of us, not just me. She’d used a timer, put the camera on a table in the garden, focused in on me as I stood with a wall behind me, in the sun, the first days, and then, without warning, she ran round and stood with me, squeezed me so I flinched and laughed, and looked into her eyes. Looked into her eyes with a smile, she smiled back, just in time for the ‘click’ of the shutter.
We looked amazing, we looked like love, smiling, her hands on my waist, my arms frozen in a spasm of happiness as she squeezed me, our eyes together, our smiles a mirror of each other. You couldn’t have got that expression, that beauty, with a posed shot. She knew what she was doing.
Deliberately, she under-exposed the print when she was developing it, to make us seem hazy, insubstantial, too thin to be real. She wanted us to look happy, blissful, but slightly vague, because no one person was ever really defined, no one has a sharp outline. When I look at the picture now, we look like ghosts, we look like we’re fading away.
I didn’t even see her in passing for two months at least, we must have each avoided areas were a glimpse of the other might be caught, I don’t know if it was deliberate, or… unconscious? A self-defence response? To stop the hurt deepening. Tha would make sense…
We haven’t spoken properly at all. An awkward ‘hello’ maybe, once or twice. One time, in a shopping centre, we passed each other on the escalator, her downwards, me up, maybe it was ironic. The eye-contact lasted days, she burrowed a look into me that filled me with a sense of waste and illness, lost opportunities, stupidity, my own ignorance making me unhappy, reflected pain. I haven’t cried for her, even though I wished I could.
1/31/2004 10:53:00 am
Friday, January 30, 2004
A Record Review
Cos, you know, that's what I'm meant to do. And this is good. Check out the opening paragraph...
Dreams Top Rock
Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo. John Keats - “heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter”. Twin Peaks never really being about who killed Laura Palmer. The space between the spokes of a wheel. The diastolic gap between heartbeats when the atria flush with blood. How in a lucid dream you can’t adjust light levels or read a digital clock but you can fly…
The link between electronica and shoegazing is made more explicit every day. The real descendents of Loveless aren’t Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Joy Zipper, or even the Kevin Shields all-stars version of Primal Scream, but rather the likes of Manitoba, Boards Of Canada and M83. The technological developments of the last thirteen (13!) years mean that one man (or two) with a laptop can now produce in a matter of months something akin to what it took Kevin Shields 3 years, 20-odd engineers, countless guitar overdubs and £250,000 to pioneer. A large part of the allure of Loveless is the mythology that has built up around it, that Shields could never follow it up, that it nearly sent Creation bankrupt, that, to this day, no one has recording anything with a guitar that sounds remotely like it, despite more than a few explicit attempts. Nothing else born of a six-string sounds quite so alien, so intangible, so warped by a different sun. It’s not surprising then that the things that sail closest to its orbit are manufactured via utterly different means, or, at the least, by people practised in what began as utterly different arts.
At it’s best, shoegazing gives substance to unheard melodies, makes you feel like you’ve eaten too much fruit and inhaled to much vapour, like your blood is thin of cells, your plasma stretched by spacious molecules of oxygen. It blurs the lines between sense and senses, gives rise to synaesthetic sensations the likes of which inspired Blake and Coleridge and Chapterhouse alike.
For Marcus Schmickler’s fourth outing as Pluramon, a shoegazing analogue to his parallel careers (who has only one these days?) in IDM and electronica (as Wabi Sabi, Corvette and Sator Rotas [hooray for palindromes]), he enlists the voice and words of Julee Cruise, the Roadhouse singer from Twin Peaks, erstwhile muse to David Lynch and talent-scout to Angelo Badalamenti. Dreams Top Rock is pleasurable like the memory of a long bath or a distant kiss. It aspires to Loveless, and it reaches as close as anything else ever has: closer even.
Cruise’s vocals are too sweet for me, too childlike and deliberately will o’ the wisp where Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher were uneasy, threatening, erotic. There’s nothing here as sharply shocking as the opening snare rap and impacting tumult of “Only Shallow”, nothing as airless, weightless and strange as “To Here Knows When”, nothing as future-past as “Soon”. “Flageolea” plays a slow space odyssey jazz, an elegy for dying aliens, taking the blueprint somewhere else, revealing a link that now seems obvious. “Time For A Lie” and “Time Catharsia MX” merge voices and melodies, treating them differently, while “Noise Academy” and “Have You Seen” defy gravity as well as anything Ride or Chapterhouse ever managed. Schmickler’s manipulation of glitch and electronic, a great deal more subtle than Medicine, say, marks an evolution since 91 that the original generation of shoegazers by and large failed to adapt to.
My copy of Dreams Top Rock was scratched towards the end of the final track – I must have listened to five minutes of true hum and glitch quite happily before I realised that time hadn’t moved on since 3:39. Tellingly, this was the part of the record that I enjoyed the most.
1/30/2004 04:25:00 pm
Are now claiming to have 'lost' my iPod. Rest assured I am putting their management through hell until they find it.
1/30/2004 01:19:00 pm
Thursday, January 29, 2004
1/29/2004 09:14:00 pm
Fucking shit service.
1/29/2004 08:00:00 pm
Just arrive already.
1/29/2004 02:44:00 pm
Consider the clubs Dom & I follow; he's an Inter fan and I'm a Roma fan. Which posits us directly against Milan and Lazio. (Where Arsenal fit into this I dunno, but I am excited about Reyes.)
1/29/2004 09:35:00 am
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Now With Added Comments
You'd better be nice or I'll fucking kill yer.
1/28/2004 11:22:00 pm
You are Charles VI of France, also known as Charles the Mad or Charles the Well-Beloved!
A fine, amiable and dreamy young man, skilled in horsemanship and archery, you were also from a long line of dribbling madmen. King at 12 and quickly married to your sweetheart, Bavarian Princess Isabeau, you enjoyed many happy months together before either of you could speak anything of the other's language. However, after illness you became a tad unstable. When a raving lunatic ran up to your entourage spouting an incoherent prophecy of doom, you were unsettled enough to slaughter four of your best men when a page dropped a lance. Your hair and nails fell out. At a royal masquerade, you and your courtiers dressed as wild men, ending in tragedy when four of them accidentally caught fire and burned to death. You were saved by the timely intervention of the Duchess of Berry's underskirts.
This brought on another bout of sickness, which surgeons countered by drilling holes in your skull. The following months saw you suffer an exorcism, beg your friends to kill you, go into hyperactive fits of gaiety, run through your rooms to the point of exhaustion, hide from imaginary assassins, claim your name was Georges, deny that you were King and fail to recognise your family. You smashed furniture and wet yourself at regular intervals. Passing briefly into erratic genius, you believed yourself to be made of glass and demanded iron rods in your attire to prevent you breaking.
In 1405 you stopped bathing, shaving or changing your clothes. This went on until several men were hired to blacken their faces, hide, jump out and shout "boo!", upon which you resumed basic hygiene. Despite this, your wife continued sleeping with you until 1407, when she hired a young beauty, Odette de Champdivers, to take her place. Isabeau then consoled herself, as it were, with your brother. Her lovers followed thick and fast while you became a pawn of your court, until you had her latest beau strangled and drowned.
A severe fever was fended off with oranges and pomegranates in vast quantities, but you succumbed again in 1422 and died. Your disease was most likely hereditary. Unfortunately, you had anywhere up to eleven children, who variously went on to develop capriciousness, great cruelty, insecurity, paranoia, revulsion towards food and, in one case, a phobia of bridges.
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.
1/28/2004 03:33:00 pm
You're Surely Not Still Reading This Sub-Adrian Mole Tripe, Are You?
I found my moleskine! Hidden deep in my desk at work. Sadly the people at TNT rang to say my iPod will be delayed until tomorrow. Hmph. Oh well, should have some Plaid and maybe even some Long Fin Killie to listen to when I get home.
1/28/2004 01:23:00 pm
Argh. It's still not here. Some bugger's driving round Exeter with it in a van still. Asshole. Here is a picture of a cookie.
1/28/2004 11:28:00 am
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Certainly better travelled than me.
1/27/2004 11:40:00 am
Monday, January 26, 2004
I've fucking lost my moleskine now, haven't I? It's got my address inside should anyone find it, so please post it back (like anyone who finds it would read here). I bet it's hidden in my desk somewhere. Shit shit shit.
1/26/2004 09:04:00 pm
Still not here.
1/26/2004 02:39:00 pm
Saturday, January 24, 2004
The 11-minute "Ben Haadh Ramza Dhasdha" by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was just segued into Madonna's "Into The Groove" by iTunes. Magnificent.
1/24/2004 10:44:00 pm
During my second year in Northampton I lived behind the police station and swimming baths, in a cul-de sac called Connaught Street, which is part of an area called The Mounts. Historically The Mounts was an area of housing for the town’s many factory workers – on the corner between the police station and the Chronicle & Echo building is The Charles Bradlaugh, a pub named after Northampton’s most infamous politician (thrown down the steps of the Houses of Parliament for refusing to swear allegiance to the queen or god or something; I forget, but he was vaguely insurrectionary according to my lawyer friend James) and which used to be a shoe factory (hence Northampton Town being nicknamed The Cobblers, as if you didn’t know). The Mounts, by the time I lived there (1999-2000) was largely populated by students and Asians; anyone, in effect, who didn’t object to being squeezed into tiny houses which had piss-all garden and offered views of nothing more attractive than kitchen work top manufacturers (there was an Asian supermarket/cash & carry round the corner which sold the most amazing bananas, spices and ghee – we learnt to cook that year). A couple of times, walking back from campus or a pub or wherever, the local kids would shout “Hey white man!” at me, which, as I was generally pissed and listening to my walkman, would take on a seriously surreal edge.
One evening, James, Olly and I were watching a film in our living room (which was the ‘master bedroom’ – as it was the largest room in the house we decreed it would be unfair for anyone to have it as a bedroom and thus used it as communal space: for the first two months we had a mattress in there but no sofa; many happy hours were spent lazed across the mattress, with two lamps on in the corners, some techno or postrock laying, and numerous spliffs being imbibed whilst we discussed whatever pointless shit it is that underachieving students discuss) and the neighbourhood kids decided to take action against our 50/60-something white, male neighbour. Action? These kids, who were none of them older than 12 (at the very most), decided to light fireworks and throw them at this chap’s house. Overly dramatic? I’m not sure. The kids were shouting ‘racist!’ as they were chucking the fireworks, and accusing him of trying to run them over with his Lada. Over the previous month or so this chap had seemingly piled all his belongings into the back of his car, and also his caravan, until they were both full-to-bursting, and then shipped them all off to boot-sales and the like. We asked him about it one morning as he was loading his crockery into the passenger seat, and he claimed he’d made £3,000 out of selling his stuff. I can’t remember if he was planning on leaving the country or buying a new house or whether he was just a lunatic. I tend to favour the latter. The idea that he might have been trying to murder the local Asian toddlers with his Russian automobile is not that far-fetched though. At one point his car was full of hubcaps and sink units. And of course, the next day they were gone.
Please remember that this was when we lived behind the police station. You could have thrown a stone from our front door and it would have landed in the station car park next to the panda cars. It was barely 40 yards away. And these kids were throwing fireworks at a guy’s house. And we cheered them on, frankly, because our neighbour was a lunatic. Over the course of the next month or so he slowly took apart his caravan too, presumably to sell the constituent parts, until all that was left was a 7” by 15” piece of plywood with an axel. And he wasn’t even our immediate neighbour; they were much worse.
Initially we thought their back bedroom was a factory of some kind, because of the amount of unpleasant 18th century industrial crap in there; paint pots, piles of lumber, axes, old vertical drills, lathes, boxes of undefined stuff stacked up to head-height and above, filling every available inch, the windows grimy and thick with filth. But this was the residence of a married couple and their teenage daughter, not some Dickensian workhouse. The garden, such as it was, was piled high with rotting planks of wood, sodden barrels, two rusted tin baths, a proper old wooden washbasin (David Dickinson would have swooned to see such potential antique riches) and various other assorted bits of nauseous crap. One day we decided to try and see if the inside of their house was as bad as the garden and back bedroom, and so Olly leant out of the bathroom window at a precarious angle in order to facilitate a view of their dining room. At first we thought it was normal; the walls above shoulder-height were common-or-garden dining room walls; a couple of framed photographs, magnolia paintjob, nothing exceptional. Then Olly leant a bit further so he could see the lower half of the room, including the dining table. And the room was rammed full of shit. Stacks of newspapers, old fruit boxes, piles of unwashed crockery, god only knows what else, crammed into corners, dumped on top of tables, balanced on chairs, seemingly thrown on the floor. At first we thought maybe they were due a tidy up, but after weeks and then months had passed, after we’d pressed our noses to their grimy (Dizzee has nothing on these people) kitchen window and seen the bowls of rotting fruit and unwashed saucepans and filth-encrusted butter knives and pools of rotting potato peel, we realised that this was how they chose to live. We were students; four blokes living together, drinking, taking drugs, fixing oily bicycles in the kitchen, failing to wash up, cooking elaborate things that required numerous saucepans and various utensils, and this supposedly normal family next door made us look like puritan germ-killing fetishists.
University was a wonderful time.
1/24/2004 10:38:00 pm
My Mum Is A Special Needs Teacher
No one reads the headings anyway.
If you go round accusing people who aren't fascists of being fascists simply because they disagree with you, then it's quite possible that you're failing to notice actual real nasty people who are happily going about their shitty business.
1/24/2004 10:27:00 pm
Friday, January 23, 2004
Great New World
Is the alternate future presented in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World necessarily a bad thing?
1/23/2004 08:36:00 pm
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells
Five hours later, my leg is still leaking plasma. I did, at least, score a hat-trick. Astroturf is evil stuff.
1/22/2004 11:25:00 pm
I should write those other fucking fifty sentences, shouldn't I?
Only thing is, I can see the list (as is already written and submitted) being torn asunder by my fickle mind.
1/22/2004 01:34:00 pm
Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs
Calvin had to wait 28 days for his beanie hat, and this was after eating four boxes of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs in order to secure the tokens.
The iPod has not arrive yet. It is imminent. It is immanent in my thoughts. Just now I went and checked the post to be confronted by a Jiffy bag with my name on it. Uergh. Thank you muchly, Goldsmiths College arts librarian, for copying the Turner Prize footage for me but where the fuck is my iPod?!
Apple, take note of all this free advertising and endorsement.
1/22/2004 10:31:00 am
Listen to anything on Warp from about 1993-1995 - Calvin is dancing in time.
1/22/2004 12:03:00 am
Stepping Out Of The Bubble
Tomorrow (which may well be today) I shall play football with the modern languages staff. Having run to catch the train tonight, and having played football against *gasp* strangers last night, I am exhausted. Even though I probably ran less than I usually do (which is not a great deal of running in the first place, it must be said – it worked for Cantona, it can work for me) the physical exertion was greater. Not sure why. I had a ‘mare in front of goal; set up four or five with some sweet passing, delicate through-balls, but couldn’t hit the target myself for toffee, despite nearly taking the keeper’s head off at one point when the traction engine that is my right foot actually fired properly.
It heartens me to see Olly and James both posting to their blogs (look left and down people, see the links), reassures me that they’re both alive. I’m so bad at keeping in touch. But anyone who knows me knows that. Guys, when you’re finished doing what you’re doing, come and live in Exeter. We’ll get a house, we’ll have jobs, we’ll talk shit and watch tiny Asian kids throw fireworks at strange gypsy men (maybe not), it’ll be just like old times. Maybe not. But come and visit / live. Definitely.
Cozen – I am not that vast.
Sam says his blog gets 700 hits a day; I wonder how many I’m getting. If you read, just pop me an email to say ‘hi’ – email@example.com - there needn’t be any other words. It must be six months since I last asked. The chap at the Moleskinerie said he was in awe of my audience, that Auspicious Fish was lighting up his blog (which is, I say again, great), and it occurred to me that I have no idea how many hits I get here. I know how many Stylus gets (lots more than it used to, lots and lots more…) but… who the fuck wants to read this? Eh?
I’m glad I never did drink coffee. The smell did nought for me, and the two times I tried it the taste was just eurgh. But then again I never smoked, never touched pills or powders, haven’t touched weed since five months after the turn of the millennium and probably never will again, Class C or not. And I know I have a reputation for being a soak (Dom Passantino starting an MSN conversation just now = “Are you sober? Can I ask you a question?” – hit me up on MSN via firstname.lastname@example.org, or AIM [strictly out of work hours] at NickJSouthall, or via SLSK and the name of this blog [no spaces]) but I haven’t had a drink since a lone pint of Guinness on Saturday night, and this is not just down to having bought a widescreen TV and an iPod this month on my credit card and feeling stupid about it (incidentally, my credit limit across the two cards I have is now standing at more than a couple of grand, Olly – they love it if you use it lots and then pay it off in BIG CHUNKS so don’t ever ever ever ever fucking do that [that being USE THEM]; road to ruin, obviously). But yeah, coffee aside, the world isn’t a bad place, and I’m not sure it ever really was, not here, not for me. And I may have just applied for a job in London, but if I go there then here will be there and me will still be me.
Talking to John Sealey and Bridget yesterday about the imminent arrival of the iPod, and John elicited panic in himself lest his PC should ever totally crash, lest the music ever all be wiped out (he’s a DJ so obviously vinyl is his preferred medium, but he’s a fan of digital too). It’d be all too easy to lose your PC’s hard disk, to drop your iPod and see it disintegrate on frozen ground. But it would be near-as-damnit as easy to have your record collection nicked or burnt to cinders or soaked in vagrant’s piss or scratched to shit by spurned lovers or lost in transit (Lost In Translation being a film I very much enjoyed on Monday night) when moving or whatever. I like to think that were any of these things to befall me I’d say “fuck it” and take up fishing, buy 12 CDs a year, start writing about trout coursing instead, and be done with the whole kit and kaboodle and nonsense of this music fan lark. It’s just what I do now, it’s not me. You couldn’t replace them all; and if you could, what would be the point? Why go back? Why not use it as an excuse to do summat else? Says the man who has a database of his record collection… Just in case. I’d need to get money for bait and tackle from somewhere.
But yeah, no more coffee. Good man. It’s nice to be awake.
1/22/2004 12:02:00 am
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The Increasing(ly beautiful) Insanity Of The Outside World
Some time ago I made reference on here to the fact that I use a Moleskine notebook, the type favoured by Henry VIII and Hemmingway and Attila The Hun amongst various other note-taking luminaries; I can't remember precisely when, but it was probably about 6 months ago, if not more. Now these notebooks are delicious: , and I always wish I could find excuse to use it more, but my faintly forgetful demeanour and, frankly, fucking illegible handwriting (here is said handwriting in said notebook - - see?) means that I tend to forget. I've considered buying one of those palm computers, but can't see the point. There's something so much nicer about the Moleskine, even if I have had it two years and only managed to 1/3 fill it.
This morning I received an email asking me if I wanted to visit the , entirely due to this incidental reference I made to having one of these. This is fascinating on two counts; one, that the internet is that mad a place that these people have tracked me down, and two; that these notebooks are quite so interesting and loaded with historical essence.
The collective memory of Moleskine notebooks must be incredible...
1/21/2004 09:41:00 am
Friday, January 16, 2004
"That sounds awful!"
"It's the Marx Brothers."
"Oh, that's alright then."
1/16/2004 11:31:00 am
This weekend I shall revisit The Matrix Reloaded and see if they actually make more of the Nietzschean 'eternal recurrence' thing than they seemed. And also to see how loud the explosions are on my new TV/DVD player/hi-fi rig.
1/16/2004 11:31:00 am
"Sartre once said that he never felt a day of real dread in his life." I guess it's quite pathetic that the opening ten minutes of Waking Life says all I've ever wanted to say about existentialism, but it's true. "Real people making real decisions and communicating..."
1/16/2004 11:27:00 am
Look Left, And Down
James has updated. Huzzah! I was worrying that the Triads had eaten him. More, James, more, damn you, of you're adventures in the land of the rising noodle. It's so much more interesting than Momus.
Also please to be bringing me back muchos Cornelius and Boredoms CDs...
1/16/2004 11:26:00 am
The iPod is being engraved as we speak. Should arrive later next week.
1/16/2004 11:24:00 am
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
If anyone wants to buy me an iPod, they're offering free laser engraving at the moment, so, you know, a 15gig model that says 'Auspicious Fish' would be nice. Go on, you'd love to...
1/13/2004 09:13:00 am
Monday, January 12, 2004
Primarily I think I listen to music in a very childlike way. A lot of the pleasure I get is very directly sensual; it's one of my favourite things to lay on my futon/sofa/chair thing and just have sweet sounds wash over me as I relax to the point of near oblivion. Just now I was listening to Plaid, supine on the futon, the room dimly lit by an illuminated globe and a strange, tubular glitter light, and I was as absent as the space between the spokes of a wheel, as the diastole between heartbeats, and it was wonderful.
1/12/2004 10:48:00 pm
Sunday, January 11, 2004
It's worth wading through derivative tripe like Earthphish and high-octane bubblegum like Busted, because every so often you come across something like The Necks.
1/11/2004 05:01:00 pm
Saturday, January 10, 2004
Next Year's Best This Year's Jam From Last Year (Last Year's Edition)
Justified and Dutty Rock were both given the plaudits they deserve, both throughout the course of the year generally and also through being included in various 2003 'best of' lists, despite being released in 2002; but an album that should also have had people scrabbling to get it remembered at the denoument of the cycle, and which seemed to be either purposefully or accidentally ignored/overlooked is Stripped.
Aguilera's behemothic trip through the pop landscape takes in hip hop, power ballads, filthy shagrock, funky techpop, clumsy drum'n'bass, overwrought dramatics, overt sexuality, pointless interludes, incongruous guest spots and just about everything else you can imagine. It's at least the equal of Justified in terms of quality (if not style - Xtina regularly chooses full-on histrionics and melodrama over cool-quotient image-manipulation [i.e. no Neptunes or Timbaland here to make her look relaxed and credible]), with at least as many hits (which cover more bases), and it continues to sell by the bucketload; so why's it not been as inspiring of critical laudation?
And to actually engage with the header for a second - what's gonna be this year's Best This Year's Jam From Last Year? I suspect Busted at the moment, with a few appearances from Kelis perhaps...
1/10/2004 09:17:00 am
Friday, January 09, 2004
Bear Gets Electric Shock (or something)
1/09/2004 11:13:00 pm
I've just had a five-hour struggle to remember one word which I absolutely needed in order to complete a Perfect Moments In Pop article for Stylus. The word in question? Subversive. I think I may be suffering from dementia.
1/09/2004 01:58:00 pm
iTunes has picked two Britney tunes from her new album this morning, first "Toxic" and just now "Breathe On Me". Immediately after "Breathe On Me" though it's selected "Soar" by Xtina. It can't know, can it?!
1/09/2004 10:40:00 am
I just had two Dave Douglas albums arrive after ordering them from the HMV website (who seem to be ridiculously fast in terms of getting stuff out - I ordered Scott Walker's Tilt from there at about 3pm one afternoon last year, and it arrived the following morning), and the packaging on these albums (Songs For Wandering Souls and Charms Of The Night Sky) is absolutely exquisite. They're 'Artist Editions' from Winter & Winter, heavy and tactile and lovingly put together. But the thing that's really intrigued me is the inclusion in the Jiffy Bag, by HMV presumably, of a leaflet/piece of bumf advertising downloadable mobile phone ringtones and games - last week I received a couple of Plaid albums from HMV and those didn't have these leaflets in; are we therefore to assume that jazz fans are more likely to download mobile ringtones than electronica fans?
1/09/2004 10:15:00 am
Thursday, January 08, 2004
A list alone is useless. A shopping list with no recipe is just a bunch of food; what use is it to anybody except the person who wrote it? Little. Likewise a string of record titles; why these, what are they, why should I care, what should I do with them?
And to order a list... To have to choose 10 from 100, or 100 from 1,000, is already an arbitrary process. To then force them into a heirarchy of your making, ordered by your fallible mind and emotional memory... The purpose of a list is to try and attain a degree of permanancy and stability, of authority, that is just not real, that cannot be found, and what's more is not worthwhile. Doubly so if the list has no substance beyond the names of things. Any given list is only as final as the moment in which it is created, and the past is never final because it is the past, and were it final there would be no now.
I've had to concoct a list for something, a list of 100 albums which I love beyond others. Of course I cannot do it. Walking along the beach on Sunday I was stricken by the ridiculousness of one small choice, and I felt compelled to repeal it. One choice! One of a hundred of more than a thousand... A thousand? How many thousands? I don't know. I don't know. A couple of weeks past I posted a list of almost-theres. To exclude any of those is ridiculous. To exclude the unheard melodies too is also ridiculous. Heard melodies are sweet, and all, but those unheard...
And so here is the first part of the list, given some form of context, some brief, useless illusion. They are unnumbered and escaped from the order that I was obliged to force them into for their primary purpose. In a week or two I shall add the other fifty, and then later in the year I shall undertake the same exercise, only with individual songs rather than albums (why privilige one over the other, in this day and age?).
1/08/2004 11:56:00 pm
100 Records In 100 Sentences; Part 1a - 50 Albums
The Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
The only ‘punk’ record I can really care for because the situationism and rage were tied to space and context; heartbreak never is.
Susumu Yokota – Sakura
Space, at last.
Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
In which a real human being reaches the bottom of the well and then slowly begins to emerge, battered, timid, but unbeaten and unbowed.
Dave Douglas – Charms Of The Night Sky
Some kind of Sunday-morning dream, peacefully strange; accordion, acoustic bass, violin, trumpet and plenty of time.
Specials - Specials
I would dance in a club like this, piss-flavoured beer or not; Hall and Dammers heroes through and through.
Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
Because “Keep The Customer Satisfied” rocks harder and says more about the working grind than The Sex Pistols ever did.
Morphine – Cure For Pain
Bass, drums, saxophone, voice; so simple.
PJ Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
Redemption of a kind, a city and a woman ablaze with something approaching love and freedom.
Scott Walker - Tilt
The disintegration of a voice, insects scratching at your cerebellum, an unrecognisable darkness that still maintains its grandeur and wealth, eating the factory-farm.
Wire – Chairs Missing
Men become insects, guitars become synthesisers, 9-5 becomes unbearable, angled like scaffolding tilted away from the sun, sweating and muttering under breath.
Cornelius - Fantasma
Reflecting and refracting ourselves back at us through a thousand fairground mirrors, not understanding the jokes but laughing anyway and enjoying it all the more.
Genius/Gza – Liquid Swords
Fearless and proud and more given to fierce intelligence and fantastical midnight flights than the others.
Talking Heads – Remain In Light
Not drowning but waving!
Primal Scream - Screamadelica
Passed now into nostalgia territory, but ten years ago this was the future.
Bark Psychosis - Independency
Only little broken things, but how beautiful, how awesome, how locked into the future.
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
New York wakes up, and the rest of the world follows, unevenly.
Massive Attack – Protection
A thousand hours lost to a sofa in soporific idleness, even The Doors can’t (quite) spoil it.
The Pixies – Surfer Rosa
It’s (still) like being punched in the face – I fully intend, if I ever have a son, to sit him down on his thirteenth birthday and play him this.
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
In a lucid dream you cannot adjust light levels or read digital displays; Liz Fraser doesn’t even need words to take you there.
Plaid – Double Figure
An actual (microcosmic) epic, a street map, a city inside your motherboard, a dozen ways or more to travel; “Squance”!
Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life
A record absolutely bursting with love and positivism through every second, every note, every utterance.
Charles Mingus – Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus
In which Charles takes his own essence and replays it, better than before, with a bigger, bolder swing.
Pulp – Different Class
The coach on the back cover is from the town I went to school in and the band come from the same city as my family; details like this are important.
Various Artists – The Stax Story
Almost a hundred different ways to be brilliant.
Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis
Poor Dusty, distracted by sex and confused by love, holding the most sensual voice of all in her hands but having no one to sing to, no one to listen, not really.
Brian Eno – Another Green World
The silliest little pop songs and the most beautiful passings of sound, shuffled together so they make sense.
Four Tet - Pause
The outside world inside, painted with the finest stolen brush, which no longer holds a point.
Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul
“Walk On By” is stretched to twelve amazing, psychedelic-soul minutes, and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” includes a 9-minute spoken-word preamble; how can this not be outstanding when I’m left rolling on the floor each time I listen to it?
Jeff Buckley - Grace
If for nothing else than the first 45 seconds, and the moment when, pleading to be kissed into stupor, Jeff falls away entirely in “Last Goodbye”.
De La Soul – 3ft High & Rising
Ten years old; sixteen years old; twenty-four years old; it still delights, and “Eye Know” is still perfect.
Charles Mingus – The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady
Walking through a beguiling dream of someone glimpsed, so many voices all describing the same feeling, the same person, but from different times.
Can – Ege Bamyasi
Aliens making pop music, and making it better and weirder and longer than anyone else (except four Germans and a Japanese busker).
The Verve – A Northern Soul
I ran out to buy red jeans, but, finding none, settled for a red jacket instead.
Orbital – In Sides
I skipped school to listen to it and had my perspective on music, on life, vibrantly changed.
Talk Talk – Laughing Stock
Too much, too far, too sparse, like listening in on something you shouldn’t; and then there is “New Grass” and it makes sense.
Talk Talk – Spirit Of Eden
The sigh of all time, but not just that; the balm and, more importantly, the tumult.
Orbital – “Brown”
Lost in the dancefloor, after the dancefloor, never been to the dancefloor, doesn’t matter; this is extraordinary and has been with me since I was 16.
Spiritualized – Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Begged from my brother the day before release (he worked for the distribution company and had a dozen copies in the boot of his car) and listened to prone on the bedroom floor before I ran off to play football; I didn’t utter a single word for the duration of the
kickabout match, which is unusual for me…
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Laying in bed as a ten-year old, hearing this tumble from my eldest brother’s bedroom, and I hated it; I’ve listened to and enjoyed it more than anything else in the years since though.
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92
The chocolate factory reborn as a disquieting daydream, childhood scares almost come back behind you.
Miles Davis – In A Silent Way
The sea from Tarkovski’s Solaris made into sound three years earlier, awakening quiet dreams and giving them substance.
Bark Psychosis - Hex
Not just urban or suburban, Hex is evocative of everything, every crepuscular glimmer and downward glance, rendered in smoke.
Primal Scream – XTRMNTR
The 21st century starts with a steel riot, burnt metal and German rhythms and laughable Scottish 40-somethings posing like teenagers.
Michael Head & The Strands – The Magical World Of The Strands
Some scouse smackhead’s strange folk dream of boats leaving port and trees waving upside-down, elementally beautiful.
The Clash – London Calling
Aged 19 and laid-up with chickenpox, this was all I could stand to listen to (very quietly through headphones); it’s all about the trumpets, and the bass, and the drums, and digging a ditch.
Tricky - Maxinquaye
Caught in a web but the spider is dead, forgotten sex and remembered emptiness.
Teenage Fanclub – Grand Prix
Three different ways to love and all of them charmed, sweet and harmonious; bought on a whim on a Christmas Eve and cherished ever since, an accidental favourite.
Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Snotty BBC presenter: “Hammersmith Odeon? Are you ready for the Def Jam tour?!” and Hammersmith Odeon is not; the world is not.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
I’ve never been to New York, but I want to.
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
Simply swoonsome; there is little more to say that hasn’t already been uttered better elsewhere, by people who know what they’re talking about; it sounds exactly as the cover looks, and that is all I have to offer.
1/08/2004 11:39:00 pm
After I screamed in utter frustration at Sara Cox's fuckheadedness, I switched to Radio Two. And what was just starting? Fucking Gary Jules doing fucking "Mad World". I'm sure the success of this song is down to some kind of conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to try and make us all think we're depressed so they can dose everyone rather than just most people. Being depressed isn't good. Don't romanticise it.
1/08/2004 08:48:00 pm
This morning I awoke at 5.30 with pretty awful back pain, which has been a trend since before Xmas; go to bed whenever, feeling fine, and awake 6 hours later with horrible muscular pains down the right-side of my back. Get up, shower, etcetera, and feel fine after a couple of hours. My back had been better since Saturday or so, so this was a bad start to the day.
Then my train was cancelled. So I had to drive, which I hate, because Exeter is a bitch of a city to get into in the mornings (it’s one of the five most polluted places in the UK, I believe, because of the traffic concentration). Then when I get into work there’s another fucking new pile of acquisitions for me to deal with, when the lot that arrived while I was on holiday over Xmas hadn’t even been halved yet. It was not a good morning.
So then I’m driving home, and I’ve worked through lunchtime so I can leave early and go to Sainsburys to buy something to chuck in a saucepan with the chorizo that Billy brought me back from Spain, and still avoid the rush hour. What happens? Sara fucking Cox. Oh bloody hell. Oh bloody, bloody hell. RadioOne have lost a million listeners between Cox and Moyles over the last 18 months. And do you know why? Because they’re both cunts. Uergh.
It appears to be Cox’s schtick that she’s not only had a talent and charisma bypass, but a fucking sincerity bypass too. It’s obviously considered amusing that she says every other sentence in the most false and annoying and flatulently obsequious patronising kiddies voice imaginable but it fucking isn’t, not if you’ve got a fucking brain. People don’t like being treated like idiots by idiots, which is why they’ve been switching off their radios.
1/08/2004 08:38:00 pm
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
I Wonder Should I Get Up, And Fix Myself A Drink?
I'm intrigued by Shattered (although not enough to find out when it's on and watch it). The idea of being bored to sleep by a group of people desperate to stay awake is somehow beautiful. Maybe on Friday, when the participants will possibly be experiencing 'dream-intrusion' into their waking-state, it might be really worth watching.
1/07/2004 03:06:00 pm
Marcello has informed me that Via Chicago's header is a Nick Hornby quote. Oh bloody hell. Oh bloody, bloody hell.
This is the existential thing in a nutshell; don't let any other fucker tell you who you are. Least of all a dull idiot like Hornby.
1/07/2004 01:57:00 pm
Disappearing Acts / Sabbaticals
Two totally unrelated things. Firstly this, the tragic and strange story of a doctor who vanished from work six months ago, and who's body was discovered in the Lake District yesterday. Nobody knows why or how he vanished. All that is known is that he parked his car as normal, put his jacket over the back of his chair, and then disappeared. I remember hearing an urban myth about someone who 'disappeared' from Newcastle to Middlesborough and wasn't seen or heard of by his family for twenty years, despite extensive searching on their behalf. 30 miles for a new life?
I've always been intrigued by the idea of people just dropping things and leaving, and the more they 'drop' the more fascinated I become. The interest is increased in cases where the disappeared seems to have no reason for undertaking such drastic action; for example I'm not interested in Richey Manic's tragic flee from modern life, or whatever it was.
Obviously disappearing, like suicide, is an intensely self-centered act, emotionally damaging for anyone close to the disappeared by giving rise to guilt/doubt etcetera, not to mention the intense pain of speculation, of simply not knowing what has become of someone you loved. But at the same time I see the decision, especially the apros of nothing decision, to leave behind your life completely and utterly, almost as an an ultimate affirmation of the realisation of the existential self, the discovery that one can do anything, that one needn't be tied to place or object or even people. How powerful you must become if you realise, fearlessly, that wherever you go you will encounter people you can get along with, find a job of work that you can do in order to sustain yourself, find a new circus game to distract and entertain you? (I hesitated to use the word 'powerful' as I'm not normally concerned by it, but I really couldn't think of another, better alternative, and a synonym for 'powerful' would have been a cop-out.)
I guess this almost ties in with the whole idea/myth of the wanderer/ranger/drifter type person who is never anything more than a fleeting moment in people's lives, but it's not the same, because the wanderer is always object rather than subject; you (or one) is never a wanderer; it is always someone else, and the idea of the existential (wo)man realising his/her capability of upping sticks and leaving with nary a goodbye is a very much more personal thing. Or at least it is for me. To the family of the doctor above, and, I guess, of anyone else who has ever vanished mysteriously, the disappeared is always other.
Search; Grosse Point Blank.
The second thing is related, in a way, and is a simple question. What the fuck did Terence Mallick do between 1978 (and Days Of Heaven) and 1998 (The Thin Red Line)?!
1/07/2004 01:54:00 pm
I Am Human And I Need To Be Loved
Via Chicago's description reads thus;
What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?
Simple solution. Stop listening to music that makes you feel miserable. No one needs to feel miserable, and the fact that some people (I'm not saying Mr Via Chicago is or does) almost approach life as if they're obligated to be dour or melancholy (which is not the same as depressed where depressed = a clinical condition) frankly a; mystifies me and b; pisses me off slightly. Why? Because I used to feel obligated to be melancholy and now I do not, possibly.
Sub-question; are the makers of melancholy music necessarily melancholy themselves? I doubt that Jeff Tweedy spends that much of his time crying into his bourbon.
1/07/2004 10:29:00 am
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Michael Jackson & The Nation Of Islam
There's an article in The Grauniad today entitled summat like "Is Michael Jackson turning black again?" (cos obviously he's already turned black once, wtf?). And this and that and the other and the Nation Of Islam gathers round black celebrities in times of trouble (OJ Simpson, Puff Daddy, Muhammed Ali etcetera [R Kelly?]), and they need Jacko as much as he needs them and they've taken over his business affairs and they're much less anti-white than they used to be (and they have white supporters at rallies now) and they've embraced some cultural/ethnic/social groups they at first shunned, blah blah blah all quite informative, but back in November I wrote this line in a Britney Spears review; how come Britney got to be a little gurl fantasy and Beyonce didn’t? Paedophiles are all white, yeah? and it was, at the time, a pretty throwaway observation. But I can't help but feel that now Jackson has been accused of a crime that is perceived as a 'white' crime (and more specifically European - the Greeks were at it long before N4MBLA) he is feeling a need to remind people of his (ex?)race as if this will somehow make him innocent by association? He wasn't so interested in the Nation Of Islam when he was having his lips thinned and nose narrowed, and they were equally not so interested in him. So what have they got to get out of it now? Is it purely a sense of solidarity? Is what Jacko has been accused of equivalent to what R Kelly was accused of? Taking sides; 15-year-old girls vs 13-year-old boys? Where does the question of age end and the question of sexuality begin? Where do RuPaul and Dennis Rodman fit into the equation? Had Michael Jackson effectively removed his race from his persona?
I realise I'm raising a lot of semi-dangerous questions here, but this whole affair has had me thinking, and I need to ask them.
1/06/2004 04:37:00 pm
Monday, January 05, 2004
Rock n Roll
1/05/2004 01:31:00 pm
Dub Plate Style?
Jess and I have a kind of love/hate relationship which is perhaps founded on the fact that we're probably very similar as people. He's made his antipathy for Outkast, and particularly "Hey Ya", explicit on numerous occasions over the last few months, and this recent entry at his blog points towards it being a philosophical as much as a aesthetic or visceral reaction to said tune. If it were anyone else I'd have a go; but I can understand where Jess is coming from perfectly, even if I don't agree.
If I ever get to the US we'll have to go for a beer together, Mr Harvell.
1/05/2004 10:43:00 am
The question is how much is Britney going to have pissed off the Xtian right establishment by not recognising the sanctitiy of marriage? How much of her already-dwindling fanbase is going to vanish? Is the poor girl in some kind of personal/career crisis? It would certainly seem so; from weeping over Justin on national television, to being usurped by him in the charts (and usurped by Cameron Diaz [amongst others?] in his bed), things are not looking good for the Princess of Pop. Last time I checked In The Zone was languishing at about number 70 in the albums chart. Allegedly Ms. Spears wasn't drunk when she sashayed down the ailse in jeans and a trucker-cap either. I'm not sure what that says about the whole deal, and, by extension, her mental/emotional health.
1/05/2004 10:02:00 am
Saturday, January 03, 2004
A [Virtual] Zen garden
1/03/2004 01:55:00 pm
And if you didn't already know or realise, yes I am pissing my pants with excitement at the prospect.
1/03/2004 10:41:00 am
Codename: Dustsucker is doing the rounds on SoulSeek. It's not, I repeat not, the actual album though. Rather it's the four tracks which leaked at some point last year ("Burning The City", "400 Winters", "Miss Abuse" and "Inqb8tr") interspersed with three old and relatively rare Bark Psychosis tracks ("Tooled Up", "Reserve Shot Gunman" and a remix of "Big Shot"), plus "Lazarus" from Graham Sutton's Boymerang project. I assume that someone desperate to flesh-out the real C:DS tracks into something approaching a full-length craftily burned themselves a CD of these 8 tracks and then stuck it on SLSK. For about ten seconds I was worried that Graham had only managed 4 new songs in ten years...
Two other official titles for material on C:DS are "Shapeshifting" and "Rose", and the album is due in march on Fire Records.
1/03/2004 10:40:00 am
Friday, January 02, 2004
A hundred records in a hundred sentences (part one, albums). 22 down, 78 to go.
1/02/2004 08:09:00 pm
Why is there such a huge disparity between most albums and singles lists I've come across for 2003? Singles = Beyonce, Sean Paul, Justin, Outkast, etcetera; i.e. oodles of hook-laden ultra-modern hip pop. Albums = The Rapture, Songs:Ohia, White Stripes, Strokes, etcetera; i.e. oodles of dirty rockist shite. ¿Que?
1/02/2004 03:04:00 pm
I Am Sitting Comfortably
My new futon/chair/thing has arrived. It is very comfortable and is positioned directly facing my widescreen TV and hi-fi in my living room. Henceforth I may just vanish for a little while...
1/02/2004 11:43:00 am
David Sneddon 'retired' from the music business because "the charts are full of crap". Yes, thank you. What's next? Laurent Robert retires from football because premiership teams are consistently let down by inconsistent workshy foreigners who manage their careers based on 15-minutes of absolute genius each season? Sneddon is now apparently going to concetrate on writing songs for other people. Pussy.
1/02/2004 10:16:00 am
In Authenti City
Increasingly it seems as though Mark Beaumont’s witlessly hyperbolic prose is the guiding voice of the NME. I guess this has something to do with him being head staff writer. Oh god. He came out of fanzine-land, didn’t he? No wonder every piece of two-bit garage rock he reviews bleeds with the holy ghost of rock n roll or sets fire to your cerebral cortex with white-hot guitar lines from the dusty basin of inbred Texas or shags your brain, smokes your fags, steals your soul and upsets your mother or lights up the night sky with incandescent psych-rock frenzy and terrifies old ladies with rabid wolf-howls or some such utter titwitch nonsense. I wonder just how much influence he has had over NME’s current utter terror of anything slightly technological or rhythmic?
Earlier tonight I listened to Odeley for probably the first time in three years. It was never a favourite of mine, probably more because of my slight distaste for Beck than anything to do with the actual record itself, but even I can’t deny that it’s a bloody fine record. Not experimental but… There’s a distracted sense of fun and exploration which is what I assume was mistaken for postmodernism by so many commentators back in 96; not at all avant-garde except in the narrow context of Oasis’ success over the previous 18 months, but idiosyncratic, explicitly contemporary and knowingly pilfering (stealing not just the beats of hip hop, the riffs of funk, the producers of Paul’s Boutique, the authenticity of country [a long-term quest of Beck’s, authenticity – a point which will be addressed later], the [illusion of] nihilism from grunge, but everything from everyone because A; it has no identity of its own, and B; for the next three or four years it would steal the credit from anyone who did anything even remotely similar). In 1996 it was NME’s album of the year (DJ Shadow being second and Orbital being third [what the fuck?! how did this ever happen?!]), following Tricky’s epochal Maxinquaye which claimed the top spot in 1995. And now, in 2003, we get Elephant…
Dan Emerson told me he suspects that Jack White isn’t so much obsessed with the blues because he loves the blues, identifies with its emotional clout, feels the struggle of the wronged black man, or whatever, but because he sees it as a signifier for the authentic.
The White Stripes' take on the blues and such isn't self-expression at all. [Jack White] is a man who doesn't love the music he claims to in any meaningful way; it's possession, not love. He's interested in authenticity and self-expression; but has decided that only certain forms of music are capable of facilitating it. So he's moved beyond liking music because it's real and genuine, to liking certain types of music that he identifies with these characteristics. And then he goes further, and creates music of this sort, because he reasons that this is Good Music; and what he creates has nothing to do with who he is, only to do with imitating a twice-removed facsimile of authenticity.
To be honest I’ve never given The White Stripes much thought (I don’t like them on a basic, musical level and that was [almost] enough) but I agree wholeheartedly. I see Beck in a similar light; with Odelay and his earlier material he appropriated the aesthetic of country music, the white-man’s blues, a short-cut to authenticity, but as soon as his evasive lyrics and too-ostentatious showmanship had him labelled a postmodern pastiche-merchant he had to flee. First away from the samples and referentialism and to the acoustic pastures of Mutations, and then to the perceived honesty and authenticity of swing, soul and funk with Midnite Vultures. Interviews around this time were conspicuously full of quotes about how Prince or LL Cool J or R Kelly were authentic in their brazen sexual and emotional honesty or something, as if saying you wanted to have sex with a girl all night long was the height of profound honesty (I’m not saying it necessarily isn’t), and thus Beck embraced the aesthetic of Prince (& co.) with open arms, cultivating a falsetto and lascivious (and ludicrous) lyrical motifs. Tellingly, Midnite Vultures bombed amongst the NME-crowd, where (actual real) sex is feared (how did Maxinquaye rank so highly?) and emotional honesty is perceived as equalling Starsailor’s histrionic and selfish high-end neediness, or Coldplay’s sappy, apologetic and virginal Hallmark schoolboy romance. It’s no stretch to see Jack White (who was dumped by Renee Zellweger because she realised she was seeing “a music nerd and not a rock star”) and Beck as being cut from the same cloth if you think laterally about the ontological arrival at their chosen musics rather than literally about the aesthetics.
So why is NME now so enamoured of Jack White’s bassless authenticity circus? How have they moved from Maxinquaye and Odelay to a two-piece historical review obsessed with using only vintage equipment, with having no bass, with sounding (and looking) as if they’ve been in a Blue Peter-esque time capsule. How has the alternative mainstream shifted so much in 7 years that we’re now seeing The Strokes, The Libertines, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and so on being praised where previously it was Radiohead, Chemical Brothers, Orbital, Massive Attack? Is an increasing proliferation of massively technologically innovative and accomplished music in the mainstream leading to the alternative mainstream's fearful and reactionary crawl back into a technological dark age? Possibly. Is this the whole ‘fear of the center of the body’ thing again? Drum n bass made it explicit that the bassline is the key rhythmic force when it comes to dancing because you simply couldn’t move in time to percussion that frenetic, so the answer for people ‘afraid’ of their bodies, and thus dancing, is to remove the bass completely. Thus Jack White, subconsciously eradicating the ‘inauthentic’ impulse to dance by removing the bass?
Authenticity as is understood in musical terms and circles (and I’m not talking Simon Reynolds, Dave Stelfox, Sasha Frere-Jones etcetera, but rather how the topic is so often broached in mainstream media and cultural contexts, because ultimately that’s where the average person-in-the-street gleans much of their cultural critique from) is fast becoming the absolute fucking bane of my critical life. I have mentioned Hediegger’s definition of the authentic many times before on AusPishFish and don’t want to have to go into it again, but it is the only one that actually makes any sense or has any qualifiable basis or flexibility. How is someone writing their own songs more authentic? How is someone avoiding using any equipment made after 1969 more authentic? How is ‘manufactured pop’ inauthentic when all and sundry can see every nut and bolt of the process of construction, when everyone involved is hyper-aware of what they’re doing? How is a love song more authentic than a lust-song? Why is slow and acoustic more authentic than fast and digital?
I can’t even think anymore right now. All I know is I don’t like The White Stripes and I’d quite like to shoot Mark Beaumont.
1/02/2004 01:53:00 am
I'm listening to the wrong radio station...
Once again some brainless fuckwads are bemoaning the current state of music on FiveLive, claiming that nothing new has happened in music since 'dance', that there is no one around making music that is different (apart from, it seems, The Darkness, for the love of god). Well of course if you're talking about bloody Katie Melua then you're going to be disappointed. Now someone (Miranda Sawyer?) is talking up Poptones and The Glitterati (who are of course fuck awful). You're all thirty-fucking-three for heaven's sake - pop music isn't for you anymore, rock music may be but no one else is interested. Whinge whinge whinge. The Darkness and The Glitterati are at least showmen, which is something...
"They're repeating the Woodstock movie on one of the Sky channels, and it reminds you of how good music used to be..." says some American guy. Short-sighted, selfish, whinging little asshole.
Now at last Missy and Xtina and Justin and some other people get namechecked in a positive light (by Miss Sawyer, if it is indeed her). And here comes the Beyonce mention - the words "Crazy In Love" are barely mentioned before some flatulent fool opens their mouth and says "record of the year..." as if there is no debate about it, as if it's objective fact. And you know, it's a good record, but this type of discussion of music always assumes that consensus is science, that there's no room for manouvre. So what's the point in even talking about it like this? No one's going to change their mind.
1/02/2004 12:02:00 am
Thursday, January 01, 2004
This Is Not A Test!
Miss E… So Addictive, spearheaded by the epochal “Get Ur Freak On”, marked a zenith for Missy Elliott and her long-term conspirator Tim Mosley, as they presented a panoply of liquid-digital Asiatic acid-hop that saw good on their early promise to revolutionise the face of hip hop and, necessarily therefore, popular music as a whole. Inside a year they’d topped “Get Ur Freak On” with the ubiquitous backwards-twisting club-sexuality of “Work It”, which in turn heralded Under Construction, a thoroughly futurist history lesson that melded back-in-the-day-jams to Timbaland’s exquisite pointillist electronic production and Missy’s typically wild infectious idiosyncrasy. Another year on and another revolution comes surging from the factory, yeah?
Much is made of Timbaland’s undoubted skill as a producer, in fact so much is made of it that he seems to overshadow and obscure the artists he works with these days. One listen to the lacklustre new Timbaland & Magoo album reveals that he does his best work when teamed in symbiosis with a strong personality though. The exceptional “Cry Me A River”, for example, is as much about Justin’s teary-eyed lost-loverboy performance as it is Tim’s string-laden cybernetic-clone-choir making with the stereophonic beatbox. Likewise Bubba Sparxxx’s schizophrenically spiralling “Ugly” relies as much on Bubba’s own character and delivery as the extravagant sonics. In an era shaped by Tim’s own vision when every two-bit hip-pop chancer is ripping off his sound, Missy Elliott is the strongest of the strong personalities he chooses to work with, and therefore his best weapon for staying ahead of the game.
Not that the game is just about maintaining the avante garde frontline. This Is Not A Test! is less about turning hip hop on its head again than it is about Missy just doing her thing, and doing it and doing it and doing it well. Lead single “Pass That Dutch” may feature the kind of handclaps that made Lumidee so irresistible all summer, and revel in the kind of aural frippery that finds psychedelic rhythm in the neighing of horses, amongst other things, but it’s Missy’s personality that drags the track into the stratosphere, her lubescent and laconic sensimilia slur inviting all and sundry to partake in the song’s titular activity. On “Wake Up” the beatscape is so minimal that attention must focus on Missy and Jay Z, who here finds time out from his busy schedule (too busy, judging by how tired he sounds on The Black Album) to rhyme “rectum” with “David Beckham”, proving that England’s pony-tailed golden boy of soccer is now as just as global as his beloved hip hop.
If Under Construction occasionally wallowed in the mire of earnest spoken-word preaching and madness-sapping nostalgia (madness being a key component of Missy’s charm) then This Is Not A Test! evens things up some. There may be nothing as world-straddlingly crazy-brilliant as “Get Ur Freak On” or “Work It”, but moments like “Ragtime Interlude”, “Fix My Weave”, “Toys” and “Let It Bump” show-off the playful side of Missy brilliantly. The Elephant Man-starring “Keep It Movin’” brings forth the club-queen for a slice of awesome dancehall/block party fusion that’s destined to shake booties like nothing else over the coming months. There’s also time for yet more hip hop historiography, as LL Cool J, Salt ‘n Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Prince and a host of others are all referenced in one way or another over the course of the album.
One of the things that Timbaland’s lusciously detailed production does is to regress the listener to a pre-adolescent state of infant sensuality, where every minute electronic detail is a gasp-inducing joy. The palpable pleasure with which he plays around with rhythmic patterns and sources, creating a world in which anything from a human voice to digital interference to traditional handclaps or drums can form the ever-shifting (layers of) beat(s), simply adds to the effect. When paired with Missy’s wantonly lascivious delivery and interplay with her vocal partners (Nelly hollering the ludicrously brilliant phrase “go-go gadget dick!” at one point), the sensuality of Timbaland’s palette is enhanced tenfold, the listener no longer regressed to an infant sensuality but rather stripped of the hang-ups that impair an adult’s ability to free the body from the constraints of the mind. Its yet another example of why the two work so well together.
This Is Not A Test! is easily the most sexually direct and fun record since, ooh, The Love Below, but the social and spiritual conscious of tracks like “Wake Up” and “I’m Not Perfect” prove that there’s a lot more than just libido guiding Missy’s muse. She’s done it again, and the fact that we’re not surprised shows just how valuable and talented she is.
1/01/2004 04:41:00 pm
I’m finding myself in a strange position lately; listening to, and falling in love with, more and more jazz, but not really having the vocabulary or breadth of subject knowledge to express it, to think about the connotations and ontology, to articulate the ideas and feelings it gives rise to in me. Normally when I sit down to review a record and find myself with nothing to write it’s because I’m nonplussed, moved neither back nor forth and left with no wish to say anything. This time it’s because I simply don’t know how to say what I want. I’m not even sure what it is that I do want to say.
I’m of the opinion that Dave Douglas may just be a genius. In ten years he has helmed 20 records and guested on countless others besides, a work-rate that makes Timbaland look like Radiohead. That he has produced albums of the calibre of Songs For Wandering Souls, Constellations, El Trilogy, Charms Of The Night Sky and Soul On Soul within the last decade confirms that he is a master of quality as well as quantity. I wonder if perhaps this eagerness to write, play and record as much and as often as possible would benefit the types of (rock) bands who are content to leave two or even three years between releases in the search for elusive perfection.
Freak In marks a divergence for Douglas, who’s eclectic catalogue and broad influences (from Coltrane to Stravinsky to Stevie Wonder) testify to a career constructed out of divergences and half-opportunities observed and explored. Over the 12 tracks presented here (the last is unlisted, if not uncredited) Douglas incorporates a gentle miasma of electronic backings and booming tablas over which the rest of the group play freely. The keys, loops and electronics provided by Jamie Saft and Ikue Mori are far from tokenistic though, melding wonderfully with Joey Barons drums, Brad Jones’ bass and Karsh Kale’s tablas to provide a level of spacious detail which complements the lyricism of guitarist Marc Ribot, saxophonists Seamus Blake and Chris Speed, and of course Douglas himself. These microcosmic shimmers and luminescent diversions function as observational details, adding layers of empathy to the emotions conjured and trailed by the soloists’ flights. After electronica’s eager appropriation of the humanistic communications and narratives of jazz over the last few years, it’s nice to see the relationship moving beneficially in the opposite direction.
The title track starts with three notes of sea-bed-deep bass and a rumble of tabla before an energetic motif is established and turned over quickly, while “Black Rock Park” melts dissonant guitar and trumpet with a contorted groove that has as much in common with Boredoms as Duke Elington, acres of space opening up your ears to the exhilarating noise that punctures it. “Traveller There Is No Road” reaches rolling dynamic peaks of momentum while “Porto Alegre” sings with a sweet melancholy. “Wild Blue” experiments with spoken word moments and electric interference, but it is “November” which is the centrepiece of the album, an astounding and affecting piece which belies its delicacy and wistfulness with a powerful emotional punch and assured, suggestive sonics and playing. When the drums arrive after 3 minutes the effect is akin to blue skies slowly unfurling from beneath a curtain of clouds. Quite simply it’s about the most beautiful piece of music I’ve heard all year. That it doesn’t overshadow its fellow pieces on Freak In is testament to the sheer quality of the music of Dave Douglas.
1/01/2004 04:40:00 pm
Each year Measure Mag publishes an annual (as in real, paper&ink book type thing) of the 'best independant music journalism' from the previous 12 months. This year's edition will be featuring three reviews by your's truly; M83, Four Tet and Manitoba, all originally published on Stylus. I am, as you can imagine, quite pleased with this, even though all three reviews are basically exactly the same, so people may well end up thinking I'm a one-trick pony. Oh well...
1/01/2004 04:39:00 pm
Many times have I published today? I'm guessing about 60.
1/01/2004 12:54:00 pm
Please don't sue me, Bill Watterson; I love you.
I also think Calvin & Hobbes are quite fitting.
1/01/2004 12:51:00 pm
As I know nothing about html this redesign process may take some time...
1/01/2004 11:40:00 am
Welcome to the All New Auspicious Fish, which is now all pasty and monochrome.
1/01/2004 11:19:00 am
That's like a new dawn, innit? I took it.
1/01/2004 09:05:00 am
1/01/2004 09:04:00 am