Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Things I didn't know there were words for #1: Wyatting

As usual, Wikipedia explains:


Recently the verb "Wyatting", named obviously after Robert Wyatt, appeared in some blogs and music magazines to describe the practice of playing weird tracks on a pub jukebox to annoy the other pub goers. The name was coined by Carl Neville, a 36-year-old English teacher from London, because one of the favourite LPs for this effect is Dondestan.

I have got to try this...

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Star Wars Holiday Special

From wikipedia:

The second musical number is the song "Light the Sky on Fire", performed by Jefferson Starship, which is presented as a 3-D music video watched by one of the Imperial guards

So did the entire world know about this and just decide not to tell me? Bastards, the lot of you. Many thanks to Chicken Yoghurt for finally breaking the silence. To give anyone else who was being kept in the dark an idea of what you've been missing, here are a few comments I made to people on MSN as I was watching:

-a child wookie is watching a small holographic acrobat
-who is, incidentally, green.

-this has taken a dark, dark turn
-a geriatric wookie seems to be watching porn
-or possibly having it beamed directly into his head
-and now its turned into a song

(not me*) -What is this a variety performance or something?!
(me) - its a fucking mess is what it is
(not me) - WTF! I was distracted and now it's turned into a cartoon?!"

*This guy knew about it, but had never watched it. He got sucked in along with me to what must be the greatest example of car-crash TV ever made. Two hours long and terrible from start to finish but at the same time utterly impossible to stop watching. I'm surprised George Lucas has tried to bury it, if anything can make episode 1 look good this is it.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

In Brief

Various things I almost posted about over the last few weeks before deciding I couldn't be arsed:

- The Shred Yr Face tour. 300+ miles travelling to make it to and from the two closest gigs to Brum (Manchester and Leeds) but it had to be done, how often does a tour come along with a decent headliner and two even better support bands, both coming from the U.S. and probably not back any time soon?

- Cloned Mammoths. Fuck yes!

- We are Beautiful, We are Doomed. Ok so its a good album/record/extended EP/bunch of songs/whatever else they want to call it this week and they had to fit in a fancy booklet, bonus DVD, mini poster and badges but did the box have to be quite so big? Surely most people like to keep CDs in some sort of order, which becomes a bit tricky when one of them refuses to fit on the shelf (I couldn't even slide it in above the others, did it really need to be the best part of an inch thick?)

- Jeffrey Lewis. Playing Brum in two days, yay. Got paid yesterday so I can afford to go to Island for post-work/pre-gig half price cocktails. Fuck going home and madly rushing to get back to town before the first band is on (Kategoes apparently on at 7.30, I'd never make it anyway)

- 9 Lessons & Carols for Godless People. Less than a month away! Now its on for 3 nights can I legitimately refer to having 'opening night, front row tickets' like a smug cunt?

- Andrew Gilligan. He appears to have fucked with the wrong blogger.

Friday, 21 November 2008

2008: The Year That Shitgaze Stole My Heart

Seriously: Shitgaze

The sobriquet "shitgaze" is an amalgamation of the name of another indie rock genre, shoegaze, of which shitgaze shares some common elements, and the word "shit", presumably because shitgaze recordings and performances regularly "push the needle in the red", i.e., they stretch the limits of their amplifiers to produce distorted sounds. In, other words, according to San Diego CityBeat, "it sounds shitty"

I already had more than half the albums listed so I ordered Magic Flowers Droned (which is a mess, but in a good way)

Not sure I agree with the name, can't really argue with the shit part but just what "common elements" does it have with shoegaze, except that they've decided to lump A Place To Bury Strangers in there despite them not really fitting. Times New Viking certainly don't deserve that, I was just listening to the Shred Yr Face tour 7" and I'm pretty sure that hidden under an ocean of noise TNV's contribution contains the best pop song of the year.

p.s. Yeah, long gap since the last post, been a bit depressed recently and not felt like it but Milk is Politics and Have You Ever Heard The Lovely Eggs? turned up in the post today and I ended up digging out a few other 7"s I'd bought this year* which has cheered me up enough for long enough to get this far.

*I'd forgotten how good The Boat Song/Temptation single is, David Holmes has some competition for single of the year after all...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Friday, 3 October 2008

South African government finally sees sense

...and appoints a health minister who understands the importance of anti-retroviral drugs. From the FT:

PRETORIA, Oct 2 - South Africa’s new health minister Barbara Hogan vowed on Thursday to make Aids a top priority, after years of controversy over her predecessor’s unconventional support for treatments like beetroot and garlic.

Hogan, whose appointment was welcomed by Aids activists, said she would press for more funds to roll out life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to as many people as possible.

Wonder if she'd consider appointing Ben Goldacre as special advisor with responsibility for kicking Matthias Rath's arse.

[Via The Daily (Maybe)]

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

In the city but not In The City

If this post was enough to cause the organisers of Gigbeth to throw a hissy fit then I may have to go into hiding for what I'm about to say. Inspired by Russ L's post wondering what Gigbeth actually is I realised I had very little idea myself. Having taken a few minutes to look over their website I've come to the conclusion that its one of two things. The cynic in me (which is, lets face it, most of me) struggles to see it as anything other than a media graduate's vanity project designed more to enhance their CV than actually have any impact, but I suppose it could possibly just be the most incompetent attempt to actually start a worthwhile music festival that I could ever have imagined. There are massive problems with every aspect from the initial concept through to the organisation of the event and I now realise why no-one else I know who works outside of the Custard Factory has even heard of it despite this being the third year of the festival.

The most obvious problem is the lineup, there is a complete lack of focus with a few events each from various unrelated genres with not enough of any one type of music to actually attract people to the idea of treating it as a festival and going to several events. I'm sure some of the individual events could attract reasonable crowds (this is being generous, by 'some' I really mean 'three' since other than The Young Knives, Guillemots and Sugarhill Gang there's precious little to attract anyone but hardcore local music fans) but I don't see many people wanting to go to more than one or two things. Of course, this would be near impossible anyway since virtually all the events seem to happen simultaneously with no sign of there being anything happening before 7pm on the Saturday and only the thrilling prospect of two members of the Wonderstuff any earlier on Sunday. Surely one of the main parts of a festival is that you can spend all day watching bands not just go to a normal gig-length event in the evening?

The festival website is also an embarrassment, with links missing all over the place(note how the 'buy tickets' links are all working fine), a blog which redirects you to the main festival site when you try to leave a comment, no detail past a name for most of the events and not even any myspace links for the majority of the bands on the lineup (if they actually get a mention, which quite a lot don't)

Maybe its slightly harsh to compare the event to In The City since Brum is sadly lacking its own Tony Wilson to promote the event but it can't really be helped given that they appear to be attempting to cover the same ground and all I can say is ITC really doesn't need to worry too much about its tagline of "The world's premier new music event" being challenged any time soon. I realise it is far more established but the history page proves it was far superior even in its first year (of course, I can only compare it to this years Gigbeth since there is no mention of the previous events on the Gigbeth site save for some claims that you can watch movies and see photos from them, which I would be very interested to do if only there was an actual link to such a thing)

The waste of potential here is an utter crime, at its basic level a festival based in various locations in Digbeth is a great idea and I sincerely hope Gigbeth will deliver one day, I just wish it could have been this year.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Slow Club - 24/09/08 - Barfly (Dragon bar)

Fuckin quality. Some guy on first who I think was supporting the Wedding Present with a full band, much better tonight without the hideous acoustics of the Barfly's main room working against him/them. Ended up with seven people on stage but still quite a subdued sound, bit of a shame really as it would have been good to hear the full band without the keyboards drowning everything else out. Next up was Little Palm who sounded far too much like Cathy Davey for her own good. Quite pleasant but I spent the whole set waiting for Save Button which clearly wasn't what she was after. Tom something next who didn't quite have enough about him to grab me (I was seriously pissed by this point) and finally Slow Club. Surprisingly big crowd considering how hard it usually is to get Brummies to gigs, shame everyone was just standing there like a corpse. Made little sense to play Me & You and Because We Are Dead so early in the set when they were clearly the best known songs but never mind, the whole thing was glorious and the final song completely acoustic in the middle of the crowd was a truly special moment. Thank fuck I don't have work tomorrow, thanks to staying in town after work and the half price cocktails in Island I can barely see right now.

p.s. Yes, I've only just got back. Yes, I'm still pissed. No, I won't change my mind about this gig tomorrow and I'm slightly disappointed I won't remember more of it. I may however remember the names of the support acts and dig out some links to their myspaces as they were all worth a further look (even the guy I said sod-all about, he didn't do owt for me tonight but I'd listened to him online before and it sounded pretty good)

p.p.s. Rebecca from Slow Club is fucking gorgeous. Fact.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 3)

After another morning of tea and Bad Science I arrived at the comedy stage around the time it was due to open, however it soon became apparent all was not well. James and Sarah were spotted attempting to prise open a side door before coming round to announce to the waiting crowd that there was going to be a slight delay as they couldn't get in the building. It transpired the person with the keys had gone AWOL and in the end there was nearly an hour's delay while they were located. To keep everyone busy Rufus Hound arranged some sort of strange game involving everyone holding hands, which being an unsociable git I studiously avoided. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made, as two biologists suddenly appeared and started talking to Robin Ince, who happened to be standing a few feet away from me at the time. I got brought into the conversation as they were talking about the teaching of science in schools which I'd been chatting to Robin about the night before and suddenly I found myself sat on a bench behind the comedy stage with two real scientists, Robin Ince, Josie Long and Maeve Higgins while Robin recorded us all having a chat about science! I'm pretty sure this must actually have happened as I was stone-cold sober at the time, but it still seems slightly unreal looking back on it. I did not expect that the highlight of the entire festival wouldn't involve a band, but this was it. Having the opportunity to speak to people so enthusiastic about science has made me realise just how much I care about it myself and made me want to somehow get back into studying it, if such a thing is possible after the crap grade I got for my original degree. Whoever had the keys and overslept - I thank you.

Sadly due to the stage being so late opening I had to miss James Dowdeswell to run off to The Wave Pictures, who were in top form and had the massive crowd they deserved rather than the feeble handful at Latitude (being up against Blondie and Grinderman was always gonna hurt). Another bonus of the comedy stage being delayed was that I could get back in time to see Terry Saunders' Figure 8 which I'd been interested in seeing since it was first announced for End of the Road but thought I'd have to miss as it was due to clash with the Wave Pictures. I'd been warned that it might not work particularly well as there was a certain audio/visual element to the show that couldn't be recreated at the festival but nonetheless I really enjoyed it, although I'm not sure how well it went down with those in the audience not appreciating the Elliott Smith references. A brief trip to see Kimya Dawson followed, but it was impossible to get past the very edge of the main stage area so I abandoned this rather swiftly and made my way back to the comedy stage for one final time in order to catch some of Darren Hanlon. I have no idea why a singer/songwriter was on the comedy stage but it suited him well, there were some hilarious stories between the songs, its a shame that with the comedy stage so out of the way not many people had turned up.

With all the comedians I'd been hanging around with (I'm not a stalker, honest, they were just the only people I'd spoken to who I managed to find again at any point) having to run off and get paid I was back on on my own for Billy Childish, who I knew by name but wasn't overly familiar with. It was a decent set and a bit more lively than most of the bands I'd seen but by the end I was slightly bored of hearing songs which could all have been obscure Jam B-sides. It would seem the last 30 years of music have completely passed him by, so it would seem his place as one of the founders of the stuckist art movement was more appropriate than I'd realised. Darren and Jack Play Hefner Songs seemed to go down incredibly well with the rest of the crowd, unfortunately Hefner were a band who largely passed me by so I felt quite out of place surrounded by people who knew every word. It was enjoyable nonetheless and marked the second appearance of the Wave Pictures, with Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm playing bass and drums all through the set and David Tattersall appearing at the end to play some ridiculous dueling solos with the Hefner guys. A third appearance for David was soon to follow during Jeffrey Lewis's set which was one of the best performances of the weekend and also included a brief appearance from John Darnielle singing backing vocals on the Crass song Do They Owe Us a Living? Before The Mountain Goats own set. Both Jeffrey Lewis and The Mountain Goats are bands I desperately need to buy up the back catalogues of, brilliant sets from them and the biggest and most appreciative crowds seen in the big top all weekend. Missed most of Calexico unfortunately but made it along in time for perennial set-closer Crystal Frontier which was a great last(ish) song to hear at the festival.

By this time I'd ended up with all the comedians again and we decided to see what was going down in the woods. Sadly the security started coming round to close the area off at midnight but we weren't giving up quite that easily. We fled into the undergrowth and managed to stay hidden for some time but we couldn't very well just stay crouched down in silence and it would seem we made our move too soon. Before we had a chance to escape security were on us and marching us back to the main arena. After re-grouping it became apparent some people had managed to evade the security guards so it was decided another attempt was in order. With Tom Bell distracting the steward I was able to get into the service road (being the only one of us with a pleb wristband) from where the next attempt was to be made. We managed to locate the box needed to get over the fence but the cursed security were already waiting for us on the far side. They were threatening to throw us out by this point but one more attempt had to be made as we still hadn't managed to meet up with those who had avoided security the first time round. We eventually found our way to them but yet again our adventures were cut short by the damned yellow-jackets. This time they were taking no chances and escorted us the entire way back to the arena. We may not have managed to have a secret party in the woods but the attempt had been one of the most entertaining moments of the weekend and certainly the most surreal. I'd spent quite a long time worrying what going to a festival on my own would be like and I never once considered that I'd spend Sunday night hiding from security guards in the woods with a bunch of comedians who I'd been watching earlier that day, funny that. While my night didn't quite end there this post most definitely has to, nothing of any great interest happened and I've spent more words than I ever thought possible describing the weekend already. It was a truly incredible three days and if I had the money I'd be buying an early bird ticket for next year right now.

Friday, 19 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 2)

For what I'm about to tell you, you will probably hate me forever: I have never suffered from a hangover at a festival. I don't know what it is about sleeping on the ground in a cold tent but I invariably wake up by about 10am feeling refreshed and ready to go, no matter what I've drunk/smoked/snorted/swallowed the night before. Of course, being all on my own this left me with 2 hours hanging around drinking tea and reading Bad Science*, but lets face it there are far worse ways to spend a morning. By midday the sun was shining and it was time for an ice-cream, before the queue got too ridiculous. Yes, this does seem like a particularly minor detail to mention, but it was REALLY good ice-cream - heather honey flavour. Never thought of making honey ice-cream but will definitely be attempting to track down a recipe now.

Onto the bands, starting with three A's: Absentee, The Affection and The Accidental. Sadly the fact they all started with the same letter was the most interesting thing about them for me. I was quite looking forward to the Accidental from listening to their myspace but it just didn't grab me, demonstrated in my original notes by the fact that I spent more lines pointing out how good the music between the bands was than describing all three of the above bands. The next lot were a completely different proposition - Screaming Tea Party were easily the loudest band I saw all weekend and just what I needed to cheer me up after all the A's.
The weekend's first dilemma of any note was whether to bother watching Noah and the Whale or go to the comedy stage early to make sure I had a decent place for Robin Ince. Thinking back to Latitude solved that one pretty easily, since Noah and the Whale were rather average and Robin Ince was the biggest surprise hit of the weekend. Got into the comedy room (it was housed in a real building rather than a tent, which seemed like a good idea but was to cause problems on the Sunday...) and it appeared to be running a bit late, but I couldn't be arsed to get up once I was sat down so I stayed to watch Adrian Poynton, Saturday's compere, desperately filling time while Dan Antopolski was stuck in traffic. He made a rather decent job of it too, particularly his list of "things I'm secretly proud of but know I shouldn't be." Dan finally turned up and did a rather mixed set, most of his actual jokes going down quite badly but saving the day with a bizarre routine about a worm. Finally it was time for Robin Ince and he did not disappoint, a glorious set including the expected Feynman and Sagan quotes as well as a fantastic recent quote from Brian Cox "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat." We need more scientists willing to say things like this.
Sadly the comedy had now ended for the day, which left me slightly lacking in options for a while. I decided I might as well see some Bon Iver but was no more enthused with it than I was at ATP earlier in the year (I was also quite irritated to notice the programme for EotR claimed they were the only festival to get Bon Iver on the very first page - apparently I was imagining it back in May) British sea power were, well, British Sea Power. I hadn't seen them in several years (except a brief glimpse from far far away at Latitude) but they don't seem to have changed one bit. Good fun but nothing incredible, sadly the classic set-closer of Lately was noticeably absent which left the set finishing on a bit of a flat note. I took the chance to wander round the woods by the main stage during another brief break in proceedings, noticed that the "healing field" was thankfully rather hidden and hopefully unlikely to suck too many gullible passers-by into the clutches of the homeopaths and other woo-merchants within.
A washing line, on the stage? Whats all this about then? These were my first thoughts on strolling in for Kurt Wagner. Turns out he spent the set pinning lyric sheets to it once he finished the song, along with the odd cigarette (yay, an excuse to smoke in the tent guilt-free) It was a beautiful set, just him and a guitar letting his gorgeous voice carry the songs. Of course, I missed the weekend's only proper talking point while watching him, when someone from Low apparently threw a guitar into the crowd (those ker-azy mormons) which luckily didn't injure anyone. One band left for the day - Mercury Rev, who were truly, utterly, indescribably stunning. Again they are a band I hadn't seen in a long time (I think reading 2002 was the last time) and I'd forgotten just how breathtaking they were live. Band of the weekend, despite the awesome stuff still to come on Sunday.
Of course, there were other bands on in the smaller tents for several hours yet but I knew where I was headed, something called "Scarytellers Club" in a tiny tent (think the sort of thing you might have in the garden if you were very middle class and having a family party) which was billed as being comedians telling scary stories but turned into comedians just being comedians, which was fine by me. Robin Ince made his second appearance, reading out a beautiful passage from a Feynman book which alcohol has sadly stolen the content of from my memory. After this wound down I spotted Robin wandering round the site and unusually for me actually managed to speak to him. This proved to be my best decision of the entire weekend as we had a fantastic chat about science and I ended up spending a couple of hours chatting to him, Sarah Bennetto, James Dowdeswell, Pink Haired Girl (with brilliant Gizmo rucksack) and Beardy Welsh Guy (as pointed out yesterday, I forgot everyone's name unless it was in the programme and I sincerely apologise for this) They were all really friendly and it was good to spend some real time talking to anyone by this point. Finally at around 4am it was time to grab a few hours sleep, knowing I had to return to the comedy stage by midday as James was first on.

*Managed to get hold of a copy despite Waterstones best efforts at hiding it - every single copy was on a table of '3 for 2' offers which I had no idea it was part of, rather than 'new books' or 'popular science' where people might actually be looking for it. Yes, I know it was much cheaper on Amazon, but I didn't want to risk not having it in time for the 3 hour each way train journey.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 1)

Apologies for being slow in getting this posted, I've been struggling to figure out how to put such an amazing weekend into words. One advantage of this is that there are now already some great in-depth accounts of the weekend(see here for a massively in-depth review and this blog - no tags annoyingly so you'll have to find the posts yourself - for a more personal account) leaving me free to pick and choose just the bits I want to mention in detail without feeling I'm leaving out any important information. I'll try to make sure there's a bit of detail for any bands not covered elsewhere but I make no promises, my memory is pretty shocking and most of the available space was taken up with a few of the more spectacular moments.

From the very first moment things were going well. I'd made a disgustingly early start (left the house at about 6.40) but this meant I hit Salisbury station at 10.30, before the majority of the festival crowd, so I was able to jump on the first bus to arrive and had my tent up well before the rain hit (End of the Road 1, Latitude 0) There was still a while before the first band so it was time for a quick tour of the site, and what a site it is. The first area you come to seems much like a miniature version of any other festival site, a ring of shops in a field with various stages dotted round the edge, but behind this is the entrance to Larmer Tree Gardens itself, housing the main stage and comedy stage. For some reason it hadn't occured to me that this was going to be the sort of garden people would pay just to look round for the rest of the summer (I know, the name should have been a clue) and the stupid grin which was to sit firmly on my face for most of the weekend emerged for the first time at the thought of watching bands in a place like this.
The afternoon was spent wandering around catching bits and pieces of anything which sounded worth a look from my brief myspace investigations as there were few bands I knew well. I caught some or all of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltzin, Gossamer Albatross, Cats in Paris, Kelley Stoltz, The Acorn and Lonely Ghosts. My memory of this period is a bit hazy (I'm blaming the cider - think I started a bit too early) but I distinctly remember being particularly impressed with The Acorn and my notes suggest all the others were quite watchable too.
Finally it was time for someone I did know and had seen before - Laura Marling. I thought the show I caught on the church tour earlier in the year was amazing but this was even better, despite being in the relatively anonymous surroundings of the big top. After a quick stop off at Dirty Three, which confirmed my suspicions that I just don't get it, it was back to the tent for Robyn Hitchcock. I'll be honest, all I knew about him was that he was in a band who Six. By Seven once covered (The Soft Boys - I Wanna Destroy You) but I'm bloody glad I went along. This was a guy who had clearly been doing this for long enough to put on a decent show in his sleep and despite not knowing any of the songs I thouroughly enjoyed it. If only I had any money I'd be picking up a selection of CDs from his back catalogue right now. Next on the list was Robyn G. Shiels (2 Robyns in a row, what are the chances?) and at this point I must thank Manuel for mentioning him in a post the other day, I doubt I'd have gone along otherwise and would never have known what I'd have been missing. Actually bumped into Robyn at the cider bus the next day and he gave me a free album (which is, incidentally, top notch) after I explained how I'd ended up seeing him.
Headliner time, tonight's being Conor Oberst. For various unimportant reasons I wasn't entirely in the mood for this and it didn't seem Conor was either, what with the sarcastic comments (anyone know what he has against Arcade Fire?) and ending the set on a truly cheerless song. I wandered off midway through to see Dead Meadow but the Local was completely rammed and the stage in there was so low I couldn't see anything so gave up and went back for the end of Conor. After this I just milled around the site for a bit, I had been planning on catching the Pictish Trail but ended up hanging out with some randoms* and drinking more. Sadly I have totally forgotten their names, as I have the name of every single person I met over the weekend except the ones whose names were conveniently written in the programme (more on this later...) I suck, I know. Sorry to anyone who wanted a mention on an obscure blog.

Written an awful lot more than I expected, was planning on a single post but it looks like I'm going to have to split it into days. Saturday to follow soon.

*Of course, everyone there was a random to me as I went all on my own.

Monday, 15 September 2008

End of the Road

I think the festival can be best summed up with the very first line from my notebook:

"Oh. My. god."

(No idea why god ended up without a capital but quite pleased it did)

I think it was probably the best weekend of my entire life. The setting was perfect, the bands were incredible and I met many wonderful people. Will attempt a real post or two about what I got up to once I've had some sleep and decoded the remainder of my drunken scrawl. One more quote from my notes for now:

"Best t-shirt of the weekend - So many kittens, so few recipes"

Monday, 1 September 2008

Jason Lytle returns

Yay! Best news I've heard in ages, thanks to Sweeping the Nation for pointing it out. They've also been playing some new All Smiles tracks on 6music recently so with any luck we might see two new albums from ex-Grandaddy guys before the year is out.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Just what have I let myself in for?

I'm going to The End Of The Road festival in about a month and I just received the following message from their facebook group:

PEACE INTENTION at End of the Road

As the theme of our healing field this year is Peace, we thought we'd take part in this, and you're welcome to join us by signing up:

The Global Peace Intention Experiment

A Live Aid of scientific experiments will test the power of group mind to lower violence around the world

If all of us send a good thought for peace can it actually work to restore peace in a war-torn area?

Lynne McTaggart, author of the best-selling book The Intention Experiment, is asking thousands of participants to join together, via The Intention Experiment website, on Sunday, September 14, for the first of a series of ‘Peace Intention Experiments' to send an intention to lower violence in a particular war-torn city. The actual location will be revealed on the day. The experiment will likely run for a week and involve 10 minutes of intention a day.

McTaggart is working with a prestigious team of top scientists and philanthropic organisations to devise a strict protocol and measure results. Thousands of participants from 80 countries around the world have already signed up.

To participate in the Peace Intention Experiment, please register on http://www.theintentionexperiment.com/peace

You will then be sent instructions about what to do on the day.

At End of the Road, we are gathering in the healing field in the Secret Garden, where we will send the intention together. But you must sign up in advance as above, and be sincere about carrying through.

*facedesk* *re-read* *facedesk*

Are they fucking serious? They not only think they can affect something by thinking about it, but they're going to pretend its a serious scientific experiment with a measurable outcome? How are you supposed to measure the outcome, is there a "war-torn city" out there which is able to provide reliable data on just how much violence there was during a specific 10-day period? How do you define violence in the first place? Who are these "top scientists" who are involved and what the hell is a "top scientist" in the first place? Is there an international premier league of scientists I've never heard of?

I sincerely hope the rest of the festival isn't as infested with woo, its supposed to be a nice relaxing weekend listening to some amazing bands and clearing my head, I don't want to have to spend the entire time dodging quacks and resisting* the temptation to argue with new-age weirdos. The EotR website gives no suggestion of any sort of woo element to the festival and the inclusion on the line-up of Robin Ince, Britain's greatest (only?) skeptic comedian, is certainly a good sign. I really hope he hears about the above "experiment" in time to include something about it in his set, it would fit in perfectly with the stuff he did at Latitude and if it educates a few of the people who would otherwise have taken part it has to be worth doing.

*Who am I kidding, I'll never be able to resist. Better get re-reading The Demon-Haunted World so I've got my basic arguments down. I know its a pretty much pointless exercise, but sometimes you just can't help yourself.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Bone-cracking Quacks

It would appear the British Chiropractic Association are a bunch of deluded, litigious cunts.

From the look of Gimpy's breakdown of the article the case is never going to get anywhere and with any luck will massively backfire by showing up chiropractic for the complete nonsense it is. I for one was completely unaware just how totally full of shit it was until the above posts started appearing, there had been the odd mention of it on bad science blogs before but I'd never really looked into it. The 'offending' article is a fantastic introduction to just how batshit-insane this stuff really is, while the original has been taken down by the spineless Guardian it can still be found here, on a russian server well out of the reach of the BCA. Time to forward it to everyone I know who has ever visited one of these weirdos...

Monday, 18 August 2008

Lou Barlow's Amazing Website

www.loobiecore.com is a truly astonishing place. Described very accurately on the front page as Lou Barlow's vast and confusing website, it houses a whole host of interesting Lou related bits and pieces including the usual news, gig listings, videos etc but also a huge gallery of cat photos (never a bad thing) and probably about 5 whole albums worth of music, mostly available for free download with the remainder being streamed on the site. There are some incredible songs up there and it is really worth the time to click around the place to track them all down, or at least the ones not available on CD. You might as well skip the original Sentridoh mp3s and just go straight to the merch page to buy it, if you've got any sense you'll end up paying for a CD even after getting the mp3s, its worth having in a permanent form and something that good deserves to be paid for.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I must be doing something right

Get in, the blog is less than a month old and I've already had the first comment calling me a cunt. Despite it being anonymous I think its safe to assume it was from one of the bands I was less than complimentary about, which makes the part about being creative particularly amusing as the phrase "wank yourself silly over a picture of Judy Finnigan" is more creative than any of the derivative shit they were playing that night.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I just ate a squirrel

No, really. Fucking tasty it was too. Does this trump alligator as the strangest animal I've eaten? I can't decide.

Linguine with Prawns

This was originally going to be a comment here but it was going on way too long for a single comment and since everyone* seems to be doing cookery based posts all of a sudden it seemed more appropriate to make a real post out of it

*well, these two anyway. Apologies for not linking to the specific post on Twonilblankblank but its either down right now or (more likely) our office network is playing silly buggers again. [EDIT: ha, got it]

So, Dana has asked for people's favourite food. I could go on for pages and pages about a perfect beef ragu but for everyday eating (i.e. things which take less than 3 hours to cook) my current favourite has got to be linguine with prawns.

(measurements are mostly guesswork)

1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic, according to taste, finely chopped
~300ml tomato passata
~100ml vegetable stock
220g fresh shelled prawns (because thats the size of the packs of taste the difference prawns from Sainsburys. A few more would be preferable. )
However much linguine 2 of you will eat (as I live with a pasta addict this is often as much as 400g dry weight in our house)

Put water on for pasta. SLOWLY cook onion and garlic in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Strangely, I find a wok is the the perfect pan for this - the base is small enough that the onion and garlic sit in enough oil not to burn but because it flares out its big enough to use to mix everything together at the end. Once the water is boiling and the pasta is in, add the passata and stock to the onions and garlic and bring to a simmer. If you happen to have any white wine lying around, you could do a lot worse than add a splash of it before this step (sadly I'm a cider drinking heathen and my housemate only drinks red so we rarely do) 3-4 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the prawns to the sauce along with a tablespoon or two of the pasta water and check for seasoning. Top tip: add a touch of sugar as well as salt and pepper, supermarket passata in the UK is always too acidic and this helps balance it out. Drain the pasta when it is still slightly underdone, add it to the sauce, keep the heat on low and stir together for the final minute of cooking to ensure the sauce properly coats the pasta.

Dead simple, done in 20 minutes and bloody fantastic, if I do say so myself.

Recipe inspired by Linguine with Lobster from Giorgio Locatelli's Made In Italy, but simplified (and budgeted) down to where I can face cooking it after work. A slightly more faithful, but still affordable, version of the original recipe could be made by buying unpeeled prawns and using the shells and a pinch of saffron to make the stock but this is more effort than I'm usually willing to put in.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

New release: Conor Oberst by Conor Oberst

Right then, time for my first album review in about seven years*, in what will hopefully become a semi-regular feature assuming I actually manage to continue listening to new music and notice when things get released.

Ok, I give up. Wrote the introduction to this post about 5 days ago and keep coming back to it but I just do not know what to say about this album. Its Conor Oberst, if you've got the last Bright Eyes album you know exactly what to expect. The production is a bit more stripped back but that's no surprise - the whole reason it wasn't released as Bright Eyes in the first place is that Mike Mogis, one of the other two permanent members and responsible for recording every previous album back to Fevers & Mirrors, wasn't able to take part in the recording. Its a great album and if you're already a Bright Eyes fan you're bound to love it, if you're not then I'm sure you've got your reasons and you should probably leave well alone.

*Rings Around The World by Super Furry Animals was the last one** if I remember rightly, for a dodgy magazine someone was putting together in 6th form. With any luck, there are no copies still in existence...

**Looks like its still the last one. Oh well, probably for the best.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The enemies of reason: Mail shows sympathy for migrants

The enemies of reason: Mail shows sympathy for migrants

I don't know how Anton does it. How can he possibly spend so much time reading the Daily Mail (or as I think he has conclusively proved it should be known, the Daily Fail) without his brain melting and dribbling out his ears? Today's effort can't have helped with his state of mind, I still can't quite believe the Fail has produced a pro-immigration story even after reading the damn thing.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Bohemian Jukebox - 05/08/08

Sadly there was no sign of The Baron at last night's gig so it looks like I actually need to do some sort of review for this one:

Headlining was some cunt with a guitar (or some cunts with instruments, I think it was listed as one guy on the Bohemian Jukebox website but there were several of 'em on stage) Another guy who doesn't deserve a mention by name, or rather isn't worth the effort of checking what his name actually was. I can only assume he was given the headline slot purely on the amount of people he brings along to gigs since his music made Snow Patrol sound exciting. Sadly the people he brought along were just as bad as the arseholes at the Toby Goodshank gig, talking through all the other bands, not giving a shit until their mates were on and then suddenly discovering they could not only clap but cheer, whoop and generally ensure the talentless gimps on stage got the impression they shouldn't just go home and kill themselves.

Mr Plow, probably the world's only country singer named after one of Homer Simpson's business ventures, was the real star of the night. Great voice and fantastic downbeat country music, he mentioned that he was recording a session for Mark Lamarr's radio show on 23rd August which should be worth a listen. I think my housemate managed to collar him for one of the free 7" singles he was giving away after the set, I'll see if I can 'borrow' it and report back (I was too busy getting a quick dose of nicotine after his set, by the time I got back uptstairs they'd already packed up and buggered off - I think they must have caught the headliners soundchecking and realised it was probably a good idea not to be around when they came on)

Sadly the chattering hordes were out in force for Theatre of the Absurd so please bear in mind that this is my impression of a gig I was struggling to hear properly. I'd previously seen him joining in with both Dizzy Spells Martian and Toby Goodshank at the rainbow a couple of weeks ago (a fact I completely forgot to mention at the time) which gave him a lot to live up to. If he'd actually managed to remember the songs he might have managed it too, there was definitely a really interesting singer-songwriter hiding somewhere under the lack of preparation. He also gets bonus points for ambition by attempting to cover The Postal Service's Nothing Better, most noticable for being a boy/girl duet with a distinctive keyboard part, on his own with an acoustic guitar. It didn't work for one second, but it was nice to see him try.

The whole night was kicked off by The Great Plain, presumably a last minute addition as they weren't listed on the posters/myspace. Decent local duo, two guys both playing guitar and singing. Nothing revolutionary but they had some good tunes and a nice contrast in singing styles. If its possible to find reasonable local acts like this at the last minute why in the fuck did we have to put up with the turgid shit on offer from the headliners?

Overall it was a good night in terms of music but despite this being a seemingly well-established night at a really busy pub there were barely any people there who didn't seem to know at least one of the bands. Why are Brummies so hard to get to gigs?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Google Reader

What the fuck is wrong with this piece of shit website and where can I find an alternative web-based RSS reader? It is completely refusing to show up the blogs I have listed on my blogroll (you know, the ones I actually want to read regularly...) unless I change it to show everything in one giant list, and I can't even get to the settings page to try and change this. Ok so I am on IE6 (and windows 2000, our office is THAT modern) but it shouldn't be this fucked even so.

Third Hand Hilarity

I have no idea what the etiquette regarding 'borrowing' amusing stories from other blogs who have already taken them from somewhere else is but there is no way I could fail to mention this story. Again, its a british article brought to my attention by an american blogger, cheers Dana. Maybe its time I started checking some proper websites as well as blogs, what difference can another half hour make when I already spend less than half my day actually working.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Birmingham City Council - Incompetant or Anti-Atheist?

There's a post up over at the hugely popular american evolution/aethist blog Pharyngula concerning this article on the BBC website about our council here in Brum blocking access to atheist websites while allowing access to religious sites. Most people at Pharyngula seem to be taking this as evidence of someone deliberately trying to impose their faith on council employees, but having probably had more contact with the council than any of the Americans posting there I feel pretty confident in saying this won't turn out to be the case. Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the whole of Europe and by all accounts is a bureucratic nightmare (as anyone who has had to sort out a problem with their council tax knows all too well) so I find it extremely unlikely that anyone went into any sort of detail in checking what was being blocked, and even if they had why would they block atheist sites? Religion just isn't an issue over here in the same way as it is in the US, the number of regular church-goers is completely dwarfed by the number of people who state they have no religion and considering that the company providing the blocking software is American it seems far more likely to have been a default setting which got overlooked. When it comes down to a council employee either being lazy/clueless or deliberately breaking the law to discriminate against atheists I know where my money is.

UPDATE: See, I told you they were fucking incompetant.

Monday, 28 July 2008

(Un)Professional Indemnity

There was an interesting point raised regarding insurance for nutritionists in the comments following Ben Goldacre's latest Bad Science column. I thought it deserved expanding on and as this is actually an area I do know something about its time me to take another random leap into bad science blogging (because music and politics just aren't enough...)

Firstly I want to point out that the victim in this case should be extremely relieved that there was any professional indemnity cover in place at all, shockingly the only people who are required by law to have P.I. cover are lawyers, accountants and financial advisers. It would appear it is a requirement for membership of BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy), but as has been pointed out on Bad Science in the past anyone can call themselves a nutritionist with or without qualifications or memberships of professional bodies. Of course a claim could still have been pursued without there being insurance cover in place but with a claim this size (around £1.5million being claimed) you have no chance of seeing the bulk of the damages unless the person you are claiming from is extremely wealthy. What I am struggling to understand is how nutritionists get P.I. cover in the first place. I have found a standard P.I. policy wording online here, where section 2.1 states:

"Insurers agree, subject to the terms of this policy to indemnify the insured, subject to the indemnity limit for claims, against any claim (including claimant's costs and expenses) in respect of any civil liability which arises out of the conduct of professional business by reason of any negligent act negligent error or negligent omission occurring or committed in good faith by the insured and/or others expressly authorised to act for and/or on behalf of the insured."

From my point of view as a claims handler I would struggle to try and defend any claim arising out of nutritionists advice unless a sound scientific basis could be found (yeah, that's gonna happen...) I can't see how it can possibly not be considered negligent to advise someone to follow dietary advice which has no proof of safety and efficacy.

I am very surprised insurers are willing to grant cover on these terms, I suspect it is mainly down to them not looking at what it is nutritionists do in enough detail, hopefully the massive pay-out in this case will be enough to make them take another look at who it is they're actually providing insurance for and lead to massive premium increases/refusal to place cover when they realise their clients are regularly giving advice which could be actively harmful.

I'd like to try and get hold of a policy specifically written for a nutritionist in order to see if there is any difference in the wording but I suspect with most of them being individual practitioners/small partnerships they wouldn't have individually tailored policies and the one I linked to above is probably pretty much all they get. If this is correct, I would strongly encourage anyone who has suffered any ill-effects (which they weren't warned about) after visiting a nutritionist to contact a good solicitor as I'm confident a case could be made on the basis that their advice goes against medical science.

Friday, 25 July 2008

John Band is my Hero

This needed saying. Also worth reading the comments for the shortest argument in internet history, as it only took 2 comments from John B for QuestionThat to resort to "thats not how the world works" when making (or rather failing to make) an argument about morality.

There's Nothing Not to Like About Goodshank

On the other hand, there's plenty not to like about Brummies. Just about the entire crowd at last night's Toby Goodshank gig appeared to be there to see either the sub-James Blunt tedium of ***** ***** or the soft rock garbage of **** ****. Fuck it, you can find out their names easily enough if you really want but there's no way I'm giving them the slightest acknowledgement here. Not only were they both embarrassingly poor but them and their fans, or rather their gullible mates, seemed to think that standing around chatting really loudly and not even clapping was appropriate behaviour during the other acts. Its annoying at any gig, but when you're trying to watch quiet solo artists, who have come all the way from America and are both spectacularly good maybe, just maybe, you could learn to SHUT THE FUCK UP. The main pub area was practically deserted, if you absolutely desperately needed to talk to the guys you see down the pub every other night of week would it kill you to leave the gig room?

Despite the annoyances it was a great way to kick off my adventures re-discovering the alternative scene in Brum. Both Toby and Isabel were amazing and two of the friendliest people I've met in a long while. Turns out I wasn't the only person there planning to blog about the gig either! Like the pissed twat I usually am by the end of a gig I have completely forgotten the guy's name but his blog, The Hearing Aid, can be found here and it looks like it could be a great source of information to help me get further into alt-Brum. As if that's not quite enough I also met Ben who had arranged the gig and runs Bohemian Jukebox, one of the few local nights I've already been to and which I'm sure to go along to again in the future (well, it is held in my local...)

I realise I've not said that much about the music itself but from the look of his past posts it'll get a better written review than I could manage over at The Hearing Aid, will be interesting to see his take on the local guys...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

This is gonna be easier than I thought

10 minutes looking and I have a list of 7 gigs I want to go to in Brum and 1 in Wolverhampton. I've not even checked half the venues yet...

Quick list for my own reference:

Toby Goodshank - Rainbow - Tomorrow!
Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - Academy 2 - 23rd August
Wedding present - Barfly - 1st September
Thomas Tantrum - Bar Academy - 21st September
Slow Club - Barfly - 24th September (Five quid? Bargain of the year)
Jeremy Warmsley - Bar Academy - 12th October
Spiritualized - Academy - 15th October
Sigur Rós - Wolverhampton Civic - 4th November

Plus there's Stephen Malkmus on 26th August which I already knew about. Summer is looking up again.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Marc Riley

I feel I can't start this blog without a quick nod to the radio show which I suspect is the ultimate cause of everything you read here. I've finally started enjoying new music for the first time since I was in 6th form and it would never have happened without Marc Riley. Its woken me up and made me want to actually go out and take part in life again.