Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Cottage

Well I'm nearly packed now, and I'm going to be off soon.

I'll be offline for a while so I'll talk to you in a week, unless I'm eaten by bears or killed by the psycho hose beast* but that seems fairly unlikely.

Go and be as sociable as The Man will allow you to be until october, I insist.



*See Wayne's World

Friday, August 26, 2005


In the UK about this time of year the press are grabbed by an exremely boring form of madness. The combination of parliament having been on recess for a few months and all the papers tiring of the usual celebrity holiday photos has unfortunate consequences. That's right, it's results time. A time when mad professors and pushy parents unveil their 9 year-old freaks who've already got an A in GCSE canoeing or whatever, when retired school inspectors with delusions of grandeur make statements about how "it's not as good as when I was in charge" and when politicians who think they have some understanding of education ooze out of the woodwork and start spouting their political agendas over the achievements of people younger and prettier than them.

The papers lap it up though, the steady stream of people dying which has sustained them up to this point appears to have dried up, so now they've got nothing else to do but glue their own interpretation onto the results, pressing whatever agenda they feel the need to press.

I'm sure I've ranted about this on more occasions than I can remember so I'm sorry if I'm being boring, but when some paper takes up the story that a 9 year old has passed GCSE IT* as conclusive proof that the exams are too easy I need to get ranty. Sorry to break the parents' bubble, but the child is weird and probably borderline autistic. What this shows is that with a great deal of effort a single exam can be passed, this doesn't mean that the system is easy, from when I was 15 to when I was 18 I took 52 (That took a while to figure out) proper hardcore exams and nearly went mad on a number of occasions. On their own they might be something an exceptional 9 year old can do, but they hunt in packs and most of us don't get the expensive tutoring and pushy parents (which is a blessing in my opinion).

I know that the system needs changing (roll on the Baccalaureate) but now isn't the time ot discuss it in public, for now just let the 16 year olds drink themselves unconscious and let the 9 year old wonder what use this GCSE is to him...


I don't really know why I wrote all that.

It's not like it's something I've not said before, in fact I have a vague suspicion that I've written something almost exactly like this on this blog before.

Oh well, it passes the time and distracts me from doing the washing up even if I do sound like a whiny teenager.


*Although considering I failed IT completely I can't really talk. but hey. I didn't fail, I got an X.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Getting Jaded

I've been thinking about the differences between people in the US and people in the UK. I don't mean the political differences, the broader social context or anything like that - that's been written about plenty by every person who thinks that meeting one or two foreigners makes them knowledgeable about the politics and social mores of every country in the world. I don't have the knowledge or the patience to write about that, instead I can just ramble incoherently about what I've observed myself.

The key thing I've noticed is the fact that 'extrovert' and 'arsehole' are not always synonymous in america. Sitting around with my friends from here, getting drunk and chatting away I've noticed that those who talk loudest are always those with the least to say*. With the americans (Again, not making grand generalizations here, although it may sound like that. I'm just writing about those I know - I'm sure there are millions of boring loudmouths in america) there were people who were loud but funny and interesting - I mean funny in a non abusive way and interesting in a non car-crash sense of the word. This principle is especially evident when talking about politics; the people who shout slogans and commit themselves loudly to one cause or another are generally those who fail to understand just how transitory and complicated it all is**. When politics comes up with the group as a whole, especially when drink has been taken, it's generally someone reciting the reactionary, bigoted bollocks they read in the sun and someone else shouting slogans they heard in Rage Against the Machine songs. While this is going on the people who actually read the news and have some concept of the boundaries between editorial & reportage (and read papers that know them as well) exchange embarrassed glances over their pints and occasionally try and correct the worst of the ill-informed ranting.

I think it's a culture of modesty; generally the people who have things to say don't want to make the people who don't feel stupid, while the people who don't want to prove to everyone that they do.

And the best way they can think of is to say it very loudly.

but that's enough ranting for one afternoon.


*I harvested that from something I wrote last night talking to Sarah, I don't like to waste such rare moments of eloquence, even if it does sound like something a goth would write on his bag in biro.

**Mitch Clem puts this very well in relation to music, the blog is below the comic. (That isn't what it normally looks like)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


This made me smile.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Humour is definately the best way of making political points, it's a shame I can't do it really.


If you need to do some serious godbotherer annoyance though I suggest this.

Or This.

Or This

Wow I'm just in hardcore heretic mode today aren't I...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Gig

Oh man,

Best. Gig. Ever.

It's hard to write about the gig, I think I spent most of it in a kind of trance; mesmirised by the rockin' and it's hard to put that kind of thing into words.

We met up with pat and some of his friends from uni and headed to the nearest pub for some drinks and munchies. I wasn't drinking as I still have The Fear from the other night's activities but the food and many caffinated beverages were consumed.

After we'd eaten we started towards victoria underground station, warily though as one of the groups was a medium strength claustrophobic and the tube isn't fun if you are that way inclined. When we got to the ticket barriers though we all decided that the tube was not a sexy idea, the guards weren't letting anyone on the platform, we looked up at the CCTV monitor they have above the barriers and looked at our watches and realised: It was 6pm, on a weekday, on the victoria line. The platform was crammed moshpit-deep all the way to the edge with angry commuters. So we decided that the bus was a better option.

On the bus we passed stockwell tube station, with all the boards up around it with appeals for witnesses of the Jean Charles de Menezes thing, they were IPCC (independent Police complaints comission) boards which is reasonably encouraging, at least it's being investigated by someone other than the met, who seem pretty unrepentant. I felt momentarily scared when an elderly muslim man came on carrying a big briefcase and then spent about ten minutes mentally kicking myself for being an over suspicious thicky.

When we got to Brixton we relocated to a respectable looking pub and more drinks (and caffinated beverages) were consumed. I think I should explain that Brixton was where all the Caribbean immigrants settled in the early 50's so we were sitting around feeling very white and very young, in a pub with Skatalites and Price Buster posters on the walls, while lots of venerable looking, elderly Jamaicans argued with the occasional tramp that wondered in.

We went off to the gig and upon entrance were given a bag with SIGNED 7" VINYL inside. Steaming with glee we went into the arena. After a while of arsing around listening to the DJ (no support band) we started to get bored (that was when I was randomly texting people, including a really smarmy one to Bal about the signed vinyl; I couldn't resist).

Then they came on

They rocked.

I spent the whole time banging of head and jumping of around.

After it was over I realised a) I was completely soaked in sweat and b) I was practically deaf, everything sounded like it was coming through a thick wall. It's strange day when you get on the underground and think "mmm, fresh air". We got stuck on a train for ten minutes with one of the most talkative and boring men I've ever had the misfortune to meet. We missed the last train to Eltham and ended up going to Mottingham (about 40 minutes walk away) and stumbling back gasping for a drink and a record player.

Oh joy, to get home and discover that the 7" is a recording of "The Funmachine Took a Shit and Died" - the track that was supposed to be on Lullabies to Paralyse but the master tapes got lost. They rerecorded it especially to be handed out and this gig.

Collectors-Item-me-do, daddy-o

Oh man.

I ache, although I have had a shower and washed my hair.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

What Have I Done Today?

It's a question I find myself pondering every evening now, tallying up the achievements of the day. I'm not sure why I bother, it's not like I've written down some kind of list of what I should do everyday that I can check things against. Although perhaps I should, I probably need to get some kind of structure, but bugger that; it's too much structure for me. Getting up after I stop sleeping and going to bed before I start is about as organised as I can get.

Asking myself what I've managed to do today I scored reasonably well; although I don't have a list of things to do, I do nevertheless have a mental list of sorts. I left the house twice, I didn't spend any money on shiny things or magic beans, (important if you're on a budget) and I had a reasonably constructive writing session. I didn't save the world, write a number one record or have some great personal epiphany but I did shave and get my hair cut.

Worryingly I'm now a regular at my local hair slicy place. I suppose it's hardly surprising that he knows me after I've been getting my hair cut there for about 7 years but, considering I'm about as talkative as a tree stump, it's an achiement on his part. The good thing is that it means that I don't have to explain my hairstyle (I don't have one, want one or care) which is always an irritating experience.

Wow, my life is tedious. I can't think of anything to alleviate the boredom just yet. Although I'm going to see the Queens of the Stone age and Eddie is getting back on sunday which should improve the level of conversation from me talking to myself and giggling.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Queens of the Stone Age

Me, Eddie and Pat are going to see QOTSA!

At the Brixton Academy on the 22nd of august.

Mr Ben is soiling himself with delight.


I think I need to go and lie down.

I think this strip sums up the dangers of a good gig.


Thursday, August 11, 2005


Often, in my weaker (or perhaps stronger) moments - like when I'm eyeball-deep in dusty books about some mind-numbingly pointless area of literary study - I ponder why on earth I'm doing what I'm doing at university.

I mean, surely I could be doing something more useful or productive with myself?

Generally after a few seconds of confusion my brain neatly retaliates with

"No Ben, this is what you like doing, despite your occasional denials and, ultimately, it's the only thing you are really capable of doing."

Because, lets face it, I'm not really much of a do-er. My attempts at original writing have been, at best, pretty average and my middle class fear of insecurity will probably prevent me from ever making any kind of mark musically (That and my general lack of ability). However, rambling about the achievements of others in long incoherent essays is something I'm suited to perfectly - whether it's about literature at university or music on this blog (or at anyone who can't run away in time) - I generally enjoy myself in a reserved, quiet sort of way. Despite this I'm still occasionally bothered by a suspicion that I'm not really doing what I want to do, but taking the path of least resistance through life, not bothering to do anything else because it would require more effort than I can be arsed to muster.

Therefore it was interesting to learn tonight that some of the people around me are not going for the standard route; one of my friends has decided not to bother going to university, instead choosing to continue his career as a tennis coach, which is a more interesting and profitable way for him to spend his time than doing three years at uni for a qualification that wouldn't really do him much good anyway. Another one of my friends has decided to drop out of her course in Manchester because she doesn't like it. Not only that, but she's decided that she doesn't like the entire direction of her studies and qualifications from the age of 17 onwards and is going to take two years to start over.

I know that, even being completely honest with myself, I do genuinely enjoy what I do academically, depressing though that fact is, in its way. But I'd like to think that I've have the resolve to do what she's done if I felt I needed to. I doubt I would though. The best I can do is write a meandering piece of rubbish about her decision, that no one will read, and wish her good luck.


Friday, August 05, 2005

It's late and I'm tired

I've been thinking about music a lot recently, as you can probably tell from the increasing incoherence and length of these entries. I say thinking, it's not really thinking more just listening. I suspect that trying to explain what you like or dislike about music is like trying to push a river up a hill. Like art it has many technical rules of composition and effect that provide order in the chaos. However to the uninitiated, like myself, music is still chaos. Just very beautiful chaos.

I don't have the eloquence to explain what is so good about one song or other without resorting to all sorts of bizarre descriptions that only make sense to me and my peculiar musical synaesthesia. I could tell you about how the guitar in 'The Sky is Falling' * feels all rough and tastes like peanuts or how the electric piano sound from 'Mary' ** looks dark purple. However this information wouldn't really tell you anything about the music I'm trying to describe or how it makes me feel. It would only make you question the wiring of my brain.

The inability to express why some music is good and some isn't is a cause of all sorts of horrors, from the aforementioned cool fights to arguments between friends over bands that one loves and the other thinks is crap. I can't explain why I don't like coldplay, it just feels smooth, sort of shiny but in a polished way. This isn't a very good reason to give to someone who idolises them and often results in slapping. I think much of the idea of musical identity is people giving themselves a justification, a reason to dislike huge swathes of music without having to ask themselves why. A man who only listens to metal, wears nothing but black and has hair down to his armpits doesn't have to sit there and wonder why he likes Justin Timberlake's new single, he just doesn't listen to it.

I think everyone blinkers their musical outlook to an extent. I, for example, am incapable of liking country music, commercial hip-hop, Free Jazz and the more extreme forms of Prog-Rock (I don't count deathmetal as music - in the same way that I don't count chainsaws as music). I don't know exactly why I don't like this music but by avoiding it altogether it makes my life a great deal simpler.

All this said though, what I know of technical musical theory could fit on the back of a fag packet and I couldn't point out melody in a police lineup. I listen to music that most people wouldn't consider to be particularly tuneful (I'm currently listening to McLusky Do Dallas) And I've got a history of hating music just because of genre. However I think there is always something there in the music I like, some energy, linguistic invention, even just a dirty sense of humour.

I suppose Cannibal Corpse fans would argue the same.


If they could string a sentence together that is.

I wonder if a bunch of socially inadequate spotty metalheads will start gibbering in my comments box.

I hope not.


* Queens of the Stone Age. Songs For the Deaf Track 5. Interscope 2002

** Supergrass. Supergrass is 10 Track 12. Parlophone 2004

They Sing in Their Own Accents

Today I was writing something about regional accents in rock here, and how annoying the idea of it being cooler to sing in your own accent than in some other accent is. The problem that I hit is the same one I usually hit when I'm trying to write anything; whether it's an essay about the various possible interpretations of 'Ode to Nightingale' or a blog entry. I never actually bother to think through my argument before I start. I try and write on the fly, go with the stream of conciousness and write down ideas as they lead on from one another. The thing is, if you haven't explored the subject that you are about to begin rambling about very well, you can end up writing around and around until you defeat the argument you started with. This often causes the tragic realisation that the premise you began with was ultimately pretty unsound and badly thought through. I had that today writing about the whole regional accent thing. I started a little something like this:

I was listening to the Beatles today - as you do - and I was thinking about something that I remember George Galloway saying at Glastonbury this year, when he was asked what bands he was going to see. He replied something about going to see a band that were singing in their own accents rather than pretending to be american. He was talking about Maximo Park (I think) but it's a phrase that gets repeated over and over again by cultural commentators and music buffs. They see the regional accent like some badge of credibility; they talk about the uniformity of most singers, how all the bands on the radio sound the same. I don't understand what difference the accent sung in is supposed to make to the credibility of the music.

It's starts OK, in a bad sort of way. I'm rambling about music again but this time I've put it in some kind of context in relation to my own life. I've also made a statement, singing in a regional accent makes you no cooler than the next man. The problems struck, however, when I tried to explain why this was so.

Unless you've been singing since before you could talk and hadn't heard anyone else sing, your singing voice will be something that you've decided on; whether it's 'I want to sound like Robert Plant', 'I want to sound like I'm 50 and I've been smoking Malboro Extra-Chunky since I was five' or 'I want to sing in a northern accent'. I think the reason that singing in a regional accent is considered better than singing like Little Richard or whoever is the idea that it is original, that these people are doing something no one has ever done bef

It was at this stage that I realised that the point I was making was not, in fact a particularly good one. I should have instead pondered why this is such a big thing, why people from the UK assume that all Americans sing in the same accent just because they can't tell the difference between Wisconsin and Florida and how this is a bit of evidence that George Galloway's America bashing is a rather deeper hatred than mere political anger. Instead I was trying to say that singing in your own regional accent is no more original (and, by extension, cool) than copying the singing voice of someone else. This is a fairly thick thing to say really.

I realised that the germ of this idea, explaining the opening line about the Beatles, was from listening to Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and thinking about how Paul McCartney used to sing in a regional accent and that it's nothing new.

That, I see now, meant that all I was doing was not some profound social statement about traces of nationalism and cultural identity in rock music but the standard music nerd game of 'Be into a much older band that you can claim did everything better and first'. A game which, as my friends will know, is one I play well, occasionally even on unarmed civilians; a technique banned for all purposes exept impressing 'the ladies' (this doesn't work - but it least it prevents more nerdspawn).

'Cool Fights' such as this become less common as you get older but are a major source of conflict among smug little indie teenagers at parties. What happens is someone says a band, someone names an older band who influenced them and basically it's whoever says the last band wins.

It is a game of great tactics. You can't usually involve youself in a game more than once (i.e you can't say a band, have it out-knowleged and then out-knowledge the other persons band - you'd look thick) but at the same time you don't want to use a trump card willy nilly as then everybody knows it and your mystique is broken. For example; if someone says 'Eric Clapton' then the trump card is obviously (although this can be contested ad infinitum) 'Blind Lemon' Jefferson. However the the next guy (yes, it is always guys), in accordance with the rules, will say someone like John Lee Hooker, B B King or, if being played amongst professional nerds, Leadbelly.

Bonus points are awarded if someone asks who they are talking about (especially if it's a pretty girl - although this only happens in the indie kid's fantasies) and the person can actually explain. Bonus points are also given to the guy who says the 'old Favourite' (one that in most games is the winner) for example in the Eric Clapton battle this one is, of course, Rob Johnson - Most players will only consider going for the trump card after the old favourite has been played, although only after assuming a sufficiently knowing and superior air.

Now this game, as anyone who has been stuck in a room with a pair of battling nerds will tell you, is a very tedious thing to put into writing (although I'm sure that plenty of people do) So I decided to stop.

And so I ended up here, rambling aimlessly about nothing in particular, having made no real point at all and wasted a lot of my time.

oh well. it's better than touching myself.

One day I might think of something interesting to say here, but I wouldn't get your hopes up.