Friday, May 30, 2008


If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
Today I finished work at about 5:30, as usual, and wandered off to the tube station. Everything went pretty much as normal, I read my book and listened to my loud shouty music. The difference from every other Thursday came when I walked out of London Bridge station and walked down to the southbank to meet my family at the Globe. I'd completely forgotten about this until I was reminded this morning, but yes, tonight I went to see the Globe theatre company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I was a little apprehensive about this play because, whilst it's hard to go wrong with it, the last play I saw at the globe was really appallingly bad* and I was worried that they would mess this one up too. There was no need to worry, there was the correct number of actors to do the play correctly, with the actors playing Theseus/Oberon, Hippolyta/Titania, Puck/Philostrate, doubling up, as they should.

It was, most importantly, really fucking funny. I laughed so hard that my face still hurts whilst I'm writing this. I could go on for hours about why it was so good but, and this is I'll never be a critic of anything, I can't really evoke it in a way that would make any sense to someone who hadn't also seen it. Suffice to say that it was very good; fantastically acted, staged, and accompanied by beautiful music.

The setting in the globe really does add something to those plays I think. I love the way that you can clearly see the rest of the audience, seeing them creased up with laughter makes the jokes even funnier. I love the way that the actors wander in and out of the audience, directing lines and asides to certain figures in the crowd. I think, if nothing else, there's just something energetic and lively about it all that isn't there in normal theatres. When they want to get the audience's attention for the beginning of the play, for example, a man and a woman come out with massive drums and do a very impressive, and extremely loud, percussion set whilst the stragglers settle in. The whole thing just feels like fun somehow, you watch in attentive silence (when you aren't laughing) not because you're afraid of being tutted and frowned at, but because you are completely engrossed in the sound of unamplified voices declaiming centuries-old poetry over the sound of the modern city.


*Imagine, if you will, a production of The Tempest played in its entirety by three actors. Who never changed costumes, and often played more than one part in each scene. Sometimes carrying on conversations with themselves. It was annoying, they were fantastic performances, but essentially just a bit of acting virtuosity for the benefit of those who know the play off by heart already.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I've been waiting on some unifying train of thought to group some of the ideas that have been floating around in my head this week, but such a thing does not seem to be forthcoming, so I'm just going to have to write a strange page of babble. Such is life.

Something unusual happened to me today. This will be familiar to anyone who has visited London, or any other city, probably. You know when pigeons get scared by something and, after running away for a few seconds, remember that they have wings and launch themselves into the air in a panicky tangle, with their wings slapping together and breadcrumbs flying everywhere? Well, this is a pretty common occurrence, and I've often wondered, when dodging out of the way of some beady-eyed vector of disease, whether or not they'd actually hit you if you didn't duck. I mean, think about it, they're birds, they can see you're there and, stupid as they may seem, surely they have a reasonable about of skill at flying. right? Wrong. I decided to test this, and took a pigeon to the face today. Dry feathers and hard little bones, scraping across your cheek. It's not a nice experience, let me tell you.

Neither is the lingering smell.

Musicwise, this week I've mostly been listening to the unclassifiable strangeness that Matt sent me, and various folky people. Although I've been taking time out from this gruelling schedule to dance around like a wazzock to Metronomy (Their Kate Nash remix is especially fine) and singing along like a crazy person to Weezer on the tube.

I discovered a very funny website recently, which made me laugh until I made unhealthy gurgling sounds. It's called ship of fools and it reminds me of various family friends I remember from when I was younger. People like my grandfather who made me laugh, think, and didn't carry their faith around like a big stick. It's run by a couple of english christians who derive much of their humor from, er, the slightly stranger fringes of christianity (which are many and populous). As I'm obviously doing my strange slightly jesus flavoured thing (raised in liberal christian stylee, but don't really buy into the big beardy bloke argument) I thought I'd link The Drum Major Instinct which I read a month or two ago. It's a pretty long bit of writing to read online, and suffers a little from the fact that it wasn't written with the intention of being read but heard, but it's powerful stuff. It made me go and buy the complete non-fiction of James Baldwin, which I promised myself I'd get when I had the money, back when I was at uni.

For some reason I've started to feel the need to grow my Jazz mane back again. I don't think I will though, I don't think I can take spending 6 months looking like a complete moron. I'm also considering learning to play the upright bass for some reason. I think my money must be going to my head, seeing as I can barely play a fretless bass with cheater lines.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've been in a bit of a folk music mood recently, when the sun comes out I feel the need to put my bass down, grab an acoustic and go and play in the sunshine. This is someone I came across through his work with Roddy Woomble (yes, amazingly that is his real name) the singer from Idlewild who came over all folk a while back. Anyway, have a listen, and dig that double capo playing.


Monday, May 19, 2008


I was looking through an old notepad I found the other day and discovered these two things which I found interesting. The first is this - it's a sort of rosetta stone, you can look at all the words in handwriting that can be understood and decode my bizarre scrawl.

It'd be interesting to do a study, double-blinded, to see if people can guess the gender of a person from handwriting. I rather suspect that you could, there certainly seems to be a certain neatness in Lucy and Sarah's handwriting that isn't in the others.

The other scans are the the manual and warranty for the guitar I rebuilt for Ed.

It really is as complicated as it sounds, I couldn't make head or tail of my own circuits when I was at Ed's house recently. But he asked for a Frankenstein guitar, and I don't do half arsed when I've got my soldering iron out.

This is the Warranty, featuring a strangely incorrect signature.

Anyway. That's enough of that. I'm going to go and shower, because I smell even more than normal


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chris TT

I first heard Chris TT years ago when someone played '100,000 turkeys' on the radio. I searched around, but couldn't get hold of any of his music, other than one track that I managed to find on napster. Yes. It was that long ago. He's kept going for the last few years, seemingly maintaining his low-profile cult status, occasionally releasing stuff on wee small independent record labels. Thanks to the advances of the internet, it's now possible to actually find some of his music online, and know when and where he's going to be playing next.

He plays a damn fine Stylophone solo as well.

Mr Ben Digs

Just the one link today, but I expect that it's more likely to actually get listened to if it's on its own.

Karine Polwart
Scottish folk singer songwriter, she writes good songs and sings them with a lovely voice. Sort of like an improved Kate Rusby, but from a bit further north. It occurs to me that now I've put that link to Kate Rusby's site in, I've got two links. It's more for reference than recommendation, though, so I don't think it counts.

I was rather dreading listening to those songs on Kate Rusby's page, because her song 'underneath the stars' was inextricably linked to the last time I saw my sixth-form girlfriend before I went off to uni. I just listened to it though, and it didn't have any effect on me whatsoever, which is encouraging, I think. It either proves that I'm capable of forgetting that which is long dead and buried, or that after sleeping in an empty bed for so long, I'm officially dead on the inside.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Bad Medicine 2

I don't really have anything to add, other than this link.

which is interesting

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I've not really got anything to say other than to drop a few links. The first one, which is a Youtube video, really needs to be watched. You should sit yourself down with some headphones and marvel at what I will confidently say is the worst performance you're likely to find on the internet. Really. It's that bad.

I've had the dubious honour of seeing these two perform live at various folkclubs around south east london, and believe it or not, she's actually worse on her own. Since seeing them the first time I now always carry a crosshead screwdriver, just in case I see them again and have to perforate my own eardrums. You wouldn't believe how far from the correct pitch someone can go. It really is an education, afterwards everything, even the shittiest of pop, seems like joyous musical beauty.

That said, they are quite funny, and seem to be nice people, fully aware of how bad they are, which makes me feel a little bad about finding them so completely unlistenable. I think they may have the makings of an internet meme.

The other two links are profiles of two interesting figures from american history. People who weren't great, or that bad, when compared to the gallery of famous historical figures*. Nonetheless people who achieved a certain notoriety in either their own time or ours for being, well, a bit nuts.

The first of these is an old favourite of mine, Mr John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of corn flakes and a man whose faults and neuroses woudln't fit on the back of a cereal packet, even if you wrote them really fucking small. His recommendation that girls should have their clitorises burned with carbolic acid to stop them from masturbating is a pretty representative example of his thinking.

The second is Reverend Rufus Wilmot Griswold who is notable for making a career out of being exceptionally unpleasant about other people's books, notably describing Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass as being filled with "a degrading, beastly sensuality, that is fast rotting the healthy core of all the social virtues." He also inexplicably devoted the last ten years of his life to posthumously slandering the reputation of Edgar Allan Poe in anonymous obituaries, snide articles, and largely fabricated memoirs.

*Which, it has to be said, includes mass murderers, warmongerers, slave traders and more rapists than you can count

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bad Medicine

I've been writing about sex a lot recently, which isn't nearly as exciting as you might think, in fact, my job often involves removing anything that's too interesting, if you get my drift. It's mostly been articles about every sexually transmitted infection under the sun, and how they can be caught from doing so little as thinking dirty thoughts about people. Which makes you think that you might have some of them... until you look at the pictures, scream and realise that no, you don't. The closest to interesting I've read was probably the really rather detailed article about the physiological phases of the female orgasm, which did nearly make me gnaw my own arm off (it has been a while).

Anyway, I'm aware that I'm probably talking shop, but what I actually wanted to write here was a rant about the pharmaceutical industry. I need to write it here, otherwise I'm going to end up putting it into the Female Sexual Dysfunction article. Which brings me round to my point.

After the roaring financial success of treatments for erectile dysfunction, like viagra, cialis, and levitra, drug companies across the world realised what quacks and everyone else realised long ago - sex sells. After tapping the male market (selling sexual enhancements to men is like shooting fish in a barrel) they decided to try and get a foothold in the other half of the population.

One problem, women don't have penises to go floppy or to be self conscious about.

But aha! They find a market - some surveys indicate that a large proportion of women, especially older women, really don't enjoy sex. They then tack on the same Freud derived bullshit that's been kicking around for years - about the clitoral orgasm being a juvenile stage and the vaginal orgasm being the sign of a grown woman, and shazam! You have an illness that you can peddle the cure to. Never mind the fact that a woman not enjoying penetrative sex is a symptom of nothing more than the fact that she doesn't enjoy penetrative sex, or that a lack of sexual desire is more easily explained by, er, I don't know an ugly and inconsiderate partner?

The worst part is that they don't even develop new drugs for it, the two that they are pushing hardest are Bupropion (an antidepressant that they're also marketing as a treatment for obesity and ADHD) and Viagra - which is supposed to make the clitoris bigger, which it does, but this is in turn supposed to make sex better, which it might, er, they think...

Mind you, there is a funny side. One of the drugs being researched as a possible cure was Bremelanotide, which did actually appear to be very effective (it isn't going to be marketed though, because it also raises your blood pressure dangerously high). The funny part is that bremelanotide was first developed as a tanning agent.

Which it did very well, but it also gave men spontaneous erections, and made both genders really fucking horny. Which possibly isn't the best thing for a day on the beach. Not ones to admit defeat, they just tried to develop it as a drug that made you horny (and also gave you a sexy tan, I guess).


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Iron and Wine

I was first shown the meaty goodness of Mr Sam Beam by Matt, to whom I am eternally grateful. With his new album he's gone electric, but oh man, it's so tasty. Like his backing band is made up of Four Tet ultra and Zombie Jeff Buckley.



Monday, May 12, 2008

We're a Winner

I decided to go to Oxford Street after work today, to see if there were any clothes there that I liked. I’ve been thinking I should get some new clothes for a while now, as only about half my clothes were bought in the last year or two – which means that half of my clothes are too big for me, and the other half look tatty because they’re the ones that I wear regularly. So anyway, I got to oxford circus station and had the usual couple of minutes of complete disorientation (oxford circus station has four exits, one on each corner of a junction, and no signs telling you what’s what – which means that you have no idea which way you’re going once you come out). I looked in a few shops, in a bored and unenthusiastic sort of way (shopping for clothes makes me depressed and cranky) and then came across a large police roadblock.

Some inconsiderate person, who, lets face it, had a much worse day than me, seemed to have ended up under a bus. So it goes. The police had about 100 metres of the road cordoned off and I didn’t much feel like rubbernecking, so I turned down the street on my right and decided to take a diversion through Soho.

When I reached the first junction I realised that I was on Berwick street, and remembered that there was a really good independent record shop about five minutes’ walk down the road. I spent a while looking around the place, trying to find CDs by the various artists I like who are too obscure to be available in the normal places (it occurs to me now that I didn’t think to look for the new Ted Leo album, silly me) I didn’t find any of them – they’re probably there, they just have a rather idiosyncratic filing system – but I did find ‘The shepherd’s Dog’ by Iron and Wine and a Curtis Mayfield best of, that had a few tracks that I know, as well as a load from Superfly (which I have). The Curtis Mayfield was only a fiver, so I figured I may as well.

I wandered around London for a while, not finding anything interesting – I’d pretty much given up on even trying to shop for clothes by this point, the motivation had evaporated – and made my way home; which took much longer than I was expecting, because of some kind of railway-related-knobbery.

When I finally got home, and put the Curtis Mayfield CD on the stereo I realised that the guy in the shop had put the wrong CD in the case when he was getting them from the stockroom. What I had was not the best of Curtis Mayfield, but the Best of The Impressions – the old soul group he used to be in.

I was a little miffed, but actually, this CD seems to be really good – excellent sunshine music, all pop-soul and funk, and the lyrics are imbued with that sort of exuberant optimism you get in soul music between the passing of the civil rights act and the assassination of Martin Luther King. It’s probably better summertime music than the Curtis Mayfield best of, which belongs to the darkness of the 1970s pusherman and ghettochild, despite its funkyness.

So yeah, thank you fate, fatality, and incompetence – I have discovered some more good music that I didn’t know before.


EDIT: As ed pointed out, I now know it wasn't someone getting hit by a bus, but in fact someone being stabbed to death in a gang brawl outside McDonalds.

Oh yes. London is precisely that classy.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


The sun is shining, and it is really warm. Even though I can only see windows from a distance in my office, I'm still walking around with a big smile on my face. I find that people just get friendlier when the sun shines, strangers chat, and it becomes possible to distinguish women and men by more than just the colour of their coats and the length of their hair. The only downside is this year's strange fashion for sunglasses the size of hubcaps - I saw a girl today with sunglasses whose lenses actually reached down below her nose, and nearly up to her hairline. This is fair enough, Islington women have to have their expensive trinkets, but really, I saw a couple of blokes on the underground this morning who were wearing giant black sunglasses that looked like those ones that elderly blind men wear.

Which is obviously necessary, what with all the dazzling sunshine on the tube.

I have absolutely no idea where I'm going with this, my brain's just kind of surfing now*. I've been listening to Tapes 'n Tapes' new album for the last few days - tis very good, more noisy and loud than their last one. In the newly discovered music there's these people, who have written one good song, at least, and this geezer, who plays a damn fine bluestronica. There's also this lot, who have been around for years and probably aren't new to anyone but me. And, er, a strange rambling song-monologue by Noël Coward.


*I've been accidentally quoting the streets a lot today, not sure why

Monday, May 05, 2008

warm breeze

It was the first warm and summery night of the year tonight - or at least the first that I've noticed. Seeing as I can pretty much walk normally now (although I do periodically get stabbing pains in my left Achilles tendon) I decided to go up to the top of the hill and watch the pretty lights flick on as the sky darkened. Sunsets can be pretty anywhere, you see, but a view like the one from the top of shooters hill is something uniquely urban, and I like that for some reason. During the day, the city is all pretty faceless, individual buildings are impossible to pick out unless they're really big, and therefore uninteresting. Once the sun sets, however, you see the city as a swathe of a million pinprick lights, each one a house, a window. The big blobs of yellowlit officeblocks, the glimpsed halogen blinks of cars flicking in and out of sight. It's like you can suddenly see all the life than you're too far out to notice by daylight.

I tried taking some pictures, but my camera can't take high enough resolution pictures, and I can't keep it steady enough to render each little dot of light, so they're no use to illustrate what I'm talking about. The one below, however, does sort of give an impression of night time in London.