Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just Generally Overexcited

Well, other than general overexcitement, I have completely failed to identify a unifying theme to link all of the major elements of the past week's shenanigans, which included:

1. One tip-top super Iron & Wine/Calexico gig at the Kentish Town Forum, at which the mighty nibus and I had to pretend to be from Radio 2 (we weren't very good at this, and kept getting in the wrong queue), and which thanks to our swanky guest list status we were allowed to view from a distant and muggy vantage point somewhere at the back, near the ceiling. I'm still not totally convinced about Calexico's new album, but All Systems Red, which gradually builds up into a mighty wall of guitar noise, is almost Sigur Rós-ishly awesome live. Nice work, Calexico boys!

2. One tip-top super Jenny Lewis gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, which was only slightly marred by her creepy 70s-horror-film-style dress and the fact that I had inadvertently got tickets for a distant and muggy vantage point somewhere at the back, near the ceiling. But the lovely Jenny has a gorgeous voice and some spankingly good songs, *and* she can rhyme 'mirrors' with 'fears', which is a skill sadly denied to us Brits. Nice work, Jenny!

3. One tip-top super lunch that was attended by ACTUAL REAL TELEVISION AND FILM STARS. I got terribly overexcited and started shouting things like "perspicacity!" and "it's grown a hive mind - it's producing its own thoughts!", which didn't work quite as well as conversational gambits as I'd hoped. Luckily my lovely companions (most of whom I think I also offered jobs to, like some kind of diminutive, scruffy-haired, one-woman press gang) made up for this by steering the conversation towards sensible things like football and Shakespeare. Nice work, lovely companions!

4. A meeting with my tutor, who professed my tortuous 5,000-word essay to be "rather excellent", and asked if I'd thought about doing a PhD, at which point I got ridiculously overexcited again and started rattling on about virtual gift economies, the decommercialisation of culture, and similar claptrap. Nice work, future pop-culture academic patroclus!

5. The Modernism exhibition at the V&A, which for anyone considering going, is not only very, very, very well put together, but is also stuffed full of (possibly unintentionally) comical items and captions. The captions are always my favourite thing about any art exhibition, and I often find myself reading them without even looking at the actual artworks on display. Today's favourite (relating to this building) was:
[Bruno] Taut believed that glass could orchestrate human emotions and contribute to the creation of a spiritual Utopia.
Apparently Modernism was all about achieving universal human happiness by getting everyone to live in buildings that look like upside-down daleks, wear felt suits decorated with brightly coloured chevrons, and sit on columns of air. Sadly it largely failed in these ambitions, but you have to admire them for trying. Nice work, ultimately unsuccessful proponents of the modernist aesthetic!

6. Nutso amounts of work, which only served to contribute further to this week's general ridiculous levels of stress and overexcitement. Nice work, work!

Ahem. I think I'll just slink off now, take a couple of valium* and lie down till I regain some semblance of composure. Nice work, prescription barbiturates**!

* Not really - Bach Rescue Remedy is as far as I venture into the world of narcotics these days.

** Or, more accurately, 'Nice work, prescription benzodiazepines!'- thanks to Dr Snackspot, renowned comestibles specialist, for the correction. I knew I should have looked that up.

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Blogging on temporary hold while brain attempts to condense the exciting events'n'developments* of the past few days into one succinct, light-hearted and thematically consistent post. Back soon. Don't go away now!

* Not *that* sort of development.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Funniest. Post. Ever.

It's not often I see something that makes me laugh until I'm nearly sick. But this post of First Nations' had me in such apoplectic fits at work that I had to turn it off and come back later when there was no one around.

You want Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with artistic representations of Judith and Holofernes? Of course you do. Go to it!

Pure comedy genius.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Scrap everything I said about not liking songs in languages I can't understand. That can't be true, otherwise I wouldn't be listening to this new Gotan Project album over and over again.

Top track is Mi Confesión, which sounds like Leftfield's Afro Left, only in Spanish and with a tango accordion on it. Brilliant, in other words.

Can't find that one online, though, so here's Tango Canción instead:

Gotan Project - Tango Canción (mp3) - courtesy of Motel de Moka

UPDATE: Found it now:

Gotan Project - Mi Confesión (mp3) - courtesy of Varyushkin


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Saturday, April 22, 2006

That Ought To Do It

In other news, Prolix has stunning photographic evidence of DEFRA's hi-tech efforts to contain a possible outbreak of bird flu outside the Co-Op in Cranbrook, Kent. Go to it!

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Friday, April 21, 2006


Warning - extreme pretentiousness follows:

When I was in the fifth form, I thought it would be fun to invent a new word and see how quickly it would spread round the school. As you can see, my notion of fun was a bit different from that of most of my schoolmates, who generally preferred drinking gin in the woods, sniffing tippex thinners in bed and smoking out of the dormitory window. (Not all at the same time).

In your classic American High School Movie terms, my level of popularity and influence at school was roughly on a par with the nerdy girl in Heathers who Winona Ryder plays croquet with after everyone else is dead, so why I thought anyone would adopt my new word is beyond me. But I gave it a go.

My chosen word was "shmick", which sounds to me now like it should mean something in Yiddish (anyone?) but at the time I 'coined' it, it was supposed to mean 'arty and pretentious'. My dissemination strategy involved saying 'shmick' at seemingly appropriate junctures and within earshot of powerful and influential people, and writing it on as many things as possible, the better to impress it into the minds of my schoolmates.

Despite all my best efforts, I only observed the word 'shmick' being uttered once in the wild, and by this time it had assumed a secondary connotation of 'yuk, that's disgusting'. Frankly I was very disappointed with the whole outcome, and moved swiftly on to a new endeavour, which was probably writing an Abstract Expressionist play about Matt Johnson out of The The being sick on a cross-channel ferry.

I'd like to say that now I'm a functioning adult I'm not nearly as tiresome as the teenage me, but actually I am. I know this because of the unholy sense of excitement I got when I realised the terrible - and seemingly largely untapped - power of the Technorati Tags for tracking the invention and uptake of new words.

Tagging lets you summarise what your blog post is about in a few keywords, so that other people can find your posts when they search on those words. Not many people seem to be using tags yet, which is possibly why, in the entire history of blogging, only me and an Australian chap called Cam Pegg have ever used the term 'mashed potato' to tag a blog post. On the other hand, it could just be that no one else blogs about mashed potato quite as much as me and my new potato purée-loving friend Cam.

But when *everyone* starts using tags, I'm quite looking forward to the merry hell that will break out as irritating people like me attempt to coin and spread new words just for the personal glory of inventing one that sticks.

In the 'real' world, it's hard to establish who first coined a given word or phrase. There has to be written evidence, and the written evidence has to be dated, and attributable to a specific individual. But in blogworld, everything is written, dated and attributable to a specific individual. So if you've got a fancy new word or phrase, this is probably the best place to 'claim' it. And if you write it as a tag, all you need to do is click on it to see a) if anyone's used it before, and b) how many other people have used it since.

Ooh, the power!

Last week, for example, the Economist invented the word 'womenomics'. Eight days later, is the word 'womenomics' catching on? Well, sort of, but I just love how easy it is to find out.

Taxonomy fans beware: it's going to get very, very messy.

UPDATE: And as if to prove some kind of point, my own 'neology' tag brought me to this post, which explains it all much better, and with fewer references to mashed potato.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Signs Of The Times, Part 2


K: Someone sent me something in the...oh, what's that's like email, but it comes on a trolley...

H: The post?

K: That's the one.


Me: You should start a blog, you know.

PP: Well I thought I might.

Me: You really should.

PP: Yes, I think I will start a blog, but I think I'll write it in a book.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Unoriginal Contribution To Human Thought

Currently plumbing the depths of sleep deprivation and mental exhaustion after spending the whole weekend trying to assemble 5,000 words on how the blogosphere is giving rise to a New Folk Culture.

Betty, incidentally, has done this infinitely better and more entertainingly in just a few short paragraphs.

Sometimes I find this topic very exciting, and sometimes I think "but blogging - it's really just one huge wanky Islington dinner party, isn't it?". Anyway, the 5,000 words are done now, and some of them make sense, and there are properly formatted footnotes, and I probably mentioned Gramsci, as one is supposed to, and I criticised Howard Rheingold for not covering certain topics in enough detail (Yeah *Howard*, get back to your desk this instant, you feckless layabout).

And when I wasn't doing that I was out delivering election leaflets for my new friends the Lib Dems, so you can see how exciting a weekend it was. The Lib Dems in my council ward all have terribly posh names, which makes me worry slightly about their appeal to the ragbag local electorate, but hey, they've got me, Woman of the People, as a footsoldier, so perhaps they'll be OK.

Rounded off the weekend by having a torrid dream about my long-lost cat returning with a huge gaping wound where its ear used to be, while a fellow blogger (mentioning no names, of course) attempted to ravish me on a pink sofa as World War Three broke out around us.

On waking up it occurred to me that this is not dissimilar to the final scene in Vile Bodies. It could be a portent, or it could just be because I ate too much mashed potato (again) last night. Who knows?

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Life Momentarily Imitates Pop Video Conceit

Walking down Paddenswick Road earlier (in the manner of Richard Ashcroft in any Verve video, only happier), the scent of almond blossom in the air, the sun shining on the colourful stucco facades of the rich people's houses, a small child in front of me blowing bubbles that reflected the rich metallic blue of a parked Peugeot 306 convertible, listening to Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins singing "Melt Your Heart", was all quite lovely.

Then the sun went in, the kid started screeching and "Shot By Both Sides" by Magazine came on, but never mind...

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Friday, April 14, 2006


New in work avoidance:

Spell your name the Flickr way (via Slaminsky)

Fake Morrissey song titles (via Cultural Snow)


Must... Control... Brain... Of... Thoughts

UPDATE: Grammatical mobius strip now fixed, I think. Thanks all for your suggestions!

Trains of thought this morning that could have ended up as blog posts if I had the time and dedication (be very thankful that I don't):

1. Calexico's Garden Ruin vs. Howe Gelb's 'Sno Angel Like You. If I was Joey Burns or John Convertino, I'd be feeling a mite irritated that my gravelly-voiced ex-bandmate had come up with a far better album than my own latest creation. Gelb 1, Calexico 0, frankly.

2. Giant Sand's cover of Nick Cave's Red Right Hand. When Messrs Burns and Convertino were in a band with Howe Gelb, it was called Giant Sand. They covered Red Right Hand, one of the greatest songs ever written (sorry, W), but they covered it all wrong. This is because they tried to make it sound like a spooky desertscape, while letting the lyrics go all to buggery. But the lyrics are the best thing about Red Right Hand. The thing is practically a poem, the lyrics provide the rhythm of the whole song. You can't go missing words out, or it all gets shot to pieces. So there! Cave 1, Sand 0.

3. "Womenomics". This week's Economist gets all excited - to the extent of creating a new word - about the fact that women are cleverer than men and now lots of us have jobs too! Never mind what type of job we have, or the fact that all the pictures in the entire magazine are still of men, apparently women are now driving the global economy! Go us! The Economist's conclusion? "If women are to get out and power the global economy, it is surely only fair that men should at last do more of the housework." Or alternatively, just get your own house. Rah!

4. Computer terminology in pop music lyrics. With computers and networking now a part of everyday life, you'd think there'd be more songs about MSN Messenger* and SSH tunnelling and stuff. But sadly the world of pop songcraft seems largely to overlook the massive technological advances going on around us. So I was heartened to discover Swedish alt-country chanteuse Britta Persson singing a wistful song about wishing she had a program to defrag her heart (video here). More of that, please.

* The Winter Rush by Some By Sea has a line that goes "I miss the nightly readouts/Of all the things we spewed out", which I like to think is a reference to MSN's evil Message History feature. So that's OK then.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Uninteresting Times

What I'm Currently Doing: writing a brochure about a square, grey building in Hertfordshire.

What I'd Rather Be Doing: reading the unutterably pretentious Stylus Magazine's review of every UK number one single since Jan 1, 2000.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Burning Bright

Got up at 4am to write an essay, but ended up adopting a beautiful tiger instead.

I've only got a tiny flat, so I'm hoping it'll get on alright with the cat.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

20 Tracks

UPDATE: Tag-ees now listed at the end.

Hurrah for Chaucer’s Bitch, who nominated me for this one, which I’ve been dying to do for ages. I did stamp my foot and sulk until she tagged me though, so it may not really count, but still, here goes:

1. A track from your early childhood
I was sheltered from the media in a tiny cottage in the North of Scotland for a lot of my early childhood, but when I was nine my Dad bought my brother and me a dodgy old telly for a pound in the school jumble sale. On this telly I remember watching Top of the Pops, and on Top of the Pops in 1980* I remember seeing Video Killed the Radio Star by Buggles, Going Underground by The Jam, and Sergeant Rock by XTC. As early song memories go, that’s a pretty damn fine selection.

2. A track that you associate with your first love
Love as in actual real grown-up love, or love as in playground love? If the latter, then definitely It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin. I was 11 or 12. Jonathan Thompson was my first boyfriend. I don’t know where he is now. (Jonathan, if you’re reading, please make yourself known).

My first real grown-up love was Camouflage Netting Man. In the declining days of our relationship, we lived in a shared house in Windsor with a bunch of DJs, including the future editor of Sleazenation mag. They were all students; I’d graduated and was the only one with a job (working behind the till in Past Times). On one of my mornings off, Camo Netting Man and I were lying in bed listening to Fallen by One Dove, when his Dad burst in unannounced – which was quite amazing, since he lived a hundred miles away – and ordered me to get up and clean the house, because that was my job as “the only woman in the place.” (There was another girl who lived upstairs, ACTUALLY, but we never saw her). I still have that CD. It still reminds me of being ordered out of bed by my boyfriend’s dad to clean up after a bunch of lazy stoner students. Possibly not what One Dove, or this question, intended.

3. A track that reminds you of a holiday trip
Teardrop by Massive Attack reminds me of my first proper holiday – a week in Tuscany with ex-Mr P not long after we’d started going out. With him at the wheel, I’d managed to navigate our way out of Rome in a hire car with only a map of the Rome metro for guidance. Not an approach I would necessarily recommend to other holidaymakers. I spent this holiday drinking, smoking, crying about my parents splitting up, fending off snakes with a broom, looking at frescos by Piero della Francesca, translating things into and out of Italian, and reading Catch-22. My Dad, his girlfriend and his dog also kept turning up, which was quite amazing, since they lived in a completely different country.

4. A track you like but wouldn't want to be associated with in public
I Want You by Savage Garden. Let us not examine this too closely.

5. A track that accompanied you when you were lovesick
Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere? by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I don’t recommend this song to anyone. Every time I hear it the sky goes black, birds drop from the trees and I’m immediately compelled to rock back and forth in my chair, sobbing desolately. Painful memories, and all the more painful for still being pretty recent.

6. The track you have listened to most often
According to iTunes, There She Goes, My Beautiful World, also by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. And who am I to argue with iTunes?

7. A track that is your favourite instrumental
I’m a terrible philistine when it comes to music, and I really only like songs for the lyrics. I have very little truck with instrumentals. I can just about listen to all of Hunted by a Freak by Mogwai, so it’ll have to be that.

8. A track that represents one of your favourite bands
Black Heart by Calexico. The greatest broken-heart dirge ever, unlike Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?, which is just mental cruelty in song form.

9. A track which best represents yourself
Return To Yesterday by the Lilac Time. I’m still listening to it after nearly 20 years, which is quite something, seeing as I normally grow to hate all songs within a fortnight of deciding I like them.

10. A track which reminds you of a special person
Mechanic Dancing by XTC (in fact, anything by XTC) reminds me of my little brother, and he’s very special (everyone say “awwwww”).

11. A track to which you can relax
Still…Sleeping by Canyon Country. I’ve never heard this song to the end, because it does actually send me to sleep. In a nice way.

12. A track that stands for a really good time in your life
The best time I’ve had in my life is undoubtedly right now, so I’ll go for Gold Lion by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Yeah.

13. A track that is currently your favourite
This week’s Song of the Week is But I Did Not, by Howe Gelb, ex-frontman of British Net Celebrity-scaring band Giant Sand. It’s like Lou Reed singing Appalachian porch blues (I have no idea what I’m talking about there, incidentally) with a Canadian gospel choir thrown in. Marvellous.

14. A track that you'd dedicate to your best friend
Does this require me to be soppy and that? I don’t really do soppy. I also have more than one best friend. It’s a minefield! Alright then, for Smat, Don’t Go by the Hothouse Flowers, for reasons she’ll appreciate and that are mainly to do with binbags, and for Tabby Rabbit, Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, because that’s where we’re going in July. Not in a van, sadly, but you can't have everything.

15. A track that you like especially for its lyrics
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart by Wilco. Turgid song, but beautiful, quite erotic, emotionally twisted lyrics.

16. A track that no one likes but you
I Want You by Savage Garden, probably.

17. A track that you like that's neither English nor German
That only leaves French, because I don’t like songs with words I don’t understand. So, either the French version of Ballad of Cable Hogue by Calexico, or Le Freestyle de l’Obsolète by MC Solaar.

18. The track that best lets you release tension
That’s the same as 11, isn’t it?

19. A track you want to be played at your funeral
I really hope my friend S will a) still be with us, and will also b) DJ at my funeral wearing his electric blue catsuit and fairy wings. In which case it’s likely to be Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit by Gina G – and frankly I can’t think of a better song to accompany anyone to the grave.

20. A track that you'd nominate for "Best Track of All Time"
Oo, now this really *is* a minefield. Minefield, I tell you. You should have seen the withering look that Wyndham gave me on Wednesday night when I answered this very same question. I’m not saying.

UPDATE: Now hold still while I tag you, and you won't feel a thing: Pashmina, Nibus and Occasional Poster!

* Or 1979. Not sure.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Apparently you're no one these days if you don't have at least three separate identities. Or at least this appeared to be the theme of the various entertainments I attended last night, starting with Londonist's Blogging Demystified seminar at the Apple Store.

Topics ranged from the practical - "you can't predict how many comments you'll get", "you can't make a lot of money from blogging" etc. (courtesy of Annie Mole of the London Underground Blog), to the ultra-philosophical - "how does my blog identity differ from my real identity or my World of Warcraft identity?", "how can I prove that it's actually me that writes my blog?"* (courtesy of "Tom Reynolds" of Random Acts of Reality).

I don't know what the audience - which consisted almost entirely of spiky-haired young men in black glasses and stripy scarves - made of it all, but I did like the nice science girls from Inky Circus, because they giggled a lot** and have a stalker, which is what blogging is really all about.

Afterwards DG (not his real homepage), Wyndham (not his real name), Robert (who apparently has no alternative online identities) and I (the 'real' me) went to see Calexico play a secretish gig at the 100 Club to promote their new album Garden Ruin.

If any band knows about having multiple identities it's Calexico; even their name is a nod to the fact that they're half Californian indie-rock and half Mexican mariachi music, and their style swings wildly depending on what combination of instruments they're playing, what language they're singing in, and who's doing the singing.

I was slightly disappointed that they didn't play any of my favourites (apart from their top cover of Love's Alone Again Or), but this was more than made up for by the fact that the tickets were free, courtesy of pro ligger Wyndham (thanks W!), and there was a display of the most awful dancing I have ever seen, ever, by two quite inebriated gentlemen standing in front of me. If only this pair had elected to play air trumpet or air double bass, instead of air guitar, the evening would have been nothing short of monumental.

Ended up drinking in Soho afterwards with a pop star called Terri Walker, whose new album is called I Am Terri Walker. So there's at least one person left who isn't suffering a postmodern identity crisis.

* I'm still not sure why you would want/need to do this, as the Liberal Democrats phoned me up at a crucial juncture in the presentation, but I've got some lovely arcane ideas about how you would go about proving your identity, mainly involving "lexical fingerprinting", which is my new favourite phrase, along with "folksonomy".

** I've been worrying about this all day. Obviously they didn't *just* giggle (as I would have done, had I been in their place), they also made some great points about how to encourage commenters and how to project your own personality through your blog. And as well as having a stalker, they've also received THREE MARRIAGE PROPOSALS and TWO MEGA-MEDIA BUYOUT OFFERS, all of which they admirably turned down.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Monday, April 03, 2006

This Is Not A Meme

It seems I've been tagged all the way from Thailand by the lovely Tim from Cultural Snow. Gosh, how far the internet's tentricles reach, eh?

The game with this one is to think of the Ten Best Films ever, then scrap that list, and list your Ten Favourite Films instead. For which, phew, quite frankly. I'm no film buff, so I'd have no chance of creating a list of Best Films Ever. But favourites, now, that I can do.

My film appreciation criteria are more or less the same as my music appreciation criteria: it's mainly to do with the words. Spiky, witty dialogue, that's what I like*. So here, in no particular order, are my Ten Favourite Films, with bonus facetious commentary:

1. Withnail and I: Yes, yes, I know, say what you like, but there's never been a more perfectly quotable film, ever. Every line a classic. *And* it's British. Hurrah!

2. Amélie: A friend and I were discussing at the weekend why it is that France produces brilliant films but execrable pop music. We came to the conclusion that it's because the French are just too spookily comfortable with their own emotions. They may be, but we Brits aren't, and that's why I can never quite establish why this film makes me cry so much. Also, it's so pretty to look at that I've got a poster of it in my bedroom. It's a bit like sharing a two-man dormitory with Audrey Tautou, and she never turns the light off, which is quite annoying.

3. Ed Wood: Zombies! Aliens! Bela Lugosi! A giant inanimate octopus! A cross-dressing Johnny Depp in an angora sweater! The best dialogue of any film that isn't Withnail & I! What more do you need?

4. Ghostbusters: My unseemly love of geeks was almost entirely formed by Dr Egon Spengler. "I collect spores, moulds, and fungus." Ooh, baby.

5. Lost In Translation: Because any film that has the Jesus and Mary Chain on the soundtrack gets my vote.

6. Memento: I could claim to admire it for its sheer cleverness and technical innovation and all that, but really it's probably something a bit more straightforward to do with Guy Pearce. Moving on...

7. A Knight's Tale. We don't really have to talk about why I like this one, do we? Oh, alright then. More attractive men per square inch of celluloid than any other film, ever. Paul Bettany as a periodically naked Geoffrey Chaucer? ("Chaucer's the name, writing's the game" etc.) Has to be a winner.

8. A Beautiful Mind. Maths geeks and secret codes - only two of my favourite things ever! I wanted this all to be true soooo much that I can only watch it up to halfway. Russell Crowe hideously miscast. Paul Bettany sadly remains fully clothed throughout. Never mind.

9. Sleepy Hollow: Excellent comedy turn from the boy Depp, doing his best Withnail impression. He's so clearly a comic actor that I don't know why anyone ever bothers asking him to do serious stuff.

10. Swingers: It's cool, it's funny, it's got some cracking dialogue, and Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are just great.

God, that was awful. Anyone else want a go?

* Although now I've made the list, it seems that I like attractive men almost as much as I like spiky, witty dialogue. Tsk, whatever would Seven of Nine say?

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