Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Audio blog #1

Posted 22 Nov 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

Ok, so in my never-ending quest to explore all sorts of ways of sharing audio content, I’ve just intoned my first audio blog – four short minutes of me blathering on about what I’ve been doing with my week. Hope this is of some interest to someone – if so I might try to do one of these every week or two – apart from anything else it’s a good way of catching up with things I didn’t have time to write about.

Listen!

In it I talk a bit about Salt Lake City, Bonnie Greer, Obama and jetlag. Sound is kind of crappy, sorry.

Very original material

Posted 22 Nov 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Music

I’d lost track a bit of Mike Skinner over the course of his last couple of LPs – but this is really brilliant. This song brings together a bunch of things I’m really interested in at the moment – video, music, social media, blogging.

What’s happening is that Mike – who’s been inactive on Twitter for a year, until recently – seems to have had a bit of a creative second wind, and he’s incorporating his online, social media interactions directly into his music – particularly twitter conversations. A bunch of his new tunes, which he’s posting regularly on his blog, are direct interactions with his fans and followers – songs inspired by, and in some cases co-created by, twitter. As usual, of course, Skinner’s lyrics are always worth listening to – here he’s kind of fascinating rapping about cinema:

“Films from the trailers these days look waste
like a gun in the hand of a desperate character.
Fun in the land of disparate savages
like all your natural movements however habitual
become separate acts of action;
teary sarges and burned-up seers”.

In other ways, though, this new one is like nothing I’ve heard before – not that it’s amazingly groundbreaking musically, but what’s interesting is that the nature of online media is changing the way Skinner thinks about content. Rather than being complete, thematically consistent chunks, his songs are becoming multi-threaded, conversational, collaborative. He’s opening up the songwriting process so that it’s a dialogue, informed by and responsive to, multiple actors. Here he addresses three questions, on the fly, thoughtfully, and in a really charming way (side note – when did he get so handsome?). I’m really glad someone is doing this – this is the kind of innovation music needs. The video is great, too – particularly the bit where his mate shoulder-barges him.

Apologies to Sam and Dan, who have already heard all this in a flurry of excited emails this afternoon.

Google Friend Connect

Posted 30 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

A boring, admin post tonight. I’ve been slow in pulling together everything since I moved this blog from Blogger over to WordPress, and still have a few things to do, but I finally this evening got round to transferring Google Friend Connect over from the site’s old address. I’d read that I’d have difficulty transferring it over, but it seems to have worked smoothly enough, and the twenty or so people who’ve registered as followers previously should now be connected up once again. How much people actually use Google Friend Connect, I don’t know, but if you’ve not tried it yet, it’s a pretty good way of logging and registering blogs you enjoy so that you don’t miss posts – you can plug the output into your RSS aggregator easily and, well, some people seem to use it a lot.

Can I make a quick request – if you’re reading this because you used to get updates from Assistant Blog over at Blogger through Google Friend Connect and found this because your feed is now working again; can you let me know in the comments section? Just to reassure me that it works.

Anyone else reading who wants to follow this blog, can find the widget below, and also over in the sidebar on the right.

Thanks!


Welcome

Posted 08 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

If you have followed a link from my old blog, thank you very much for taking the time to follow me over from Blogger to WordPress. This new address (www.assistantblog.co.uk) is now the sole residence of my enthusiastic if tardy blogging efforts, and as such you’ll need to amend your links, bookmarks, subscriptions, etc.

As you’ll see, bits and bobs of this site are still in construction, so you might spot a few errors over the next days and weeks – but hopefully the switchover will be seamless, and you should see no appreciable alteration in content or style – the same old, slapdash, erratic blogging is the order of the day.

What you might notice is that there are now a sequence of tabs at the top of the screen in addition to this main page. This just gives you the opportunity to drill down to specific categories of posts. These are provided as a nice navigational detail, but basically everything goes through this main page as usual.

I’m not a web designer, but the aim has been to make this page as straightforward, clear, bright and useful as possible. If you have any comments or suggestions, please do leave them in the comments.

Cheers,
Jonathan

friends in other places

Posted 22 Feb 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

Laura, over on her lovely Make Do And Mend blog (which always makes me feel bad for never sending her any post) has some good news; after what seemed like the end of the road for the traditional polaroid camera, the re-invigorated company are now preparing to launch a new range of cameras and a return of the classic Colour 600 film. As Laura says, here’s hoping that the film is less expensive than it was last time round.

In the meantime, here’s a glimpse at one of the new models. More here.

polaroid

Meanwhile, I was pleased to see that I’m not the only one who looks forward to seeing Siobhan’s lovely drawings – here she is being written about on a German website, in some incomprehensible foreign language. Yay. And here’s one of her drawings, which I like.

3 Good Things

Lastly, I’m really starting to miss Anne-Sophie and Rich now that they’ve moved out of the country. Although I like the fact that my friends are a pretty egalitarian, European lot, it’s sad that this sometimes means they move away. London, Melbourne, Barcelona, Paris and Alsace have all robbed me of loved friends and drinking buddies, for which I am most resentful.

However. I am delighted that AS and Rich are blogging regularly from their new home, and recommend you bookmark their blog – I envy them having a whole new life to write about. Mine trundles on, punctuated with occasional flurries of sneezing.

Later on, as we had stopped to enjoy the quietness and the sun glaring on the snow, we heard noises coming from the bushes. A deer emerged from nowhere, only about 5 meters from us, quickly to disappear into the forest. A few seconds later, its foal passed even closer, looking absolutely terrorised: we could not believe our eyes! Suddenly a dog that had been chasing them through the trees appeared, stopped, stared at us (I got really scared it might attack us for a moment!) and finally, luckily, realised that it had lost the track of the deers and went away in the opposite direction. What a magical moment!

running from camera

Posted 17 Jan 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Links

A nice little link from the ever reliable GromBlog; this is the Running From Camera blog.

“The rules are simple: I put the self-timer on 2 seconds, push the button and try to get as far from the camera as I can.”

(via)

dogs in snow

Posted 01 Jan 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

I often link to The Grey Area, but usually neglect to mention that one of the main reasons I read it is because it features, alongside lots of interesting links and hugely acerbic commentary, some extremely beautiful photographs, as often as not focused on the author’s two dogs, Little Mouse and Alfie. They’re normally wonderfully sharp and focused; but I like this less clear shot just as much.

Click here to see the original post.

strange curations

Posted 30 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Music

This blog – Stevie’s Curiosity Cabinet – is the kind of thing that I love about blogging – the way that ‘content’ is democratized to the extent that esoteric interests can be published freely and accessed with as much ease as mainstream ones. If I’d never have stumbled onto Stevie’s blog, I would never have needed to know about ANYTHING he writes about. But as it is, his posts regularly have me sitting up, interested, alert. Here he is on Dolly Parton.

Possibly the best known of all Dolly’s compositions, Jolene is the lead track on a seven-inch maxi-single (RCA Victor RCA 2675) which was her breakthrough hit in the British market in 1976, reaching number seven in June of that year. Whilst there’s nothing remotely unusual about this disc in itself, either musically or as an object (unless one views the value-for-money three-track maxi as a curious product of the ‘seventies, like Dynaflex, say), it merits inclusion in this journal because of how Dolly was manipulated by John Oswald (link : http://ubu.artmob.ca/sound/oswald_john/mystery_tapes/x1_version/ – it’s number 13).

“Dolly Parton gets a sex change by slowing down the speed of one of her singles…”, wrote Andrew Jones in his book Plunderphonics, ‘Pataphysics + Pop Mechanics, which includes this quote from Oswald : “Although the idea of slowing down Dolly Parton was my idea, two separate Dolly Parton fans told me on two separate occasions that I should listen to Dolly Parton 45s at 33 RPM, because she sounded really great at that speed. And it’s true.”

From http://www.plunderphonics.com/xhtml/xnotes.html: “Pretender (based on ‘The Great Pretender’ written by Buck Ram) features the opportunity for a dramatic gender change, suggesting a hypothesis concerning the singer, Ms.Parton, perhaps worthy of headlines in the National Enquirer. The first inklings of this story came from fans of Ms.Parton’s earlier hit single ‘Jolene’. As many consumers have inadvertently discovered, especially since the reemergence of 12′ 45rpm records of which this present disc is a peculiar subset, it is not uncommon to find oneself playing 45rpm sides at the LP standard speed of 331/3. In this transposed tempo ‘Jolene’ reveals the singer to be a handsome tenor. Additional layers of homosexual longing, convoluted ménages à trois and double identities are revealed in a vortex of androgyny as one switches, verse to verse, between the two standard playback speeds.”

Whilst to my ears the backing music does work extremely well, the reduced pace darkening the mood of the track wonderfully, I’m not sure I’m totally convinced that Dolly’s voice resembles that of a male when heard at twelve revs fewer per minute – but if disbelief can be suspended briefly, one gets a whole new intriguing perspective on her lyric : a man worrying about losing his man to the song’s female subject; the vulnerability of a male capable of being moved to tears by the potential situation.

Fantastic, odd, stuff.

taking heart

Posted 16 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category General, Links

This week lots of the bloggers I read regularly seem to be preoccupied with relationships, ineractions; how we get on, and why. It would be nice to report that everyone is filing success stories – but original thoughts, confidential whisperings and admissions of failure are just as welcome. Wendy is dredging up the past over at her Wendy House; I don’t think she’s the only person with a story like this in her past:

We laughed together at his assertion. It was one of the most honest expressions of closeness I’d heard then or since.

After two weeks of dating that involved lots of

  • laughter,
  • sleeplessness,
  • loud singing after dark,
  • passionate debating of the relative efficacies of pychological theories,
  • burning of incence, nicotene and canabis

He dumped me.

Easing the suprise with the phrase ‘you’re the only girl for me’ and explaining that he preferred boys. With hindsight, this explained the dearth in exchanges of bodily fluids.

20 years later. He’s still passionate, humourful, debating, smoking, prefering boys and I’m still the only girl for him. Only now there is even less excahniging of bodily fluids because the boy’s grown into a christian priest.

Over at his Potentially Eventually Funny blog, our eponymous author has been told he is a good listener. Instead of taking heart, he is coming to terms with some home truths. Honesty compels me to admit that I know exactly the instinct that he describes in this passage, and the truthfulness of it makes me feel ashamed. Still, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one (and – disclaimer – it isn’t all the time).

Anyway, my point is that I’m not a good listener – whether to females or males – I am simply quite good at finding something with which to agree on about their position and focusing on it. Or, alternatively, I am good at finding a positive in a situation and exploiting it to make it seem that the overall impression that the person I’m speaking to has is that ‘everything is, or will be, alright’. I caught myself doing it automatically the other day. A friend (not you) started to tell me about an issue that he/she had in a work relationship the other day. Immediately I discovered that I was scouring his/her testimony for anything to alight upon as a positive or as a signal misinterpreted. I was simply looking for the most simple way of getting from A to B; from concerned / depressed / upset, to at ease / positive / happy. That is not being a good listening: at best it’s prostituting my ability to rationalise interpersonal dilemmas in return for friendship, and at worst it’s a technique to change the topic of conversation from something boring – other people’s problems – to something interesting – my problems.

Perhaps because I’ve just been reading about the slow train crash which is the Copenhagen summit – a meeting beset by the failure of disperate communities to find a compromise for the greater good, Matt’s observation over at his Zen Bullets Blog rings true today. Why Can’t We Just Get Along, he asks?

Atoms work together to make cells. Cells work together to form organisms. Organisms work together to form societies, and societies work together to make cultures.

Getting cultures to work together seems to be the tricky one.

Agh. Yep.

mystical animals

Posted 15 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

For reasons I don’t understand, I just seem to be getting an enormous amount of spam comments at the moment – it’s really annoying. If I snap and turn on the comment verification thing soon you’ll have to forgive me. In the meantime, some – some – of the spam is charming enough to let slip through the net.

tristram; complete live set in mp3, brighton

Posted 18 Nov 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews, Video

Although I’d never heard of him before, Tristram Bawtree, who plays his beautiful, tender folk songs as Tristram, has a Brighton connection; he studied Painting here a few years back (and his paintings, which you can find if you google him, are rather nice – abstract but detailed, mural-like), so it’s appropriate that I should discover him by chance here, rather than in his native London. His songs – although the videos below are in black and white – are similarly colourful – tender, imaginative meditations fleshed out with sumptuous orchestration. The six songs he played in support of Peggy Sue at the Freebutt last month were uniformly fantastic.

On the night, he arrives on stage looking thoughtful, slightly nervous. From the first note, though, I am hooked – both by his beautiful voice and wonderful way with words. His songs are funny, critical and very intelligent. He is sardonic for someone so young (“When I hear the word culture I pull out my wallet / and peel off a banknote or two”), playful (in Zombie Holocaust he muses that “I’d only waste my life, so better I use it well / to stop the monsters, from taking my loved one”) and he is ambitious, too – Isolde, the closing track, is inspired by a Wagner opera that he has not yet seen.

Musically, there is incredible richness in his soft, delicate folk. And where he seemed a touch uncertain arriving on stage, a natural ease and confidence is quickly evident. He’s able to demonstrate nimble touches that endear him to the audience (such as the arch Abba reference in Place In The Sea), and writes intelligently – only occasionally slipping up (the same song’s “well, we’re all going to die someday” reveals him to be a man with too many Jeff Lewis records in his collection). I’m pretty sure, however, by the end of the first song, that I’m watching the best live performance from a new band or songwriter I’ve encountered in 2009 – or longer.

It’s clearly early days for Tristram – his debut single isn’t out ’til February – but on the evidence of this short, artful set, he is absolutely brimming with promise. I await that single with baited breath.

In the meantime, here is a complete recording of the set – good enough, I think, to demonstrate just how brilliant he is – and a couple of videos made by Dan (who came away just as convinced as me that we’ll be hearing lots more from him soon).

Tristram
live at The Freebutt, Brighton
Weds 4th November, 2009

(right click and ‘save target as’ to download)
1. Someone Told Me A Poem
2. Ballad Of A Stolen Bicycle
3. Zombie Holocaust
4. Rhyme or Reason
5. Place In The Sea
6. Isolde

Here’s where you go to track down Tristram on Facebook and myspace. He’s also playing a bunch of gigs over the next month or so. Not to go to at least one of them (assuming you live in, or can get to London) would be to really miss out.

Dates
17 Nov 2009 Love & Milk @ Jamboree w/Jack Cheshire, London
26 Nov 2009 @ Soapbox with Derek Meins, London
1 Dec 2009 The Allotment @ Betsy Trotwood w/Caitlin Rose, London
6 Dec 2009 Moonshine Jamboree Xmas Party @ The Slaughtered Lamb w/ Left With Pictures, Jake Bellows and more, London
15 Dec 2009 The Tamesis Dock w/Peggy Sue & Curly Hair, London

The single is out on February 15th on Oh! Inverted World records, and will feature Someone Told me a Poem, Ballad of a Stolen Bicycle, Me and James Dean and Zombie Holocaust. As soon as a link to pre-order it is available, I’ll be posting it here.

Lastly, many thanks to Tristram and his lovely manager Anthony for giving me permission to post these tracks. Much appreciated. Thanks also to Brad over at Bradley’s Almanac, who’s been posting this sort of stuff for years and inspired me to start chronicling and posting live recordings of shows I go to. Following his lead, I recorded these songs with a (borrowed) MD player (thanks Dan) and a Sony ECM-719 mic. Hope you like them – any comments much appreciated.

exlovers, complete live set in mp3, brighton

Posted 04 Nov 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews, Video

I first saw Exlovers in the spring of this year, playing with Younghusband and Emmy The Great, and noted then that they were a band worth keeping an eye on. In many ways their influences evident that night – ranging from Postcard pop to shoegaze – suit my tastes exactly, but my conclusion then was ultimately cautious – they looked and sounded, I thought, a touch under-nourished, lacking authority and only sporadically hitting full throttle. I know now that I caught them early in their career, so with that in mind I went to see them at The Hope, in Brighton, a couple of weeks ago, wondering if they’d improved.

My god, they absolutely have. From the first note their sound was more forceful, evocative and compelling. The influence of My Bloody Valentine is increasingly evident, rushing through the tender, melodic pop and creating a kind of coursing, joyful reverberation, a clashing of air. I always felt that this heavily emotional, yearning sound was very physical. Displacement music. They don’t (that often) create a racket, and in fact much of the set is delicate, recalling Elliot Smith (although I later find out the band are Lemonheads fans – no wonder I love them), but the way they move up the registers, gliding through different volumes, hints at an instinctiveness which masks expertise.

Pete, their singer, is charismatic, gangly and ever-so-slightly detached, simultaneously towering and effeminate – and as such inevitably draws comparisons with that other famous Peter – Doherty. Laurel, who played glockenspiel last time I saw the band, has shorn her hair and stands instrumentless for the duration, acting as a second vocalist. Men seem to find it hard to drag their gaze away from her and back to her bandmates. All of whom, meanwhile, give a whole-hearted, animated showing – their lead guitarist taking every opportunity to hook his guitar sideways and reach down for a mouthful of beer. It’s a well-judged, noisy, beautiful set – and I’m very glad to say that I took the opportunity to record it.

What follows, then, is a complete live recording of the band’s performance. Right click and ‘save target as’ to save each song individually, or click here to download a zipped up folder of all eight tracks (which saves me bandwidth, so it’s the preferred option – but it’s up to you).

Eagle-eyed readers will spot there’s a songs I don’t know the name of. If you can help me fill in the blank it’d be much appreciated.

Exlovers
live at the Hope, Brighton
24th October 2009

1. A Moment That Keeps Repeating
2. Photobooth
3. You Forget So Easily
4. In The Woods With The Werewolf
5. Just A Silhouette
6. Unknown Title #2
7. You’re So Quiet
8. Weightless

Here’s a clip of the band playing ‘You’re So Quiet’ on the same night – video by Dan (whose Youtube channel is here) and audio by me.

Some links:
- Exlovers on Myspace, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
- Read the lovely Emmy The Great interviewing the band, for Drowned in Sound.
- An Exlovers interview at Music Mule
- Another recent interview, courtesy of Comfort Comes.
- Exlovers interviewed for Female First
- And Thom Morgan interviews the band for There Goes The Fear.

And a bunch of reviews of ‘You Forget So Easily’:
(Sounds XP) (AtSounds) (Sound Junkie) (Noize) (Call Upon The Author) (TGTF) (Idiomag) (Glasswerk) (Breaking More Waves)

Forthcoming gigs
4th Nov 2009 Bodega, Nottingham
5th Nov 2009 Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
6th Nov 2009 Portland Arms, Cambridge
14th Nov 2009 Luminaire, London
29th Nov 2009 Lock Tavern, Camden, London

Discography
You Forget So Easily, 14 September 2009
Photobooth / Weightless 7″, 06 April 2009
Just a Silhouette 7″, 08 December 2008

Buy Exlovers records here, at Rough Trade.

Lastly – many thanks to the band and their manager Simon for giving me permission to post these tracks. Much appreciated. Thanks also to Brad over at Bradley’s Almanac, who’s been posting this sort of stuff for years and inspired me to start chronicling and posting live recordings of shows I go to. Following his lead, I recorded these songs with a (borrowed) MD player (thanks Dan) and a Sony ECM-719 mic. Hope you like them – any comments much appreciated.

blog round-up

Posted 27 Feb 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Thought I’d provide a quick overview of bloggy things I’ve been looking at this week:

Debbie, of the lovely Kept In A Jar blog, is collecting shopping lists and storing them at a new location – Shopping List Hunt. Like Debbie, I’ve always been faintly fascinated by the lists I’ve found in shopping trolleys, or abandoned on bus seats – but they’ve never been quite interesting enough to collect. Debbie has solved that problem by drawing over them. This is a particularly good example.

More visual pleasure can be found over at Quietus.com, which Ben has alerted me to over at his Silent Words Speak Loudest blog. He’s spotted an album covers game there which is well worth five minutes of your time; it’s nothing like the usual, fairly boring routine – instead it’s a series of videos, where album artwork is acted out by mime artists trained at the Paris Conservatory of Contemporary Mime and Interpretive Dance. Brilliant stuff – and bloody difficult. Link below:

Quietus Album Cover Mime quiz.

Elsewhere, my own social life has taken a kicking courtesy of my purchase of the first box set of The Wire. I know that everyone already knows this, and knew it long before me, but I can belatedly confirm that, yes, it’s simply staggering. So all of a sudden I find myself throwing off invitations to the pub so that I can feast myself on another episode (or two). Brilliant stuff. And I’m also enjoying Being Human, BBC3′s latest drama, and thinking that, despite my earlier misgivings, it might be the best thing on UK TV so far this year.

Over at her Breakfast In Bed blog, however, Rowan does not agree, and has abandoned the show, as well as her enthusiasm for TV in general. I’ve used the comments box to urge her to give it another try, and she has quite reasonably promised to hold me personally responsible should she do so and remain disappointed. Although fearful of her conclusion, I still think the show is worth a look – which is why, like Richard over at his Grey Area blog, I’m very happy to hear that a second series, comprising eight episodes, has been commissioned.

A couple of other things: there’s an interesting post on the notion of ‘home’ over on Swiss Toni’s Place. He writes:

“My wife informed me the other day that I would be on my own this weekend because she is going home. It’s an odd turn of phrase, isn’t it? We’ve lived together for something like eight years, and we’ve been in the same house together for a little over six of those years… and yet when she goes to visit her mum and dad in France, she says she’s going home. She hasn’t lived there for fifteen years or so, and it’s not really the house that she grew up in, but it’s still home; it was the place her parents were living when she moved out.

Home. I’m not really sure what that means. I was born in Northampton and my parents lived in the same house a few miles outside that town for something like thirty-four years before they moved last year. Does that mean I should consider Northampton my home town? Did I think of that old house as my home? Was I sorry when my parents moved down the road? Not really.”

I’ve lived in Brighton for over ten years, on and off, and I now pretty much think of it as home – I certainly don’t feel that I am a Londoner per se any more (except when fucking idiots like Boris Johnson get elected, and I feel suddenly fiercely protective of the place). That said, when I go to visit my parents – who now live in a house in which I have never lived – I still say that “I’m going home”. It’s odd. That said, when they finally moved out of the house that I’d grown up in, I didn’t feel a sense of loss. So I think the notion of home, for me, is elastic. Anyway – take a look at Swiss Toni’s post – there are some interesting responses in the comments, too.

Lastly, back at Silent Words Speak Loudest, Ben’s written a very interesting review of Richard Herring’s current – profoundly rude – stand-up tour. Extract follows – go and read the full thing. Ben asks:

“Is it simply a matter of deliberately pushing the boundaries of taste for cheap laughs, or is there something more going on? The latter, inevitably. As much as he discomforts the lily-livered and offends liberal sensibilities, he still elicits plenty of laughs and, crucially, at one point suggests he’s performing comedy “just like Bernard Manning, but in a postmodern way – I know what I’m saying is wrong”. Cue chuckles – but then the question that, for me, cuts to the quick: “But does that make it better – or much, much worse?” That seems to reveal the whole show to be a clever critique of the sort of comedy that pleads irony as a defence for saying the unsayable – albeit while at the same time effectively performing the same trick – as well as a robust challenge to audience attitudes and complacency: think for a moment what you’re laughing about – you shouldn’t be finding it funny.”

Thanks as always to the many bloggers who keep me amused one day to the next…

currently listening

Posted 25 Feb 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Currently Listening, Music

I’ve just had a reminder from Lyndsey about just how slack I’ve been with blogging lately, and she’s absolutely right – I’ve had various fallow periods over the years but I seem to be going through a particularly sticky patch at the moment. It’s to do with time management and procrastination, rather than not having anything to write about, so I’m apparently going to have to re-learn the art of blogging, or rather find a way of getting back into the habit of it. Blogging works brilliantly as a habit, OK as a hobby, and terribly as a chore. So will try to reclimatise.

To get back under-way, here’s a breakdown of current listening, complete with ropey youtube links where possible. Proper bloggin’ to follow.

1. Peggy Sue – Alice In The Kitchen
2. Frida Hyvonen – Dirty Dancing
3. Stricken City – Lost Art (Tin Can Telephone mix)
4. Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love
5. Diane Cluck – My Teacher Died
6. The Nextdoor Neighbors – The Werefolf Song
7. Jeff Lewis – North Korea: A Complete History of Communism pt 5
8. Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson LP

lots of hits

Posted 25 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Ooh, just noticed this in the sidebar.


Not far off 200,000 hits, which I think is rather amazing, really. I realise that half of those stats are probably me reading my own blog on the occasions when I forget to block the counter from recognising my own visits, or my mum and dad tuning in or something, but still…

If you’re reading this and the stat counter on the right is bang on 200,000, then grab a screenshot and send it to me and I’ll – probably – buy you a pint (if you live close by) or make you a mix CD (if you don’t, or are mystifyingly teetotal).

the thoughtful left

Posted 23 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Politics
Just a quick post to voice a bit of praise for some really excellent posting over at the Bloggers4Labour site recently; a year or two ago Andrew seemed mired in the recriminations over Iraq and the Euston Manifesto, unable to air his thoughts without being barracked by unfriendly critics on the one hand and unable to resist provoking more approbrium on the other. Thoughtful posts were slagged off mercilessly, and deliberately provocative posts flamed the tension. Towards the end of last year the site suddenly went quiet and Andrew turned his attention elsewhere.

Since his return a month or two ago it’s been evident that the break did him good. He’s always written well on complex political ideas, and he’s always shown an instinct to swim against the tide, but he seems to have found a way to express challenging ideas more evenly and less confrontationally (for the most part), widening his focus and thinking to Labour’s future in increasingly creative ways. There are a still a few trolls lurking in the comment boxes, but it’s getting harder to pigeonhole his ideas and harder still to find a better or more open-minded Labour blogger. He’s well worth a vote in Iain Dale’s competition to find the best UK political blogs.

Anyway, the purpose of this post – and yes, he is a friend, and a birthday boy today to boot – is not to big him up but rather to link to a few of his recent posts, not all of which I necessarily agree with, but all of which have given me much pause for thought in recent days. I think – and Andrew may correct me if I’m wrong – that his purpose in blogging is to force people to think carefully about what it is they believe, and confront the possibility that they may be wrong. If I’m right, then he’s doing his job perfectly. Even if he is still wrong about Iraq!

Here a few choice examples from recent days and weeks:

Here he is, defending secondary action, where one union goes on strike to express support for another:

Let’s put it this way: in the UK, the right to join, and campaign within, a trade union (or any group) is a right due to all individuals. The rights of a trade union come through being a vessel for individuals to exercise their rights, providing the union acts democratically, and providing also that individuals who don’t agree with their union’s actions are not penalised – for example, by being coerced to support a strike that the majority have approved (unions must adhere to this latter provision, I’m less sure that members always feel bound by it.)

So the individual’s right is to enjoy a relationship with a union, with individual secondary action simply an application of that existing right. Though they will be affected in practice by individuals’ actions, employers are irrelevant to the question of individuals’ rights, as are the employers of the friends and “comrades” the individual chooses to support for whatever reason. The union’s secondary action rights are plainly an aggregation of the rights of their members, democratically expressed.

Critics might say: “where will it end, if unions can strike on the basis of sympathy with others, rather than distinct disputes?” This sounds very much like a “rights, but only so far” argument. Rights are there to be pushed as far as they will go. If they can’t be pushed, they’re worthless, and at the very same time, they cease to be rights.

Here he is again braving the contentious waters of foreign affairs, saying ‘death to sovereignty’.

Screw solidarity, and screw sovereignty. What I look forward to is a world where the level of power one exerts over a population is proportionate to the level of punishment due to that person when the population suffers at their hand, or due to their neglect. A world where politicians (almost literally) live in fear of their people, not vice versa; and where sovereignty is invested in populations, not in greedy, corrupt, murderous, propaganda-wielding regimes.

I’m not condemning patriotism, or suggesting that ‘national identity’ is on the wane, just that the price people pay for their state operating a distinct set of political values, for politicians who look and sound like them, and for restrictions on their moving from one state to another, varies from the merely expensive at one end to impoverishing and brutalising at the other. State sovereignty is simply too high a price for people to pay, even if they did have a choice.

So I propose powerful international institutions that have precedence and authority over all national governments, that adhere to universal values, offer universal human rights, and which are prepared to use all means at their disposal – those of their member (ex-?) states, and the international corporations present within them – to overwhelm and subsume those states that defend their own rights over their people

And on ‘nudging’ people towards voting:

The argument here is that if the electorate believe that others are not bothering – for any of the myriad of good/explicable/plausible-sounding reasons that politicians have proposed – it’s easier to justify not voting either; voting seems less and less like part of one’s responsibility to society, and more like something exceptional – the action of a political activist, for example.

So if you believe that society is healthier if turnouts are very high (I’m sure I’d agree) then don’t:

- Bleat about the electoral system or the nature of the political parties (which are not uniquely bad in the UK).
- Simply appeal to civic virtue, expecting people to look at their consciences.
- Punish non-voting.
- Devise strategies to make it ‘cheaper and easier’ to vote.

And lastly, going against the grain on the issue of closing the pay gap between men and women:

Before we look at the evidence, what about the principle? To be honest, I don’t think I care whether men and women – across the entire economy – earn either the same average wage or income. Though the kind of people who audit companies don’t have to be so crude, us lot use average income as a statistic to guide us to instances of exploitation, injustice, and thwarted ambitions. Those are the things we care about, not the average itself, surely?

There’s loads more challenging, interesting, unarguable and occasionally maddening comment at the site – go take a look.

currently reading

Posted 10 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Music

Observant readers may have noted that I’ve been playing with my blogroll over on the right, importing the new blogger system which lists blogs according to how recently they’ve been updated. I think it’s probably a more useful system, although you’ll note that I’ve not (yet) deleted my Essential Blogs list, which is still visible further down the page. Any thoughts about the new system? Hopefully it’ll get used by other people, rather than just me.

Anyway, one side product of populating the new system is that I’ve had the chance to seek out and add some new things to read, as well as pruning a few blogs which have fallen out of use. So here a few things on the web I recommend for this week:

- Over on the Breakfast In Bed blog – which has plenty of great stuff on music, books, socialising and travel – Rowan has recently been serving up a mouthwatering set of posts on food; she’s writing about food every single day for a month, in fact, and lording it over those of us scraping by on leftovers and cheap takeaways. Definitely worth dipping into a daily basis, although in recent days I’ve learned only to do so after lunch, when my appetite is sated.

- Over at his Inside A Skinny Mind blog, Jimmy has written a bunch of great posts recently, like this write up of a bit of religious curiosity and these thoughts about the miracle effects of technology on long term relationships. My favourite was his description of one of the most bizarre job interviews I’ve ever heard about, which is here. Extract below.

“The Newlook people opened up the doors and led us all downstairs to the accessories department, and there must have been at least fifty retail aspirants there. The store manager came out and started explaining what was going to happen. Basically we were going to be divided into groups of six, each member of the group got a celebrity profile and you had three minutes to run to the rails behind the escalator to find the perfect outfit for your celebrity. The nightmare only started there”

- I keep finding blogs that are prettier than mine – cue much gnashing of teeth and cursing. A few have caught my attention, recently. Kept In A Jar is lovely, and I’m so jealous of Debbie’s Glastonbury weekend, which looks even better than the real one, and of her journal, which is plainly beautiful.

- Old, Old Fashioned is lovely, too – full of nice clothes, nice design and pretty photographs. It sounds like Rosie, the author, is preparing to move to Oslo, so in her instance I’m not just jealous of the cool looking blog but of her entire lifestyle, bah.

- And in mentioning these lovely blogs, I must also send you to Make Do and Mend, which I’ve read for a while now and never mentioned, which is shameful not only because it’s good but because it’s written by my lovely friend Laura. It concentrates on good design, beautiful illustrations, and Laura’s own craft-related adventures. Go see.

- Here’s a blog I’ve just discovered; MFM is a brighton based music blog, and well worth a look, with recent reviews of Dizzee Rascal, Late of the Pier and Beck.

- Finally, another hearty recommendation for another friend’s blog – Amy’s excellent One Million Kisses For One Million Girls is super; documenting her ideas, great taste in music and work on Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, a fanzine that I’ll blog about soon, and which you should buy.

There are doubtless other things I’ve missed. I’ll try to do blog round-ups more regularly.

word bees

Posted 09 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

Following Andrew’s lead, I have just run my blog URL through something called wordle, which, as you can see from the image below, creates a kind of black and white bee-swarm from your content. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with this, although that’s mainly ‘cos I like bees.

blogs

Posted 01 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Right, I need some new blogs to read – can I have recommendations, please?

Ideally I’d like something fairly regularly updated, quite personal (but not depicting an endless stream of sexual encounters), something that covers books or pop music or art but not in obsesssive detail, and something that is engaged with politics and world affairs but not super-serious; in fact, a sense of humour is quite important. If anyone is reading anything that sounds like that at the moment, please tell me about it.

I realise that the above sounds like I’m looking for a new sexual partner. Sorry about that.

autechre, cross medium

Posted 05 Mar 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Music

I’m a big fan of what you might call ‘conventional’ music journalism, even though there’s plenty of rubbish out there. I grew up on Smash Hits and the Melody Maker, and am a big fan of several current music writers, although I’m pretty sure that the quality control on, say, the NME, has dipped alarmingly in recent years. So despite my interest in the web and blogging in particular, I still get the vast majority of my muso-journalism from the inkies, despite the presence of some excellent music blogs.

All the same – the following two reviews highlight how much potential there is either medium. For those who don’t know, the popular but extremely wilful Autechre are performing their latest tour in a pitch black environment, which can be rather hard to take. Of the two reviews, one is a traditional write-up from the Guardian (albeit one which is brave enough to go against orthodoxy), the other a short, unconventional review from Pete Ashton’s perennially excellent blog. It may not be music journalism per se, but it tells me as much as the first review.

Here’s an excerpt from Dave Simpson’s Guardian piece:

Stomach contents stay where they are, but their biggest prank is to mess with people’s heads, as their own music is scrambled and mashed-up beyond recognition. Vaguely danceable rhythms are suddenly destroyed by sonic screeches.

Some brave souls look po-faced as if this is something terribly important; others look baffled. One poor man is so disoriented that he walks into a door. When the duo start speeding everything up to comedy levels you start to wonder if this will be the first time “intelligent dance music” has given an entire audience black eyes. It seems less like a performance than a bizarre experiment in human behaviour.

And here’s Pete’s extremely short review – written via the medium of text message. He lists the ‘value of this review’ as ‘Slim’, but it’s not.

  • At a gig where the only thing to look at is a flashing green LED on the monitor speaker.
    Autechre on. Not convinced as to context of packed gig venue.
  • Music v good but I’m not getting it. Wanna be experiencing this elsewhere. Others seem happy tho.
  • Have moved to front. Makes a lot more sense now!
  • I think I need drugs. Or lots of coffee.
  • Well, that was out of my comfort zone. In a good way. Don’t think I’ve been to a gig like that before.

I’m glad I read both, and I think I’d quite like to see the band live, so looks like Pete’s done enough.