Thursday, February 28, 2008

Raven mad

Somebody (I think it was the fecund Patroclus) once asked how I decide, once a half-decent idea has trundled into my skull, whether to put it in my blog, or on Comment is Free, or, like, whatever. I can't remember what my response was, but I'm sure it was deliciously facetious.

Giving it more thought, I think I can come up with a vaguely useful rule of thumb. If the idea is a) vaguely newsworthy; or b) something to do with the Middle East and/or the USA; or c) likely to offend people so much they allege I'm having it off with Julie Burchill, then I pitch it to CiF. If it's about kids' TV from the 1970s, or noisy guitar music, or sounds as if it might feasibly allude to Gilles Deleuze, it usually stays here.

That said, this one could have gone either way.

"I should make clear from the outset that I have not heard the Black Crowes' new album Warpaint, in part or in full. However, I can make a fair guess as to what it will sound like, from my past knowledge of the band: equal parts Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Faces, with much scrunching of the face during guitar solos.

Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever consciously heard a single note by the Black Crowes. Maybe I'm getting them mixed up with the band in Almost Famous (since Kate Hudson, who appears in the movie, used to be married to the Black Crowes' singer). Maybe I'm basing my reaction on foolish prejudice. Maybe they're really great, and have never said "Woooh! Good evening, Milwaukee!" at the beginning of a gig..."

Plug in and, erm, rock out here.

(Of course, I should have written something about the return of Thaksin instead but, you know, I just can't be arsed. Same Same, as the t-shirts in Patpong say.)

PS: More pop-music-related nonsense here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Still slightly less embarrassing than William Hague's baseball cap

Contrary to initial appearances, this CiF piece is not a belated ramble about the Oscars. In fact, it's a desperate attempt to squeeze one last droplet of interest from the bloody US Presidential primaries, which feel as if they've been going on since some time before the War of Independence, or maybe even the arrival of the Vikings.

"This weekend's Oscar shindig has been interpreted by some as evidence that Hollywood (and, by extension, America) is taking a more global view. Among numerous European wins, for the first time in over 40 years, no American performer won an acting award.

Of course, this is nonsense. If anything, the most prominent movies, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, are as American as any big winner in recent times. They are meditations about the same big themes of America - capitalism, violence, man's relationship with the land - that obsessed the likes of John Ford, Orson Welles and Sam Peckinpah. American audiences have always preferred to watch their own culture on screen (however negatively it is portrayed) to that of somewhere unfamiliar...."

The full piece is here, but don't blame me for the title.

Also, did anyone listen to this? What do you think? Did Paul Weller spawn Nick Clegg?

PS: On the subject of which (Weller, not the primaries), this is quite fun. Just as I'm not doing the anti-American thing, Ian Austin isn't doing class warfare, of course not, heaven forbid, etc, etc...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Separated at near-death?

Klaus Kinski, late thespian lunatic, father to Nastassja, muse-cum-nemesis of Werner Herzog.

Anita Pallenberg, 60s car-crash beauty, sometime paramour of three Rolling Stones, who has recently appeared in a film with Werner Herzog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Psssh t'kooff

Dr Richard Beeching's report of 1963, The Reshaping of British Railways, led to the closure of 3,000 stations and 4,000 miles of track. The results of its implementation on the British landscape were immense, not least the disused railway lines that still litter the countryside and suburbs, and the boost the so-called Beeching Axe gave to car ownership, road frieght and road building; where crossing the road had been a straightforward matter for pedestrians up to the mid-1960s, the increase in traffic necessitated the creation of more darkened, piss-stained underpasses.

Of course, the real question is, if Beeching's recommendations had not been accepted, what would Morrissey be doing now?

I had a strange dream the other night. I needed to iron a shirt, but couldn't find the ironing board. It was only then that I remembered that (for some reason that must have seemed entirely sensible within the parallel universe of dream logic) I had left the ironing board on the footbridge at Petersfield station.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Float on

Proof, if any is needed, that the Telegraph does the best obits in the business.

I had never heard of Colin Merton before I read this. He sounds like a ghastly old reactionary. But the whole thing is worth it for the penultimate paragraph.

PS: And here's another DT deathgem: Dorothy Podber, the woman who semi-inadvertently created Warhol's Shot Marilyns. Incidentally, The Shot Marilyns was one of my teenage hypothetical band names, along with Tunafish Disaster. On the other hand, after reading Ms Podber's obit, 'Amphetamine Rapture Group' sounds even better...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not for prophet

It's cultural relativism gone mad, I reckon.

"It looks like a no-brainer. Wikipedia is refusing to remove images of the Prophet Muhammad from its site, despite an online campaign involving tens of thousands of Muslims.

And the owners of the online encyclopedia are right. As they state, 'Wikipedia is not censored for the benefit of any particular group'. Anyone offended by the presence of the images can reset their computers so they don't appear. Unlike the saga of the Danish cartoons, these images, dating from the 14th-16th centuries, were not intended to offend or provoke Muslim sensibilities, or even to raise issues of censorship or religious sensibility.

But Wikipedia's justification of its actions contains some interesting qualifications..."

For the whole damn thing, go here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Three pieces of BKK

Sighted in a large bookshop in Bangkok: a soundproof booth, in which blind and partially sighted people can listen to audio books in the same way sighted readers can browse the shelves.

A good idea, I thought: but how do blind people know it's there?

Ah! A braille sign!

Inside the booth.

The best hot chocolate in town is to be found in Angelina, on the third floor of the Central Chidlom department store. The cakes are good too. And you can see the Benetton concession from there. If you like that sort of thing.

Sighted at the entrance to Soi Cowboy, one of Bangkok's three main, ahem, entertainment districts, at about 6pm, Valentine's Day. Two bargirls get out of a taxi, presumably on their way to work. The second, as she steps out, desperately tries to pull down her skirt, so as not to expose her knickers. That, of course, would be unladylike.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nomination rumination

I don't really like my name. Actually, change that. I've got no real problem with my name, but I can't stand a lot of the associations it has. I remember when I was a teenager, there were about eight Tory Tims in the House of Commons, and no Labour. This was also the era of Timothy Lumsden in the sitcom Sorry ("Language, Timothy!"), who then gave way to Harry Enfield's Tim Nice-But-Dim, in turn supplanted by Tim ("Come on, Tim!") Henman. In fiction and real life alike, the name seems to be a shorthand either for right-wing venality or middle-class ineffectiveness.

Of course, there are cool Tims: Messrs Roth and Berners-Lee are two you'd happily buy a pint for. But whenever I introduce myself, I always wonder whether people picture me with a big poster of Margaret Thatcher on my bedroom ceiling.

It could be worse, of course. I could be a Cuthbert or a Vivian. And if I really hated my given name, I'd make the effort of changing it. I did go through a very brief phase of calling myself "Baz" (short for Sebastian, since you ask), and I've used a number of pseudonyms for writing facetious letters to the music press. I've considered using my middle name, but it's rather common (in the mathematical, rather than socio-economic sense); there are at least two Jameses in my blogroll alone. I keep coming back to Tim, because, well, it's my name, like. And my parents chose it, and they're seldom wrong about anything (except for a brief flirtation with hessian wallpaper in the early 1980s).

But let's throw this one to the wolves of nomenclature. If I actually made a determined effort to change my name, what should it be? And what about yours?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who wants to live forever?

It may be helpful to regard this as a modest proposal sort of thing. Or, then again, it may not...

"A medical friend once told me that if everybody in the UK were to stop smoking, the NHS would collapse. I thought she was offering that old chestnut about smokers and drinkers handing over billions to the state in tax, but it was more subtle argument than that. Her point was that it's much cheaper to treat a 50-year-old who's taking 18 months to die of lung cancer than it is to treat a 90-year-old who's spent the last 20 years slowly fading away from a cocktail of osteoporosis, angina, pneumonia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and non-specific decrepitude..."

Read the full spiel here.

And in a similarly glum mood, RIP Roy Scheider, who effectively recorded his own wake nearly 30 years ago.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Never mind the bowlcuts

No Rock And Roll Fun alerts us to the fact that Mojo has focused its obsessive taxonomic inclinations on shy boys with Paisley Rickenbackers, and concocted a list of the 50 Greatest UK Indie Records Of All Time:

50) Huggy Bear - Herjazz; 49) The Delgados - The Great Eastern; 48) James - Village Fire; 47) Swell Maps - Read About Seymour; 46) Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken; 45) Half Man Half Biscuit - Trumpton Riots EP; 44) The Wild Swans - The Revolutionary Spirit; 43) The Pooh Sticks - On Tape; 42) Fire Engines - Candyskin; 41) McCarthy - Keep An Open Mind Or Else; 40) Jane And Barton - It's A Fine Day; 39) Josef K - The Missionary; 38) Ride - Ride EP; 37) The Bodines - Therese; 36) Shop Assistants - Safety Net; 35) The Primitives - Really Stupid; 34) Saint Etienne - So Tough; 33) The Sea Urchins - Pristine Christine; 32) Elastica - Line Up; 31) Stereolab - Peng!; 30) The Wedding Present - George Best; 29) Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth; 28) New Order - Temptation; 27) Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out; 26) The Libertines - What A Waster; 25) The Loft - Up The Hill And Down The Slope; 24) The Vaselines - Son Of A Gun; 23) Aztec Camera - High Land Hard Rain; 22) Happy Mondays - Lazyitis (One Armed Boxer); 21) The Pastels - Up For A Bit With The Pastels; 20) Spacemen 3 - Revolution; 19) This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren; 18) Lloyd Cole And The Commotions - Rattlesnakes; 17) Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows; 16) Wire - Outdoor Miner; 15) Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles; 14) Belle & Sebastian - Tigermilk; 13) The House Of Love - Destroy The Heart; 12) Subway Sect - Ambition; 11) Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word; 10) Primal Scream - Crystal Crescent/Velocity Girl; 9) The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses; 8) The La's - There She Goes; 7) Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor; 6) Joy Division - Transmission; 5) My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise; 4) The Fall - How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'; 3) Orange Juice - You Can't Hide Your Love Forever; 2) The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy; 1) The Smiths - This Charming Man

Well, if you really have to have such a list, it's not such a bad one, I suppose. And it does give me a chance to recycle my definition of indie: "Music that got picked last for football". And to plug my book yet again, of course, from which Amazon have deducted another 52 pee. See Chapter 24. It all makes sense.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bangs and whimpers

Blogging is essentially transient, which is part of its charm. It's pleasant to look back at your achives, but the fun comes with what's happening NOW, the conversations and reflections and transactions and confusions that start bouncing around from your latest post.

The inevitable downside is that now becomes then, and bloggers give up the ghost. Maybe I'm getting maudlin, but it seems to have been happening more often recently. Sometimes people just stop (RealDoc, Pashmina), occasionally with a feeble excuse about 'real life', whatever that is, getting in the way. In other instances it's a policy decision, and they have time for a closing speech (LC); others prefer actions to words, and torch the blog as they go, like John Wayne in The Alamo (see Spinsterella). Some just piss off to MySpace, knowing that no person of decency and refinement will follow (I'm talking about you, Bob Swipe), a bit like Captain Oates taking a stroll in the snow. And that isn't even considering the ones who keep threatening to bring down the shutters, usually on the spurious basis that they've upset some inconsequential meatspacer (hello, Slaminsky), but then come back a few days later. Or indeed, the ones who actually die, which I suppose is the blogging equivalent of a note from your mum.

Well, I'm not thinking of closing things down just yet. Sorry if the above meanderings raised your hopes. But I am uncomfortably aware that my blogroll is peppered with links that have become a tad moribund of late. So, over to you. Please identify some new blogs, or indeed other manifestations of the interwebnetmationhighroad that can take the place of our fallen comrades.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Thoughts on Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd:

1. Johnny Depp's singing voice suggests an intimate knowledge of David Bowie's pre-1970 oeuvre. I half expected to hear him break into 'The Laughing Gnome' at any moment.

2. In roughly the same territory, why is Depp's Cockernee accent more convincing than Helena Bonham-Carter's?

3. Is Timothy Spall our greatest living actor, or what?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reliant robbing

I have been contacted by a Mr Terry Oduro, the chief corporate officer of the auditing department at the Eco Bank Int'l Ltd. in Accra, Ghana, offering me a slice of the fortune of Dr George Brumley who - and this may startle you - died in a plane crash with his whole family. Mr Oduro, who sounds like a terribly nice chap, has identified me as "a reliable but obscure individual".

And there a potentially fruitful business relationship founders. "Obscure" I can take, but nobody calls me reliable and gets away with it.