Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Butlins bound

You interrupt me during packing for my trip to the All Tomorrow's Parties festival this weekend. I'm getting a train down to Bristol tomorrow and staying overnight with Kieran at his and his brother's flat, before the two of us join Jen (making the trip from France), (Funny) Jimi, Jimi's friend Ali, and Jimi's friend Ali's unknown friend on Friday at Butlins in Minehead, Somerset, where the festival is held. I've never been to ATP before, but I'm expecting it to be completely different to the other festivals I've been to. We'll be staying in a Butlins chalet for six, thus having access to peculiar festival amenities such as showers and electricity. Plus we can take advantage of all the various activities on offer - I'm particularly looking forward to some crazy golf and fencing between bands. Not to mention the Splash Water World, which features "the almighty space bowl, where you exit the flume at 40mph." I must say I'm tremendously excited by all this. The only thing missing will be the Red Coats - I hope.

The line-up is a secutive blend of extraordinary treats and intriguing unknown quantities - which is definitely part of the appeal. I've never had a chance to see Nick Cave before, so it's particularly exciting to be seeing him. Also Joanna Newsom, who was so stunning at Sage in Gateshead earlier this year. Low, Cat Power, various members of the Bad Seeds, Josh Pearson (former Lift To Experience singer), Spiritualized, and Yann Tiersen of Amelie soundtrack notoriety. I've been looking into some of the unfamiliar acts the last few days, and Felix Lajko (maverick Yogoslavian violinist), Shannon Wright (PJ Harvey-esque delights), and Devastations (sweeping instrumentals) are particularly of note. But no doubt there'll be lots of discovery over the next few days, and no doubt I'll churn out an elongated, blow by blow account of it all when I return home. Have a nice weekend.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Extraterrestrial gunman

As always, I've been watching a bit of Fox News this week (I need my regular fix of fast-paced, polemical and loosely informed news coverage), and specifically the coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre. The terminology they're using on there is quite noticeable. They make a point of referring to the killer, Cho Seung-Hui, as a 'resident alien'.

I knew they had a problem with their illegal aliens in the US, but if there are resident ones too then that's quite an insurrection they have going on. I've always found their use of the word 'alien' quite funny, and I assumed it was just the lexical choice of Fox News to fit their anit-immigration agenda in general. But it turns out it's actually a widely used, official, politically neutral term, and thus isn't necessarily intended to stigmatise immigrants in a way that I thought it was.

But still, the fact the news networks are at pains to repeatedly cite the fact that Cho Seung-Hui was a resident alien speaks volumes. It's a bit more convenient if they can find some distance to the perpetrator of such an atrocious act of mass murder. It was a South Korean who shot 32 people you know, not an American. I might be misunderstanding it all, but it looks like a bad case of denial to me. In reality, Seung-Hui moved to the US win 1992 when he was eight years old. He grew up in America, was no doubt shaped by its culture, ended up deeply unhappy, and lashed out his frustrations in the most American of ways. Just like the Columbine killers and the assorted others. As long as guns are so freely available (even to those not legally eligible) and the 'right' to bear arms is so resolutely defended along a twisted rationale, the problem can never be removed. Listening to the owner of the shop where Seung-Hui bought the guns on the radio the other day, all he could say was that there was no reason not to sell him them. "He seemed fine. It's the human that does the killing, not the gun". They genuinely just don't get it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Folk Theatre Partisans

Are fantastic. Yesterday I went to see them appear live at The Waiting Room, a splendid vegetarian restaurant in Eaglescliffe, not far from where I live. They're a collection of four folk artists from around Leeds, and include the extraordinary Benjamin Wetherill. I've liked Ben Wetherill and his ukulele skills for quite a while now but this is the first time I'd seen him play with the group.

George Formby covers, sea shanties, traditional folk songs, plus their own original material, all spread over solo sets for the first half and playing together for the second half - it was a true delight. They're totally captivating and I was quite blown away by the vocal harmonies they were pulling off. I especially recommend Ben Wetherill - everything about him is extremely enchanting. The Waiting Room is the perfect place to see them play, too. It's got a very pleasant, warm atmosphere while they're playing for about fifty people eating and drinking. I went there a few months ago to see King Creosote, who was also superb, but didn't eat that time. Last night I did, and it was delicious. Obviously I'm not vegetarian, and as a steak and ale pie enthusiast I sometimes find it difficult to work up an appetite over non-meat dishes, but my roast sweet potato, applewood and pecan plait with white wine sauce and sesame potatoes was impressive. Washed down with organic beer, tremendous.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Damn Dog

My latest work.

Admire it if you wish.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Handshakes will be the death of us all

I'll never understand this fetish for hard handshakes. Society seems to operate on some misguided premise that a firm, dry handshake is the only route to making a good first impression on new associates. It must be a decisive, bone-crunching interlocking handgasm, and anything less signals a weak personality. What nonsense.

Our heads are filled with this bile when we're shaking hands with new people over things like multi-million pound business deals, the swapping of Merlin Premier League stickers, or coming through the door at the start of a job interview (what's one of those?). In reality, a firm handshake makes me recoil in horror. It suggests the shaker is overly-decisive and single minded to the point of dogma. Plus if their hands are completely dry it indicates they're so dead inside that they feel nothing. There is absolutely no traffic moving through their pores and I find it extremely baffling.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of clamminess every once in a while. I find moisture in the palm of somebody's hand almost comforting, and the way it offers a sensation akin to the administering of a freshly-opened wet wipe really quite refreshing. Popular convention teaches us that a limp, wet handshake is a sign of nervousness, uneasiness and indecision, whereas really it signals open-mindedness, sensitivity, and a willingness to be subservient in aid of the greater good.

The hard-handshake propaganda must be countered by the weak-handshake truth. Otherwise where will we stop? Or indeed will we stop atall, before mankind locks itself in some kind of Darwinist process of natural selection whereby people like me are eradicated, and an alpha-species of firm handshakers marches on? Only to eventually self-destruct as the handhakes get harder and crunchier as people battle to have the firmest shake. More and more hands are broken, and evolution is ultimately reversed to the point where we adapt to having just stumps at the end of our arms? Is that really the future? Well?

Friday, April 06, 2007

That (Good) Friday Feeling

It's technically Good Friday as I write this, but not really because I haven't gone to bed yet. Once I do and then get up again it will be, though.

Good Friday was the day when Jesus fell out with all his mates so just went off and got hammered. I always remember it as being one of the most miserable days of the year when I was growing up, thanks to my miserable Catholic upbringing which prevented me from eating meat for a day (I always had cravings for a sausage roll - Sod's law) and so we always got given a miserable Cheese Pie (occasionally known as 'quiche', or even 'keesh' in some districts) for tea. Misery is a recurring feature here, by the way. Then there's the hideously drawn-out Good Friday service at church, which they plonk right in the middle of the day so you can't do anything else, and where they pick the bit of the gospel about Jesus getting hammered but make it extra-long for one weekend only. Joy! Never mind though; however bad Good Friday might have been for me down the years, it was even worse for Jesus. Repent!

Just reminiscing, don't mind me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Off the scale

Louis Theroux's BBC2 documetary on The Most Hated Family In America last night made quite interesting viewing... there's not really much left to say about people like that. They're just off the scale as far as nutty American hate sects go.

Westboro Baptist Church, a group of only 71 members who are mostly from the same family, preaches that the death of every American is God's retribution for the sins carried out in the country's name - namely accommodating homsexuality. As a result they celebrate every American death, including picketing the funerals of dead American soldiers, on the basis that theirs is the only true and accurate reading of the Bible. I remembered seeing them when they made our news last year but didn't really know much more about them.

I bet all the right-wing Bible Belters who thought they'd sewn up the crown for Most Hateful Fundamentalist Christian Twats were left scratching their heads when they first came across this lot. They must be saying to each other "yeah, we agree with the anti-gay bit but combined with 'God Hates America'? Jesus, these people are real hateful honey." It must be extremely confusing for them, the amount of logic that's gone into that philosophy. A heroic dose of logic.

The main redeeming point about them is at least they're completely non-violent. Wholly offensive yes, but they're not going to act on their beliefs in any physically harmful way towards the outside world, and thus should probably just be left to get on with it. They're beyond help anyway, or at least the adult members especially are.

But one of the most noticeable things about the programme was the way that alot of them - particularly the younger girls in the family - smiled an inordinate amount while preaching their bile. Smiling in that really wild-eyed, false-grin way, which supports my long-held theory that people who smile too much are generally riddled with deep-seated hatred and psychologial flaws that are symptomatic of extremely low self-esteem. Hope lies in the frowners.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I was on the early-morning east coast mainline train down to London yesterday, when the following announcement was made:

"We regret that the trolley service will not actually be able to move between carriages this morning, due to technicial difficulties with the trolley. Instead, it will remain static between coaches C and D. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause."

'Technical difficulties' with a trolley? One of mankind's most simple and straightforward inventions, featuring four wheels and a few trays stacked by vertical supports? This was ridiculous. I spent a portion of the journey after that thinking about the possible technical difficulties it could be experiencing. Surely the time-honoured railway excuse of leaves on the line wasn't applicable in this case. Chewing gum lodged in the wheel mechanism, maybe. An explosive can of Tango that could go off at any moment once the trolley moved off the spot, drenching all and sundry in horrible sticky orange stuff and inevitably casting a shadow over the rest of their day? I could've just asked, but I'm especially shy at that time of the morning so I didn't bother.

Anyway, I'm still in the big smoke now and am writing this from my brother's abode in Blackheath. After an extremely miserable afternoon at the football yesterday (less said the better) I fell ill last night and have sadly been housebound since. Vomit has featured in proceedings. Bloody typical that it happens while I'm down here. Hopefully it'll subside soon so I set about gallavanting around this hideous city.