January 10, 2011

Is Babel A Twit Or A Menace?

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/jan/09/ryan-babel-howard-webb-manchester-united-liverpool

It seems to be a bit of trend at the moment for footballers to launch their toys directly out of the pram (do not pass go, do not blackmail your club for £200,000 a week) about refereeing decisions affecting Manchester United.

Now obviously in some cases these tweets are just inane and gormless. Wojciech Szczesny, a man who desperately prays every night that he’s at Arsenal because he’s capable of breaking their crap goalkeeper tendency rather than being another exponent of it, tweeted after the West Brom game about Gary Neville’s foul “How can you not get frustrated with decitions [sic] like that going ALWAYS Man Utds way?! Its a clear pen and sending off!”. Bless, you cannot really blame him for having completely failed to notice that mere days earlier United had had to settle for a draw after a Birmingham goal which involved a foul, a handball and a marginal offside decision from Brum. Or the many decisions which have gone against United in recent games with Chelsea. It’s really not been a particularly good 18 months for lovers of the ‘United get all the ref decisions’ conspiracy.

Anyway, so Ryan Babel’s the latest to have a go, tweeting several tweets (thus expending more effort on whining than he has done playing for Liverpool since they signed him) including this good-idea-poor-execution picture of Howard Webb MBE.


He’d still have been better than half the Liverpool players out there on Sunday.

Now the question is, are the FA right to charge him with one of their arcane rules about saying things and being interesting? They didn’t pick on Szczesny, although as he has to play behind Koscielny and Squillaci you have to wonder if this was the FA thinking “He’s suffered enough, leave it”.

It’s tricky, cos Twitter’s just a run of ephemeral ramblings, does it matter what people say on there? But on the other hand no one likes it when players rush up and surround the ref, is Twitter another way to harass the official, albeit one where the can’t respond with a quick red? Plus lots of people were, rightly, outraged by Glen Johnson’s dreadful remarks about Paul Merson on his Twitter page, so is Babel’s comment really harmless banter or should it slapped down?

It’s a hard one – I hate the media managed, say nothing nature of players, but at the same time I also hate the way they surround and harass refs. Is the post match social media thought-blowout an extension of the pitch or not?


January 04, 2011

Cocktails For Teetotalitarians

My friend Dawn of 101 Wankers fame and awesomeness is considering giving up alcohol for the entirety of 2011! This is either the best idea ever or the most crazed scheme ever, more crazed than invading Russia or leaving the economy in the hands of George Obsorne. Oh.

Anyway, with this in mind, I wish to offer my 26 years of teetotalitarian experience with these exciting, non-alcoholic cocktails.


That’s not a natural colour for a drink, surely?

Mixer Surprise

Ingredients:
Whatever soft drinks are available at the party you are at
Other people who are drinking

To make Mixer Surprise arrive at the party early and pour yourself a cup of mixer. And another. And another. Feel free to mix it up a bit, have a glass of lemonade, then a glass of coke, then some fizzy orange. Repeat until all the mixers are gone. This will surprise the alcohol drinkers who will then drink even faster until they are drunk at 11pm and pass out in a heap whilst you spend the evening going to the toilet every 15 minutes.

Alcopop Emulator

Ingredients:
A soft drink or fruit drink (depending on whether you want it fizzy or not)
16kg sugar
Cough sweets
11kg sugar
Food colouring – neon if possible
21kg sugar
A subscription to a Hoxton fanzine

First take the soft drink or fruit drink and add some of the sugar slowly, being sure to mix it in. Melt the cough sweets over an open fire, mix them with sugar, and add it to the mixture. Add some more sugar, then introduce the food colouring slowly, mixing it with sugar as you go along. Finally make a label using pictures of twats and words from the Hoxton fanzine. Drink until the sugar absorbs all your internal organs and you vomit your innards over you skinny jeans.

Squash Roulette

Squash – any flavour
Water
Clear lemonade
Sugar infused water (lots of sugar)
Salt water
Water with a drop of fish oil it it

Pour out a glass each of water, salt water, sugar water, fish water, and clear lemonade. Turn your back whilst a mate adds squash to each then mixes them around. How many do you dare drink? Vary amounts of each type for added drama.

Tequila Sub

Ingredients:
Grape juice
Tabasco
Cabbage (boiled)
Lemon juice
Celery
Gummi bear

We all know what tequila represents. A chance to torture yourself, your tastebuds and your stomach in search of a mythical good time. No, all tequila ever induces is a headache, a burnt throat, a slight vommy feeling and a sense of mystery as to why the faff with the salt and the lemon. For the none alcoholic version, mix grape juice and tabasco with lemon juice and a hint of celery (healthier than salt) and glug it down in one. Then take a fistful of cabbage to simulate that just hocked up your dinner feeling and celebrate with a gummi bear instead of the worm at the bottom of the bottom. Repeat until amnesia.

Water

Ingredients:
Tap
Intricate system of sewage, water transportation and processing which represents arguably one of the greatest achievements of the Victorian era
An ISA

Pour yourself a glass of water. Drink. Repeat. Invest money you have saved from this free venture in an ISA which will yield a paltry rate of interest due to economic crisis but which will stand as a monument to your good intentions. Don’t buy bottled water because this will make you a twat and an environment trashing one at that.


December 30, 2010

Albums Of 2010 – 1–10

Ok, what’s this here? Two joint number 1 albums? Yeah, I honestly couldn’t call it between them, so different are they in style, place, time and arms-in-the-air-ability, that it was impossible to find a way to compare them in order to establish which, if either was better. So there you go. Just know that both are reasons to conclude that 2010 was a good year for music, no matter how much the charts made us cry hot salty tears of pain. Bah.

=1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs


This is one of many options you can choose unless you’re mental and want to get them all.

Too obvious? Sod that, yeah they might be in almost every top ten of the year, in every magazine and newspaper, but far from being a sign of everyone being unimaginative and boring, it’s for the simple reason that this really is a stormer of an album. And an album it is. I honestly think that the best albums have, at most, 12 tracks worth having. This has 16, and 15 are worthy of a place in an album which works as a cohesive work, one which should be listened to in order and in one sitting. It’s something of a rarity these days, when skip functions and albums packed with ‘singles’ rather than a flowing set of songs are the norm. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to finding albums and listening to just the tracks I like best, but this one positively demands to be listened to in order. It’s also classic Arcade Fire, more like their superlative debut than the bitty and slightly dissatisfying Neon Bible which had individually good songs but lacked the feeling of a complete piece. The Suburbs has big choruses in unexpected places, the brief bellow of “Now I’m ready to start” or the jaunty loping “Sometimes I can’t believe it/I’m moving past the feeling”. Less frantic than earlier albums, it unfolds neatly, changing gears but always full of heart, perhaps too much of a slow burner for those seduced by the punch of the first two albums, but worth the time and effort. Lovely.

=1. Robyn - Body Talk


Robyn is the first pop star made of car air freshers.

At a time when every American pop and r’n’b star seems to have decided to put a bit of the Euro-pop thing in their records, it takes an actual European from the nation which pretty much owns pop, Sweden, to do it better than anyone else. Robyn’s grand experiment, releasing music as it was ready rather than to anyone else’s schedule has paid off in style. Body Talk is a pop record which pop fans can use against any accusations levelled at it. Shallow and plastic? How can you argue with the way she stalks and cries her way across the dancefloor during ‘Dancing On My Own’. Empty and meaningless? Try telling me that ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ isn’t packed with years of experience and insight into that most difficult of actions, breaking up with someone. Formulaic collaborations with bored rappers in a bid for credibility? ‘You Should Know Better’ is probably more a case of Robyn giving Snoop Dogg a credibility kick than him bringing her one. It’s also one of the funniest songs of the year. That’s what this album’s all about, the songs are either sad ones with arms-in-the-air moments, or smart arse ones which genuinely smart lyrics. Messing with the form when it suits (the metronomic ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’ isn’t far removed from a psychedelic drone record) or just doing something simple (‘Hang With Me’, ‘Indestructible’, most of the others). Plus it contains the lyric “I gotta lotta automatic booty applications” which is some sort of twisted genius. No really. It is.

3. Warpaint - The Fool


Ooooh, a mystical magic eye.

There’s little more tedious than guitar-bored asserting that girls can’t play guitar as well as boys. Give them this album. Give them the sparkling riffs, the intricate interplay between the guitars and bass. Give them Warpaint, who’ve melded the reverb soaked, fret climbing, late-night jangle of Interpol with the harmonious-but-tough girly vocals of Au Revoir Simone. But with better drumming than either. They’re the sort of band that make a mockery of the “radio edit” versions of singles. Yeah, so their songs are long and often take a while to unfold, but this is music for those who have time to invest in songs with layers and intricacies. Beautiful songs. Songs to lose yourself in. The guitar riff which kicks in part way through the eponymous ‘Warpaint’ the outro to the slow burning ‘Undertow’, the vocal interplay during ‘Composure’, these all give the impression of band who like to take their time in coming up with something special.

4. 65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway


Wait, neither of you are in the band! Get a room!

They’ve been mixing postrock guitars with techno rhythms and synths for a while now, but 65daysofstatic might just have done something very retro – making a truly great third album. Remember when bands were allowed three albums to get it right? Well it might not be the industry norm anymore, but this is evidence that it maybe still should be. Enormous tunes come crashing through the record; so confident are the band that they feel able to leave an excellent Robert Smith (yes, of The Cure) collaboration, ‘Come To Me’, towards the end of the record, and indeed the last track, ‘Tiger Girl’ might well be the best of the bunch, a thumping techno undercarriage bringing stabs of guitar along with it. Postrock without the slow build (the quiet bits) might sound like it has robbed the music of the essential contrast which gives it heart, but 65daysofstatic have found a way around this, via the dancefloor.

5. Foals - Total Life Forever


It’s important indie bands learn how to swim in time for the next downpour at Leeds fest.

If there was one complaint you could make about Foals’ pretty damn good first album Antidotes it’s that it was a bit cold, a bit remote, a bit hard to relate to emotionally. Enter Total Life Forever which is warmer, more ambitious, more elaborate and more intricate. Just more. Unafraid to let songs build from quiet, almost silent openings (‘Spanish Sahara’) Foals have taken all the elements of postrock which 65daysofstatic have discarded, and applied them to their jerky indie template. The result is lush guitars, bouncy rhythms, and expansive sonics. Oh, and nice vocal harmonies everywhere. And it does a fantastic line is endings. I love a song with a great ending, one where the whole song has been building towards that last minute or so. It explains my love of postrock in general. Total Life Forever has the best endings of any album this year. If we were judging albums solely on the last minute of each track then this would be top – ‘Black Gold’, ‘What Remains’, ‘Spanish Sahara’, all end in awesome crescendos of sound. If only this tiny review had a comparably good ending. But it doesn’t. Bah.

6. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles II


Emo kid finds no sympathy from the dead.

My mate Bun hates this lot. He likes the Eagles and other beardy guitar bands, so it’s not really a surprise. And his main complaint, that Crystal Castles trade in ear bleeding noise, aren’t quite as fair on this album as their were on the first one. Yes, two of the first three tracks – ‘Doe Deer’ and ‘Fainting Spells’ – do sound like the first album’s main formula of throwing an Atari down the stairs onto a banshee, but it’s the track they sandwich, ‘Celestica’, which is more typical. It is, surprisingly, beautiful, ethereal, floaty… it’s not what you’d expect after listening to ‘Alice Practice’. It’s a good formula too, bringing dreamy, crackling synths, but still keeping some of the menace of previous records. ‘Year Of Silence’ perfectly sets the mood, taking one of Sigur Ros’s more upbeat vocals and layering them over a martial synth thud. It’s all still as unintelligible as ever – Alice certainly sounds like she’s singing “This is your potato” on ‘Baptism’, a track which sounds like something the KLF would make today – but if that puts you off then you’d probably prefer the clear diction of the Eagles, and that’s no fun.

7. Sleight Bells - Treats


Bet you didn’t know cheerleaders grew on trees.

Sleigh Bells could have been a sweet, melodic lo-fi band with a cutesy sounding lead singer, in the vein of the many boy-girl bands around at the moment peddling whispy but jaunty tunes. They could but for one thing – apart from Alexis Krauss’s cheeky, chirpy vocals, everything is loud to a point which would cause sonic nerds to collapse into gibbering heaps. That guy complaining that the age of the Loudness War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war is causing music to become distorted and painful? He will hate this. So will most people, but it’s actually a thing of beauty, noise twisted in on itself until it because pure pop again. Kind of like what Crystal Castles did on their first album, only with electric guitars and a singer who wants to lure you in, not batter you over the head and rip your limbs off. Oh yeah, and then there’s ‘Rill Rill’ where they show they can do a quiet but beautifully tuneful number, as if to prove that they know what you’re thinking – “All noise and no tunes? No, we have tunes, you just have to come to them, we won’t serve them up to you so easily”. Worth every sore ear.

8. LoneLady - Nerve Up


“Where’s the feckin’ light switch?”

If there’s any downside to the ever expanding cloud of success which has enveloped The xx it’s that they might have occupied too much of the same space as LoneLady to give her a chance of getting heard more widely. Sparse instrumentation, lyrics loaded with abstract emotional punches, and the voice of a vulnerable angel, ingredients which might sound familiar to those who follow the Mercury Music Prize winners, but Julie Campbell is no copyist. LoneLady constructs her songs with just a few pieces, a voice, a guitar or two, some drums. No bass, no fripperies. Just her sparkling cross of minimalistic indie, PJ Harvey and the terse atmospherics of many of the historic totems of Manchester music. Yes, it seems trite to bring her hometown into it, but this really is the most Manchester album released in quite some time, if by Manchester we mean the forward looking Manchester of the early 80s, not the retrogressive lad-rock bilge of the 90s. Deceptively danceable, music made for Julie Campbell by Julie Campbell which conveniently manages to be awesome for those who aren’t Julie Campbell.

9. Caribou - Swim


More mystic bollocks. Seriously, mystics have multicoloured bollocks, check it out next time one flashes you.

Ah, sad dance music. Kind of. Is this really dance music? Sure it can be danced to, but it’s almost a surprise to find it’s not from DFA such is that label’s formula of sad vocals, thumping bass, and arms in the air like you just do care in evidence here. That Dan Snaith decided to give away opener ‘Odessa’ as a free download earlier this year is impressively ballsy as it’s a strong contender for best song of the year and frankly if people won’t pay for something this brilliant then we should abandon money and live in a hole in the ground. Whilst listening to ‘Odessa’, natch. It’s all fairly similar in a sense, hypnotic and rhythmic, songs loop around themselves and wind their way to wistful places where bits of percussion float in and out of hearing on waves of sound. Yes, I know this makes me sound like a wanker, but it really is that good. Songs about divorce and upheaval never sounded so good.

10. Kelis - Fleshtone


Kelis takes her defeat to Janelle Monae in Hat Of The Year stoically.

Hey up, Kelis has discovered dance music. She’s got the chops for it, or specifically the voice for it, her husky tones languidly poured over some good quality dance. This isn’t David Guetta teaming up with some second division American r’n’b diva to do a big poo in your ear canal, this is at times understated, at times thumping tunes for waving your arms around to. There are songs addressed to her newborn which don’t make you wanna throw up (‘Acapella’ although I’ve heard people reckon it’s about God), and even some old school Kelis shouting (‘Emancipate Yourself’). ‘4th Of July’ is certified sultry dancefloor banger, even giving pounding house piano a good going over. Funny how it took an American to show European dance music how to occupy the dancefloor without being diabolical, although I’m not sure it’s quite enough to erase memories of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, damn you Black Eyed Peas!


Albums Of 2010 – 11–20

11. Marina And The Diamonds - The Family Jewels


Do you think she thinks she’s sexy? Is she?

Self referencing in the first song on your debut album? That takes some stones, and Marina Diamandis would appear to have those. Diamonds in fact. Whilst not the best pure pop album of the year (it’s two, maybe three tracks too long), this is a good debut made by someone unafraid to be both pop and smart. Clever clever wordplay, some of Kate Bush’s best vocal tics, and a great way with a song, she’ll wind up some, but for fans of pop with personality this is a definite album of the year (in years where Robyn doesn’t release records).

12. Delphic - Acolyte


Defy the smoking ban, get dropped from a building.

You know what, I couldn’t be bothered being clever clever and not referencing Manchester when talking about LoneLady, and I’m not going to try here. This sounds like a modern take on New Order. I bloody love New Order. And in parts I bloody love this. Yeah, like other albums here, it’s a bit too long and could lose a track or two, but my goodness they have some bangers up their sleeves. The only weak point is the slightly nondescript vocals, but when so many of the songs make you wanna swoosh your arms around why complain?

13. Yeasayer - Odd Blood


Horrible 80s graphics are horrible.

Confession, I really didn’t wanna like Yeasayer. They looked like twats and were pretentious as hell in interviews. But they’ve also made an album which dared to take all the worst bits of 80s music – slap bass, bad drum production, over emoting vocals – and make a good album from it. Loping and louche, it doesn’t seem to care how cheesy it is in parts, which is pretty much how you should revive the 80s, shamelessly.

14. Fan Death - Womb Of Dreams


Hmm, elephants do have very long pregnancies, it’s true.

It’s not often that NME’s habit of saying all new bands sound like x + y (and yes I am aware that I’ve already done an x + y comparison in this post) but they actually managed to get it spot on with Fan Death = Florence And The Machine + Hercules And Love Affair. It’s disco night down the goth club, and all the girls in floaty lace dresses are singing paeans to lost or impossible love (one song’s about Jesus and Pilate’s wife, but not in a blasphemous way) over stomping disco beats and stabby disco strings. Tastefully groovy.

15. Holly Miranda - The Magician’s Private Library


Why are you sleeping? We have Stella Artois for you.

Girl sings swoonsome modern folk songs as walls of sounds ebb and flow? Possibly, but it’s also quicker to say girl sings TV On The Radio songs. Ok, so Ms Miranda wrote these herself, but with Dave Sitek’s producer paws all over, this is a TV On The Radio album in many ways. What Holly Miranda has going for her is a willingness to let Sitek be a dictator and infuse her songs with a hum that is at times sad-happy (‘Forest Green, Oh Forest Green’, apparently not about the non-league football club), sad-sexy (‘No One Just Is’, the album highlight with its eastern strings), and sad-sad (pretty much everything else). She has a great voice and some great friends.

16. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening


James Murphy can also defy gravity.

Why mess with the formula when you’ve cracked it? Sure, this isn’t as good as its two predecessors, but I would be using the fingers of just one hand if I had to list albums from this century which are better than Sound Of Silver. Instead James Murphy serves up more of the same where the same is brilliant dance music, wry lyrics, and occasional doses of dancefloor heartbreak where hearts are broken not by partners but by the sheer elation of waving your arms in the air until you have to leave. And with that LCD Soundsystem leave us. Sniff.

17. Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History


Generic indie band 2010 imagery #1 – a bloody cat.

TDCC don’t do anything revolutionary, and if their influence list includes anything beyond Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads and Bloc Party then they’re lying. But they just so happen to write really good songs. Simple 00s style indie, it is probably easy to hate if you don’t rate the hit-hat friendly rhythms and wiry guitars, but I like that sort of thing when it’s good, and this is. ‘I Can Talk’ is one of the songs of the year, fact.

18. School Of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire


Runic bollocks. No really, they look like bollocks.

Swooshy guitars and punchier percussion than last time around, this isn’t a great leap forward, more a purposeful step in the direction of yet more lush soundscapes and indeed Lush soundscapes (mid 90s indie, not lovely soaps, duh). And if it occasionally sounds less like those mystical shoegaze and more like Donna Lewis’s ‘I Love You Always Forever’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7NV52UApGY (I’m looking at you ‘I L U’) then that’s grand, a lazy summer afternoon in album form. Nice.

19. Skream - Outside The Box


FACE!

Have I got this wrong? Am I supposed to like Magnetic Man more? Well I don’t. I do like that album, but this one’s just a bit more engaging, especially the superb run of tracks at the end taking in ‘Listening To The Records On My Wall’ and ‘Finally’, the latter being one of the best things La Roux has done. Ok there’s no Katie B, but she’s only on a couple of Magnetic Man’s tracks anyway.

20.Beach House – Teen Dream


Zebras, Elton John style.

Bare with me on this as I admit now I might well be wrong. This could be much better than this placing. I came to it late, but it’s lovely, all dreamy but with hints of steel underneath. And Victoria Legrand has a great voice, which raises it where sometimes it feels like it might float away. So yeah, perhaps with more time I’d have placed this higher up. Sorry. Despite all evidence to the contrary I can’t listen to everything. Sadface. (A same conundrum exists with Janelle Monae’s album, which also sounds quite fab but which I need more time with).


December 29, 2010

Albums Of 2010 – 21–30

21. La Roux and Major Lazer – Lazerproof


Ripping off Iron Man is the quickest way to good artwork.

Huh, a remix album mashing up La Roux’s debut with Major Lazer’s arsenal of sounds, raps and tunes? Well yes, and it’s better than the sum of its parts. No really, sticking together the two has produced mashups like ‘Keep It Fascinating’ which are less shrill but still tense and nervy. Plus it can be downloaded for free – http://sub.maddecent.com/lazerproof/

22. Blood Red Shoes – Fire Like This


That’s a lot of hair gel.

In pretty much the same way as their debut, Fire Like This shows Blood Red Shoes only really have one trick, but it’s a good one. Frantic guitars and drums, you wonder what they have to do which is so urgent that everything has to be played at breakneck speed. Is the oven on? No idea, but the wide eyed mayhem of ‘Don’t Ask’ and ‘Heartsink’ rush along with glee regardless.

23. KT Tunstall – Tiger Suit


Washed out photo = srs bsns.

Confession: I’ve been hoping for this album for a good while. Y’see ever since that performance on ‘Later…’ I’ve suspected that Ms Tunstall has had a genuinely good album in her. Not a whimsical female singer-songwriter-fest as with both her previous albums. She’s got a great voice, and seemed in touch with the idea of looping and fiddling with her acoustic sounds. So rejoice, here’s an album which is 66.67% what I’ve been waiting for! Ok, it tails off a bit into mimsying, but the opening barrage of tracks – ‘Uumannaq Song’, ‘Push That Knot Away’ and ‘Fade Like A Shadow’ in particular – are punchy and danceable whilst still being largely acoustic. Nice one growly-voice girl.

24. M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\


M.I.A. is watching you watching Newport on repeat.

Hmm, it’s a bit like the LCD Soundsystem record again, listening to this I cannot help but think “The previous albums were better”. Still, in ‘XXXO’ she has an electro pop anthem which Gaga, Rihanna et al would kill for, and the balls to leave it unattended on an album of shouty noise pop (‘Born Free’) and unexpected shifts in gear. It’s disjointed but worth the effort. ‘Space’ is pure beauty.

25. Hundred In The Hands – Hundred In The Hands


Did you let a child fingerpaint over your photo again?

It happened again! Another late one, but this is lovely stuff, a little bit Fan Death, a little bit Warpaint, a little bit Beach House, it’s girly voiced indie but with a wide ranging remit and a strong melodic touch. And lastfm justifies its existence with one recommendation. I’m listening right now, in fact.

26. Everything Everything – Man Alive


Oh shit, that fox is about to get run over!

Why so low? I was a bit disappointed with this album. Having caught them live a couple of times and been very very impressed with the rush of ideas and silly vocals, and then hearing the brill singles ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ and ‘My Keys, Your Boyfriend’, it was a bit of a shame that the album seemed to lack… something. Hard to say what really. Individually most of the songs are strong, ‘Photoshop Handsome’ is hilarious, so it’s not a bad album. Oh well, best just see them live again.

27. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid


Hat of the year.

As I mentioned, I think this is probably a lot better then its placing suggests but I am, for shame, a late comer to it. Forgive me. On the other hand it means I do get to listen to it now, with its rich imagery and captivating variety of styles. ‘Cold War’ is great too. Give me time. For now be reassured that it sounds good on first listen and we should all stick to it. It’s about robots, forcrissakes, it cannot be bad.

28. Fight Like Apes - The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner


With a title like that the cover could have been totally shit and it wouldn’t have mattered…

I didn’t really like this when I first heard it, it felt like a disappointment after the debut. My main complaint was that all the songs sounded like two tracks off that debut – ‘Tie Me Up With Jackets’ and ‘Battlestations’. Of course all I needed to do was remember that those two tracks are ace, and an album of sound-a-likes, whilst not as good as the debut, was still good enough for me. And that’s the best album title of the year, nay ever. Ever.

29. Jonsi – Go


Technicolour dandruff.

In which he… sings in English. It feels so wrong, the elves shouldn’t be singing in the same tongue as Liam Gallagher. Ah well, here’s a bunch of songs which sound like Sigur Ros speeded up, right down to being slightly higher pitched than those roaring postrock guitars. It’s all very sparkly, if a little lightweight, but good fun all the same. Put it on your ipod when you so to Mt Doom to dispose of troublesome rings.

30 Salem – King Night


Possibly trying too hard.

It’s hard to listen to more than a few tracks without the dark sludginess leaving you in need of some light, but if for no other reason than the title track this is worth dipping your toe into the darkness for. Vocals rinsed through a million evil effects, everything slowed down to a lurch. Embrace the darkness, if only for a track or two at a time. Rarr.


December 09, 2010

A Letter To My MP

I just wrote a letter to my Liberal Democrat MP, John Leech, who today voted against the tuition fee bill. I am glad he did, glad he kept his promises, and heartened that in his speech on the matter – he recognised that education can benefit the country as well as the individual, and that large amounts of debt are a bad thing. I wrote the letter for two reasons, one to communicate my pleasure that my representative in Parliament did as he said he would in order to get my vote, and secondly because I want to know where he goes from here. I want to know what those Lib Dems who kept their promises are thinking. I don’t know if I will get a response, but I thought it worth a try.

Dear John,

First of all I wish to congratulate you on sticking your election promise, and recognising that the raising of tuition fees in conjunction with the massive cuts to university funding will harm this country on many levels, leaving the young of today facing obscene amounts of debt, hurting our institutions’ abilities to deliver world class teaching and research, and damaging the knowledge economy which remains probably the only thing this country truly excels at now the financial sector has been shown up as a house built on false promises.

It is encouraging also to see that not all politicians will sacrifice their promises, and by extension their electorate, at the first sniff of power.

However I would like to ask a question – how can you continue to be a part of a party some of whose leaders and members have shown themselves to be spineless and treacherous? As things stand, despite my admiration for your stance, I do not feel able to vote for the Liberal Democrats ever again. The trust is gone, and whilst individuals such as yourself have shown that there are those who will keep their promises, I feel distinctly uncomfortable that my vote in a way helped contribute to the passing of a policy which I think is wrong by giving the Liberal Democratsthe clout in Parliament to form this coalition with the Conservatives which has clearly turned the heads of a large number of your colleagues.

How do you intend to proceed knowing your leader is new widely, and in my view correctly, viewed as a two-faced liar? What reassurances, if any, can you offer your constituents about your future stances and that of the Liberal Democrats? If this party is asking you to vote against what you think is right, and you are willing to defy your leadership on a matter they deem to be crucial, can you see yourself continuing as a Liberal Democrat MP?

I do respect what you have done on this matter, which why I feel able to write this letter to you as I think your vote shows you are one of the Liberal Democrats still willing to listen to the people who elected them in the first place.

Kindest regards,
Holly


December 07, 2010

The Rules Of Cricket

My dear friend and lover of such things as knitting, ATP and cricket, Ms Dawn has been following the Ashes with me on my short-thought page (www.twitter.com/Hollyzone) and would like me write up a guide to the rules of cricket seeing as my explanations on the short-thought page were so enlightening or something. So here are the rules of cricket.
 
By “cricket”, I do of course mean International Test Cricket! This is the longest form of cricket and can take up to five days to complete a match, after which there will always be a winner, even if that winner is the weather and not one of the team playing. Other forms of cricket include:
  • County Cricket – look at the word “county”, it’s like “country” but small, and this applies in County Cricket which is only allowed to last up to four days, unlike International Test Cricket’s five, because countries are bigger than counties and deserve more attention (warning, do not point out that the county of West Yorkshire is bigger than actual countries like Lichtenstein or the powers that be will leak all your embarrassing photos to Wikileaks).
  • One Day Cricket – this lasts one day, except it actually only last half a day because 24 hour cricket would be hard on the cricketers who are clearly made of less organised and stern stuff than, say, racing drivers who can manage 24 hours at Le Mans.
  • 20/20 Cricket – this form of cricket is hated by purists, and is rather like 5-a-side football except without the bunching and people running into walls.
     
    The rules of International Test Cricket are pretty easy to follow.

The Pitch

The pitch is big and green. This is because it is covered in grass. The grass serves two purposes, it is cheap, and it makes hilarious stains on the cricketers’ white clothes so you can identify which cricketer has done the most spectacular diving/sliding catches.

In the middle is the Main Bit. This is where most of the stuff happens. At each end of the Main Bit is a pile of twigs with a small and very important twig placed on top. The teams will take it in turns to defend these twig piles. If the very important top twig falls off bad things will happen.

Cricket appears to involve breaks for tea. I am unsure if this means a cuppa or an evening meal. It also has a lunch break. These are clearly signs of civilisation.

There are two teams. They each take it in turns it to throw balls and hit the balls with sticks.


From the BBC – the Blimey Bouncing Cricket people.

The cricketers with sticks each stand in front of a twig pile. This means only two at a time get to be on the pitch and shows the importance of patience in the modern cricketer, although these days the other members of the team are probably playing FIFA or Halo on their X Boxes. This seems plausible as sometimes the TV camera will pan to the side of the pitch and you’ll see three of them sat there, pretending the rest have nipped inside for a pie and will be back any minute.

The other team then spread out across the whole pitch. There lots of names to describe the bits of the pitch, like Silly Mid Off, which sound so obviously made up that you suspect it’s all a joke. Suffice to say if they think the stick man has strong arms they will stand far away, whereas weaklings they will stand near. Sometimes they will make nasty comments to the stick man. This is called sledging which makes sense as sledging, luge, bobsleigh and skeleton are the sports most likely to induce swearing in those who practice them (“I’m sliding down a hill at 100mph, chin first…. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!”).

One of the spread out team gets to throw the ball at the stick man. If he takes a very long run up he is a Fast Bowler even though his throws will take much longer than a short run up, or Slow Bowler, and so the game will not proceed very fast after all. There is a good explanation for this but it involves physics and the Large Hadron Collider.

The Scoring System

  1. You get 1pt for a mad, arm flailing, run from one set of upright twigs to the other. If you run back again you get 2pts, and so on. In theory you can run infinitely, but the throwing team don’t normally allow this unless they have been bribed by a dodgy betting syndicate (this only happens in about 30% of matches).
  2. You get 4pts if you express your disgust at the commercialisation of the sport by hitting the ball into an advertising board.
  3. You get 6pts if you give demonstrate a socialist attitude and liberate the balls from the grips of the authorities by hitting it to a pleb.
  4. You can also score 1pt if the thrower has a Victorian style attack of the vapours and hurls the ball in the wrong place, like America.


This man did not score enough points and nor did his friends. Sadface.

Unlike in rounders you don’t score a half rounder if the thrower guesses your height wrong and throws the ball at your knee/face.

Out

The stick men continue until they are out. There are over eight million ways to get out but these are the recognised ones. The other ways are kept secret for fear knowledge of them could destroy the world as we know it.

  1. Knocking the very important top twig off the twig pile. If you hit it with your stick or the other team hit it with their ball then you are deemed not sufficiently caring of the twigs to continue. This happens a lot when people run with their arms flailing wildly but the ball reaches their destination pile of twigs first. This is because balls travel faster than humans so one must deceive the ball and convince it one is not going to run rather than risk a flat race.
  2. When a field cricketer catches a ball hit by the stick man then the stick man is out as it’s probably not safe to hit a ball so close to a person, someone could get hurt.)
  3. LBW – no one knows what the letters mean but they are believed to relate to the practice of putting one’s leg before the wicket and letting the ball hit it. The leg is not a stick and should not be used as one. Stop it. Now.
  4. Hitting the ball twice with your stick will get you out. Kind of like volleyball, but fewer tiny shorts.
  5. Taking more than three minutes to get ready to face the thrower. This is common at junior level as it helps weed out youngsters who would be better off playing football as they will take over three minutes to gel their hair, adjust their snood and have an affair with a team mate’s wife.
  6. If the stick man handles the ball they are out. Why they would do this when they have a nice stick is unclear but it takes all sorts. People who do this should be redirected to tennis where handling the balls is acceptable and the balls are fluffy and nicer to touch.


It is not a requirement to look like you’ve shat yourself when you catch a ball.

Winning

When a team is all out, i.e. ten out of eleven of them have managed to fanny it up by doing one of the things above, then the other team gets to use the sticks. Sometimes a team with a really big score might decide to let the other team bat without all getting out – this is called Declaring and is basically the stick team saying “Your turn now” but in a really condescending way.

Each team gets two goes unless time runs out in which case the sun goes supernova and we all die. The team with the most points wins. This isn’t normally the end as there will probably be several games in the series and it’s important to win at least two of these, although five is best. If you win all five this is a Whitewash which is good because it means you can get all the grass stains out of your clothes.

These are the rules of cricket. Now go forth and care about it, at least for as long as England are any good.


November 29, 2010

Ferrero Rocher's New Advertising Campaign

I should work in advertising… or not…


October 13, 2010

How Many Millionaires Does It Take To Run The Country?

So benefits are being cut, and public sector pensions are being cut, and jobs are being cut, and students are to be charged more… One recurring theme to be found in much of the invective unleashed by those who oppose the government as it merrily slashes its way around the place is that this financial pain is being inflicted by a bunch of millionaires. Until today I hadn’t quite realised the extent of this. Yes David Cameron and George Osbourne have the sort of histories (and faces) which scream “excessive money in the family” but I didn’t realise how deep it ran.

Depending on who you ask either 18 of the 23 full time senior cabinet members (The Times) or 23 of the 29 members entitled to attend cabinet meetings (The Daily Fail) are worth more than a million pounds. Indeed, according to the Mail article only Vince Cable, Andrew Lansley, Eric Pickles, Baroness Warsi, Patrick McLoughlin, and Danny Alexander don’t have a million pounds stashed away somewhere from property, shares, inheritance, publishing or wallpaper.


Lend us a fiver!

Apart from the curious situation where two of the three men tasked with tackling the economic state of the nation (Cable and Alexander) aren’t in this rich club, does it not strike people as a bit… exclusive?

I’ve nothing against millionaires in theory. I only know two millionaires and both earned their money through hard work and graft. Yes, I grit my teeth at the unfairness of those born with silver spoons and rich parents, but if there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that money can be lost as well as gained – just track down Rupert Everett’s apperance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ to see someone encountering the evidence of an ancestor who frittered it all away. The rich should pay more tax and take more personal responsibility and that, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with having more than a million pounds.

However, if virtually the entirety of a country’s leadership is comprised of millionaires doesn’t that suggest that the national leadership is lacking a perspective or two? Like those of people who have less than a million pounds, aka the vast majority of the people of Britain? After all, the median wage in Britain is smidge over £25,000pa, a rate which would require nearly 40 years in order to accumulate a million pounds, if the recipient didn’t spend a penny and wasn’t taxed.


From the BBC, 2006/07 figures give an idea of the shape of British earnings.

So here’s my completely unworkable and insane idea for the week.

You might have heard of Labour’s women-only candidate lists. It’s not new news, here’s an article about it from 2002, and whatever its problems it does come from a well intentioned position – the desire to bring about equal representation of women and men in parliament. The idea, amongst those who advocate it, is that this equality is a good thing as it brings a proper representation of the British people. I am sympathetic to this, even if I am not 100% certain that single gender candidate lists are the best way to achieve it. Harriet Harman has also made it one of her aims to get half the shadow cabinet roles to go to women.

But if we’re trying to move towards equality in one area, why not another, just as pressing – financial status? I’m sure the massed ranks of millionaires in the cabinet can do a most excellent job of understanding how things affect millionaires, but I don’t believe they have enough insight into my position, or that of the family struggling at the poverty line, or even the upper middle class family with the doctor on £80,000 and the head teacher on £70,000. If we take it as read that a cabinet full of men cannot act in the best interests of women (and I believe they couldn’t, and vice versa), how can a cabinet of millionaires act in the best way for the massed ranks of non-millionaires?

So the madcap idea of the week is this – force the cabinet to represent the population in general. With 29 positions there might be space for as many as two millionaires (not because this is proportionate, but because it’ll be hard to wean ourselves off our addiction to excessively rich people right away) and then 27 people from a variety of financial positions, although the majority would earn between £18,000 and £30,000. Why not? A list of people for the 29 slots from which the cabinet will be decided, and then when elected they will all have to work together to decide who gets which role and how to run the country. Of course it would be almost totally unworkable in reality (because if there’s one thing people cannot do, it’s work together), but it would bring voices to the table which are flat out ignored by all major parties.

Otherwise we’ll just go on being run by an unrepresentative group of people who won’t feel the pain we’ll feel in the next few years. And that cannot be healthy, surely?


September 29, 2010

E–Mil, Illegitimate Sprogs And The Mail's F Grade In History

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316129/Ed-Miliband-I-dont-believe-God-I-WILL-married.html

The Mail, today:

[Ed Miliband’s] personal set-up has caused consternation since he became the first major political leader in British history not to be married to the mother of his children.

First major political figure in British history not to be married to the mother of his children?

Poor Charles II. Forgotten again, and by a very Royalist newspaper. :(

Still he probably had a good time having kids (well, having the attendant sexual intercourse) with Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Barbara Palmer, the Duchess of Portsmouth, Moll Davis, and of course, Nell Gwyn. What a randy monarch (but apparently not a major political leader despite being, y’know, a pretty major political leader and figure).

Of course there was also Henry I, William IV, numerous other male monarchs.

And Ken Livingstone, who clearly much be a major leader based on the amount of bile the Mail and its London mini-me The Evening Standard throw at him.

And what about David Lloyd George? Prime Minister from 1916-22, of whom a newspaper wrote in 2008 “there are no politicians today who could ever think of getting away with the uber-sexed personal life, peppered with illicit lovers and illegitimate offspring, that Lloyd George led over 14 years in Downing Street, first as Chancellor, then as Prime Minister, from 1908 to 1922.”

The newspaper in question? The Mail.

Still, they might be historically ignorant and internally inconsistent, but check out their page three totty:


Phwaor! David Lloyd George!


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