All entries for February 2006

February 28, 2006

Linda Smith

Writing about web page

I don't normally find myself that bothered when famous people die. I don't know them and they rarely mean a massive amount to me. But sometimes the person who has died is so unexpected or so young that it makes me stop for a moment.

It's worse when they're someone I've actually always admired and looked up to, both in their professional capacity and in their other pursuits. One of those people was Linda Smith who has died at the horribly young age of 48.

In 2002 she was voted the Wittiest Person In Britain by Radio 4. It was a well deserved title. Though not massively well known she was brilliant, absurdly clever and had an almost perfect comic delivery style. If I knew she was going to be on a radio show, or even a TV show though that was rarer, then I'd be there to listen. I liked her because she was never bitchy although she could be acerbic when she wanted, never moaned in her comedy, it was always pointing out the absurd but retrospectively obvious.

She also was the sort of celeb we could do with more of. Her age was pretty much a secret until the obituaries, unusual as these days we even know how much celebs have had to eat for lunch, the saturation of culture makes the more private ones more admirable and interesting. She was president of the Humanist Society, and often made statements on the subject.

She had principles. She had wit and intelligence. She was a real person. That's why I'm sad to hear she's gone. Linda Smith, you are a legend and I am happy to tag this entry as "Hero Worship". Today is a sad day for what we have lost but let's remember her for her devastating wit and one liners. If I ever come out with anything half as clever I'll be happy.

Linda Smith quotes.

Laughter is the best medicine, but that's not true if you've got facial injuries. Quite a nasty setback.
Anne Widdecombe's confused us all by going blonde. I was watching Question Time thinking, blimey, Sue Barker's slapped on a bit of weight
Ever since cloaks and top hats moved out of fashion, you hardly ever see young women tied to railway lines.

February 24, 2006

Blog Comment Query

Is it just me or is the My Comments page for logged on users at WB not working properly? It keeps taking ages to notice that I've made a comment on a new entry, and it's taking ages to update the order of those comments it has noticed so the most recently commented on entry isn't at the top.

Just wondering if the WB ubertechies have noticed this as well.

In the meantime here's a picture of Tom Waits with two megaphones.

February 23, 2006

How To Lose Patience With NME

No one has ever been able to tell me where the phrase "Shooting fish in a barrell" comes from though I use it on a semi-regular basis. This whole article is therefore dedicated to that inexplicable concept.

Most sane people lost patience with the NME about a million years ago and gave up, forcing it temporarily into the humiliating position of no longer being the biggest selling music weekly in the country (Kerrang had the title for a while). It does however still pull in new readers, and attracts back old ones from time to time.

The reason for this is that it is not the total shitrag a lot of people would have you believe. There are some good writers in there, even if there is a lot of personailty lacking from even a few years ago. But in this day the bands can simply ignore you and leave you for your rivals or the internet, and a degree of caution seems to be necessary in all mainstream press outlets.

But the NME is seriously imperfect and pushes at the reader's patience, in a bad way, a lot. I've been reading it a long time and have seen it through several examplse of its biggest problem, its uncritical obsessive love for certain bands. It's happened with Starsailor (however much they might now deny it), The Strokes, The White Stripes, Andrew WK (who? exactly!), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Libertines/Babyshambles/Pete Doherty, Franz Ferdinand…

I like a lot of those bands (though I'm buggered if I can recall a single note of Andrew WK's music), some I even quite love. But at times it gets a little ridiculous, a little obsessive stalkerish. I want passion in music, but drooling, unfettered adoration is another thing. A lot of 7 out of 10 reviews are given to their pet hype bands; 7 should mean "quite good, not earth shattering" but when related to a hype band it really means "this isn't very good but we can't lose face by saying that after we worshipped them so much". Even this I've been able to cope with because you know which bands are hype bands and deserve the latter 7 subtext, and who are less well known and deserve the former 7 subtext.

But the NME have now gone a little too far recently.

Cards on the table. I don't think the Arctic Monkeys are music's saviours. I think they are very very good, they have wit and invention to them. You can dance to their album and you can listen to it whilst crashed out on the bus in the morning. I love hearing regional accents, I love references to things I know, which make me smile. But theirs is not the best album of the decade. I doubt it'll be my no.1 album of the year. Top ten very likely, but no.1? Can't see it. And I think the NME's blanket arse kissing of them is just a little too much to take.

Last week they published a review of Stellstarr*'s new album. Stellastarr* are a not hugely well known New York band who are on their second album. They are no earth movers. In 2003 they predicted, on their first album, the sort of 1980s indie that The Killers and The Bravery would revive with more chart success. Their singer is very much an acquired taste, his voice can be either affecting or plain annoying depending on the listener. The music is very good, better than The Bravery, and more consistent than The Killers, if lacking the highs of the latter band. I did not expect their second album to set the world on fire. I similarly did not expect the NME review to be such an utter travesty.

It's not about disputing the mark. It got a 4, which is fair enough, as mentioned many people would give it that as they cannot get around the singer's voice. I've heard the album, quite like his voice, and think it's worth a nice solid 7, quite good, not earth shattering. However ask me about it and I'll talk about the voice, the musical strengths, the fact it lacks a track as instant as 'Somewhere Across Forever' from their debut. I might mention bands they sound like, like the previously mentioned fellow The bands, or possibly people like Pixies (they use the man/woman vocal style) or Echo And The Bunnymen (who must be an influence). I doubt I'd mention the Arctic Monkeys as they are, in indie terms, totally different. Gritty British realism against shiny American ephemera.

The NME review mentions the Monkeys nine times.

What's more it seems that nothing Stellastarr* has done is judged without some reference to the Monkeys. These are two bands I would never have even thought to lump in together. There were mentions the first time round of The Strokes and Stellastarr* but they share a home city, elements of each other's sound, reasonable grounds for comparison. But these were mentions, not hijacks of Stellastarr*'s career by the other band. NME isn't just guilty of a bit of lazy journalism here, this is full on loss of perspective. No, I will not be comparing every album I buy this year to the Arctic Monkeys. I didn't compare everything I bought last year to Arcade Fire and their album genuinely got into my heart and soul, which is not something the Arctic Monkeys have managed.

I know records are of their time, but not everyone lives in the same time, we pick and choose our culture and cannot expect it all to be interlinked. Will NME be criticising Sway or Pendulum for not being like the Monkeys? No, because Sway's a rapper and Pendulum are a drum'n'bass act. So why Stellastarr*? Ok, both acts are indie, but, as I've said, very different types of indie. NME is an indie rag, it has to realise that its constituents are aware of such differences between their bands and cannot be patronised like this. We expect more subtlety because we don't get it in the mainstream where the difference between punk, punk-pop and emo are beyond most people. It's like criticising The Constant Gardener for not being Brokeback Mountain, they are very very different forms of the same art.

So come on NME! Either give us some credit or get your heads out of your arses. We don't mind you having heroes, but there's more to the music scene than them and some people won't care for a review which mentions your obsession more than the band who are actually being reviewed. There's having personailty in your writing and then there's having moronic hyperbole instead of personality. This line has been crossed and that's not a good thing.

February 22, 2006

Tonsils – Any Objections?

If no one has any moral/ethical.practical objections then I plan to remove my own tonsils at some time in the next minute and a half so they can stop screeching for attention like the evoltuionary throwbacks they are, and I can get some goddam sleep!

Tonsils are the most useless thing in the universe.
Cue hordes of biologists pointing out that they do, in fact, serve some sort of ill defined and ill starred purpose
This the sound of me killing biologists using my tonsils.
Stop the pedantry.

Anyway, I accept mine have never really been as spectacular as some. I think there's a certain traumatic element though to them. I have worryingly distinct memories of being very young and living in London (somewhere I left aged 4 and a half) and seeing a rather miserable looking friend out the car window whilst my mother explained that she'd had her tonsils out. Clearly this was not an experience I wanted to endure myself. And it must have been a traumatic day and memory as I remember my brother being very young and my only other dateable memory from that time is having my head x-rayed which is also going to be quite high up on the mental and physical trauma rankings.

So an inherent fear of tonsillectomy (which I have micraculously spelt right, first time, apparently) not helped when my best friend in school had near constant tonsilitis for about five years which involved showing me said tonsils. A normal throat would resemble the picture below left. Hers resembled below right although at the time she was the only vegetarian who wanted me to be an ear-nose-and-throat doctor so I didn't know if was just want most vegetarian throats looked like.

I've since learned that the white bits are not the result of too much celery (although the desire in my friend to become a law student at Durham was traced back to a rogue batch of cauliflower that she ate one winter's afternoon) but were the sign of bad tonsils of doom which had to be removed. Well, I cannot see down my own throat and my camera phone has no light on it, so we won't be able to check the golf balls in my throat till tomorrow morning. A shame as despite this trip down memory lane (via graphics tablet avenue and Photoshop crescent) I am not quite tired enough to sleep despite the pain.

Next best source of narcolepsy? I'm going to read the Money section of the Guardian. Sleep will be soon in coming…

February 17, 2006

Success At Last!

Ostentibly this is for Steve and thopse who are abroad and cannot read the Guardian in paper form.

In reality it's me being a rampant egomaniac/kid who has just achieved their dream of appearing in her beloved woolly liberal lovely newspaper of lefty joy. Now I am going to put on my sandles and eat some museli. Nice.

February 15, 2006

Brits Become Total Disaster Zone

Follow-up to Brit Awards 2006 from Hollyzone

Not alas, because someone drove a truck full of concrete through the room showering all the talentless twats in concrete and squishing some of the lamest minds of our gneration. No, this is a disaster because they gave the wrong people awards. Ok ok, I know I shouldn't have expected anything less but seriously! There's some appalling crap being 'recognised'. Why does this happen every year and why do I care? Why?

Best Pop Act Award - James Blunt
No. No no no. He whines like the inside of a kettle which knows it's broken and is on the last cup of tea it will ever boil before it shorts out the fuse and dies in a melted plastic heap of crap. A Tesco's value kettle. From a dodgy batch which was recalled in most instances due it being bad for the health. That whiny.

Best British Urban Act Award - Lemar
Meh, he's harmless and inoffensive. I guess I'd prefer someone a bit more exciting but he's not offended me with blandness or been outright satanic in crapness so I guess it's not the worst thing ever.

Best International Breakthrough Act Award is - Jack Johnson
Sorry WHAT? You nominated the most beautiful, perfect band of the decade (Arcade Fire, citizens, as if I don't rave about them enough anyway) and this flappy, woozy, pseudo-cool meandering wins? He sounds like he'd rather be asleep on a beach whereas Arcade Fire sound like they want to ignite a fire in your soul and change the world. He sounds like he can't be arsed to change his socks. He probably wears socks with his sandals! Argh!

Best International Male Solo Artist Award is - Kanye West
Oh look, they got one right. Well done Brit Awards, you useless shower of shite.

Best British Rock Award is - Kaiser Chiefs
But they're not rock. Ok, they're not awful, but they're not rock. They are a strain of quite enjoyable pop which uses guitars and deserves more respect than it gets. A shame as this award could have gone to someone who deserved a bit more exposure, but I guess there has to be one big winner amongst the nominees and at least they beat Blunt.

Best British Breakthrough Artist Award is - Arctic Monkeys
Not a surprise but still shouldn't have been. They didn't break through till the very end of the year (after the Brits deadline I think) so really should be up for this next year… although they'll probably do a Kaiser Chiefs next year and win everything. Oh well…

Best British Live Act Award is - Kaiser Chiefs
I cannot really comment, I've not seen them live. I need to go to more gigs.

Best British Male Solo Artist Award is - James Blunt

I hope Antony and Ian Brown ambushed him in the carpark and ninja kicked him till they got the award off him. Used to be in the army, I doubt he could take a 6' 4" transvestite and a pissed off Mancunian. Hell, let's not even be nice, let's really terrify him and set Bjork on him.

Best British Single Award is - Coldplay, Speed Of Sound
It's very… Coldplay. Almost too much, but in isolation it is quite nice and is a safe option. But then again it has been everywhere, infecting the planet in a glow of nice MOR ambience which can only offend by being utterly inoffensive, not an issue when taken alone, maybe sandwiched between songs with pulses, but over an album? No thanks.

Best International Group Award is - Green Day
Well, realistically Arcade Fire weren't gonna win this, so I guess this lot will do. Funny how the teenage rebels are now the toast of the wanky besuited brigade who think they know music but haven't a clue. Maybe the irony is lost upon them, but I don't think Green Day are exactly down with the Ford Mondeos and canapes. Or maybe I'm holding onto a lost cause and they do. Do we all sell out in the end?

Best British Group Award is - Kaiser Chiefs
Ok, I'll admit, this one is a bit of a surprise. I thought it would be Coldplay but apparently the men in suits wanted to go for a hard edged, gritty, inner city bunch of dangerous poets, producers and hardnosed chroniclers of the brutal lives of so many young and unfortunate kids who live in shitty conditions dreaming of better futures and the spark that might one day light the bonfire of revolution and utopia… however Girls Aloud weren't nominated so they went for the Kaisers.

Best British Female Artist Award is - KT Tunstall
Not Kate Bush!
Falls off chair in surprise
This is what happens whren you nominate too many people with the same name. You get confused. It's like voting for Slovakia in Eurovision when you meant to vote for Slovenia. Not that Ms Bush or Ms Tunstall resemble eastern European nations. Although Natasha (Katie) Bedingfield does a good impression of the Ukraine after a few pints.

Best International Female Solo Artist Award is - Madonna
Did anyone not see this happening? The woman who cannot be killed will soon conquer us all and rule from a shiny disco palace of hi-NRG and pain! We will be her slaves and have no free will. Then, and only then, will she reveal her true identity… mwhahahaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Best International Album Award is - Green Day, American Idiot
Still dubious about this as it was released last year (in Brit Award terms) and is only on here through the slightly dodgy, fudged rules they have. If they need two goes to recognise something does that not suggest that instead of listening out for good music they actually have their heads wedged up their arses searching for the sun (which sure as hell ain't there)? I hate the industry.

Best Corporate Whore British Album Award is - Coldplay, X&Y

So they managed to balls much of it up. So what? It's because people read about this in the press, watch it on TV. It should be honest and not pander, it should make people want to investigate, stop this armchair fan complacency and get out there with a fire in its heart. But it won't. They never do.

Maybe next year…

February 14, 2006

Neighbourhood #3

As anyone who has ever watched 'The Young Ones' can tell you, TV portrayals of the living habits of the students of the species are often extreme and comical, tinged with that slight sense of tragedy that we are either being forced or actively choosing to ensconce ourselves in such conditions. Naturally parents and friends assume that real students aren't living in such squalor, deprivation and general comedy. But the problem is that a lot of people actually do wake up in house where the paint peels from the walls, the heating is an abstract concept, and the smell of weed from last year's stoners has yet to adequately fade.

At least you hope last year's lot were stoners otherwise how long can smell last in a house, bringing suspicision on your innocent head?

That's not from personal experience, I just want to clarify.

Is there an inherent lowering of standards once we are free from the parental home? After all, few would have lived in the state that we now live in,yet there appears to be relatively little consternation at the sudden drop in cleanliness, space and cooperation with building regulations. I don't know how trainee architects and engineers don't spend their lives walking round their houses involuntarily spasming at the sight of all the building reg violations. My dad (architectural technician) has enough fun pointing out the ones in my house and he doesn't have to live there.

So all I want for Valentines (which is a rubbish festival which I intensely dislike and wish would go away and stop tricking people out of their money purely in some false idea that there's a specific day on which people need to show their loved ones how they feel) is the electricity back in my house. It's not a hard request, but it is one which has been an issue on and off all year. I just want to know that I don't have to run around desperately trying to work out what's tripped before the fridge heats up and destroys the frozen pizzas and Thai sweet chilli sauce which is actually all I seem to live on half the time. I want to know I don't have to concoct a massive conga line of multplugs to watch TV, linking to whichever socket is arbitrarily working, in defiance of the dead nature of all the others in the house. It would be really nice. Seriously, best thing ever at the moment.

Stupid student houses.

February 11, 2006

Shameless Self Promotion

Writing about web page

I'm mainly doing this cos Heather told me it would be funny if we managed it.

There's a website doing a poll of the top 100 female DJs around. Now me and Heather don't like to make any fuss about our gender, it makes us no better or worse at DJing than men. But if they're going to do a top 100 female DJs then we thought why not give it a go.

So go here: link and vote for Holly Cruise and Heather Crawley, and whoever else you like (not as cool as us obviously) and we'll see if we can upset everyone in the known universe.

Shameless self promotion can be fun for the whole family. I am a publicity whore.

February 09, 2006

Um, Eight Hours I Think…

Since 9am on Monday morning I have rejoiced in eight hours sleep. The half hour of dozing on the train does not count and I was not actually asleep in that swanky coffee house by the Pompidou either.

Vive le France. Sleep now, coherent and better entry later.

And tomorrow I will process the Paris pics for anyone (anyone?) out there from Enlightenment Paris. We are the Colin Jones fan club, y'know.

February 05, 2006

No Lose For Cruise

Follow-up to No Cruise? You Lose? from Hollyzone

I just want to thank everyone who didn't vote for me and those who ensured that I was not elected to any position of power, importance or relevance. I will use my non-term of office to do unconstructive, inane and generally selfish things to the benefit, and indeed detriment, of no one.

The next twelve months hold many challenges, controversies and highlights with which I will have bugger all to do with. This has been down to you the voters modtly, with your overarching indifference and sanctimonious mockery of my non-existent desire for power. Thanks also to the following people for their help in this campaign:

Alan Milburn for showing me that even members of power mad New Labour can occasionally listen to the internal indifference and quit for no apparent reason.

Paula Radcliffe for showing that even talented, brilliant and wonderful people sometimes quit for no apparent reason, albeit in warmer conditions than the icebox that is currently masquerading as the West Midlands.

Edward VIII for showing that even royalty, born and bred into a role for centuries, can quit because they want to bone an unsuitable yank. I don't actually want to bone any unsuitable yanks though. It's more the born and bred thing that's relevant.

Fawlty Towers for quitting after two series and leaving us in a world where endless repeats of Friends are slowly rotting our brains until we all drool our way through life wondering why no one ever remarked upon the fact that the better the character the less screen time they got. And why does RAG's quiz always have a Friends round when I'm there? Are they deliberately saying "here Cruise, have a toilet break"?

Colin, Steve and Roger for ensuring that I had too many essays, too much seminar reading and over £3000 riding on my exam results which resulted in me having the perfect excuse for not running, i.e. I had no time.

All of UWWFC but espceially Els, Niamh and Boz for being completely not arsed by all this politics and infecting me with their rampaging lethargy, apathy and alcoholism… maybe not the latter on reflection.

So now have fun with your new officers and remember – No Cruise, you lose… I think we're all losers in some way.

Hollyzone is heading off to Paris now so suck on my absence you plebs!

February 2006

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