All entries for November 2005

November 30, 2005

Festive Nomenclature

As we enter the festive season (it's December tomorrow and I am well aware that the shops got festive about a million years ago) I just want to send a little message to people right across the world.

The first time I had someone sing 'Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly' or 'The Holly And The Ivy' at me it was quite amusing. Not hilarious, but still well worth a smile. Same goes for jokes about holly bushes, holly decorations and holly on the Christmas pudding. All quite amusing the first time.

Pretty much without exception the first time for all these things was before December 1989.

Your challenge for the year is to think of something imaginative about my name to take the piss out of this festive season. I didn't choose this name, and I wasn't born near Christmas, so have some pity.

Still, at least I'm not called Noel.


November 28, 2005

When Is Indie Not Indie?

Follow-up to Elbow vs Franz Ferdinand from Hollyzone

To my mind there are few things as irritating as narrowmindedness. Now obviously that's a bloody obvious statement and I could blather on all day about all the shades of narrowmindedness, but one of the manifestations of it that gets me is musical narrowmindedness. It runs a long gamut of opinion from

I don't listen to anything that's not on CD:UK or available as a downloadable ringtone

through to

All mainstream music is crap and only this really obscure band you've never heard of will ever matter.

So, whilst you'd need wild boars to drag me into our Union's esteemed R'n'B night, Fight Nation Pure, I am happy to admit there are some fantastic R'n'B songs. For me I think Kelis' 'Milkshake' and Fatman Scoop's 'Be Faithful' are two of the definitive songs of my first year. Similar things apply in dance music (Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, that utterly wonderful new Royksopp single) and pop (Girls Aloud).

But as evidenced by, amongst other things, my job I'm a pasty faced indie kid. Which is why I'm so adament that there is much much more to the genre than those scrawny, gaunt people in slightly unfashionable clothes and Converse shoes (although not in this weather) of which I am regretably an indentifiable example.

The other week I took advantage of various coincidences in life (brother now lives in Birmingham, I turned 21 the other week) to go and blast my hearing to buggery at two of Brum's music venues for two brilliant bands – Elbow at the Academy and Franz Ferdinand at the NEC.

Both are classified as "indie", yet they sound so utterly different to each other. In all honesty you'll find that Elbow have more in common with 'chillout' acts than they do with Franz. The common factors would appear to be having worked up from the bottom, not having been manufactured by a record label, and having been promoted by the same cabal of radio DJs. When a guitar band that doesn't follow the rules comes along (Busted, McFly) they are labelled as pop and can never get that elusive (some would say non-existent) indie cool. Hence why we must all bow down to Babyshambles even though they haven't come up with anything significantly better than 'Year 3000'.

That sound controversial? Don't care. You can rant and rave as much as you like about how Babyshambles are more authentic than Busted because the latter are over produced and slick, but Babyshambles are just slack. Seriously, Arcade Fire recorded their Funeral album with about as much gloss as Babyshambles, yet theirs is an album of wonder whereas some of Down In Albion sounds like it was recorded by a crack head who can't play an instrument or sing in tune. And likewise, no amount of high production values will make Maroon 5 anything other that hair-tearingly appalling. I'd like to play Busted sometimes at Crash, but I know I'd get lynched if I did, not because the songs aren't good, but because it's not cool to play that. So you're getting Arcade Fire instead. Who are a billion times better than any other band in this paragraph.

In any case there's just too much musical snobbery around. I'm sure I'll get royally slagged off by people for having such opinions. Just don't question my ability to do my job* because I'm determined to listen to stuff which doesn't follow some lame rules of cool, especially when indie is such a nebulous term. I want, one day, to DJ to an open minded crowd who aren't giong to moan if I play something that's outside 'their' genre. Won't happen. We have a night called Top B (you may have heard of it) which in theory does this. It gets complained about more than any other night. Beware future DJs. It's a tough crowd. And yes, some Babyshambles stuff is ok. Honest.

*And don't think I haven't noticed the odd jibe about the Crash DJs being girls. We know as much about music as the lads do.


November 27, 2005

Elbow vs Franz Ferdinand

I don't need my hearing. I can go to concerts and get it blasted to buggery. Yeah!

So I did, the other week. It was great, and I'm now going to rant at you about it. Poor you.

Birmingham. November 2005. Scottish fops Franz Ferdinand and Mancunian lamenters Elbow are playing.

Franz Ferdinand are a dance band. As in I can dance to them, more so than with so-called dance music where all you can really do is jerk around on E. The laconic off-beats and bouncy basslines are infinitely more danceable than the relentless hammering of the dance music beats and bass. Granted it is therefore a little galling to be watching them with 82091278174 other people all crammed into the barn that they misleadingly call the National Exhibition Centre, rather than dancing around in a club. It's an odd feeling standing there wondering if you'd be having a better time if the band themselves weren't there. Fortunately the guys are so entertainingly camp that it was worth watching. And I was standing which is so much better than sitting that there are probably only a couple of bands I would sit to see at a concert.

Their support acts, The Rakes and Editors were a little lost in the NEC, which shows the dangers of a band getting too big. I really can't imagine how the White Stripes would work in such a place. But it was fine for Franz, a band who have lead a revival of bands who aren't afraid to be popular (yes, Thom Yorke, it's ok to have fans) and clever (sorry Mr Gallagher, we aren't all into boozing and being stupid). I like it like that. A bit of wit and imagination in the music, the lyrics, or even something as simple as the album artwork, is always appreciated. This extends to onstage banter which Franz, or rather Alex Kapranos, are quite good at.

Not as good as Guy Garvey of Elbow mind. You can't really dance to Elbow, even the faster ones just defy any rational dance moves. They are a band who are more perfectly suited to live gigs where you can see the veins popping on their foreheads. They also play smaller venues, like the Academy, which is nicer. It's easier to get closer to the band which is the Holy Grail of many a concert. The only time I got to the very front at a gig was Doves in Manchester and that ended up with me stage invading which was highly entertaining.

Anyway, Guy is one of the funniest frontmen ever. It's more marked because his lyrics are amongst the most brutally heartfelt ever. Elbow are good for the big sing-a-long, the epics which make you just want to throw your arms around the person next to you, and bellow along. And yes, the lyrics are clever, which is nice.

Thus, deafened by that pair and their accompanying wannabes (all three of whom (Elbow were supported by Mew) were good), a good week was had.

Elbow, Birmingham Academy 15th November 2005

'Station Approach'
'Fallen Angel'
'Red'
'Leaders Of The Free World'
'My Very Best'
'Great Expectations'
'Fugitive Motel'
'Scattered Black And Whites'
'Mexican Standoff'
Something I didn't recognise or catch the name of, annoyingly…
'Newborn'
Encore
'Switching Off'
'Puncture Repair'
'Powder Blue'
'Forgot Myself'
'Grace Under Pressure'

Franz Ferdinand, Birmingham NEC 16th November 2005

'This Boy'
'Come On Home'
'Do You Want To'
'Auf Acshe'
'Fallen'
'Matinee'
'I'm Your Villan'
'Walk Away'
'Eleanor Put Your Boots On'
'Take Me Out'
'Darts Of Pleasure'
'You Could Have Had It So Much Better'
'40 Feet'
'Michael'
Encore
'Jacqueline'
'Evil And A Heathen'
'Outsiders'
'This Fire'


November 25, 2005

The Ever Present Feeling Of Wonder

Right, I'm a cynic, we know this much. So why the hell is everything going well this week? Seriously, bad stuff rears its ugly head and gets smote down by… well, I'm not sure by what. Individual elements to be sure, the migraine drugs working completely 100% for the first time ever (possibly because they've been in my rucksack so long that they've matured like a fine wine). Or the impending dread of essay return day suddenly equalling a good mark.

When you spend your whole life being highly strung and unable to relax, all things coming easy is an odd sensation. I'm wibbling. It's late. I've got some ideas and I'm going to act on them. Suffice it to say that sometimes being unable to relax is useful, but at other times it can work against you. I think I finally want to relax for a moment. Now all I need to do is work out how the hell someone with the tightest shoulder knots any massuesse will ever encounter (probably) will have a moment's peace.

I think I might blog something interesting soon…


November 23, 2005

Germ Raddled Stream Of Conscience

It's a freeform art y'know. Not that historians are encouraged to be artistic. We're really social scientists they say, it's all a con this whole pretending to be arts students lark. We do more work than the English students and have fewer hours than the philosophers and French students. But the latter will get jobs even though we're expected to have a comparable ability in a language. Seriously. They learn most of the language by A Level then read books and watch films at university. Albeit in French which I cannot speak.

Anyway, how the hell has it come to this? mum asked if I was ok. Boz asked why I have an appalling football training attendence this term. I asked myself why I'm disorganised and behind in every aspect of life. And all the answers appear to point to one highly irritiating fact. I've been ill since the middle of September.

Not, I should add, in any serious way. No trace of glandular fever or bird flu or ebola or whatever. Just one bloody irritating cold after another. And I know they are different because they all demonstrate different variations on the common cold's vast repetoire of pissing annoying tricks and treats. Check these comedy symptoms:

Hilarious voice loss
Early November which involved being told during Crash to stop the mike work (my job) as I was sounding utterly crap. No change to usual surely…

Side splitting sore throat
Late September/early October. Eat honey. It really does work. So does chocolate, honest.

Laughter inducing headaches
Late September and late October. Fed up with your migraines? Experience the nonentities that other people call headaches. Not to be confused with going back in time and listening to your then-fourteen-year-old brother's Mudvayne albums. That's a different headache.

British Comedy Award winning coughing
Late September and late November. Keep your entire house up all night. Get the blame despite having spent 3am till 5am trying to reinsert your kidneys that you somehow managed to cough up, every night for a week. Not as much fun as hiccups.

Rollicking aches and pains
Late September/early October. Can't get out of bed? Lazy student! Still in pain even after getting up? Ok, that might be illness. Lazy student! Get a proper job immune system and stop sponging off the government.

Sniffly nose of doom
Mid-September until now. I have used every tissue in the West Midlands.

There's no relief from the cold of doom. It's not even funny anymore, I'm just bored. Hell, a dose of chickenpox would at least provide some variation. Last time I got to bathe in liquid Weetabix (well, that's what it looked and smelt like) and had eyedrops. Fun.

And for a moment I wondered if the NHS is magic. A letter on the doorstep this morning from the NHS. Had they heard about my pains and decided to test a new, super-effective common cold cure on me? Was I the chose one who would now be immune to all cold germs?

No.

It was an invite to a smear test. Thanks guys. You really know how to make a girl feel better.

This rant was brought to you by essay fever. Stop moaning all you scientists, you'll never get totally scrambled at 1am from 2000 words of genius/bilge.


November 15, 2005

Eggs And Student Morals

Eggs.

They piss me off.

For a start I am physically incapable of hardboiling them in such a way that they are actually hard boiled. All I seem to do is get a sort-of hard yoke with a disgusting slimy layer of white stuff around it, then a nice firm layer of white stuff that just doesn't make up for the yuck of the interior. In the absense of milk, I've just failed to make two eggs for breakfast.

WARNING: Skirting dangerously close to boring life blogging.

Yeah yeah, I know but there is a point to all this.

If I do buy eggs, and it's not often, I buy the more expensive free range ones. Everything I know about farming and everything my parents taught me makes me feel really bad about battery hens so I can't honestly justify buying battery eggs.* But free range are noticably more expensive in the shops, and by boycotting battery I can't eat eggs at campus food outlets (well university ones, I don't know where the Union sources its eggs from). Thus the problem some students face is culinary.

Obviously there's no way on my meagre budget I can afford to eat organic grown-in-a-renewable-field-using-unionised-badgers-and-love-not-chemicals food. Hell, I read the Guardian but I'm not that bad. But likewise there is just something depressing about Tesco value food, perhaps the way it all tastes of salt (which I have to avoid in large amounts) or the slightly depressing nature of the rice as it melts into one giant gloopy blob of sort-of-rice.

Eating is an obsession of mine because of how ill I get if I don't (it's an old topic ) but I am constantly aware that having to 'cook' for myself (oh god do I use that term loosely) and buy the food myself limits me to a small range of generally healthy but bland options. With large portions. It's a wonder that more students don't have scurvy, or rickets, or the other diseases you get from not eating properly (I can't remember GCSE Biology very well so forgive me that I cannot list anymore).

Somebody said the other day you can live entreiyl on baked beans. You'll smell and be getting too much salt and sugar, but it has all the good stuf you need. 13p a pop in the Tesco value range. Three a day, seven times a week = £2.73 for your entirely weekly food budget. Throw in a couple of quid for airfresheners and you're sorted. Except beans aren't great on their own, they need bacon and sausages and black pudding and white pudding and… eggs.

And this entry is a lesson to us all. Don't read this blog. It will lead you a merry dance around the mind of an essay-addled idiot and you will end up exactly where you started!

To quote a great thinker, "There was bacon. Two, sometimes three times…".

*I just want to clarify that I am NOT a vegetarian, no matter who told you I am.


November 11, 2005

Leamington Flood

Writing about web page http://www.caroluk.org.uk/floods/

Funny what you find when trawling the internet for something utterly unrelated. This is of course part of my attempt to take more of an interest in Leamington Spa itself in light of the residents moaning about the students being uninterested and unwelcome (only because you make us feel unwelcome).

The above weblink points to the details of the Leam bursting its banks and completely flooding most of central and parts of south Leamington. As far as I can tell it was along the entire width of the Leam (from Jephson Gardens to the law courts and possibly further) and stretched from roughly halfway up Parade to as far south as the railway bridge and probably as far as the canal.

There are a few websites and reports online about what was apparently a once in 150 year occurance according to a paper released by UCL (makes you wonder why Warwick Uni didn't look into it, but hey ho). There was, as far as I can remember, a lot of rain generally that year, which may or may not have been down to the previous year's El Nino. It was, according to this report, the fourth costliest British natural disaster ever. Well, I guess it would cost a lot in terms of insurance if you trashed somewhere relatively posh like Leamington Spa.

Hopefully being a once-in-150-years kind of thing means we aren't going to see something similar soon, though if we do then a mass exodus of south Leam residents to Stratford to buy dinghies might be called for. That's so we don't miss Top B, nothing to do with getting to lectures on time… although judging by the early morning U1s this term, taking a small, inflatable, one person, "this is a toy not a real boat" thing to university would probably be slightly quicker and cheaper.

Is it global warming? If so then this is quite annoying as the Midlands looked like a nice safe bet for avoiding the ice-cap water. How ironic would it be if it turned out my hometown (oh, how I am loath to call it that) of Holmes Chapel, Cheshire might turn out to be a safer bet, what with it being situated on a hill in the middle of the Cheshire plane where we are used to large amounts of rain and how to deal with it.*

Anyway, here are some more photos to scare the bejesus out of you and I'm off to bed as I have finished my essay of doom and it's only 1000 words longer than intended…

Swanky buildings are not safe. Apparently the cinema was showing Titanic at the time. Oh the irony!
.


Oh look, road signs and diversions. Well, we've been deprived of those for the last two weeks since Parade reopened.
.


A forlorn, half-drowned car sits outside the estate agents as those inside wonder how they will sell the town's new water feature.
.


Worryingly this is a long way south. I live further south than this, over a hill, but it's still pretty close.
.


Poor gazebo.
.

*We grumble.


November 06, 2005

The LEA Are Doing My Head In

Follow-up to The LEA Are Evil from Hollyzone

Argh!

After my monumental anger at the LEA for giving so little loan it was frankly insulting, some developments have… erm… developed.

Turns out that my parents aren't in possesion of a solid gold Rolls Royce and are therefore unable to fund all my needs in their entirety. Also, it would appear that I've got a university student sibling who also needs feeding. And only months after they should have, the LEA has realised this.

They've increased both mine and my brother's loans from the absolute minimum to the absolute maximum.

What?

How the hell do you make a cock up on that scale? Where does an assessment go so wrong that the complete opposite result is gotten the second time round? Obviously I'm not upset that I can actually afford to eat and pay my bills now. I'm just so pissed off that the LEA has been such a load of fannies, though this is tempered by some relief that they have done something rather than just leave it. Mind you now I think about it it would make their life better to have me with more loan as then I'd have to pay back more in terms of interest. Whatever.

Just to vent some of my frustration at them. Good thing they ain't my problem after this year…


November 05, 2005

A Nation Rejoices As Quiet Falls

Citizens, I have lost my voice.

Not entirely, 100%, but what I have sounds like either Minnie Mouse's chain-smoking auntie, or Madge from Neighbours with an unconvincing English accent, depending on who you ask. It's so bloody useless when raised above a library whisper, yet the library is the only place where a library whisper can be heard. All this and the only other symptom is a minor, if irritating cough.

Where the bloody hell has my voice gone!

I went to Score, stayed to the end and sang a few songs whilst there. Big deal. I sing more in terms of volume at Top B, and more passionately at Crash but they've never destroyed my main weapon. And that's the problem. Now what do I do? I can't talk on the phone, I can hardly talk in person, I haven't got the clevage to distract people from my wheezing squeaks. Good thing I missed training as the women's football team have a long proud tradition of being sympathetic to me.* Still having to endure that awkward silence with someone who wants to talk to you is bloody frustrating.

All I have are a collection of written noted explaining my status. The fact that this is of limited conversational potential would be great if it weren't for the fact that a load of friends from home (and brother) are around tomorrow! More slaggings? Yup.

I'm guzzling honey in the hope it has magic powers. The suggestion from one useful person of adding whiskey to the honey had to be declined. Damn.

So follow Depeche Mode and enjoy the silence, I intend to get my voice back or my future career as a phone sex line operator (not worker, I shall connect the desperate and dirty to a talking tart of their masturbatory choice) will be in severe doubt. And then I'll have to resort to the Careers Service and end up working for some large accountancy firm and frankly who wants that?

*The top ten players most likely to mock me mercilessly in order - 1) Boz; 2) Daisy; 3) Hanya; 4) Cat; 5) Niamh; 6) Kirsty; 7) Gloria; 8) Winnie; 9) Els; 10) Roz.


November 01, 2005

All Souls Day

Obviously we all know that Catholicism ain't great on the old equality and fairness thing. It's got a huge heirarchy. It's got a bad case of the sexism/homophobia/anti-modernism. The Vatican City is actually made of solid gold and caviar*!

But it's also got the coolest festival in the world and no one in this country seems to realise this. 2nd November – All Souls Day.

Basically it's a socialist religious festival. Unlike every other day of the year there is no patron saint for 2nd November, instead it is given over to celebrating everyone else. Yes, all those less than perfect people. The great, slightly rubbish masses. A celebration of everything from great (but a little flawed) to fairly good to mediocre to Chris de Burgh, and of course all bases in between. With all those saints doing miracles, it's easy to forget the little guy who can't walk on water or feed 500 with only a handful of fish (unless he fills it full of water, salt and offal and sells it as a mircowavable fish pasta).

In some countries, especially Latin American ones, this is celebrated as the Day of the Dead. Unlike in the works of George Romero, these are the friendly dead, just popping back to see how everyone is. The Mexicans in particular light millions of candles, dress up and have a feast. How good is that? Great auntie Ethelrood is dead! But she'd want us to party!

So rather than celebrating rubbish festivals like Bonfire Night (man fails to blow up King) or St George's Day (Greek man (who probably didn't exist) kills dragon (which definitely didn't exist)), let's get our candles out and celebrate everyone, ever. Even the slightly rubbish people. Doesn't it just make you feel loved?

*This one might be untrue.


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