Monday, December 22, 2008

Your high-heeled jams and your rock n roll! Your mother is a bitch called rock n roll!

I’m in a peaceful office. Barely anyone is speaking, there’s just the occasional clack of a keyboard. For the next two days my main aim will be to wind down in preparation for the break. I might squeeze some work in, if I feel like it.

Since I last posted, not a huge amount has happened aside from I had some early Xmas/belated birthday drinks in Trader Vic’s. It was a lovely evening, with plenty of people dropping in for some booze. My bar bill was enormous, as expected, but it was worth it. I had two different cocktails, the Scorpion (a bit tart) and a couple of Peachtree Punches (sweet and creamy). I won’t list the attendees, but hasten to add that I was pleased to see my nearest and dearest.

What’s next is a jaunt to Devon for Xmas, for family time spent mucking about with the kids, eating some great food and sleeping a lot. It may be a short while before I appear on the internet again.

In true December style, it’s list time.

2008 – in short

The main event
I left my terrible City job in March. This was the boldest, scariest thing I had done for years, yet at the same time, it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. It proved to me that I wasn’t dead inside, which I had suspected for some prior to handing in my resignation. Also proof, if it were needed, that money does not equal happiness: I now earn considerably less and am generally happier and healthier than I have been in years.

It’s been a bit of a funny year for this. I just couldn’t settle to new things this year. I have been reading the top ten lists in all the magazines, and don’t recognise any of the albums. Oh dear. However, I enjoyed the MGMT record lots, because it is ludicrously overblown*. It includes some of the most delightful and off-kilter chord sequences/modulations that any pop album has had for years and years. This is not the cool choice. But fuck cool, I like it.

As above, I didn’t go to the pictures much this year. I enjoyed Juno. And Kung Fu Panda. Again, not cool.

The IT Crowd. Each season improves upon the last, they are surely the Anti-Boosh. [Having said that, I loved the Mighty Boosh documentary on BBC3 this year.]
Heroes Season 3, first half. Which is a good thing, considering that Season 2 was so bad.
Flight of the Conchords. I was a very late convert to this, but it’s up there with the best. Looking forward to the next season.
The Big Bang Theory. A better than average traditional US sitcom.
Pulling. This extremely funny and near the knuckle sitcom has not been re-commissioned. For shame, BBC3!
Summer Heights High
Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe
While we’re on the subject, I wish I could say Dead Set, but I watched forty minutes and it scared me shitless, so I had to switch it off. Sorry, Charlie.

Untimely departure
Nick “Sandy” Sanderson of Earl Brutus
“Will you talk to me for a fiver, cos I’m English, and you hate me?”

Timely departure
Bush/Cheney. See you, lads!

Gig of the year
I haven’t been to many this year: probably a cross between Dengue Fever and My Bloody Valentine. Notable: Fucked Up (twice).

Letdowns of the year
Fujiya and Miyagi
live. So boring, I began to feel like wallpaper.
Yellow Magic Orchestra live. I fell asleep.

Following the herd...
Facebook. I’m managing a football team on there, which is pointless in the extreme. I’ve also gained an insight into other people’s tedious minutiae. As if my own tedious minutiae wasn’t enough!

Teenage crush of the year
Recently usurping the multi-talented, brooding Yorkshireman Julian Barratt, the fruitily-voiced Matt Berry. In contrast to these gentlemen, I have recently been finding Zachary Quinto’s buff, unibrow/vest acting in Heroes unusually stirring.

Obligatory comment about The Wire
While I’d love to devote weeks of my life to watching The Wire, essential viewing though it is, I just can’t. To be honest, I have too much other stuff to be getting on with.

Happy rest of 2008, see you in 2009. xxx

* I've always had a fondness for over-produced albums (one of my favourites? Cupid and Psyche 85 by Scritti Politti, an album that glitters like a cubic zirconia in a tin mount).

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gratuitous plug

A rather lovely C86 tribute song from my pal Pandaman. Lovely stuff.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Hey hey, glad girls!

If you're browsing here, you're in Dublin, and you're reading this on 12th December 2008, I just noticed this post on Graham Linehan's blog. I would imagine that this would be a fantastic way to spend tomorrow afternoon.

Guided by Voices were introduced to me by somebody I have lost touch with. They are the one thing that I would thank him for, if I could bring myself to speak to him.

Back in the 90s I had a pal who insisted that GBV were a joke played on the music industry by the journalists at Melody Maker (my mate was the lodger of a journo whose name rhymes with Speverett View for a time). That's obviously hogwash. They have the capacity to make me smile every time I hear them. In many ways, they are the perfect band.

Check them out here.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

So much to answer for

Last stop on our stop-start 2009 tour of England's North, Manchester.

As we drew into town on the train, I managed to completely miss The B of the Bang, despite JJ pointing it out to me for about five minutes ("there it is. where? there it is. where? there it is." etc). The break got off to an inauspicious start, with a stomach bug/food poisoning flooring me on the Friday night/Saturday morning. From there, it got better, luckily.

Manchester is a lot like London in many ways. For example, it is full of some gorgeous old grand buildings, and some of the worst architecture I've ever seen. Ugly mid-1980s high-rises jostle for space next to vast Victorian palaces of wealth. Like many towns of note these days, it has introduced a German Christmas market. Why the vogue for these things? It's just an excuse to eat bad meat products, as far as I can tell. There are many ways in which Manchester differs to London, of course. The people are friendlier, for starters.

One observation that I made quite quickly was, when men are good-looking in Manchester, they really are. I don't usually look twice at men when I'm at home, but on at least three occasions I was dumbfounded by some high-cheekboned, tousle-haired Manc lad. Of course, for every cutie there's ten crew-cutted monkeys in hooded tops. [Just like London, then.]

We checked out the rather good city art gallery, going straight to the ubiquitous Lowrys. Also a rather good exhibition of Holman Hunt's work (including no less than three versions of The Light of the World).

The main reason we went North was to go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, outside Wakefield. The train journey from Manchester to Leeds across the Penines was just, well, breathtaking at points. I was pleased that we woke up early and could take this in. The landscape reminded me a lot of Devon. At Leeds station, we saw the ex-Deputy Prime Minister wandering about on the platform, no Jag in sight. On arrival in Wakefield, our cab driver, Kez, was bemoaning the fact that just as Wakefield has gotten around to agreeing to a major facelift to the town centre, that the country is staring into an economic abyss. A fair point.

The park was fantastic. The weather was crisp, clear and cold, not a cloud in the sky. Sculpture is a funny thing, it's not as immediate as paintings on a wall - it leaves you feeling quizzical. We went to check out the Isamu Noguchi stuff, which was pretty cool, but the pieces I enjoyed most were a series of Hepworth sculptures on a hillside.

Following a good trapise about, one of the best Sunday lunches ever, and the first time I've ever eaten a Yorkshire pudding while in Yorkshire. Hoorah!

On Monday we headed off to the Imperial War Museum North. Here's a piece of trivia for you. All public buildings now have to display energy certificates to show how much they use in the way of resources. This new building has a worse energy rating than the "old" war museum in South London. I have to say, it was a truly ungainly space, badly designed, sitting on the fringe of an industrial estate, with the most shocking transport links (we ended up at the Trafford Centre by accident because we thought it would be obvious when we arrived at the museum: it wasn't). The exhibits were thought-provoking, but it was essentially disappointing.

Sadly, no pilgrimage to Salford Lad's Club for me. Next time...