Friday, August 31, 2007

Is There A Bottomless Pit Of Primavera Profiles?

The Good The Bad And The Queen

Direct guilty of every good and bad thing in the british pop, Damon Albarn remains committed in changing skin and supporting his followers with creative impulses increasingly risky. The interest for the African music and the technicolor hip hop of Gorillaz ends now in The Good, The Bad and The Queen, all-stars project that the leader of Blur shares with Paul Sinomon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve), Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley) and the bateria of Fela Kuti, Tony Allen. With London in the peephole and a lot of scores that mix club, jazz, reggae, pop and folk, "The Good, The Bad and The Queen" is a mysterious, surrounding record and of pessimistic atmosphere in which Albarn and his followers expose his bitter reflections on the current society.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let's Not Go There

The July issue of the "high-society" magazine Vanity Fair was entirely devoted to the subject of Africa. As you can imagine, the letters page of the most recent issue is something to behold. A sample:

Thank you for the brilliant Africa issue [July]. As a recent college graduate, I can honestly tell you that I have learned more about Africa and global awareness from this one magazine edition than in my entire education. As a humanitarianism junkie I am constantly looking for ways to engage my knowledge and become involved in positive change. I applaud Vanity Fair for helping to raise awareness, for jumpstarting a worldwide campaign for Africa, and for promoting peace and prosperity in our world. VF is now ahead of the game and leading the way for what seems to be a new revolution; thank you for this leadership.
Tempe, Arizona

YOUR ISSUE on Africa was quite impressive and comprehensive, but it still presents Africa as a poverty-stricken continent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Africa is the storehouse of the world's strategic minerals, oil, gold, diamonds, and bauxite. In that regard, no African country is poor. The root of the problems is bad governance, which translates into unequal distribution of wealth, corruption, wars, lack of resources to feed hunger, an uneducated populace, and the degradation of our environment. Africa is orphaned by lack of leadership. Is it any wonder the likes of Bono and Madonna are playing the roles African leaders should be assuming? Africa's salvation must ultimately come from within. Oh, Congo is the home of African music, not Mali, as Tom Freston depicts in "Showtime in the Sahara." Congolese music is universal. Mali, like the rest of West Africa, is the home of fabrics, high fashion, and music, in that order.
Imo State, Nigeria

I'VE BEEN a subscriber to Vanity Fair for nearly 20 years, and it used to be that I couldn't wait for each issue to arrive, I read it cover to cover. Over the last year I have been very disappointed with the content. From the Green Issue to the current Africa issue, the magazine seems to have become a platform for self-serving celebrities to tout their greatness. I miss the in-depth articles you used to publish on a variety of topics, including society and true crime. It's what sets your magazine apart from all of the others. For the first time ever I don't think I'll be renewing my subscription.
San Diego, California

I AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED with the July issue. We are citizens of the United States of America, and the vast majority of Americans couldn't care less about Africa. The U.S. has an abundance of poor, needy children and adults. And what do VF and the American government concern themselves with? Africa. Get real. The continent will never improve, and VF's issue just adds fuel to the fire. I am not an extremist; I am an American, and I, along with a whole host of other Americans, am tired of hearing about Africa! I will not be renewing my subscription.
Montgomery, Texas

THE CRISES in Africa rightfully deserve the full attention of an entire issue of Vanity Fair: However, the continent of Africa does not stand alone in its suffering. It seems that when references to human crises are made today everyone thinks of Africa, especially with the number of celebrities pushing for change there. Meanwhile, Asia is like a forgotten continent, and Southeast Asia in particular. There you will find the Hmong people of Laos living on tree sap and rainwater; the refugees from Burma, who have no place to turn and who are probably the only group of people right now in the world who would welcome a U.S. intervention; and the child-prostitution industry thriving in Cambodia. It would be nice - in the spirit of increasing awareness of global crises - to also include the world's largest continent.
Waltham, Massachusetts

THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING the leader of the Free World in your series of covers for your Africa issue. Like President Bush or not, he has made a large contribution of aid to Africa. Involving him shows that your magazine is fair and unbiased, something that is very refreshing to see in the media today.
Madison, Wisconsin

WITHOUT EXTREME population control measures, Africa is doomed. You can throw all the money you wish at the continent, but a lot of it goes no further than the corrupt governments. Conquering disease and poverty will only mean future hardship for those who have been saved, as populations explode and suffering becomes more extreme. Leave Africa alone and put the time, effort, and money into making our own population healthier. I hate to say this, but Africa will be saved only when its leaders decide to act from their hearts and not from their bank accounts.
Gloucester, Massachusetts

I'M NOT a trendsetter, not really into high fashion or up on the latest celebrity gossip. Therefore, I have never really felt a need to read your magazine. (I like NPR, basic black apparel, Dansko clogs, and folk music.) I am not trying to sound snotty, I just didn't feel I fit your demographic. But after seeing the topic of your July issue, I realized we had a lot more in common than I thought: Africa. Screw buying just this one issue. If a magazine is going to take a risk like this and devote an entire issue to topics that need to be on our minds, add me to your subscriber list. I can't wait to see what the other issues bring.
Seattle, Washington

Good luck, Wendy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

That's Not Jesus. That's Timber Wolfe!

Members of a California family believes their backyard fence is made of holy wood, after they say the face of Jesus appeared in the grain.

"[Emily West] says whatever the image is, it's helped renew her faith after a life-threatening illness. "

ha ha ha. Priceless.

Plus You Get New Nicknames!

The Salt Lake Tribune carries a cute article describing how first-graders at Douglas T. Orchard Elementary are providing tips for kindergartners on surviving school: Stuff like, "Outline the picture first, then color it inside" and "Put antibacterial on your hands so you don't get germs on your snack."

What caught my eye, however, was this. The Wolfe parents really have some explaining to do. Who, in their right minds, calls their son Timber?

Glass, Stone, Guns, Germs, and Steel

The April 2007 issue of Smithsonian magazine has only just made its way into my grubby hands. Allow me to recommend a number of articles:

Glass: A profile of vitreous sculptor Dale Chihuly, whose beguiling works can be seen in more detail here.

Stone: An article on the House of the Temple of the Scottish Rite, a formidable neo-Classical building in the heart of Washington, D.C., that is southern H.Q. to the Freemasons.

Guns and Germs: A report on the discovery of the lost settlement of Werewocomoco, where John Smith was held captive and later negotiated with Algonquian chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas.

Steel: A brief item on the Futurists, focusing on the works of Giacomo Bella.

The item on the Masons has an amusing reference to "Scottish Rite leader Albert Pike, a former Confederate general who spent 32 years developing Masonic rituals. Pike remains a controversial figure, with detractors alleging that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a Satanist."

So, if the allegations are true, that would make him a Confederate general, a Freemason, a Klan member, and a Satanist. David Icke would have a field day.

I suspect he was just a joiner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sustaining a Proud Traidtion

The Graun's spelling errors this weekend:

There were several spectacular misspellings in the map accompanying the feature Not so fast, page 6, Travel, August 18: Clare, not Clair College is in Cambridge; Princes Risborough, not Prince Rosborough is in Buckinghamshire; Salisbury, not Sailsbury is in neither Whitshire nor Whitleshire but in Wiltshire; and the adjoining county is Dorset, not Dorest.

Mountain biking was subjected to "a fair bit of peddling" and the "need to peddle" in Coasting all the way, page 10, Travel, August 18. Pedalling and pedal were the appropriate actions.

One of the Irish youth teams that Andy Keogh played for was Cabinteely, not Cabin Telly (Scouting report, page 12, Sport, August 21).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Let's Get Ready to Grumble

Disappointing news from last November's Outdoor Life:

Although the World Hunting Association has decided to drop darting from their competition structure and instead to use rifles, muzzle-loaders, and bows during its inaugural 12-day deer hunt in October at Lost Arrow Ranch near Gladwin, Michigan, concerns remain about holding the event in a high-fence enclosure and promoting hunting as a professional wrestling-style entertainment.

Now, I ask you, who wouldn't pay to watch hunters accidentally shoot one another in a confined space?! If they're going to drop darting, they could at least blindfold the contestants to keep it interesting.

Les Biches, Part Deux

For some strange reason, Architectural Digest magazine recently carried a fashion supplement. One article within offered "tips on imitating the style of three female music icons whose style remains as relevant as their music: Stevie Nicks, Marianne Faithfull, and Debbie Harry."


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Neil Spencer Understands

From today's Observer:

Natural, (Touch & Go) £11.99

Celebrating an unlikely 30th anniversary, the Leeds tricksters eschew urban pleasures for nature's delights. The result is an English counterpart to the gothic country of the Handsome Family. Ramshackle backdrops of fiddle and echoing guitar are the setting for tales of demented midsummer celebration, dark woods where "twisted trees sing" and foxy goings-on behind a "white stone door". The playful mood occasionally gives way to a darker hue - on "Burning in the Desert" "martyrs queue up for heaven, children queue for hell". Otherwise, this is Hank Williams meets The Wicker Man, clever and entertaining. A Mekons record, in fact.

Neil Spencer

Friday, August 24, 2007

If It's Friday, It Must Be Primavera Profile Time

Dirty Three

The stormy, mad violin of Warren Ellis is the compass that leads the Dirty Three, the vigorous Australian tercet that has spent most of last decade struggling to avoid his shady folk ends in post-rock. Authors of the Autores of the solemn, rough "Ocean Songs" (1998) and connected to Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, in which Ellis plays the violin, the band from Melbourne published in 2005 the inusual "Cinder", their seventh album and first in their history where they give in to vocal charms to include the contribution of guest singers Chan Marshall (Cat Power) y Sally Timms (The Mekons).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Les Biches

From the August issue of Opera News:

The opera world is reeling from the news that PETER G. DAVIS has been dismissed from his post as classical-music critic at New York magazine. The news was conveyed to Davis, who enjoyed a twenty-six-year run at the magazine, via telephone by managing editor ANN CLARK. (Beginning in September, JUSTIN DAVIDSON, Newsday's Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, will cover both classical music and architecture for New York.) For many music-lovers, Davis's by-line was reason enough to renew their subscription to New York each year. His opinions were often sharp, in the best of all possible ways, because they were based on an enviable store of musical knowledge and a long, committed history of attending performances. From the early 1980s, I eagerly tore into the back pages of each issue of New York, because I knew that I would be reading uncompromising music criticism, rendered in lively, engaging prose. All of us on the OPERA NEWS editorial staff are happy that Davis (now seventy-one) will continue to contribute to our pages, as he has done for many years. With all due respect to Davidson, a fine writer with a proven track record, the loss is New York's. I've heard the magazine's editor-in-chief, ADAM MOSS, described as a champion of culture, but I've never seen much evidence of it in his slick approach to arts coverage. Does Moss know - or care - that for many of us, Davis's departure will make New York matter even less than it does already?

Ham with Fetish on Wry, Please

The magazine Antiques & Collecting has a regular feature that profiles readers of the magazine and their unusual collections. The June issue profiled Mr. Steve Jenne, who collects the half-eaten sandwiches of celebrities.

Jenne started his collection while a member of a boy scout troop when Richard Nixon came to visit his small town in 1960.

"Our community is famous for raising bison, and bison barbeque is a staple in the area," Jenne explained. "When Nixon arrived, he was given a paper plate and a bison barbeque sandwich. He sat down at a picnic table with his wife and a lot of other community leaders . . . took a few bites from his sandwich, mumbled his approval, and then got up to make his speech. When he did, almost everyone at the table left with him."

Jenne and the other Scouts were left to keep the public away from the table, and were alone with Nixon's sandwich. Since no one was near, he picked up the sandwich and plate and took it home to his mother, who wrapped it in plastic and put it in the family's freezer. Jenne's odyssey of collecting half-eaten sandwiches had begun.

"Pretty soon, the local newspaper was calling me to write a story about the sandwich and what I had done to get it," he said. Each campaign year for the next several years, the local newspaper featured stories about Jenne and his sandwich, until 1988, when the newspaper in nearby Decatur, Illinois picked up the story.

"The story in the Decatur newspaper led to the story being placed on the newswire," Jenne said. "That's when things really got rolling. I started getting calls from all over the country with reporters wanting to write stories and disc jockeys wanting on-air interviews."

There was even a feature in a coffee table book titled, Weird Illinois, showing Jenne proudly displaying his sandwich in all of its full-page glossy splendor.

In 1988, USA Today also featured Steve Jenne and his sandwich in a story, which promptly landed in the lap of a producer from The Tonight Show in Burbank, California. On December 2, 1988, Jenne and his sandwich were honored guests along with Steve Martin, on Johnny Carson's show.

"They treated us—me and my sandwich—like royalty," Jenne said. "I told them that as long as I had a freezer handy for my sandwich, I'd do whatever they wanted. My sandwich and I were chauffeured in a limousine, and we stayed at the best hotel. Neither me or my sandwich has ever lived so well prior to or since."

Unbeknownst to Jenne, Johnny Carson would put his own stamp on the legacy of the Nixon sandwich. "I had a great time. It was a lot of fun, but what I didn't know at the time was that backstage, they had prepared another barbeque sandwich, which they brought out and put in front of Johnny Carson while we were on the air. Carson promptly took a few bites out of it, then presented me with the remainder."

In other words, he managed to parlay a half-eaten sandwich into appearances in newspapers, a book, and a TV show, and it wasn't until the late 1980s that it even started to become a collection. How impressive is that?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cultural Too

Out today, worldwide.

Reviews here.

Interview here.

Purchase here.

The Spectre Who Loved Me

Publishers Weekly for July 16 carries a brief interview with Paula Guran, editor of the anthology Best New Paranormal Romance.

Now that's what I call niche publishing.

Steven Gerrard: One Week Later

So Rob Styles gets demoted but Mike Riley carries on. Maybe Villa are too nice.

We Don't Die. Only Little People Die.

Well you're dead now, so shut the fuck up.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Aston Villa alumnus Juan Pablo Angel ruins Beckham's weekend.

Polish Poster Pop Quiz

The latest issue of Film Comment magazine carries a brief article by Otto Buj on the postwar school of Polish film-poster design. The golden age of Polish movie-poster design, from the 1950s through the mid-1970s, produced a body of work that was astonishingly rich and varied. Buj says the school was revolutionary in its rejection of state-imposed social realism while at the same time developing an approach to selling cinema that was antithetical to the free-market model. Reconciling the fundamental objectives of advertising with the sophistication and influence of the fine arts, Polish designers produced work that was based in an allegorical tradition that could be traced back to Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and Abstract Expressionism. They explored concepts that incorporated the dark and obsessive features of Polish romanticism, extracted from the country's unique experience during World War II, to portray their subjects in a cryptic, conceptual, and highly subjective way.

The article is accompanied by Bronislaw Zelek's poster for Hitchcock's The Birds and Waldemar Swierzy's poster for Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy. See if you can tell which is which.

Dubious Analogy of the Day

In the latest issue of the Wilson Quarterly, in an article entitled "A Woman's World," Sara Sklaroff argues that women are gradually taking over the important positions of authority in society and offers us a glimpse of "our feminine future." Some indication of what a matriarchal society of the future will look like, she believes, can be seen in such female-dominated societies as those of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia; the Mosuo, an agrarian group of about 50,000 who have lived for almost two millennia in a remote corner of China, high in the Himalayas; and bonobos.

I suppose I could live with masturbating outdoors all day, providing our female overlords can guarantee the weather.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Killer Clones

Next weekend sees the first Flat Lake Literary Festival, organized by Pat McCabe and Kevin Allen, on the Hilton Park Estate, Clones, Co. Monaghan.

Highlights of the festival include Rhys Ifans reading Dylan Thomas, Dylan Moran reading from his novel in progress, mind-body awareness workshops with Keith Allen (God alone knows), singing lessons from Shane MacGowan, Colm Toibin interviewing Eugene McCabe, and appearances by the likes of David Holmes, Stephen Rea, Neil Jordan, Claire Keegan, Tony Allen, and Niall Toner.

Tickets are €35 on the gate. See you there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Who Needs Babelfish? Primavera Band Profile #5

David Thomas Broughton

Even though his name can lead to mistake, David Thomas Broughton does not have anything to deal with the plump leader of Pere Ubu. Melancholic, dark and gifted with plenty of scenic resources, the British has been able with just one album to step beyond and decrease the distance between Antony and Will Oldham. The austere and suffering "The Complete Guide To Insufficiency", recorded in a church in just one day, is the best letter of introduction of this songwriter who has managed to narrow bows with Nick Drake and other nostalgic of greyish folk.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unpolished Monkey Business

Ian Brown deigns to let us know his views on war.

So what the fuck is this UK
Gunnin' with this US of A
In Iraq and Iran and in Afghanistan . . .

Does not a day go by
Without the Israeli Air Force
Fail to drop its bombs from the sky? . . .

How many mothers to cry?
How many sons have to die?
How many missions left to fly over Palestine?

Sounds like this guy has a rival.

Mind you, reviewer Dave Simpson says:

When I was a kid, I learned more about politics from records by bands like the Gang of Four and the Clash than I ever did in school or college, and Brown's opus brings that feeling back.

Hmm. Thanks, Dave. Thought so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Not Long Now

11th annual Hideout Block Party

Friday 7th: From the Lake to the Loch: A Celebration of British Influenced Pop Music.
Saturday 8th: A Celebration of Psychedelic-Punk-Country-Marching Band-Disco-Glee Club-Square Dance-Orchestral-Pop-Rock!

Up to date enough for you, Will, you moaning get?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Beggar with a Dog Isn't as Hungry as He Says He Is

In the July 30th issue of Newsweek, Frederick R. Lynch explains why the 11 grand he spent to save the life of his pet cat, Fritz, was worth every penny.

I knew about soaring human medical costs from the college course I teach on health-care policy. But I was not fully aware of how the same wonderful but costly technologies for prolonging human life are also revolutionizing veterinary care. American pet guardians spend more than $20 billion annually on health care for their furry pals. Our pets now have access to many of the same restorative medical treatments as do humans. Dogs with ticker problems may qualify for a $3,000 pacemaker. A guardian of a cat with renal failure may opt for a feline kidney transplant, at about $8,000.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who Needs Babelfish? Primavera Band Profiles #4

Shannon Wright

Shannon Wright, by walking through the fire without burning and licking her wounds in public, has made herself strong in a rough rock that shakes, disturbs and gets in the deepest of your guts, like PJ Harvey's. Writer of disarming works as "Flightsafety", "Dyed in the Wool" and "Over the Sun", the former Crowsdell will be on the front page again next May with the release of "Let in the Light", where Andy Baker makes a special appearance. Just a few days later, the singer from Jacksonville will debut in Estrella Damm Primavera Sound.

Cole Power

The summer issue of Art News reports that the Maxfield Parrish painting of Old King Cole that has surveyed the goings-on for the past 75 years in the King Cole Bar at New York's St. Regis Hotel has just been rehung after a five-month $100,000 cleaning.

Harriet Irgang, director of Rubin Levenson Art Conservation Associates, said that over the years the painting had become covered in dents, gouges, and distorting layers of nicotine and grime. With the process of restoration now complete, however, it is clear from the king's sheepish grin and the startled jesters by his side that the subject of the painting is flatulence. "I've come to understand that it is a very democratic vision," Irgang says.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The latest issue of Film Quarterly features a review by Irene Chien of the "machinima" movies Deviation and Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles. Machinima movies (the word comes from a combination of "machine" and "cinema") are computer-animated films shot within video games that reveal possibilities and pitfalls in the growing convergence of cinema and video games.

At the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, audiences encountered the big-screen debut of the machinima short film Deviation . . . The film follows a team of four soldiers tearing urgently through underground tunnels. One discontented soldier named Macintyre cynically believes that they have experienced this suicide mission innumerable times before, and vainly tries to convince the others to break out of the rote cycle of carnage. Acted out through standard avatars provided in the online multiplayer video game CounterStrike, the film imagines the existential horror of actually living one's life within the bloody, militaristic, single-goal-driven world of a first-person shooter game. As the soldiers charge through the claustrophobic maze of tunnels, under the omnipresent threat of attack, Macintyre becomes increasingly vocal about his misgivings. "Doesn't it strike you as strange, I mean we keep doing the same thing over and over again?" He is silenced by the team leader right before the soldiers climb up through a manhole to be slaughtered off screen in a rain of bullets and blood. Macintyre looks on in disgust.

Wasn't this already done with Mario?

Just Go Read

Andrei Markovits's essay on Jared Diamond's Gun, Germs & Steel at Norm.

"Wild? I Was Livid!"

In the July issue of Cincinnati magazine, Steve Kissing discusses the joys of a trip to the zoo.

The zoo is, of course, a rich source of learning for people of all ages, especially kids. Thing is, their parents often get in the way. While leaning against the viewing rails seeking to get the best glimpse of this animal or that, I have overheard some of the most shocking and ignorant things come out of the mouths of adults. "Polar bears get frozen solid into blocks of sea ice every winter, that's how they hibernate," I overheard one man say with an Alex Trebekian 'jeez, ain't I a smart one' tone. "Monkeys love to eat marijuana, they always have, it's why they didn't evolve into humans," another man said. Apparently, he'd had a brownie or two for lunch.

The most mind-numbing of the numbskulls I've overheard at the zoo was a fortysomething woman who, aptly enough, resembled a manatee in a jogging suit. This woman had three kids with her, each attached to her waist via a rainbow-colored leash. Anyway, the four of them were looking at a rhinoceros when the following exchange occurred.

"What's his horn made of, mommy?" the boy asked. He looked to be about 8.

"Wood," the mother responded, nodding her head and sucking on a straw poking out of a large cherry Icee.

"Wood?" he said, clearly as shocked as I was. I couldn't wait to hear more.

"Yeah, wood. See how they keep their heads down like that and scrape the ground?"

"Yeah," he said, staring intently at the animal.

"Well, they get seeds lodged in their heads, and little trees grow."

"Oh," the boy said. He didn't sound convinced.

I glanced at the woman expecting a wink, a secret smirk, some indication that she was joking. She wasn't. "It's like they have a giant chopstick to eat with," she added, clearly impressed with her observation.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Doctor, a Bond, The Prisoner, and a Man from U.N.C.L.E.

And not forgetting Gordon Jackson, Sid James, Herbert Lom, Jill Ireland, and Alfie Bass. All members of the cast of Hell Drivers.

All of which demands we ask:

Are there any other films where James Bond has shared screen time with Doctor Who?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm a "Ground Half-Full" Kind of Person

As the new season rapidly approaches and with four pre-season matches already witnessed (free entry with season ticket, how's that for vfm?) Altrincham's new playing roster has been finalised and squad numbers allocated. A couple of new young faces have been added along with some welcome experience in the shape of Darren Tinson, Jake Sedgemore, and Gareth Whalley.

According to the official website, Gareth "has been picked for the Republic of Ireland full squad on a number of occasions but has yet to win a cap."

I'll let you know if I see Stan down at Moss Lane this season, Gareth.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It was the Evening Wear Section That Swung It

The International Herb Association's Herb of the Year for 2007 is Lemon Balm!

(Better known to her friends as Melissa.)

Keep Your Irish Studies in Your Irish Houses

Puthwuth is sick up to here with 'em.