Friday, September 28, 2007

They Just Keep Coming: Primavera Profiles #8 and #9


From the impossible mix between hip hop, mathematics, and experimental rock, is born one of the most interesting American forefront bands: Battles, band from New York, composed by Lan Williams (Don Caballero), John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk), Dave Konopka (Lynx) and Tyondai Braxton (collaborator of Prefuse 73). Working with Warp, record label which caught them after discovering their imbricate and vibrant compositions, the New Yorkers return to Barcelona to present "Atlas", debut album preceded by several EP's and important live shows like the ones they gave during their tour, together with Prefuse 73.


After a visit to a Parisian hospital due to an assault of "extreme tiredness", the young Zach Condon comes back to continues the presentation tour of "Gulag Orkestar", and one of the hidden pearls of 2006. Supported by Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel), Condom has managed to create with nothing a language in which the bedroom pop looks for the reply in the hustle of the Balkan music. The result, something like Radiohead sharing stage with Emir Kusturika, has turned the North American into the new little genius of the independent village and into a talent we have to keep looking at closely.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sky TV: So Much Else To Apologize For

It's the Black Aspidistra!

Not a new superhero or a clandestine operative smuggling undercover journalists into Burma, but one of 11 new species discovered in the past couple of years in Vietnam.

Within the ancient tropical forests of a region known as Vietnam's "Green Corridor," scientists found a snake, five orchids, and two butterflies as well as three other plants new to science and exclusive to the Annamites Mountain Range. Ten other plant species, including four orchids, are still under examination but also appear to be new species.

"Discoveries of so many new species are rare and occur only in very special places like the Green Corridor," said Dr. Chris Dickinson, WWF's chief conservation scientist in the Green Corridor. "Several large mammal species were discovered in the 1990s in the same forests so these latest discoveries may be just the tip of the iceberg."

More details here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How To Abuse Steve McClaren Without Leaving Your Bedroom

1) Open your bedroom window

2) Shout "Oi, McClaren! You haven't got a clue!"

School gives England pitch boost

Monday, September 24, 2007

Do They Owe Us A Home Win? (Of Course They Do!)

What a fun Saturday that was! First Alty grabbed their first win of the season at home to Droylsden, despite starting with an 18-year-old loanee goalkeeper making his debut, conceding an early penalty, and then playing the last half-hour with a midfielder between the sticks after the keeper was stretchered off. I've never known a more nerve-wracking 30 minutes of football in my life. But if The Bloods could only manage 3 shots on target in 95 minutes (and that includes the 2 pens they scored from), then they've only got themselves to blame. Pub team!

Myself and Wednesday Dave decided to celebrate the win (and the Owls' first points) by having a few pints in the club bar and a couple more in town before his missus called him in for tea. I decided to carry my good cheer on into Manchester, the plan being to go to the Cornerhouse to see the new French thriller The Serpent but I had time to pop to The Roadhouse to see if there was anyone decent on.

Now I've heard a fair bit of Jeffrey Lewis on Marc Riley's radio shows but had never seen him live so when I discovered he hadn't quite sold out the venue I thought I'd stay for the evening. Two decent supports from Ivan Campo and Onions later, Jeffrey came on to a hushed audience of mainly students and indie kids only to be assailed by some mad woman who tried to tip his keyboards over. When she was ushered away, Lewis proceeded to play a set whose first 30 minutes or so were all Crass covers. I must have been the only person in the room shouting the words to "Banned from The Roxy" and "Do They Owe Us A Living?" and bobbing up and down like an idiot. Until he delved into his own material, that is, and then the roles were reversed. Still, I left with a grin on my face, though that could have been down to the euphoria from that afternoon's footy.

Or the beer.

I'll have to see if it works again this week with Witton Albion and Vic Godard.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

And Don't Get Me Started on the Beer . . .

German ambassador to Ireland gets a slapped wrist for telling potential German investors that Ireland is a coarse, grasping place with shite public service, a failing immigration policy, and high wage demands.

Clearly the German government considers this a hardship posting.

Perhaps He Wasn't Sure He Wanted to Die

Opera singer Jerry Hadley died on July 18, 8 days after shooting himself in a suicide attempt, with an air rifle.

Thank God for That!

Some vital information and handy hints in the latest Skeptical Inquirer from Stephen Asma on How to Survive the Apocalypse:

You’re not on the A-team -- you’re not even on the bench. Your skepticism and critical thinking has cost you dearly. Chances are that you’ll want to wallow in some self-pity at this juncture, but there’s no time for that now. Remember, you’re in good company. Many very smart people will be damned too –- in fact there turns out to be some direct correlation there. Start working with some of these intellectuals now, before you have to run. Many intelligent people can be found near libraries and liquor stores. Forge friendships of utility. This is a good time to strategize, study blueprints and subway maps, and discuss dehydrated food options.

. . .

According to Revelations 12:3, the sky will suddenly fill with a giant red dragon, “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head.”

If you’re on your toes you’ll know when this red monster is coming. A series of loud trumpet blasts will signal the coming of the dragon. You need to be on the move by the time the seventh trumpet blasts, because that’s dragon time. Truthfully, you should be looking for an abandoned car or bicycle or something by the time you hear trumpet number five, because that’s when the human-headed locusts hit the scene (Rev. 9:7). And you might be thinking “Hey, I can handle human-headed locusts”, but you’d be wrong. These grasshoppers will have “tails like unto scorpions” (Rev. 9:10). It will be important to loot pharmacies and carry analgesics.

. . .

Did you know about the Human Wine Press? According to Revelations (sic), as Jesus gathers up the unsaved, he places them in a giant wine press and squashes them into a sanguineous vino. Consequently, there’s going to be a “river of blood.” This presents some great opportunities for the prepared mind. How many “escape from prison” films have you seen where the cons evade detection by submerging in the river and breathing through a hollow reed? ‘Nuff said.

Alternately, depending on how deep and wide it will be, fast moving rivers of any fluid can be good transport when roads have become choked with charnel remains. And don’t forget that bloated dead bodies can be strung together as a makeshift raft.


It isn't out very often (well, how could it be?) but when it is, New Perspectives Quarterly carries some unusual and interesting articles. The latest issue has a special section on Turkey, which features essays or interviews by/with, among others, Orhan Pamuk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Amartya Sen, Joschka Fischer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Bernard Lewis.

Something to annoy everyone, then.

The Rich Have It Tough

In Good Housekeeping magazine, Martha Stewart discusses her prison ordeal:

At Alderson, Stewart reached out to the other prisoners, urging them into activities. "We'd have picnics" — Stewart and the other prisoners were free to roam the prison camp's 100-plus acres during the day — "and we'd have dinner parties," she says. She and about eight other inmates regularly exercised together. "We did 500 sit-ups every night, and I taught yoga." She still practices yoga, and works out with a trainer at 6:30 a.m. three days a week. "And I told stories about what it's like to work and about good business behavior. I was a role model for a lot of these women."
and subsequent house arrest:

After prison came more than five months of house arrest at her 153-acre estate in Bedford, NY, during which Stewart wore an electronic ankle bracelet.

While, in Harper's Bazaar, to accompany a "serious" article about the popularity of rehab among celebrities as a lifestyle option, actress Chloe Sevigny is shown wearing designer gear in a mock-up photo-shoot offering precisely that.

Who said these people have no sense of irony?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From the Woman Who Brought You Great Men's Skirting Boards

Dr. Johnson's Doorknob and Other Significant Parts of Great Men's Houses, by Liz Workman, reviewed in Antiques & Collecting magazine.

Behind every great man are his objects and daily possessions, defined as much by the minutiae of domesticity as by the great works of the man himself. Dr. Johnson's Doorknob, taken from Liz Workman's National Heritage Revisited Series, published in England in 2002, is a situationist's catalog of overlooked and highly amusing ephemera from some of the most famous households in history. Each of the nine chapters in this charming slipcased volume is an anthology in itself. From the mantlepieces of Franklin D. Roosevelt to Washington Irving's crockery, Edgar Allen Poe's bannisters and Winston Churchill's baseboards, Liz Workman has peeked over the velvet ropes and turned an ironic eye on some of the most important historic homes in England and America and humorously metamorphosized their famous inhabitants along the way.

Give Me That Outdoor Life

Some recent articles:

The writer describes his experiences during a dangerous encounter with a buffalo when working as a safari guide in Zimbabwe. During a tour, he followed the track of a buffalo that he believed to be injured in order to shoot the animal, putting it out of its misery, but the buffalo charged at him and pounded on his spine. He was unable to move his legs and believed he had suffered a serious spinal injury but in fact it was the buffalo squatting on him, preventing him from moving; it then proceeded to empty its bowels all over him, adding insult to injury. Fortunately, he observes, he was not seriously injured, only embarrassed.

High schooler Joey Burleson sells rattlesnakes for cash. Having grown up in the desolate scrublands of South Texas, he began hunting the snakes at the age of 14. He sells each creature for $40 to hunters, taxidermists, labs, and one customer who "likes the meat and skins."

In response to readers' questions, the writers discuss the V formation that geese fly in, fishing tackle options, women's hunting clothes, cane guns, the best beer to drink when hunting, and head injuries that occur in the field.

In an entry in the Outdoor Life Battle Lines essay contest, the writer describes his experiences as a hunter and a U.S. Marine, two pursuits that he believes complement each other. Having served in three deployments in Iraq, he observes that the time he spends wandering freely through the hills has become more precious than ever. He notes that he increasingly finds that where he becomes a stronger hunter he also becomes a more proficient marine, particularly in terms of self-sufficiency, confidence, and ability to interpret a challenge with detachment.

The writer describes his tendency to give his wife Christmas presents that she does not seem to appreciate, including an ice fishing tent and hip waders.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Book Worth a Look

A review, too.

What Do You Call a Horse with Wings?

Princess Märtha Louise of Norway puts in her bid for upper-class twit of the year, outdoing Prince Charles in the "New Age Crock of Shit" category. The princess is behind the Astarte Education school alongside fellow nut Elisabeth Samnøy. Says the princess,

I am trained as a physiotherapist and as a Rosen Method Practitioner. I have qualifications from the Holistic Academy, where I learned to organise my sensory impressions in order to read others. It was through horses that I learned to communicate with animals at a deeper level, and it was while I worked with horses that I came in contact with the angels. I have since come to understand the value of this great gift and am eager to share it with others – perhaps with you?

Not at 24,000 Norwegian kroner a year, princess (That's over £2,000, or more than €3,000, to you and me.)

Any questions?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Postcard from Chicago (or O'Death, Where is thy Sting?)

It was rather a frantic and packed weekend that we enjoyed over in Chicago, and I haven't got over it yet. Barely had our bodies adjusted to staying up till 8 in the morning (GMT) that we were flying home through the night on Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning. Consequently, when I arrived at the train station on Wednesday to go to work, I looked on the back seat of the car to see that I'd forgotten my rucksack, along with my train ticket, wallet, sandwiches, and phone. Definitely a day for working from home.

We left Manchester on Friday lunchtime (I flew over from Dublin the night before) and arrived in O'Hare for 1.30 in the afternoon (7.30 p.m. GMT), headed for the hotel, where we dropped off our bags and made straight for the Hideout Block Party, knowing that things got under way at 6.00. We made it by half an hour or so, which gave us a chance to locate the beer supply (312unes offered the options of Goose Island Wheat Beer (Mart) or a fantastic Urban Wheat Ale (me).

The organizers of this fabulous event very very kindly arranged for Martin and myself to receive All Access passes that enabled us to go backstage and into the VIP areas, as well as to avail of free booze. However, it's an indication of how unused we are to such treatment that we bought our beer the entire weekend and didn't find the VIP lounge until the Sunday night, while hiding from The Frames; what's more, we were only in the place 20 minutes when there was a power cut! Clearly, the VIP life is not for us (like true naifs, we walked around with our passes on display the whole first day, something no self-respecting celeb would do, even if it drew the attention of one or two pretty young ladies who wondered if we were in a band).

First on stage were the eminently likeable Cinematics from Scotland (Day One was meant to be a celebration of British pop and rock), four ridiculously young boys who you'd happily take home to your ma. There was nothing outstanding about their material, the latest in a line of Editors-inspired guitar bands, but they were self-deprecating and received everyone's sympathy because they had come unprepared for Chicago's humidity; their shirts were soaked through with sweat from early on in the set. Bless.

I don't remember much about the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir except that Kelly Hogan came on stage to sing backing vocals on a couple of songs (I'll let Martin edit this review with his own memories once I'm done), and that was enough for me, even if we could barely hear her over the cacophony. I have a vague recollection of quite enjoying their set, but if you were to ask me now to name any of their songs, I'd be stuck. Maybe the jet lag was beginning to kick in.

Jesus, you know, the more I look at that line-up, the less memorable the event becomes. The 1900s, The Changes, yes, we saw both of them. And yet, what I principally recall is that the singer from The Changes wore a hat like the sax player from the Muppets.

Bloc Party headlined on the first night, in front of a crowd of at least a couple of thousand (the Block Party once upon a time attracted a few hundred folks, whereas this year it was a sellout 11,500). Mart and I hung around for a couple of tunes, but we were a long way from the stage, it was 6.30 in the morning U.K. time, and we'd used up all of our beer tickets bar one. Besides, there was better stuff yet to behold.

It isn't possible to do justice to the Scary Toesies Theater with mere words and pictures. Part of you wonders what kind of fevered, deformed brain could have concoted such a pantomime of insanity, while another part of you just about "gets it" and revels in self-congratulatory elation at the genius of it all. I have genuinely seen nothing on earth like the performance on Saturday night. The nearest analogy I can give you is Luis Bunuel meets late-era Monty Python on Mars. The photo above was taken late at night and after a few beers, but that doesn't detract from the general obscurity and absurdity of events. The performance took the form of a quiz show in which a giant ogre-type presenter asked incomprehensible questions, in the form of whines and howls, to a number of alien contestants (one vaguely resembling Frank Sidebottom but with vacuum cleaner tubes for arms), aided by a female assistant dressed like one of the cast from UFO. Failure to answer questions correctly resulted in decapitation. There was no plot beyond this, as far as I could make out, and the colour, noise, and exuberance lent the whole thing a hallucinogenic quality, as though we'd already succumbed and fallen into the deep sleep of a psychopath. Really enjoyable stuff.

Day Two began with the Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitakestra III, which involved anyone who had brought a guitar along with them making as much noise as possible to the accompaniment of a drummer. It was a right fucking racket but entertaining all the same. One bloke had brought his very young daughter along with her three-string toy guitar and she was as much a participant as anyone, seeming not at all perturbed by the fact that her father appeared to be using popular Chica-go-go glove puppet Ratso to strum his instrument.

Cass McCombs I don't remember at all. How cavalier of me. I'm sure he was very good.

The Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band did exactly what it said on the tin. They spent half an hour teaching a crowd of urban boho Chicago cosmopolites the moves to the Texas Star and one other dance the name of which eludes me, and then added music. In 28-degree heat, it wasn't the ideal activity; the ideal activity was sitting in the shade drinking Urban Wheat Ale watching a bunch of Yanks square dance, but everyone came out of it smiling, especially me.

Head of Femur contitutes the latest incarnation of local band Femur. They were pretty shite, although I imagine that if you're familiar with their early work, this was like the second coming. Or not.

O'Death I shall regard as the find of this weekend, the sort of Appalachian punk/goth band that gives Deliverance a bad name. These unnaturally pink-skinned guys went hell-for-leather over a 45-minute set of Nick Cave/Meat Purveyor-type jug music that had everyone alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) dancing and laughing. They just really went for it, a fact not lost on the crowd, who loved them for the ludicrousness of their looks and their commitment. Martin bought the album and says it's ace.

No pictures of Dan Deacon, sadly, because he performed at ground level rather than onstage, but some really bouncy dance material interspersed with jokes and barmy ideas; He attempted to get the entire crowd to form a wedding arch around the lot and then everyone, beginning with the first couple, was meant to run the gantlet, like a snake devouring its own tail. I reckon 1/50 of the crowd got through before Deacon's set ran out of time. You can catch his Crystal Cat video on YouTube, and he's selling out everywhere.

Mucca Pazza is a marching band from Chicago who recently appeared on Conan O'Brien but who aren't as good as they think. If you remember The Happy End, that mob with Sarah-Jane Morris, well, Mucca Pazza are a more ramshackle, chaotic, less tuneful version. On the upside, they don't have the middle-class earnestness or simpering worship of totalitarian regimes that typified the Happy End, and there was something cheerfully anarchic about their amateurishness that was endearing.

The Hideout's resident Punk Bank took the stage under the pretense of being Art Brut and gave us frantic versions of "Formed a Band" and "18,000 Lire" (Look at that blue sky!!) A thinly disguised Jon Langford and Sally Timms, one in a gold lame duvet, the other dressed as a sheep, provided an allegorical link to singer Eddie Argos (golden fleece, Argos, you see?!) but their 15-minute set was much too short for this punter's tastes. When the real Art Brut took to the adjoining stage and the fake Art Brut announced to the crowd "You'll be sorry. You see. You'll be back," I was in half a mind to agree.

Not that the real Art Brut ever disappoints. Having seen them before at Primavera a couple of years back, we had some idea what to expect, but with a new album to promote and a new American audience to entertain, the band pulled out all the stops to impress and charm. Argos was hilarious, ploughing into the audience for singalongs and dancealongs (pogo-alongs), and even if you find his posh accent an incentive to dislike him, his vulnerability and willingness to poke fun at himself and the rest of the band disarm you.

The Blue Ribbon Glee Club constitutes one of those fey, knowing, ironic joke bands like Nouvelle Vague only without the sexy French accents, covering songs by Art Brut, the Pixies, the Clash ("Spanish Bombs"), all in the style of . . . well . . . a glee club. Not big on the harmonies, and more of an ad hoc affair than anything else, I think. The impression I got was that this was a bunch of folk who'd met up at college and done this for a joke. But then that's how the Mekons started.

The Frames began to set up on stage, so cue the hundreds of screaming teenage girls. Ew. We wandered away to the beer truck and accidentally discovered the VIP lounge, where we had a well-deserved sit-down. The band did their stuff; singer Glen Hansard is an old fiend of the proprietors of the Hideout, and in his message of thanks he observed that they had taken quite a risk in booking them for such a high-profile event. How true that is, is not for me to say, but when I arrived home in Dublin, one mate of mine came up and apologized to me on behalf of the Irish people for foisting the Frames upon the world.

It was too dark for pictures of Andrew Bird, but we bestirred ourselves to return to the fray in order to soak up some of his brilliance. I happen to be of the opinion that Andrew's music is best experienced in more intimate, enclosed, and quieter venues than this, and tonight's experience confirmed me in that view. Nonetheless, I am also of the belief that Andrew Bird's music is proof that human beings do not need a God in order to experience transcendence or the Sublime. I accept that his stuff can be hit-and-miss, and if you don't like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you won't like, but some of his individual songs (and almost all of the album Weather Systems) is guaranteed to bring tears of exaltation flooding from my eyes. This particular show was a kind of homecoming for him; we first saw his band, Bowl of Fire, play the Block Party in 2001, an entirely different set and set-up. But as a result, everyone was full of goodwill toward him regardless of the performance, and nobody was going to begrudge him the headlines. He was well worth the wait.

The night ended with a gang of us diehards sat on the concrete of the parking lot watching the movies from the Chicago Short Movie Brigade. These were of varying vintage and quality and gave everyone a chance to come down or sober up (beer sales had ended by that time). It was also an opportunity to plan the next day's activities. Originally, we'd thought the party would be extended over three days, so we'd booked flights and hotel accordingly, leaving us the Sunday free. "Maybe we'll take the boat tour," suggested Mart helpfully.

We left the hotel room the next morning to look for breakfast but had barely got 50 yards up the street before we had been struck by the preonderance of soccer shirts everywhere. "Hello," we said to ourselves. "This looks promising." We stopped an Asian guy in a Brazil shirt and asked "Is there a match on today." "Yes," he says. "USA are playing Brazil at Soldier Field." "Soldier Field the stadium a half-hour walk from our hotel?" we said. "Yes," he said. "The very same. Why don't you go get tickets for $50 to see Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaka, Gilberto Silva and mates take on the finest that Reading, Fulham, Derby and Heerenveen have to offer?" "Good idea," say we, and off we trot.

What to tell? That the first USA goal was handled over the line by Boccanegra? That the first Brazil goal was a quality o.g. and that both sides had clear penalty claims that the ref brushed off, the second one just to even things out before he finally relented and gave one to Brazil right at the death.

That Ronaldinho scored from a classic curling free-kick over the wall from outside the box (though not the one above)? That Tim Howard dislocated his finger against the crossbar in the second-half, at the OTHER END of the pitch and me and Mart had his injury diagnosed accurately within a minute on the basis of his writhing (and personal, painful experience)? That the seats have cup-holders for beer and the guy who served us our beer had relatives in Cheshire? That the American guy sat next to us was wearing a United shirt? Perhaps that the whole event was just such a real bonus to one hell of a trip, a surprise cherry on the cake (one massive, fuck-off cherry!) that I'm still not sure what is jet lag and what is disbelief that such a brief excursion could go so smoothly, so wonderfully, and so perfectly in this day and age.

I expect I'll be telling everyone about it for months.

Fed up yet?

*UPDATE*: O'Death tour Ireland and U.K. in October/November. See MySpace page (linked above) for details.

*UPDATE #2*: Brazil to play friendly match against Ireland at Croke Park in February.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who Needs Carbon Dating?

From my current train reading:

R. M. Johnson, of Morristown, is the owner of the stone with which David killed Goliath. He asked Wilbur Nelson, state geologist, to come look at it in order to value it. Johnson said that the stone has been in his family since Biblical times.

(Leo Duran, Le Grand Guignol, December 1926)

During the Meanwhilst

A full report on that Hideout Block Party weekend coming soon, but in the meantime here's Rob Loerzel's account, with some fantastic photos, and here's a description of what we saw on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Football Is a Game for Rough Girls . . .

The excellent anthropology site Savage Minds has an interview with Elise Edwards, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Butler University in Indiana, who is working on a book about soccer, corporate sport, and national identity construction in Japan in the late 1990s and into the present, Fields for the Future: Soccer, Nation, and Citizens in Japan at the Turn of the 21st Century. She also played for three seasons in Japan’s women’s professional L-League in the mid-1990s and continues to be involved with the sport, serving as the goalkeeping coach for Butler University’s varsity women’s team.

Many have drawn comparisons between baseball and soccer, with baseball and its militaristic-style training symbolizing the hardworking, group-oriented, and hyper-disciplined Japan of the past, and soccer representing the rapidly changing, foreign derived, and more individualistic post-industrial economy and culture of the present. In this overdrawn binary, baseball is marked as the “national” or “domestic” sport, in contrast to the “international” game of soccer. This is rather ironic since the two sports were actually both introduced to Japan in the early 1870s. (Of course, baseball, as some of these commentators have pointed out, has no equivalent to soccer’s World Cup Tournament, making it less of a “global sport.”) Other writers have suggested that the skills required of soccer players on the field – as individual decision makers in a complicated web, or network, of 21 other players – are exactly the skills required of workers in the new 21st century economy. Of course, for many soccer represents things other than globalization and its requisite dispositions; players, fans, and plenty of sports writers have characterized soccer as embodying a new found individuality and a spirit of change in the country. In 1993, the year the J-League launched, I remember a forty-year old female friend gesticulating wildly as she explained how these young soccer players expressed the freedom and rebelliousness of youth culture in a way not found in baseball. In her opinion, it was wonderful – to watch and for Japan.

Peter Addison Iz a Nob (also, British Garden Birds R Gay)

C&S stoops to including a link to the Daily Mail in order to bring you the story of criminal mastermind Peter Addison of the Adlington Massive (sorry, Massiv).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Big Jimmny Is Watching You

The most surreal image of the year to date. Jimmny being interviewed on the Tom Green Show about British comedy.

Spotted at Dumb Riffs (Thanks, Karl).