Sunday, December 31, 2006
I was reading an interesting article on the online guardian about people keeping a diary. According to the article, diaries are interesting when the writer is dead or the diary is essentially empty, since this is a record of a half lived life. In the article one of the writers uses the word: quotidian. I hate smart ass writers with their heads full of little used words. I have had problems with the meanings of words before. While I lived in Edinburgh, I once had a heavy cold, that made me hide in my dusty little bedsit until the fever left me. During my exile from the healthy world I read "120 days of Sodom" by Marquis De Sade. Needles to say this book didn't make me feel any better. I remembered the book title as "120 days of sodomy". This was not a particularly Freudian slip. At the time I was not really clear what sodom (or sodomy) meant. Somehow my mum forget to tell me about these things when I was growing up. Now I can just use google and wikipedia to look up new words. But before the web, sodomy was not part of my quotidian family life.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
I don't want to be like one of those place snobs, but I always feel a lot happier being in a city. Sometimes, it is inevitable I have to accept being in a town. While I was visiting my mum for the holidays, I was in the music store (perhaps the musiczone) in the centre of Burnley. I saw a CD by Scott Walker called "sings Jacques Brel". Brel was a famous Belgium singer song writer, who wrote some fantastic disturbing songs. Brel gets covered a lot by English singers. I had searched a number of shops in Glasgow for this CD , once I had learnt of its existence. Technically I was in the shop to buy a present for my brother, but I needed to buy presents for myself as well. I particularly like track 7 called "if you go away". This is a fantastic sad song that is just prefect to play when a relationship falls apart. The first lines are something like: "if you go away on this summer day, then you may as well take the sun with you." It is so lonely. The trouble is, I am not sure I would ever get much of a chance to play it. I am more likely to hear, "if you spent more time cleaning the toilet, rather than listening to gloomy CDs this relationship would be in a much better shape." Or, "why can't we spend Sunday walking in the green hills, rather than staring at them out of the window in some self imposed exile from happiness. I am leaving now. Don't play that Scott Walker track when I am gone." I once got a CD of Brel singing. Unfortunately, he sang in French and the lyric is all in his world.
I speed read "User Interface Design for Programmers" by Joel Spolsky yesterday. This is a book about the design of computer GUIs. It is written in a clear style. Joel is famous for writing many of the articles on the site http://www.joelonsoftware.com/. Joel worked for Microsoft for a while so he had many insights into the way the windows GUIs are designed. Still I see so many badly designed programs. At the start of the book, he notes that people are a lot happier when they can control and change their environment. Later he complains about programs with too many options. Life is full of compromises. Working with crappy programs tends to really me fu*k me off.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
As my book for travelling home, I choose "the face" by Dean Koontz. I personally feel that novels should not be over 500 pages, otherwise the novelist should be shot. This book was 649 pages long, but I vote that Dean should not be shot with glock for the length of his book. Although I enjoyed reading "the face", I don't feel that I know anything more about the human condition. Still, it was a page turner with a nice mix of violence and the supernatural.
I was talking to some people in the pub before Christmas. They all seemed to have crazy friends, who talked for hours about crazy stuff such as giant robots. At the time I suddenly had an idea to improve road safety. The next big thing in road safety will be air bags on the outside of the car. Just thing, do you really want to take the risk of hitting a child in a car. What you really need is an air bag outside the car just in case you hit a pedestrian. Most people would feel bad if they killed a child in an accident. I am sure a car salesman could get people to pay an additional £500 for outside airbags on their new car. Trouble is that sounds a bit weird and freaky. When I thought of it in the pub, I decided to keep quiet. I didn't want to appear strange and messed up, so I kept my idea to myself. But how many people have to die because there are not air bags outside the car.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I worry that as I get into the old music, I will miss some of the new music coming out now. Will I have to read a book in 2016 about the music in 2006? Probably. Just to show I am keeping my eye on the new modern sounds, you can check out the ZX spectrum orchestra. I am not sure how to get hold of their music though. Cutting edge.
I have just finished reading the book "rip it up and start again" by Simon Reynolds. This books documents the postpunk movements between 1978 and 1984. As I have mentioned before, the TV programs about punk just concentrate on the clash and the sex pistols. But there were many other bands around then who were more interesting. I have only recently discovered bands such as wire and gang of four. I was sort of growing up then, but I seemed to have missed many important sounds. I expect that I spent too much time watching Top of the Pops and not enough time listening to John Peel. I didn't have much money, so I doubt that I could have really got into those bands. I was surprised by how many of the bands were influenced by books and cultural theory. Drugs, booze and massive egos, ended most of the bands in the end. Perhaps, like life fame should end after a short while. We can't all be U2 now can we? Here are some old bands I am going to check out: * The pop group * throbbing gristle (these guys are a bit sick though) * the residents * the blue orchids * raincoats People will think I am so cool when I name check these great old bands. Or maybe not
There was an amusing piece on the radio about "smiling in France". The presenter noted that it wasn't considered normal to smile at people in Paris. I don't know whether this is true or not. But the presenter walked around Paris for a while and smiled at people. People got scared and looked away. Whether the French do this, I don't know, but frankly it sounds a reasonable thing to do to me. When I was very little I was forced by my parents to live in the South of England. When we visited the southern village again, a lady in a bakery remembered that as a child I used to be gloomy and quiet. She tried to cheer me up by giving me pastries. This explains a lot. People complain that I don't smile enough and spend too much time talking about darkness, disease and death. Hey, I am just waiting for some free doughnuts. As I swipe the plastic knife against the blue vein in my arm, I am just just waiting for some jam and cream. Keep smiling for the insane and jolly.
I watched the DVD for the film "Twilight Samurai" a couple of days ago. Blockbuster have a big section on world cinema, so I get to see how people get killed in other cultures. There are only two sword fights in "Twilight Samurai", but they were good ones. Most of the film is about a poor Samurai working as a clerk and falling in love. A good "chick flick" for women who like Samurai swords. More information
Sunday, December 17, 2006
On Saturday morning I ventured from the safe confines of the West End to go to the centre of Glasgow to buy a Christmas present for my mum. I was stopped by soneone who was doing a survey about alchol problems in Scotland. Now I had been out the previous evening for a holiday session and my head felt a bit thick, so I wasn't really in the mood to be questioned. The first question was "how old are you?". Oh my, god I thought I am not sure I can do complicated math with a Saturday morning hangover. I told her my age, but apparently they are only interested in people with drink problems who are younger than 37. So I am now too old to take part in a survey on drink problems in Scotland. Why? On reflection perhaps that had something to do with sperm counts. As I stood stunned the woman gave me a gentle tug on the arm as she stepped away and I was propelled into the tube station and totally missed the waiting arms of the scream pub next door.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I just finished watching a DVD called Visitor Q by Miike Tahshi. What, wot, what was going on? You don't watch a Miike film with your mum, but still, it was fairly crazy by any standards. Perhaps in Japan this is normal. Anyway it was way better than the Segal movie on the digital channel. Still very disturbing.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Being a sad person, I got really excited when I found that Lee Hazelwood had a new CD out. I only found who Lee Hazelwood was when I was impulse buying CDs in the Probe shop in Liverpool. The CD was Poet Fool or Bum / Back on the Street Again. I really liked his crooning sound. I suppose he is most "famous" for working with Nancy Sinatra. But he has had a long and strange career that involved him working in Sweden for a while. I am usually too scared to listen to Lee Hazelwood in front of people, just in case I might need to rearrange somebody's musical taste with a slight touch of my fist. The new CD is "Cake or death". I was really nervous that it might suck. I just heard a track on Mint on radio6. He still sounds good although he is ill and old. If he had been a "main stream" successful artist, it would have been dire. Somehow a life of non-success doesn't mean failure.
I am listening to "folk, blues and beyond" by Davy Graham. Davy was an English folk pioneer in late 50s and 60s. For some reason, I always thought that the British folk scene in early 60s was very much about wearing woolly jumpers and singing traditional ballads in the folk club before they started the important business of a career. Graham's guitar sound is traditional, modern and still wild. Davy liked to travel and supported himself in many foreign lands by busking. I wish I could live such a life. Of course chemicals took his spirit in the end. I am pretty sure I heard him give an interview on the freakzone on radio6. He sounded like a tired broken man. but he could still play his guitar. I have been unable to find the track listings for Graham playing on the freakzone, so perhaps he is dead and he was reaching me from the beyond with more suggestions for CDs to buy. More information about Davy Graham.
Monday, December 04, 2006
There was an interesting article on working long hours in the guardian yesterday. I like the fact that it is considered normal for people to fall asleep at a dinner party. (Since I have had a student fall asleep in a tutorial I can well believe it). Sometimes I get into work and I put my head in my hands because I have got so much work to do. Then I get up and tell other people how behind I am on my work. Then at lunch I tell people how stressed I am with the over work. Then suddenly it is time to go home and I have achieved nothing all day. Well it is time to start for work. I hearing a howling gale outside that shakes the curtains. No doubt freezing rain will meet me as I walk out the door.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I started to watch a documentary about English punk bands. The trouble with these programs is that they only focus on the sex pistols, the clash, the dammned and a bunch of other bands who charted for a bit. I am kind of annoyed that they never mention postpunk bands such as wire or gang of four. They never talk about the American hardcore scene in the early 80s (black flag,..). Also I am fairly pissed that I was 38 before I heard of The Modern Lovers and Jonathan Richman. Richman was a pre-punk band that I really like. Perhaps the punk thing would be to read some more books, because I can't trust the TV.
There is a good selection of books in Oxfam on Byers Rd. I have noticed that second hand book stores near Universities tend to have better selections than other places. This sounds a bit snobby, but my theory is that University folk buy lots of books, that they later have to sell when they get too additcted to booze and chemicals. Just a theory. The book in question is Psycho shop by Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny. Bester started the book, but it was finished by Zelazny when Bester died. Bester was a major inovating in the 50s and early 60s. He only used to write when he had emotional problems. Unfortunately, he must have found happiness, during the 70s and 80s, because he stopped writing, and he died in poverty. Bester's great novels such as "the demolished man" were way ahead of their time. This novel was very confusing, particularly as it took me three months to read. Also too much physics, I don't read science fiction to learn about the science of black holes. Still not a bad read. More information about Bester
Tesco are pretty good at tempting me with their displays of stuff. I can see why they make billions of pounds in profit. I was going to the store in the Maryhill shopiing center, when I remembered that were selling wind up radios. That could be useful I thought. I don't want to get electrocuted while listening to the radio in the shower. Also a wind up radio would be useful if civilisation collapsed and I couldn't rely on email. I could sit in my third floor flat while the mad dogs and crazy drugged zombies roam the streets in search of human flesh. The wind up radio would let me know when it was safe to go to the street level and resume a normal life of going to starbucks. I am not really sure that a third floor flat is high enough. From what I rememeber of the film "28 days", I would need to hide out in a much higher flat when zombies take over. If the troops in blue helmets come in their black helicopoters and take away our pound coins, I am going to need a way to listen to the resistance that doesn't involve buying batteries with those hated euros. The power of Tesco marketing is more powerful that my paranoid fantasies. I decided what I really needed, before I stocked up on survivalist kit, was a bath mat so I don't slip over and shatter my spine. I will get the wind up radio on another trip
I have just finished reading "feel the fear and do it anyway." by Susan Jeffers. This is a self help book about feeling positive. Normally positive people get on my nerves, and I have to restrain myself from giving a light knock on the nose with a heavy object. Sometimes I like being negative and depressed, so I don't need some bright spark telling me to look on gthe bright side of life. Hey, I would feel a whole lot better, if you shut the f**k up and got me another beer. Trouble is, being positive is not always enough. You can be as positive as you like, but you may never find out why the mass of the top quark is 174 GeV. I was particularly impressed with the diagram that shows what you are like in a relationship: ------------------- | relationship | -------------------- when the relationship is over the diagram looks like: ----------------------- | | ----------------------- wow. This makes so much sense. Obviously I read this type of book for a reason. Mostly to get poison out of my system. The film Donnie Darko is particularly good at destroying the "self help crowd".
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I am listening to a CD by Vashti Bunyan. The CD was made in the late 60s. The songs were written as Vashtil travelled by horse and cart to Scotland to live in a commune founded by Donovan. The journey took two years. She sounds so sweet and shy. Vashti dropped out of the music scene until a few years ago, when she suddenly found that her old album was fetching huge sums on the internet. That is the trouble with pop music. People no longer take two years to go from London to Scotlan, they are too busy and so get a plane instead. So they listen to Robbie Williams and feel cheated. More information. Some people are only happy when they are listning to a someone so obscure that only a few of the chosen few have heard of them.
I went out to see Jeffrey Lewis play on Thursday at Kings Tuts in Glasgow. Jeffrey Lewis is a singer song writer from New York. This was one of the best gigs I have ever been to. He sang some songs that I had own. He sang a great song about meeting Will Oldam on a train in New York, that I particularly like. He also did a song about the communist revolution in China. At the same time he flicked through a big comic, drawn by himself, of the communist revolution in China. He did another song about some big brain. The magic of youtube allows you to see this song as well. The weird thing was that the Jeffrey Lewis band were the support band. I have already forgotten who the main band were. I wanted to get a T-shirt, but I know I would have some stupid joke about taking acid. He would then have muttered something about listening to the second album.