Saturday, December 24, 2005

All shall have prizes

The Alternative News Awards 2005 piece I did for Wanadoo has just been published. Read it here. By the way: Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Twenty-five great songs of 2005

The lists continue. This is getting slightly fanatical. But if you don’t try and define your year by thinking of things you like and putting them in order of preference, what the hell kind of a person are you? Having said that, my twenty-five tunes of 2005 are in no particular order whatsoever. If there’s any on this list you haven’t heard, go and download it now, for instant aural gratification (stop sniggering).

Oxygen – Willy Mason
I Predict a Riot – Kaiser Chiefs
Heavy Metal – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
BMFA – Martha Wainwright
Wake Up – Arcade Fire
Hoodie - Lady Sovereign
My Doorbell – White Stripes
Don’t Come Running – HAL
Fuck Forever – Babyshambles
Tied Up Too Tight – Hard-Fi
Moving to LA – Art Brut
Spit it Out – Brendan Benson
Mornings Eleven – Magic Numbers
I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet) – White Stripes
Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys
My Dead Wife – Absentee
Helicopter – Bloc Party
Rusted Guns – Art Brut
Mirror Kissers – The Cribs
Bucky Done Gun – MIA
Girl Wants (to Say Goodbye to) Rock and Roll – Go Home Productions (Christina Aguilera vs Velvet Underground)
My Sherona Formed a Band – Spoiler Boy (featuring Art Brut)
Chewing Gun – Annie
Crown of Love – Arcade Fire
Holiday - Green Day

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Lessons learned from... King Kong

Never take apes out of their natural habitat.

Never fall for a woman the size of your hand.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Steve Guttenberg: "I'm enjoying life now"

There was an amazing interview in Metro this week with '80s actor Steve Guttenberg. The man starred in the kind of silly but strangely memorable films that fill you with happy nostalgia - stuff like Three Men and A Baby, Police Academy, Short Circuit and Cocoon (plus all their sequels. Man, he loved sequels). But Guttenberg just wasn't quite right for non-'80s stardom and seemed to vanish just after 1990's Three Men and A Little Lady.

In the interview, he comes across as shamelessly unapologetic, aggressively I HAVE NO REGRETS ALL RIGHT? The actor claims that when he first became rich that he spent most of his money on "Food. Lots of food." Typecasting, he says is "a good thing". When asked why, if he's so rich, he still needs to work , he replies simply: "I love the fame and the money and the power."

Pretty quality, no? But this outpouring of insecurity is my favourite part:
From 1980 to 1990, I shot more films than any other actor in the Screen Actors Guild apart from Gene Hackman. Everyone keeps asking me that stupid question: "What are you doing?" I say: "Why do I need to do anything? I'm rich." Do you want me to be poor again? Do you want me to go back to making tomato soup out of ketchup and water? Or would you like me to be a multimillionaire and be rewarded for all the entertainment I gave you for all those years? I'm enjoying life now. If I was a plumber and I'd done the most plumbing jobs between 1980 and 1990, everyone would be saying: "What a great plumber" - he says "f**k you to the world and he's enjoying himself." But for some reason, as an actor, you're not allowed to say: "I'm f**king rich, bro."

Guttenberg has just starred in a straight-to-DVD comedy called P.S. Your Cat is Dead.

Read the full interview here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Babbling Brooker

If there's one person I love nearly as much as 24 hero Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland), it's Guardian writer Charlie Brooker. When the two come together (ie Brooker writing about Bauer, not Bauer repeatedly kicking Brooker in the head), it's a dream come true. Brooker thinks 24 is great, but, like all good TV hacks, is prepared to sacrifice his love at the altar of pisstake. Here are some of my favourites:
"[Kiefer Sutherland's] famously buttock-shaped cheeks have diminished in size, so now it's possible to concentrate on what an assured performer he is without worrying whether his mouth is about to break wind."

"I bloody love 24, partly because Jack's endless struggles with fate are downright hilarious. He can't cross the street without finding someone's glued one of his feet to the pavement and thrown a grenade at his head - the funny bit is the desperately brutal way he kicks it out of the way and straight into the nearest orphanage."

"On the whole, [24 is] about as plausible as ever - ie the whole thing may as well be set in an alternate universe housed within the belly of an immense robotic goat."

"Jack's car is a thing of wonder... This week he makes use of a fingerprint scanner which seems to have been installed specifically to identify thumbs he's recently severed from dead assailants."

"[Jack Bauer is] so cellphone-dependent he'll have to have spent the whole of episode eight recharging the damn thing - assuming of course he hasn't been finished off by a microwave-induced brain tumour."

"Following the murder of his wife, heroic Jack Bauer's gone off the rails. In case we're in any doubt about just how far he's fallen, there's a hideous ginger beard sprouting round his chops, which makes him look like a piece of Shredded Wheat impersonating Kris Kristofferson."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Absolute Bauer corrupts absolutely

MSN conversation with Kearns #24. In which Kearns reveals some worrying personal statistics, declares his love for two fictional television characters, briefly defends '80s classic film Short Circuit and concludes by endorsing torture.

Kearns says:
ive become slightly obsessed with reading blogs

Kearns says:
its worrying

Kearns says:
i really could be reading books instead

Kearns says:
thing is - at least you still read books. i couldnt believe you had enough to compile a top 10

Kearns says:
unless you only read 10

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
No, more like 55

Kearns says:
serious?

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
yes

Kearns says:
bloody hell

Kearns says:
do you read like jonny 5?

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Yes

Kearns says:
oh ok

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Except I actually take it in, unlike that idiot robot

Kearns says:
dont besmirch the memory of jonny 5

Kearns says:
so you read a book a week?

Kearns says:
thats cocking ridiculous

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Roughly

Kearns says:
well i watched all 96 episodes of 24 in 17 days

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Good job

Kearns says:
i beat my seinfeld record by watching 14 episodes of 24 last sunday

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Woah

Kearns says:
thats commitment

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Me and Sarah watched two thirds of series 3 in about 4 days

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
I wept for Tony Almeida

Kearns says:
i love tony almeida.

Kearns says:
and is it me or is jack bauer the greatest human of all time

Kearns says:
god i love him

Bungle Bungle mountain range says:
Sarah's MSN name is Michelle Dessler

Kearns says:
sweet

Kearns says:
how anyone can watch 24 and oppose torture i'll never know

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Herman's sermons

If you like your movie reviews to only contain the words "good", "sweet", "stupid" or "retarded", then look no further than Herman's Movies. Purporting to be a 15-year-old boy from the United States who loves video games and Macdonalds (I have my doubts), Nick Herman writes pithy but devastating reviews, culminating in a no-nonsense thumbs up or thumbs down verdict. Of Vin Diesel movie The Fast and The Furious, he writes, "This movie was cool espcially with all the sweet cars yeah there pretty hot sweet rides." Legend.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Mexican

Last night me and flatmate Jamie found ourselves sitting in our lounge eating Jalapeno pepper flavoured popcorn with a Mexican called Griselda who neither of us had met before, watching Rock School. "Embrace the randomness," Jamie whispered to me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Search and you shall find

Inevitably, some visitors to this blog have stumbled upon it from search engines, like Google blogsearch, or MSN search. The poor fools! Luckily, thanks to modern technology (thanks sitemeter), I can see what visitors to Electric Goose searched for to find me. Here's a sample of recent ones:

  • rinky dinks
  • old nudist couples
  • diane arbus
  • Jacqui Electric Company
  • devendra banhart
  • circus freaks pics
  • val kilmer postman always rings twice
  • dylan brixton
  • Hugh Dennis
  • Rock School

What does this mean? I don't know. But you know your life has gone desperately wrong when you find yourself searching the internet for "old nudist couples".

Monday, December 05, 2005

Booked up

Sometimes a man just has to make lists, and December is the best month to do it… Here are the ten best books I've read this year (obviously not necessarily released this year, that would be crazy - though some are). I’d recommend these to anyone, so if you need something to read...

1) Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
2) Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
3) American Pastoral – Philip Roth
4) Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov
5) Stuart: A Life Backwards – Alexander Masters
6) The Accidental – Ali Smith
7) Dispatches – Michael Herr
8) The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
9) The Rum Diaries – Hunter S Thompson
10) Saturday – Ian McEwan

Friday, December 02, 2005

A toast to 24-hour drinking

This morning at around 8am, my friend Dan got up, had two slices of toast, a cup of tea and two shots of glacier mint vodka. I don't know whether this was to celebrate the introduction of 24-hour drinking, or in eager anticipation of our forthcoming weekend trip to Bristol, where GM vodka was our tipple of choice - and I'm sure to some his breakfast antics might seem like the very pinnacle of excess. But I like the way he didn't go overboard on the toast.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Behind NME lines

"Despite it being hailed by all and sundry as a masterpiece upon its release in 1996..." begins NME's review this week of Belle and Sebastian’s live version of their If You’re Feeling Sinister album. All and sundry? Not quite. One music paper bucked the trend back in 1996, giving the album a lowly 5 out of 10. The paper? None other than, er, NME.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Albums of the year

As nothing that’s any good is going to come out before 31 December apart from Bryan Adams’ Greatest Hits, it’s probably the time to name my five albums of the year (plus five more that deserve a mention):

1) Funeral – Arcade Fire
2) Arular – MIA
3) Get Behind Me Satan – White Stripes
4) Medicine Box – Sons and Daughters
5) Bang Bang Rock and Roll – Art Brut

Also great:
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Alternative to Love – Brendan Benson
The New Fellas – The Cribs
Martha Wainwright - Martha Wainwright
Silent Alarm – Bloc Party

They just like peace

Went to see Salman Rushdie talk and read from his novel at the South Bank centre last night. Unfortunately I have some kind of ultra-flu and was dosed up on these extra-strong cough sweets my boss gave me, so I can’t really give any credible or coherent insights about the man, except for the following thoughtsentence.

Yes, it’s true, he looks like an owl academic with beard and when he arrives onstage, he faces the crowd, and waves like a little boy – it’s surprisingly endearing - and he thinks the Indians and Pakistanis should just leave the Kashmiris the fuck alone, they’re not cowardly to like peace (as the old Indian joke goes), they just LIKE PEACE, what’s wrong with that? and the law banning incitement to religious hatred is, like, bullshit, because you should be able to criticise all ideas freely and that includes religion, as long as you separate the intellectual from the personal, just protect freedom of speech and all the other civil liberties follow and please stop going on about Midnight’s Children, that was 25 years ago...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The new Lowe

Went to see Rob "West Wing" Lowe in Aaron "West Wing" Sorkin's play A Few Good Men on Friday. The play appeared on Broadway in 1989 before it became a Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson. For those unfamiliar with the plot, naval officer-lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Lowe) has to defend two young marines accused of murdering a weaker recruit during a "code red" procedure (a ceremonial dressing down, which might include shaving the offender's head, or beating the shit out of him). The code red may or may not have been ordered by the marines' superior, Colonel Jessop. Courtroom drama and lots of shouting ensues.

The whole thing was enjoyable, watchable and surprisingly really good, though the characters are never quite more than the high-quality dialogue they speak. But Lowe has enough charm to keep the most jaded cynic smiling wistfully for days. If you've seen the film, what was strange about the play was the fact that the actors played it for laughs on a surprising number of occassions - and got them.

Contrasting strongly with the West End glamour of Rob Lowe's perfect hair was the grainy violence of the "initiation ceremony" footage of British marines that emerged on Sunday. It shows two naked marines fighting each other in the mud while others (also naked) stand around egging them on. When one of the men appears to refuse to fight, a superior officer, dressed as a surgeon (the other is in schoolgirl grab), kicks him in the head, knocking him out. The footage seems slightly speeded up, giving the whole thing the appearance of an old-fashioned silent movie, with the costumes adding to the surrealism. It looks like some weird ultraviolent playground. Media reaction so far has been flippant, unshocked - they are marines after all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dissing Devendra

Read my Devendra Banhart single review here.

No offence to Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's keyboard player is intended.

Dylan hits Brixton

"It's like one massive Dylan gig!" enthused my friend James, who's going to all five of the consecutive nights Bob Dylan is playing at Brixton Academy this week. "With gaps," added a nearby Mancunian.

I suppose you could take the formula one step further: for some people life is one big Dylan concert, with gaps. I don't think I'm quite one of those people, but on my way to the Academy I did actually start to feel quite nervous, in case something went wrong and I missed the whole thing.

I didn't, thank the good Lord. Dylan played a real crowd-pleaser of a setlist, but the amazing moments were during the songs you didn't think you'd be bothered about. Mississippi, Cold Irons Bound, Highway 61, Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Summer Days and John Brown were all extraordinary. Even though it's 'barely' two years since Dylan recorded it, Mississippi already sounds like a new song. John Brown came on like the dark Scottish indie-skiffle of Sons and Daughters and the graphic war-is-bad lyrics made everyone stand still. And Summer Days kept switching brilliantly between '40s swing and heavy guitar-thwacking.

There were a few letdowns - Stuck Inside of Mobile and Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) got a bit boring even before he started singing them (I don't really like the latter - that riff's as annoying as hell), and I Don't Believe You was fairly forgettable. But that's nitpicking - by the time Like A Rolling Stone rolled round, with the house lights flashing up on the crowd for the chorus, the lowlights were a distant memory. Wish I'd got tickets for all five nights.

Setlist is here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What the Dickens

Congratulations to writer Charles Dickens, who's been included in Waterstones 200 Best Paperbacks of 2005 for his novel Bleak House. To be ranked alongside such greats as Ben Elton's Past Mortem and Dan Brown's Deception Point is a truly impressive achievement and Dickens himself, a little-read cultish writer, should feel proud of himself. Hopefully the exposure from his inclusion this list, as well as the television adaptation currently airing, will mean this underrated writer will be read alongside literary heavyweights like Harlen Coben and Michael Crichton.

Backstreet's Back, all wrong


Please watch this extraordinary webcam footage. Two masters of karaoke at work. I salute them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Westlife Ho!

I've been thinking recently about shit Irish boyband Westlife, who were switching on the lights at Oxford Circus last night. Looking at the cover of their new number 1 album the other day (all their albums are number ones. I wouldn't be able to name a single one of them) you can see that they're not the sprightly young things they once were. "You're growing old, boys," I thought to myself. Then cruelly added, "And you've wasted your lives." If I woke up age 35 and found myself in Westlife, I'd wire the nerve endings in my right hand up to the Christmas lights, then get Bryan McFadden to flick the switch. That's how to spread true happiness to the world and his son this Christmas.

But speaking of waste, now I'm imagining one of my old teachers browsing the internet and somehow stumbling across this blog entry. He reads, sighs heavily at the sheer unoriginality of ridiculing Westlife. He remembers the promise I once showed as a young boy, and the words "what a waste" resound in his head; a solitary tear rolls down his mottled cheek. And another image springs to mind too: my girlfriend Sarah looking expectantly into my eyes, guessing at the complex and beautiful thoughts that are dancing around my head like delicate figurines. She reads this and weeps.

Unbelievable: by spending time thinking on the utter mediocrity of Westlife, I'm brought down to their level. That's how dangerous they are.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Album review: Chocolate Genius Inc – Black Yankee Rock (Commotion Records)

The music of Chocolate Genius Inc, aka Marc Antony Thompson, could easily be described as "genre-bending". However, despite his moves between New Acoustic Movement style folk, Marvin Gaye soul and quiet stoner rock, it could also be described as "a bit boring". A feeling of overly laid-back listlessness pervades his third album, making it tough for the listener to engage with many of the songs here. On the plus side, it's often so soporific, you can't be bothered to get up and switch it off. There are some inspirational moments, but CGI doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between these and the mediocre ones. There's one line in 'Cry' that makes you think it has the makings of a classic ballad, but a general tunelessness brings it down to the level of forgettable background muzzzzic. 'Rats Under Waterfall' goes for the loveable eccentricity ticket, but comes across less Super Furry Animals recording in Rio, more crazy bearded man mumbling on park bench. The more up-tempo 'Forever Everyone' sounds like it might perk things up, but it's track 10 of 11 and is ruined by the ill-judged and flat vocal. "I lose momentum," he sings, on 'It's Going Wrong'. Yeah, me too.

Friday, October 28, 2005

TomCat

Congratulations all round. Firstly to Tom, a friend of mine for about 21 years now. He's just got engaged to his girlfriend Dom. Congratulations to her too, of course. Tom was always well against settling down, marriage, housebuying, getting a pension etc, so he has completely sold out - but news of the engagement is surely a testament to the good vibes surrounding that relationship.

Congratulations too to my university friend Cat, who just had a baby boy. He's called Oliver John Hudson. I for one will be taking advantage of the fact that Cat's surname is Bell by calling the child "BabyBel". Until he's a toddler, when I'll start calling him "OJ".

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Single review: Sleater-Kinney – Jumpers (Sub Pop)

Yet another song about the problem of sweater shrinkage? Thankfully not, though Sleater-Kinney’s new single initially seems to be about traffic jam stress. However, it quickly turns into a more poetic and dark creature than such mundanities might suggest, as we realise the song's protagonist is considering the merits of jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. Not one to stick on at a wedding reception then, unless the sight of the bride running out with mascara-stained cheeks fills your ugly heart with leaping joy. The lyrical feast comes with side orders of off-the-beat staccato guitars, banging drums and stark vocals, giving the whole thing a quality both lo-fi and epic. Urgent, intense and bleak – but much more fun than that sounds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bad sign

Saw a sign on the side of a truck today that made me simultaneously smile and shudder: "This truck contains no Bovine Vertebral Column". Euuurgh.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The best headline in the world

There was a cracking headline in the Sunday Sport yesterday: "Woman gives birth to 8lb haddock". If this wasn't genius enough, it was followed up with the fantastic subhead: "There but for the grace of Cod".

While we're on the subject, check out the Daily Mail headline generator. I blame Channel 4/political correctness/Gordon Brown/asylum seekers.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Freak show

Like every good Goldsmiths student, I went through a photography stage, reading Susan Sontag's On Photography, then spending about, hmmm, a week poring over pictures by Andreas Gursky, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus. Then I got bored and moved onto, I dunno, skateboarding, or something.

Anyway, those Arbus pics really stuck in my head, so I was quite excited about going to the exhibition of her work at the V&A last night. And it was very good, spanning 15 years (1956-71) of her portraits - of ugly women, New York, transvestites, women who look like men, circus freaks, celebrities, the disabled and old nudist couples. It had bits of her writing too (she was amazingly eloquent, in an oblique poetic kind of way) and memorabilia (less interesting - though it's quite exciting to peer into the lens of one of her old cameras). I also managed to resist the temptation to piss everyone off by pointing at photos and exclaiming in exaggerated American accent, "Dude, look that one! What a totally gross freak!"

It's hard to say anything about the photos. Sometimes when you try to analyse great photography or beautiful poetry, pull out the meaning, it gets so frustrating. You just want to give up and shout, "It doesn't mean this, or say this! There is no better way of saying it than the thing itself!" Perhaps that's what Arbus meant when she said, "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." But probably not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Everybody needs them

I have just one thing to say today. Happy birthday Neighbours. And Cliff Richard, happy birthday to you too.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tom and the Chinchilla

Got a text from my friend Angry Tom yesterday to tell me that he'd just had "a rather embarrassing encounter" with ex-Art Brut guitarist Chris Chinchilla, who he'd spotted in the street. I said that I hoped he hadn't told Chinchilla about the Harvester advert idea we drunkenly came up with a few weeks back (it involved the man Chinchilla, a small dog wearing a skinny tie and Bob Hoskins). Tom said no:

"I spent five minutes modulating my walking speed so I was awkwardly next to him on New Cross Road. Turned. Smiled. And asked simply... 'Do you know any local guitar collectives?'"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Google nemesis, or The Two Blakes

Funny article in the Grauniad today by Blake Morrison about his namesake, another writer who's also called Blake Morrison. "Bad luck on my parents, who thought they'd called me something inimitable," he muses, realising his uniqueness has been shattered. I find doppelgangers, name-sharers and lookalikes pretty interesting, especially as my every waking second is haunted by people saying, "You look like Bob Dylan Gene Wilder Edward Norton."

When you type my name into Google, as well as the crap I've written, you get some articles about the other Will Parkhouse, an American football player from Bristol. He worries me, particularly as he's jumping up the Google list pretty fast. He does seem to be quite good at the sport too ("he seems to have a big game every week," gushes one report). Pretty alarming, as the more plaudits he gets, the more I'm likely to become "the other Will Parkhouse". He must be stopped.

I should be thankful though. My friend Darren Lee is topped in the Google rankings by The World's Number One Elvis impersonator, Darren Lee. Take a look at Darren the non-Elvis impersonator's new blog, if only to help him in his quest to destroy his lip-curling hip-swivelling namesake.



Postscript: if you type "Blake Morrison" into the Guardian website search box, ironically, you get a review he's written of a Vikram Seth book called "Two Lives". Ha.

Monday, October 10, 2005

When I say 'x', you say 'y'

I love the whole "when I say 'x'..." thing. Not sure how it started (old skool hip-hop perhaps?), but it's a ridiculous and under-celebrated genre, in a watching-car-crashes kinda way. It used to be quite basic, with the MC stopping mid-song to go, "When I say 'ho', you say 'hey'. Ho!" The crowd then shout, "Hey!" and everyone's happy.

I actually find the whole thing really embarrassing and rarely participate, just stand on the touchline, silently egging them on. Especially as the whole thing has now developed into something unwieldy and wrong; witness this cumbersome exchange, which took place in Big Brother over the summer:

Antony: Eugene, when I say "Do you really like it?" you say "Is it is it wicked?" Do you really like it?
Eugene: (reluctantly) Er, is it is it wicked?

There were two more classics at the gig I was at on Wednesday last week. The first came from a pair of rapkids called Natural Selection (imagine if a huge asteroid wiped out all the world's MCs and just these two remained! What a thought!):

Natural Selection MC: When I say "music", you say "snobbery". Music!
Crowd: (muted) Snobbery.

The other one was great, mainly because the choice of words was so unusual and strange; it came from headliners Crack Village. I found them confusing, but quite fun - original too, though the enthusiastic man in front of me ("This is groundbreaking! Groundbreaking!") was probably overstating the case a bit. Anway, one of their rappers, clad in Bobby Gillespie style insect shades, took a moment out to shout, "When I say "crack", you say "village". Crack!" The crowd, loving it, and as one, all yelled back: "VILLAGE!"

Well not quite everyone. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bury the rag deep in your face

It's been a while since I wrote the blog. Oh lordy lordy it's been a while. Since the Guy episode, I've moved house, and been drinking - nay quaffing - from the cup of culture like a thirsty Brian Sewell.

The question I've been asked constantly over the last few weeks is, "Are you watching /did you see the ScorceseDylan documentary?" They all know I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, see. The answer has been "no". I managed to buck the trend, by going to a Dylan tribute concert the night of the doc, in which various singersongwriter types got onstage and played Dylan songs. Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Odetta, Willy Mason, Liam Clancy and KT Tunstall were all pretty great. (I've noticed that a lot of people loathe KT Tunstall but are unable to give a reason for their hatred. If I hated her, my reasons would be that she gets a bit MOR at times and her voice is just a bit too perfect. But I don't hate her, so I'm not bothered about this.)

I'd like to single out Roy Harper and Barb Jungr, who also played, and were appalling. Barb Jungr particularly, whose cover of Like a Rolling Stone made me want to wrap my jumper round my head in pain. After turning Ring Them Bells into an over the top Celine Dion-like mess, she demolished Like a Rolling Stone, transforming it into a horrible slow "atmospheric" ballad. Lines like, "Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?" she'd sing with a questioning inflection in her voice, point at an imaginary person, and put on a slightly cross face. This triad of inanities was unbelievably painful to me. Even more painful than Christopher Ricks' dire Like a Rolling Stone article in The Independent the other week.

Anyway, they filmed the show for BBC4 and you can see a couple of clips (of Bragg and Tunstall) here.

And tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Nathan Barley: off to Medicine bar in Shoreditch to see an alt-rap hip-hop collective called Crack Village. Totally Mexico. Read the press release. They sound terrible.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Swimming with sharks

"Do you want to swim with sharks?" says Guy, a Welshman who I went to University with. I hung out with him a bit back then, but don't know him too well. We're out in a big birthday drinking group in a noisy bar in North Clapham. I haven't seen Guy in about three years and this is his opening conversational gambit. He just walks up to me and asks the question, as if he was an extreme sports travel agent and could offer me the holiday of a lifetime.

"Er. Yes?" I say, encouragingly, trying to give the right answer.

"Why would you want to do that?" he says, looking at me like I'm insane.

"Er. I like to live life on the edge? Take risks and that?" I say.

"In what way do you live life on the edge?" he asks me accusingly.

"Er, sometimes I cross the road before the green man appears." Guy looks at me blankly. I give in. "No, I probably don't really live life on the edge. And I can't really think of any recent examples of risk-taking."

"Mmmm. So you'd want to be in a cage full of sharks - they're fucking dangerous, man." (He's completely serious.) "I'd never do that. I wouldn't swim with crocodiles either, they're fucking vicious bastards too."

"Yeah, you're probably right. Swimming with sharks is probably not that great."

"I don't understand people like you, going out to Australia and swimming with sharks and crocodiles. And snakes man, you lot love fucking snakes."

"Yeah. Sorry."

Monday, September 19, 2005

"A grinning Hugh Dennis lookalike"

We had our "goodbye house" party on Saturday and it brought together the usual array of interesting drunkards and reprobates. One of my particular favourites was my old friend Eric, or Ez, from school. Ez is a virtuoso pianist (currently working on the Rach 2) who is rarely seen wearing shoes, not because he's a socialist, but due to his love of roller-skating. He spent the entire night knocking back strong cups of coffee and sitting around like a sage, occasionally dispensing pearls of wisdom to people talking nearby.

Because he left in the morning before I was awake, Ez charmingly left a message on the stairs. "Gotta run. Thanx for party. Ez." The thing which sets Eric apart from the rest of mankind was the fact that he'd written it by carefully arranging small grey stones to spell out the message.

Other exciting people in attendance who are worth a mention were: a grinning Hugh Dennis lookalike; another schoolfriend I haven't seen in years, who is certainly the first of my friends to get themselves an agent (he's an actor); the man from the NME, who explained to me in great but genuinely fascinating detail how Madonna, Prince and Jackson are the holy trinity of '80s pop; the girl who saw my Viva La Raza (Viva the people) t-shirt and asked which people it was I wanted to live, as if I was some kind of pro-genocide butcher; and finally one young man, who, instead of bringing a bottle, brought us flowers – an apparently touching gesture, later undermined by the discovery that he'd stolen them from a funeral. Respect also to the thirsty fool (currently pursuing a career in the law) who awoke and began demolishing the leftover Sambuca, before moving onto the white wine.

The party took place between the hours of 7pm and 5am, although I have to admit me and Sarah skipped out around 4 to go to a house party we'd heard about up the street. The door was answered by a guy in a big fake afro (where do these things come from? Whenever there's drinking, there's always someone wearing a big fake afro).

He looked at us, waiting for an explanation. We remained silent, me knowing that the excuse "I'm here because my mate's mate is mates with the guy who lives here" would not do. Sarah also remained silent, perhaps knowing that "I'm here because my boyfriend's mate's mate is mates with the guy who lives here" would be even worse. Then he stepped aside and let us in. We didn't stay long; despite the DJ, the well-thought out lighting, the preparation, the people in there didn't look like they were having much fun. So we returned to House Party #1, and all was well.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Original pirate material

Many people have been asking me about the progress of the boy Paul, who finally embarked on his Russian odyssey last week. Had an MSN chat with him this morning, and here's the verdict in full:

Big Fat Melting Pot says: So, how's Rusher?
Hit It and Quit It says: Let me put it this way: the other day, I bought the entire 1960s-70s Stones back catalogue on pirated MP3 CDs from a kiosk on the street at 3am for about 2 quid.

So there we go.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Country Grad Ballad Man

Tuesday was graduation day for me, despite the fact that I finished my Goldsmiths MA over a year ago. But all went without a hitch: digital cameras were wielded, the chancellor was charmingly Dumbledore-like (despite baldness and lack of beard) and gowns were returned largely unripped.

After the ceremony, it was all out to the field out the back to tussle over canapés, meet parents and help selves to glasses of free wine. Me and Darren went over to say hello to ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, a previous alumni of the College who was there getting an honourary degree. Bizarrely, the three of us then chatted as if we all knew each other quite well. No small talk needed when you know exactly what it is they do for a living and how they beat their alcohol problem.

Coxo was very nice. I asked what kind of privileges you get with an honourary degree. "They gave me a folder of stuff I'm supposed to read," he said vaguely. Left is a picture of him desperately trying to get the annoying woman to leave him alone, so he can continue his glorious conversation with us.

Well, then the booze ran out and the place emptied out pretty quickly. Death of a Party all right. So we went to a pub up the road in New Cross. Then we went to a pub in Greenwich. Then to a restaurant. Then to a rather hideous bar off Leicester Square that played disgracefully cheesy music and charged far too much for a beer. It was amazing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Jackson 4

Interviewed this very interesting lady today called Jacqui Jackson. She has seven children, four boys and three girls. All four of her sons are on the autistic spectrum. She is a single mother, who's also doing a pHD. Impressive, no?

Bizarrely, we did the interview in an empty, furnitureless room on Pentonville Road, an unused top-floor office of the publishing company who prints her books. Both of us sat on the floor, me cross-legged like some eager Buddha, her leaning against the wall.

She didn't have much positive to say about the education system (which was the focus of the interview), not surprising as it hasn't really done many good things for her sons ("Bullying will teach them to stand up for themselves" "Your son messes around in class" etc). There seemed to be a long line of teachers who don't know how to deal with the boys - not that surprising, as I imagine it's not exactly easy to teach autistic kids. So she's really had to fight for them.

Jackson was also rather admirably unflustered by the fact that Helena Bonham-Carter is playing her in a forthcoming BBC documentary. Apparently Helena is "very nice".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thai fool

My friend Dan, who's teaching in Thailand, phoned my mobile this afternoon, from Thailand, to ask what the time was over here. I told him it was 4.15 in the afternoon. He said, "OH BOLLOCKS", said he'd see me later and hung up. I have no idea why.

Lowlands chat

"I went to Holland for a music festival." This is a sentence I've said at least 14 times today at work (they keep asking me if I've been away. I suspect this is because my face has gone David Dickinson orange, not because I've been hugely missed).

"No, not in Amsterdam. It's called Lowlands, about an hour away from Amsterdam?" [insert your own irritating rising inflection at end of sentence] After four days camping, amazingly, I didn't get home feeling like I'd been turned inside out. But this may have been due to my £16.99 luxury camping pillow.

So here is who I saw (by the way, the headline above is an irrelevant pun on "Rowland Rat"):

Friday:
Polyphonic Spree - epic, summery, uplifting. But seeing Arcade Fire make you realise that the Spree probably write songs using raffle tickets and dice, so rhapsodic are their tunes.

Magic Numbers - not bad at all (I said bad, not fat). More harmony-soaked lullabies. But I did get a bit annoyed when they stopped yet another song to do a cappella "woah woah baby" bit.

Kaiser Chiefs - brilliant. My comment that "they may have peaked slightly early" was laughed out of the park, and rightly so. The only band that actually listened to the timeless advice, "more cowbell".

Franz Ferdinand - also fab. Best bit was Alex Kapranos introducing their biggest hit Take Me Out with the line, "This is an old song, made famous by Vera Lynn in the 1940s."

Tom Vek - hadn't really got him before, but hearing a 14-year-old boy sing the same sentence 18 times in a row is really surprisingly addictive. You must try it sometime.

Saturday:
Apocalyptica - four classically-trained cellists and a drummer play Metallica covers. Unbelievably this was in the main tent. Still more unbelievably, they do this without a hint of humour. Even more unbelievably, it was great.

Maximo Park - very loud, very cool. I kept getting the sneaking suspicion they'd become 2005's Shed Seven. Is this a bad thing? Discuss.

Arcade Fire - sheer genius. Definitely one of the top three gigs I've ever seen. Never have I felt so grateful for the existence of Canadians. And if that wasn't good enough, their drummer climbed the lighting rig.

Art Brut - Eddie Argos is my hero, even with that moustache. This actually bordered on stand-up, but with amazing tunes.

Pixies - I always forget how sprightly and poppy the Pixies are. They're not like Nirvana at all! Started slightly cocky, with an ultra-slow Wave of Mutilation, but that was probably just Frank Black saving his voice.

The Others - only caught the end of this, but got to see Dominic Masters screaming "disappointment!" into the mike. He loves doing this.

Sunday:
Morcheeba - they've got a new singer. I was sceptical, because she kept grinning as if she'd been told "look like you're enjoying yourself!" beforehand. But her sweetasanut saxophone solo won the crowd over. Me and Jamie hung back and smoked.

Sons and Daughters - it's a cracking album, but the old ones dragged a bit. Note: lead guitarist looks like villain out of Die Another Day.

Futureheads - much more FUN than you'd think. After all, their lyrics are really silly (in a good way).

Nick Cave - Only saw the first four. Liked him, but still don't understand what it all means.

Foo Fighters - best bit was when Dave Grohl took to the drums. The drum kit fits round him like a Grohl-shaped box. He has a unique way of banging cymbals, it's almost hypnotic.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Take a haiku

Spent most of Saturday grappling with James Bond (feature I'm trying to write). Later, met Birdy and Emily for a brief drink in Arch 635. Cool bar, bizarrely situated beneath the train track - every now and again you could hear an ominous rumbling overhead. For some reason, the only place left for us to sit was a vaulting horse, the kind usually confined to gyms. Don't know what it was doing there (everything else was comfy sofas and bar stools), but definite haiku material:

On a vaulting horse
The three of us sat in line
And drank, legs dangling.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Gone to the dogs

Yesterday I went down to Wimbledon stadium to the greyhound racing. Met up with my old schoolfriend Si, who I haven't seen in ages. He's been living in London for some months now, but this is the first time we've met up because we're both crap.

It was a strange old night. I thought it would be a "once you've seen one greyhound race, you've seen them all" situation, but the night flew towards 10.30 (last race) with surprising speed. I bet a fiver on a dog called Farloe Heights to win. He didn't. Demoralised, I bet a lowly two quid on Glen Rebel to win. He didn't either. So I spent my money on pints of Carslberg, which is clearly a much better investment. Si, of course, made about thirty quid.

We were struck by how many younger people were there. Canadian Simon said we could've been in a club, and he was right: there were lots of 18-24s in shirts, standing around chatting, clutching their plastic pint glasses. Paul suggested that there were probably a lot of people attending "for a joke". The 'ironic' visit to the dogtrack. And maybe that was why we were there, but it was still much fun. I liked the way that because the names of the hounds are so unwieldy, people were cheering numbers. "Come on four! FOOOOUUURR!!!" and so on.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Crisp innovation league

Saw an advert yesterday for an invention that will surely shake the world of crisps to its very core. A jumbo pack of Doritos that opens side-on. Thus solving the irritating sticking-your-hand-in routine when sharing crisps.

I really hope there's a trendy creative who got paid millions to come up with that idea. In my opinion, he moves swiftly into 3rd place in the 21st Century Crisp Innovation League, just behind the kid who came up with Walker's Sensations ("I've got it! Crisps for posh people!") and the girl wonder who realised they should put the flavour on the inside of Hula Hoops as well as the outside ("If we could just find a way to get the flavour on both sides. Hold on...!").

Went for a drink last night with my friend Rick, who I've known for 16 years now. We met up in this Clapham bar called Rinky Dinks (horrible name), where Rick claimed his brother recently saw Val Kilmer (who is, in fact, in London, doing The Postman Always Rings Twice). He told me that one of his friends had recently been beaten up in Brixton "by 15 black guys" as revenge for the murder of teenager Anthony Walker and had both his legs broken. Rick said that he'd been going to the gym a bit more as a precaution. I'm not sure this'll help him much if he does get attacked, but if it makes him happy...

Then we saw this bloke we both knew at university walking past. He stopped to have a drink too. You know how people with more common names often get given a prefix ("Crazy Jamie", "Swiss Andy" etc)? Well this guy has it worse than most. He's known as Gyno John. Because his Dad is a gynaecologist. And the funny thing is: everyone calls him this, all the time.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Vaughan Supremacy

Cricket news: congratulations to England captain Mr Michael Vaughan on his excellent century and return to form with the bat. Also, thanks are due for giving me the excuse to use the fabulous pun above.

Lost time

Last night was the British debut of Lost on Channel 4. The hype had been pretty massive, which I suppose is what you get when you do a massively expensive and stylised David LaChappelle trailer. There's also the 10pm Wednesday night factor: everyone assumes it'll automatically be the next Six Feet Under because it's from America, it's about an hour an episode, and Channel 4 are sticking it on at 10 on Wednesday nights. Like Desperate Housewives.

But unlike Desperate Housewives, Lost was pretty cliché-free and actually rather good. So far, it's hard to tell whether it's going the way of X-Files sci-fi, Jurassic Park action, or Twin Peaks weirdness and such genre-defying tricksiness is part of the appeal.

Okay, the script had it's dodgy moments: it was only five minutes in before the hero, Jack, went off on a dreamy flashback-eyed reminiscence ("It was my first surgical procedure. I was a surgeon in downtown Brooklyn. I had to perform a quasi-cervical-spinotrachteochtomy on a 16-year-old girl," he waxed) and the end of the third episode (yes, I kept watching) finished with this horrible everyone's-happy musical interlude, but otherwise it was totally gripping.
And Dominic Monaghan arguably stole the show - hasn't he come a long way since the days of Hetty Wainthrop Investigates?!

My evening reached ecstatic levels when odious housemate Craig was evicted from Big Brother; the sneering man-child fool was finally sent packing. He is part of a horrible new breed of Big Brother goons, who spend more and more time discussing their post-BB "careers" while still in the house and talk of their "fanbase", despite having no contact with the outside world. Now he's out, I'm not sure whether I'd prefer Craig to be completely ignored by the world and to sink back into obscurity, or for him to get his oft-pined for chatshow just so he can mess it up and experience public humiliation on an even grander scale.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Back in the USSR

My friend, flatmate and onetime colleague Paul is supposed to be heading off to Moscow tomorrow. He got a job working for Russia Today TV, this new government-funded television station which is designed to portray Russia as a fun-loving happy place, rather than a gloomy vodka-soaked dystopia.

Anyway, to celebrate his departure, it was decided that on Saturday we should get extremely drunk and then go and do karaoke in a private room. And that was exactly what happened. It's been a while since I've seen so much mayhem, but I guess that's what you get if you stick eight reprobates in a small room with a microphone and keep bringing them beer.

There are a number of hazy memories, but special mention must go to Darren's rendition of Ghostbusters (dedicated to Robin Cook), Canadian Simon's unbelievable Axel Rose impersonations and (oh my God, memory fragments keep drifting back; I think I did ELO's Mr Blue Sky, but I'm not sure) the obligatory Back in the USSR shout-along. Hurrah.

I should probably finish this with Paul's rather eloquent farewell message:

Comrade Stalin once said: "You have a man, you have a problem; if you have no man, you have no problem." And so I will be gone.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Debut

Er. Hello. I'm a bit scared about this blogging business. As I was signing up, I thought, wow, this is so self-indulgent. Come and read about my fascinating life. But then Jimi Hendrix was pretty self-indulgent wasn't he? And he made pretty good noises. Not that I have the talent of Hendrix – no, I'm probably closer to Donovan.

So anyway, if you don't know me, I'm Will. I live in Stockwell – don't worry, I'm not a terrorist, relax. And I'm 24. Boring, huh? But there is one very unusual thing about me: I am secretly a centaur.

Anyway, I'm at work at the moment, so I should really get on with stuff. I work in central London, for a website. I sort out the words, content and that, nothing too technical. Sometimes I do some cheeky freelance hackery on the side, but only occasionally.

So there's historic entry number one. This truly will be a day to remember forever.