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Saturday, 31 May 2008

fleet foxes

fleetWIth my manic rushing yesterday, I had to jump into the car in the afternoon to dash some work related material somewhere. I hurriedly grabbed the new Fleet Foxes CD to listen to in my travels. From the opening, it broke into my conscious like an early start to a peaceful weekend.

Strong, harmonious vocals and crisp instrumentation. A kind of chilled american folk style (not country & western) which emanates from Seattle (a favourite place of mine) and delights throughout the album.

In the little piece of paper that dropped out of the sleeve, it said they had recorded a lot of the tracks in various people's homes and that they'd done the recording as much for their own pleasure as anyone else's.

I found it a highly entertaining listen, my criticism being more one of my mindset at the time of playing, when I was in a mad, driven work mode and the guiles of this music had a possibility of slowing down my internal bpm more than I needed. But thats more about me than them.
fleet foxes CD and extra bits
Its quite difficult to categorize their musical style which is quite varied within folk-based roots, harmonies, gospel like interludes, some quite baroque moments across a wide variety of instruments. I'm reminded of a favourite band of mine, the Decemberists, for their range, albeit a somewhat different form of story telling. And I like bands that can play and sing well and want to cut their own rather unique path.

I see they are playing the meltdown on the South Bank in a couple of weeks; I assume they will get some UK publicity at this time and its good to see some new and interesting folk bands on the scene.
fleet foxes

Friday, 30 May 2008

line

too much coffee
Awake 4am trying to dream sleep formulae.
Still hope, still open for business.
A wash of moments flittering,
tugging clock hands,
drifting ever closer to deadline.
Not stopping as reverse
calculations become necessary.
Minutes brush away hours.
Small devices contrive to add delay.
No toner. More paper.
Bright red cut drips onto everything.
Others demand. Norway next Friday. Hotel Monday.
Laura in a church.
Make a neat bundle and a second one.
Large print on white covering.
Car keys. Apply business look.
Start out whilst everyone else
winds down.
Take the second exit at the roundabout and continue to follow the A33.
Felt mountain on M4.
Wobbling Vaux. Two cops outside.
Gates, barrier, rotating lights.
Reflective jacket.
Package. Done.

cheesy post

ye olde cheshire cheese
Here's a picture I took a few days ago...

This is one of those weeks where I'm just about keeping my head above water. I think its a feature of short weeks (courtesy of Bank Holidays) and single days off (Tuesday).

The rest of the week becomes compressed as a consequence of the missing days. So by Friday, when this post should bip its way into the blogosphere, I'm hoping that I'll be back on top of whatever it is I'm doing.

I don't very often pre-post, but can't resist experimenting with blogger's post-dated function, hence creating this on Wednesday whilst sipping tea before diving back into the maelstrom.

If I really had time to drop into the Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street on Friday evening then I'd be making progress, but I'll have to leave it for the inquisitive tourists. It'll still be there the next time I'm passing, judging by its heritage.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

white out

invasion
Working hard to reduce the panic attacks.

an eco-friendly recycled post

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

gone fishing...

DSC_1678
...well not really, I don't think I'd have the patience.

But I'm probably going to be rather busy for the next few days and that may impact my attempts to string words together for blogging.

I don't have any 'backup' entries at the moment so anything that appears until the weekend will be even more opportunistic than usual.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

East coast

DSC_1686
Today's part of the extended Bank Holiday involved a trip to the seaside. We picked a particular location over leisurely breakfast as a casual, last minute change of plan.

Arriving, the sun had forgotten to shine and the place was rather more 'atmospheric' as a result. We wandered about looking at the sea and the deserted beaches before seeking a point for refreshment.

Cutting through an alley back to the small high street, we were greeted by voices from behind us and without any prior discussion, there was Ray the Sax and Val, who'd made completely independent plans to visit the same place.

I think I'd only ever been to the small town maybe once or twice before, never talked about it and only selected it on a whim this morning. Ray and Val had planned to visit another place which had a power outage thus moving along the coast, creating this tiny frame of co-incidence.

Monday, 26 May 2008

music 2.0?

Audizen MT9 Music 2.0
We are still away at a country retreat, last night listening to midnight owls and today watching more rain sweep across the Bank Holiday countryside.

The chillout time has also given me a chance to make lazy but satisfying progress on one of my sundry non-work projects, of which there will be more later, as they say.

Aside from that project, I've also said I'll help with some sound mixing but that also requires a block of time and my next few weekends already seem to be getting rather busy. So I'm interested in the sparse information about the new Music 2.0 format just announced which uses a new format called MT9, where the individual instruments in an mp3 like stream can be volume adjusted. Like knocking out the vocals or the lead guitar. Karaoke City.

The specifications are in Chinese at the moment, so I've struggled a bit to follow it, but it seems to include mastering, distribution and licencing models.

I can't imagine most people will want to fiddle with the individual track levels, so I guess it has a specialised audience, and if its driven from an mp3 like format then I wonder if it would be good enough for anyone 'serious' about mixing?

We shall see.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

wet

DSC_3172Away for this rainy weekend, which has created some changes of plan.

I can watch the rain hitting the table outside and take solace that the weather is no better for the Grand Prix in Monaco where they keep changing tyres and (less understandably) nose-cones.

Quite a contrast from yesterday's Pimms outdoors whilst watching the swans guarding their cygnets.
DSC_3158

Saturday, 24 May 2008

long weekend

DSC_3149
Made the most of the Saturday sunshine, because, true to form, I'm told that the rest of the weekend will be damp. So here's some water, in the right place, in a scenic hole in the ground, seen during today's wanderings.

Friday, 23 May 2008

stacked

IMG_1473
Earning one's bread in the City has its share of occupational hazards, like the occasional lunch, business related drink or inevitable meeting in a coffee shop somewhere. Each of these little events can generate new ideas and things to do, so that by the end of a week like this one, I've still got a stack of 'to dos' to get 'done' before I can settle into the weekend.

Sometimes, like now when I'm sitting in Paternoster Square quietly eating a sandwich from M&S, I can clear my head for a few minutes before the next item appears in the hopper. It may seem slightly anti-social, sitting here alone, but its curiously refreshing.

Shoo, pigeons, its mine.
DSC_3088

Thursday, 22 May 2008

buddy good

screenshot_01
Some real feel good factor entertainment yesterday evening. We all met in Covent Garden, Julie opened the carrier bag with the black glasses frames and then we rushed around the corner to the Duchess to see Buddy Holly, the musical. What can I say? It was great evening. None of us were really Buddy Holly 'fans' or even knew an awful lot, but as we watched the joyful musical, we realized that we each knew already about a dozen Buddy Holly songs - and they were all good.
screenshot_05
The cast were full of energy and as it was a Wednesday, they'd probably all been in a matinee earlier in the day. Simple story, Buddy starts as a Country and Western singer. Rebels. Various contracts get torn up. Goes to Decca record label. They want C&W too. Rebels. More contracts get torn up. Finds a small producer. Makes multiple number 1 singles. Meets wife-to-be. And so the story goes on. We all know the sad ending.

Its a small theatre, we were in the stalls near the front. Amongst those in the full theatre there were another 100 with Buddy glasses and the intent to have a whoop, cheer, whistle and generally be a good crowd for the people on stage. And it seemed to work. Those on stage played and sang with great energy and seemed to get a genuine delight from the audience response.
screenshot_04
If I had to take random London visitors to a show, I think this would be high on any short list. And the good news, its also touring as I discovered by the clever advertising handed out when we were expected to be the audience in a snow bound theatre in Clear Lake, Iowa. So non-Londoners, keep a lookout. Oops, I need to tone down the gushing praise. But why? we all really enjoyed it!

Check out the great website here

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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

anywhere i lay my head

anywhere I lay my head
I've had a chance to listen to the Scarlett Johansson album of Tom Waits covers now, via iPod. It's a sort of sincere but tragic report.

I'll believe the story from Scarlett that she really likes Tom Waits and thats why she chose his songs for her album of covers. No-one would do that lightly when there's so much pap to choose from. As an enthusiastic listener to Tom Waits tracks (an acquired taste, I'm sure), I'd really wanted to like this and to get some different interpretations.

Sadly, it comes across a bit like a moderately musical friend's attempt rather than a professionally produced recording.

I suppose the agenda creates a combination of tricky vocals, the need for some slightly chaotic sounding accompaniment and ideally a sensible production that is sympathetic to the singer's range.

Regrettably not.

I can't fathom who mastered the production, but on several tracks the band drown the vocals and themselves seem a little muddied. In other places the accompaniment which is alleged to be from a swampy studio in Louisiana seems to be surviving on old Woolworths 1980's Casio organs. Waits might be able to get away with such tricks, but here it just sounds cheesy.

In fact I can't understand how they've managed to make a couple of the tracks sound like 10cc or Pet Shop Boys.

I think this is quite a pity. Tom Waits has a varied and interesting catalogue and there should be some songs in there which Johansson could sing in a way that was flattering to her vocal range and evocative of the the soundscapes which Waits creates. It comes close on "Green Grass" and maybe the David Bowie backing tracked "Fannin' Street", but overall I'm having to listen with too much sympathy rather than genuine enjoyment.

And I do come to this wanting it to be a good album. I'm not expecting a direct comparison with Waits and indeed was hoping for different ways to interpret the songs. My idle thought is to have a quick go at a remix of one of the tracks to see whether something could be rescued. This isn't the idea when one buys commercial CDs and I think the production team should be made to go back and have another go at mastering this properly instead of just putting all the tracks on +6dB with some 1980s compression. Perhaps its a peril of being a fan of Mr Waits. To Scarlett I say, "Thank you for trying".

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

terminal

IMG_1463
T5 today seemed to be in pretty good working order, relatively calm and surprisingly few people around. I had the same experience a few days ago in Terminal 1, which now has some parts closed during its continued use whilst planes are progressively cut over to the new terminal.

I suppose we've got a period of semi calm with effectively twice the terminal space for the ex BA T1 passengers until T5 is fully on stream. My time hanging around inspired one of those 140 character novels for twitter.

Despite impressions, the short stay car park was pretty full and needed some driving around to find a space; what sort of a fool would film it?

Monday, 19 May 2008

confer

chez gerardChez Gérard today for a spot of bizzo lunch. We had a car to take us there, although it turned out to be a miniscule distance away. Between the salade de saucisson fumé, tajine de légumes, penne au poulet crème de Gorgonzola and, for some, - er - steak, we talked seriously about various business matters and compared bad flights.

I can usually throw in some good stories if I describe my 'plane leaking large amounts of water inside', 'cowering on the floor at Ben Gurion whilst soldiers with guns ran about' or 'one engine on fire landing in the desert' but today we were more at the 'what happened at Terminal 5' level of discussion.

Then back to the office for a continued discussions, finishing late so that I missed my next conference call and then had to spend a couple of hours catching up on preparations for tomorrow's meetings. At least I missed the rush hour on the way home.

amy b away a while

amy and pete 1
My lastfm stats have gone strangely jazzy as a consequence of accidentally leaving Amy Winehouse playing for about 4 days whilst travelling.

Because it was on the mac mini connected to the television it didn't show or make any sound until the right channel was selected again.

So I just accidentally bumped the stats by about 2000 of looping silent shuffle plays.

oops.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Scarlett Johansson kisses Tom Waits

scarlett penelope kiss
Scarlett Johansson's kissing with Penelope Cruz and the manage a trois with Javier Bardem, seems to be getting more publicity than Scarlett's Tom Wait's music album. The amorous moments were for Woody Allen's screenplay of Vicki Christina Barcelona and I'm sure the red lit photography dark room shot of the two women together only escaped from the closed set by accident.

Johansson plays American backpacker Christina in Spain and gets involved with painter Bardem, and his jealous ex-girlfriend Cruz. Scarlett isn't new to the use of affectionate photographs as part of publicity, such as this one on the red carpet with good friend Natalie Portman for that Boleyn girl film back in February.
Scarlett and Natalie
But let's face it, we wanna know whether Scarlett can sing Tom Waits songs well? She claims to have listened since twelve and trekked away to a misty swampland recording studio in Louisiana to make it happen. I'll believe the publicity on this one. Tom Waits is not exactly the way to popular acclaim in music although regular rashbre central readers will know its high on the list of favourites around here.

The problem is that we have to wait for the album. The company have gone all private and secret and pulled any early tracks so that only the LA Times and similar can review it first. In the way of things, it presents rashbre central with a dilemma. Whether to post a couple of rather raw cuts without production. They give an impression (you can hear a click track on the second one), but are not like the proper production of the album.

Scarlett Johansson sings Tom Waits (live in studio)

yesterday
falling

It'll have to be reviewed separately when the produced version escapes - get a sense from this video.

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Saturday, 17 May 2008

extermiknit

dalekAs solidarity for Mazzmatazz, rashbre central has developed the five minute instadalek(TM) which can be constructed from a single sheet of A4 paper. Those who missed the original story might not know that Doctor Who(TM), bastion of family viewing traditions prevents a fan Mazzmatazz from distributing (free) knitting patterns of a few of the friendly monsters(TM) on the internet.

The full instructions for the rashbre central instadalek are posted here in flickr and I think we can all agree that the final product looks particularly scary.

I'm behind the sofa right now.
Insta Dalek 9

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Friday, 16 May 2008

dust on their boots

raconteurs
Jools had half the current rashbre car CDs on display tonight with The Raconteurs, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Bon Iver. Add the Chatham County Line (not in the CD player) and the whole theme was sort of Wild West, with guitars, steel, violins, mandolins and banjos. Dust on everyone's boots. Dig, Lazarus, Dig.
recording dig lazarus dig

Thursday, 15 May 2008

this one's for petunia


Mobile phone etiquette continues to change with the times. It used to be that when you rang someone professionally and they answered you'd say something like "Is now a good time to talk?"

Times move on.

Now, in some situations, you have to do the same if you walk up to them face to face. It's bluetooth that's done it. You can't always tell when some people are on the phone. Maybe they have a distant look, or they appear to be talking to themselves and if their head is tilted, it could be that they're packing a bluetooth headset.

So "Is now a good time to talk?" is sometimes needed face to face.

Its overtaken the accidental phone calls from speed-dialling in peoples' pockets and bags. We've all had them. Those footsteps on gravel or train compartment bing bong calls with no speech.

My most recent masterpiece was an accidentablog when I managed take a photo of some palm bushes in a Spanish street and automatically post it to flickr without realizing. I only spotted it yesterday when I returned home. The wonders of connectedness.

It can only escalate.

one laptop per child

one laptop per child

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

fly, baby, fly


Spain on business and a mini phone movie of my return trip. It was a way to deflect the rather excessive problems within the airport. I arrived and yippee, the line for BA was empty. I was eticketed and fed my executive club card into one of the machines. Nada. "Please go to the checkin", it said.

So I did. "BA blah", I explained. "Euw", they replied (in Spanish), "you can't do that here, its codeshare with them over there". They pointed to a very long and irregular line of people.

"OK", I groaned. But I was in my zen-like "airport mode" where nothing that anyone does can affect me.

I join the new big line and stem the undercutting Swedes who are trying to invent a way to bypass those of us who are good mannered. The Americans at the front of the line have two huge items of luggage and the longest story possible to explain why they think they should take it onto the plane intead of having it tagged. After ten minutes, they get processed and the line moves forward.

Strangely, none of the other lines seem to be moving and then ours also stops.

I cast my eye along and guess that there has been a computer failure, based upon the level of inactivity from all of the checkin staff between rows 8 and 52. I can't see around into the next zone and start wondering if my card would work in that Spanish machine with all the cartoon pictures. We wait 20 more minutes without moving and the line starts to evaporate away as people try their own plan Bs. I take a phone conference call which I'd originally planned to take from airside.

After my meeting there's an announcement "The computer systems are broken", it explains in crackly Spanish. It sounds as if the PA system is also in need of attention.

I spot that the counter staff have started typing again and, sure enough, we are ready to move forward. Finally, front of line I get ticketed and my bag checked and then the lady tears my luggage tag in half. "You havn't paid", she says, "Yes I have", I protest rather feebly knowing I'm about to be sent to another line.

I use eye contact to say that I want to come back to the front of the line after I've been processed elsewhere and she agrees. Now for the cashier part. I've had this happen before when flights get changed and the excess gets paid but one airline doesn't pay another airline in time. I know I have to pay and then let the accountants sort it out afterwards. Now with etickets its much harder to to prove everything.

Another counter. Kerching.

Amex extraction and I'm ready to get my bag checked.

Back to the line. Straight to the front. Smile to the lady. She stops the other checking-in and immediately tags my bag. Now I can go to departures.

I won't explain the fun they had with gate changes, or the delayed aircrew.

Suffice to say we took off 40 minutes late and arrived 30 minutes late but my bag was first off the plane.

Instead, heres me taking off from cloudy Barcelona and ...

Here's me landing at green and pleasant Heathrow accompanied by the Portishead inspired Jazz fusion playing from the plane's speaker system...

I quite like that landing video. If you look carefully (in fullscreen mode) you can see a police roadblock (clockwise) as we flew over the M25. That explains the absence of traffic. The jolt was real when we hit the tarmac and the cameraphone jumped forward.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

catalonia

el principal
Another hectic day, finished with a Catalan supper in a rather stylish restaurant in Barcelona. I knew it would be a late one when we didn't leave to visit the restaurant until around 21:30 and an agreeable and leisurely conversation then ensued until well past one o' clock in the morning.

A short taxi ride back, but I declined the offers of further refreshment because I knew I had an 07:00 breakfast appointment on Tuesday.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Simon Amstell - innocent smoothie?

Simon Amstell Woking
We met for some stand-up comedy Sunday evening. Simon Amstell describes himself as a skinny Jewish homosexual comic and we had an entertaining evening listening to his stories, with him presumably powered by Benylin or some other form of medical assistance.

After a short introductory session by an accomplished warm up, Simon took us through two halves of conversational musings about life, existence, one-ness and relationships - with more than a dash of comic despair included in the ingredients. Quite a thoughtful act delivered slickly and with occasional dives into asides with the audience. There was ranging philosophy being used as a vehicle to make points and deliver a payload of humour too.
simon-amstell
Plenty of laughter and notably better than another recent standup I'd seen, who co-incidentally was referenced during the act.

I'm not sure how the jellybaby got onto the stage or if Amstell was as ill as he sounded, but he showed a trouper's spirit in the second half, despite some sort of bug. An enjoyable evening and I hope he gets some more entertaining write-ups to add to his collection on chortle.com.

Throughout the show, his stage sign displayed his name in reverse, perhaps symbolising that he's kind of running parts of his own career in an unusual order.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

it'll be a breeze

so little time, so much to do
Idyllic Sunday with early morning gentle bicycle ride and kudos to the various folk who say 'hello' as we pass one another at that time of day.

Then followed by an amble through the newspapers, but things have now begun to become trifle hectic.

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0I've just realized my 'end point' for the day has been brought forward to around 17:00 when I'm supposed to be be heading out to meet, eat, then off to a comedy show, then home, then pack for a madly early start tomorrow.

Little chance for a carving out a cognitive surplus here today.

And I've got a couple of hours of 'proper work' to squeeze in today, so I'd better stop this 'architecture of participation' blogging malarky for the day.

Well, maybe after a cup of coffee (not gin or sitcoms).

Ooh, that was the ice- cream van passing.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

bohemian rashbre

bohemian raspberry
I tried to stand clear of the freezer, but the song kept ringing in my ears. I feel a lot better for liberating a little of the ice cream. And its still sunny.

tipple topple

topple

Friday, 9 May 2008

coinic

nostalgia of pay and displayA quick zap to Cheltenham on Friday morning and the nostalgia of street parking with ordinary pay and display - coins and little tickets to put on the dashboard.

In Westminster now, unless its the weekend or after hours, the act of parking can trick unsuspecting irregulars with the dial up parking meters.

Its simple enough in theory.

The individual meters have been replaced with a monoblock unit for a number of bays and you buy a ticket for around 20p for 3 minutes or multiples thereof. Except the units all have mysterious faults and it is necessary to pay by phone instead.
Pay by phone"No problemo", I hear you cry. Well it isn't after the first time through the system.

The first time involves enrollment and the act of typing in about 25 numbers, at the end of which you get flipped to a real live operator who is there to take the money. The receipt is't a ticket, just a text message back to the phone. Oh, and an automatic text reminder x minutes before the end if you ask for it.

Its amusing in some areas with notoriously regularly broken meters (like behind Oxford Street) to watch people struggling their way through the system. The interesting thing about it is the difference compared with the act of feeding a meter.

There's a kind of coinic precision to the calculation about "how long will I stay here?" when its done whilst feeding the meter. Adding 20p and 50p at a time and watching the little clock go around. On the phone it becomes "Oh, say eight quids worth, please" (thats 2 hours in the middle zones).

Travel smart and use Oyster, of course.

glitter and doom


Yes, it includes Europe - and - a rarity below.
Always keep a diamond in your mind.








urbanissimo

IMG_0886
Time for a segue from greenery and sunshine back towards the city:

"Photograph caption : Inside the Bohemian Grove : This photoessay captures the spirit of the fine balance between rural surroundings and the encroachment of the City. In most versions of the story, the City wins and farmers and rural folk become parts of the ever-radiating machine. In this scene, it seems to have worked the other way around where the apparatus of city life is captured and annulled by the elemental forces of nature. First, Fire quenches the power of the city's machine to move, then Earth starts to sprout vines to surround and ensnare it. Water plays a part by creating the corrosion of the remaining skeleton and Air carries away the specks of rust as this manifestation of the struggle is played out. What is left is a Bohemian Grove, with a trophy of Moloch as a center of worship."

Ok, so I made it up.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

bucolic

IMG_1431
More greenery Wednesday as I took a meander whilst mulling the options in my current work assignment. Not a red bus in sight today. I'll be working late, but its good to have seen the sunshine.

Oh, and the brown sheep.

Baaa.
IMG_1426

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

bluebells

DSC_1725
Don't leave it until May to dispose of last season's Christmas tree.

Not high on the priority list, it was tucked away forlornly and then Tuesday I remembered to ask Alan with the flatbed if he'd throw it on along with the grass cuttings. I was just about to head out for a short bicycle spin through the sunny lanes and didn't give it a second thought.

And so the meander through the fresh green of the new leaves, enjoying the waft from the soft verges of bluebells and surprising a few noonday basking bunnies along the way. And mission accomplished, I returned just as Alan was lobbing the tree onto his truck.

"Quick word", he said, "I think I've annoyed one of your neighbours", and then described a minor altercation, "See ya", he said, as he jumped into the truck. "Which neighbour?", I mused.
DSC_1728

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

sliding doors

Chequers
I'll admit a certain scepticism using a Bank Holiday Monday to go out sliding door hunting for the bedroom. It could have meant time in traffic with lots of other shoppers in mad pursuit of bargains, but actually, it felt more like a quiet and pleasant visit to a sunny riverside pub.

Which was exactly what we did after the informative visit to the slippy slidey door place.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

whalesong for sunday

whalesong transmitter location
... or to just be chilled, listen to the beautiful whalesong. Via soubriquet and live here from the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Play loud and be patient, its live from the ocean. Amazing.

any 15 year old can play GTA 4?


The Telegraph and the Times, two upholders of moral values in the UK both appeared to give the new game about car theft, gangland violence and misogyny a thumb's up recently.

Where is the line between gratuitous commercialism and satirical art form? In the Baby Boomer generation or Generation X there would be hippies, Zappa, Monty Python, Spitting Image or Now Show to rail against conventional values and make points about how we all live our lives. Where is the multi channel Generation Y equivalence to these perspectives?

This purported car chase game, with a 15+ predominantly male demographic (yeah, I know it says 18 on the pack), is already a winner for Rockstar Arts, Sony Corporation's Playstation and Microsoft's XBox360 (see the new bundled savings etc).

The target market has queued in lines to buy it at midnight throughout the globe and it will become a pervasive houseparty item amongst 15-35 year old boys. It paints a realistically rendered crime-based underbelly to New York complete with spoof TV and radio channels espousing bling and materialism. Is it so different from the real world?

From the early days of computer gaming whilst shooting blobs in mazes, via first person shooter-em-ups like Quake in the mid 90s, Lara Croft in the late 90s and to the 21st Century 3D rendering of Halo and this game, there's been a steady march to towards graphically realistic violence in the games and more latterly a sense of an elementary (im)moral structure interposed.

A strata of kids are already immersed in this multi player experience, ferrying gangland bosses at any cost through the streets of an alternative New York, using any form of weaponry they can obtain to complete their mission.

And in the new game, the 'women as objects' coding typified by the suppressed 'hot coffee' modifications to the previous version appear to be back in new forms along with cheats downloadable via 'Nico's phone ' in the game.

Which brings it to the question.

Is GTA IV a modern art form, portraying a tongue-in-cheek version of a New York City with some kind of mirror held up to exaggerate the values of early 21st century living? Or could it be a cultural virus, intended to push thinking to a new level of negative behaviour? Or simply the 21st century manifestation of Pacman?

I don't have the patience or interest to spend time playing these games, but I do wonder about the impact they have in modern thinking.

So, does this long term gaming in realistic environments affect behaviour? does it override or offset other social values? does the game stop at the off switch? Can the switch ever be reset once turned on?

Saturday, 3 May 2008

bojo rising

boris jogs our thinkingBoth my taxi drivers on Thursday were supporting Boris, although neither actually had a London vote. One lived in Canvey Island and the other in Hertfordshire. They both made the point that they hated the way Gordon was running the country and that it was time for a change. I found the linkage between national politics and the way London needs to operate somewhat tenuous, as I suspect did Ken Livingstone, who kept a slightly distant participation of Brown in his campaign.

Cameron, on the other hand, was all over the Boris campaign, suggesting the full Tory munitions were wheeled out to buffer the buffoon. "Team Boris" comprised skilled handlers to keep Boris between the guard-rails of acceptability required during the campaigning stage. They don't want him getting in any more hot stew with Papua New Guinea or Liverpool even the Conservative Diary didn't know what to make of those bloopers.

The paid-for newspaper read by most Londoners is the Evening Standard (which is owned by the moaning, alarmist 'sell it with a Diana pic' Daily Mail's Associated Press) and the Stannit cleverly presented a strongly negative Livingstone image in the run-up, without any obvious counter through the freebee papers, which somehow operate in a different news galaxy. The Standard's approach could be worthy of a media studies course, using the big stories for slagging off Ken, whilst running small font credits in the back pages with the stair lift adverts.

Andrew Gilligan of the Standard was at County Hall yesterday night (oddly, it is St Boris Day on 2 May) and defended their position as factually critical, and that there would now start to be a similar analysis of Boris. I suppose from a news perspective it gives a brilliant new set of clichés to invent and roll out, including plundering of the Private Eye war-chest.
bullington
Some of today''s press is saying that Boris is clever and thoughtful, with his Etonian and Oxford high profile roles. They say he got further up the popularity pole in those places than David Cameron and that may have influenced Cameron's entry to the elitist toff Bullington dining club. His birth in America means he also jokes in such circles about running for Mizter Prezident. Perhaps after he's restarted his gin drinking and had a good scoff, he'll come up with some policies that were not written in detention by a couple of his job-experience aides.

We will all be watching you, Boris.

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bojo does london

boris does london
I see a routemaster full of cynics
Who want to twist the peoples' wrist
They're counting every vote we make
We're all included on the list

The lunatics have taken over the asylum
Boris has taken over London

No philander the buffoon lied to us
but who are we to disagree
'Cos when the madman flips the switch
Thirteen Billion money gushes free

Bojo has taken over London
The lunatics have taken over the asylum

I've seen the faces of the citizens
But i just can not see the points
'Cos there's so much rhetoric here today
That no one wants to take away

The lunatics have taken over the asylum
Bojo has taken over the asylum
A hypocrite has taken over the asylum - take away sane right to choose
Bojo has taken over the asylum - corrupt my point of view
One hundred forty thousand have taken over the asylum
- take away my dignity,
Boris has taken over London - bandwaggoning immediately

Bojo's taken over the asylum
The lunatics have taken over the asylum - take away my proud city,
Take away the right to speak
The lunatics have taken over the asylum
Please, Boris, treat this city carefully

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Friday, 2 May 2008

homeland

laurie1
I overcame the gods of travel conspiring against me yesterday evening. First there was a car strewn across the M3 on its side facing the wrong way with its passengers standing on the hard shoulder. This created a 20 minute penalty.

Then there was a brand new Citroen with what looked like the front wheels sticking out sideways collapsed right on the ramp leading to the bridge over the Hogarth's roundabout. Another 30 minute penalty.

So my math for Barbican arrival time changed as I ditched the car in Belgravia cabbed to the venue arriving to that tell tale sign of lateness, an empty lobby.

I sped, guided, through the confusing corridors of the Barbican and snuck into the darkened and candle-lit auditorium and Laurie Anderson was already playing and singing, with a familiar style and a small accompaniment of excellent musicians.

Homeland is a 90 minute work about America, with a mixture of sung and spoken commentary, a few off the wall observations and some ironic humour. As I settled into listening, the new work had a familiarity of style alongside a newness of content and topicality, with references to state control, experts telling experts about problems, US elections, the Iraq war ("anyone can join") as well as more familiar Anderson territory. I liked the segment about being able to look at the stars in wonder, knowing that man had not messed with them, but aware that mankind was reaching, reaching. Oh and that one day the last trumpet might sound, but it would have very sparkly EQ.

There was some voice processing and much signature clapping and percussive loop accompaniment alongside the strong ensemble of Peter Scherer on keyboard, Skuli Sverrisson on bass guitar and Okkyung Lee on violin. I was transported into the moment.

Homeland carries the distinctive form of other Laurie Anderson music, linked together in one continuous performance piece. I thought I'd somehow been remiss in not buying the CD along the way, but it dawned on me that this was all new music and I finally discovered that the album won't be available until 2009.

For me, the evening was like a very enjoyable conversation with a first rate artist performer.


Highline festival version of "Only an expert can deal with a problem"

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Barbican

Laurie Anderson
I'll be spending the evening at the Barbican to see Laurie Anderson performing Homeland. Always entertaining experimental art music, but I find friends back away when I suggest listening.

One of Laurie Anderson's set pieces is a series about America called United States I-IV, and the Homeland piece is a kind 2008 extension of the thinking. I can still remember buying United States I-IV during a trip to New York. When I visit Manhattan, I like to take back a small carry-on artifact such as an "I love NY" mug, Statue of Liberty pencil sharpener or some fake Oakleys from Canal Street.
Generation records Bleecker
On this particular occasion, I was visiting the really small sushi bar in Bleecker Street with Steve when I spotted the Laurie Anderson "United States" boxed set in the window of Generation Records. I didn't buy it then, because the sushi was calling, but the next day it was still in the window until I removed it. A perfect New York souvenir.

I met this guy - and he looked like might have
been a hat check clerk at an ice rink.
Which, in fact, he turned out to be.

And I said:
Oh boy. Right again.

Let X=X. You know, it could be you.
It's a sky-blue sky. Satellites are out tonight.
Let X=X.

You know, I could write a book. And this book would
be thick enough to stun an ox. Cause I can see the
future and it's a place - about 70 miles east of
here. Where it's lighter. Linger on over here.

Got the time? Let X=X.

I got this postcard. And it read, it said:
Dear Amigo - Dear Partner.
Listen, uh - I just want to say thanks. So...thanks.
Thanks for all the presents. Thanks for introducing
me to the Chief.

Thanks for putting on the feedbag. Thanks for going
all out.

Thanks for showing me your Swiss Army knife.
and uh -
Thanks for letting me autograph your cast.
Hug and kisses.

X X X X zero zero zero zero
Oh yeah, P.S.
I - feel - feel like - I am - in a burning building - and I
gotta go.
Cause I - I feel - feel like - I am - in a burning
building - and I gotta go.
Let X=x