Tuesday, 28 December 2010

I Really Need To Start Keeping A Pen And Some Paper In My Bathroom.

I may well have said that before, and/or that may just sound bizarre, but there is a reason for this.
I find that the bathroom, for some reason, is somewhere in which I come up with a lot of my ideas. Now, if I'm somewhere other than home this isn't usually a problem because I normally have a pen and some old receipts in my pockets with which I can make notes or jot down a couple of lines. I sometimes even use my phone and save said info as a draft text message. The time it takes to do this is never a problem as pretty much everyone I know now knows that even at the best of times, my IBS leads me to be on the toilet for longer than the average person, so it is thought nothing of.
When I'm at home tho, I like to take everything out of my pockets to feel more comfortable, you know? You're at home Axl. Relaaaaaaaaax.
This does however lead to things like what happened about 3 hours ago when I was on the toilet (don't worry, I won't go into details) and got a massive flash of inspiration. Not just a great idea, but a great idea with several lines and incredibly clever, packed, non-formal schemed rhyming. About 7 or 8 lines of complex poetry suddenly flashed into my head. I immediately reached for my pockets to find no pen or phone. Shit!
I had receipts in my back pocket tho. If I could find something to write with, I would be fine. But what is there in a bathroom to write with? Well, luckily I live with two women, which means that in my field of vision there was a bag of make-up/lotions/female stuff. If I could find an eyeliner pencil in there, my idea would be saved.
No eyeliner pencil.
I looked for ages. I started turning out the contents onto the floor by my feet. There was no eyeliner pencil to be found. Nothing I could write with at all. There was however, totally randomly, a box of matches. I have no idea what they were doing in there and I almost ignored them, but then I remembered one making mark on walls with matches when I was trying to light them on various surfaces. I tried to write with a match on a receipt.
They were safety matches tho. No marks left. Balls. I did notice tho that it had left an almost invisible indentation on the receipt just by having been pressed into the paper.
I started to write. By this point tho, I had forgotten almost everything that had come to me. It was gone. Gone. Not coming back anytime soon either. So I ended up only getting down a basic version of some of the lines and with it, a general idea of the poem, rather than the sure thing I had originally thought up.

All of which means that this will probably end up not being usable. Which means that I need to start keeping a pen and some paper in my bathroom. See? Not so weird after all, is it?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Don Paterson - 'An Elliptical Stylus'

I just read this fucking amazing poem which I felt the need to share with you all. Don Paterson is a modern Scottish poet who has won both the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, for his 2003 collection Landing Light, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, for his 1993 collection Nil Nil, the collection that this poem is taken from.
Here it is. I really hope you enjoy it.

Don Paterson, An Elliptical Stylus

My uncle was beaming: ‘Aye, yer elliptical stylus -
fairly brings out a’ the wee details.’
Balanced at a fraction of an ounce
the fat cartridge sank down like a feather;
music billowed out into three dimensions
as if we could have walked between the players.

My Dad, who could appreciate the difference,
went to Largs to buy an elliptical stylus
for our ancient, beat-up Phillips turntable.
We had the guy in stitches: ‘You can’t…
er… you’ll have to upgrade you equipment.’
Still smirking, he sent us from the shop
with a box of needles, thick as carpet tacks,
the only sort made to fit our model.

(Supposing I’d been his son: lets eavesdrop
on ‘Fidelities’, the poem I’m writing now:
The day my father died, he showed me how
he’d prime the deck for optimum performance:
it’s a lesson that I recall – how he’d refine
the arm’s weight, to leave the stylus balanced
somewhere between ellipsis and precision,
as I gently lower the sharp nib to the line
and wait for it to pick up the vibration
till it moves across the page, like a cardiograph…)

We drove back slowly, as if we had a puncture;
My Dad trying not to blink, and the man’s laugh
stuck in my head, which is where the story sticks,
and any attempt to cauterize this fable
with something axiomatic on the nature
of articulacy and inheritance
since he can well afford to make his own
excuses, you, your own interpretation.
But if you still insist on resonance –
I’d swing for him, and every other cunt
happy to let my father know his station,
which probably includes yourself. To be blunt.

What I love about this poem is its last stanza in particular, which breaks not just the conventions of the 'fourth wall' but the conventions of poetry in general. This is something that is particularly difficult to do nowadays as we live in an age where pretty much anything goes in poetry. The fact that there is still something that defies expectations as much as the final stanza of this poem does is something I find astonishing. This aside, it is also a deceptively emotional poem, something that is also revealed in that final stanza. When the emotion comes, it comes as a shock. You aren't prepared for it and as a result it gives a reaction of shock, as well as the emotion you would have got from it anyway, which adds weight to the emotions themselves. It's extremely cleverly done.
Damn, I hope I can write something this strong and this affecting one day.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Carols.

Yeah, I know it's the wee small hours of Christmas morning and I should be asleep, but I can't because I appear to have picked up some sort of bug tonight that means I'm sneezing and coughing so much that my throat and chest hurt. Doesn't exactly make sleep an easy thing to get, so instead of going insane, I'm doing this instead.

I'm gonna say something I don't hear said very often:

Christmas Carols are fucking weird.

First of all, I find the concept of Christmas Carols a little odd. Why aren't there other well known songs for other religious events? Has anyone ever thought of writing a collection of Easter Eulogies?

Secondly, most Christmas Carols seem to have had no compositional effort put into them whatsoever, certainly not in the lyrics anyway. For example, take 'The Holly & The Ivy.'
Now, let's start with the title. For a song that is about holly AND ivy, it seems a little odd that ivy is only mentioned twice. Once in the first line of the first verse, and in the first line of the last verse, which is just the first verse repeated. The song mentions holly in almost every verse, but ivy is pretty much totally ignored.
The lyrics themselves are mostly unbelievably lazy comparisons between holly and the birth of Jesus. Take this verse:

'The holly bears a prickle,
as sharp as any thorn,
and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
on Christmas day in the morn.'

Right. What is that verse actually saying? It seems pretty obvious that whoever wrote it was intending to say that holly bears something very painful just as Mary did in the act of giving birth, but both do so valiantly and should be celebrated for this. Problem is that what holly bears is not actually pain but something that gives pain. Therefore what the song is actually saying is that Mary has given birth to something that will give pain. Yep. Sorry, but this lyric is so weak that it says the opposite of what it actually intends to.
Think I'm wrong? Think I'm overdoing it somewhat? Okay, let's take the previous verse:

'The holly bears a berry,
as red as any blood,
and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
to do poor sinners good.'

Okay, first thing's first. What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?! It's seemingly just two random statements put together in the hope no-one will notice. It's like it was written by a child with ADHD just saying the first things that come into their head. You may as well have a song that goes 'The grass is green in the park / and I ate chicken for lunch today / and ice is cold.' It makes just as much sense.
Unless you actually look at the comparison being made. It does make sense, just not the sense the writer wants to convey.
If you look up holly on Wikipedia, the first line states that 'Holly berries are somewhat toxic to humans,' which considering that the following line is about the birth of Jesus would seem to suggest that Jesus' reason for being is to do harm to sinners. It's the 'cruel to be kind' principle. That is the only logical conclusion one can come to in comparing a holly berry to Jesus Christ doing 'poor sinners good'.
I could go on, but I feel I should move on.

Because this is by no means the only carol with ludicrous lyrics. Take this verse from 'O Come All Ye Faithful':

'God of God,
light of light,
lo! He abhors not the virgin womb;
very God,
begotten not created.'

Sorry? What? Are the wombs of virgins normally supposed to be abhorred? What on Earth does this line mean? What on Earth is it even supposed to mean?! It sounds more like a prog rock lyric than a Christmas Carol!

Elsewhere, we learn that Jesus was born after his due date in Hark The Herald Angels Sing; 'Christ, the everlasting Lord, / late in time behold him come, / offspring of a Virgin's womb!' Now, don't you all feel better for knowing that?

Aw, I had another one and I've lost it now.

So I shall leave you with this verse from 'We Three Kings' which explains why Myrrh was given as a gift to the baby Jesus:

'Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.'


Monday, 20 December 2010

Celebrity Reality TV Ideas.

Haven't posted regularly recently due to college stuff, but we're done for the term, so I can go back to filling your eyes with my garbage.
I had some ideas for new celebrity based reality tv shows today which I'm gonna run by you. Celebrity reality tv doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, far from it in fact, so I'm gonna get in the game. Here are my ideas.

* Strictly Come Nursing
People are always saying stuff about hospitals being understaffed and so why not give them the Celebrity treatment? Each week a bunch of people who used to be in Eastenders or Corrie or Hollyoaks compete to see who can be the best at helping out in a real hospital.
If that's not exciting enough, how about;

* Strictly Come Surgery
Each week celebrities are taught how to do a new surgical procedure which they have to perform while being filmed. Maybe someone from Strictly Come Nursing can mop their brow when they get a sweaty forehead. Whoever performs the surgery worst, loses and has to turn in their surgical whites and leave the contest. They cry and say how if only they'd managed to keep their nerve, they wouldn't have cut the patients artery.

* Celebrity Masturbate

Each week a group of celebrities take it turns to have a wank while Greg Wallace and John Torode watch. They analyse and mark them on technique, pleasure, etc, and whoever they deem to be the worst wanker is out of the contest. You could even have a spin off series called 'Masturbate: The Professionals' where Greg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr. judge a show of the same format, but this time with porn stars as the contestants.

* RU

Chris Moyles, one of the most "how the fuck are you famous" people ever, hosts a new Celebrity quiz show where him and his celebrity guests talk about things that are Really Uninteresting in a sort of loosely based quiz show format. Somehow we are expected to find this entertaining. Oh wait, hang on, Channel 4 already commissioned that...

I had more, but I've forgotten them now.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Brief Word About Adverts.

Adverts can be good. One just reminded me how FUCKING INCREDIBLE this song is.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BBC Sound Of 2011.

It's that time of year again folks, when the BBC tell us what we can expect to have rammed into our ears for the next 12 months. This means that I'm going to listen to them all and tell you what I think of them. Although the last two years have produced a mostly unpleasant list, I have enjoyed writing the posts about them (to refresh your memories:- 2010's: http://bit.ly/evPdfd 2009's: http://bit.ly/he8DZc ) and last years list introduced me to Gold Panda, who I really like, so I'm hoping for another pleasant surprise like that.
Well, here goes!

#1. Anna Calvi.
(Song: 'Jezebel')

Sounds like Patti Smith or Jefferson Airplane soundtracking a
Western. It's very weird. Not in a good way.
It's a song in which virtually nothing happens. Not in a good way.
It's boring. Very boring.

#2. Clare Maguire.
(Song: 'Aint Nobody')

Not a cover of the Chaka Khan song. Shame, it might be a bit more interesting if it was.
Clare Maguire probably thinks she's doing something really interesting and different but in reality it just sounds like she has listened to a lot of Kate Bush and totally missed the point of it.
Again, it is very boring.
This song also has a really lacklustre ending, like she just went... hmmm... how can I describe it... Right. Have you ever seen the Bill Bailey live bit where he talks about how it sounds like the writer of the Countdown theme tune just couldn't be bothered to finish it properly? That's what the end of this song sounds like. Like she went, 'Oh, I can't be bothered with this song anymore, let's just end it there, yeah?'
Also, whoever directed the music video has watched the video for Madonna's 'Frozen' a bit too much and thought 'I'll do that but in a bit more of an edgy, surrealist cinema style. Yeah, that'ld be cool.' It's not cool. It looks like the song sounds. Lazy and dull.

#3. Daley.
(Song: 'More Than A Woman')

Another song that share's a name with a very famous song. Is that gonna be a theme of this list?
Daley has fucking stupid hair.
He can sing though.
And he's not afraid to show that off. This song pretty much is just his voice with very minimal accompaniment from a drummer and a bassist. After three minutes some minimal keyboards come into play too, but this is a song based on his voice.
But it's just inoffensive fluff. Another white boy who got soul wrong.

#4. Esben & The Witch.
(Song: 'Marching Song')

I've heard of this band but never actually heard them. Let's see how this goes.
Ooooooh, apparently the video "Contains upsetting scenes." Scaaaaaaaryyyyyy.
Okay, Esben & The Witch might be my Gold Panda for this years list. That was fucking good. I could tell how good I thought it was because I didn't write anything for the whole time it was on and am in fact listening to it a second time now.
It's a really good, slow building, atmospheric post-rock song. Now, as a sentence to describe music, that has become as overused as 'LOL' is on Facebook, but I can't think of a better way to say what it is in a way that is understandable.
And the video is actually kind of genuinely disturbing. It's like they've been taken hostage and been made to sing after various stages of being beaten up. It fits the theme of the song (war, battle, loss, etc) really well. It's actually left a bit of an impact on me.
As I said about Gold Panda last year, I will definitely be keeping my eyes and ears out for this band.

#5. Jai Paul.
(Song: (Hang on, they haven't put a song on there. *Hunts the internet* Okay, now I can see why everyone is complaining about MySpace. *Hunts more internet* This computer isn't letting me look at YouTube. *More hunting* Okay, hype machine has something.) 'BTSTU')

Fairly interesting song. Sounds like a discarded MIA instrumental slowed down with some male falsetto singing over the top. Some interesting things going on, but it just manages to miss the mark in terms of making me go 'Yeah, this is good,' and so I just think this is alright.

#6. James Blake.
(Song: 'Limit To Your Love')

Right, a couple of people I know have been creaming themselves over this guy, so I'm pretty interested to see what the fuss is about. Apparently he makes 'Post-dubstep torch songs.'
This song is piano and vocal chorus followed by slowed down dubstep verse, the cycle is repeated then both elements are brought together for the finale.
Here's the problem. There just slightly too little going on. The concept of what he's doing is actually very interesting, I just think it can be done better than this. It does show definite potential though, and I will certainly keep eyes and ears on him as he could well come out with something very good indeed. The ingredients are there, for sure.

#7. Jamie Woon.
(Song: 'Night Air')

Weirdly, this sounds like Ali Campbell from UB40 covering Jamie Lidell. As a song, it doesn't really go anywhere. It's a little bit nothing. No, that's harsh. It's alright, it just doesn't really do anything.

#8. Jessie J.
(Song: 'Do It Like A Dude')

The song sounds like someone listened to that awful Ke$ha person and instead of thinking "This is a total rip off of Uffie and it's terrible," thought "Hey, this is so modern and edgy. Let's do a faux feminist take on it!"
It's awful. Seriously awful.

#9. Mona.
(Song: 'Trouble On The Way')

Generic, boring rock music that doesn't in any way actually rock.
The funny thing is that the BBC iPlayer got bored of it about halfway thru and stopped playing it. Sadly after a little rest, it played the rest of the song.
If you like that band The Gaslight Anthem, then you'll probably like this.
I don't.

#10. Nero.
(Song: 'Innocence')

Okay, this song gets IMMEDIATE props for using clips of 'Cyber City Oedo 808' in it's video. I fucking loved that anime! WHY HAVEN'T THEY PUT IT ON DVD?! I only have it on VHS and my stupid video player doesn't work BECAUSE NO-ONE'S VIDEO PLAYERS WORK ANYMORE. That was the series that got me into anime. It was the first anime I ever watched and I absolutely loved it. I STILL DO! WHY ISN'T IT AVAILABLE ON DVD?!

Oh yeah, the song.

It's kind of a combination of trance and dubstep, if that makes ANY sense at all. The result is that it sounds VERY commercial and Nero will probably be massive.
Again, it's alright, but it's fairly standard. It follows a formula rather than stretching any boundaries, which it could potentially have done.

#11. The Naked & Famous.
(Song: 'Punching A Dream')

(Hate the band name. Love the song name.)

Sounds exactly like a slowed down MGMT song but with a female singer.
It's boring. It's massively derivative. It's irritating. I'll probably have to hear it about a thousand times, everywhere for the whole of 2011.
Fuck you, The Naked & Famous.

#12. The Vaccines.
(Song: 'Blow It Up')

They might well be the The Drums of 2011. By that I mean they are massively boring and simple but everyone will think they're cool because they use an old guitar sound.

#13. Warpaint.
(Song: 'Undertow')

Amazingly enough, even though this band are so massively hyped at the moment, I still haven't heard them.
I would be willing to bet money that my girlfriend would love this. It sounds a bit retro, but still pretty modern. The kind of sounds she really goes for.
It's pretty good to be fair. I'm liking it.
Oh, that's annoying. They've become victims of the "I don't know how to finish this song properly" bug that Clare Maguire had. Shame, it was building into something pretty special too. I will definitely check out more of their stuff.

#14. Wretch 32.
(Song: 'Traktor')

Traktor? Is this song going to be an homage to the short lived band I was in, Traktors? Will it be an onslaught of awesome noise? Will it? Will it?
No, of course not, Axl. Don't be stupid.
Wretch 32 has a very odd face face. He looks like he could be anything between 20 and 40 years of age. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if I found out he was really old or really young.
The song is a little boring. No, that's a little unfair actually. It's alright, its just that it's one idea repeated just a little bit too often.
And I'm pretty sure one of lyrics is "Eat peas every day."

#15. Yuck.
(Song: 'Georgia')

I saw this band a few months ago and found them pretty boring.
Yeah, my mind hasn't changed. They still just sound like a less good version of Dinosaur Jr to me.
Quite dull. Very derivative. Don't bother. Listen to Dinosaur Jr instead.

And that's it for another year.
Top 3 time.

1. Esben & The Witch.
2. Warpaint.
3. James Blake.

Check them out.