Monday, October 31

I'm rich! Rich, I tell you!

According to this cunning little calculation thingy, this blog what you're reading right now is worth $28,791.54. Blimey.

However, as far as I can see, there is no way whatsoever for me to sell the thing. Damned dead capital.

An ass.

The law, that is.

The jury voted unanimously that the [building's owners were] 68 percent at fault for the bombing, while the terrorists who carried it out were 32 percent at fault.

 

A big new thing.

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but... er... haven't. True story.

Anyway, this is The Wikablog. It was Tim's brainchild, Chris provided the hosting and has done a spot of programming, and I built the thing. What it is is a big wiki full of blogs. The astute amongst you will realise that this means it should really be called the Blogwiki or something like that, but Wikablog just sounds better, damn it.

The great thing about wikis is that they're edited and updated by their readers, which leads to an accumulation of knowledge, which leads to large amounts of helpful information. What better way to catalogue the blogs of the world? Go and have a look at the thing. If you have a blog, add it to The Wikablog. Add other people's blogs too, if they're not already there and you think they should be. If they are already there, add your comments about them. The idea isn't to have arguments — if you think a particular blogger is an utter pain in the arse, mention it in their comments or email them or insult them on your own blog — but to add description. So "staunch Christian fundamentalist" is OK, but "rabid fucking Bible-bashing lunatic" is not. But you knew that.

Chris has some things to say about it, and has even created a special Wikablog logo for you to put on your site. I really ought to get around to putting it on here at some point.

My entry's here, if you're interested.

So off you run then, and enjoy. You can ask me for help, if you need it.

Thursday, October 27

Land's End to John O'Groats.

I was just looking at a map of the UK, and realised that I've been as far north as Dornoch and at least as far south as Plymouth. It seems like such a waste, somehow, to have travelled so much of the length of the country but not quite to have done the whole distance. So I'm going to do it. I don't know when, and I'm not going to try anything rash like walking it or cycling it, but I am now determined to see both ends of Britain.

I'd do Ireland too, but the drive from the border to Dublin is just so boring. No challenge is worth that.

Mystic cutlery.

Raven has eaten the secret ninja noodles. Yay!

Yet another sentence I never thought I'd type.

Wednesday, October 26

Cenk Uygur is wrong.

Amy Alkon has linked approvingly to this little diatribe from Cenk Uygur. She says it's eloquent, and she's half-right. If true eloquence includes the ability to persuade people to change their minds, crap like this fails the test abysmally. But Mr Uygur does do a very good job of clearly and precisely explaining to us all just how much of an arrogant twonk he is. Come to think of it, his writing is almost good enough to turn me religious, but, that being the opposite of his intention, I don't think that puts any points in his eloquence basket.

We live in a twisted world, where right is wrong and wrong reigns supreme. It is a chilling fact that most of the world's leaders believe in nonsensical fairytales about the nature of reality. They believe in Gods that do not exist, and religions that could not possibly be true. We are driven to war after war, violence on top of violence to appease madmen who believe in gory mythologies.

These men are called Christians, Muslims and Jews.


He then makes the same point again and again for another million or so paragraphs. We've heard it all before: religion is stupid, religious people are stupid, religious leaders cause wars; if only we had no religion, we wouldn't have wars. Oh, and anyone who voted for George W Bush is stupid — because Bush is religious. Call me suspicious, but I suspect Mr Uygur doesn't think quite the same about people who voted for the Christian John Kerry, the Christian Al Gore, or the Christian Bill Clinton.

Anyway, speaking as a staunch atheist, I think that Mr Uygur is deeply stupid.

First off, applying today's knowledge to the beliefs of our ancestors is a very stupid thing to do.

Mohammed was a pure charlatan -- and a good one at that.

....

Jesus is said to have said on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Because Jesus was insane and the God he thought would rescue him did not exist. And he died on that cross like a fool.


And so on. Anyone who has ever claimed to believe in a god, thinks Mr Uygur, was stupid or insane or lying.

In all of mankind's history, we have come up with only two good explanations for biological diversity: the theory of evolution, and some form of god. Prior to Darwin's publication, atheism was the stupid option. Science is the search for explanations for the universe. To refuse to consider giving any explanation at all for the existence and variety of every organism on Earth is not the scientific approach.

But that's really quite a minor quibble. Mr Uygur's real idiocy lies in his insistence that the reason we have so many disastrous wars, genocides, and sundry atrocities is that most of the world's leaders are religious.

It is possible — common, even — to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Let's just remind ourselves of which side were the theists and which were the atheists in the Cold War. And how about World War Two? One of Churchill's reasons for his determination never to surrender to or compromise with Nazism was his absolute dedication to the moral code that he believed mankind had received from God. Pol Pot? Mao? Atheists both. We were hearing a lot a couple of years ago about how Al Qaeda would never work with Saddam Hussein because he was a secular leader. His alleged secularism doesn't seem to have turned him peaceful, does it?

What's important in a leader is how they believe people should be treated, not which metaphysical and unprovable phenomena they believe exist. I don't look to the Prime Minister to inform me about the nature of the universe. Would you rather have a leader who doesn't believe in evolution but does believe in opposing fascists, or one who understands genetics and microbiology and thinks that his economic theories are worth sacrificing millions of lives for? No contest.

Now, that's acting.

I can't stand Eastenders, arguably the worst program on British television, therefore don't watch it. But I caught a few minutes while channel-hopping the other night, and have to take my hat off to the writers for a masterful piece of irony. Imagine my surprise to see Barbara Windsor expressing anger and disgust towards an East-End gangster. Apparently, Ms Windsor's character, Peggy, thinks that men who have other men tortured for "not showing enough respect" are bad. I've never rated her acting skills up till now, but she was really quite convincing.

I'd just love to have seen her face when she first saw the script. I wonder whether there's a spot of backstage tension between her and the writers. Perhaps she had angered them in some way — by murdering most of her lines, for instance — and this is their revenge. Utter genius.

(Don't get the wrong idea. Doing this to Barbara Windsor is genius. The show's still pish.)

Knackered.

Edinburgh was OK. The venue, being a backpackers' hostel, was well attended by backpackers. Not a lot of people who came along especially to see us, though. And the sound was good out front but not the greatest on stage. That's perfectly normal, to be honest: we have a non-standard set-up and a singer prone to feedback, so engineers are less practiced at getting our kind of sound right than your average guitar band's. Anyway, what it meant is that we played perfectly well but that doing so took concentration, and that means no effortless and jubilant losing ourselves in the music like we did at The 13th Note on Thursday. But it was still fun, and the crowd cheered. The support acts, Asa and Replica, were both rather good. Asa were kind of William-Orbitish — never a bad thing — and Replica were like the late great Sputniks Down with vocals, which, if you ask me, is a Good Idea.

The poor car was seriously unhappy on the way back. I managed to stop it collapsing by driving most of the way at 60mph in third. We hired a van for Sunday.

There was some argument a while back about whether the drive from Dundee to Aberdeen is more or less dull than the drive from South Armagh down to Dublin. Concensus was that it was far more dull, which I found hard to believe. Well, having done it now, I still find it hard to believe. The drive up to Aberdeen has some boring bits, certainly, but nothing approaching the unbroken stretch of nails-in-the-brain tedium that is the road from the border to Dublin. What's more, it is relieved at regular intervals by some rather beautiful and dramatic bits of scenery, while the boredom of the drive to Dublin is broken up by industrial estates that appear to have been transplanted out of Belgium. Even the drive back from Aberdeen, in the dark, wasn't that boring.

The Aberdeen gig was great. Superb sound by Jenny the sound engineer, small crowd, lovely venue, nice people, and a couple of good support acts: Death By Dave and The Boy Lacks Patience. Death By Dave are entertaining and fun and a bit odd. The Boy Lacks Patience is just one bloke with a piano, and he deserves to become hugely successful — though probably by writing stuff for other people; I can't see him storming the charts. But you never know.

And now I'm back at work, paddywhackered. Yippee.

Dunfermline next week, and that'll be the lot.

Friday, October 21

Ups and downs.

Well, St Andrews was a bit of a wash-out: we played to about a dozen people at the crowd's peak, more like seven for most of the gig. The Union, we were told by the gig's disgruntled organisers, hadn't bothered with the publicity. Idiots. Nothing's changed since I was there, then. (Might rant about that some other time.) Anyway, it was still quite fun, and the people who were there got up and danced, and we could do with the practice. Long way to drive for a rehearsal, though. Oh, and the car really wanted to break down on the way back, but I didn't let it. Got to bed at about four-thirty.

Then, last night, it was Glasgow. We only discovered on Wednesday that The 13th Note had billed this as Gig Of The Month, and we'd had a couple of favourable reviews in the local press. The two support acts had both pulled out at the last minute and the new support act that had been drafted in to replace them simply didn't turn up, so it was just us. But who cares? We don't need no steenking support act. We're the Gig Of The Bloody Month, we are. The place was packed.

There's no rational reason why any of us should be able to play better to a large crowd than a small one, but we did, of course. That's just the way it works. It was, I am told, one of the best gigs we've ever played. Ronnie turned out to be rather a good singer, and his performance helped make Given one of the highlights of the evening. John's settled in wonderfully on bass duties and was grooving away groovily. Donna's been taking jazz impro classes for months and is now an even better singer than she used to be — and she used to be brilliant. Alun's in fine form, and I hardly fucked up at all. Brendan O'Hare, lynchpin of Glasgow's music scene and nicest man in the world, was doing the sound and also did guest vocals on Mustard, which was a laugh. What with there being no support, we played extra songs and strung the whole thing out a bit. The crowd cheered a lot, wisely bought our CDs, and demanded an encore. A few old friends were there, and it was good to see them. It was just a fantastic night.

Alun is demanding that we start recording the second album immediately. I think we will. We're thinking of touring Ireland next year.

A day off today, then Edinburgh tomorrow. Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 19

Life on the road.

Well, last night's rehearsal went pretty well, and we're all looking forward to the first gig tonight. John the new bassist seems to know what he's doing, and the rest of us have actually remembered how to play our songs. Most of them, at any rate. Looks like it won't be an utter shambles. That'll be nice.

That's all for now. More updates as we go.

Monday, October 17

Far too bloody long.

Back in 1998, Esthero released one of the most beautiful albums I own: Breath From Another. It's pretty much the only Canadian Latin hip-hop jazz recording on Earth, and it's fantastic: a great selection of thumping beats and odd loops, lush sweeping string orchestras, and Esthero's perfect use of her perfect singing voice. Seven years on, and I'm still listening to it regularly.

And now there's a new album, with the exceedingly dodgy and ill-boding title of Wikked Lil Grrrls. Of course I shall buy it, but seven years? Seven bloody years for a second album? It'd better be good.

Sunday, October 16

Gratitude.

As every living organism now knows, Daniel Craig is the new James Bond. What interests me is that, at his first press conference, he told the world that his favourite Bond film is Goldfinger.

"Hi, Daniel. We'd like to offer you one of the best acting jobs in Hollywood, making you one of the most famous men on Earth and quite insanely rich. We picked you because you're the best. You're great. You'll be just perfect as 007."

"Thanks very much. It's an honour. You guys don't match up to your predecessors, by the way. The quality of your work has been going downhill for the last forty years, frankly, and I'll say as much in public. Cheers."

Monday, October 10

A question.

If anyone's reading this who has driven from Aberdeen to Glasgow, could you tell me roughly how long it takes, please? I'm guessing about three weeks.

Thank you.

An observation.

Oddly enough, the only track on Coldplay's new album which doesn't sound like either James or U2 is the only one on which Brian Eno makes an appearance. It sounds like Snow Patrol.

Insanity and stuff.

The French are renowned for their post-modern philosophical performance art, but this, even by their standards, is just brilliant:

A Frenchman born under the sign of Aries who sued a newspaper for giving him an unfavorable horoscope was told he was wasting the court's time and ordered to pay 350 euros in legal fees.


Fined? There's no justice. They should have given him the Turner Prize.

He was actually rather subtle:

The man complained about a prediction earlier this year that Arians would "rediscover the emotions of adolescence especially in the field of love, where the desire to have fun will overtake the need to build something longer-lasting."

He told the court that he was a "serious father" and risked being typecast by employers as a "skirt-chaser" and therefore unreliable.


So his complaint wasn't even that the prediction failed to come true; rather, he was concerned that it would lead people who believe horoscopes to believe that he would cheat on his family. In effect, he was trying to sue the paper for libel. The more I think about this one, the more convinced I am that this man is some kind of genius. And that he should have won his case.

Meanwhile, in those crazy Netherlands, some TV producers are experimenting to see how many people they can offend and whether they can break the law on air:

The live Spuiten & Slikken show — which can be translated either as Inject & Swallow or Ejaculate & Swallow — starts on October 10 on the Dutch youth channel BNN, which last upset viewer sensibilities with a programme entitled This Is How You Screw.

"We're not setting out to shock, but to inform," said a show producer, Sjoerd van den Broek.


Yeah, I can tell from your choice of title.

(By the way, can I just say how fascinating it is that the Dutch use the same word for "ejaculate" and "inject". Wouldn't "shoot up" be a good translation?)

"The idea is to treat these subjects like a piece of theatre, to review them, if you like. There's been endless idle chat about these matters, but never an adult critique."

Main presenter Filemon Wesselink (26) is billed to go on a pub crawl, take heroin in the form of a pill, and try LSD at home on the sofa under the watchful eye of his mother. He will also retire into a locked room and try to establish whether oral sex is better from a man or a woman.


No mention of whether his mother will also be supervising the blowjobs.

Some Viennese artists have knitted a sculpture of a 200-foot-long pink bunny-rabbit that has fallen to its death from the sky and landed on an Italian mountain. And they've explained themselves using poetry:

The things one finds wandering in a landscape: familiar things and utterly unknown, like a flower one has never seen before, or, as Columbus discovered, an inexplicable continent;
and then, behind a hill, as if knitted by giant grandmothers, lies this vast rabbit, to make you feel as small as a daisy.


Yes, this is their America.

And, finally, a master criminal is stealing milk off doorsteps in Berkshire and leaving notes:

Do you like dry cereal? Hope so because we've drunk your milk.

Yours Sincerely,
Your Neighbourhood Milk Thief

 

Friday, October 7

A good read.

That Mrs Solent has got all prolific lately, and she's on fine form too, which is good news, what with her being the Greatest Blogger In The Universe. I particularly like this post:

A lot of these people are very bad-tempered since the panda-lovers stole their initials, and have taken to using cosmetics in an immoderate manner. I do not know what the EU was thinking of, sending wrestlers round Europe to take people's blood.


Pure class.

And another.

Those few of you feigning interest in my upcoming musical goings-on will be thrilled — thrilled, I say — to hear that a fifth and final date has been added to the Squander Pilots Tour of Scotland: St Andrews Students' Union on the 19th of October. We're going to be playing in the Beer Bar, a place very much like Glasgow's 13th Note, only with higher ceilings. I haven't been there in nine years. Ah, memories. It was in the Beer Bar that I first kissed... ahem. Married now.

As perviously mentioned, Mr John Clarke, bassist with Kasino, will be playing bass with us for the duration of this tour. I initially mistyped "previously" in that last sentence, but the result kind of suits John, so I'm leaving it. John is funny, bald, wears loud shirts, and is a close personal friend of Franz Ferdinand. The band, not the dead Spaniard. The Glasgow music scene's just so insular. We all know each other. And a lot of us hate each other. But let's not start that rant. Water under the bridge now. Mmm.

Anyway, so here's the full run-down:

Wednesday 19th October:
    Students' Union, St Andrews.
This, apparently, is going to be a "jam session" with a proper band stuck on the end. It's very flattering to be called a "proper band". Anyway, you can probably only get in if you're a student at a Scottish university. We'll be on dead late, after the non-proper bands have finished their youthful jamming, so, by the time we're up, Alun should contain an entire cauldron of tea. If that ain't rock'n'roll, I don't know what is. Come to think of it, that's probably true.

Thursday 20th October:
    The 13th Note, Glasgow.
Ah, here again. We love this place, with its sticky floor, its gloomy darkness, its rickety old mended-with-tape stuff, and its general filthiness. Course, I've not been there in nearly two years, so, for all I know, they've painted everything white and hung some tapestries. But probably not. Sir Brendan O'Hare, undisputed Friendliest Musician in Scotland, will be on engineering duties. And Mr Ronnie Brown, former Squander Pilots bass-player, former Nibushi Shang Hong bass-player, and current player of bass with The Digerati, will be singing with us on our non-hit but critically acclaimed single Given. It'll be like a supergroup, but without the drum solos.

Saturday 22nd October:
    Caledonian Backpackers, Edinburgh.
What a silly name for a venue. Will there be any actual backpackers there? I don't know. What there will be is lots of electronicish music: Asa, Replica, some DJs, and us. The gig's being organised by Baby Tiger, an organisation founded and run by a man whom I met when his first band, Desert Rose, who were awful, played a gig with my first band, Psychic Disaster, who were even more awful, at the Beer Bar in St Andrews Union. Coincidence or dream?

Sunday 23rd October:
    The Tunnels, Aberdeen.
The furthest North we'll ever have played. Luckily, John's a highlander, so he'll be able to translate the lingo for us. But will they use the same money as us? Will they have telephones? Will they worship the same god?

Then a brief break while I DJ at my sister-in-law's wedding. Then...

Friday 4th November:
    Monty's, Dunfermline.
Our last gig this year is one of the new live shows from Is This Music?, the magazine dedicated to putting Dunfermline back on the pop-music map. An honourable vocation, I think we can all agree. Also playing will be Genaro.

And then I'll sleep till Christmas. Oh, hang on; no: I'll go back to work and sit in a dazed stupor, occasionally falling asleep at my desk and getting keyboard face.

Here are some posters. They're not that interesting.

This is going to be so much fun. And a massive pain in the arse, too, no doubt. But so much fun.

A strange sensation.

Last night, something very rare occurred: I got enough sleep.

God, but I feel weird.

In other news, I am now Google's top result for "strangle a manatee in the nude".

Thursday, October 6

Fixing things which ain't broke.

What a frustrating experience. All I want to do is to put some vegetables in a bag, prior to taking them to the checkout and buying them. This used to be easy: tear off cellophane bag from convenient roll, put objects in bag. However, Sainsbury's, in their finite wisdom — that's the same wisdom that has led them to keep breakfast cereals in the freezer section — have joined Tesco in the Inconvenience Revolution and replaced the old rolls of bags with innovative new Pinch & Pull technology, sometimes known as Pinch & Pinch & Pinch & Pinch & Pinch & Poke & Pinch & Scratch & Tear & Shake & Pull & Pinch & Thump & Pinch & Swear & Scrabble & Pinch & Pinch & Screech & Give Up & Just Don't Bloody Buy Anything, Then. Why? Why, why, why, why, why? It's a bloody trademark, which means that someone has invented it and is making money out of licensing it, which means that a supermarket has made the decision to spend more money on something that gives them no advantage whatsoever and makes shopping more annoying for their customers. Other supermarkets, seeing this, have decided to follow suit. Just what the fuck is going on?

And don't get me started on bathplugs. "Look! It's so smooth and flush and neat and smooth and it lifts up magically when you pull this lever and there's no unsightly chain!" Yes, but it doesn't let the bloody water out of the bloody bath, does it? Aaaaargh!

It should not take this long to buy carrots.