Tuesday, November 30, 2004

New old music alert

We now have The Mark Of Cain over at the Music Box. Go to it, kids.

The Covers Record

Four weeks, four New Yorkers, four New Yorker covers. As follows:

Week one: a gorgeous cover for the Fall Books issue, drawn by Adrian Tomine, creator of the "Optic Nerve" series of comic books, published by Drawn and Quarterly. I have always loved Tomine's drawing style, but only intermittently dip into "Optic Nerve" out of a feeling that his writing lacks the depth that I'm looking for (okay, we're not talking Tolstoy here, but even in the world of comic books we require a degree of substance). I fear I may be totally wrong in this judgment, and hereby vow to give him a second hearing.

Week two: a typically clever Bruce McCall cover. McCall's connection with our comic book shelf is a one-page "What's Wrong With This Picture?" in Art Spiegelman's first "Little Lit" collection. McCall's trick is to remove any kind of personal style or statement from his art: which, in 2004, is, of course, a kind of statement in itself. He also writes very funny pieces for the New Yorker, such as a guide for applying for Canadian citizenship a couple of weeks ago ("Please use a soft pencil").

Week three: Ian Falconer. Creator of the "Olivia" books (ostensibly for kids but we seem to like them more than the guys do: they are rarely dragged off the shelf other than by us and forced upon the boys in a fashion akin to green vegetables). Falconer also appeared in the second "Little Lit".

Week four: R Crumb. What more need be said?

Some of us, obviously, would be hoping that this comic book connection would continue at least until we get another Richard McGuire cover. But we're not holding our breath.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Penguin Dreams

I ask you, how can you get to work on time, when the ABC is showing new episodes of Pingu at 8.15am weekdays?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Jules at Gym

I had the immense pleasure this morning of taking Julius (the four-year-old) to his final gymnastics class for the year. It was a big Christmas break-up lesson and all the various groups got the chance to go through their paces together. There is nothing quite as gorgeous as a group of variously talented four-, five- and six-year-olds doing such routines as reaching up to a horizontal bar above their heads (or being lifted up) so that they can lift their legs up, lower them again, jump down onto the floor, and do the “presentation” (one arm up in the air if you are a boy, both arms spread wide if you are a girl. Just like the Olympics).

It’s interesting how, if you can find something that will motivate a child, it can be just like operating them by remote control. At one stage Jules decided he had done enough, and came and sat down next to me. I said to him that if he didn’t go back in with the other kids he might miss out on his certificate. He was back in there before I had even finished the sentence.

At the end of the lesson everyone got their certificate, and Santa Claus turned up to give out bags of lollies. Julius tells me it was really Santa. I didn’t get close enough to have a proper look, but Jules is a much better judge of such things than I am.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Check the record

Each time I use the facilities at home I am confronted with a big bottle of blue liquid labelled "Nu-Clenz". On account of the slightly unorthodox way my brain works, this unfailingly makes me think of The Fall's "New Big Prinz", and has me shouting "Appreciated!" until I move on to the next thing. Some people have a life.

Monday, November 22, 2004


I had a wisdom tooth pulled this morning.

I have to say, it wasn't one of the most pleasant experiences I've had.

Now I'm just sitting here waiting for the anaesthetic to wear off and the real fun to begin.

Where are the drugs?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Zorn free (... sorry ...)

For anyone that's interested in things John Zorn, a couple of days ago, here, there was a concert available for download of the Bar Kokhba Sextet (inc Marc Ribot!) playing in Warsaw in 1999. As I write, the site seems not to be accessible, but it would be worth trying again later, as it is a wonderful concert, an excellent companion to the "Bar Kokhba" two-disc set of the Masada Chamber Ensemble, and with great sound quality. And introduced by the man himself. The Masada pieces may be the motherlode of John Zorn's work; they seem to be open to an endless amount of recombining, reworking, genre-hopping and other forms of jiggery pokery. But every new interpretation seems as valid, and fresh, as every other one. The original Masada studio recordings may, in fact, end up being the least necessary of the lot, as the original quartet outdoes itself with each concert recording that becomes available ("Live at Tonic", I think, is the high point so far, but that's a matter of opinion).

Of course, it is an expensive exercise just trying to keep up. And then Tzadik announces that it's putting together the ultimate completists' package of the Naked City recordings. Do I hear seven CDs? Maybe the kids would be happy with two meals a day.

He is not appreciated

In one very small respect, the re-election of George W Bush might be the right result. It is, that the whole mess the world is now in is solely due to the actions of the first Bush Administration, so is it not fair that he should be the one who is now required to clean that mess up? Iraq is now, more than likely, an intractable problem: the Americans can’t leave, because of the likely state of lawless civil war that would result; but nor can they stay, because of the “Q” word, the “V” word, and the timely re-appearance of Osama bin Laden, who is still, surely, the real object of the so-called War on Terror. (Not bin Laden, as such, who may, after all, only be a Dr Evil-type figurehead, but his lieutenants, or footsoldiers, or the leaders and functionaries of whatever separate and disparate groups it has been convenient to group together under the rubric of “al Qaeda”.)

Which is not to say that a second Bush Administration won’t make an even bigger mess of things by the time the President finally swaggers off into the Texan sunset in January 2009. Four years, for example, is plenty of time for the re-emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan; the assassination of General Musharaff in Pakistan and his replacement by someone less in the pocket of the Americans (don’t forget, Pakistan is a sovereign nuclear state); and the “successful” completion of nuclear weapons programs by both Iran and North Korea.

But if that is the case, then perhaps the American public might see the light, and we might then have stage two of the Clinton family hegemony, as Hilary steps up for her moment in the sun. Or the newly minted Senator Barack Obama. Or even a “moderate Republican”. Or perhaps the powers behind the throne might even now be finding a way to postpone the 2008 elections indefinitely due to a (self-inflicted) state of emergency, or to change the rules so that the President can seek a third term of office.

Or we could wake up tomorrow and discover that the last four years have been a bad dream, that Al Gore has just been elected for a second term, the terrorists have been rounded up and dealt with by lawful means and with meaningful international assistance and support, the Palestinians have been given a fair deal, a program of education and aid in the Middle East and elsewhere is serving to marginalise extremists of all hues, and John Peel didn’t die.