Monday, March 31, 2008

This Sporting Life

After last weekend's debacle, Melbourne's David Neitz was reported as promising supporters that the team wouldn't play that badly again this season. I suppose he was proved right on Saturday: at least they were competitive for one quarter of football. Nevertheless, a losing margin of 95 points as opposed to a losing margin of 104 points is not what I would call a turnaround.

There so many things causing anxiety in the real world these days that it is difficult to justify spending too much worry-time on a football club. But I have been following the Demons, unwaveringly, since I was old enough to choose a team, and I have seen little but failure in most of those long winters, but, in the words of Bollo from "The Mighty Boosh", "I've got a bad feeling about this".

Friday, March 28, 2008

Song of the day

"Lady Bug", by Bumblebee Unlimited. This song, in the entirety of its ten-minute glory, is both (a) utterly ridiculous and (b) absolutely perfect for winding down on the Friday afternoon of a long (albeit only four days: go figure) working week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Song of the day

"Hot Corner", by The B-52s. Those venerable B-52s don't seem to have aged a day, if not since "Rock Lobster", then at least since "Roam". The thing about the B-52s is that they understand, like few others, how to do "fun" without going that step too far and into "infantile".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Song of the day

"Down Among The Dead Men", by Flash and the Pan. If a song that you haven't heard, or even thought of, for nigh on 25 years (I can haz brain scan for greater accuracy) suddenly pops into your head when you are in the shower, that song must be the song of the day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Song of the day

"Tell Me Easter's On Friday", by The Associates. Obviously. (Truth be told, what's working our CD player this morning, as always on Good Friday, is Allegre's "Miserere", which never fails to send a chill up the spine.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Song of the day

"Walter Johnson", by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. What is great about this song, and by inference what is great about Jonathan Richman, is that you can know nothing about Walter Johnson, or for that matter about baseball, and yet you can still feel the love in the room.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

RIP Mikey Dread

Sasha sums this sad news up as well as anybody.

I lived and breathed stuff like "World War III" when I was 16. And if you were the producer of The Clash's "Bankrobber / Robber Dub" you would surely deserve to be remembered.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World

This week, Fairfax newspapers throughout this country have been throwing in with their usual newsprint a forty-page, full-colour glossy magazine supplement which is intended, as far as I can see, as a "celebration" of Earth Hour, a forthcoming event in which we will all turn off the electricity for one hour on a Saturday night to demonstrate our commitment to dealing with climate change.

Isn't this somehow missing the point? Leaving to one side the question whether the belated recognition that we are living ourselves to death is something worth celebrating, the way to defeat climate change (assuming it can be defeated) is, surely, not by printing several hundreds of thousands of copies of a document, admittedly well-intentioned but also not entirely devoid of underwear advertisements, the overwhelming majority of which will either be put on bonfires, added to landfill, or sent out with the recycling next Thursday night. If Earth Hour is to achieve anything by putting the Climate Change Armageddon Clock back by a few seconds, those seconds have been reduced by the amount of energy it took to produce, and then destroy, this ultimately pointless artifact. Humbug.

And another thing. Our household will, of course, be willing participants in Earth Hour, but we are kidding ourselves if we think it will make any meaningful difference. By my (admittedly back-of-the-recycled-paper-envelope) calculations, it would need every person, company and organisation in every country of the world to switch off all carbon-producing energy sources for two or three entire days every week for the indefinite future in order for emissions to be reduced to the extent that the damage already done, and continuing to be done, to be in any significant way reduced.

And a question: is Earth Hour a kind of "We Are The World" for the climate change generation, a galvanising and positive "tipping point" for change, or is it just another salve for middle-class guilt, as are (I would argue, but in both cases it doesn't necessarily make the venture itself entirely a bad thing) carbon-offsetting schemes? (As to the latter, can't a case be made that they actually encourage carbon usage? As in, the more you use, the more you have to contribute to carbon offsets; the more you contribute the better you feel.) It's just a thought.

Did you turn out the lights and switch off the computer and printer before you went home?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Song of the day

"Stay Hungry", by Talking Heads. Because, if the present financial-markets fiasco crashes into the real world, that's what we might be doing.

Besides which, it is always profitable to delve back into the first four Talking Heads albums (five, if you count "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads", which you should). There are invariably new things to discover. For example, what a strange song "Stay Hungry" is. It starts off with a verse and a chorus that sound like earlier Talking Heads (historians could say whether that is the case). It then hits the kind of groove that the band started working through on "Fear of Music", and then kind of drifts into something that predicts where they would be by the time they got to side two of "Remain In Light".

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Song of the day

"Phase Patterns", by Steve Reich. When I listened to Steve Reich in the past, what I heard was Philip Glass and Terry Riley. (And perhaps, if I was thinking deeply, a bit of Velvet Underground.) What I hear now, particularly with this piece, is The Field's recent "Sound of Light". What I also hear is recent Ricardo Villalobos. Speaking of which, just how mad is "Enfants"? Not as mad as "Fizheuer Zieheuer", perhaps, but only because that remarkable track opened the door which "Enfants" now charges through, so the element of unexpectedness isn't there. Which is only a very small element.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Song of the day

"We Call Upon The Author", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. On the weekend, I bought the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!". (Somebody tell me I wasn't wrong to not fork out the additional eight bucks for the "special limited edition bonus booklet" version.) I am half-way through my first listen. I have some reservations (nobody warned me that Nick Launay was once again behind the desk; I have my doubts whether either Cave or the Seeds are enhanced in any way by studio effectery (Launay has a track record in this regard: see also Midnight Oil's "10... 9... 8... etc" album, and the one he did with The Models)), but overall it would seem that they have pulled off a blinder. Look at all those words, mummy: Cave seems to have been recently afflicted by a second - or is it a third - wind. The language is pouring out of him on this album, much as it was on the magnificent "The Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues".

I should at this point say that I wasn't particularly excited by the Grinderman project for its own sake, as much as I was fascinated by how it might bleed into the Bad Seeds themselves. At this early stage, I am not disappointed. Even allowing for Launay's looping and enhancing, they are making one heck of an unholy racket.

Song structures are something that Cave has always seemed to have an almost unique feel for. He gets insufficient acclaim for this. Think of "The Mercy Seat", a song whose structure I like to think is old-fashioned (and perhaps it is): the story is told through ever-so-slightly-divergent repeating loops. You feel like it could go on forever and remain interesting and forward moving. And think also of the title track of "The Lyre of Orpheus": I have never before heard a song put together in quite the same way as this, and yet the Bad Seeds (and Cave) pull it off with effortless confidence, like an juggler with an unfeasible number of razor-sharp knives in the air, somehow bringing them down without losing any limbs. The pattern (or not) continues with "We Call Upon The Author", which adds to its structural elasticity some of the most bleakly funny lyrics this bleakly funny lyricist has ever committed to tape.

I also bought the new Magnetic Fields album, but we'll have to get to that later.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The fantastic are in league against me

This is how it went.

"Optus Customer Service, Kelly speaking."

"Hi. I have a problem with my mobile phone. I was wondering if you could help me."

"Could I have your name please?"




"Date of birth?"


"Okay, what is the nature of the problem?"

[Longwinded explanation involving the phone being as old as the hills, and having in the last couple of weeks consistently said "No network" when switching on.]

Brief pause.

"I'm sorry, I'm not going to help you."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm not going to help you."

"Why not?"

"Because you're not Stan."

"Excuse me?"

"You're not Stan."

"Excuse - Are you asking me or telling me?"

"I'm telling you. You're not Stan."

"How - how can you possibly know that? Or rather how can you think you know that?"

"I'm sorry, I can't say any more."

"It's because I talk like a girl." (This came out with an audible sneer, which is regrettable, as is the choice of words, although they were intended to be wrapped in ironic inverted commas.)

"Yes, it is."

"Well, what can I do? I've answered the security questions. I've been an Optus customer for some years, my phone isn't working, how can I get someone to help me?"

"You will have to go to an Optus shop."

"No. Can I put my wife on? Only that won't make any difference, will it?"

"No it won't, but you can put her on if you like."

[Enter Adrienne, who pointed out that I had fathered two children and was indeed a man. At that point I think that Kelly had realised she had made a horrible mistake, made up some story about my being a business customer (I don't see how that could be the case) and transferring Adrienne to someone in a different department, who eventually transferred me to someone in tech support who at least was able to help with the problem - the phone, a dinosaur in phone terms, had finally died.]

Naturally, this has raised some serious existential questions. If I'm not Stan, well, who am I? And who have I been all my life? This could explain a lot of things; like, I've never really felt like I fit in, it's always been like I'm a square peg in a round hole. Of course! It's all starting to make sense now. To reference Morrissey, I'm not the man I think I am. I can be someone. Someone new. I'm Alive! Alive, I tell you! Aaaaaahahahahaha ...

So, if you're listening, Kelly from Customer Service, thank you. Thank you so much. You have changed my life. And all for the cost of a free telephone call.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"I drink your milkshake"

I just got back from seeing "There Will Be Blood". I don't know what to think. I just don't know what to think. Whatever I had been expecting for Paul Thomas Anderson's next film, I surely wasn't expecting this.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Song of the day

"Where Is Home? (Burial Remix)", by Bloc Party. I wouldn't know Bloc Party if they ran over me on the Tuggeranong Parkway. (Why I would be standing on the Tuggeranong Parkway is a separate issue.) There is probably a Bloc Party song tucked away somewhere in this, but what I hear is 97 per cent Burial, all submerged voices and skittering beats, and that's alright by me.