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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 29, 2004

Is That It?

Reading lists like this, of self-proclaimed "bright ideas" leaves me feeling so completely depressed. It's the sort of half-arsed crap students come up with in the pub after a few rounds, and if this is the best that people can come up with, the best idea is that they learn to keep their thoughts inside their heads.


originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Been watching the OC on DVD this week. Kelly Rowan is my secret girlfriend.

I can't think of another Canadian I love as much.

Remember Remember

The ninth of November.

October 28, 2004

iPods and Video

This is just one man's opinion, of course, but given that the man is me, then it's an opinion grounded in genius and knowing more about everything than you ever will. Every time Apple announces something, there ensues a flurry of comments and threads/conversations all about what's wrong/right with the product. I've contributed my own two pence, but I haven't shared my opinion of the iPod and video.

Partly, I don't want to just parrot what Steve Jobs says. He's said, for example, that video and music are consumed in entirely different ways. iPod, as a mobile playback device, can be enjoyed as you walk down the street. It would be dumb to try to watch video as you walked along a city street.

Apart from the risk of walking into a lamppost or treading in dogshit, you'd almost certainly be mugged.

But there's another reason why the idea of video on an iPod doesn't appeal to me, and that's the sheer poverty of the experience. Feature films, for example, are meant to be watched on a large cinema screen, whilst immersed in big cinema sound. It's bad enough trying to replicate this experience in your living room, let alone on a tiny LCD screen with a set of earbuds.

People download stuff, I know they do, but I tend to think of these people as what I like to call idiots. It's the obsession with free stuff, with no attention paid to the quality of the experience. Fuckit, it's just not good enough. As for other popular uses for video, i.e. porn, the very idea of people wandering about with an iPod full of porn is, frankly, icky. What are you going to do, pop into a public toilet for a quick Sherman? Or sit in a public park having a J-Arthur? Ew.

I'm underwhelmed at the very idea of using the iPod Photo for anything. BFD was my initial response. Until you can connect it direct to a camera and download photos to free up memory, you're simply at risk of becoming a slide show bore, aren't you? Or, again, sitting in a public park whipping your skippy over f@ke n u d e s of k y l i e.

October 27, 2004

Long-lost Greatest Rock and Roll Record of all Time

Back in 1979, around then, I remember reading a review of the Velvet Underground's "1969" live album in the NME. The reviewer described it as "give or take Trout Mask Replica the long-lost greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time." It was a turn of phrase I enjoyed, even if I didn't quite believe it, or know what it meant. Driving to work this morning, I put on Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which coincidentally also dates from 1979.

Now, this is something I can get behind as a Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Album of All Time. It's a huge claim to make of course, and something naturally prone to a massive amount of subjectivity, which is why I think it's a good choice. Because, frankly, I never really warmed to Petty's voice and found his appearance a tad creepy (in the Johnny Winter this-man-is-a-corpse manner). So I'm not approaching this as a die-hard fan of him and his band. I liked 'em, sure, but I preferred to listen (and look at) and number of other people who can lay claim to the title (Dylan, Band, Beatles, Stones, Bruce, etc.).

But, thinking about Damn the Torpedoes as a document, it stands up. There he is on the cover looking skinny, looking like he has too many teeth, and holding his Rickenbacker with casual affection. And here came the album, in 1979, with an impact that was entirely unexpected. Give or take "American Girl", Petty and his band had at the time released nothing to even hint that they had a Torpedoes in them.

And it was an album, a proper album, with a Side 1 and a Side 2. Side 1 was just incredible, an unbelievable onslaught of power and crackingly good songs. Starting with "Refugee," you get a laid-back swagger, like a band setting up to jam and then just nailing it, getting tighter and tighter as they go along. With barely a pause for breath, "Here Comes My Girl" is a classic hybrid of rock and pop, moving from an almost-spoken intro, hitting a higher and more strident gear, building the tension, and then breaking into a beautifully-pitched chorus that sounds like a mid-60s, 12-string guitar folk-rock classic. Which you'd think would be the high point of Side 1, but then you get the anthemic "Even the Losers" followed by the high-energy sarcasm of "Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)" and then the LA New Wave-style "Century City."

At which point, drained of energy after possibly the most exciting side of music you've ever heard, you can't possibly not put on Side 2, which starts with the utterly sublime guitar/piano/hammond intro of the completely brilliant "Don't Do Me Like That." The album then accelerates towards the end, with "You Tell Me" and "What Are You Doing in My Life?" and, when you are entirely spent, it hitches an arm around your shoulder and leads you into the bar for "Louisiana Rain", which is a country-rock charmer straight out of the Exile on Main St school. And I love that the record has 9, not 10, not 8 or 11, but 9 tracks.

Like many Petty albums, Torpedoes is full of between-tracks madness, tape ends, funny sounds, off-stage comments ("It's just the normal noises in here.").

It's as if they'd been holding back for their first two albums, and then they just let rip. It sounds fantastic, the band are road-hardened and tight, and every single one of the songs is worth playing.


Been reading a lot of the obits and tributes to him. Interesting how much attention is paid to the bands he championed post-1976. Much talk of punk, death metal, the smiths etc etc. But little mention of the bands he championed in the 60s and 70s - like Pink Floyd, Capt Beefheart, Zappa.

I've always suspected that his gift was not that he liked all different kinds of music, but that he was able to play lots of stuff without prejudice. I don't think it was the stuff he liked that mattered, but the stuff that he probably didn't care too much for but played anyway.

I only listened to him a little bit - my late night listening under the covers in my formative years was to Radio Caroline, as previously mentioned - but I do remember hearing him play bands like Sham 69 and the The Damned. Now, Sham 69 were extremely naff, and I always thought the Damned were too. The Damned and Sham 69, Adam and the Ants, and many others, were like the Dave Clark Five and Herman's Hermits of the punk era. They were Gerry and the Pacemakers in comparison to the Clash etc.

In a way, I've always thought of him as an institution that was there to help the very young decide what they liked. You didn't have to listen to him forever, and you didn't have to agree with his choices, but he was one of the people who could help you learn to be yourself. Quite important really, and his sideline career on Radio 4, Home Truths, was very much along those lines: about people, families, and learning how to live together with tolerance and love.

Peel was a small corner of quality and decency in an increasingly rubbish world. Modern life is rubbish, you go around thinking, but then the existence of John Peel and the BBC's tolerance of him (even if it was really a fear of the criticism they'd get if they got rid of him), was a small oasis in all the crapness.

October 26, 2004

John Peel dead

Bit of a shocker. First celebrity death of the celebrity death season (November-February) Legendary radio DJ John Peel dies

October 25, 2004

Country Life

Interesting article in the Guardian about Country life, and what it's really like
We investigated and found out that, with nods and winks, a group of locals had agreed to cut down our trees, in order to allow access for sailing boats down a side-creek. Nobody asked my father, and the feeling that the same people who would smile and nod and make small-talk about the weather would do this behind his back caused him to feel he couldn't live in that place any more."

There were no great surprises here for me. I've known all my life, for example, that most farmers are like Brian Aldridge from the Archers. Easy to hate, Tory bastards.

And I've never swallowed ideas of so-called community. There are always people who are trying to live a kind of community life. They organise things, they have groups and clubs and meetings. They know each other. But the problem is that these people are easy to hate too. Whether they're right-on or slightly bohemian, or a bit Rotary Club and Masonic, you can't help hating them.

I remember my sisters' kids entering a fancy dress compo at the village school fete one year. Far and away, they had the best costumes; there was simply no contest: they were practically professional. But the kid who won, wearing a white sheet over his head or something, was just from a family friendly with the organising clique.

That's what we have in this country; not community, but cliques. And there is nothing less attractive. And it's the same in the city and in the country.

People move to the country, as the article says, to get away from other people. Quality of life is better because there is less of it. For teenagers this might become a problem, a boredom problem, but I've no sympathy with kids who say they are bored. Modern life is rubbish because there is just too much of it, everybody needs a little less of everything.

October 22, 2004

On Line Jukebox

As you know, I hate Flash, but the on-line jukebox at Lost Highway Records is pretty great. Click on it in the bottom right hand corner - you can see the record spinning and everything.

There's loads to choose from (keep clicking Next), and you can hear Tift Merritt (excellent, I love "Good Hearted Man"), Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Kim Richey, and more. Lots of Johnny Cash, unfortunately, and Willie Nelson doing "Dead Flowers," which is upsetting.

Fuck. I could stay on this site all day.

What else can go wrong then?

Finally. Finally we've moved out of our old house and dropped the keys off at the agent. Two weeks ago, it was, the solicitor gave us today as the completion date, which meant I had two weeks to empty the house.

See, thanks to damn property programmes on the telly, we thought it wisest to leave the house "dressed" with furniture etc when we moved out into a rented house. So we left half our stuff behind. Which was a good idea, because the rented house is titchy in comparison (tip for architects: people with no room to swing a cat would rather have more living space than a garage). But it was also a bad idea, because it fell to me to empty the house. Which isn't quite true, because I wouldn't have managed at all without P borrowing a van from work twice. Two van loads then. And about, ooh, 8 car loads.

All in the pissing, pissing rain. And I didn't have enough boxes, couldn't get enough boxes, because they were all getting wet in the skip, and I'm really bad at noticing things. So every time I thought I'd cracked it, I realised I'd forgotten something else.

Take last night. I went round and cleaned up a bit after all the packing, filled the wheelie bin with reject stuff, vacuumed up the little bits and pieces, and even ran a mop over the floor to get rid of muddy footprints. Because it was pissing with rain. Again. Anyway, it was all done and dusted, and I took the front door keys and put them in an envelope ready to drop in at the agents this morning.

But then I got home and thought, now, where did I leave all the other keys? And I remembered the kitchen window keys were in the kitchen drawer. Which I hadn't opened. Which was full of cutlery and other stuff. So I was in two minds about going back for that, until I realised I hadn't checked the kitchen cupboards below eye height.

So I had to go back in this morning, and now I've got a car full of pots and pans, dishes, cleaning equipment, drainers, graters, colanders, etc etc. In other words, a whole nother car load. Oh, and I'd left 3 pictures on the living room wall, impossible to miss, yet missed nevertheless. Jesus.

But now it's done. I think. And I've dropped the keys off.

And last night I tried to watch The Sopranos which I'd taped monday. Only I started taping near the end of a tape, so I missed half an hour of it. Well done.

October 20, 2004


We're finishing up our latest catalogue. Which I may refer to in future as the catalob, so there's an early warning to my spellchecking fans. We thinking about what's going on the cover, which you'd think would be fun, but tends not to be. But, to make it fun, and for no other reason than whimsy, I'm trying to insist upon some reference to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

This morning I received some free vendor beer and a free vendor polo shirt. Used to be that you never needed to buy shirts to wear to work, because you had a fortnight's worth of vendorwear. Marketing budgets have been tighter of late.

October 19, 2004

Ideal Xmas/birthday Gift

The new Line 6 Spider II range is great value for money. As a practice amp, the 15 would be perfect - with 4 modelled amp sounds (ranging from clean to very naughty indeed) and 6 effects, they're quite versatile for the money - an RRP of 135 UKP including VAT.

I wouldn't mind one myself, if you're buying.


Update The BBC have sneakily amended their original story so that it's now about the couple being acquitted. Which is quite "1984" of them, I think.


This is a fascinating and quite scary story, about a couple being sued for allowing a friend to drive drunk. The social situation is incredibly common in the France I know, where groups of friends frequently have dinner parties that go on to the early hours. We always go to two or three on each visit to my wife's home village.

Whereas I know nobody from my school days, and very few from the after years, most of my wife's school friends still live within a 10 mile radius. So you go round, have dinner, a few glasses of wine maybe, and then you drive home. I've always been careful not to drink on these occasions, not being burdened with the French laissez-faire attitude to drinking and driving like a maniac.

If this case results in a conviction, it will be interesting to see if things change. It's frightening to think you'll be faced with a choice between calling the police or facing a potential prosecution. Doubtless, the prevalent French attitude will be a shrug and a dismissal of the situation, but death on the roads is common enough in the country area I know.

A few years ago, we passed a car that was stuck on the train tracks, because the driver was so drunk he'd turned right on a level crossing (instead of just before it). We later learned that the (unconscious) female passenger was killed when a train hit the car.

The guy in this case got in his car and then drove onto the wrong side of a motorway. Now, how drunk do you have to be to do that? Especially in a country in which most motorways have turnpikes/barriers on entry and exit?

You can't reason with a person that drunk, so your only choice would be to call the police.

In the end, nobody will have any friends left, it'll be like Orwell's 1984. Once you've betrayed everyone you love, you're left with nothing.

My favourite beer in France is Buckler: a non-alcoholic brew, which is sometimes relabelled as alcohol-free Stella. It's a nice refreshing drink, something you enjoy for its taste. I also enjoy Kronenberg Pur Malt, which is alcohol-free, and Kronenberg 2.6, which is only 2.6% alcohol.

26% more likely...

This is an interesting story, about how aerosols and air fresheners can cause illness. The Brunel study was of mothers and babies, but they had a GP on 5 Live this morning who said he'd suspected a connection for many years - after several patients reported that anxiety/depression symptoms lifted after they got rid of bathroom air fresheners.

Ever since then, he's been telling patients to check their perfume load. As he pointed out, the sense of smell famously connects directly to the memory and emotional centres of our brains. It makes a kind of sense (the kind where I don't require any further scientific proof) that if you fill your home and life with scented fresheners, sticks and sprays, that a kind of sensory overload can cause problems.

As the GP pointed out, it took 22 years and several thousand scientific studies to "prove" that smoking causes cancer. That's the level of proof required by major corporations when they talk about "causality." So they can fuck off now: no more room sprays and air fresheners for me. Thanks. Cheers. Ta.

October 18, 2004

Tried it, fried it, plied it

These we have tried:

Kit Kat Lemon Yoghurt. Not bad, nice for a change... 6/10
Kit Kat Lime Yoghurt - about the same as the lemon... 6/10
Kit Kat Editions Seville Orange ... chunky and a bit off... 4/10
Kit Kat Editions Caramel... close, but no cigar... 5/10
Kit Kat Blood Orange .. for halloween... 5/10
Flake Praline... blink and you'll miss it ... 7/10
Aero Caramel ... "the food here is terrible... and such small portions" ... 5/10
Bounty Mango.... about what you'd expect ... 7/10

Meanwhile, Caramac arrives in a radically redesigned wrapper. Still waiting for the Caramac Kit Kat. Nothing else makes sense.


I once cooked Sole Veronique for some friends who came to dinner. Only I'd never tried the recipe before. I looked at the ingredient list, went shopping, and only referred to the method when people had arrived and were chatting to my then-gf in the living room.

Ho ho.

Skinning sole is not easy, which is why Delia suggests getting the fishmonger to do it. If you use a fishmonger. If you get some spotty kid in Tesco or Sainsbury's, forget it. Peeling and de-seeding grapes is no fun, either, which you'll note Delia advises you do "well in advance."

Haven't cooked or eaten it since. Put me off for life, I tell you. I am extremely squeamish about fish, unless it is the "regular, square kind."

October 15, 2004

Radio 4-Land

If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I grew up on Radio 4. Apart from that brief and wonderful late 70s period of listening to Radio Caroline, I was more or less 100% Radio 4 until, one day, I just grew sick of the whole thing.

I was lying in bed one morning in 1996 and listening to the radio, and it was one of the endless stream of women's programmes, or arts-that-nobody-cares-about programmes, or some religious crap, and I just thought, fuck it, what's happening in the olympics? And I retuned to Five Live. First voice I heard was Garvey's, she was in an Atlanta bar, and I was hooked.

8 years later, and I've been getting sick of Five's repetition, its jingles, its seeming need to pore over the minutiae of football all the time, instead of widening its remit and talking about something else. I still love the Garvey/Allen team, but find Nicky Campbell in the morning facetious and irritating. Shelagh Fogerty is a wonder, but Victoria Derbyshire is irritatingly obtuse. Simon Mayo in the afternoon can be a revelation - his interviews and panel discussions are excellent. Jo Sale with the travel and her giggle is always a pleasure.

On the other hand, the repetition of the news and sport is a real pain. What annoys me most is when they're giving the same headlines in the evening that they were in the morning. You mean, nothing else has happened all day? Give me strength.

I have a long commute right now, and I've quickly exhausted my interest in my deliberately truncated CD collection. Playing to death is something I've always done, and everything I own is played to death or not worth playing. With the return of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (no, it's not very good), I tuned into Radio 4 for the first time in 8 years.

First thing you notice is the eery silence. Ooh, then someone speaks! FM has got a totally different sound to AM - and I've always preferred the mid-heavy AM band to the fake "warmth and quality" of FM. Still, I've taken to tuning in for the 6.30 comedy/entertainment slot, and on nights when the journey home takes longer, I even hear a bit of The Archers (and immediately recognised most of the voices - except, what happened to Shula?).

Last night, I was very late, and I heard the science strand and then a little bit of Melvyn Bragg on the history of ideas, talking about The Han Synthesis, which was utterly fascinating.

It's odd. It's intolerably smug and highly irritating in its presentation style, but you still end up with your general knowledge being boosted, and a developing interest in something you'd never thought about before. Which can't be bad, can it?

October 13, 2004

zzzz mail

I've had a day without email at work. God it was odd. I resorted to apple ichat, so I could converse with a couple of other mac users in the office. It's amazing how much you rely on simple things. I realised that post-it notes were what people used before email. I even had to phone someone up at one point.

I won't be doing that again in a hurry.

What's Going On?

What is going on in America? They've gone completely pervy about sex on TV. Since when is a woman licking cream off the nipples of a stripper classed as "extremely offensive content"? Sweet bubby Jaysus. What language are they going to use if Fox show a guy sticking a pineapple up his arse?

October 11, 2004


This kind of story, about unrecedented rises in atmospheric CO2, is the kind of thing that requires the adoption of a Private Frasier voice. We're all doomed, I tell you.

Levels are set to leap again come November when the Samhain bonfires are lit (joke). Someone just said to me: concrete. Apparently concrete contributes a lot of C02, so probably China is to blame, and the Athens Olympics.

The next Big Thing

As we suffer a morning with a clogged email server due to someone else's problem (thanks, someone else), it occurs to me that the Next Big Thing will be people using the internet telephony software like Skype to automatically dial people with recorded advertising messages.

Which is why the technology needs to be strangled at birth. Please. Or we'll all have to have a voicemail call-routing system. "Press 1 to be connected." But even that might not be able to cope with the traffic clogging the phone lines. Makes you want to weep.

In other news, I've had a mobile phone for about 6 months now, and I still don't use it much. More than I thought I would, but not much. And you see people, obviously, using their mobiles all the time. I can only assume that they're all conducting illicit affairs and/or having loads of customer-service related issues.


Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Funny. But what has it got to do with spiders?

October 08, 2004

Something for the weekend

Well, it cheered me up.

Another Look at Bob Dylan

I wasn't going to say any more for now, but I have to talk about this on-line chat with the writer of the newsweek article/interview (which you can find somewhere on that vast and confusing web site if you look around).

It's always struck me, this. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking I have an instinctive understanding of Bob Dylan. Not just his early music, but all his music. And, no matter what his demeanour on stage, I was always with him, understanding the humour in what he does, both on record and on stage.

And, as I said, I'm pretty sure the fans contributing questions to the on-line discussion feel that they, too, instinctively understand Dylan. But then they go and ask the same, dumb, obvious questions, over and over. Like this: "Will the film 'Eat the Document' be released anytime soon?"

Not forgetting the perpetual fascination with the "3 important subjects":... "His motorcycle accident in 1966 (was it a pretext to sober up?), his first divorce and his Christian phase. Did you ask him about that? What did he say?"

It must be hard is hearing idiots asking him the same questions, over and over again, for 40 years.

In his replies to the questions, David Gates implies a lot of the same frustration. I'm personally chuffed that Dylan has chosen to write, in this first volume, about New Morning - because it's one of my favourites. As perverse as he always has been, of course he's going to ignore the ones everyone always bangs on about, and talk about something else. It's like when he was at Live Aid, he couldn't resist mentioning the plight of American farmers (hence the subsequent Farm Aid).

His life follows the same pattern. They mark him as a protest singer, so he releases Another Side... as a protest against that. They mark him as a folkie, so he goes electric. They mark him as the spokesman for a generation, an enigma, a visionary, and he releases Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait. When are people going to pay attention?

Someone publishes an article about a lucid, open, friendly chat he's had with Dylan, and a "fan" asks, "Dylan seems like an extremely difficult interview subject, even all these years later. What was the game plan for your session with him, and did you approach the interview with any trepidation?"

What the fuck?


Here's one of what I'm sure will be a great many reviews of Bob Dylan's Chronicles.

My advice is don't read too many reviews, or you'll end up feeling like it's been read for you and you don't need to read it. Just remember, all these journalists are Mr Jones, and you are not.

I will buy the book, but I am holding off for now. The withheld purchase is the only true eloquence left. I'm going to wait for the silence, for the chattering classes to move on to something else.

On this subject, though I was always vaguely intrigued by the Beach Boys' legendary lost album Smile, I've always felt that, as with so many things, it was built up way too much by journalists with a particular axe to grind (their own) and that it could never be as fantastic as all that. True artists, as Steve Jobs once said, ship. They deliver. However imperfect, they deliver. The logic opposite to that, natch, is (in DeLillo's words) that the withheld work of art is the only true eloquence left.

Or, to put it in a really perverse way, a true artist supplies the same commitment to not shipping as s/he does to shipping. You either do it and put it out, or you don't. If you're not going to release it, don't release it. Just don't. Ever. That way it can live large in the imagination, and the critics will never get to pick over its bones. If J D Salinger suddenly pops up with 25 previously unpublished novels/collections, just kill me now. The existence of bootlegs is important. Bootlegs give the fans some wriggle room, some ability to imagine what might have been, which is a pleasure, a good. Bootlegs, as a matter of fact, are essential in establishing the status of the artist. What decent musician or writer does not have a vast catalogue of unreleased material? Clue: it should remain unreleased.

So I will not be buying Smile, just as I did not wish to see/hear the Velvet Underground reunion. And, in a way, the Caramac KitKat is like this. Best to imagine the glory that might have been.

October 07, 2004


Thanks to Simon for this link:My Gentle Cock. Oo er...


I've been reminiscing about Radio Caroline. That linked page is a frame from the parent site, RadioCaroline.co.uk. I linked to that page in particular, because it's the part of the history I was involved in, as a listener. A little bit of my world collapsed on the day the Mi Amigo sank in the North Sea. There has never, ever, been broadcasting like Caroline's. Only album tracks, nothing poppy. Just good ol' 60s and 70s rock. Not even 80s rorck, because it wasn't the 80s yet.

Listening to Caroline was my first exposure to the likes of Springsteen, the Allmans, Skynyrd, Zep, Jackson Browne, even Jonathan Richman. I didn't like a lot of it, but you got to hear the legendary stuff that you only could read about otherwise.

My musical tastes were formed then. My favourite show was the friday and saturday night "Personal Top 30" show. Listeners would send them in, and they'd just play them - or as much as they could fit in to 2-3 hours. Awesome. So you could request all your favourite tracks (which often turned out to be things like "Shine On Crazy Diamond," "Jessica," and "Stairway...", but still) and they'd just play them.

And Loving Awareness. I'll never forget that. They used, among other things, "The End" from Abbey Road on one of the jingles. Outrageous, and fantastic.

October 05, 2004

Sara Evans live

Miss Sara Evans offers this free live track: Suds in the Bucket. Fantastic.

October 01, 2004

Oh god...

It's official: 'Modern life is rubbish'. Well, I guess you don't have to be over 50 to know this.

I blame those terrible Beatles.

Fuck You Very Much, Bernie

Well. As if Formula 1 wasn't boring enough, St Bernard has now axed one of the few races in the calendar able to consistently deliver any excitement.

What a tosspot.

There were plenty of other candidates for the axe, my opinion.

Hungary, for example. Crap circuit, crap races. Whisper: Monaco. Brasil. Indianapolis. Malaysia. All these state of the art circuits, it seems to me, are soulless and clinical.

I haven't bothered to watch the last few races. I vow now, Mr St Bernard sir, I will not watch any races at all next year, and I will ruthlessly criticise with nasty sarcasm and disdain anyone who does.