Saturday, July 31, 2004

Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do

Sigur Rós - Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do

A gentle high–pitched chime, somewhere on your left. Another. Filling in the spaces, more join in, forming a gentle tinkling carillon which never quite makes it to perfect tonality. A piano adds an occasional note. A couple of minutes later the carillon fades under its own delicacy, Sigur Rós’ trademark scratches and distortions appearing. Ba. Ballet–shoes plunk on a wooden floor. Ba. Little electronic scramblings, and maybe — Ti. — maybe that might be the carillon again… Ki. And then, everything rests for a few seconds before joining in the final Di. Do. section. It’s only about 20 minutes. To me, it’s lovely and interesting, like a tidesmoothed pebble you keep in your pocket, smooth on one side and sharp on the other. Useless. And even as you hoard it you know it belongs somewhere else.

Read about it, at least. :o)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bush: the Big Reader

In one of the most incisive insights into the mind of the distinctly average reader, it emerged in an AP report that George W Bush is actually reading the Report of the 9-11 Commission.

The president said he was reading the report and found it “interesting. It reads like a mystery, a novel. It’s well written,” Bush said in a brief interview outside his home in Crawford.

The mystery / fiction accolade is well deserved, as obviously, nobody in America knows what happened on 9/11.

Jesus, the irony.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I’d so hoped…

…that this blog wouldn’t become (mostly) about one thing. And maybe, being a blog, that’s enough to make it about one thing: my thoughts and interests. But in any case, I was looking around for interesting stuff to blog about, and at first could really only think of one compelling thing: this site I found a couple of weeks back. And yes, it’s quasi–political and about moral pugilism in America. (I really hope after November, all this will stop so you poor people won’t have to read it.)

A young photography student got really nastily pushed around by local and federal police for doing nothing more than taking photos of a wellknown and picturesque (photos are on the site) park and canal lock gates near his home. He was so frightened and panicked that his instincts — like those of a trapped rabbit in North Carolina which will cause said rabbit to run — caused him to inform as many people as possible. Because thank god, there’s still safety in numbers.

But, even as my heart sank, even as I realised there is nothing worth blogging about out there that I can actually be bothered to search through my history for — bang! Inspiration!

Röyksopp: Melody AM

Röyksopp. Does that mean anything to you? Do you recognise the name? Röyksopp are purveyors — nay, creators — of the finest and most funkily serene music since ‘_____’, a generic teenager from everywhere on the planet, sat in his/her room and dreamt the perfect album in his/her spotty head.

Royksopp is something very special. Thanks to their work with Kings Of Convenience, Those Norwegians, and Drum Island the boys are at the heart of the Nordic funk. Their album twinkles like the Northern Lights, has the warmth of a well–worn Rhodes, and manages to mix up styles like Love Unlimited having a snowball fight with Mad Professor over at Brian Eno’s pad.

Yes, that’s right. ONE album. Just one. And that is pure gold when you consider how their music is adored by so many people. One of my favourite blogs, things magazine, has only just noticed the video of Remind Me. Made entirely of animated and morphing information graphics. It’s worth a look, people. The cover art of the album is also lovely because it’s minimalistic. We have a swirl of sky so perfectly, leather–sofa–in–dream–Scandinavian–home brown that there is no grotesquerie here; the visual signals of evergreen trees; and a typeface which, capitalised, is simple and not shouty. It says “this is just me, really”.

And yes, Röyksopp’s site and the video are the ‘totally worth it’ links of the day. You need look no further. Except maybe at this site, to get an idea of the critical acclaim.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Homophobic B&B owner defends his rights

A few weeks ago, it emerged that a B&B (Bed and Breakfast, for my American friends) owner in the Scottish Highlands declined to give a gay couple a room in his establishment because they were, well, a bit gay. The Cromasaig guesthouse’s owner, Tom Forrest, sent the couple an email explaining his decision. “We do not have a problem with your personal sexual deviation, that is up to you,” he wrote. “You are welcome to our twin room if you wish, but we will not condone your perversion.”

I saw that story in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago and it stunned me. Not so much because I never expect to hear of behaviour like that in these wonderfully tolerant times. But rather because Forrest was being so openly straight — one might almost say straightforward — in his views. And, aside from the point that by being so open he must obviously be ramming his heterosexuality down quiet gay people’s throats, it is a fact that he is simply standing up for his rights.

He owns a B&B. It’s his property and under current laws it is not illegal for hoteliers to turn anyone away from their accommodation without a booking, whatever the reason.

The story I first read presented the results of journalists’ canvassing of other establishments up and down the country to see what their attitudes were. Aside from the laughable:—

The receptionist at Greystone Cottage, Windermere, in the Lake District, hesitated: “Ummm, I suppose not.” Again with the warm welcome. Then they added something which discombobulated us rather: “The only thing I will say is that we have an 11. 30pm curfew.” A gay–only curfew? Or did they think gays just more likely to stay out late? Impossible to decide.

— there was a positive attitude. A Jersey hotelier who said that he’d love to allow gay couples to stay but that it was against a (fictional) Jersey law was overridden by the region’s PR manager who said: “There’s no law against gay couples sharing rooms. You might get the odd proprietor who is a fascist or a redneck, but there’s not much we can do about that.”

Except, there should be. And not solely for the gay–centric reason that Forrest is being homophobic. Ruaridh Nichol has an article in last week’s Observer extolling the liberating influence of the holiday and, more significantly, the hotel or guesthouse. It’s not to say that gay or straight people will automatically launch into orgies when their suitcases are unpacked — knowing you are away from home and have some freedom is largely psychological in its benefit. Start making moralistic rules for your guests and you take that away. Your building ceases to be holiday accommodation and therefore ceases to be of value.

But Forrest, who is at the centre of the present row, is in a position of strength. As well as upholding his legal rights (which happen to annul the human rights of anyone not straight) he has backing. As the most recent article says:

He has received more than 4,000 emails from every corner of the globe, 400 letters, countless phone calls and the odd financial contribution. Around 98 per cent of the correspondence, he estimates, is in support. He has also appeared on numerous radio shows, including California’s Riverside Radio[.]

He plans to oppose the introduction of a law making a stance like his illegal by standing for the Scottish Parliament himself.

But I reckon the fight should be taken out of his hands altogether. He should be compelled to withdraw all discriminatory practices from his management, or be forced to close the business.

If his position is, eventually, declared illegal, he says he’ll go to jail rather than allow “poofs, sorry, homosexuals, to share a double room in my home”.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

9/11 Commission Report published

The 9/11 Commission's Report comes off the presses - AP photo, Manuel Balce Ceneta

I’ll have to blog about this a bit later when some of the dust settles and I've had a chance to watch the presentation, but as the Commission’s site is currently overloaded, the report is also available via the BBC Website (link is a 7mb PDF).

[Update: the Commission’s website is speeding up slightly and you can download the same PDF from it at this link.]

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Heard on the tube…

From this site. The site owner says it’s gossip but I’m inclined to think of them as little sonic slivers of experiences rendered light and frothy because we overhear, rather than live, them.

You can’t take part in an foxhunt and then complain afterwards that you didn’t really want to do it.” – there goes one friendship.

I have no fucking interest in how some fucking journalist conquered her alcoholism and made an article out of it.” – I read this story in the Guardian. Actually quite boring. In parts.

Dr Who was not Welsh. He came from Gallifrey.” – superb wit. Of course they were talking about some actor but it doesn’t stop it being giggle–worthy!

I swear she had cum on her face.” – oh, the people we pass on the street.

I’m in the mood for spiritual ascension.” – this wasn’t you, Jonathan, was it?

Can anyone think of a good name for a cult?” – I can but I’m not telling. It’s patented. Heh.

Shitting hell.” – yep.

You’re not ugly, you just have a funny bone structure.” – this would be utterly tragic if the person saying it had a friend who really *did* have malformed bones.

David Beckham wears white socks. Fuck me.” – I keep imagining a cockney guy of about 50 saying this, deadpan, to nobody in particular while reading the paper. And I keep on grinning.

They aren’t rats, they are just very dirty mice.” – it took me ages to notice the mice on the tube, too, but I never thought they were rats.

Everyone is so gay.” – obviously said somewhere between Green Park and Leicester Square, although it’d be funnier heard in, for example, a really hard place like Canning Town.

Your headphones do make you look like a bit of a wanker.” – and cue the end of another friendship, or a fistfight between total strangers.

You won’t catch me riding a cock.” – nor me. Their little feathered backs are too small, and their legs too weak. A saddle would be tricky too. Hehe. ;o)

I’ve seen a lot of young men wearing cowboy hats and I don’t think it’s a good thing.” – aww, sweet old grannies these days!

There’s nothing more beautiful that that smell after it’s been raining.” – I agree.

Everyone nowadays is a pervert. What happened to old–fashioned boring sex?” – I can assure you it’s alive and well and living in Belfast. Grr.

All she did all day was talk about herself. She didn’t ask me a single question.” – said by the person who talks about themselves all day.

Oooh.... my nipples are hard.” – actually, I think this might have been me.

My son earns more fucking money than I do.” – yes but that’s because you’re not a rentboy.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Derelict London

St Pancras Chambers, London: front elevation

A city exists not in its buildings but in the spaces between them, the interstices between here and unknown, now and past, cleanliness and squalor. When we’re in a great city of any kind, we register the contrasts without realising it, and they make the modern look all the more so; the charming picturesque, and the bland actively depressing.

London has more spaces of this kind than any city I’ve been to. And that’s why it’s so encouraging that people who notice the spaces are using modern technology to ‘preserve’ the old derelictions as images. Fitting, too, because image is what they are. They are the stone negative whose positive print was lost long since. Dying stone footfalls along the wide avenues of urban time…

Seattle Public Library — Redux

Photo copyright Scott Nelson

A few weeks ago I blogged about Seattle’s delicious new library. Now, you can gawp afresh at a lovely new walkthrough, to be found here.

Iraqi women beg to be killed…

…as American soldiers sodomise their children. No, it’s not true. Well, it hasn’t been proved to be true yet, and may never be.

The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out.

Like many on the MetaFilter thread, I hope it’s not true. Those of you who have seen Michael Moore’s most recent film will be familiar with military insensitivity in Iraq, and this story, if true, will raise hell. Utter hell. Of course, if it’s true, hell has already been raised, and this reply within the post raises the very good point that Moore also makes: many US soliders are very young and have very little education, and letting young uneducated people carry and shoot weapons on government orders is a bad idea.

But we do it in the UK, too. Because obviously 26–year–olds, say, are too old to be starting off in the Forces.

Marks & Spencer’s modernism attacked

Marks and Spencer, Belfast City Centre: formerly Richardsons Warehouse

The traditionalist chain of supermarkets, beloved by the French and lovingly sneered at by the English, is going to have to close a few of its more modern doors soon. New minimalist stores are apparently decidedly *out* of the basket – at least the M&S basket.

When I was a kid, I used to love Christmastime even more than I do now, and one of the most atmospheric pleasures was being taken by the hand and led, wide–eyed, through the food hall and wine shop of our City Centre branch here in Belfast. We have a lot of former linen warehouses here, gigantic ornate masonry things, and M&S sits inside one of them (pictured above) as if it’s perfectly at home.

Why not write for the New York Times?

Well, here’s a hint: because if you ever do, your work will be locked away in the cyber equivalent of an iron strongbox for the rest of its natural life, with only those who pay getting access to it.

I think it’s obvious, also, that if you’re not writing for posterity in some way, why be any kind of journalist in the first place?

Humour wears thin

Slim-Fast has just axed Whoopi Goldberg from its TV ads because she did what she was born to do: make jokes.

Goldberg made fun of the US president at a Democratic fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall in New York last week. “We should keep Bush where he belongs,” Goldberg said, gesturing at her genitals, “and not in the White House.”

I mean, I don’t really care that she made a wordplay joke about specifically, erm, Bush. Heh. It’s just the killjoy aspect that I find pathetic!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Firemen! Oooooh!

FDNY: Firefighter Billy Biel, photo copyright Alan Batt

OK, turning the campness firmly off, I just took a look around cyberspace and found something which both amuses me and irritates me, at the same time. FDNY, New York City’s Fire Department, has just published its calendar for 2005. This is a somewhat mixed thing for me, as I don't go for a lot of the ‘types’ seen therein. However there are a few nice ones, like this enchanting young man. But they’ve gone and called the damn thing Calendar of Heroes. Why, oh why? Heroes? Nope. Firefighters who risk their lives every day as part of their job and are therefore not particularly exceptional when considered alongside any other firefighter? Yes.

Let’s just hve an end to this “Oh, 9/11, they’re so brilliant, oh, oh” thing already.

Although, heh, some of them are undoubtedly damn fine. :o)

Saturday, July 10, 2004

43% of Americans didn't do it in 2002

Do what?, I hear you say. Well, the answer is… alarming. In 2002, very nearly fifty per cent of the American public didn’t even pick up a book with the intention of reading it. I found this article via MoorishGirl, and it does disturb me because I genuinely love reading proper books. But is this figure actually representative of a non–reading cadre of Americans, or does it hide those who simply spend a lot of time reading erudite and informative electronic texts?

Just to balance it all out, I've been reading (although, sadly on–screen) a very interesting Guardian Review profile of writer Peter Ackroyd who has given all us readers much pleasure – and has given London an entirely fitting tribute by writing its biography. Lucky London: it’s always too busy to write its own, and would never hope to finish the damn thing. Heh. :o)

It’s always a pleasure to read a carefully–printed and –bound book, because the typeface and paper seem to add so much to the experience if you have a certain mindset. Earlier this week, the cornerstone of what will be New York’s replacement for the World Trade Center was laid, and fittingly for the the city, the typeface chosen for the carved inscription was Gotham.

The choice of Gotham is more than a matter of typographical arcana (though as typographical arcana go, it’s not bad). As the first tangible element of the Freedom Tower — and, by extension, the trade center redevelopment — and as an image seen nationwide on Independence Day, the cornerstone sent an aesthetic signal of intent.

And staying with Ground Zero and all that it represents and has given birth to, I went to see Michael Moore’s notorious–before–it–was–released Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Like most Moore, it’s partisan, although with so much press and public apathy in America at the moment, that is no bad thing. My dad, who has also seen it, said: “In all those clips of Bush, he’s presented as just… a fart. But there are so many of them that you just overwhelmingly know that that’s what he is: a fart.”

After having seen the thing myself, I think a few things: one, that its win at Cannes earlier this year is understandable due to the strength and urgency of the message; two, that its violently mixed reception is due to the strength of the message; and three, that the message itself is ‘trifaceted’ if there‘s such a word.

  • Message one: big business will always control the Presidency and senior politicians in today’s America.
  • Message two: this is shown by the increasing transparency of the current administration’s lies over Iraq.
  • (Aside: yesterday’s publication, by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, of its report (large PDF) on the prewar Iraq ‘intelligence’ is one more nail in the coffin of the vapid excuses peddled by big business / Bush.)

  • Message three: by lying to pretty much everybody about domestic and international terrorism and Iraq, and by being feckless in its own country as well as abroad, the Bush administration has been guilty of betraying the USA’s traditionally cautious and largely moral stance on war, which is that an army shouldn’t be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Predictably, the reviews are all very mixed. But I think it’s compelling viewing for anyone.

    Sunday, July 04, 2004


    n. [poo ' teen]:

    The cheese curds did indeed melt and pull the dish together into one gooey mass, although the French fries stayed crispy enough to be individually discernible in the collective, giving the dish a pleasing light crunch. The brown gravy was turpid and dark, with a sturdy tannin structure supporting notes of oak, wood smoke, spice, aniseed and musk. There was the faintest hint of chocolate and raspberry in the finish, though that may have reflected a previous use of the serving dish. In the nose, the poutine was beefy and slightly insolent – I detected an almost wanton playfulness, the evanescent flavors frolicking together like young beavers in a Gaspé pond at dusk…

    Poutine is like the Scottish ‘Chips and Cheese’ which I enjoyed so often in Aberdeen after a night out. But this has cheese curds and gravy. And the above, comedic, superb description comes from an entry on the equally superb Idle Words. Go there at once. Now. Shoo!

    Friday, July 02, 2004

    Saddam in court: zero credibility

    Found on MetaFilter. As was this. [insanely loud laugh]

    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    High–minded vitriol

    Cover of

    It’s about time we stopped using ‘high–minded’ as a cliché and started understanding it to mean a sort of crystalline, passionate venting of the intellect. The passion has drained from op–ed journalism these days. People no longer say what they really feel, and I’m absolutely sure that many such writers consciously think about their writing *style*, rather than their *true beliefs* when they write.

    That said, and without cliché myself, I have not read any recent writing (apart, of course, from poetry) as high–minded as this article in the Village Voice by Gary Indiana:

    Despite the cornucopia of bijoux items from the crackpot right and free-range, publicity–addicted blabbermouths that publishers like HarperCollins and other multinational subsidy boutiques were touting a mere nine months ago as wonderful additions to whatever bookshelves American homes still feature as decorative touches, even the antic Ms. Coulter would have to concede—well, actually, I doubt it—that the popularity of these offerings has been remarkably transient, and most did nothing in sales next to Hillary Clinton's recent blockbuster. It seems that Americans who can still afford to buy a book, and are able to read one, prefer political books that appeal to their better natures instead of their baser instincts and favor writing that offers, at the very least, some hope that diverse people might one day live in acceptance of difference and the golden rule instead of eternal antagonism and warfare.

    Yes. He did write a single paragraph that long and use only two sentences. Grammatically he’s verbosely shite, but what the hell does that matter when what he says makes so much sense?

    (I’m not just talking about Clinton’s book now, by the way. Hehe.)

    The (genuinely funny, and heartening) thing is, this has been called a book review. I’m sure Indiana started it as one, but his passion for his wider subject just overtook it, so I present it to you as a superb example of how firecely an idealistic fire can burn, in even a journalistic breast.