25 May 2010

Football and Towel update

I'm making progress. I lasted 70+ minutes into this game, before getting a little bored and wandering off to iplayer to watch the Heaven 17 'Penthouse and Pavement' documentary.
England were winning 3:1 so figured that wasn't likely to change.

I doubt I'm going to do too well during the world cup :)

I'm off for a week of beer very soon, but I want to leave you with this, it's international towel day in memory of the great man Douglas Adams.


24 May 2010

Six months in a crowded isle

It’s been over six months since I arrived in the UK with only a vague idea of where Loughborough was, and most of my gear on a boat. Showing surprising foresight I’d booked a weeks hotel accommodation in what turned out to be the delightful village of Quorn. All of which was a good start, which went downhill when we found Loughborough. Oh dear. Not the nicest of towns, and on our first visit, full of teenage mothers and old people. This hasn’t changed. But I’ll get back to Loughborough later.

Found a very nice flat in a converted mill, we’re on the top floor and thanks to basic thermodynamics, it’s very warm, and with my gear arriving, it began to feel far more like a home. I helped this with my purchase of a mid-range of tv/stereo system - something I’d been promising myself for years but had never got around to getting. The irony being I play LPs through it, and am looking at 8 track units. Oops I’ve digressed. But since I’m on music, I’m thrilled at how cheap music has become here. It’s the same price for an iTunes album as it is for a physical release (cf NZ where it’s much cheaper on itunes), therefore my intention of downsizing the CD collection has taken a knocking. The other great great thing about the UK is that books are cheap, apparently there’s no VAT on them here. What a bloody good idea. And they keep offering 3 for 2 deals, which means I’ve been trying stuff I might not usually give a go.

As I said, we’ve an apartment in Shepshed, which is lovely, very warm and airy. My whisky, CDs, DVDs and vinyls make for a nice lounge area, all set off with the large red leather couch. So yes, very pleased with this place, and although pricy by Loughborough standards, it’s quite reasonable. Shopping in LB isn’t the best, good quality groceries are difficult to find. Fresh maybe best, but it’s not necessarily best for LB. Leicester has decent food stalls, so we’ve popped down there for veges/fruit occasionally. But also look at the trip to London (between 16-20 quid return) and the Borough Market, and it looks tempting. Pop in an art gallery and I’m sold. I think it’s fair to say I don’t like LB, and Shepshed even less. It’s insular, has crap food, is narrow-minded, the LB movie theatre only shows mindless Hollywood crap, and the CD shop is one of the highly generic small HMVs. There’s also no decent clothes shops, thank god for the internet.
Most of the advertising for LB does mention its proximity to other places (Leicester, Nottingham, London etc.), which is certainly a plus. The few times I’ve been to Nottingham, I’ve enjoyed it. Leicester is bit more meh, but the food market is good. And I do like London.

Moving here has been helped by having a bunch of people to impose on. Most of them seem to be based around gigs and booze, which is fine by me. I may not be going to as many gigs as I was in Wellington (well any excuse to hit Bodega and SanFran BH), but since being here I’ve seen: Summer’s End Festival (incl. Steve Hackett, Pallas and Pendragon - crickey), Marillion, Tragically Hip, Pineapple Thief (twice), Oceansize, Doves, The Enid, Mark Lanegan, Anathema and I’ve got The National later in the year. Given that was one reason why I moved, it’s working out very well. I’m also intending to hit some opera soon, as it’s been awhile since I heard any.
The beer is ‘quite good’ too. This is one area where LB does shine, the Swan in the Rushes (our local for Fri lunches at work) is rated number 3 by Camra and has a fantastic number of real ales on tap. Ahhh bliss.
I’m liking the cheese too. The best place is still Neal’s cheese yard in the Borough Market, but LB has a good cheese shop - picked up a lovely St Agur blue there the other day.
Coffee was a major worry, as it's drunk over here, but not made with passion. I wasn't panicking as Monmouth Coffee Company could supply my needs, but since then I've switched allegiance to an Edinburgh roaster. He's a Kiwi who moved over, runs whisky and coffee tastings, and gets my vote. His shop supplies a rather good tea/coffee store, and his roasting company website is here.

The other reason I moved over, Sharla, worked out well. Yeah so I might be going for understatement there.

The job, oh yeah, another reason to move. It’s good, at times I get frustrated by the moribund culture, but I’m learning to work around that, or just plough straight through. As my role was a new position there’s been a certain amount of blindly stumbling to find out what I’m supposed to be doing. Having spent a few years doing that in science already, that just made me feel comfortable. So yes, overall I’m enjoying the job - my minions, which I’m pleased I got to help pick, are absolutely superb. And I’m saying that knowing at least one of them reads this... We’re currently redesigning the labs and moving my lot down to the bottom floor to increase visibility and give the students a better ‘learning space’, which is interesting and has certainly helped me focus where I see my career wandering next.
Speaking of which, I occasionally get asked about the science thing. I cannot get over how relaxed I am now I’m not working in science anymore. I miss aspects of it, and unlike most people, I’m still passionate about my PhD topic. I’d love to be working in it, but it’s not going to happen, there’s no money and I’m sick of begging for money every six months.  So yes, I’m pleased to be out. I’m feeling much better about things - and after the significant break, I’ve worked up enthusiasm to finish some papers. One has been submitted, and the other I’m tidying up a GenBank submission for. That’s probably it for the PhD papers, aside from a review of reptile molecular evolution, although I’m not sure I want to go there.

Although tidying up the papers has emphasised I still like writing. The blog is nice, but it’s not structured and I don’t do much editing on the posts (as I’m sure you’re *well* aware), and so I think I’m in the mood to do some writing and see where it goes. I don’t think I’ve got a novel in me, but we’ll see what happens.

I think a lot of this has come about from the levels of exercise I’m currently doing. I walk to and from work each day (weather permitting), which is an hour each way. And I’m doing a bit more exercise in the evenings, I’m finding if I don’t do this, I’m getting very antsy and grumpy. Odd. Very odd. I’ve started swimming again too, and have just got a bike. Don’t panic, it’s not affecting my love of beer.

The ability to get places quickly, and cheaply, is a major plus. This week I was down in London for a gig and the Sevens, and on Wednesday I’m over in Germany for a few days of beer drinking, and some art galleries (hopefully). I like German beer, although I’d rate the UK andBelgium over it for places I’d go to for beer, but a bierfest seems a good plan to me.
I’m missing decent rugby, the 6 nations was crap, low skill levels and slow recycling of ball. But most games I want to watch are available online (if you know where to look) so I’m coping. Currently I have the England v Mexico game on, well it’s going to kick off soon, and I’ll try to sit through a bit of it. Not hopeful of a full game, but we shall see.

Overall, I like it over here. Obviously we won’t talk about the service industry. But the opportunities for most of my interests are almost limitless here, and for that reason alone I don’t think I’ll be heading back any time soon.

Anathema and the 7s

Had a fun weekend, which differentiates it from the week, headed down to London on Friday to catch up with the A-team over a couple. Then we headed off to see Anathema. We'd seen them before, as support for Porcupine Tree. That gig was marred by technical problems (from memory), so didn't impress.  But we enjoyed this one, a whole gig of just Anathema, playing stuff from the new album "we're here because we're here". This was great, fun gig, nice mid sized venue, great audience and lots of beer. Actually too much beer. Saturday morning was quiet, very quiet. Or in theory it would have been.

Except I had to get up and meet Fran for the London Sevens. I'm not a big fan of the sevens, but figured I've suffered by having very little rugger to watch this season and it was 10 quid for the entire weekend. Had a great time, again quite a lot of beer on Saturday in a very very hot sunny weather (26-28C apparently). Good rugger, fun times. And Twickenham is a nice stadium. Not quite the atmosphere of the Wgtn sevens, but close enough. Had a good bunch of people around, including a large number of kiwi's, safa's and Scot's (who are very realistic about their teams chances). Actually about the beer, rather than the dire crud we had to put up with at the caketin, I had guinness, Greene King IPA, and for the lesser sips, Becks or Stonebow.

Much the same for the Sunday, although it was hotter, and I had less beer. So I've almost got a tan (and yes, lots of sunscreen, but the English sun isn't quite the bitch the NZ one is). Contrary to FB updates, I'm not burnt. But as you've all gathered, I don't like FB and if I had a better way of keeping in contact, I'd be out of there.
I'd go back to the sevens, fun relaxed weekend. Also nice watching England lose to Aussie, South Africa and New Zealand. Not that I'm a vindictive bugger or nuffink.


20 May 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Moroccan Eggplant Salad

It's bloody hot here, we hit 27C in the office today, and it was warmer outside. I had that attractive sweat thing rocking along - booyar, hellllooo ladeeezzzzz.

Tonight's music night is also an attempt to clean up stuff in the fridge since I'm not around much for a week.

Moroccan Eggplant Salad
Serves 2
1 eggplant, chopped into 1cm rings
2 large tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
2-3 chillies
olive oil
roughly chopped parsley (um dunno, handful?)
1t oregano
1T lemon juice (well ok, i squeezed a lemon, I guess it was about 1T)
sea salt + fresh ground pepper

Brush eggplant with olive oil, place on baking tray at 180C until golden and crisp. While cooking, place tomatoes, garlic and chillies and 50-75ml of olive oil in baking dish and cook until golden, around 30 minutes.
Mix all ingredients together and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for flavours to develop.

I'm serving mine with chopped pita bread, dipped in olive oil, dusted with smoked paprika and baked for 5-10 minutes.

moi x

18 May 2010

Gigs and stuff

While lounging around over the weekend I ended up getting some gig tickets. Anathema this Friday in London, which fits in well with the 7s at Twickers this weekend. Huzzahness.
Really looking forward to the new album, the last full studio release (A Natural Disaster) is superb, and not just as it's got a track called Harmonium on it. I guess you'd call it shoegazing doom-metal ish kinda stuff. 

Also managed to score a ticket to The National later in the year which I'm very excited about. Their new album, High Violet, will be in my top5 for the year. It's a natural progression from the previous album, Boxer. And this time I have to agree with the critics, it's superb. 

I did briefly consider the supergroup Transatlantic, as I did like the first and second albums. Big dumb cheesy over the top prog, sadly I've only managed to make it through the new album once in one sitting. The other couple of times have been in two attempts (lets call it side 1 and side 2). Therefore sitting through a long show may lead me to violence, or at a very least an extended period of pop listening. And so Anathema won out.

Pineapple Thief's launch party is tonight in London and Rod's trying to convince me I need to head there. Hmmm. 


15 May 2010

Oohhh my sheep are rustled

Reading the paper, while sipping orange juice, listening to Tom Waits and gently simmering my prawn casserole, I came across this gem.

Sheep rustling in Ramsbottom.
Some credit to the sub-editors for not going for my title, although I shudder to think how the Sun is covering it.
Sheep have been stolen from a field (where else are sheep kept? a sheep-store?), in Ramsbottom. As good as that is, the quote by  the local copper takes the cake:
"...they knew how to handle the sheep..."

Back to the kitchen

13 May 2010

Slight pisht Queen post

Queen - Greatest Video Hits 2After an evening of metal to gently assuage my issues, I've moved onto Queen for a happy sing-a-long. Greatest Hits II DVD since you ask. Hence the image, yeah it wasn't that hard to work out really.
My whisky has emptied. I should fix that.

Anyway, the good doctors prescription has worked a treat. He really is a genius that man. Shame he's given up reptilian evolution for the sexual gratification of IT.

There was a point to this post. Watching I Want It All, which is one of my favourite Queen tracks. Actually The Miracle was the album that hooked me good and proper, and was the first ever CD I bought. I didn't have a CD player, I had to beg usage of the younger siblings (as an aside, also the kind of doctor who would prescribe booze) CD player. Ahhh good times.
The video has Roger drumming away in a leather jacket, whcih unless you're a hardcore Queen fan wouldn't mean much. But it's a one-off for the single Manipulator from his other band 'The Cross'. And it's one of my favourite tracks from the Cross, although for some reason it never made it onto an album. Hence my 12" of Manipulator is a prized possession.

So here's the single version of manipulator (from the live gig in Montreux), and the video for I Want it All. At some point I must blog about my views on the Freddie and Michael Jackson tracks...

back to booze!

Metal roundup

Another in the irregular metal update of stuff I like, or don't or something. I'm in a pissy mood, and I'm drinking, so that tends to make things heavier (I've just been spinning Bloodbath and Borknager). In a change from my usual wandering around YouTube, I've decided to scrobble to Last.Fm using Spotify so you can see what I've sat through.

I'm not usually a fan of thrash, but this, by Kreator, is an interesting mix of melodic metal and thrash.

I've killed my tonic supplies, so no more V n T for me. The beer I don't like has been drunk (that's how desperate things were), and I'm now enjoying a merlot with my (superb) laksa and metal. It's an odd mix, but I like it.
And now a video from a band I've been lucky enough to see live. I do like metal gigs, there's an odd sense of camaraderie. Particularly in Wellington where there were so few grind/black metal gigs.

A quick dalliance with Ex Deo 'Romulus' which I've mentioned before, some Dimmu Borgir (which I've mentioned many times). Now some Behemoth, a band I'm currently getting into. I've got their most recent album, which I like, without being grabbed by it. But it's got that certain something suggesting it's a grower, so I'm sticking with it. Check out Ov Fire and the Void from the new album. Here's an earlier song of theirs:

I'm not sure what look the next band were going for, emo, goth, punk, nu-metal, glam - anyway I quite like the song and video:

Some Iced Earth followed (how does he get his voice that high, freeky), and now Satyricon. I have a soft spot for this vid, it's not very heavy, but it rocks along quite nicely.

And nothing else really took my interest. Mmm feeling much better now after an intensive dose of metal therapy.

Love, me

11 May 2010

The Thief are Back

I like the Pineapple Thief. This won't come as a surprise to anyone.

They have a new album out in a week or two, and have just released the video for the single. I like it, which makes a change from most videos - the director seems to have put a bit of thought into this one. It's ended up a mixture of film-noir, 1920s style, possibly Alice in Wonderland, definitely Forbidden Zone (the very odd Richard Elfman movie), and I get a very strong sense of Guy Maddin, both in style of the shots and the style of story-telling.

I've heard quite a few tracks from the new album live, and the style change evident over the last few albums is continuing. Without losing that 'thiefness' which is what hooked me years ago.
I'm also looking forward to the new Anathema album, but more on that later.

Here's the video and a banner link for the new albums site.

The Pineapple Thief - Nothing at Best (from Someone Here is Missing) from Kscope on Vimeo.

Love and lollipops, B

10 May 2010


Headline from a music news list I'm on:

k.d. lang and Susan Boyle Fuel Mothers Day Chart
More than 30,000 Susan Boyle and k.d. lang CDs sold last week in Australia with shoppers buying up for Mother`s Day

8 May 2010

My day of OTT-ness

I sense some bloggage over the weekend, mainly as I need to do some funding applications, and will therefore be doing anything but.

The day is certainly rocking along, after waking up to the springtime (overcast), a delicate peppermint tea and bagels broke my fast. Seizing the spirit of age, I went for walk. To the swimming pool. And there, dear readers, I swum. Following this, I continued the walk into Loughborough and bought cheese, wine, beetroot, malt vinegar, blueberries and strawberries. By this time, reflecting the concept of 'spring' in Britain, it was freezing and raining, heavily. Couldn't find any books to grab my interest, and the shoe-shop was too packed for the likes of me, so I caught the bus home and collected some DVDs from the library.

The afternoon has involved coffee, the paper, TV, some Buffy, music and warmth. This separates the afternoon from the morning which was the coldness. I've also cooked some beetroot and pickled it. I cannot overestimate how this was the pinnacle of my day.

The evening I imagine will involve a cheeky French wine, some bean burgers with pickled beetroot (see earlier for evidence of planning!) salad, rockmelon, cheese and DVDs.
In political updates, we have a hung parliament here. This has caused drama, excitement, and panic on the streets of London. Actually, aside from the mass media, apathy appears to be the standard response.

* David Dimbleby, whenever I switched over to BBC he appeared slightly befuddled (which is his greatest asset), and is therefore ideal as the next dumbledore.
* Jimmy Carr annoys me
* Rich Hall is great
* Jezza Paxman is fantastic, if not very nice. I like that.
* Cleggmania isn't nearly as cool as Hulkamania.

I am highly pissed at the BNP for failing so miserably, I was looking forward to my golden handshake at the departure gates. Wankers.

Right, that's enough blog, I think some Supernatural now.


6 May 2010

Civic duty

I voted this morning so that I can complain with the best of british about the countries leadership. It's been interesting hearing about the trials of a 'hung' parliament, having lived under proportional representation for long enough I have no clear idea why you'd want FPP anyway. The biggest problem with FPP is that it does lead, naturally, to a two party system. And to be honest, I like the concept of having the Green's sitting around.

But the highlight, for me and the office, has been the BNPs suggestion to remove foreigners and other non-white Brits by kicking them out with a 50,000 pound bonus. Awesome.
The BNP is not known for its intelligence, or looks, and so haven't considered how other countries would feel with a bunch of new immigrants - or how they'd respond to the Brits already working in their countries.

Fun times.

I have no beer at home, which I may fix later, otherwise I'll be sipping a coffee and watching the Brooker/Mitchell/Carr take on the election in lieu of music night.

Having a rather pissy day at work. I haven't hit anyone, but I've considered it. A lot.


2 May 2010

Poetry, we've parted company and I don't know why

Something clicked while I was reading the book reviews/literature section of the paper over the weekend. I don't like poetry. I used to, I have fond memories of Auden, Blake, Heaney etc., but I generally don't enjoy reading them anymore. I dipped into the poetry series that came free with the paper a couple of months ago, but nope, just general annoyance. 

I often hear that poetry should be read aloud, or listened to. Indeed I remember that at school and Uni, and yeah sometimes it helps, getting the cadence, the phrasing, the metre - whatever you feel is missing from the written version. I can't say I've spent much time doing that recently, but the few I have found read online I keep thinking 'twat'. No matter how professional they are, it seems over-read to me. Have I become that much of a minimalist?!

Why has this happened? 

I love good lyrics in music. I've just spent the last 90 mins listening and watching some extraordinary performances covering, arguably, one of the best singer-songwriters ever, Nick Drake. And it's his lyrics that make the songs deep, personal, encompassing. I spend a lot of time listening to music, and music with crap lyrics generally doesn't work for me. Having said that, some music where the artist uses the vocals as an instrument, relegates the actual words secondary to the tune they carry. It's a similar circumstance to lyrics in foreign languages, I'm forced to listen to the tune and emotion and not be distracted by any triteness in the words. I challenge you to listen to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and not be effected by the emotion. 

I even like prog and concept albums. I like the idea of telling a long story in lyrics, and I'm happy to follow that for 60-120 minutes. And that goes for opera as well. Admittedly most opera I like isn't in English, but well, it wasn't the most trendy of languages to compose in.

So, given lyrics are essentially poems, why do I prefer lyrics over poems? Is it the additional stimuli provided by the music? Is it, as Poe in The Fall of the House of Usher says (sample below with Orson Welles reading), that poetry needs music?

Is it that I've become so used to absorbing and responding to lyrics through my headphones that reading, an activity I associate either with study, newspapers, or books, just doesn't work anymore for poetry?
Or is it, and I suspect that this has something to do with it, that I find poetry on its own, too annoying. The purple prose that I want to slash, the ambiguity, the overt arty nature? 
When I spend time just reading lyrics, I sometimes get that response (and Yes, Jon Anderson would appear an obvious choice), suggesting the music, and tonal variation of singing covers the clunkiness of the lyrics.

Why have I lost interest in poems? Any suggestions where to start?


Cooking with Bruce : Prawn and mushroom salad

I followed a recipe for this. No really, I did.

The only tweaks, due to disorganisation and lack or addition of ingredients were:
* frozen prawns were thrown in a very hot frypan to thaw and cook (peanut oil flicked over them)
* bok choy and red peppers added at the last minute to prawns, instead of savoy cabbage
* mushrooms were dried, so reconstituted in hot water, then cooked along with some standard brown mushrooms

Prawn and Mushroom salad

My mouth is now chilli warm, but being cooled with  Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Very tasty.


Movies wot I has seen

It's been kinda crappy weather recently so I've watched some movies. Here's some brief summaries of them:

The Mighty Peking Man
Oh yeah, this is bad. So bad it's great. Scientists (yup, always scientists) read a report of a giant ape-man and decide capturing it will gain them rewards, riches, women etc. And, conveniently, there's a drunk broken explorer (his woman had recently left him) who doesn't care anymore and will therefore be ideal to lead the expedition. Huzzah! Peking-ho!
But wait, we know nothing of his backstory! Quick, dire dialogue to prompt...wait for it ... a montage!!! Oh yeah baby. Lots of happy couple shots, then disaster he comes home early to find his beloved, who always wanted to be in the movies, in bed with his director friend! Shock, horror, oh noes!
Back to the expedition to find trials and tribulations awaiting our intrepid hunters. Tigers, elephants, confused villages, but wait, what's that? Why it's Michelangelo's hairy hand of god, sweeping our leader off. My what a big hairy ape you are. Hmmm wot does every asian ape need? yes, a blonde western woman with a large proportion of boobs hanging out - she shouts orders to the ape, and he listens.
Yes, in the first 30 minutes, if one wants to read far too much into the story, we have had a damning indictment on capitalism, and now western hegemony over asian countries.
But now romance between our hero, and the booby blonde raised by a giant ape. Why look, she's got him two giant melons. Move forward a bit, and the ape is being taken to the mainland for show, and the girl is going with our hero - thankfully he's got her some clothes so she doesn't have to wear those horrid jungle clothes. Of course she wants to wear leather cut off shorts and a tight leather top.
Things went bad for the city, and there's now a large angry ape blowing up tonka toys and climbing buildings (hmmm) and generally looking pissy about things. Unbelievable bad, awesome pastiche of KKong, Godzilla, Mowgli.

It's an Aussie movie, so the title explains the plot in a way the locals can cope with (heh heh). An alien invasion, a gun toting loner, zombies, nut job cops, and much comedy. First half is superb, second half tries to explain itself by making a convoluted conspiracy plot. That does detract from the quirky low-brow charm of the movie, but over all - fun, meaningless, guns, death, zombies, re-animation.

It's low budget, it's a thriller, and damn it's good. Confusing, gun-toting hunters, tightly written script, set on a boat, basically find this and watch it. It's interesting, engaging, and makes you think. Certainly a cut above the usual thriller.