31 December 2010

Yeasayer- (free) Live Album

I like Yeasayer, brilliant live band, and the albums are good too (prefer the first to the second). The band are offering a live album for a 'how much doyou want to pay' (including free) from their website.

Click Here.

Love, B

Movies of the past week

Nothing like variety eh? And so a brief summary of the rubbish, deplorable, and quite good flicks that have graced our TV recently.

House 1977 Japanese
This movie was odd, and beautiful. The lead character, Gorgeous, sets off with her friends to her Aunt's house in the country, with her cat. And that's the simple easy to follow plot summary.
the cat becomes important, there are special effects with bright lights, people die. Actually most of the girls die. There is screaming. And most importantly, a piano eats someone.
I loved it. It's funny, it's surreal, and is definitely worth seeing.
Definite parallels with some of the studio ghibli work, for some reason certain scenes and development reminded me of howl's moving castle.

Dr Tarr's Torture Chamber (aka The Mansion of Madness) 1973

Oh dear god this was bad. For badly explained family reasons a journalist wants to find out about some therapy being done in a mental hospital. Things turn bad immediately, and a number of surreal hokey bolloxy episodes drag you through the 90 minutes. Painful. The mental hospital had been taken over by the inmates, which doesn't become clear until about halfway in. At which point the strangeness goes up several notches.
I kinda enjoyed it, but for those of you who like bgrade rubbish, it's a 6-7/10. the oddness is very odd.
For the rest of you, 2/10.

Inception I rewatched it, to see if I'd change my opinion that's its overblown rubbish. Nope. Still think that. Concept is great, but everything is so hamfisted and over-explained. I still think that an indie movie, with a smaller budget, may have achieved a more cohesive story than this.
I've seen a review recently which summed Inception up as 'a movie to make stupid people feel smart'.

Hour of the Wolf 1968.
Touted as Bergman's only horror movie, I'd originally bought this for Halloween, but we ended up not watching it.
I really enjoyed this. It seemed very typical Bergman, moody lighting, slow pans, low action quotient. The main character, an artist, suffers from insomnia and thinks a lot of the weirdo's he's seeing are imaginary. These appear to be representations of his insecurities, which makes the death of the young boy either homosexuality or paedophilia?
The other inhabitants of the island are upper-class party-goers, who invite the artist and his wife for dinner. The group explore ownership of people by purchasing their art, mainly to rile the artists wife.
Told from the wife's perspective, in a pseudo-documentry fashion, the movie seems to be a long rant against consumer driven art.
It's slow, and at times violent, but worth watching.

Rewatched Monty Python's Life of Brian, Captain Blood and Godfather II, and I may spin Gainsbourg this afternoon.

Albums ofthe year is coming along nicely.

27 December 2010


There's other stuff coming up - I guess I'll rip a top10 albums or something like that together at some stage. Without thinking about it there's Americana, Classical and Symphonic Metal in there somewhere. And maybe some movie reviews, since that's all I've been doing the last few days.

I've just finished catching up on the winter season of Imagine. Pick of which was the Ray Davies (the Kinks) interview, fascinating stuff about a very underrated songwriter. Back in highschool when we were discovering the Kinks, Beatles, Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, there was something about Davies' lyrics that painted better pictures, for me at least.

There was also a doco on Springsteen and the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. I think playing these two back to back clarified my problems with Springsteen. He's a very direct songwriter, as much as he claims there are layers in his songs, I can't find them. This could be just be me. Darkness is a great classic rock album, but it's not one I'd keep in my collection if forced to downsize. The songs are uniformly excellent, but they lack lyrical interest. Sure, they are honest stories of the usual people populating Springsteen songs, and the characters are believable, but they don't seem to go anywhere.
But what I found interesting was Springsteen saying they were going for more a stripped back, open, panoramic sound. Compared to Born to Run, yes they achieved that. But oddly it's one of my complaints with the album, it's too claustrophobic. The songs don't breath, and more importantly they don't have the dusty Americana sound that Springsteen says they have. This may just be a lack of experience in the production booth, and Springsteen said as much in the doco, but my pick is that it's the E Street Band. I think they ruin what potentially could have been another brilliant Springsteen solo album. If asked to list my favourite albums of his, I'd go with Ghost of Tom Joad; Nebraska; Dust and Devils. In that order. All of them are sparse, ghostly, tumbleweeds of albums. And for that reason are far more affecting, personally speaking, than BtR or Darkness. For me they manage to imbue the lyrics with the dusty space his characters need to exist.

So watching the two documentaries did, I think, help clarify why Springsteen seems to leave me cold. Davies managed to keep things interesting, no matter what he was writing about, and the topics were similar - local people living small lives. But Davies' kept that unique English style of whimsy in the background (I'm not sure whimsy describes Lola, but otherwise it seems an ok choice of word). Springsteen, I think, tries to engage too much, too autobiographical?, and I think I prefer the more observational style of song writing. I do think Springsteen does manage a more stand-offish approach in the acoustic solo albums.

Is this just me? I know I'm in the minority for not liking Springsteen much :)
Just to ruin any image that I was thinking about this post, I've got Def Lep's extended mixes blasting in the cans at the mo'.

Here's Racing in the Streets covered by Roger Taylor (Queen) from his album 'Strange Frontier'.

And Ghost of Tom Joad


11 December 2010

More stats and other stuff

It's been an oddly productive day, I've gone for a nice long walk, got some stuff organised, cooked a (quite frankly) superb dinner, acquired a nice headache, and now watching 500 days of summer. Which is quite enjoyable. Thinking about movie number two for the evening, may be Pt 2 of Mesrine, or an Errol Flynn. Such are the problems of my life.

I've also configured a lot of stuff on my linux laptop, so I can sync back to last.fm from my apple formatted ipod. This was a lot easier than I remember it, which is good. This has been forced on my as the mac is in need of some repairs, that I haven't gotten around to doing yet. Anyway, it's now synching up against last.fm and things will be back to normal, well until I fix the mac then I'll have to go through it all again.

Currently pondering the Xmas movie line-up. We've got a few candidates.
Inception - I didn't like it, but S hasn't seen it. And it may improve on re-watching.
Hausu (House) 1977

And the possibles:
Dr Tarr's Torture Dungeon

Season of the Witch

Although I don't think that's out yet here. But it looks really bad. Really really bad.

or maybe, Rare Exports A Christmas Tale


10 December 2010

Statistics and why news paper reports are a load of shite

A pet peeve, and believe me, there are plenty, is the use of statistics in newspaper journalism. Basically if you see the word 'increase' or 'percentage' written anywhere, it's generally safe to assume the paper has it wrong. You'd expect this in the tabloid papers, but this report comes from the Guardian.
So yes, I'm ranting against the Guardian.

Titled, on the website, Sharp Rise in Number of Women Killed by Violent Partners (paper version: Murders of partners by men rise sharply), the article claims that there has been a dramatic rise in deaths by partners. Reading the article provides the following:
2009 - 101 deaths
2008 - 72 deaths
As a raw percentage increase, this is, on the face of it, shocking: a 40% increase over one year. Which is obviously how the refuge charity 'Refuge' was trying to sell this.

However, let's put this in context, looking at the UK population figures (reference here):
2009 - 61,792,000
2008 - 61,398,000
Putting the death figures as a percentage of the total population:
2009 - 0.000163452 %
2008 - 0.000117268 %
I realise I shouldn't be using percentages here, but without the raw data to work from, it should do to make my point.
There is very little difference between these two figures, In fact, if I round to 3 decimal places, they are identical. This is due to the total UK population being so large that a number of 101 becomes insignificant from 72.

Indeed, run any statistical analysis of those numbers and you'll find there is no statistical difference between the two years.
there has been no dramatic rise in murders by partners when put into context of both population. What has happened is that there has been an increase in absolute numbers.
What might be more interesting would be to analyse the increase over a longer time period, as the data, as presented, can be interpreted as ' a 0.6% population increase appears to lead (but not cause?) to a greater increase in partner murders', or you could interpret the data as 'a 0.6% population increase leads to a 0.00004 (rounded)% increase in partner murders'. What you cannot say is that there has been a dramatic rise in murders.


6 December 2010

Whisky Cabal Meeting 2

After the superb kick off, where none of us died, the Cabal assembled for round two. As things turned out, this was essentially an SMWS mix, with only one 'normal' release. I'm sure we made noises about cutting down the number of whiskies tasted, but somehow we ended up with another 7 cask strengths ....

SMWS 2.78 Kissed up by sweet promises 21yo Dist 06/88, refill butt, ex-sherry (Glenlivet) 1 of 512 bottles, 58.4%

Nose: citrus, lime, wine, sweet
Palate: dark chocolate and orange, very sweet, cough lollies   [note: most of this was lost with water]
Finish: med long, sweet, hotter with water.

Remembering our group is quite tough, 7/10 neat, and due to most of the flavour dropping out with water, 6/10 with water.
It's not a bad whisky, especially neat, but we felt it is overpriced, and doesn't deliver what we expected from a 21yo cask. Personally, I felt it lacked complexity and was similar to other Glenlivet's I'd tasted. It's not a brand I like much.

SMWS 121.39 Easy drinking dream Distilled Nov 95, 14yo, refill hogshead, ex-bourbon (Isle of Arran). 54.9% 1 of 350 bottles.

Nose: golden syrup, honey, sweet, toffee   - adding water increase the sweet ginger and 'cakey'-ness
Palate: sweet, thick, ginger, gingersnaps, manuka honey, crunchie/honeycomb
Finish: hot, medium length, ginger

We loved this. 8/10. It's reasonably cheap (45 quid) and its definitely worth picking up a bottle. To the point where I'm very tempted myself.

Edradour OB Decanter 13yo Sherry cask (more details maybe added later).
The LFW link is for the current expression.

Nose: toffee, treacle, leather (ya Gran's funeral - yes, we may have been on the third and getting more eloquent), honey, musty
Palate: sherry, honey, sweet, marzipan
Finish: med-long, honey. water increased the heat.

7/10 from our merry bunch. I'd rate it a little higher myself, but it did suffer a little after the 121.39 which was damn good.

SWMS 9.53 A peppery explosion Dist Apr 91, 19yo, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 1/256 bottles, 56.% (Glen Grant)
Nose: sweet, banana, new leather
Palate: peppery, very sweet, burns, tangelos
Finish: med-long

I like Glen Grant, so this one was a bit of a disappointment, not much was happening. Addition of water brought out the hidden depths we all wanted. A much stronger fruity lime taste started coming through, which was very nice. 
Neat: 5.5/10  and addition of water 7.5/10
Was interesting how water ruined the first dram, and made this one. good lesson there...drink more.

SMWS 13.43 Mediaeval combat dram 19yo, 59.2%, dist. Oct 88, 1/576 bottles (Dalmore) 
Nose: peanuts, (what the fuck is that smell?), sweet, corked wine, sulphur, marshmallows, new carpet, olives
Palate: eggy toffee, honey, smooth
Finish; very short
7/10. the SMWS description is about right for this one. I'm not sure our intrepid taster actually worked out what the smell was...

We had a second dram of An Artists' Retreat, which was reviewed at the first tasting. And you'll be pleased to know, we still love it.

SMWS 18.30 Hippie dram dist Feb85, 24yo, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 1/221 bottles, 45.5% (Inchgower)
My notes by this point are getting more illegible, but that's the hits you take as an gonzo journalist.

Nose: honey, custard, white sauce (fish), eggy, brandy sauce (addition of water: bread dough)
Palate: nothing, 
Finish: nothing startling, very short. 
We may have had a few too many by this point, but it only got a 5/10. I reckon it may need more tasting...possibly without the overly strong whiskies before it.

Again, no-one died. So that's another win. Superb line-up of whisky, it's almost a shame putting them up against each other, as they would seriously kick ass against more normal competition.

We are planning a third tasting early January, somewhere in the wilds of Derbyshire. And in the meantime I may yet have a wee dram or two up in Edinburgh. And some over Christmas. 


the peak of life

My ipod sync system is a bit screwed at the moment. And so to keep last.fm up to date, I'm using spotify to sync the played tracks up.

This is, and there's no other word for it, sad.

10 hours of sync'd playlists will go through today, and much the same for the next few days. There's roughly a weeks worth of music to do.

How exciting is my life. So while playing Coltrane on Spotify, I'm listening to Frost* on the ipod. Rad.


5 December 2010

Bowed but not beaten, the dishwashing saga and other ramblings

It's been awhile since I did a newsy blog, and before you all panic, yes there's a whisky one a comin' soon. Obviously it's been busy, with with Assange crashing in the spare room, but you know, you do what you can for the Aussies...  [yes ok, I'm aiming to up readership with that]

Word of the week, possibly fortnight, has been chilly. With overtones of snowy. The white stuff that floats down, not canines or nasal condiments. We've had a reasonable fall around here, certainly more than last year. So I can confidently say, as far as I'm concerned, it's the coldest winter on record. As appears usual, winter has caught the British unawares, and the infrastructure has collapsed, again. Trains, buses, schools, cars have all succumbed to the cold and stayed indoors. Although in their defence, it apparently has been rather cold in Europe too, even the Germans and Scandinavians have been suffering. Go have a look at the BBC or any other news outlet for pictures.
I had to visit Birmingham last week for a training course. This became quite tricky when the two trains I was going to use were cancelled. However, it appears most cross country trains head to B'ham, so I got there on time. And just in time for a severe snow storm as I wandered to the venue. Fun. Actually it was quite nice wandering up in the snow. I didn't get much chance to wander around B'ham, but what I did see in the city centre seemed nice so may wander back at some point and have a better look around.

Wednesday of the training session, I nipped out a couple of hours early as I had to get London for the National gig at the Brixton O2. This was superb. Very simple stage layout, just the band and some projections, all very effective. Hard to single out highlights, but everything I wanted to hear was played, and a nice mix of all the albums. I've heard them described by Americana, and I guess that's kinda right, but more in the Nick Cave interpretation of Americana than, say, Iron and Wine or Wilco. Their lyrics are dark and subtle, with the singer an interesting mix of Nick, possibly Crash Test Dummies, but with the ability to scream. Lyrically I probably prefer The National to Nick, at least for consistency.
Albums to try, the new one (high violet) is slightly more upbeat than previous, but you can't go wrong starting with Boxer. Unlike some bands, you can't go wrong with anything from them.
Here's the video to the first single from the current album 'High Violet'

The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (official video) from The National on Vimeo.

Admittedly getting back to B'ham was 'tricky'. Trains were delayed and rerouted, meaning I ended up arriving back at the accomodation around 3am.

I got dragged to Harry Potter by S. It's no worse than I expected, however in places it almost makes Star Wars Ep1 look good. Nothing happens, no characters are developed, although jar-jar is knocked off, there is no plot, and it's still (in keeping with #1 and 2 which I have seen) lurches from scene to scene with no attempt to link. I know it's a kids film, but really, why stretch it to 2h30min? I barely survived, and even I felt sorry for the kids watching it.
Highlights? Ron making a comment along the lines of 'Don't tell Hermionineininieniene but those snatches are quite easy' - awesome, I laughed, tho appeared to be the only one in the theatre doing so. There was a moment when it looked like Harry was going to get his wand out, but then he dived into cold water, reducing the impact somewhat.

The dishwasher and I have had discussions over the last couple of weeks. I decided it would be good to run the dishwasher at night, say 5am, using cheap electricity. I knew the dishwasher had a delay button on it (3, 6 and 9hr), and so after *reading the manual* (interpret how you will), I set it up to start in 9 hours time. It started promptly and went through its cycle. Discussions ensued, and we left each other alone, both knowing this wasn't finished.
Last night I tried again. Success was within reach, I set everything, I switched it on and shut the door. Nothing. Woohoo! I had won. Technology was my bitch. Cristal was poured and fireworks lit. Needless to say the fucker was teasing. I checked the machine this morning, although it had delayed itself, it hadn't actually gotten around to starting 12hrs after I set it, for a 9 hr wait.
Watch this space for Round 3.

Love, B