Monthly Archives: May 2012

25 Albums – Pop Will Eat Itself – This is the day – This is the hour – This is this!

Another one of these.

This was the first PWEI album I owned, but it was their third (I think) (WRONG). They really got into their stride and set the template for the next few, but hadn’t yet got too slick – a good few rough edges to keep it tricksy. Box Frenzy was good, but sounded a bit like they’d just discuvered drum machines and rapping. And they sampled Mel’n’Kim, FFS. On the other hand, slickness rather got in the way of Cure For Sanity, but then that was a strange time, all told.

Anyway, when this came out I was working in Woolworths, watching the sleeves come and go, and this caught my eye. I love the sleeve design. SciFi, techno imagery, cartoons and comics. Blade Runner reference. Cold-war apocalypto atomic clock. Cool typography. Now for a feast!…

PWEI Is A Four Letter Word

“P! W-E-I! P-W-E! I!”

Just a little sample and beat to lead us into…

Preaching To The Perverted

“What’s my solution? Noise pollution.”

They just go right ahead and set up shop. Straight into the rock guitars, sampled loops, nasal shouted rap, and little shout-outs to their own back catalog (“U-U-U-Ugly, oh yeah”). Poor old Rick Astley.

Wise Up! Sucker

“You say it’s love that you need, it’s war that you’ve got.”

This was the first track I actually bought, as a 7″ picture disk – it definitely caught my eye at the record fair in the Corn Exchange. Dancefloor filler, for certain. Hip-hop beats, stunning one-chord guitar and lots of twiddling solo stuff.

Sixteen Different Flavours Of Hell

A continuation of the beats from the previous track, a repetition of a key line, and then the sirens heralding…

Inject Me

“You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!”

Big piano mainline, singalong chorus, and rap about bedsit-based intergalactic wanderings.

Can U Dig It?

“Terminator. Hit The North! Alan Moore knows the score.”

A quick classic sample from Warriors, then straight into “stun guitar” and drum machines before the best list of 80’s British transatlantic pop subculture touchstones from music, TV, comics and movies. A shopping list to rival that one by REM. And all to a very danceable beat!

The Fuses Have Been Lit

“Got a little blue tube to give me my views.”

Slowie to end side one. Five-to-midnight on the atomic clock, and we’re all listing nihilistic suburban maladies, and food additive codes. Then we’re suddenly getting triumphant guitar licks, before diving back down into the TV samples and shortwave voice distortion. And a Deerhunter sample.

Poison To The Mind

“Music is just organized noise, and noise is poison to the mind.”

Intro to side two, with a sample from the 1967 psychedelic movie Wonderwall. Segues nicely into…

Def. Con. One.

“Confidence is high, repeat, confidence is high”

The definitive PWEI track. Dance beat, grebo guitars, movie samples, fin de siecle military-industrial complex imagery, and a chorus made up of three samples: Crazy Horses, Funky Town, and some Stooges number. Not to mention the Twilight Zone theme.

Radio P.W.E.I.

“The volume in this room is much too groomed, we need a big bad boom.”

This is a corker. The guitars are remeniscent of (though not sampled from) Two Tribes by Frankie. Classic bravado hip-hop rock rap swagger, with some hyperbole mixed in for good measure. Great for walking down Kimbolton Road heading downtown.

Shortwave Transmission On ‘Up To The Minuteman Nine’

“Offer expires while you wait”

And the same beat goes on, a lick of lyrics from the previous track is repeated, and then a sample of Eric Idle voicing Wreck-Gar from the Transformers movie.

Satellite Ecstatica

“Do not panic…”

Seedy TV, sex, late night bedsit bliss. What a life, ladies and gentlemen! Psychosexual sado-masochism sampling Sonic Attack by Hawkwind.

Not Now James, We’re Busy…

“…pay respect to my building! It’s JB property and it could be the one you get killed in”

Stranglely enough, I had this album taped on one side of a TDK D90, and Megatop Phoenix by B.A.D. on the other. This meant the James Brown arrest was the subject of a song by two bands on one tape! Amazing.

Wake Up! Time To Die

“Surrender to the bender, and no saying ‘when'”

Sample from Blade Runner, of course. A touching little ballad to getting drunk and pissed-up on booze. Oh, the Poppies. Nice feedback drone fadeout that may have run into the runout groove, or not.


There are some filler tracks here, but because I listened to this mainly on a cassette in my “walkman” while cycling in Bedford, or riding the bus in Manchester, they all flow into one another. I got some grief from people for liking PWEI over the years, mainly from that most terrible of breeds – the Northern Authentic Music Fan. The sort of people that gave us Oasis, in fact. Basically, the albums a lot of fun for riding, dancing, driving, and tracking down lyrics and samples from. As I said, it was b/w the then current B.A.D. album. I had a couple of tapes that had complemtary stuff on each side – 808 State and Front 242 was another example. These tapes rarely left my satchel.

“OK, let’s get down to it, boppers”

Tequila Snaps

Choose your poison

Elige tu veneno

I uploaded a bunch of photos of our Tequila Tasting to my Flickr page. See them here.

There’s some nice ones of friends, and of course a couple of Gordon, and a couple of others.

When I was going through and deciding which to share, I had to decide how to share them, and there’s no shortage of methods and services allowing me to do that. I’ve been a Flickr user for many years, and it’s served me pretty well. It’s clear there are many more to choose from now, though, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

That meant yesterday’s article on Gizmodo about How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost The Internet was pretty depressing reading. Flickr isn’t dead, but there are so many services to choose from now, that it has a hard time standing out. And of course, being bought by Yahoo was a bad sign, with their reputation for buying up cool services, stifling innovation, crowbarring in integration with other Yahoo products and services, and then when it doesn’t work, deleting the whole thing, including the terabytes of people’s data that have been accumulated. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again. The wonderful Archive Team “no longer considers Yahoo as a dependable location for data“. Archive Team’s founder(?) Jason Scott wrote this excellent post about this problem – highly recommended. Also read this one which describes how Yahoo’s corporate culture lead to the situation we have now – pretty scary stuff.

In the meantime, I have lots of photos on Flickr, but they are copies of the files I have on my own machine – nothing is held solely online. As for all the groups and contacts and fun tags and discussions and favourites and so on, well, I hope Flickr manages to hold on to them.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I’m not about to start using Facebook as a photo storage and sharing site, even though they now hold the lion’s share of online photo storage. Facebook is a big shiny brightly lit room, with security cameras perched atop the barbed wire fence that is there to protect YOU from the real web, only the cameras point INWARDS.

Dark Forces Resurrected

Inspired by my memory of playing the Lucasarts FPS Dark Forces when I was at college while listening to Pulp’s His’n’Hers, I decided over the weekend to see if it was possible to play  it on a Linux machine. A quick google showed that it was, and in fact one website provided all the information I needed, along with a downloadable zip file of the whole game! Not sure how legal that is, but whatever.

I followed the instructions, installed DOSBox and the game files, and it worked straightaway! I was whisked back to those heady days of procrastination on my Gateway DX2-66. Sadly the sound didn’t work, and a quick google of that showed that it would take fiddling around, installing extra packages which may or may not break the rest of the OS. I left it. A shame, because the sound was a big part of the game, as it is with all Star Wars stuff.

The screen appeared in a window on my desktop, and frankly it was a little difficult to play at that size. Increasing the size of course made it all blocky, but there was a sweet spot.

I wasn’t about to play through the game from scratch, so I will admit to looking up the cheat codes:

  • LAIMLAME = invincibility (“LucasArts I aM LAME”, geddit?)
  • LAPOSTAL = all weapons and full ammo
  • LASKIP = complete level

There were many more, but for a quick blast through all the levels, that was all I really needed.

A fun little diversion for the weekend.

Theatre Database Available Again

I’ve managed to get my little database of theatrical productions I’ve been involved with back up, after an extended period of not being able to remember my MySQL password (thanks, ICDSoft tech support!). It’s part of my ongoing relationship with theatre – the small-scale, amateur, just-for-fun kind.

I now need to update a lot of the information in the database. It was set up as an exercise in PHP and MySQL, but I would like to get it moving again. Many of the links are broken, and I would like to add more information, and if possible integrate it more into the rest of the site.

Regarding that last one, it would be great if there were a WordPress plugin that could manage the realtionships I have in my custom database. There are a few that deal with theatre bookings, company schedules, but none that cover the full extent of what I want. I shall explain.

What I have in this database (here’s a dump of all the raw data):

  • Table containing information about Groups or Theatre Companies
    • Name of group
    • URL of homepage
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Venues
    • Name of Venue
    • URL of homepage
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Roles
    • Name of role
    • Onstage or Offstage (to cover backstage work such as lights and sound)
    • etc
  • Table containing information about Performances
    • Name of show
    • Author
    • Blurb
    • Dates (either exact or just a quarter)
    • etc
  • Table containing Links to other information about a Performance
    • URL

Relationships (created by the queries at the time of page creation):

  • Each Performance is related to a single Venue and a single Group. Not every Group has its own Venue, so these had to be kept separate. This is where most of the plugins and tools for managing show data fall down. They assume that a Theatre Company has a Theatre where they do Theatre. Most groups I’ve been involved with have not. (The “get-in” and “get-out” are often the most fun parts of a show week).
  • Each Performance may be related to multiple Roles. This is to cover the possibility that I may have had more than one Role in a show, including roles on and offstage, for example designing the poster, or helping build the set.
  • Each Performance may be related to multiple Links, which point to resources like an image of the flyer, a show website, or a photo gallery. This is to allow multiple resources to be connected.

Fancy graph!


Any ideas for what I could do next? Anyone know of a good WordPress plugin along these lines (that doesn’t fall foul of the requirements above? Anyone want to help me get this information more presentable? What I definitely need is a way of entering and editing information in the database without burrowing into PHPMyAdmin and doing open-table surgery.

The question of whether I want to ever add some new performances to the database remains open…

Bus Trip To Camden

Here’s a short video what I done when we were in London in February. Features:

  • a little commentary
  • very shaky camerawork
  • a kaleidoscopically scratched bus window
  • the song Grapefruit by Warm Digits, now available as a remix by a certain Justin Robertson – er, hello!

Symposium Poster Ideas

My paper was accepted for presentation at the INCOSE Symposium in Rome this summer – very exciting, although I’m going to have very little time for exploring.

In fact, the paper was accepted for presentation as a poster, so I need to rearrange it and get it ready as a single sheet poster, which I then stand next to and talk about. Like a mini-ad-hoc presentation, on my feet, with people coming and going. I’ve not done this before, and it sounds pretty interesting. I will be able to draw on my years of experience doing theatre and improv (except I was not that great at improv, so I was the compere instead).

The paper is also being held in reserve in case someone else can’t present, so I need to get that set up as well. Double the work for possibly half the result. Oh well.

The paper itself is about the custom database I developed to manage the requirements with respect to the Code of Federal Regulations for the California High-Speed Train Project. This is a big project, with lots of interest from all quarters, which means that as well as my own paper, I’ll be fielding questions about the whole project. I’d better swot up on some key details.

It has to stand out, though. I was talking to a colleague aboiut how to make the poster more interesting, and we came up with some possible improvements to a static poster.

  • Add pop-up book features such as
    • Rotating wheel with little window showing – different requirements scenarios?
    • Opening flaps revealing – result of data query?
    • Pull tabs to show – data flow?
  • Add visual effects to make it stand out
    • Prismatic animation like when a picture of Jesus blinks when you walk past
    • That thing where you move a film back and forth and the stripes make the horse gallop
    • Kaleidoscpe to imply project complexity
  • Introduce texture to increase interest
    • Sandpaper
    • Plush fur
    • Crinkly material
  • Introduce sound to grab attention
    • Squeakers in certain parts of the poster
    • Sound chips with various reward/punishment sounds
      • Klaxon warning sound in “Problem” quadrant
      • Applause sound in “Conclusion” quadrant
  • Scratch ‘n’ sniff

 

Pulp at The Warfield, April 17 2012

Pulp
This is the reason I finally managed to post this the other day.

So Pulp have renuited for a tour, and were doing some shows at Coachella. Before that, they were doing a couple in San Francisco and thereabouts, which sold out in about 10 minutes. Cassie saw this, and posted on Facebook about wishing she could get a ticket. Magically, a family friend popped up and said he could get us tickets! We’d have to pay, and they’d be in the pit rather than in the gods, as it were, but it would be awesome to see them again.

I’ve seen Pulp a couple of times. The first time was during the tour they did for His ‘n’ Hers, at the Brixton Academy in about 1994. They were supported by Stereolab, and it was great to see them as well, even though there was a douche in front of us yelling at the “fat bird” to get off stage – during Super Electric, of all things! Ignorant deaf pig.

The next time was less fun. I was unemployed, or temping or something. Pulp was huge, Different Class was out. The gig was at Wembley Arena in 1995. Horrible venue, way too big. Support was from Denim (ah, good old/poor old Denim) and feckin’ Edwyn Collins who had a song out then. I did not have a good time.

This time was way better. Cassie and I met up with friends at the Gold Dust Lounge in San Francisco’s “charming” Union Square/Tenderloin area. The Warfield is square in the Tenderloin, so waiting in the will-call line was interesting.

We didn’t catch the support act, soz.

The gig itself was a showcase, given the lack of new material. This meant they could pick out classics and crowd-pleasers, as well as album tracks, and other more personal favourites. They started off by going straight into Do You Remember the First Time?, which is a shame because it’s my favourite and I was looking forward to being excited about it. Great start though. I never liked Something Changed. At the time it came out, I was not in a happy place. Single and disappointed, and this song seemed to taunt me. But then seeing it performed, with my arms around my wife, changed my mind a little. Yep.

Disco 2000. This came out a few years before 2000, and is about remebering how at school in the late 70’s and early 80’s you would promise your friends you’d keep in touch. It’s now 12 years after the year mentioned in the song, and it’s still a corker, although a bit overplayed. I feel old.

Between the songs, Jarvis did his usual banter. I’ve seen him solo live as well, and he likes to keep the fun going. He reminded the crowd of the last time Pulp played in San Francisco, and there were a fair few people in the crowd that were there.

The American version of Sorted for E’s & Wizz is Fixed up for X and Meth. Only joking, although the rave scene was very different in the US. No home counties and orbital motorways here. You were probably in the middle of a desert – oh, what do I know.

Jarvis went to town on Acrylic Afternoons, really going for the kitchen sink drama posturing, and pretending to drink tea, before leaping off a monitor and squealing for the choruses. Babies was always a crowd-pleaser. The opening notes instantly recognisable. Lots of grooving going on.

I hadn’t heard Sunrise before, because it was off the last album We Love Life, from 2001. I might track that down, if that song is anything to go by. Reminiscent of David’s Last Summer, with a nice little riff, eyes-closed chorus, and then a glorious drawn-out instrumental.

After the mandatory performance of Common People, they did a couple more before leaving the stage. They came out pretty quickly for an encore, which was the fitting Glory Days. This one sounds a lot (to me) like one of Jarvis’ solo numbers, Slush. A gentler groove, before the triumphant Mis-Shapes. This was preceded by a little speech about how more and more people are “coming out of the sidelines”, with veiled references to gay marriage, political activism and other recent movements. Good lad.

A great show. I’m so pleased I got to see them again, and in a quality venue like the Warfield – which is quite similar to Brixton Academy, thinking about it.Pulp Live

The full setlist for the show can be seen here, on Setlist.fm. (Cool website, I didn’t know it existed. A wiki for gig setlists.) Another review here from the Chronicle. Choice quote:

“They’re smarter than Oasis, less pretentious than Blur and wittier than Suede”

Alright.

Tengo una resaca

Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, a popular day of celebration in states with a large Mexican population. It’s the celebration of winning a battle against the French in the 1800’s – I am rather ignorant of that area of history and geography. When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were surrounded by the Bolivian army, I was confused. I though Bolivia was in Eastern Europe, and I couldn’t why they’d traveled all that way. Then again, I only recently realised that the Sundance organisation (TV channel, studio, cinema chain) was started by Robert Redford, and named after his famous role.

Anyway, to celebrate the day, and just as an excuse, we had a bunch of friends over, and we made Carne Asada tacos, which is marinated sliced steak. We found a recipe online and got to work. We found the recipe on About.com, which is weird in itself – About.com is a bizarre aggregator of information with multiple editors, in much the same way as the Huffington Post is a link-baiting, pseudoscience-peddling, horseshit-riddled parody of journalism.

We got a load of skirt steak – a cheaper, tougher cut, which is why you marinade it for hours and then slice it across the grain. Then I whipped up the marinade, which consisted of various citrus juices, tabasco, onion, tequila, and garlic. Once the meat was in there, we left it for about six hours.

The other theme of the party was tequila tasting. The guests brought several bottles, none of which I’d heard of, except one which I think was featured in Entourage once. Once people arrived, I fired up the grill and got the meat going while Cassie laid out the tortillas, guacamole, chopped cilantro (aka coriander leaves, which Cassie hates), onion, sour cream and various other goodies. Various people commented on the strangeness of an Englishman cooking Mexican food in California. Doesn’t seem so strange to me.

Once the Carne Asada was cooked, I sliced it up and we all tucked in. It was pretty good, if I say so myself. Tangy, with a little kick, and the sharpness of the citrus. Very nice. Everyone was very complementary, which is nice.

OK. Then we started tasting the various tequilas, and I have to admit I’m unable to relate the full story from here on. The tequilas were all very tasty and interesting, I’m sure. I slept on the sofa – or at least I woke on the sofa at 3am.

Sunday morning I was just able to overdress and walk down to the village and pick up coffee, lox bagels and doughnuts (hangover breakfast of champions). Sunday was a much more subdued day. We had tacos again in the evening to use up the guac, cream and tortillas.

Of course, what always happens with these parties is that we ended up with a load of booze in the fridge and elsewhere. We’ll just have to have another party soon.

Wedding Music – First Dances

About time I finished posting these.

These were the tunes we chose as our first dances – first with Cassie and I, and then with Cassie and her Daddy (she loves her Daddy). We’d used My Funny Valentine in another version as the processional, and the Stevie Wonder tune came out when Cassie was a baby, and apparently her Dad used to dance around holding her and singing this. Very cute.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions : My Funny Valentine (from Armed Forces – not the vinyl version though, because it’s not on the one I have)

Stevie Wonder : Isn’t She Lovely (from Songs In The key Of Life )

Ceremony – The Speech We Didn’t Use

Continuing with this.

Among all the wedding preparations, speeches and everything, we kept coming up with phrases that were funnily ambiguous. Here’s a few of them. Try inserting them in your own vows, and try and keep a straight face.

“I will never forget what you did.”

“I don’t think anything will let me forget you.”

“You have had such a powerful effect on my life.”

“All our friends agree, we deserve each other.”

“You certainly are a piece of work.”

“Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve being with you.”

“When I think of you, I just think, ‘Wow’. Just, ‘Wow’.”