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nick b. 2007
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dimanche 29 mai 2005

Yesterday I did my accounts, cheating with method if not content.
I've had enough of detailed breakdowns of where the money goes, so having pitted my figures against the bank's, I put in only three things in my usually blow-my-blow list: the cost of living (high), cigarettes (still too high), and music (never high enough).
Kid and SelfMonthly DVD expenditure has dropped to almost zero, apart from fortnightly updates to the 'X-Files'. The Kid suggested I'd be wiser to "bulk-buy" whole series packs at a time now they're out, but I saw the self-interest in this cheaper solution: she wouldn't bother to talk to me on our weekends at all any more because she'd be watching the lot, non-stop, while gossiping with her bloke on 'Adium'.
Adium gets a plug for fortunate Mac users as the chat application that can do everything and do it well! Marianne yelled when I insisted on interrupting her to put it on her PowerBook, but I said I'd had more than enough of her bitching every time MSN Messenger crashed on her, being the crap it is, at least on Apple computers.
It's free, the good work of developers who use a GNU licence, but they ask for donations and I'll give them one, next month, for stopping the Kid shouting at her computer as well as the usual reasons.

The accounts were done earlier since I'd bought no music for four weeks and a whole month was too long to bear.
And because I forgot the Kid's birthday on Thursday, despite remembering, until after a very long phone call when I knew she'd be in bed. She gets, further to what's already lifted, M: "I want the one with 'Machistador' on it," which is 'Le baptême'. M's not a VoW, but so good, often rather oddly, he may get a write-up.

Today, the Wildcat said "Ooh, you've put up a picture of Patti Smith!" There may be more, since I did of course crack for Patti's 'Trampin'' plus the live extra album that almost nobody's written up, so I will. Such crits as I've seen mostly irritate me because people think Patti overdoes the political outrage. Et alors? Someone has to stay belligerently interested and I'd scarcely call the woman "pious".
Sorry, Wildcat, the cover picture on 'Trampin' is Patti's foot. Regina Spektor you've got, but no write-up yet, Aimee Mann was greed for almost all she's ever done, the others just within budget will be surprises.
These dull lines accompany a picture of self and Kid because while many people know what I look like, recent events have led people in Africa to ask what they're getting at the other end of the 'phone.
Now you do. I haven't changed, my evil portrait still being in the attic, the Kid's face has thinned out a little since. I guess she works too hard.

4:06:51 PM  link   your views? []

mercredi 25 mai 2005

"So they all kept coming up to me and saying I sounded like somebody else: Joni Mitchell, Björk, Cat Power, Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday, Nina Simone, Tori Amos... This got me confused: they're all so different. What this meant was I couldn't be classified, I knew I was on the right track."
Regina SpektorThus a queen of different musical genres born the eastern side of the Iron Curtain, Regina Spektor (home), told 'Les Inrocks' (20-26 April 05, pic: Renaud Monfourny) what she made of attempts to do what you won't really find here often when I'm talking about singer-songwriters. This "sounds like" business I've complained about before is almost everywhere in music reviews by "professional" -- that is, paid -- and self-appointed critics alike and is so annoying! enjoyed a chance to hear, but sadly not borrow, 'Songs' in 2002 (CD Baby), a dozen pieces of piano and poetry which earned Spektor the "anti-folk" etiquette, but 'Les Inrocks' caught up with the child prodigy ballet girl to talk mostly about 'Soviet Kitsch', which has to wait for next month's VoW budget.

Generously, the iTMS in France also has her début album '11:11' (2001) on offer, dubbing it "traditional music". Some of it is anything but traditional. Spektor, scarcely the demure damsel of this photo, reckons, to her long-lasting sadness, that she was "no longer a Russian" from the day Moscow customs officers took away her souvenir ruble coins when her family quit the country for the Bronx when she was nine and already feeling she had an "old soul", given over to "waking dreams."
You'll be reading more, if you like, in coming weeks. For one of Amazon UK's helpful listmaniacs, "fevertosell," 'Soviet Kitsch' makes Regina part of the 'Art Rock Underground'. Art rock? Not all of it, but I like a compiler who can dare suggest these days, of somebody else -- Whirlwind Heat -- they "prove that the White Stripes are merely a fashion fad, and this is the real thing."
Try saying that about the White Stripes in Paris today and many people would thump you.

I'm finding it hard to keep up even weekly with 'Les Inrocks', let alone the monthly science and Mac mags I subscribe and now mainly skim for stand-out articles of real interest to me because most days when I'm on the move and pull one out of a bagful, the women's words in my head tear my attention back off the pages. Remember the Patti Smith of the 70s, back in the time of 'Horses', still one of my favourites?
Patti Smith, '76"Well, she's certainly still got it, has Patti Smith," I could tell anyone who cared to listen this morning. Her picture is a detail from one by Robert Mapplethorpe (Foundation), who had quite an eye for nudes of both sexes, charmingly described as "mature content". Patti wears her hair longer and greyer nearly 30 years later, but proves something I'm fond of telling the ladies: it's absurd to start worrying about the numbers on their birthdays when the finest ones I know get nothing but better, and very often a lot sexier, with age.
It's a mess, is 'Gung Ho,' first released almost five years back, but a right royal mess. It even has a 'GUNG HO 2000' site of its own (and next month, I'll be in a mess myself about 'Tramping', her latest, torn between a studio or live choice, probably opting for both.)
There's no "sounds like" problem with poet Smith, scarcely always the "high priestess of punk". 'Libbie's Song' is about as straight as country music comes, 'China Bird' is an exquisite, almost hymnal piece of writing, singing and melody which almost demands you hit the repeat button, but this magnificent album includes two strong, long angry ballads, 'Gung Ho' itself and 'Strange Messengers'. Of the latter anti-slavery song (any reminder of 'Strange Fruit' quite deliberate), I should let Steven Solder say it as he does at Amazon UK; after some rough times, it "illustrates Smith's renewed interest in the world around her, as the streetwise New Yorker turned Midwestern suburbanite rails at crackheads ('That's how you repay your ancestors?')."
Patti Smith (home) is wise to illustrate her place with Blake. certainly does. Solder's also politer about what I call a mess, saying 'Gung Ho' is "somewhat muddled in execution, but then again, so are the times." It's an album to remind those of us who get accused of having "heads in the clouds" the utopian dreams we can find there were always worth having and still are.
Here's one: I'd love to hear -- the nearest I'll go to a "sounds like" is 'Glitter in their Eyes' -- is what Patti and her crew could cut if they got an act together with Johnny Clegg (home but in London next month) and his Zulus. After writing about a batch of VoWs mainly into the intimate and close at hand -- relationships and all that -- it's a pleasure to talk of dreamers like Patti Smith and Regina Spektor, each out in their different ways, to change the world.


Hanging out with a few friends

That reminds me, while I listen to another great American voice of the decades, Carly Simon, to broadcast how I've recently told a friend or two that my own' LP' is "dead"; the screenplay, I mean, to which you've had ample reference (also in the "glossary"). Last weekend, I trashed much of it since, first, it dawned on me that the Quiet Revolution I enjoy seeing around us and going on about is more fun simply living than trying to chronicle over the decades. Secondly, an increasingly widely shared acknowledgement that political revolutions very rarely work -- because they usually lead to bloodbaths, new forms of dictatorship and ideologies as bad as those they sought to replace -- is manifest in so many aspects of 21st century life that trying to do a film about the quiet one is more of a challenge than I can take on if I'm to sleep and hold down a job with any competence at the same time.
The characters, given a free rein to weave their life stories together and apart and together again, had begun to run away with my mind! However, given "Oh no, you can't just drop it" responses (like the time I thought I'd done enough logging here), perhaps it's best to say that the 'LP' is indefinitely "on hold", which might cheer up others involved in the project (I've not ditched the whole lot).

Recent experiences and insights, partly from friends in the blogosphere I currently fail to link to as frequently as I might (since nowadays I tend to catch up with your lives in quieter moments at work, but please don't tell the bosses that's another good reason for Firefox), often from friends nearer to hand -- have inclined me to see the merits of action, best free of reasons.

"We have no secrets"
   (as Carly S says in one standard)
"We tell each other everything
About the lovers in the past
And why they didn't last
We share a cast of characters from A to Z
We know each others fantasies
And though we know each other better when we explore
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
That I never knew some of those secrets of yours."
Who doesn't feel that way sometimes?
There's another way to look at it though. The Quiet Revolution will never make converts, that's part of how it works, like most sweeping social changes that are for real but slow, rather than enforced. But some of those who turn out to feel a part of it, like many of my close friends, also turn out to be good at knowing "some of those secrets of yours", sometimes in the oddest of ways. Occasionally I've mentioned my own.
When used to this, you wind up finding there's nothing very much wrong with telling each other everything and a little more self-disclosure, rather than trying to hide stuff, almost invariably does far more good than harm. With most of my friends
"Sometimes I find
Often I find
That I'm glad I know more of those secrets of yours".
That's my "F*f" of the week (whoops, I thought "fuckinfilosofy" was in the glossary already; it is now along with a couple more terms): of the people I love, those most prone to misery are sometimes the ones who prefer to keep stuff to themselves, often without realising the "secrets" they're most ashamed of or -- worse -- feel guilty about are no less and certainly no more than the common lot of humanity and always were.
"F*f" usually goes in the orchard. Not this time. There's a great deal to be said for an outlook I recently learned the way you do things when they have to sink in: it's a fearful waste of time to be motivated by any compulsion to explain.

1:09:22 AM  link   your views? []

lundi 23 mai 2005

In the weeks since techies let me have Firefox at work there've been enough 'Ohs' and 'Ahhs!" for me to urge you to convince "them" -- bosses -- to make it your own default browser, particularly if you're in a Factory newsroom or any other.
I forget what crushing phrase BJ used for Internet Explorer, the bane of far too many a workplace computer, but it was crueller than "dinosaur". He finds it "obvious they should give Firefox to everyone", now he's also seen how I've set up the integrated Sage newsfeed reader for fast headline checking, plus InfoRSS scrolling a few more key feeds across the bottom.
It is obvious, won't even cost them anything and I thought bosses liked it when you can work faster and better.
All the excuses I've heard for not handing it out so far have been either unconvincing or easily surmounted. End of plug.

I made another one because there's an article called 'Web Apps Comendium' at Kuro5hin by "kpaul" posted over the weekend, mentioned here for Lee, who might find it useful for some online work we've talked about when she's not discovering "what fun it is to ride through the deserted streets of Paris at night. It's a great way to get some exercise, and an added bonus is not even having to worry about making the last metro" ('Odessa Street)'.
Deserted streets, sure, but a couple of years back, happy to be reunited with my own bike in Paris, I risked the Place de la Concorde in the rush hour. I can't be stupid enough to do that again even if wanted because a few days later, I lent the bike to a friend for a week. He succeeded in getting it stolen inside four days.
"I only left it there for a couple of minutes," he said.
Maybe. In Paris, that's quite long enough.
So enjoy it, Lee, but do watch out.
New bikes don't come as cheap as decent web technology and Lee's piece about Rizzo the pain in the bum makes clear she's wiser with funds than I am when I go near a virtual store.
Lee and me were talking about giving added news value to websites without emptying pockets or without the need for a newsreader, but for people more broadly interested in feed tech, another link worth having when you're making a cyberspace of your own has broadened in scope and quality since I bunged it in the blogroll: Lockergnome's RSS & Atom Tips. Happy hunting.

9:42:50 PM  link   your views? []

jeudi 19 mai 2005

"What's this fuss about Kylie's tits?" asked the usually imperturbable Martin, whose partnership when dealing with Africa is a rare pleasure. It would seem he's another of our Geordies.
I'd earlier braved jibes and protests for saying I like Kylie, after riding into work listening to 'Light Years', et alors?
"She's manufactured," Emma said a bit scathingly on Tuesday, though sympathetic to the nastiness of show-stopping breast cancer. I wish Kylie well and think she long ago took herself off the assembly line, though she doesn't do it quite as often or self-consciously as Madonna.
The BBC blithely persists in suggesting Minogue's "famous for being in Neighbours, having a great behind and singing wonderfully addictive pop tunes!" (profile). I don't recommend the interview on that page, unless you want to hear a gushy twit asking Kylie about what a pain it can be in a "great behind" being interviewed. She remains surprisingly nice to him.

Recently I've been 'Counting Down the Days' with another Aussie, Natalie Imbruglia, whose latest album is very welcome on the iPod with 'Left of the Middle' and 'White Lilies Island'. More on the half-Italian Imbruglia (official site) when some of her well-written and more personal lyrics get to me less than they did. It's nice when people sing what you feel.

This picture's a tip:


With the iTMS you can make a playlist like the one I've called "_Wiser Wishes", slide albums into it from your shopping basket and then delete them from the latter to avoid the bulk buying my bank manager finds so objectionable.
When you have got the money, the song titles off those albums are in the wish list, with a "View Album" blob you can click to go back to fetch what you want. If you decide it wasn't so wise, you also get a chance for second thoughts.
The _ just bungs the list to the top, near the shops.

K.T. Tunstall has a very good 'Eye to the Telescope'. At the turn of the year, a woman from St Andrews released a remarkably accomplished first CD as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
KT TunstallThe music's stylish changes of genre can be a distraction from the lyrics, since Kt's a natural with a seductive voice you can float on very softly until she decides to get rough. When it came to the words, I thought "Which end of the telescope is she using? It doesn't sound like the small one to me. This is the finer sand of our lives and there's some blood in it."

"My songs examine and explore little specific emotions or situations or stories," she explains. "They're kitchen table songs, like a conversation between me and one other person. It's almost like an alien has been sent to get emotional samples from human beings and put it all together on a record" (Glee Club, source of stolen pic).
That's something she does very well, no real alien in a VoW world where it's fun -- and expensive, but never mind -- getting your bearings. 29 she turns out to be and "drawn to singers who sing it like it is: Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Smith, Carole King."
It's more fun to find out who such singers admire than read endless "she sounds like so-and-so" comments. "I fucking write my own songs!" she told The Daily Telegraph last December (from Katie's own site, but the paper used asterisks, unlike her or yours truly. Somebody has to keep down the standards).
She's then rude about Katie Melua and Joss Stone. I like them both. But that's a topic I'd enjoy taking up with Kt in the kitchen, not on a blog.

Which reminds me. Once I'd paid those rent cheques the bank made it so hard to hand over, the estate agent said: "By the way, your new neighbour's going to be a musician, moving in soon, I hope you don't mind."
"Musicien ou musicienne?"
"A guy."
"You can't have it all. Rock or classic?"
"Any good?"
"Apparently yes."
The Kid's delighted. So am I. Classic would be fine, but I'd possibly object to somebody too earnest or high-strung. This top floor could do with a bit of shaking up. It's not been the same since ... well, I won't tell you what the girls did, but it was more entertaining than the church mice.

12:03:40 AM  link   your views? []

dimanche 15 mai 2005

pigeonsWhat a weekend!
Such as it was.
Cheerful French rag 'Le Parisien', skimmed over my morning coffees in the happy noise of a bar downstairs, Le Bouquet, yesterday offered a front page full of "fun outing" ideas, mostly outdoors, while the weather forecast on the back page gave every reason to do none of them.
It hasn't been quite that bad, the skies even cleared sometimes, but the pigeons were the most miserable breakfast guests I've seen in ages. Very few of the usual band braved a soaking. They just hid.
A cat I seem to have inherited gets annoyed since she can't battle the birds any more, has to put up them. She hid when her "rightful owners" -- a laughable term -- sought to repossess her!
Equally courageous, last weekend, was a neighbour who took ages to cut through enough red tape to be allowed to paint a bit of street in peace, but the two days cars were banned from parking on the spot or drivers dissuaded from routinely doing so illegally the other side of the road, her pictures got drenched.
Serge and ArtistThe man you can hardly see thinking Ms Red Rain Hood must be mad is my landlord, Serge the greengrocer.
Olya, the next-door florist who raindanced prettily away from my pretty useless phone camera, thinks my plan to replace dead geraniums that escaped the worst of winter but died of shock when we got some warm weather is premature.
"Wait," she says without being too gloomy about it, "for the spring, if you want flowers hardy enough to survive as long as your last lot did."
Oh well. Like last year and the one before, we all know global warming's changing our expectations, but I won't rant again; we just have to put up with grey days that seem to last for longer decade by decade.
If there's another sudden very hot summer, it won't surprise me either. I hope there is.
Such a climate gets me down far less than it did, but I was impressed -- during a Factory stint in which Africa had no regard for European notions of a quiet Sunday -- by an outstanding bid to put an end to the way too many people judge those prone to a bad bout of the blues.


In 'Demystifying Depression, Part I,' (Kuro5hin) Name of Feather set a cat among the pigeons:

"'Depression is a mood disorder': so start many descriptions of the illness. That is a gross understatement. Depression does indeed seriously affect your mood, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. A clinical depression is an incapacitating illness, affecting your ability to perform tasks that require concentration and rendering you unable to work.
I had a depression. By writing this document I hope to provide you with the knowledge I wish I had when I was younger. Because you see, depression is not an unavoidable fate. It is essentially a physical illness which takes years to develop, and whose symptoms provide ample advance warning if you know how to identify them."
The direct approach of this Dutch fellow is bold. Having been there for years myself -- but no longer inclined to log it -- I strongly commend anybody who takes such trouble to dispel the public ignorance that still surrounds depression. Those who suffer from it have to endure a lot of nonsense from everybody who doesn't, notably their "hierarchical" superiors.
There is little more debilitating than being told you're "not up to a job" when you already know this and would like to find enough energy to belt the idiots who tell you to "snap out of it", "get more exercise" and "look on the bright side" when you simply can't.
His outlook and recommendations to depressed people were, in my view, sometimes unrealistic in the May 10 piece, but it's already had the merit of attracting much attention and comment, some of which is as well worth reading as what Name of Feather had to say then.
In my job, avoiding stress and many of his other suggestions are out of the question. High stress levels are inherent in journalism. However I know what he means by never rushing your mornings, whatever happens. If I have to work "early" -- not very by most people's standards -- I'll get up far earlier to allow a long waking-up time. As for chemical treatments, such is my mistrust of almost all of them, apart from a basic serotonin regulator and what must be an occasional dose of Valium, I've little respect left for doctors who see it otherwise.
Such has been the feedback to the article, I came home to find the man at work on his 'Part II' (Kuro5hin Diaries) today, responding to some of his critics, and must say: "More power to you, mate, and good luck when you publish tomorrow."

Though you loyal lot have put up with entries some found very heavy going -- frankly, a complete turn-off -- during a period I tried to explain far too much when I could scarcely understand what was happening myself, the real and permanent upside of what I'd now dare call post-therapy blues if smitten by them is knowing they won't last. It's as reassuring as being able to look out of the window at the most flatly oppressive of skies and say "To hell with it! There will be a summer."
In the past few days, moreover, by taking a bit of a risk some friends described as sheer madness, I've cleared away big misunderstandings in one of the relationships I treasure enormously. You won't get any more of that; what's more to the point, neither will one of my friends.
Our lives remain full of things it's impossible to explain, so why bother to try? Everybody's much happier when you don't and if you've really got something to say, it's also best to think first: "Does she or he or do they care, do they need your nonsense?"


miaThis woman is M.I.A., she's a Sri Lankan who lives in London, came through Paris recently and is much in the musical news, with good reason. Her real name is Maya, but that M.I.A. (her site) does stand for "Missing in Action" because Mathangi Arulpragasam, born in 1977, is not the kid some have taken her to be.
She's had one hell of a life. A life? Many lives, some of them now released on a hot rap-away first album, with two more in the pipeline under her contract.
Renewing acquaintance with Blondie between the ears as I read an M.I.A. interview in 'Les Inrocks', I packed in Debbie Harry for a while since the bland banality of many of the lyrics were unsuited to a story like Maya's. She's very politicised and committed, and a lot more than "sassy" with a "cute rawness mixed with real modern beats and cool design" as a first comment says of 'Arular' (Amazon UK, released last month).
She will "go far" and she did, back to Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tiger war, guerrillas in the family, and a film full of interviews with ordinary people that scared her mother so much she wouldn't let Maya out with the camera. The film work of 2001 got nowhere, Maya's spell in Los Angeles to discover gangsta-rap is just part of her music.
Many will disagree with her politics though getting right into her music, but Maya has grounds cynically to tell my favourite French weekly (as always, for lack of what she said in English, I have to translate back): "All these speeches about security and defending democracy, that's just a machine to churn out refugees, like me."
Her music's her own, comes of listening to lots of hip-hop, liking Public Enemy and getting Elastica (as yet unmentioned here) and, heavens, even those "Fuck the Pain Away" Peaches -- already part of my beloved kid's remarkable playlists, bless the little witch -- for teachers.
Throw in some Sri Lankan traditional music and the dances Maya was forced out of bed to do as a kid and you have a notion of why 'Arular' is one of my VoWs of the moment.
When I look at the East European women in the Métro with babes in their arms, it upsets me, I don't want to give them money because I know there's a nasty and very exploitative network in action behind them.
Maya looks at the children, told 'Les Inrocks': "The life of these kids is to stare at people, every day seeing faces go by. I'd really like to know what they have to say in 15 years."


The cat. Is Kytie a refugee too?
I asked for it. She arrived before Manou and her mum went off to Brittany a while back. Cathy said, joking, "Should she have fallen out of the window by the time we get back, I won't mind that much."
So I didn't bother to press her to reclaim the cat on their return, since the woman has enough work on her plate as it is. But when she did come, yesterday, to give me the Kid and take back the cat, Kytie found a really good hiding place.
I said, joking, "Well, if I'm supposed to keep her for months, I will."
Today I got home from work to find the Kid's gone. The cat is still here. And I bet the Kid told Cathy what she told me, "Kytie purred half the night on your bed."
It's a trap. I fell right into it.
I don't think Kytie much cares either way. She certainly hasn't explained.
No fool her.

10:44:19 PM  link   your views? []

samedi 14 mai 2005

If you google for "garbage", you get 17.8 million options.
Shirley MansonSince the past week and longer have seen my head regularly filled with the stuff (some deposited here), I'm glad the first of those millions is the Garbage from Edinburgh, with Shirley Manson up front, a sexy lady.
Be warned, if your computer sound is turned right up when you click that link, you get one hell of a noise! That is what I wanted the instant I became Factory-free for a whole day.
After more than three years of hassle and pain before an almost wrecked band got a fourth album out last month, the title track on 'Bleed Like Me' says it all, neatly summed up by Aidan Vaziri:

"Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl sits in on the drums for the menacing 'Bad Boyfriend' [and, wow, do you notice! Grohl pounds that kit, and also helped Shirley and the boys get it together again, she told 'Les Inrocks' (issue of April 13-19, 2005] but it's the confessional title track "Bleed Like Me' -- part 'Walk on the Wild Side,' part therapy session for former cutter Manson -- that shatters Garbage's image as the ultimate non-stick studio band. 'You should see my scars,' goes the chorus. And, for once, Manson is actually willing to reveal them" (Amazon UK).
If you're into hard rock and often biting lyrics telling tough sides of our times -- 'Why Do You Love Me?' and 'Boys Wanna Fight', for instance -- Shirley comes up with the goods and is on fine form. Bitter the album may be sometimes, but that's not always a bad thing. Especially when there's anger and bitterness about politics and liars: a great comeback.
Being increasingly bored by politicians and stupidities doesn't mean being switched off to the people who yell at them, but 'Bleed Like Me' is a good dose of mental hygiene about messes between the rest of us too.
I don't mind the occasional "rewind" to make out what Manson is singing when the band breaks in at its loudest. I reckon Marianne will love this; where would I be if the Kid had not many moons ago done me the favour of hauling over to the Trash can, along with Death and other modern musical horrors at a Virgin shop? This is a favour I can repay now in kind with some VoWs she's not yet heard.
Garbage isn't always heavy, indeed 'Sex is Not the Enemy' (as one song has it) and they have a good fansite in the 'Garbage Box'.

On the iPod, by the way, I much prefer to leave the equalizer switched off and listen to good songs as they come rather than filtered by fiddling. After several months with the things, I'd add that the EarJam clip-ons provided by Griffin are the cheapest of the range of indispensable improvements to Apple's earbuds, a real improvement on already good sound. In the Métro, I only say this to the most attractive and interesting-looking fellow travellers I spot.
They invariably prove approachable. I enjoy such underground sharing of tips, tunes and "what do you think of that book?" etc, but won't write another entry about how iPods make it very easy to talk to the right kind of strangers who take no offence and don't feel threatened until Cathy has fine-tuned my findings. She's begun explaining how it's different for her on suburban trains. Attitudes! Such details are important if you chat people up as often I do when both parties are in it for the fun.

AlanisReaders have been so bored of late by mental rewiring matters I've raised I'll head straight for another changed soul, Alanis Morissette, who's so famous a singer-songwriter already, good at encouraging others, that what's really worth pointing out is that if you go to the iTMS and pick up her own iTunes Originals collection, even the few words of introduction she gives to each song are worth the effort. The picture with Steve Mitchell's © was nicked from ',' which is also good for interviews and things.
Morissette used to be a very angry woman, still is, but channels it entertainingly and even talks about spiritual development without being a pseudo-hip slime-bag. Her selection ranges from songs off 'Jagged Little Pill', including the blistering 'You Oughta Know', of 1995 to recent, cautious "let's have a love-in" offerings. The latter are tinged with enough revisited cynicism and realism to spare non-Americans that otherwise inescapable feeling they can give us there's so much cuddling, soul-bearing and light you want to be sick over the toilet or them. I know she's Canadian really and they don't like being mixed up.
Incidentally I reckon Alanis knows what to tell people who are not Garbage and ask "but why do you love somebody?" when the answer is "because I do. Don't ask such idiotic questions, I've got no explanations." That was an aside.

Nâdiya. I promised.
It's hard to forget a VoW who takes you by storm. Somebody English remarked that he hadn't got a clue what she sings about on '16/9' and couldn't care less because "it's not wotcha say, it's how you say it!"
Quite. In fact -- no, you may not have another picture of this Algerian-born stunner -- Nâdiya is one of the closest I've got to singers where you could just throw in the towel and simply tell iTunes to stick her under "unclassifiable". These categories are a nuisance as it is, but I suppose some of them help.
She uses big-screen movie style soundbits, rap, hip-hop, orchestral gushing, plain modern pop and electronica as well as some great singing about love and its muddles to take you on a roller-coaster ride. One minute, you're stuck in the Wild West, another you're on an aircraft carrier, the next you're so far out in space you've no idea where you'll be when you hit planet Earth again with a bang.
Somebody once composed 'Theme for an imaginary Western' (actually, several people have) and Nâdiya reminds you there's no need to bother with the cinema when you can have it all in your head and, with luck, in bed. She's also decidedly sexy and again that's not all; she's no dumb blonde whose body alone makes you (me, anyway) feel extremely imaginative.
There's a combination of fragility and genuine self-assurance that makes her one of those people you'd like to get stuck with on a desert island, not just for the disc, but since she could probably get you off by twisting time or warping space. Meanly, I'll not translate this:

"Happé par les trous noirs qui résident au sein de mon regard
Tu recherches cette lueur qui se révèle à la faveur du soir
Le doux parfum d'un kiss ... qui s'échange sans gravité
Décollage pour les abysses de ma véritable personnalité
Space ... Mon amour est space .... Mais si tu peux ...
Entrer dans ma dimension c'est ok pour un vol à deux
Space ... Mon amour est space ... Mais si tu veux
Ressentir mes vibrations c'est moi qui mène le jeu"
There's wicked wordplay in the inviting opening of her song called 'Space'.

The VoWs admired here are very different one from another, though someone asked "Why do all these women on your iPod look so good?" (an iPod Photo is worth the extra for that alone) but that's another silly question.
These three have one thing in common: a likeable habit of throwing contradictions and paradoxes at you and saying: "That's the world, that's me, that's life. Live with it."
Such invitations in musical form are irresistible. Like many other singer-songwriters, they're an enjoyable way of living with everything nobody can explain.
BJ said "There must be a verbal equivalent of tone-deaf for people we sub who simply can't put the right words in the right places."
I was tempted to admit I often put the right words in the wrong places, which annoys other people, but didn't and said "What about 'word-blind'?"
This led to some fuckinfilosofy I'll leave out, but I did add "I simply cannot get into the heads of people who treat music like wallpaper."
We had to agree there's no accounting for people's differences. Me, I am going to the movies.

1:19:26 AM  link   your views? []

vendredi 13 mai 2005

"Are you going to get Tiger?" asks Mac-using workmate Thomas (of, to warn those who aren't interested, the latest computer operating system from Apple, out a while ago amid the usual hullabaloo).
"No. Maybe someday."
Here come some useful links for those planning on doing so if they haven't, like maybe over the weekend, along with my own reasons for staying out of the rush -- apart from the usual, frankly reasonable, price. You can enjoy two important benefits, briefly mentioned below, without upgrading.

If anybody's thinking of getting a new Mac, it's obvious: you get Mac OS X 10.4 with it, no messing. I've seen few bug reports, it's a better system even than 10.3 (Panther).
My main reason for indifference to the 200 or so improvements and new features is that ones I'd want have been swiped by Apple from smaller software developers, and incorporated into their own system. I've already paid for such programmes. Thus my Panther purrs beautifully and is hacked how I like it. Other improvements are outside my areas of interest.

If I eventually do move on and have the cash, I'd first re-read François Joseph de Kermadec's 'Everything You Need to Know to Install Tiger' (at the MacDev Center, strongly recommended) and Derrick Story's column there on 'Housecleaning Tips'. His way of upgrading makes sense:

"I remain addicted to clean installs on an annual basis. Since Apple has been releasing new versions of Mac OS X on a similar cycle, I've used the pending upgrade as an excuse to tidy up before installation. That will be my approach with Tiger, and that's what this article is about (MDC again)."

For a lot of multimedia work I use third-party programmes along with Apple's QuickTime player and editing application. It's now QuickTime 7, I installed it the day it was out and immediately coughed the 30 bucks or euros payable to stay Pro.
Since O'Reilly's got an eye on that, this week there's a piece on what's new in "Magnificent Seven" (QT7, MDC). If you don't know what codecs are and why a new one can be darned useful, Chris Adamson explains all. The Safari net browser now features RSS; that's great, I've often gone on about it, newsreading and blogging, won't do so again, but don't need Safari to do it for me.
The latest version of iTunes has also just been released. It's free, works fine on Panther and older systems, and was installed without a glitch. Kindly it behaves itself and didn't mess up my music library or preferences (though I took the precaution of backing these up before sticking it on the Mac in case it did).
I think iTunes 8 now does some video stuff and even offers the like from the iTMS with that new codec, but have yet to check this out, so don't take my word for it.

The only thing to watch out for at such transitional times is to avoid downloading and installing an upgrade to third-party stuff that works only with Tiger, not previous versions of the OS. There are a few around, so stop to read the blurb before rushing in.
That's it. If I see a good reason to turn to Tiger, I'll let you know. The Kid's happy with Jaguar (10.2) and goes "Oh wow, that's cool" when she sees me using some of Panther's features, but "No thanks, Dad, I'm fine," if I say "Do you want it then?"
If she changes her mind ... well, it's Tiger for her, isn't it?

9:26:43 PM  link   your views? []

dimanche 8 mai 2005

[Subbed on Wednesday 11, after days and some nights without sleep I need. Of all the responses I've had to what I initially wrote, the one that has spoken most directly to me -- and also expressed better than I can right now a growing feeling I kept amid much confusion and uncertainty -- was Natalie's, who put it at the end. If you don't know what's going on, it's best to stay quiet until you do.
The only thing I managed to say today which made much real sense to anyone before my body kindly agreed sleep is in order the instant this has been done was that when bewildered, I feel better handing over my heart, ideals and plans to friends for safe keeping until I'm ready to take them back again.
To have friends you can do that with -- can anyone ask for more?
"And yet I'm a good reader, Nick!"
The Wildcat had just told me she'd spent time catching up on weeks of log entries here.
She's an excellent reader, an attentive listener too.
She's good, for instance, at devouring French novels I'd go nowhere near, then telling me about them in ways to make me wonder if I should -- but I'll settle for being a postman.
However, she said understanding some of the stuff I churn out requires great concentration: "You really have to pay attention, even if you know you."
I never mean to be that difficult!
Then she said what's missing. This means, along with other constructive criticism of the kind I dish out and like to get back, even people who read me regularly and say many nice things along with nasty ones, probably need a Timeline.
The Wildcat's not the only one. I know I've sometimes failed to spell out some of what's happened to me. This must confuse people unless I put it all into some kind of perspective.
nâdiyaNâdiya can wait an entry. She looks oh so innocent in the starry-eyed shot...
Yet the extraordinary Nâdiya is what French music reviewers like to call an "OVNI", or UFO, when they're so flabbergasted they scarcely know what to make of what they've heard.
When I heard her latest, '16/9', yesterday I promptly listened again, even more loudly, reeling. I'm not quite sure what isn't in that explosive album. But that's for next time.
I've more wow VoWs up my sleeve. Some are women you can really relax with, they take you on journeys right out of yourself. When Nâdiya just takes you to the movies, you feel like dancing your way round the shops.
Indeed, I did.
Today's priority, though, is to be as clear as I can about what may yet have gone unsaid, though I thought I'd written too much already.
If you'd care to come into the orchard and meet a Hula dancer, you'll get a real bloglink or two to people like mindful Kathryn, the glorious Squip and even, yes, at last, Augustine on sharp form.
It's called 'Taliesin-log-chrono,analysis'? Ouch!!, the slug being partly a Factory in-joke about analyses that aren't, just someone's navel, and partly one at my own expense on EB's behalf.

11:45:13 PM  link   your views? []

jeudi 5 mai 2005

Having lots of good songs ready for life's very rough times is important, if you want to pull through.
So if you skip the boring bit I'm about to write, you get pictures and some words about the VoWs that helped me over a bunch of bruisings and finally a big downer.
I'm still fragile; it's a bad sign when bawling brats too young to know better have me wanting to thump their parents, but finished that bit without bashing. Everyone in the pharmacy stared at me coming in, though, from a sudden storm well timed for a headful of bitterly tender, self-mocking nostalgia. I thought it was just my stylishly drenched looks, then realised that I'd unleashed, aloud, a filthy string of expletives.
"I'm ever so sorry," I said to the shop women. "It's not you or your customers here I was insulting, it's everybody's umbrellas: I hate the damned things, up and down every five seconds and nearly taking my eye out each time in these showers."
"You're used to it," one of the girls retorted. "You're English."
"Oh yeah? So why did I leave England behind nearly 25 years ago? And it wasn't just the weather. Anyway, they call you Frogs 'cos you're supposed to jump up and down in it."
That's untrue, but sufficed to see to the resumption of normal trade, no offence taken, including by the old lady with the most vicious-looking of the umbrellas but her thumb nowhere near the deadly button.
"What d'you want anyway?" the other girl asked, which made a nice change from politeness.
"Vitamins, in prodigious quantities, now I'm rich again."
You see, two or three local shops did let me have stuff on credit for a couple of weeks until that part of last month's mess was sorted out with the ... I'm close to using "bloodybank" as a one-word noun (like "fuckinfilosofy"), the "y" only needed to distinguish such ignoble institutions from healthier ones where staff admit frankly to trading in the life juices of our veins and arteries instead of sucking on it.

Marianne Faithfull Marianne Faithfull warns us with semi-poems of experience, a well-used voice to match, hindsight, and sometimes a bit of borrowing:

"Don't get up to open the door,
Just stay with me, here on the floor;
It's gonna get cold in the nineteen-seventies."
And so it did.
Now I feel lucky to be old enough to remember the 1960s she sings about sometimes on 'Vagabond Ways' (March 2002), and say "Yes, I remember everything too" (song to match: 'File it under Fun from the Past').
Magnificent Marianne (Swinging Chicks): today she just swings differently. I'm told, by a friend who says it's true, that during a recent television appearance, a somewhat tipsy Faithfull's first words were "Fuck the pope".
The fab 1964 pic is stolen from 'Musica & Memoria' (Italian, but also in translation), where there's hidden gold. Amazon UK's critic hears some stories of a "misspent youth" on a flawless album. I hear nothing "misspent". It wasn't always easy going, but is it ever?
The Sixties left many casualties in their wake, but modern Marianne is not among them. If you suffered and enjoyed the 60s yourself -- and even if you didn't -- this woman's memories live up to her name.
She's got nine years on me, but I was precocious, woke up when the television news became interesting in mai '68.
There may be real sadness and disillusionment on this CD, one of her finest, but Faithfull also throws in a dose of optimism as soon as you realise ideals people lived for then are neither dead nor naïve, they've become deeper and more mature to fight the backlash.
I'm glad to hear Marianne has survived with the grace, beauty and style I reserve usually only for the likes of my screen goddess, who entered my consciousness in those years, though she's a little less cautious with her language.
Maturity, I suppose, is having to acknowledge that though one of the people I love has just reminded me "life is an unknown adventure," mine no longer includes any chance of having hours of adventurous, sometimes deliciously slow sex on a floor strewn with Afghan rugs and colourful puffy cushions with ... sorry, I mean making love, of course, to ... Susannah York.
O dear, I've written her name again.
Yet I might still be wrong for in our day and age she could read this and agree it would be a wonderful idea. I very much doubt it, but you never know.

I'm finally getting over April.
I celebrated into the early hours ... guess where. Then I had to say "Stop! You've just spent most of your viable VoW budget for the merry month of May. Keep track and don't be unviable again." I'm glad my friends have stopped accusing me of selfish lunacy when I have sprees like that at the iTMS, now most understand that half the purpose of these hundreds of songs is to share the pleasure, staying just the safe side of record industry legislation I want to see overturned as much as many VoWs do.
If I don't always quite manage that, my motto is: "If you can't be good, be discreet."

While I'm in no rush for Tiger, I put QuickTime 7 (Apple) for Panther on the Mac as soon as it and its new "codec" were out, then coughed up the 30 euros asked for the Pro version immediately. You don't have to know what some of those words mean to read the small print, which says "QuickTime 7 for Windows Coming Soon" if you're still waiting. You may simply jump for joy if you've got good ears and eyes.
For me, the leaping started the instant I saw the chance to listen to the whole of Aimee Mann's spanking new album 'The Forgotten Arm' for free with splendid sound. As if this and other pleasures weren't enough -- check out the QT music guide and go "hooray" or green -- to help me to a state of post-bad, bad blues peeping out of shells, I found I could already buy Aimee's 'Arm' at the iTMS.
And promptly did.

Last night's package included not only more of the nostalgia I need for my memory circuits and the LP, but some very bright young things.
For the screenplay, I'd enjoy talking to Marianne Faithfull, since if she knows what the film's about and how I see another chance to make a better job of it all around us, I'm sure she would.
When you've been feeling like shit, which got worse once I'd poisoned myself with an Asian fish on Saturday night, and really don't want to lay it all on your friends, one of the bright young things deserves a special mention.

Heather Nova I've been listening repeatedly to 'Storm' by Heather Nova. I grant you she's relatively well-known already, but is among several dozen VoWs to whom I think I'm addicted, craving for more. When she pours out her heart on 'Storm,' I could only marvel and say "Right on, kid! You have really got it, haven't you?"
I had no idea she was so "young", since immature is a world I'd leave well out of how she lets rip very hard-to-handle emotions, until looking beyond an accurate observation by another Amazon UK (CD link) reviewer:

"While Heather's voice is as sweet as an angel, she's clearly one that's been to hell and back. Not for her the syrup-strewn lusty love ballad."
Christopher Barrett (no relation) use the words I might because when it comes to sharing the worst as well as the best in life, Heather indeed has "been to hell and back", and has an intimate, imaginative way of telling it that comes as real friendship and comfort when you're there and want to listen to someone singing sense rather than wallowing in misery.
Better still, she knows and says the hurting's sometimes necessary if you want to live to the full.
It's less well-known than it should be that there's little worse for somebody who's genuinely depressed -- which I became after punches kept coming on all fronts every day for several weeks -- than sympathy without understanding or being told to "Snap out of it," since the latter is exactly what you usually intend to do and quite simply can't.
I may have been rude about the bank here and joked about other stuff too, but that was just one of a load of hard knocks, mostly of a kind I'll no longer log. It's not more confessionals you need here, it's results.
What I will say is that I lost my sense of humour, which is the most dangerous sign with me. I came perilously close to believing that in spite of a very long healing process often blogged as it happened, it was so bad I almost thought I could write off the "progress". But I didn't believe that since I knew I'd pull through it.
Life, for me, is no longer quite such an "unknown adventure" that when I have to I avoid entrusting my faith in myself to my friends and because they have come to believe in me, they keep that trust.
At such times, they show it. That's life.
Now I've found it in myself again, and also have more VoWs to thank than I can stretch time for tonight, I don't want to leave those who have yet to discover Nova's voice and her words with the impression she's only good for the bad days.
I can't say I've got a favourite CD of hers, since she sings beautifully, sometimes almost solo or subtle with her guitar, about a life as rich and varied as anybody else's.
I guess one reason I'm launched into this VoW project is that despite occasional remarks to the contrary since I yack so much, I'm a good listener. Thus it annoys me to read reviewers who accuse, say, Tori Amos, of sometimes being "melodramatic" and dismissing her. She can be, but so what? A lot of us have melodramatic moods occasionally. Tori Amos not only sings well, she's got great wordcraft. You don't write her off simply because you don't like it, you just say "She's not for me'.
People know that when I lose my sense of humour, I lose my sense of proportion. One of my closest friends can be a first-rate "drama queen", she's really good at it sometimes. I don't mind in the least, since she knows it.
So, like "soylentathowan" in 'Things that help me through...' I'd give two fingers to the people who can't take rare outbursts of melodrama and put Tori high on such a list of my own.

Some people's Amazon lists are so good you get to know them like friends whose recommendations for good listening you'd take more notice of than any reviewer. I've bookmarked several dozen.
Here are a couple of good ones, where the taste is so close to my own, I've put my money where their mouths are with VoWs hitherto unknown to me. Regret rate = 0:
- by 'sparksthatfly': Female vox: 25 to treasure (and their essence in 3 words)
- by 'ethertwist': grievously underexposed female artists.
That latter's hardly a title I'd resist, is it now?
And here's one for the Kid -- Daddy's already bought some of the albums and gets a kick out of them, but he's not always very "grown up":
by 'meelee18': Indy gurl and riot grrl heaven.
Darling, you think you've heard it all? When I switch on the "share" buttons, you're in for some fun, because frankly, there's nothing wrong with letting it hang out. Regarding that list, though; everyone defines "indispensable" differently. I have quite enough lust of my own to require such an outburst of other people's.
They're for fun, but in manageable doses.

12:18:40 AM  link   your views? []

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