Friday 29 August 2008

The Headmaster Ritual

I know I said I'd try to write about music less, but when I stumbled upon this curio of Radiohead covering The Smiths, what could I do but share it with you?

Thursday 21 August 2008

Happy birthday Joe

Joe Strummer, looking cool
Today would have been Joe Strummer's birthday. Vocalist, guitarist and founding member of The Clash, Joe made some great music that has stood the test of time - if you can find a copy on YouTube (I couldn't, amazingly) witness how contemporary both the song and video for Should I Stay Or Should I Go? still feel. Not only that, here was a man with strong social and political principles, with The Clash being very much involved in the early days of the Rock Against Racism initiative. Unbelievably, it's more than five years since Joe died - doesn't time fly?

Anyway, enough potted history - more music, I hear you cry! The Clash are a band I have come to enjoy more the older I get and if you don't already own a copy of Give 'Em Enough Rope and London Calling, why not?! Are you unwell?! At least treat yourself to a copy of The Story Of The Clash or, for today's attention-deficit generation, Singles. In the meantime, in honour of what would have been Joe's 56th birthday, let me direct you to an MP3 of probably my favourite Clash song, Stay Free. Enjoy.

Friday 15 August 2008

P-p-p-pick up a... Colonel-in-Chief

The latest in a long line of "you couldn't make it up" type stories. Brilliant.

Art for art's sake

Do Ho Suh's Staircase V
Every so often, the debate about the merits, or otherwise, of modern art kicks off, as in this intelligent piece by Katherine Whitehorn. Currently, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is showing a 20-year retrospective of the always-interesting Tracey Emin which has, predictably, thrown up the usual suspects, moaning and wailing that "it's just an unmade bed". Now I can't make it to Emin's show in Edinburgh but I have just been to the Royal Academy of Art's summer show, which includes a room curated by Emin (which carries an 18 certificate, amusingly), and I can say that her room was the most thought-provoking, and not just for the zebra mounting a women or the naked woman hula-hooping with barbed wire (although that was strangely hypnotic). We followed Sunday's trip to the Royal Academy with another trip to the Hayward Gallery to see more modern art in the form of their Psycho Buildings show... which was fantastic, visually stunning and so easy to become immersed in. I can't recommend it enough, so hurry, it's only on until the end of the month (and whilst you're there, why not nip into the Saison Poetry Library too?). I bet you don't have as lovely a meal as we had afterwards though (and I'm not going to tell you where we ate because if the secret gets out, and it gets over-crowded, well, it'll be ruined...)

One stock response of many people when faced with modern art is "I don't call that art!" Well okay then, what do you call art? If you consider art appreciation in terms of the effect a piece has, its context, techniques used and its intended meaning, then surely anything that puts a tick against some, or all, of those boxes could be considered art? Okay, so the effect it has on you might be to make you turn your nose up or scoff, but it's still an effect...

The other standard reaction to modern art is "I could do that." Fine. But the fact is, you haven't. You haven't had the idea. The creative spark has not twitched and flickered within you, has not caught alight. When it comes to modern art it seems that those that can, do, and those that can't criticise.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

My mini city

So many otherwise interesting websites require you to register, or create an account, or download software, or all of the above, before you can do anything with them. This is a pain, at times, so it makes a nice change to find a entertainingly time-wasting website that doesn't. It's called My Mini City and guess what - it let's you create your own virtual city, and then watch it grow. All you have to do is pick a country for your city to be in, and then give it a name, and that's it - there's no registration, no need to divulge untold personal details to create an account, no need to download bloated client software, nothing.

So you're probably wondering how it works then? How you can make your city grow? Simple. When you create your city, a unique URL for it is created, and it is by that address receiving hits that your city grows. So, to visit my city, which currently resembles an isolated hut in the middle of a vast empty expanse, and has a population of 1 (but a 0% crime rate!) all you have to do is click so please do! And in case you're wondering how I came by the name "Margueritton", all I can say is that the -ton suffix implies town, whilst marguerite is French...

Thursday 7 August 2008

Hurt of Tunbridge Wells

Another great weekend to write about (sorry, I know this is not interesting for you, (in)Constant Reader, but I have to tell someone and there's no-one else, at least not up here...). On Friday, I was again Kentward-bound: West Kent, this time, camping near Royal Tunbridge Wells. And it was a beautiful campsite, with a little firepit for each pitch, so after our barbecue we got a lovely fire going, sat propped against a log with a blanket and lantern, and read alternate chapters of a book to each other (and no, I'm not going to tell you which book, that's private - suffice to say it's good). It was a near perfect evening, but not perfect, and that hurt. Still does.

On Saturday morning we trekked into Tunbridge Wells and had a great time browsing the eclectic collection of shops that is The Pantiles - definitely recommended if you are in that neck of the woods, especially the secondhand book shop. And then, in the afternoon as the weather picked up, we drove down towards Brighton to visit Monk's House, the former home of Virginia Woolf. Lucky for us the weather held, as our evening was spent at Hever Castle watching Cosi Fan Tutte in the open air. We even had time for a glass of red by the lake first. Again, it was a near perfect evening, but not perfect, and that hurt. Still does.

Sunday saw us back in Tunbridge Wells, trying to give the tent time to dry off by taking an extended breakfast in The Pantiles. But the weather wasn't playing ball so, despite leaving it at late as possible, we ended up bundling a wet tent in the boot of the car and heading off to Knole Park for the afternoon - a beautiful house, this time with connections to Vita Sackville-West, and amazing grounds full of fallow deer, one of whom stuck his head in the car as we ate chocolate brownies. All too soon, we drove back home, said a chaste and hurried goodbye, and that was it. A near perfect day, but not perfect, and that hurt. Still does.

When will it stop? And what would Virginia and Vita make of it all?

Friday 1 August 2008

To Whit, to whoo...?

The Hoosiers at Sound Island 2008
This will be a very quick post, because I'm in all kinds of a rush to get away for the weekend (again)...

So, for the second week in a row, I find myself blogging about what an amazing (and hectic) weekend I've had. Last Friday I found myself Kentward-bound, via Ikea (good for big furniture, disappointing for small items, redeemed by Swedish meatballs), for day one of the Sound Island Festival at Quex Park. Click Click were okay, Elliot Minor was instantly forgettable (and lost in muddy sound), whilst Scouting for Girls were very disappointing - every time they got going they seemed to stop, for a pointlessly repetitive and boringly executed piece of crowd participation. But then headliners The Hoosiers came on and they were brilliant! So up for it! So full of strange touches, like coming onstage clutching letters spelling out their name, each member of the band having a different model bird on their mic stand, launching giant balloons full of tickertape out into the crowd (where they inevitably, eventually popped), backing singers dressed as skeletons... such a show! And musically terrific! So even though there was only one tiny beer tent, and you had to queue at a separate kiosk to buy tokens to exchange at the beer tent for drinks (hence queueing twice - shockingly bad organisation on the part of the festival) I was able to head back to the campsite a (literal) happy camper.

The next day saw us taking in the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Quite how that cute little Spanish lass could eat six oysters and down half a pint of beer in fourteen seconds if beyond me. But this was the best of days - a beautiful walk along the coast into the town, interesting stalls, happy shopping and, especially, sitting on the beach as the sun headed towards the horizon, drinking wine and eating strawberries. To top it off we then met up with my best mate and his partner for more drinks and a fine meal. All in all, a day to live long in the memory...

As was Sunday, which saw us topping up our tans on a sun-drenched Folkestone beach - we even found a little patch of sand to call our own, had a swim, applied lotion... and then, when our beach picnic and scorching sun were in danger of lulling us towards a doze, we instead headed off to Port Lympne for their staggering overnight safari... yes, really. A safari, complete with lodge, watering hole and more animals than you can shake a stick at, in Kent. Rhinos, giraffes, wildebeest, so many types of deer, and more... brilliant. And best of all, waking that way in our luxury safari tent... the best moment of the whole weekend.

It's a tough life, but someone has to do it, right?