Thursday, February 28, 2008

Water on the Moon

Songwriting is having a dramatic effect on my psychology but that's probably because of the lack of sleep. Today I woke at 5.30am, half an hour before the alarm.

Check out the song and the article which inspired it.

When I've had some sleep, I might even come back and explain why I'm attempting this madness - aside from the reasons aforegiven.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My BuskAid Birthday

Kicked off our breakfast show, Rise and Shine, and I'm on a slightly exhausted high but I'm pleased with our first effort which is here.

"Doctor, doctor, gimme little pill
Need a fix for me to chill
Medicine for my mental ill
Get depressed about the bill..."

It was really a lot of fun writing with Dan Brittain aka Tiventi Benson. Check back later for the produced version.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rise and Shine

Do you remember this? I'm kicking off something new next week which is the combination of blogging and songwriting: writing music in response to news.

I wanted to extend the writing discipline back into music, whilst venturing into new personal territory - live radio. I've done stacks of audio production and also event production, but traditional form radio I've only for a short period way back when I was the early morning DJ in a pirate station in the west country.

That delightful station called itself NBS (No Bull Shit) and the FM transmitter traveled each weekend around various covert houses on the tops of Bristol hills. Every few weekends we'd take care of the station and the crew from Friday night to Monday morning. The rave DJs would leave around 5am and I'd be up at 8am, turn on the transmitter and fill in the gaping hole in their schedule with cheap vinyl I purchased from the second hand and charity shops on the Gloucester Road. I entertained people all the way to Bath.

So I do have radio form - albeit achingly-hip form, not standard-industry-sweat-your-way-up-the-greasy-pole form - and of course, I have quite a bit of podcast form by now, so we'll certainly be putting out a podcast alongside the livestream. Nonetheless, being live for three hours every morning, and showing the warts-and-all process of making a song should be an interesting and scary enough challenge to break through the tupperware barrier of people's breakfast cereal containers.

This show comes with a few caveats, the main one being I'm not promising to write songs that you're going to like! Although I may do. We'll see. Expect glitches. I'm going out on a limb. But I am enlisting the help of other writers, and I'm intending to collaborate wherever possible. In fact, I'm going to need as much help as I can get.

But the best thing about the next month is going to be that we're raising money for BuskAid, a South Africa-based charity that teaches township kids to play music. I was inspired by the remarkable Rosemary Nalden - one of those TV documentaries which had me inexplicably in tears at the beauty of what was being achieved. So I hope you'll turn up and take part.

The breakfast show will be live from 7am to 10am GMT, Monday to Friday.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Everything Is Recorded

My use of social media Seesmic is altering the way I dream. There is a reason for my becoming involved in this nascent community, aside from the fact that I find such early-stage communities fascinating. I seem to have connected with a group of likeminded people whom I wouldn't have minded meeting in any situation, it's as simple as that.

March 30th is, we are told, the lifting of the alpha-veil, the grand opening of the gates, and the moment which this sometimes cliquey and self-defensive bunch is in some measure dreading, and recently there have been self-reflective discussions about whether this will spell the inevitable downward spiral, YouTube style, for the site.
Maybe, maybe, and only time will tell whether the policies of community care (I love that, it sounds like we are all deranged) which have borne fruit so far will work as Seesmic is scaled up. There is always noise in any system; success depends on the ration of noise to conversation, as much as it does on the level(s) of discourse available. One of the delightful things about Seesmic for me is that I can simultaneously be deeply serious and childishly playful, which is exactly how my mind works.

If Seesmic plunges inexorably downmarket, it will not fail, though it will become a very different kind of social event. Given that users can re-create smaller Seesmic spaces within the system, which suit the conversations that they want to have, this might benefit many people, especially those shy ones who lack the courage to leap into the sometimes hurly-burly of the ever-increasing speed of the pubic timeline and speak from the heart, those sensitive intellectuals who wish to carefully tease out a subtle idea, or just folks who articulate clumsily and don't want to be derided for their pains.

Attractive though the unified single space is, using Twitter as an example, since when did anyone try to use that highly populated public timeline as a resting place? It would be like trying to recline on an avalanche, a total impossibility. To keep the junk levels down, it would seem that some elementary tools are required, including the ability to create private groups, separate timelines, and to block individuals who insist on saying "Hitler" whenever they show up before the garden is opened up to a million happy picnickers.

Meanwhile, the dream. I dreamed I was on the phone to a certain well-known podcaster... and oh, the air turned blue. What I don't say in this Seesmic is that I walked about for the first few minutes of today in the mistaken belief that it had actually happened. So, perhaps everything IS recorded, and perhaps Seesmic is indeed real life.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Bog's Dollocks

"I'm a web 0.9 person." I winced on the phone a couple of days back, as I found myself explaining my internet origins in the days of clockwork and digestive biscuit-powered computers to a young person for whom the internet has always been there, just a given, like beer and bad wallpaper.

I used to surf for pleasure, just get online, nervously blotting out the phone bill from my curious mind, and see what I could find. Anarchy, science, culture, arcane knowledge and the rich tapestry of human weirdness available for the first time came blinking through a 14.4 modem via in strangulated bursts of red data.

By 2am, bleary-eyed and with a hand promising early RSI from so... much... mouse... clicking... I'd end up at NASA, trying to find the cool pictures, or on some arty news group which ran on a Pentium 386 in someone's cupboard in Bristol.

Has anyone ever stopped to measure the effect this sudden global openness has had upon our once-compartmentalised cultures? I mean, aside from making it easier for perverts and terrorists to operate, giving lonely home-bound people a massive lease of life, and me a significant part of my income? The extent to which we have over the last 15 years or so truly and utterly changed our perspectives is a remarkable revolution which we seem to have already forgotten.

These days though, very rarely do I find that "must return" site, the dangerous time-suck that makes me miss appointments and lie guiltily about my reasons for being late, like a shameful addict. Stumble Upon is supposed to take me back to those heady days of frontier exploration, but it doesn't. It's just another guide to the sprawling mall which the internet has become, albeit a quasi human-constructed one. Directories ain't what they used to be. is cool, if you can be bothered to use it. And although I write this blog with a rhythm that just won't stop, I've practically abandoned all but a handful of blogs and podcasts, in order to catch up on books, films, radio, and television.

Still, some internet things are still sparkling, wonderful and true, and made in Britain. Such as the Peevish Slang dictionary. At last, a decent online resource, telling it as it truly is.

Welcome, Peevish, to my internet life, and congratulations on a job well done. Internet friends from other lands now have a very cool place to understand the meaning of the words I use all too frequently, and with which I permutate, obfuscate, and navigate my torrid life, and I have a nice, easy to read website to study and enjoy, and possibly submit the occasional suggestion.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tits Out For Jesus

The enterprising Wing Tai company, a leading retailer, has been stocking a line of cosmetics including "Virtuous vanilla" lip balm and a "Get Tight with Christ" hand and body cream, featuring a picture of Christ flanked by two adoring women.BBC

Singapore's Christians seem to have misplaced one of the key messages of their middle-eastern import, Jesus Christ, son of God, who let's not forget, scandalised decent, law-abiding, clean-living, Roman-resisting Jews everywhere by hanging out with the lowest of the low, prostitutes, tax collectors, the sick, the grieving, the abandoned and the destitute, and preaching a doctrine of tolerance and forgiveness, with a spectacular "live and let live" death thrown in to top it all off.

This is not new, of course, and neither are contradictions within Christianity or any other religion. But there is something about people in groups which operates on a completely different level. At a certain point, individual rationality and compassion give way to the workings of the pack, and this goes for capitalists and Christians alike.

Greatly stimulated by this news, on hearing a voice inside my head, I have now commissioned my own brand of miracle cosmetics, toiletries, sex toys and everyday household items, regular usage as per instructions guaranteeing your place in heaven, or your money back. Jesus, being good, wise and having a cracking sense of humour will laugh, especially at the artful irony of the cash/bliss juxtaposition.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

A Palindromic Date: 8.2.8

Everywhere in the civilised world today, with the exception of the numerically impoverished land of the Untidy Stains of Americant, today is an excellent thing - it's a palindromic date, madam.

I've always loved the symmetry of these dates, being born on one.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Supermarket Tattoo

The waiting room was clean, but not much light came in as he sat forward on his vinyl-covered seat, nervously fingering the scrap of paper, flicking the edge of it with his thumbnail. Across the window and on every inch of wall exotic designs snaked and writhed: dragons, motorbikes, cyberpunks, football teams, psuedo-celt and every traditional tattoo he had ever seen from Mum and Dad to Love and Hate.

Through the thick, black velvet curtains in the back room, he could hear three voices, two men and a woman conversing calmly and in good humour, with the noise of the electronic needle steadily droning and the smell of clean skin permeating everything. A tall woman with her head shaved at the sides and a thick, glossy chemical-red ponytail materialised beside him, and said,

"He's finishing up now - five minutes. Cup of tea love?"

He was so startled by her proximity that he dropped the paper on the black tiled floor, and she swooped down, picked it up between pink nails and returned it to him without looking at it.

"Um, no, thanks," he said, thinking of Jack Daniels.

She crossed the room and peered out through the designs into the bustling street.

"Beautiful day out there. And I spend my time in a cave!" she said, smiling warmly. She was clearly good at this, he thought, and she's reading me right. A thin trickle of sweat made its way down the inside of his shirt, bumping ribs and making him feel like an animal.

One satisfied leather-clad customer emerged through the curtains, smiling broadly. His neck was the size of a tree trunk, the blue-black curving designs on his torso running up under his hairline, his face a pale moon in a forest of facial metal. He beamed, revealing two prominent gold teeth and several gaps.

"Lovely job!" he said, as he settled up.

Mid-transaction, the woman looked over and said, "you can go in, love."

He rose, and pushed aside the faintly aromatic cloth, stepped down two steps into the room. He blinked - this was a brighter room than the one he had just left. A skylight above brought the day inside; he observed complex designs on white-tiled walls, angled lights, mirrors, a dentist's chair, a stool.

Standing up to greet him, a medium-sized, middle-aged man in a khaki cardigan, wearing strong-lensed glasses, behind which kind brown eyes twinkled. Aside from his hair which was, like the woman's, shaved at the sides, and a long, carefully groomed oriental moustache, he seemed almost conventional. No tattoos visible at all, except on the knuckles of his left hand, which spelled a word that couldn't quite be made out.

"Come in, come in," the tattooist beckoned to the chair, taking his place on the stool, beside which the tools of his trade were laid out with a craftman's casual familiarity on a shiny steel surface. Surgical gloves and cotton wool were strategically placed by a small sink. Everything was spotless.

Thrusting the paper towards him, he took off his jacket, embarassed by the damp patches of sweat under his arms which he could see in the mirror opposite. The tattooist took a long, careful look at the design on the paper, and said,

"Yes, I think we can do that. How big do you want it, and where?"

"Upper left arm please." He indicated the area.


"Yes please."

The tattooist looked once again at the design, picked up a pencil and traced the lines carefully on a sheet of white paper, expertly enlarging Chinese characters with a practised hand and eye.

"First time?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

The tattooist chuckled. "When you've done as many as I have, you can usually tell. Do you know what this means?" He looked up from his drawing, over his glasses, eyebrows raised.

"Supermarket," came the reply.

Almost imperceptibly, the tattooist paused in his work. "I see," he said calmly.

He finished his sketch. "Looking good?" he asked, smiling, holding it up.

It did look good. For the first time, he was flooded with a sense of relief as the noradrenalin in his system started to work biological magic. He felt suddenly and sublimely positive as his doubts melted away like a winter frost - this was something very, very right.

The tattooist took his arm firmly but gently, and sat on the stool beside the chair, and as he soaked cotton wool with surgical spirit and began to wipe the skin clean, with the level demeanour of the completely unshockable, he asked,

"Any particular story to go with that?"

"Ah.. just a love story," he mumbled, "The usual."

"The best!" remarked the tattooist, and reached for his needle.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Giving Up Giving Up

Ash Wednesday, and with it, the Christian season of Lent.
Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. (Latin: Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.) — Genesis 3:19

I feel strangely inspired by lent this year - it must be the pancakes I ate yesterday in Frank's, Neal Street, Covent Garden. Three perfect, thin folded skins of egg and flour and milk, with a quarter of lemon and white crystalline sugar, a true and rare moment of nostalgia for the family home.

So, what sacrifice to make, what luxury to give up? I thought, in my so clever way, "Give up giving up." I liked the sound of it, it reminded me of "keep on keepin on". Then on reflection, I realised that it wouldn't be a bad idea to work for a little over a month on being more determined. So that is what I will do.

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Monday, February 04, 2008


Why does cheese taste the way it does? And what relation does the taste of cheddar have to Cheese, a combination of heroin and over-the-counter cold medications, the lethal teenage kick which emerged in Texas in 2005?

Dr Stilton pulled up a wooden chair and beckoned the surly, pale-faced boy to sit down. He did so, slumping as far down as he could without dropping onto the floor. His mother's eyebrows, long since removed and inscribed with a brittle pencil-line, vanished in permanent surprise into her hairline, giving her an expression of concern which bore no relation to the dead space of her frequently brutalised emotions.

"Open your mind," said the doctor in a professional monotone.

"We don't get it," said the mother, shaking her head.

"You will," said the doctor, reaching for the crackers.


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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Woolworths Lolita Bed, And More Horrors

Following neatly along from the "provocative schoolgirl" used in the Ryanair advert come Woolworths, who yesterday withdrew bedroom furniture for young girls which was being marketed under the brand name "Lolita".

With breathtaking idiocy, this marketing strategy takes us into the same realms of the lack of corporate responsibility as previously demonstrated this week by that worst of budget airlines. The company claimed,"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."

Whether citing the cultural ignorance of their staff is sufficient defense remains to be seen, but further investigation reveals other companies also selling dubious items - high street retailers WH Smith selling children's stationery branded "Playboy", BHS selling "adult" underwear, i.e. thongs and padded bras, and leading supermarket Tesco selling a pole dancing kit for young girls, withdrawn from sale in 2006.

As my friend Sizemore said, with just a touch of the sardonic, why stop there? Let's start marketing penis enhancement pumps to young boys, because, after all, young girls don't have a monopoly on vulnerability.

Such a focus on the very young seems to be a developing trend during this final, sickest phase of the post-Cold war period. The triumph of capitalism over idealism has put Mammon in place of aspiration, and the unchallenged markets are seen as a de facto international legislature, totally replacing concepts of social cohesion, accountability or ordinary human morality.

Watching the Cash Machine's excesses become ever more blatant, as endless scientifically determined detail is applied to extracting pitifully small amounts of cash from the mass underclasses, one can only hope that natural revulsion might be eventually translated into concerted, active resistance by those of us clinging to the vestiges of an alternative way of living.

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