All posts for the month March, 2010

… after (almost) ten years of blogging, I’d know when not to blog. Ten year celebration here at Fiatech I managed to get out onto 6th street and spend three hours between “Friends” and “Chuggin Monkey” … no idea which bands I actually saw but the musicians flitted between the two, and … I don’t know where to start … they entertained. So much higher quality than either Nashville or Memphis. Austin rocks, even outside SXSW. Good news is the band that ended at Friends are apparently there on Tuesday too. Could do a lot worse.

(Post Note : Main band at Chuggin Monkey was “the Statesboro Review”)

After a week over in North Carolina and Maryland, I’m back in Austin for a second visit. Had the experience again of driving up from Houston on 290 – all the meadow grass and spring flowers on the median as well as either side. Beautiful.

In Antones, saw Gary Clark Jr again, with Eric Zapata also again, on the second guitar, and a much mellower balance this time with the rhythm section; Gary really shone …. and Pinetop Perkins watching from the sidelines too.

Great selection of beers, US and local Texan, as well as international … at least  50 on draft … at The Ginger Man, which was interesting after discovering two (!) brewery pubs in Frederick, MD last week. The internationally promoted US beer brands give a very limited view of the amazing quality and variety of US beer. And, coincidentaly, it turned out the part-time-waitress / geology-student sat next to me at the bar reckoned Destin, FL and Mustang Island, TX her favourite US beach locations, no prompting, even if she did rank the spring meadow flowers as weeds as far as her lawn was concerned. Quality will out.

As well as rather large gaps in the flow of blogging, due to current overly busy lifestyle phase, I see the BBC news plug-in has failed at last – I need a news feed widget (anyone ?) – and I see also that my page format is now browser / version dependent – fine in Chrome, but error prone in IE6 (yes, still IE6 on the corporate desktop). Time for some maintenance – one day soon. Still working on Buzz integration, which I think may lead to making worthwhile use of Wave … LinkedIn is OK – for work-related contacts and posts, but FaceBook and Google Friend Connect are just a mess – no ?

I first blogged about Ahab’s Wife (by Sena Jeter Naslund) back in 2002 just after I’d finished Moby Dick, and I was researching something on Spenser’s Faerie Queen … Una is the queen in Spenser and Spenser is Una’s maiden name …. in Ahab’s Wife. I’ve actually read the book, only in the last few weeks, helped by two “twelve hour sunset” westbound Atlantic crossings.

Contrary to the earlier review I quoted, there is in fact a great deal of Ahab in the book, not to mention The Pequod, its full complement of characters and not forgetting Queequeg’s coffin. And not just the style draws (deliberately) on Melville, but the subject of whaling – even the stench of the butchery, blood & blubber – figure prominently.

It’s a human story about people and nature, none too deep, and a high quota of deaths and disasters makes the drama seem overly contrived, written to a formula, but surprisingly hard to put down. It’s by a woman about a woman – menstrual cycles, needlework, shopping, baking, recipes … canibalism and whaling and sea and lighthouses, riverboats, and great lakes and fresnel lenses, and lots of reading, Austen, Emerson, Thoreau, (Henry) James, Margaret Fuller, racism, dwarfism, abolitionism, quakerism, unitarianism, universalism, investment, (earth) oil and the ubiquitous Greeks. 666 packed pages (definitely 666, not 668 per the earlier quoted review – there are 2 pages of personal acknowledgement after “finis” – was that contrived too ?).

… disappoints at the end,
because it doesn’t seem to have a reason
for having been written …

Well constructed, engrossing read, but none too deep as I said.
Oh and, the opening line …

“Captain Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last.”

The third husband ? Spoiler in the comment added to the 2002 post.

Despite being a big fan (of Reading FC), usually when I blog a mention of football it’s for some exemplary moral decision-making reason, but I had to post this link to Robbo’s blog. Normally I avoid top-flight UK & European and national / international football because it is so rarely about the beautiful game. I could pin-point a particular game, where after all the stardom issues, a game some years ago between Kiev and Man U (I expect) was so tactically and technically perfect it was more like watching chess than a sport – an error-free sterile stalemate on the pitch.

Anyway Jose’s return to  Chelsea had all the usual “top-flight” ingredients – Chelsea a long-running soap-opera of a morality-tale to start with – but Mourinho and Messi brought some real style and sheer fun to football, the latter for Barca against Stuttgart. Mourino’s return lived up to the script and the hype  – he does his own hype – and watching Messi was like watching a precocious schoolkid, not only running rings around his opponents (and scoring) but looking like he was doing it for his own amusement.

Jose; got into their heads and made the whole thing about him – which is how he sees the world anyway.

Messi; ball at his feet, running at defenders like a clockwork mouse darting between the legs of narcoleptic cats.

Went to another gig on Saturday, chosen purely on spec. Sista Sekunden at Garage – Swedish hardcore – all crashing and bouncing around – in Swedish – OK act, but support act Paper (also Swedish) were perfect from the first chord of Ears Keep Ringing. Perfection.

Three piece Guitar (a Burns), Keyboard (Korg)/Synth (Roland)/Vocals & Drums. The keyboard baseline & rhythm with synth and guitar as moody riffs and textural drone over the top. Static performance – all in the sound – constant yet subtly complex. Paper. Loved ’em.

The opener “Ears Keep Ringing”

The sound is based around the frustration of punk, the delicacy of pop melody and the hypnotic power of repetition.

“Before That Day” excellent.

Reminded me of “Outa my brain on the 9:15” as great rock choruses go.  Howl were just what I needed, after a great day at work, a surprisingly good gig at Oslo Garage, chosen by the sticking a pin in the gig list method. Conventional 6-piece probably 2 more than really necessary I guess, with two guitars plus keyboard,  bass and drums, and a Jaggeresque / Mercuriesque strutting front-man. Proved very effective, no messing 70’s / 80’s rock, with a local audience supporting a local band. (Interesting mix of Gibson-Firebird, 335 and f-hole ? / Fender-Jaguar and Tele / Gretsch / Rickenbacker guitars, a great bassist and a Jason Statham lookalike with excellent harmony vocals on the drums.)

But one gig wasn’t enough, so I wandered round to Revolver to find The Bloody Hollies just starting their set. Even less messing, pre-punk – Dictators style – in just the right kinda intimate venue all that way from their California home, no one in the crowd more than ten feet from the band. So much noise from an SG-Junior. Still winding down here at 3am, watching Pink Floyd and Hamsters concert DVD’s for some reason – oh I know, the EMI court case. Funny how the mind works.

(San Diego CA based, but Buffalo NY natives apparently – who was that excellent Buffalo three piece ? Johnny Nobody, that’s who.)

(Post Note – Playing the HowL “Cold Water Music” CD to death at the moment – Oct 2011 – still excellent. No trace of the track with the “1975 I’m Alive” chorus … Switchblade Eyes (Controller) and To The Point outstanding, the former included in the FIFA2011 game sound-track !!! … and not sure in hindsight how Bloody Hollies – a three piece – reminded me of The Dictators, but hey.)

Atilla the Stockbroker is announcer at The Withdean, and even he can’t wait to get out of the place – I remember the feeling. Are Brighton really still stuck at that place. Interesting rant on how business is ruining and continuing to ruin football (soccer). It rang an immediate bell with me. Reading Dennis Dutton’s “The Art Instinct” I had just reacted to his “objective” measures of sporting success undervaluing the artistic, aesthetic values of “The Beatiful Game” – but then he doesn’t claim to be a fan. Brighton at the Withdean however, may be the Duchamp Fountain of the soccer world.

Sometimes the bottom line result is all that matters, but it is never all that matters. Beauty really is in the participation of the fan, like any work of art. Mind you things can get ugly too. (More to come on Dutton’s excellent book.)

Not quite my longest blogging hiatus there. Never stopped since the Moscow trip in mid-February and the first Houston trip of March. Exciting times. More on why later, maybe. For now: Houston was three different events all requiring work preparation, but thankfully got a free day and half at the weekend.

Made a sunset drive to Galveston, and a full day down to Aransas, TX on Mustang Island and on to the northern tip of Padre Island and Corpus Christi. Aransas was my kinda town “A small drinking village with a fishing problem.” Reminded me of Destin, FL; probably the last place I saw that gag too. A large wind-farm at Sinton, TX struck me as ironic, after all the nodding donkeys. I do miss US service generally, and smokin’ in bars. Even the bar tender in Terminal E at Newark on the way back – was another in the “Now, if I was Richard Branson …” category. Talking of Americana, saw a couple of covers bands in Houston bars, but I made a bee-line for “The Last Concert Cafe” on the last night.

Spoonfed Tribe were playing, with two support acts, in the ramshackle Mexican cantina in the shadow of the downtown I10 ramp. Spoonfed live are a sensory feast – never quite found the same effect in their recorded material – and that venue just suits their style; mostly outdoor (downtown) backyard beach (!) complete with handicraft / jewelery stalls, just a little too chilly to chill in early March. Mind you with the amount of dope being smoked the ventilation compensated for other hazards. As good as I remembered them back in Huntsville, which is always a fear, but a real festival with their local Texan fans. One spaced-out chick kindly remarked how good it was to see old people checking out Spoonfed too.

Purely by way of aside, also with the multiple percussion and highly processed loop effects – but a total contrast with Imogen Heap in Oslo the week before, in terms of effective performance and audience engagement. You can’t win ’em all.

Now, I have of course also been reading …

Rivets recommends, and I agree an interesting (surprising) collection of images.

Remembered reading this from Stanislaw Lem a few years ago, but no idea if I blogged it at the time. I keep making the unfashionable comment that too much freedom to communicate is not necessarily a good thing.

“Literature, from the very beginning, has had a single enemy, and that is the restriction of the expressed idea. It turns out, however, that freedom of expression sometimes presents a greater threat to an idea, because forbidden thoughts may circulate in secret, but what can be done when an important fact is lost in a flood of impostors, and the voice of truth becomes drowned out in an ungodly din? When that voice, though freely resounding, cannot be heard, because the technologies of information have led to a situation in which one can receive best the message of him who shouts the loudest, even when the most falsely?”
Stanislaw Lem, “His Master’s Voice”

Thanks to Ray Girvan for bring the quote back to my attention.