Sunday, 29 April 2012

Music is on its arse

Subjectivity sucks big fat meat-stench testicles. There always comes a time where there will become an objective truth so self-evident to every observer that nevertheless gets to escape ruthless punishment because it can hide behind arguments regarding taste and subjective value.

Music is appalling now. No-one's doing anything of any value. It's a great brown blancmange of auto-tuning and oh-so-tinny perfect beats, mass produced in a great sausage press.  No, it's even worse than a sausage press. At least a sausage press retains some secrets. There's no magic or mystery to music any more. We might speculate that the sausage we're eating is 90% cysts and fannies but unless you're actually privy to the factory's procedures you can't know for sure. Music now is manufactured before our very eyes.

It is ghastly, but it's not really a problem. We still have all the old music to listen to. That still retains all its own splendour and creativity. Not for nothing did the album charts suddenly fill up with 25-year old re-entries as soon as the rules were changed to make digital downloads eligible towards sales figures.

The problem, though, is that you can't replicate the shock of the new. Even someone hearing a great masterpiece of music for the first time will have to do so in a world which has already digested the innovation, absorbed it and - inevitably - commodotised the most commercially-viable elements into all manner of dreary conveyor belt pap pop.

As such, I present my five point guide to reinvigorating music into a long, long overdue renaissance of creativity, novelty and discovery.

  1. No honkies - we all know that no good can come from white people making music. All of the best popular music has come entirely out of black culture. The only white artists who are worth a damn are the ones who are completely aware of that fact and tip more than just a hat in its direction.
  2. No release - all new albums will be presented to an independent panel (yeah, me, why not). If it is worse than pre-existing records already in circulation it will be destroyed with fire and bees.
  3. Bring back Tony Wilson - he'd know what to do
  4. House bands - All the old soul music factories mass-produced pop songs for the kids, but they were brilliant and not shit. Reason: house bands. Actual bands playing the music, rather than some spotty oik in a studio putting down a bassline and then manually correcting every note on a computer, get a funky fucker with an afro, a purple velvet suit and a spliff on to lay that shit down, warts and all.
  5. Make Toots Hibbert the Education Secretary - unless he's busy, when Lee "Scratch" Perry would do very nicely as a replacement.
You're welcome.

If you would like to listen to something which is both new and good, I suggest you could listen to Richard Tingley's Variety Hour Podcast, now featuring elements of my obsessive compulsive list-making behaviour.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A list of things I like

My life lately is a little bit chaotic. Lots of things are in a state of flux, some in good ways and some in less good ways. I'm finding it rather stressful if I'm honest. Yes, I'm one of those people who can even get stressed by nice things happening to me. It's my natural optimistic outlook, I reckon. So the other day I thought I should make a list of things which I like. If I look at a list of things I like it might well cheer me up, I figured. This is pretty unlikely to work, but it's nice to have a list of things that I like to look at. Not least because of number 1 in my list. Observe:
  1. Writing and reading lists
  2. Seeing a bird walk down the pavement as if it is a people
  3. Sitting outside on a rainy day under a cover
  4. When a fox walks through your garden during daylight hours
  5. When a fox walks through your garden at night
  6. Looking at the moon and stars
  7. Eating Scotbloc straight out of the packet
  8. Watching golf on television all day
  9. Thinking about the theme tune to Mr Rossi
  10. Dark history - murders, massacres, assassinations, revolutions etc
  11. Beaks
  12. Saying the word "anus" out loud
  13. Grating the dry skin off of my feet
  14. Writing on plastic with a ballpoint pen
  15. Finding motor racing circuits and places of historical significance on Google Maps
  16. Smelling things

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I'm a loser

The other day I complained about the futility of Windows 7's version of Solitaire keeping statistics. It's a game of chance much more than a game of skill, I argued. Keeping a record of your performances merely serves to make you feel like every game is theoretically winnable. It isn't, of course, so you end up feeling like a loser. And then at the end of the day you end up with a handy percentage figure you can share to demonstrate exactly how big a loser you are.

I wanted to know, so over the last week or so I've played 100 games of Solitaire, which is not a euphemism. This activity in itself makes me a magnificently huge loser. But thanks to my scientific research I can now reveal that the exact percentage of loser that "magnificently huge loser" equates to is 12%.

I hate myself so much right now I can't even begin to tell you

Honestly, people have committed suicide over less.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T for T

T is for tapir. This is a Malayan tapir and should be coloured in as such. Or not. Don't care.

Tapir

To download an A4-sized version to print out and drain sausages on, click HERE.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The immaculate terror of completism

I've just bought a USB disc drive so that I can import all of my music onto my new netbook. It has made me realise something and the more I think about it, the more I realise it is the thing that has made me and informed everything I do. The whole time my music collection has sat in the corner of my room, I've never once realised that it is in fact the most in-depth psychological profile of me ever made.

I am completely and utterly averse to completism of any kind. As I imported big pile of CDs after big pile of CDs I realised that I was dealing with artists and albums that I would gladly kill someone's dog for if they disrespected them, and yet I have avoided all sorts of their other work with a determination bordering on psychosis.

I think there's an element of fear there. I am enormously averse to any form of adventurousness. But also, perhaps it's the very fact that I only have two albums by The Band that is the reason why I love them so much? There's no risk of anything popping my little bubble. How bleeding miserable it must be to be a completist. It terrifies me. Every new release must be a tightrope for them... could this be the disc that finally makes you realise that Shed Seven aren't actually all that? Completism for me represents the moment when stuff begins to own you, and that's even before you even have to spend your money on the most preposterous load of old rubbish and then justify it in fights to the death in pub car parks while your soul weeps bitter tears of blood.

Certain bands and artists inspire such devotion more than others, but I'm sure that if you've ever released more than three things, you'd have a Mel from Flight of the Conchords-like fan, building their whole life around you, splashing out for Greatest Hits albums even though they already own every single track that is on it.

It's one of my favourite things about being a Dylan fan. I own about 20 Bob Dylan albums, plus bits and bobs from about 5 more (thanks, internet). But there's not a Dylan fan out there that I have yet encountered who does not readily admit that sometimes our hero peddles the biggest piles of old shit. Shit that is intolerable, impossible and unlistenable. That is the sort of fandom that I can subscribe to and understand. So much more human and earthbound than the hero-worshipping completism.

This morning I checked my assembled music collection to see what a fraud and phony I am for writing this. I am pleased to say that I fared very well. I own all 13 Beatles albums (half of which were a gift from a friend) as well as two out of the three Anthologies, 1 and Past Masters. I also own all 7 studio albums by Blur, but none of their bonus, live or greatest hit releases. Those two are about as close as I get. The Blur collection, if you can call it that, represents the only one I made contemporaneously. Would I have continued to buy each successive album if the previous one had been bobbins? That's the question I have been asking myself ever since. I honestly don't think I would have.

What a relief that is. I'd be able to sleep peacefully at night again, if it weren't for these terrifying wet farts.

Friday, 20 April 2012

S is for sloth

Today we finally discover what S is for, and anyone who likes snakes may be disappointed.

Sloth

If you'd like an A4-size version of this to print out and colour in or daub with insults and then post to me, you can download one HERE.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Crime is on its arse

Criminals have no standards these days. A cursory glance at the news or Crimewatch is enough to confirm it. The lack of sartorial elegance that miscreants exhibit these days is a disgrace. People used to dress up to do crimes. Nowadays people just throw on some trackies before dropping some significant misdeeds.

"Take this tram to the Brixton Academy,
The Quo are on tonight"
Look at this picture. It is a contemporary illustration of the Tottenham Outrage of 1909. The Tottenham Outrage was an armed robbery and double murder. The perpetrators - Helfeld and Lepidus - held up a rubber factory wage truck in Chestnut Road, Tottenham on 23rd January 1909, each armed with semi-automatic pistols. A scuffle arose with the security guards, alerting passing police officers. In the ensuing shootout, a policeman was shot through the head and a 10-year old boy caught in the cross-fire was also killed. The pair then fled to Walthamstow via a hijacked tram. In a two hour long spree they fired over 600 rounds of ammunition, killing two people and injuring 25 more.

Helfeld and Lepidus were Bolshevik-sympathising Latvian Jewish immigrants escaping the Tsarist police pogroms. These people were card-carrying anarchists, as well as police killers and violent robbers and thugs. But look at them! You'd be hard pressed to tell which was the hijacker and which was the tram driver. My point is, they made an effort.

sic semper tyrannis, again
Eight years previously, US President William McKinley was assassinated by another anarchist, Leon Csolgosz, at the World's Fair in Buffalo, New York. Again, Csolgosz is immaculately dressed. He knew that this was his moment, his fifteen minutes, and he'd be damned if he didn't at least get his shoes shined first.

I'm sick of these shabby sumbitches criming us all up. If you're going to break some laws, which frankly I would sincerely hope you are not going to do, at least break the bank first. Get yourself a nice suit. Put some thought into it. A century ago, people who had rejected polite society at least put a hat on and wore proper shoes.

You're a bloody disgrace.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

There's a place in Version City

As far as I am concerned, the difference between something being great and something being the best is the difference between objectivity and subjectivity. For me, it's fairly self-evident that, whether or not their songs are your cup of tea, The Beatles are the greatest popular music group of all time. Their enormous influence on culture and wider society sees to that, even if you think they were rubbish and that Eleanor Rigby was a stinky bell end.

The best popular music group of all time though, that's something much more personal. Myself, I think that it is The Clash and have done for many years.


Which brings me to Sandinista!, their fourth studio album -a three-disc set which was released in 1980. I was released in 1980, too, immediately makes me feel a connection with it. I first heard Sandinista! in about 1999 and frankly it was a bit too much to take in. I pretty much fell into the way of thinking that a lot of people do - nice album, a lot of great songs, but imagine how great it would be if it had just been edited down to a single disc...

But I now realise that would not have made it great at all; rather, it would have detracted from its greatness. I now believe that Sandinista! is the greatest album ever made.

Its sheer size is just the start of it. Its scope and ambition are what set it aside. Four years previously, The Clash were a bunch of London herberts in the grubby UK punk scene, supporting the Sex Pistols. Two of them were even fairly musically limited when they started out, too. But by 1980 they were the biggest rock 'n' roll band on the planet. You'd have forgiven them for resting on their laurels and letting the money roll in.

Not a bit of it. As well as making an epic and sprawling 36 song set - comprising punk, rockabilly, rock 'n' roll, showtunes, reggae, genuine Jamaican dub, avant garde sound collage, gospel, soul, blues, rap and hip hop and a calypso protest song - they also released the whole thing for the price of a single LP, forgoing royalties on the sales to do so.

For me, it's a statement record. It is also a work of dazzling audacity, brilliance and unstaunchable creativity. It is also a true desert island disc - if I ever had to be a castaway, Sandinista! is the album I would take and never tire of. It may not be the best album ever released, but as far as I'm concerned its greatness has never been bettered, before or since.

It's not just a masterpiece, it's also a masterstroke. In fact, fuck it, it is also the best album ever made. Just decided.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The letter R is for

...those loveable trash-eatin', rabies-gettin', grandmother-bitin' rabscallions themselves, the raccoon. North America doesn't know how lucky it is to have raccoons. The only smelly things with rabies that go through the bins, live in the chimneys and give people rabies in this country are hobos and Conservative Members of Parliament.

Raccoon

If you'd like an A4-sized version of this to print out, colour in and get rabies off of, then you can download one HERE. By the way, apparently Cyril Sneer was an aardvark. But I am highly sceptical.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The ballad of Terry and June


Let's talk about Terry. Someone is going to need to talk about Terry at some point. Terry has issues. Terry is a bit of a porker. Terry likes to eat out of bins. There's little hope of his wife June sorting this little foible out - June likes to eat out of bins too.

Terry and June live in Bexhill-on-Sea. I don't know how long they've lived in Bexhill. I've not yet managed to ask them, they're usually to busy with the bins. Terry and June are herring gulls. Their favourite foods are Pringles, nappies and Chinese takeaways. Terry loves the noodles.

Terry at work

Over the Easter weekend I got to see Terry and June at work. It wasn't easy for them as the wet weather rendered the bin lids slippery, but it's in moments of adversity like that where you get to see the real masters at their best. They gave those bins a really good going over. I watched them in some awe. By the time they'd finished with bin one the black bin liner was pretty much entirely absent. I don't know what they did to achieve that or what they did with it afterwards: maybe their nest will be the only one in town with a dedicated wetroom or pond. This morning, though, all the most delicious parts of that bin had been exhausted and they were on to bin number two. This was more of a breakfast bin.

Terry and June look quite well on it. They are of formidable size and their feathers are the kind of feathers you'd see in some sort of feather museum or on Princess Anne's hat for Royal Ascot.

Of course, the socially-minded people are disgusted by the mess they make, flinging bits of plastic (too chewy) and paper (not enough flavour) about the streets in order to get to the best bits. But it's well known that humanity wastes a scandalous amount of food and so Johnny and Sally Streetpride might well consider that, instead of investing in more secure bins, they should perhaps be less keen to throw away a whole roast chicken dinner because Johnny bought the wrong type of potato.

Until that glorious day comes, these exciting urban ecosystems will continue to flourish. I celebrate them! I am full of admiration for the gulls and pigeons and the foxes and rats and how they have adapted and learnt to thrive.

I only really have two reservations. Firstly, I wish that foxes would learn better road sense. Of course, the crows don't, which creates another urban ecosystem in itself. Secondly, I am forever mindful that evolution is a funny old goose. At the moment the sparrow who sidles up to your park bench asking for a bit of crust is a charming little opportunist. But yesterday I watched a sparrow, bold as brass, waiting around a van which sold hot pork sandwiches. If he'd been packing heat, no banger would have been safe.

My friend Moll has already reported to me a sighting of a pigeon in Brighton chowing down on some chicken from a discarded wrap, so it's clear that the birds are moving away from their traditional meaty treats of worms and things with five or more legs and onto the more readily available array of cooked comestibles discarded by us lot. How many long before sparrows form a posse and fly off with a pig of their own? Or maybe they'll evolve one big wing, ready to fell us with a right cross and steal our baguettes?

In so many ways we are living in a golden age. I'm doing my best to enjoy it before two foxes with a snooker ball in a sock mug me for my dinner.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Playing with yourself

This week I discovered that on Windows 7 keeps statistics for your games of Solitaire. I'm not sure I like this. And it's not because it tells you how many games of solitaire you've played or anything like that. It's that solitaire - or patience, as it is known in Britain - is a game of chance. You deal it out and play it out as well as you can, but there's no real skill to it. It just takes patience (HENCE THE NAME) and application to make it eventually come out.

Having statistics makes it seem like, if you don't get it out, that you have failed. Like a big failure. FreeCell has always had statistics, but that is more of a puzzle game than a game of patience. Aside from the legendary game 11,982 (as well as games 146,692, 186,216, 455,889, 495,505, 512,118, 517,776 and 781,948), they will all go out if you do them correctly. There are no such guarantees with solitaire. All that those statistics provide you with, then, is a percentage to establish how freakishly unlucky you are.

This displeases me. I don't want to know this fact. I'm already kept awake at night by those times - you know the ones - the times that there are two red eights to chose from to go onto one black 9. Choose wrong and it could spell game over but there's literally no way to apply anything beyond blind chance to the situation. Now our computers are taking this data and extrapolating it into a percentage of loserdom? This is terribly unfair. One day it will be tattooed on our face.

Yeah, I suppose you can always reset your statistics. But I suspect that someone, somewhere at Microsoft will know all of the numbers and know what a total dick you are. It is brutal. As is life, I suppose. But life doesn't necessarily always provide you with a number in black and white to show you how much you suck at it.

All of this said, I like the fact that Windows 7 turns the top card on the pile over automatically now, rather than you having to click it manually. I mean, seriously, was that too much to ask in the first place?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Twelve-inch penises

I'm going to be completely blunt with you all now and I know it is likely to lose me all kinds of followers and readers, but honesty is the basis of all humanity holds dear. Without the truth we would be lost. So here goes. I do not have a 12 inch-long penis.

Now, I am sure that there are some freakishly unlucky people out there who are packing enough meat to be stopped at border posts, but I am not one of them and to be honest I am quite glad of it. The demands I would continually face from entirely fictional women would be far too much just for starters, but I also think I'd have to buy all new trousers.

I can't claim to speak for all women, or indeed any women. This is because I am a man. But I was looking at 12 inches on a tape measure yesterday and it struck me that that is quite a length. I wouldn't want 12 inches of anything, let alone throbbing gristle, inserted in any of my orifices. Moreover, I don't buy into any of this "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" lark, so I reckon the same must be true for the female of the species.

So why has twelve inches become the industry standard for cock? Here are some suggestions.

1. Men are insecure.
2. Men have stuff they need to measure.
3. Men are idiots.
4. Men assume that human vaginas have a depth of a foot.
5. Men feel they'd be more potent if their sperm were delivered right to the opening of the cervix rather than having to swim anywhere.
6. Men are mistakenly of the belief that they could pick stuff up off the floor with it like an elephant's trunk.

Men are pretty stupid, let's face it. Still, if you're reading this and you do have a twelve incher, remember that articles like this one are only written out of jealousy. Even if it's for no other reason than all the free champagne, plane upgrades and broadband offers you get.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Mow

I am pretty buff, as you well know. The reason for this is mowing the lawn. I have mowed acres and acres of grass in my lifetime and as such it makes me quite the expert in the fine art of swearing and complaining and, to a certain degree, mowing. As this is now the internet age and everyone is expecting everyone else to share all of their expertise, channel it into one great interactive repository of skills, I thought that I would commit my knowledge and experience to the ages.

There is something quite righteous about doing this. Like I am some kind of caveman elder. Come gather round people.

Tip 1: Know your enemy

Actually, that's a good place to start. Righteousness and tradition. The other day I was digging the vegetable beds a bit, doing some weeding and tending to my brassicas. There is something which feels so completely RIGHT about doing that. Primal. Fundamental. Tilling the soil to cultivating things to eat. It's what we human beings have done ever since we descended from the trees and headed straight to the garden centre.

Lawn mowing is very much not one of these things. It's one of those prissy and futile things that human beings do to try and make things neat and tidy, to kid ourselves that we're the masters of our surroundings. This is a strategy that always works, at least until the first tsunami or earthquake or giant snake arrives, spiriting your grandmother off and away to hither and yon. So my first top tip is: accept the futility of the action you're about to undertake. Embrace it. And swearing is very much par for the course. It's healthy! Even if it scares the neighbour's dog.

Tip 2: Hazards

There are all manner of pitfalls faced by the lawn mower, not least actual pits that you could fall into. However, these are rather less common than any of the following: trees; moss; ant hills; bees; frogs; brambles and other assorted bindweed; and, of course, fox turds. The key to all of this is to know every inch of your surface, like a golfer studying the green for a vital putt. When it all comes together, it can be quite beautiful - a balletic and rhythmic mastery of the elements. Swinging round that tree, pop a wheelie over the fox shit and give a tonsure to a passing bee.

Tip 3: Equipment

I'll be blunt, you're going to need a lawnmower. There are a number of main types: electric, petrol powered or hand-propelled. I favour the petrol-powered push mower. The petrol-powered remains a pipe dream and nothing but a pipe dream. Everyone should be relieved about that, as me in control of any type of motorised vehicle is a preposterous idea, let alone one with a rotary blade attached to it. People would die. The electric mower is OK for smaller gardens but for anything even approaching reasonable sized, buggering about with power cables will drive you insane.

I currently use a Hayter mower. It is splendid and green. Previously I used a Mountfield, which was very much not. It had clearly been designed by someone who had only ever read about lawns in books and therefore had nothing beyond a theoretical understanding of them. At the merest sight of any organic matter, let alone grass, the thing went to pieces. The petrol tank didn't have a filter, so the engine soon became clogged with stones, earth and wasps. If the motor ran long enough to make it to the lawn, the blade was no match for what it was trying to cut. I lost years of my life to that thing.  The Hayter mower is much better. I particularly like the fact it starts, cuts and works - although after the Mountfield experience, just one of those would have set it apart.

One warning: evolution is always in action. The latest array of petrol-powered push mowers will usually be motor assisted: that is to say, the rear wheels are driven by a motor to help you push it along. Back in the day, this sort of extravagance was far beyond the dreams or budgets of plebs like me. But since it became pretty well standard on all but the most entry-level models, my muscles have evolved to be completely useless without it. I even need rear-wheel drive on shopping trolleys nowadays. Evolution is the lawn mowing man's greatest foe, after cats, bees, frogs, ants and fox shit.

One other warning: no lawnmower has a good enough grass collection box. So don't even think about that. It's clearly impossible to design and will never going to happen. You're thinking about it, aren't you? Well don't. It's never, ever, going to happen. Lawnmowers are designed entirely to frustrate and annoy you. It's to emphasise the futility. Remember the futility?

Tip 4: Regularity

Alan Titchmarsh once told me, via the television, that you should mow the lawn once every 2 days during the growing season.



Hmm.


At best, I might manage once a week, but it's important to accept the fact that several times every year you will end up trying to mow something that looks like a Vietnam war film. You just are. The best advice is to know the wily ways of grass. Like everything else, it grows best when there's plenty of water and sun. A traditional British summer makes for a real bastard of a lawn. Blink and it will be as unkempt as a nun's beaver. Sometimes it will have all grown back by the time you've finished the other end.

If you're lucky enough to get a hot and dry spell, mow it plenty, as short as you can get it. This will render your lawn a sad, dusty and brown thing, virtually dead, which may not need further cutting for a month or more, even at the height of the growing season (which generally tends to be April to July).

5. Conclusions

You're never going to enjoy mowing your lawn. It is stupid and a complete waste of your time. So learn to accept that fact and relish its aching pointlessness. And, in an ideal world, learn to tarmac it.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The British love queues

Today's animal alphabet picture is representative of the letter Q. Many people will have been wondering what animal I might be doing for Q but let's face it, it was always going to be a quail. So here is a quail.

Quail

To download an A4-size printable version, you can click HERE.

Monday, 2 April 2012

P is for

The letter P is for a lot of animals, I have found. Pig, pelican, penguin, panther, panda, piranha and pug being just some of them. However, you'd need a bigger idiot than even I am, when making a colouring book, to NOT do a parrot. So that is what I did. A parrot perched on a perch with a pirate, indeed.

P.

Parrot

If you want to make this parrot all the colours of the parrot rainbow (which is basically green, let's be honest), you can download an A4-size version to print out right HERE.

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