Music Two Scottish lads pretended to be American rappers for two years in order to get a record deal, signed with Sony, and then realised that if they ever released a single they'd be found out:: "If you can convince one person, and then another person, eventually you have all these people believing in you, wanting something from you." As their social circle in London expanded, they would appropriate plot lines from TV shows and films, or stories they'd heard Americans tell, to flesh out their new identities. "We'd play around with different accents - we'd go, 'Fark off' and do loads of English accents, fooling around - and people were like, 'You should have your own TV show!' We did Billy Connolly and people were clean blown away by Americans doing such good Scottish accents."
Music Useful column from Charles Arthur describing how the internet blindsided record companies:
"As they explain, the average CD is 650 megabytes of high-quality sound. Every single second takes up 1.4 megabits of data. But everywhere you look, your potential consumers - home internet users, the same people who buy CDs now - are on dialup internet, chugging along at 36 kilobits per second. At that speed, it would take 45 hours to download a CD. In that time, you could walk to the nearest store and buy the record."
Except, as we know, someone was already thinking ahead.
Comics I'll write about my new DC Comics obsession some other time (isn't Identity Crisis great? Isn't it though?) but for now here's a useful article about retconing and the headaches thereof, inspired by the increasingly bizarre Spiderman incident but take in the sights throughout the con-iverse including The Legion of Superheroes:
I've been pulling from Legion history for a lot of this, because... well, because they're kind of the perfect example. Moving from the Levitz version of the classic Legion to the Giffen/Bierbaum version of the retconned Legion and then the Post-Zero Hour Rebooted Legion gave us a chance to see almost all of these retcons in practice, and in the long run they were almost all disastrous.
I thought the Whoniverse was inconsistent until I saw what had been going on with DC for decades. How can fans keep up with their favourite characters when their origin stories and status quo keep changing every three or four years?
"Journalism" Typical bloody Daily sodding Mail. I mean it's not like there aren't enough of the real thing, as The Observer found out when they posted a typically well researched story on the subject over a week before the mid-market tossers. That is all.
Poetry Alicia Goranson (one of the Beckys from the sitcom Rosanne) hasn't posted to her blog since 2006 but has just these past few weeks begun posting some poetry. Taking into account that like most people, everything I know about verse (that isn't by one man and written four hundred years ago) I learned at school before failing A-level English, it's actually very good. So good in fact it's put me in the mood to inflict some of my own on you, from back in the day -- 13th March 1996 -- to be exact.
"Something New

He reached out
to touch her,

Away, she
pulled, from him,

He spoke to
her calmly.

Screaming, her
voice cracked.

He smiled.

She shouted.

He ...

She ...

She reaches out
to touch him,

He holds out
his hand and
grips hers.

She speaks to
him calmly.

Laughing, his
voice cracks.

She smiles.

He weeps.

She ...

He ....
See. What do I know about poetry? I really need a muse. You do know what the promised BIG REVELATION was during the tail end of Mystery Music don't you?

"I haven't ever really found a place to call home ..." -- Dido, 'Life For Rent'

About In the comments to the Dido post, Matthew wondered where the lyrics "The implication I mistook, told on whose side you took; and now with paper in my hand, I'm beginning to understand..." are from. I can say with some confidence (admittedly after a hunt round Google), they're from The Housemartins's track Freedom and should read:

"But the implications I mistook
Until I found out whose side you took
And now with paper in my hand I'm beginning to understand "

I'm listening to the song as I type from their compilation, Now That's What I Call Quite Good. They're right. I can't quite believe how good The Housemartins were and unlike some bands I can mention, they knew when to call it a day (after just five years) before their talent turned to mush in the face of success. There is not a single poor song on this album and despite the vintage, the mid-80s, doesn't sound at all dated largely because they didn't give in to voguish temptation to include any of the electric noises which were in vogue at the time even on ostensibly acoustic albums.

Lead singer Paul Heaton's later band was of course The Beautiful South and one of their lost classics is a cover version of Dream A Little Dream which appears on the soundtrack to French Kiss (the Meg Ryan/Kevin Kline rom-com). It's on there twice in English and French and I can't help but prefer the latter simply it's so unusual to hear the style of the group with a vocal in a different language.

Incidentally, Amazon are listing a new Dido release for September called TBA. It looks like a single judging by the price -- unless they're so worried about sales that they're discounting an album even before it's released. Which is unlikely.

"You were so cruel and I hated being your fool..." -- Patty Griffin, 'Time Will Do The Talking'

Communication Finally had a chance to use Facebook's new chat service last night. It was only a quick try-out -- I wanted to ask Chris something about someone, he happened to be online and the question was answered very quickly. And that's the point -- it was fast -- simply look at the list of friends who might by using the site at that moment, click the icon and initiate. No messing about with Trillian or any of the chat software, no needing to know someone's user id or ICQ number. The name is simply there, a button press away.

I'm impressed.

I haven't used chat software in years, largely because I tend to like to write in sentences which isn't very conducive to chat. All too often someone would butt in mid sentence to ask if I was still there. But on this basis of this I'm thinking of trying again.

Of course, tonight, when I'm in the mood, "No one is available to chat."

Architecture I09 offers some 1970s Soviet architecture which doesn't look like a product of this earth and could pass quite comfortably in the sci-fi franchise universe of your choice: "French photojournalist Frederic Chaubin likes to take photographs of science-fictiony Soviet architecture from the 1970s and 80s. During that era, the Soviets erected several formidable buildings that look like cities you'd see on an alien world. Pictured here is a strangely organic-looking wedding palace which is located in Georgia. More U.S.S.R. spaceportecture below."
Plug! A rep who I think works for one of my haunts, Tate Liverpool, has asked me to plug this excellent new scheme, and the best way to do that is probably to offer the entire press release. So if you'll indulge me and in a break from tradition:

7 May 2008


A consortium of Liverpool’s leading cultural organisations – led by Tate Liverpool - is set to launch a unique national training scheme this May. Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool has been devised for young people aged 16-24. It’s part of the national Creative Apprenticeships scheme devised by Creative & Cultural Skills and will pave the way for thousands of young people to access previously out-of-reach careers within the creative and cultural industries.

Competition for jobs within the cultural sector is fierce. Often, entry-level jobs are awarded to graduates who already have significant work experience under their belts. This means that young people who may have the right talent and aptitude, but don’t have the qualifications or work experience, are unable to compete. The end result is a workforce that isn’t diverse and that doesn’t reflect the local communities it serves.

To tackle this, eight major arts organisations, known collectively as Liverpool Arts & Regeneration Consortium (LARC), together with Liverpool Community College, have been involved in the development of Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool and will be piloting the programme in the city during 2008.

In September, ten young people from Merseyside will become the first Creative Apprentices in the region. They’ll receive paid, on-the-job training while working inside some of Liverpool’s most successful arts organisations, from Tate Liverpool to the newly reopened Bluecoat. As well as walking away with a formal qualification at the end of the 12-month programme (a Level 2 NVQ in Community Arts Management), participants will gain invaluable work experience, career counselling and transferable skills.

Importantly, Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool will ensure that local young people get the skills they need to take advantage of the boom in cultural jobs in their home city.

The development of this ambitious programme was initiated by Tate and independent grant-making body, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Taking a long-term view, the Foundation invested £155,000 in the Liverpool pilot, funding not only initial research and development but also ‘capacity building’ within the Liverpool-based arts organisations taking part.

The programme’s early research identified that Liverpool’s cultural organisations were more used to managing experienced graduates than young people fresh from school, leaving them ill equipped to support young employees. A major part of the programme has therefore focused on changing the employment culture within participating organisations, with staff receiving formal and informal training to give them the skills necessary to support younger colleagues. National Museums Liverpool has delivered this part of the programme, which represents a major step towards creating a more diverse workforce within Liverpool’s growing creative and cultural sector.

‘The Paul Hamlyn Foundation welcomes the launch of Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool,’ says Robert Dufton, Director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. ‘We see this as a national pilot for cultural organisations across the UK, enabling them to use their resources so that young people in their communities develop skills which will equip them for working both in the creative industries and other sectors. In particular, this scheme has the potential to contribute to the development of the workforce for the 2012 Olympics. The Foundation initiated this scheme with Tate Liverpool and has contributed towards its development and implementation. The Foundation is committed to maximising opportunities for individuals and communities to realise their potential and experience and enjoy a better quality of life.’

‘This scheme shows both the strengths of Liverpool’s cultural sector and investors’ confidence in it,’ said Andrea Nixon, Executive Director of Tate Liverpool. ‘We were extremely fortunate to have had a partner such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation involved from the start. The Foundation understood our vision for the Apprenticeships, believed that we could change the culture of employment within the sector and had complete confidence in the ability of the city’s cultural organisations to work together to make Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool a reality.’

Creative Apprenticeships Liverpool launches at Tate Liverpool on 13 May – with the consortium behind it looking to sign up its first intake of ten apprentices by 13 June. The Apprenticeships themselves will kick off in September 2008 and will run for 12 months.

Open events will be held at: Tate Liverpool (13 May, 6pm-8pm), FACT (18 May, 1pm-4pm) and National Museums Liverpool (29 May, 2pm-4pm). Applicants can also find out more at

"Warrington is where it all began. I was at the grand opening of Allied Carpets in the late 80s and Leslie Crowther shook my hand." - Justin Moorhouse

Art A couple of weeks ago on a wet Tuesday, I visited Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been through the doors. It’s one of the few places in Edward Morris’s Public Art Collections in North-West England guide I’ve been reluctant to travel to because I’ve been through its doors before and I’ve been trying to enjoy the shock of the new as much as possible. I dropped in many times during the late nineties when I was working for Edward researching local public art (for the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) in the adjoining library. It was a good place to get some cheap machine coffee if I needed to take a break from looking through the records.

The coffee hasn’t changed much and neither has the museum. Founded in 1848 and opened five years later by the local Town Council, it’s as much a piece of history as the objects in its care. Wood paneling and old style cabinets dominate, with hand written information cards next to the artifacts. In an age when museums are being refit left and centre attempting to get away from the culture of simply showing a myriad ethnographic examples, it’s quite surprising to find a place standing still, maintaining its traditional style, a perfect way for curatorial students to see what the museums of yesteryear were like. Please don’t see that as a criticism; one of the best rooms at the British Museum is the antiquated Enlightenment which offers the chance for the visitor to discover the marvelous without them being highlighted to readily. Warrington offers that journey across an entire collection.

The art gallery extension was built in 1875 to ’77 essentially, according to Edward, to house a single sculpture – John Warrington Wood’s milk white marble St Michael Overcoming Satan, which can be seen just inside the front door. Wood was a Warrington boy, and though he spent his formative working years in Rome it's just right that his labour should be represented. There’s no entrance hall as such or at all in fact. A stairwell essentially, with a lift at the centre. But the thing you really notice is how acoustically distracting the building is. I could hear the staff chatting loudly two floors up and a visiting school group trudging about, which isn’t exactly conducive to looking at art. Deep breath. Sigh.

There are three particular display sections. This section of the building has been refit slight since I last visited, the temporary exhibition space slightly more ‘modern’ than before and the mezzanine floor above more prominent to the eye. Warrington’s School of Art was one of the best in the country and its most successful period was in the 1860s under brilliantly named headmaster J. Christmas Thompson. It’s this work which is collected up there and you can see why the students achieved more scholarships than most other art schools of the time.

Henry Woods's First Communion Vale is a Technicolor feast capturing a Mediterranean view of two girls chatting whilst one sews the titular garment. It’s a pleasingly odd composition – the faces aren’t entire realistic and the background is positively impressionistic. Also worth spending time with is a sculpture, Guinevere’s Redeeming by William Reynolds Stephens lustrously developed in bronze, ivory and enamel. It wonders if Arthur’s queen did indeed bring down Camelot and she’s seen trying to make amends for her deeds by returning Excalibur to its rightful owner.

The most interesting pictures on the floor are from Thomas Birtles, some photographs of old Warrington. There’s the Manchester Ship Canal under construction and more atmospherically Eagle and Child Yard, Formerly Patten’s Lane, Looking East to Bridge Street. This isn't mere reportage. It’s a view from a dusty yard into the world beyond, teasing the viewer with a slight image of women in the fashions of the time and the world of the past beyond. If anything it reminds me of Nicholas Middleton’s John Moores entry from 2006, Scene From a Contemporary Novel which showed a similarly ugly part of the city invigorated by the some striking lighting.

There’s no delicate way of saying the following so I’ll just blurt it out. The rest of the fine art collection is maddeningly displayed in the stairwell and particularly the one you’re greeted by at the entrance. A recent re-hang also meant that none of them were labeled and so my ability to offer a commentary is pretty foggy. There’s a nicely turned out painting of a girl popping some peas in a pink top but I couldn’t tell you who it’s by. I also liked the Daughter of the Lagoons by Luke Filder enough to write the title down, but I think by this stage in the visit, the background noise from everywhere had become so intense there wasn’t much I could do. Once everything's sorted out in a couple of weeks I'm sure this will be fine.

Luckily though, and to end on a positive note, I think I’d already seen the best paintings before stepping onto the mezzanine. Walter Langley’s Between the Tides shows a woman leaning over a rail to talk to a rather stereotypical looking fisherman at some docks which is ironic because you also have to lean over a rail to see it. Above the stairs is Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest by Sir Luke Fildes, an idyllic scene of what looks like two couples rowing slowly across a river, singing and taking in the swans and lilly pads – that I can describe the speed they travelling in shows how perfectly the artist captures their movement. It’s Jean Renoir’s short film Partie de Campagne rendered in oil. Remarkable.

Mystery Music: Post Mortem

Every morning I make a point of watching the local weather report on the BBC just before seven o’clock. It’s provided by the national weather centre and whichever presenter has been put on the rota for the morning records one for each of the regions (which on my Freeview box means that its possible to click between three different channels and see said presenter pretending that the North-West, London or Wales are special). The other morning, Laura Tobin, the Christina Ricci of the bureau was describing how it would cold but sunny (and it was) and as usual I let the mass of numbers and statistics wash over me, just about grasping what’s what as I dozed. Some presenter’s voices are more useful than others and Tobin’s is a particularly soothing way to start the day.

It occurred to me that morning, that the weather report is the most technically complex piece of exposition on television. Even more than the business news, the audience is supposed to have a grasp of all kinds of jargon and be able to follow a scientific narrative or projection over a three or four minute period. It’s a daily lecture with a very specific subject area – the weather for the day or sometimes weekend – in an information burst that expects a lot in terms of retention from the audience. And I suspect that most people, like me, don’t remember it all – they can’t possibly. In the end, they focus on the essentials they need – whether it will rain and the temperature – so that they can decide if they should take an umbrella and/or wear a coat. Everything else is extraneous data which is mentally discarded even as it leaves the lips of the forecaster.

Which offers the best explanation as to why writing about music for the best part of the past two months has been so difficult. As I arduously tapped away on my keyboard some mornings and evenings, the reason I simply couldn’t as predicted put my real ideas into words was because I hadn’t absorbed as many of the fundamentals of the process as I’d thought. Despite scanning The Guardian’s music columns, the aforementioned websites and flirting with Q Magazine and Rolling Stone in the past, I simply didn’t have the background knowledge, the instinct ability to give an opinion that I really needed, because what I’d done was looked to see if a cd or artist was worth searching for and setting everything else adie. Especially the art of writing a review, of expressing in words something that can only be experienced authentically through sound.

It hasn't been easy. In the desperation to grind the material out I attempted to give myself a few rules; try and write about as many genres as possible, don’t write about too many film soundtracks or female singer/songwriters and affect a journalistic rather than ‘bloggy’ tone. Sure enough the first post was about the American Graffiti soundtrack and by the third post I was already writing about Carla Bruni with the Beethoven sandwiched in between very much autobiographical. The plan was that having gotten those out of the way I could move forward into other territories, but slowly it became all to clear that if I was going to fill all of the slots, even with the month’s gap in the middle, I would have to keep returning to the genres I really enjoyed and knew something about.

But I did enjoy the challenge even if I think there were more failures than successes. Most of the time I couldn’t decide what tone to write in and even though this was supposed to be a list of my favourite music you haven't heard of, often I’d find myself writing about something I didn’t necessarily love too much or everyone had heard of because I simply wanted to get the words out. The most fun was the post in which I picked my five least favourite tracks and then realised that most of my criticisms were rather petty and attempted to be even pettier. Lord knows what you all made of it, but my readers through site meter have certainly dipped and a few more Bloglines subscribes have deserted the rss feed – which also happened last year for Forgotten Films by the way.

If I’ve understood anything it’s that like any other art form, there simply isn’t one way to write about music and that your approach really does change depending upon what’s being presented to you. That pop music demands that you be funny and skittish and that classical by its nature hope you’ll have some deference. I’ve certainly discovered that my musical taste is surprisingly wide ranging and that in fact I quite like some country and dance music, that you simply can’t make those kinds of distinctions any more. I’ve also discovered how important music is to me, far more than I’d been aware of, and how my ears are always open. As I write I’m listening to Pete Seeger’s live cover of The Byrds (or Ecclesiastes) Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) and it’s about the most perfect track you’re likely to hear.

The Poison Sky.

Memory Lane

The Poison Sky was something of a nostalgia trip, for me at least. At university (the second time around) one of the set assignments was to show how a piece of fantasy or sci-fi inspired literature or poetry of a picture or song might be adapted into a film. Given that I had a brilliant tutor who liked Doctor Who, and having just read it, I decided to tackle Lance Parkin’s Eighth Doctor novel The Dying Days. To cut to the chase, I decided the best way to set it apart from Hollywood would be to do all of the special effects ‘in camera’ (mad eh?) using models, mirrors and in the case of the murderous Red Death which ravaged the small village of Adisham, smoke.

As I said in the supporting essay, “The Red Death, which would otherwise undoubtedly be a candidate for computer generation using ‘particle simulators’ might carefully, using camera angles, frame skipping and rapid montage, find life through smoke blowers and red dye.” So it was quite heartening to see, in Doctor Who Confidential, members of the production team desperately trying to waft smoke into shot, pleading with it to stay there before the wind changed. Of course, the weapon of the Ice Warriors was far more malevolent than the gas passed onto the planet by the Sontarans – the eradication of the human race was still a priority, give or take some environmental reconstruction, which just goes to show that Parkin’s novel continues to be the I Ching of these globe effecting alien invasion stories.

The Land of Happy Endings

If the crowd pleasing spectacle that would have been my adaptation of The Dying Days will never see the light of day (you would have cheered when Paul saved the cat), the other half of my opinion is that The Poison Sky was as good as this type of story gets, a zinger which more than delivered on the promise of the opening episode. It’s equally difficult reviewing a second episode because you find yourself repeating yourself yourself but this was just as dense managing to somehow tie together all of the elements convincingly and drawing in some hot UNIT v Sontaran action, Catherine Tate being amazing again, apocalyptic visions, global catastrophe and Kirstie Wark. Unlike many second halves, this was also genuinely a continuation of the story, not simply the firing off of a new set of events in the same scenario.

Box-ticking resolutions have always been a component of these concluding parts, but on this occasion it all seemed perfectly valid to give misguided genius boy Luke an extended resolution and evil Martha more to do in with her dying breath and most of the rest of the episode (producing one of Freema’s best scenes ever for the series). True, this also led to the Doctor largely flitting between locations sorting out problems like an alien plate spinner or a contestant on The Crystal Maze, but at least he acknowledged it and we were able to witness the brilliant moment in which what looked like glorious climax to the episode, the burning sky, was undercut by his matter of fact realisation that the worst was yet to come. Along with his ‘Please, please, please, please, please …’ and the almost grand gesture, I don’t think the Tenth Doctor’s been closer to his eighth incarnation.


Was it gratuitous to hover in the Valiant? No but it was logical and actually one of the pleasures of the episode was the number of times it did exactly what we were thinking. Almost, no actually, every review of last week’s episode, including my own, noted that the best way to save Bernard was to break the glass and sure enough the suddenly ballsy Sylvia goes at it with an axe. The Doctor’s standing there in a gas mask and he actually said ‘Are you my mummy?’ out loud before we could in the kind of wink to the audience not seen since Tom addressed us in The Face of Evil. Where’s the Brig? It turns out Sir Alistair’s in Peru (Why Peru? That’s too random a location not to be some kind of set up for a future appearance). And indeed, where’s the Valiant? Oh, there it is.

Some people rather grumpy about these kinds of references and thinks that the series has lost its element of surprise. Personally, I think the surprise is that the series is confident enough to make these kinds of touchstone allusions ‘in passing’ (as opposed to kronkburgers) and unlike the Gallifrey flashback from The Sound of Drums or the Macra making them an event. Presumably the production team feel that the series has been back in circulation long enough for even latent viewers to have caught up with some of what they’ve forgotten, that Jon didn’t just battle Welsh maggots week in and out and will know who the Brigadier is.

As a sidebar, isn’t it odd that the BBC charter, which stopped the new series having direct continuity with the spin-off fiction since it can’t force viewers to buy one thing to understand what’s happening in another, does allow the reintroduction of elements which in general can only be enjoyed these days through the purchasing of dvds? Why is it right that we can have Sontarans on screen in the same month as the Bred for War boxset, but the production team wouldn’t be allowed to bring back a certain archaeologist played by Lisa Bowerman?

The Crooked World

I’ve read some quite detailed debunking of the Doctor’s solution to ridding the world of the gas, noting how unlikely it is that the Earth doesn’t show some physical ill effects given the intensity of the heat, largely forgetting that this Doctor bloody Who not a Kim Stanley Robinson Mars novel and that scientific accuracy has always taken a back seat to exciting imagery (depending upon the budget). Like all fantasy realms, the natural laws clearly work differently in the Whoniverse where, lets not forget, people can time travel in machines whose interior real estate makes the barns masquerading as houses on Grand Design look like a lean-to on a terraced council dwelling. Are we suddenly at the stage were the bad science that brought to a conclusion to many a story in the past should be seen as faux-pas enough for a whole story to be dismissed out of hand despite everything else which is going on? If so, then we’re just fulfilling the stereotype of us the not-we had in the past before they became the we too.

Fallen Gods

Hello again Rose and wasn’t that interesting? The former companion seems to have found some way of communicating across the void, but can’t quite manage to become corporeal enough to make herself heard. My immediate thought about the shenanigans at the end of the episode was that she can at least give the Tardis a nudge (the movement wasn’t unlike the dimensional break from Rise of the Cybermen) but the appendage in a bottle will probably be the more likely source.

Next Week: She doesn’t look old enough to be Susan’s mother. But then again, regenerations can do wonders. Look at Iris Wildthyme...
Elsewhere ... got up Monday morning and wrote what can loosely be described as a review of Saturday's clever Doctor Who. I've pretty much stopped trying to be accessible at this point.

"Nothing last forever." - Deacon Blue, 'I Was Right And You Were Wrong'

Life Hello all. Hope you're having a good bank holiday Monday. They do go very quickly these days, these days. Just in case you're wondering, Thursday was the council elections again, and the usual fifteen hours working as a poll clerk in a large room with a random stranger went off without a hitch, despite but probably because of the low turnout. Boris Johnson. The floppy haired fool. Even though he's the new mayor of London it still seems like a human failure of logical that will effect the whole country. It can only add to the momentum which'll lead to the Tories returning to power. People are inherently silly and have very short memories. Don't you remember what they were like last time? You'd rather have that than this? I spent Friday dealing with the lack of sleep from Thursday. Saturday night spent at pub for Chris's birthday. Sunday evening spent at wrong pub because a quiz at the right one didn't happen due to a wedding reception having been booked there. That's me caught up. What have you being doing?