Friday, 13 March 2009

A Diamond In The Recycling Bin

Sorry about that awful attempt at a pun.

While digging around in the convoluted mess that is my hard-drive, (which i like to think is a fair representation of the state my mind is in) i unearthed a long-abandoned composition.

It's an odd little thing, and i think the reason i ceased working on it was because i could never end it properly. Oh, and i could never write decent vocals to go with it.

The production is a little shoddy - Lot's of guitar related squeaks, but i think it has its own charm.

This also reminds me that i used to be able to play the keyboard...those were the days.

I've included the main piece (statuekeys3) and the earlier acoustic sketch that inspired it (statueearly)...i hope the embedding works, comment and let me know if it doesn't.

EDIT: I tried, and evidently failed to embed the music in the post. It can be found here.


Let's all go and listen to Dark Was The Night. The list of contributors is orgiastic: Spoon, Yeasayer and Bon Iver, to name but three. It's on spotify, which means (unless you are very foolish and don't have spotify) that to listen is to experience considerable cost-effective pleasure.

I've yet to lie down and treat it properly, but i've been giving it half my attention for a while, and from this tentative perusal Sufjan Stevens' contribution strikes me as the most brilliant. It's called 'You Are The Blood', and i'd provide you with a link if i didn't think you were capable of using youtube's search engine.

I've been feeling more than a little listless recently, and i put this down to a pre-emptive sophomore slump. Gone is the frisson of the first term, it's been replaced by awkward glances, weak smiles, and a distinctive collective attitude of 'let's just get this over with'. With two finals looming in but two weeks, spirits on the course aren't exactly soaring. That isn't to say that i'm not still very much excited and enthused by Linguistics.

If anything, i'm looking forward to the summer for the oppurtunity it provides to do lots of tangential reading, without having to worry too much about keeping myself alive.

I've got a to-read list as long as my shelf of dubious stability, which means that it can't get any longer. Since i'm listless, and not unable to write a damn good list, let's list them.

First, books of no relevance to anything other than my own pleasure:
  • Lud-In-The-Mist (Hope Mirrless)
  • Sandman v.2 (Neil Gaiman)
  • Sandman v.3 (Neil Gaiman)
  • Steering The Craft (Ursula Le Guin)
  • The Trial (Kafka)
  • The Origin Of The Species (Duh.)
  • From Descartes To Wittgenstein
  • The Children Of Hurin (Tolkien)
Note that this to-read list consists only of books that i can see from where i sit. This is the rule.

And now books relevant to the ol' degree:
  • Colloquial Icelandic
  • Foundations Of Language
  • An Introduction To Government and Binding Theory (this one is MASSIVE)
  • Understanding Utterances
  • Logic In Linguistics
  • Child Language: A resource Book For Students
  • And Introduction To Philosophical Analysis
Aaand...that was thoroughly pointless.

I saw the most marvellous stand-up comedian on Thursday, his name was and is Daniel Kitson, and if you have no knowledge of him i urge you to type his name into youtube immediately. He is the most interesting, distinctive, endearing, awkward, diminutive and downright odd human being i have ever encountered. In his own words he does not practice 'wilful surrealism', but neither is he merely observational...he's somewhere inbetween. His material is funny and engaging because it is so transparently human.

Anyway, it was a nice surprise to see such a reputable stand-up in the tiny little medic's bar on Huntley Street. UCL really is rather good for comedy.

London beckons and i'm really not making the most of her; Must go to Picasso exhibition, must go to regent's park, must go to canargy wharf, must do thousands of things. Ah well, home in two weeks.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Music, music, all that music

I guess i've neglected this blog for long enough now; It's been, what, several weeks since the last post? Don't expect an explicit apology, but by way of apology, expect lots of hyperlinked-goodness.

Let's start with music, music, all that music.

There seems to be a bit of a dry-spell at the moment where music is that i like at the very least. The Brits made for painful viewing for me, i had personal favourites for every single category and not once did they win. Duffy over M.I.A., Kings Of Leon over Fleet Foxes , it's an absolute bloody disgrace. Who decides these things anyway?

I have, however, had the pleasure of listening to two rather lovely tracks recently, namely Glass by Bat For Lashes and You Are The Blood by Sufjan Stevens (the latter is a Castanets cover, the former makes me very excited for Bat For Lashes' new album).

I was introducted to by a friend recently, and it is the worst thing they could have possibly infliced upon me. It feeds my most obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and acts as a tool allowing me to force my musical tastes upon others in a most violent fashion.

That's all for now, i have a sudden desire to unite every Canadian artist in my library under a 'Canadian' tag.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Fuck Off Adrian

The new blog-counter-widgety-thing i installed has been an unending source of misery for me. I was genuinely happy in my ignorance, free to imagine people with names like Adrian reading my blog, scratching their artfully coiffeured goatees appreciatively at every wry aside. Because, of course, my posts are full of wry asides. In fact they consist almost exclusively of wry asides. Can one even have wry asides without the presence of normal discourse? I think one can.

But back to my original gripe, since the installation of the new blog-counter-widgety-thingy (which i am convinced must be broken) fifty people have pointed their browser at my most humble of blogs. Fifty people. It's not really very much, is it Adrian, you bastard? Pah.

But never mind about that, perhaps what i need is more linkage! This is what i have been enjoying on teh interwebs over the past week or so:

Spelunky! is perhaps the most enjoyable time i have ever had repeatedly plummeting to a frustrating, spiky death. Initially, Spelunky seems like a fairly derivative platformer, similar to cave story but without the large, consistent world. The quality of both the visuals and music is often striking (for a freeware game) and evokes perfectly a sense of snes-era nostalgia. The game is stage based, and we find ourselves in the shoes of an intrepid, Indian Jones-esque explorer who, despite the fact that he consists entirely of a few pixels, exudes personality. The game equips you with a number of movement based skills with which to explore the seemingly endless catacombs that serve as the game's setting. Now, the wonderful, original thing about Spelunky is that all of the levels are procedurally generated; And not simply to the extent that the enemies are jumbled around a bit, the level architecture is completely different every time. Some extremely clever coding has went into this game, as the procedurally generated environments are (although often very difficult) completely consistent with the array of movement-based skills available to you. Very rarely will you find yourself blaming anybody other than yourself for your failings. The game literally has infinite longevity.

Spelunky! is the creation of the supremely talented Derek Yu of Phonomancer favourite, tigsource, and the creator of the wonderful, beautiful indie game Aquaria. I won't go into any depth (teehee, punnage) about Aquaria, but in a nutshell it's like a cross between Super Metroid and Ecco The Dolphin with the most lovely hand-drawn graphic you have ever seen.

I had the pleasure of seeing Luke Haines (formerly of The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder) in an extremely intimate setting last week, which i shall write more on when i can be bothered.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

It's Not All About The Boobies

Here's a brief, thowaway article on alternative manga i did for The London student. It doesn't really say anything new or interesting and it's not even especially comprehensive, but i thought i'd post it here for posterity's sake.

Your local bookshop hides a dark secret. It’s in a corner, hidden away…probably towards the back. It emanates exoticism, the unknown. The lights flicker eerily, and the ceiling is cobwebbed in a stereotypically hammer-horror fashion. The carpet is caked with grime and on the grime-caked carpet sits a grime-caked man with a grime-caked beard, in a Batman t-shirt.

I’m talking about manga, obviously! If you like buxom, anatomically-unlikely women and swords as giant phallic metaphors manga is for you!

Of course, this is all a horrible, horrible stereotype. We think of comic books as ‘sub-culture’ in the UK (with emphasis on the sub-...); Not so in Japan, where manga is enjoyed by a hugely diverse cross-section of the population. What I’m trying to say is that, in Japan, normal people read comic books. It truly is a paradise on Earth.

It’s a shame that in the UK we perceive comic books as being somehow infantile. This moronic and infantile attitude baffles me.

The manga I'd like to talk about are all seinen, that is, they’re classified as being appropriate for males aged 18-30. There’s a tradition of strict classification by gender/age in Japan, and it rarely reflects the readership, so don't let it put you off.

Mushishi is the antithesis of everything that you know and demonise manga for.
It's all about nature and people, and the interactions thereof.

Ginko, the titular Mushishi, is a witch doctor of sorts, possessed of a wry smile and the perpetual stub of a cigarette. Much of the narrative follows Ginko as he wanders the countryside, curing ailments and dealing with mushi. The mushi in question are ghostly, ethereal automata; Beings on the the thin line between life and non-life; They cause trouble but do so out of their own natures, not out of malice. More often than not, it is the greed or pride of a man which is to be blamed.

Mushishi is sedate and tranquil but it never drags, each stand-alone tale is an ode to the beauty and cruelty of nature.

Gantz is the 'Lost' of manga. Many think that its esoteric and often indecipherable plot is overrated, but it has managed to attract a cult following. The art, heavily indebted to virtual storyboard technology, is something to behold, the level of detail is unrivalled.
Gantz stands out, not because it's all about the action (they're plenty like that), but because it realises said action so well. Reading Gantz is exhilarating like few other comic books can ever hope to be.

Death Note should come with a health warning. If you start reading it be prepared to lose sleep until you finish it.
Shinigami, akin to grim reapers, play a rather prevalent role in Japanese pop-culture. Death Note injects the Shinigami myth into a dark, psychological thriller with truly unexpected results. The premise alone is enough to sell it: Student is bright yet bored. Student finds mysterious notebook. Student realises that upon writing a person's name in the notebook, the person will die. Needless to say, chaos ensues, and i'd be spoiling the fun if I were to elaborate.

Mushishi, Gantz and Death Note are but three notable titles of a veritable glut of thought-provoking and intelligent manga. Akira and Ghost In the Shell helped bring the medium into Western conciousness and are well worth a read. The work of Osamu Tezuka, considered the 'godfather' of manga is especially notable, recommended are Phoenix and Buddha. A classic historical epic comes in the form of Lone Wolf and Cub, spanning nearly 30 volumes. Honourable mention also goes to the grimy, multi-layered Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White and the girly, but strangely compelling Oh My Goddess!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Listing things.

Lists tend to make for pretty lazy journalism. This list is a rare exception.

Tom Chick lists 10 genuinely innovative sci-fi settings in videogames, i.e. The ones that weren't just a polygonal Bladerunner (incidentally the official Bladerunner game was fantastic).

Igotlockedoutandcouldn'tgetinbutthenigotin. There, now you don't have to read the post.

It's a Sunday, i'm feeling wonderfully invigorated after being pelted by the shower, my hair is fresh and tousled, falling in moist ringlets over my eyes, head tilted coquettishly, towel slung casually over one shoulder...I'm sure you get the picture. It's a nice picture. my utmost horror my lock is completely and utterly jammed. Moments later horror strikes again, as i realise what a terribly mundane anecdote the whole affair is going to make. Anyway, five soggy hours later the Fearnley-Whittingstall-esque locksmith drags himself away from his glazed ham-shank for long enough to install a new one (a lock, not ham-shank), everything is wonderful, primroses burst from my ears, rainbows spill forth from the rather attractive warden's eyes, i realise that 5 hours sitting on a cold towel has done absolutely nothing for my mental health.

Anyway, i arrive home this evening, new key in hand glistening like excalibur, my wrist already swivelling in anticipation....It doesn't fucking work. To cut a long story short, The Halls in their infinite wisdom ordered a second new lock to replace the replaced one, slipping a letter underneath my door asking me to come and collect the new key. Can you spot the fatal flaw in their logic? They slipped a letter under my door. The bastards.

Ahem, i'm glad we got that over and done with, aren't you? Like an awkward first date, blogger and blog-reader mentally spar, both fickle in their commitment, attempting to interest but not to push to far. I hope i pitch at the right level, stories about getting locked out are always fascinating.

Founds some great stores in Camden the other week, the first being a record store; I can't remember what it was called but it has an old American DJ in the basement gently singing along to his choices. I bought The Auteur's second record in there. Right next door is a comic book shop owned by what must be a rather anal fellow, for he bags not just his singles but the trade paperbacks as well! What madness! What inconcievable insanity! But maybe he's onto something.

I apologise for not having much interesting to say right now, after the massive work-related climax of last week i'm in a distinctly post-coital lull, which i think may last well into next week.

Some girls only have room for themselves.