Monthly Archives: December 2011

Another Year by the Wayside

There have been so many ‘world events’ this year that it feels almost indulgent to spend any time on personal reminiscence. But this blog is nothing if not self-indulgent, and it’s not like anybody except me reads it, so let’s have a go: 2011 was my first year without moving house in a while, although I did put the tent up a few times. I made a tea monster, saw a chinese lantern on a beach, flew over the tennyson monument, spent several days talking in a cod scottish accent, had an encounter with a seagull some miles from the coast, got (mildly) into crosswords, avoided imaginary serial killers whilst doing nocturnal drinks runs in a reconditioned victorian lunatic asylum, had a nap in the front row of a gig, wrote my name with a sparkler, strolled a strange quayside, lay on a huge tyre swing, cried in the theatre, stood outside waterloo station covered in fake snow, and slept in an apparently-abandoned university campus in the middle of nowhere. I cleaned decaying meat out of a thawed freezer, wrote an encyclopedia entry, took the bus to the jubilee line, played a bugle on the roof of a sea fort, sunbathed in a prom queue, drove the faithful Peug around deserted, magical 4am London, shouted into a microphone outside the Birmingham House of Sport, sat through a poker game, stargazed on garlic-infused grass, covered the walls of a lecture theatre with terrible graffiti, reluctantly gatecrashed a 1930s cocktail party, stood within about ten feet of Damon Albarn, saw a creeper-covered watermill ruin loom out of the woods ahead of me, drank a weird energy drink which turned me into a roman soldier, had a cat for a week, and met a badminton champion. I had my first first-class train ride (which I didn’t pay for), and my last young person’s rail discount (which I did). The Peug lost both headlights and two tyres, and came bouncing right back. I swam in Port Meadow, in the English Channel, and off the coast of Kent. I dressed as a caterpillar, watched Elvis from a sofabed, and I got the Triumph back.

Modest, but not entirely insignificant. Everyone else just got engaged or married or had kids or something, so I figure I’m way ahead! I have a number of lifestyle goals for the new year, but in terms of material ambitions, let’s see how we do with these:
1) Finish my thesis
2) Release at least one more record, probably Vibe, Drill, and “It”
3) Be able to write a longer post than this one in a year’s time.

A very sincere Happy New Year to all readers. I really hope I can offer you some decent FaceOmeter goodies in the coming twelvemonth, and that you’ll be here with me to enjoy.

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Caged Monsters

December 27th is our annual day of totally irredeemable, tackle to the wind movie madness. As some of you know, every other year it’s the complete extended Lord of the Rings. In the off years, we strive to come up with other challenges… AND WHAT COULD BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN SITTING THROUGH HOURS OF LATE NINETIES ACTION FILMS STARRING NICOLAS CAGE okay, I admit that there are more challenging things out there, but it’s a day off.

Film 1: Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)

Actually, it takes a full 118min for this film to go, but on the way we get lots of cars (I’ve never really understood that), some women who like men who like cars (that one is also hazy), and a bit with a car jumping over lots of other cars in slow motion (which I totally get). As a bonus, there’s the pleasurable experience of a British character who isn’t posh or a cockney! But he is the baddie, so it’s still only half points. This film was a caprice, an aside, a handful of haribo, a mere limbering-up for the more serious Cage action which was to follow.
Best line: “They call him The Carpenter”

Film 2: The Rock (1996)

Ed Harris (+1), assisted by lots of disgruntled marines (+1), takes over Alcatraz island (+2). The only person who can disarm his rockets, which are now pointing at San Fransisco, is chemical weapons expert Nick Cage (+4). But how to get on to the island? ONLY WITH THE HELP OF FORMER PRISON INMATE SEAN CONNERY (+400bn). Directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and with a score by Hans Zimmer, this is truly a monster.
Best Exchange: “Hey man, you just fucked up your Ferrari” “It’s not mine”

Film 3: Face/Off (1997)

Maybe it’s the third-movie slump, maybe it’s the rising nausea caused by the acres of snacks we’d been conveyor-belting inside ourselves, or maybe it’s the fact that John Woo is the worst mainstream director ever to have lived, but this film just didn’t stand up with the others. We were promised arch-nemeses John Travolta (goodie) and Nick Cage (baddie) swapping bodies for no good reason in order that they could have speedboat chases, threaten each other’s families, and run through loads of doves in slow motion while shit blew up. What actually happened, though, was that arch-nemeses John Travolta (goodie) and Nick Cage (baddie) swapped bodies for no good reason in order that they could have speedboat chases, threaten each other’s families, and run through loads of doves in slow motion while shit blew up. A disappointment.
Best Line: “I’d like to take his face………….. off”. This was such an easy choice I’m adding a new award category for this film, THUS:
Least interrogated psychological problem: Why does Travolta’s character keep doing that thing where he runs his hands slowly over the faces of people he likes? That’s really, really, really weird. Especially when his daughter does it at the end to the new brother which the family unquestioningly adopts with no warning or consultation EVERYONE IN THIS FILM NEEDS REALLY EXTREME THERAPY

Film 4: Con Air (1997)

The atmosphere was turgid after the final speedboat chase of Face/Off, but fortunately some respite was in store. Con Air is a film in which John Malkovitch and Nick Cage play two people who dislike each other. BUT ON A PLANE, where disliking is always so much more intense! To accompany them, we have: (a) Steve Buschemi as a creepy serial killer who escapes at the end and that’s portrayed as a good thing even though he killed like thirty people apparently, (b) John Cusack, who isn’t actually on the plane but he and Cage get on adjacent motorbikes in sync so that’s fine, (c) Colm “Chief Fucking O’Brien” Meaney as your traditional ‘character who doesn’t understand that you need to just let Nick Cage and John Cusack do everything if you’re in a film with them’, and most importantly, (d) Nick Cage’s SOUTHERN ACCENT – certain to sway ladies of any nationality. AM I RIGHT LADIES?

While the deafening silence following that last question reverberates around the room a bit, let me sign off by saying that although I cleaned my teeth for several hours to get all the bits of chocolate and popcorn out afterwards, no cleaning process will prove adequate for detarnishing my soul, which will be stained forever with memories of this dreadful day. It was fantastic. See you all next year!!!

Oh, I almost forgot:
Best Line: “Make a move and the bunny gets it”

More of Nick Cage’s classic moments!

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The Gladstone Link

I’ve decided to share this poem I wrote! Occasionally I get an idea that doesn’t work as a song, and these are slowly accumulating into a collection of angsty poetry. I did this one at the recent Christmas Catweazle, and nobody firebombed me afterwards, so I have to assume that it’s alright!

It’s called ‘The Gladstone Link’, and you can read it here [PDF].

I’m sitting on a whole bunch of these which I’ll maybe refine into a collection of some kind in about a decade. Exciting, isn’t it?

FaceOmeter notice: in the interests of pretentiousness balance, the next blog post on this site will be a digest of Nick Cage movies.

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Looking Backward

As I’ll be offline over new year, I’m having to ramp up my normal schedule of backward-looking Year in Review bullshit. I’ll write the big cryptic disclosure and leave it up here for automatic release on the 31st – exciting! – in this post I wanted to do something very slightly different, which is tick off definite accomplishments of 2011. It was a beast of a year for all sorts of reasons, and I entered it, as you may remember if you clicked that link, with three objectives: write two chapters, release a CD, and make my open mic night popular. Two and a half out of three isn’t bad – Bright Idea is doing better than it was a year ago, but it’s hardly a runaway success story. I don’t mind this so much because even with a low turnout we somehow always manage to have a great time! I did all the rest.

I also wrote 8 songs (“…Klaus Diemler…”, “Time at the Old Evening Cabbage”, “The Gallop of the Monkey Horse”, “Thomas A. Edison’s Bright Idea”, “One for the Windowbox”, “Swing for the Summer”, “Child of Monkey Horse!”, “An Evening at the Pub with Bosun Peters”), and have serious steps towards 3 more (“Radcliffe, Triumphant”, “About Time”, “Muscle Memory”). A few more musical ideas are currently ‘in the air’ and may yet become something! As well as releasing The Spooky EP with Sam Taplin and Max Jones, I also curated Catweazle’s first Compilation CD. I guest-hosted seven catweazles too, and 46 Bright Idea nights in East London. There have been 8 new FaceOmeter videos this year, including the legendary Greenwich Shrove episode of fOwl, the video which Taplin and I now refer to simply as ‘the coup‘, and the laboriously produced Spooky documentary. I ran (or co-ran) three different series of seminars at college, altogether totalling twenty sessions. I organised my first full-blown academic conference (only a one-dayer, but still) and gave papers at four others. I even wrote some poetry, and I have a pretty good idea for a children’s book – but don’t hold your breath for either of those.

I bunched all this in one place because it’s sometimes easy to forget that one does occasionally produce tangible things, and that accomplishments, however they might look next to somebody else’s, do exist. It’s also helpful to have a list like this so you can see what to aim at next year – more on that in the forthcoming post. Meanwhile – I encourage you to make a similar list of your own. You’ve done more than you think, and it’s the time of year to remember that! Feel awesome about yourself! Woo!

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A New Direction

I’d like to thank Mozilla Firefox for making me type the following out twice.

Whilst trying to write the lyrics for the two “big-ish” tunes I’m currently working on – they’re called ‘About Time’ and ‘Muscle Memory’ – I accidentally cooked up this little caprice. Some songs emerge all the more effectively for not being cared about, and the stupidity of this tune is a nice counterbalance to the strain and self-torture involved in ‘About Time’ (one of the most serious songs I’ve ever tried to write).

A caprice it may be, but ‘An Evening in the Pub with Bosun Peters’ (that’s what I’m calling it) nevertheless represents a style of playing which I’ve never tried before, and is thus virgin territory for FaceOmeter. Who knows what avenues it’ll open up! Even if it opens up nothing, though, it’s an amusing experiment for me. My favourite thing about it is that the narrator awakes from unconsciousness in each of the song’s four verses. He’s always passing out, is Bosun Peters! What a loon. And he wakes in the same line of each verse, too, which is the lyric-writing equivalent of a wide-legged electric guitar solo played atop a large mountain. But enough of that. Here are the words. Perhaps there’ll be a record one day!

Rinsed in the drink,
Tossing and scheming
And ironing crinkles
In plots past believing,
I woke to a wreck –
The barque tossed to pieces,
Ceaseless heaving foam.

Hope took her leave;
I started sinking.
I had my reprieve
When I was past thinking.
I woke on a deck
Surrounded by sailors.
They said, “Now you’ll never see home..
The white-water seas we roam.

“La-la-la-la.”

Fear struck my chest.
Their curse was apparent:
They were old-school in dress
And semitransparent.
I woke, I rechecked
(A momentary swoon),
But alas, this was no mere trance,
And the crew they all viewed me askance,
Then they broke into welcoming dance…

Sickened and awed,
Faculties failing,
I lurched past the horde
And vaulted the railing.
I woke in Quebec
And no-one believes me,
But I know they’re waiting out there…
On this ghostly sou’wester I swear…

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A Documentary

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – all of you, that is, who have been on the edge of your seats following my teasing facebook announcements throughout today! (are you following FaceOmeter on facebook yet? you should be – they both start with “face”)

This short film is intended to give you some insight into how we made the Spooky EP, as well as to give us a chance to reflect on the whys and the wherefores. It’s a carefully edited trough of footage including interviews with all three artistes (filmed especially in launch week), bits of our live performances in October, and clips of the time we spent in studio in September (we did the whole record in one day).

It’s intended to sell the CD to those who don’t have it, and to act as bonus material to those who do! Listen and/or purchase here.

My main regret about the film is that it doesn’t have any footage of Dean McCarthy in it. This is because he cunningly avoided cameras at all times! I do have some good shots of him from the first two Vibe, Drill, and “It” sessions though, so his reprieve from international stardom is temporary. In the meantime I shall have to use text to add to the video that there were moments when Dean was the fourth member of the group, even though he came in just at the end. If you like the songs, then we’re to blame, but if you like the record – every second of which he engineered with a proficiency and meticulousness that puts us three to shame – then Dean is your man. Here he is.

We hope you like the video!

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