Friday, July 31, 2009

Hit And Hope

This week I submitted an application to an institution in New York which funds research into human aggression, domination and violence. It should probably be there now, in fact. I asked for a year's funding to expand the work of my thesis into a published monograph. I have pretty much no expectation that the application will be successful, but there you go.

Monday, July 20, 2009

There's A Popular Misconception/Says We Haven't Seen Anything Yet

So here we are at the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11. For me the most surprising thing is discovering that Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were all 39 when they did the mission. Clearly there's plenty of time left for me to do something important.

It seems to be pretty common these days for people to dismiss the whole Apollo project as a meaningless exercise which cost a huge amount of money which could've been better spent elsewhere. Perhaps, but it's worth noting that Apollo cost far less than the Vietnam war and killed a significantly smaller number of people.

Anyway, by way of celebration, some music. It was down to either this, or "Also Sprach Zarathustra". The tie-breaker was that Clint Boon was DJ-ing in a club once where I got so drunk that I couldn't see properly. Has Richard Strauss done that for me? Has he bollocks.

And, because it's one of the best things ever to appear on the internet, here we have Buzz Aldrin ("Second comes right after first!") offering a robust response to someone claiming that he never actually went to the moon:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Park Live

At the point in British pop-culture when it was imperative that one chose between Blur and Oasis, I chose Blur. In Manchester in 1995, this was an interesting and perhaps hazardous choice. However, looking at the post-Britpop careers of the two bands, I'm pretty sure I made the right choice. Thanks to my sister, we got tickets to the first of the Blur gigs in Hyde Park on Thursday last week. Because it was really hot in London that day, and because the support acts were so disappointing (The Foals? Friendly Fires? Where are all Damon's world music mates when you need them?) we decided to turn up pretty late in the day, about seven. This worked pretty well, with the heat starting to die off as we arrived, although we also managed to make our usual error in going to the wrong tube station and having to walk the long way round to the entrance.

I confess to not really having followed the ins and outs of the Blur breakup when it happened, so my sister filled me in on the fact that it was Coxon vs. everyone else. Also discussed was how Damon had gone from being reviled in the mid-90s to pretty popular today, while Alex James is now apparently hated for for owning a dairy and writing about it in The Observer. It just goes to show though: someone should have told Jackson that all he needed to do was spend a decade pretending to be an animated character and writing elaborate stage shows about monkeys, and all would have been forgiven.

Once inside we grabbed a beer and headed into the crowd to get a good spot in what turned out to be a very big crowd indeed. As ever, the crowd itself provided all the needed entertainment before the band comes on. On particularly good form were two guys stood just behind us:

[Roadies wheel a big trolly of equipment onto the stage]

MAN 1: Maybe Damon's going to come on early and do some of his solo stuff?

MAN 2: I think everyone would get tired of Dub Reggae pretty quickly.

Then, a bit later:

MAN 1: (Observing the big map of Britain to the right of the stage) What's that island between Britain and Ireland?

MAN 2: I dunno, but I reckon we should go and check it out.

I hope they do, but I can't help but feel that they'll only be disappointed.

We've been to festivals and gigs in Hyde Park for a few years now, and what surprised us this time was the amount of plastic bottle-throwing, which started prior to the band coming on and continued throughout the evening. It reached epidemic proportions just before Blur took to the stage, and was oddly impressive, like a low-budget fireworks display. Also it was fun to imagine Blur cowering backstage, thinking "Oh God, is our comeback going to vanish under a hail of empty Tuborg bottles?"

Fortunately this failed to happen, and a cheerful and slightly dazed-seeming Albarn and the rest entered from the right. Albarn's somewhat garbled take on things was a main feature of the evening - comparable to seeing The Who a few years ago, but Townsend and Daltry have the excuse that they're now nearly a thousand years old. My favourite piece of incomprehensible banter from Damon? "At one point during this song I'm going to start running towards you, and I want you all to literally run towards me...literally, but not physically." What?

My era of Blur was really "The Great Escape", because I preferred them pretending to be The Kinks rather than pretending to be Pavement. What turned out to be one of my highlights of the evening came pretty early on, with a thumping, up-tempo version of "Girls and Boys": parody of Ibiza dance doing a pretty good job of being the real thing.

Perhaps it was the heat, or the size of the crowd, but the twat-ratio seemed to be higher than previous Hyde Park gigs we'd been to - witness the bottle throwing, but also one guy stood near us who, before nearly every song, shouted "PLAY THE ELVIS ONE!" Bizarrely, it turned out that this meant "Tender is the Night". No, I don't know why, either.

Tender is the night was very popular with the crowd, who continued to sing "Oh my baby/Oh my baby/Oh why/Oh my" for a short time after the song had finished. This did not go down well on stage, and Albarn responded with "If you want to carry on singing, could you leave the park and go down the road a bit?" Gracious as ever, Damo!

All the big hits were played, with people going absolutely fucking mental for "Song 2", causing a guy just to my left, who had a bag full of Graham Coxon flyers he was giving out, to desperately dive around saving the bag from beneath people's feet. "Coffee and TV" was enjoyed in a more sedate way, and it was only when Coxon introduced it that I realised that I'd somehow made it all the way through the 90s without realising that he has a really silly speaking voice. Maybe that's what drove him to drink?

"Park Life" obviously, was the centrepiece of the set, for which Phil Daniels joined the band on stage for simian-style mockney-dancing. Damon also told us that Hyde Park was the inspiration for the song, because he'd lived just around the corner in the early 90s.

The encore closed with "The Universal", always one of my favourites, although unlike the video there were no Clockwork Orange references forthcoming from the stage. It was a great way to finish - after all, it is now the next century...

WE really enjoyed the whole thing, and given the amount of energy expended by Albarn and the band it might be a good thing that we were there on the first night, because they must have been knackered on the Friday. I'd certainly be interested in new Blur album, if one's in the offing.