Monday, December 31, 2007


Well, this year there was no need to board up all the windows - and that's not to say that some constructive stuff didn't get done over the holidays. The latest incarnation of the afro noise sound has got me really fucking excited, so look out for plenty of that in 2008. And once again many thanks for reading this blog, and for all your comments and messages which are always most appreciated. I wish everyone a new year full of both gratifyingly pleasing surprises and surprisingly gratifying pleasures. Have a great time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Best present this year has been finally cracking the terrible insomnia of the last couple of months without recourse to medication.

Monday, December 24, 2007


The Flock is the new flashily edited (too flashily) English language film by Chinese director Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) - it stars Richard Gere in one of his more memorable roles (and there's a cute slutty bit part for Avril Lavigne).

I mention it because it's a thriller with a ridiculous underlying message about sex offenders - and inevitably ends up saying a lot more about the stark irreconcilable contradictions and internal conflicts that US society, as represented by its administration, has with regards to sexuality in general. All that is stirred into the mix for us with a generous dollop of wholesome paranoia and fear which pretends to add weight to what is effectively just a bit of trashy light entertainment.

The thing is, who is really getting off on this stuff? And for what purpose?

Saturday, December 22, 2007


News in today which confirms to those that were still in some kind of doubt. Tony Blair is, in fact, a nutter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


2007 has been a strange year on a personal level - lots of highs and a few lingering lows. Rather than dwell on all that, here are some reflections on the year's favourite things that I personally enjoyed, and for the same reason wouldn't necessarily recommend.

The concert in Prato (Italy) seems like ages ago now - it was one of those trips where everything seems to fall into place at just the right moment in your life, and I mean that in more ways than one. Playing in Edinburgh for the first time ever was really fun too, much more than I had any right to expect.

This is pathetic, what the fuck am I doing talking about restaurants? It's desperation. Even worse, I can't even remember its name, but the place in Kitakyushu where we had the fish was a true heaven of the gustatory senses.

A goodly harvest this year, and that despite doggedly sitting through some turkeys of anthological magnitude. I loved A Bridge To Terabithia and The Notebook (but both of these only for the discerning fan of the romantic genre), Saw IV (expect the same tedious verdict from me next October), The Bridge (months on, still haunted), Sherrybaby (Cassavetes reborn), Loose Change - Final Cut (definitive work now that David Ray Griffin is on board - cue some abuse from the anti-'conspiracy theory' brigade), and lastly, The Boss Of It All (another LVT classic).

A year of consolidation. At one stage books were arriving so frequently from Amazon that I could barely keep up, and it's been rewarding to have the chance to fill in some of the gaps I still had in the classics, as with certain works by Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky. Notable mentions too for Pirandello's plays and the final part of Stanislavski's great trilogy.

Mostly a diet of African origin percussion music at loud volume (big thanks to Brian Conniffe for providing much of that rare material) - all part of an unconscious learning process whereby through repeated listening I'm hoping for a big osmotic jackpot pay-off, and in fact that's happening already. In between times, lots of Magma, Albert Ayler, Coltrane, or else exploring Mezzo's more obscure offerings. Truth is, I'm shamefully out of the loop as far as popular music is concerned, and my nomination of year's best to Christian Scott's album Anthem is clear testament to that.

A few contemporary exhibitions were OK, yet nothing as moving as the Angkor Wat exhibition in Bonn earlier in the year, and it's another reminder of how important opportunities to travel are for seeing the good stuff.

The magical August night of the meteor shower. No contest.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The smell of fresh ink on a page is a favourite, and it was especially exciting to finally receive a copy of the Substantials #03 book in the mail this morning - a lovely way to remember what was a big highlight of 2007 for me. As expected, Akiko Miyake and the CCA in Kitakyushu have done an exceptional job with the project, applying maximum care to the lay-out, photography, and quality of transcripts.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Another day, another Pravda fix.

Bad Girls Go To Egypt
I'd known plenty of stuff about where the men go, what's news to me is contained in a throwaway line about women going to Egypt for 'violent and non-committal love affairs'.

Hollywood Not Nice With The Make-up Off
Call me totally fucking superficial but several of these pictures are a stark reminder of how much I now realise I need a woman's glamour touches; the transformative magic is simply essential.

The Forum
Quite simply the liveliest, most opinionated, most addictive forum on the internet.


Saturday, December 08, 2007


Many of you will be rightly suspicious that this is just another transparent attempt to use the plural form of the word automaton again. So here is a nice gallery of antique automata - the more anthropomorphous ones are both fascinating and creepy in equal measure, somewhat like a ventriloquist's dummy.

Friday, December 07, 2007


In 1769, at the behest of Maria Theresa, the Holy Roman empress, there was designed a chess-playing robot called The Turk that was perhaps the most famous in a long line of automata (gratuitous uses of irregular plural form alert) of the 18th and 19th centuries. It quickly became a sensation around the courts of Europe as it seemed capable of rational thought - through not only moving the pieces with the use of its mechanical arm but gestures like shaking its head when faced with human blunders.

In fact, there was of course a certain William Lewis cunningly hidden inside its workings. The Turk was eventually destroyed by fire in 1854, but not after having achieved an impressive success rate, even taking the scalp of Napoleon Bonaparte along the way (checkmated in 24 moves), and devotees can now even play over the annotated games themselves. The fascinating story is in greater detail here, not forgetting its being the basis for the marvellous 1927 movie The Chess Player.

Nowadays, we look to Japan for the latest hi-tech automata or 'karakuri' - the remarkable factory robots, cyber pets, massage chairs, and many more. Surprisingly however, it was way back during the Edo period in the early 17th century that the interest there began.

Here is a beautiful almost awe-inspiring example of a Japanese automaton playing some Elgar on the violin.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Earlier this summer there was the devastating realisation that Plaisir Du Chocolat in the Royal Mile had, without warning, closed its doors. Suddenly, life became hardly worth living.

This week, I'm overjoyed to report good tidings. Birds are once again singing, church bells are ringing, and Edinburgh's dogs are vigorously wagging their tails: the dying sungod has risen to reappear in the shiny new premises in Thistle Street. Number 48.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


#12: promise

Parents really exploit, if not abuse, the power of promise with their children as a form of coercion, sometimes (unpleasantly) appended with 'cross your heart and hope to die' or 'on your father's grave' and so on. (By the way, no prizes for guessing the origin of those phrases.) Children, in turn, pick up on this versatile linguistic pattern and use it to devastatingly manipulative effect themselves.

The reason it's such a potent weapon is that an explicit continued commitment to something is such an important way for us to demonstrate our sanity to the world. That's why politicians are constantly accusing each other of 'flip-flopping' or 'doing u-turns', as if changing your mind was A Bad Thing; and it's why we find it so hard to alter our acquired beliefs and behaviours. A consistent belief in anything is perceived better than one that is always switching.

In adulthood, although promise seems on the face of it a pretty harmless word, in actual fact, owing to its very strong subtext, we rarely or reluctantly use it - test that out by asking for some promises.

And that's why I like it so much - it's a word that can touch a person intimately, it really means something, really affects on a deep emotional and behavioural level. So, rather than 'will you?' or 'I will...', it's 'do you promise?' and 'I promise...'. Feel the difference.


Atheism indeed. I knew those guys were smart.