Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everything Is Fine

█████████████ ███████████ ███ ████ ███ ████████. ███████████ ████ ████ . █████████████ ██████████ ██ █████████ ██████████ ██. ███████████ ██████ everything ███ █████ is ██ ████ fine ████ ███ █ ██████ trust █████ ███████ ███ your █████ ████ government.

Stained Glass

Window detail at Christchurch, Ilkley

White Wells - New Year's Day 2012

Mr Moosehead, Father-in-Law, YS

No matter how many times I do this, and it is 11 years in a row now, it never feels any warmer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"...the governor of the region had suffered a rush of blood to the head a month or so before: he'd launched a crackdown on corruption, annoyed someone in the interior ministry, and shortly afterwards had been found dead in the banya at the bottom of the garden.  It was suicide, Steve explained, at least according tot he prosecutor's office and the local newspapers.  The governor had shot himself in the head - twice." A D Miller, Snowdrops.
"I said, didn't she mind that the people in charge seemed to spend half their time stealing ? Yes, she said, of course she minded, but there was no point putting new people in the Kremlin, because they'd just start the stealing all over again.  At least the ones in there now were already rich, so they could afford to think about other things too sometimes." - A D Miller, Snowdrops.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ilkley Gig - Lady Maisery

If anyone fancies a bit of folk music, the all girl trio Lady Maisery are playing at the Manor House in Ilkley on Friday 13th Jan.  Lady Maisery released their debut album Weave and Spin last year and have been nominated for best debut at the Spiral Awards.

Get there early for a place in the mosh pit, also, I presume there is no bar at the Manor House ? Hip flasks of single malt at the ready then.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Book Review : Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow - Peter Hoeg 6*

I have mostly really enjoyed Hoeg's creation Smilla Jasperson, the slow paced plot and the cultural meditations supplied by the character.  I have also mostly been told by people who have read this novel just how utterly wonderful both it and the central character are, but I can only agree up to a point.

The plot unfolds unevenly, as real life does, sometimes the determined amateur sleuth makes headway, sometimes she is headed off.  The mystery at the heart of the novel concerns the death of a boy who lives close to Smilla, a boy with a paralysing fear of heights who has apparently fallen from a rooftop while playing.  Smilla, troubled by her young friend's death, sets out to get to the core of the mystery.

So far so good then, we have a nice detective story, a quirky, odd heroine akin to Lisbeth Salander and a plot that although it constantly unravels, does not let you see too far around the corner.  Some of the story seems ever so slightly far fetched, as when Smilla signs on a ship as an unwanted and superfluous waitress.  I did enjoy some of the tension provided by the contained universe of the ice breaking ship, but then something really strange happens.

Michael Crichton drops in and writes the last chapter, and the plot which has so far been fairly tense and gripping suddenly dissolves under the strain of having the quirky, offbeat detective genre suddenly morph into a bio-warfare sci-fi plot.  The last few pages were frankly unbelievable and made a mockery of the preceding 400.  This is a shame, as Miss Smilla has many good elements, Smilla herself is a fine creation, cynical, intelligent, not quite world weary and Hoeg sense of timing as he reveals some plot elements is masterful.  The last chapter though is a juxtaposition too far, it is jarring and shocks the reader out of the imagined world of the story.

The Page Turner

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Remember This Girl ?

Who is this smoking hot gothette ? Remember pretty little Amy Studt who had a hits with Just A Little Girl and Under Your Thumb ? Well this is her, all grown up and dangerously sexy looking.  Amy's new project is called Mercy Made Me and will be releasing a single, Sleep Walker on the 23rd January 2012 under Cool For Cats Record label digital club - who appear to be so underground that I cannot even find a proper website for them.

I liked Amy's first album, and didn't know until now that she'd released a second one My Paper Made Men - which I'm looking around the web for now, not on i-tunes, not on e-music, not available on Amazon, hmm. Well let's hope that her third release actually goes on sale somewhere I can buy it.

Friday, January 06, 2012

"I have had the feeling of being crushed under a rock till I could only see one crack of light - and that was the love of God: the absolute certainty, when everything else had been taken from me, that God loved me." - Gerald Priestland, author and broadcaster, speaking about his faith and suffering a stroke, in his final R4 broadcast.

The Books I Enjoyed Most in 2011

I was going to a best books of the year list, but since taking on the degree work and simultaneously trying to work through the 1001 list, I have read precious few novels in the year of their publication.  Here instead then are the books that gave me the most reading pleasure last year.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey 10*
Quite wonderful, highly enjoyable, both laugh out loud funny and achingly sad, Kesey's best known novel is a near perfect work.

Address Unknown - Kressman Taylor 10*
A Jew betrayed by his German-American business partner sets about gaining a measure of justice, or revenge, in a cunning literary manner.  Published on the eve of WWII, Taylor's novel was banned by the Nazi's.

Cover of "The Burial at Thebes"
Cover of The Burial at Thebes

The Burial At Thebes (Sophocles Antigone) - Seamus Heaney 10*
Long poem or short novel in the style of a poem ? Heaney's translation is flowing and exciting.  He has a most special gift for language.

Appreciating Art - Diana Newell 10*
I bought this to help on my pre-degree course and what an excellent guide it is.  Newell explains clearly, and with lavish illustrations and reproductions of famous art works, how Western Art and painting in particular has evolved from 1400 t the present day.

Attention All Shipping - Charlie Connelly 9*
Radio 4 and the Shipping Forecast are two small parts of what makes the British British.  Connelly explores the physical areas of the Shipping forecast, encountering the people who live in or by them, and uncovering a trove of fascinating shipping and weather related lore.

Surface Detail - Iain M. Banks 9*

Hell is real if you believe in it, or rather if your culture wants or demands it.  Banks has a serious look at one aspect of belief in amongst giant space ships with weird names, death and technological resurrection and a a world sized weapons factory that might threaten known space.  Banks' Culture novels are still the cream of contemporary space sci-fi.

The God Of Small Things - Arundhati Roy 9*
Roy's complex weaving of the lives of a Indian family, told largely through the eyes of one of a pair of twins takes in diaspora, love, passion, the changing political landscape in India and has always at its heart a terrible tragedy that is hinted at in the earliest pages but only is only truly made clear as the novel draws to a close.  Intelligent, passionately enthralling and brilliantly conceived, Roy shows deep understanding of all the many kinds of love.

City Of Thieves - David Benioff 9*

Cover of "City of Thieves (Thorndike Pres...
Cover via Amazon

Two men fall foul of the Communist authorities in besieged Stalingrad and are sent on a bizarre mission to find a dozen fresh eggs for a wedding cake.  It sounds bizarre, but Benioff makes his idea work beautifully.  Yes it is really about the horror of war and man's inhumanity to man, but there is scope for friendship and laughter amongst the bleakness of life in a city at war.

Under Fire : The Story Of A Squad - Henri Barbusse 9*
Translated from the French, this really is the horror of.  Barbusse holds nothing back as he describes the living hell the French troops endured in the trenches of WWI, all based on his own experiences as a soldier. 

Doctor Faustus - Christopher Marlowe 9*
Was Marlowe a better playwright than Shakespeare ? Faustus certainly shows him as a man with of inventive, acerbic wit and a sharp turn of phrase.

The Great God Pan - Arthur Machen 9*
Classic horror, pre-Lovecraft and very much of the same style that H P would later employ.  Only really a novella, but well worth searching out.  Stephen King says it is perhaps "the best horror story in the English Language."

Terra : Four Events That Changed The World - Richard Hamblyn 9*
Hamblyn takes us on a tour of almost apocalyptic natural disasters, always emphasising the human cost.  The section on the Lisbon earthquake - which was followed by firestorm, aftershocks and tsunami - is particularly gripping and well written.

The following were also excellent...
Lord of the Rings Trilogy - J R R Tolkein 10*
Three Men In A Boat - Jerome K Jerome 9*
AA100 Reputations - Ed. Elaine Moohan 9*
Making Sense Of The Arts - OU Course Team 9*
The Time Machine - H G Wells 9*
Of Human Bondage - W Somerset Maugham 9*
Ilkley Revisited - Mike Dixon 9*
The Storyteller's Tale - Omair Ahmad 9*
VSI English Literature - Jonathan Bate 9*
A Month In The County - J L Carr 9*
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens 9*
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman 9*
Forgotten English - Jeffrey Kacirk 9*

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The Canada Party - Election 2012

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wittenberg All Saints' Church. The "These...
Wittenburg All Saints Church doors
"To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had commited and impossible sin and violated the Mother of God - this is madness." Martin Luther, 95 Theses
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The picture shows the doors where Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 Theses
"Philip was a good listener; though he often thought of clever things to say, it was seldom till after the opportunity to say them had passed;" - W Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pugin's Rules of Architecture

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852)
Image via Wikipedia
"The two great rules for design are these:

1st, that there should be no features about a building which are not necessary for convenience, construction, or propriety;

2nd, that all ornament should consist of enrichment of the essential construction of the building." - Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52)
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Book Review : Ulysses - James Joyce 2*

Announcement of the initial publication of Uly...
Image via Wikipedia
I realise that Joyce's stream of consciousness work is endlessly inventive and clever, displaying a dazzling use of language and a lack of repetition which is quite incredible for a a book of its size and length.  However, call me an old traditionalist if you will, but I would have sacrificed several hundred pages of bizarre literary ramblings for anything bearing a resemblance to a coherent narrative.  Ulysses took me almost six weeks to read, in stages as I could not stand the though of grinding through more than a handful of pages each day.

David Punter, English Professor at Bristol University describes Ulysses as "one of the most extraordinary works of literature in English."  Punter goes on to praise the manner in which Joyce performs "an exploration of the inner workings of the mind" and Joyce's replication of random thought processes.  I can see all this, and I do admire it in a way as being original, groundbreaking and inflammatory.  For myself though, none of these things made Ulysses into an interesting or compelling read.
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The Protestant Church After The Reformation

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Library Raid

Cover of "Wolfwatching"
Cover of Wolfwatching
A large haul as I'm expecting it to be rather quiet in the next few weeks....

Cathedrals in Britain and Ireland - William Anderson & Clive Hicks

The History of Christianity - Jonathan Hill

Wolfwatching - Ted Hughes

Churches and Cathedrals - Helen and Richard Leacroft

A Hundred Doors - Michael Longley

English Parish Churches - Edwin Smith, Olive Cook, Graham Hutton

Catholicism - Peter Stanford

A Practical View of Christianity - William Wilberforce

Sorry to anyone else in Ilkley wishing to study Christianity or church architecture, I think I grabbed the lot.
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Education Ups and Downs and Ups

Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St.Chad, bu...
St. Chad's Cathedral, designed by Pugin
I set off on AA100 - The Arts Past and Present like a rocket, getting a really great score for my first pair of essays on Plutarch's view of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, and comparing and contrasting the painting styles of Cezanne and Zurburan.  The second essay should have scored more points, in theory, as it was a re-write of one of the first essays, I chose the Plutarch one.  I mucked up on the bibliography and referencing though which cost me points and left me with a lower score then the original essay.  A bit of a downer then.

In the run up to Christmas and New Year I was doing 80 hour weeks and so the little time I had for studying was fractured and at the wrong ends of the day.  Getting your head into your course books after a 15 hour shift is never going to garner any great results.

I sat down yesterday morning to get to grips with my current pair of essays, comparing the reputation of Michael Faraday from two different sources, and comparing and examining two poems ostensibly about cats.  An hour after starting I was almost sat with my head in my hands, my notes from the last month were hugely disorganised, written here and there on bits of paper with underscores and crossings out in abandon.  This then was my lowest ebb for the course so far. 

I had a quick flick around the Facebook groups, saw lots of other folk mentioning the same time problems and even worse, another course colleague had bitten the dust. Left. Quit. Dropped out.

Can't do that, I'm too Yorkshire.  I've paid for this course out of my own pocket so I'm determined to wring value from it. A couple of hours yesterday and then a solid four hour stint today and I had dragged my copious but random notes into some sort of coherent form and produced two essays complete with references and bibliography.

That's me back in the groove then.  I don't think these are the best essays I have done, I have a slight concern I haven't balanced the dual question in one quite enough, but they are done and with that I can press on with Pugin and the revival of Gothic architecture in English churches.

I have had a look to see what the next essay is, a choice between examining tradition and dissent in either the Roman Catholic church in England, or the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, and the word count is doubled to 1,200.  I have not yet done the work on Shostakovich, but I'm taking an early decision and have been to the library to raid it for background material on Catholicism.

Now then, another hour or two studying before I cook dinner, I'm a happy little student again.
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Cover of "Of Human Bondage"
Cover of Of Human Bondage
"Philip had an unfortunate trait: from shyness or from some atavistic inheritance of the cave-dweller, he always disliked people on first acquaintance; and it was not till he became used to them that he got over his first impression. It made him difficult of access. He received Hayward's advances very shyly, and when Hayward asked him one day to go for a walk he accepted only because he could not think of a civil excuse." - Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.
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Spooky Julie's Snuff Tape by Release The Bats


NSFW in all sorts of ways.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Interactive Dot Art

This is a rather wonderful art installation created by Yayoi Kusama for the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.  It is called the Obliteration Room and encourages the museum's younger visitors to decorate it at their whim.

The Obliteration Room on This Is Colossal Stats 2011 - Most Listened to Tracks

John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
1 Professor Elemental – Fighting Trousers 39

1 Professor Elemental – Sweet Cold Coalition (feat. Miss Sadie Bell) 39

3 Professor Elemental – Animal Magic 38

4 Datsik – Swagga 37

4 Datsik – Firepower 37

6 Professor Elemental – CUP OF BROWN JOY (Tea Bag remix) 34

7 Professor Elemental – Splendid 33

7 Black Stone Cherry – Blame It On The Boom Boom 33

7 The Bronx Casket Co. – Antihero 33
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Linton Kwesi Johnson

10 John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom 32

10 Professor Elemental – Fete Worse Than Death 32

12 Dessa – The Crow 31

12 WTF Vs Dead Pres – It's Bigger than Hip Hop Uk (Full Vocal Clean Mix) 31

14 Mumford & Sons – The Cave 28

14 Therapy? – Bad Excuse For Daylight 28

14 Stacie Collins – Cool 28

14 Professor Elemental – Elixir 28

18 Million Dollar Reload – International Anthem 27

18 Enter Shikari – The Jester 27

18 Dessa – Into the Spin 27

18 Professor Elemental – The Quest For The Golden Frog 27

18 Professor Elemental – Steam Powered (feat. Mr. Jon Clarke) 27

23 The Pierces – Secret 26

23 Million Dollar Reload – Livin' In The City 26

23 Florence + the Machine – Kiss With A Fist 26

23 Stacie Collins – Lend The Devil A Hand 26

23 Professor Elemental – Penny Dreadful 26

28 Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall 25

28 Madness – The Prince 25

28 Dessa – Matches to Paper Dolls 25

28 Stacie Collins – Little Things 25

28 Alex Vegas – Muslamic Ray Guns (The EDL Anthem) 25

33 Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising 24

33 Million Dollar Reload – Goodnight New York 24

33 Unruly Child – Show Me The Money 24

33 Stacie Collins – Don't Doubt Me Now 24

33 Nick Jaina – The President of the Chess Club 24

38 The Clash – The Guns Of Brixton 23

38 Linton Kwesi Johnson – Inglan Is A Bitch 23

38 The Duckworth Lewis Method – Jiggery Pokery 23

38 Dessa – Alibi 23

38 Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends – Bully In The Alley 23

43 Led Zeppelin – The Battle of Evermore 22

43 The Pierces – Boring 22

43 Manu Chao – 13 Dias 22

43 Black Spiders – KISS Tried To Kill Me 22

43 Stacie Collins – Hey Mister 22

43 Stacie Collins – Tied To You 22

43 Datsik – Hydraulic 22

50 George Thorogood & The Destroyers – Bad To The Bone 21

My most listened to tracks were obviously doninated by the bands that appeared highest on the acts chart, plus a few acts from which I loved one or two songs but wasn't moved much by the rest of their output ; the dubstep artist Datsik and quirky folk musician Nick Jaina fell into this category.

Enhanced by Zemanta Stats 2011 - Most Listened To

Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry
1 Black Stone Cherry 412

2 Professor Elemental 323

3 Christina Aguilera 322

3 BBC Radio 4 322

5 The Unthanks 318
 6 Muse 315
Elemental MC & the Badgermingo!
Professor Elemental

6 Dessa 315

8 Stacie Collins 312

9 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 308

10 Rancid 305

11 Coheed and Cambria 295

12 Megadeth 291
Stacie Collins
Stacie Collins

12 The Pierces 291

14 Metallica 283

15 The Wildhearts 278

16 The Beatles 269

17 Marillion 267

18 Lily Allen 266

19 Status Quo 261

20 Mastodon 259

21 Magnum 257

22 Etran Finatawa 256

23 Manu Chao 255

23 Ace Frehley 255

25 Nneka 254

26 Madness 251

27 Marilyn Manson 245

28 Mumford & Sons 242

29 Therapy? 233

29 The Proclaimers 233

29 Million Dollar Reload 233

32 The Decemberists 232

33 Britney Spears 231

33 Antonín Dvořák 231

35 Igor Stravinsky 230

36 Georg Friedrich Händel 226

37 Lee "Scratch" Perry 224

38 Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends 222

39 Rachel Unthank & The Winterset 221

40 Antonio Vivaldi 215

40 Street Sweeper Social Club 215

42 The Rolling Stones 214

43 The Answer 212

44 Led Zeppelin 207

45 Electric Light Orchestra 204

45 Voodoo Six 204

47 Rush 203

48 Siouxsie and the Banshees 200

49 The Prodigy 197

49 Florence + the Machine 197

That's a reasonably eclectic year for me.  Black Stone Cherry's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea drove them to the top of my chart, and the endlessly hilarious Professor Elemental got his creator Paul Alborough second spot.

My top ten are well split between old favourites, Christina, Muse, The Unthanks, and listening that was new to me in 2011 like country rocker Stacie Collins, BSC, Professor Elemental's wonderful steampunk chap hop and Dessa's clever and articulate rap.

Further down my charts are well filled with lots of old favourites - try as I might to search out new and weird music I just can't help coming back to the likes of The Wildhearts, Metallica,  Megadeth, Led Zeppelin, Madness or Siouxsie and the Banshees.  New acts that push their way into my most listened of the year included Manu Chao's upbeat Freanch/Spanish/Basque folk pop, Nigeria's pop/rnb singer Nneka, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and the rock bands Voodoo Six and Million Dollar Reload.

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