It has gone from being an amusing site where people posted really quite funny pictures that they had found in google and then altered to make a topical/studenty sort of joke, to being a site where toss heads post not-hilarious, poorly written splurges about how they got right pissed when they was 14, racist slurs (the old "it's not racism if they're white!!" tactic), homophobia (if something's bad, it's GAY!! hahahah haha so clever), and otherwise dull, generic banter of the sort spouted by 15 year-olds who've managed to get served.
At first, I really thought it was a joke. The final straw was BunnyGirl's response to the question What Has Made You Cry Recently? Hew answers: Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter. Not because they were all incredibly dull films though.
I've just discovered that my old philosophy lecturer Colwyn Williamson has been suspended from the University of Wales, Swansea for 'hacking into university computer systems'. It's not clear exactly what information he is thought to have accessed, but this is the latest episode in a long tale of enmity between UWS and one of its most critical teachers.
While I was 'studying' at Swansea, I had close contact with Colwyn – and developed the sort of respect for him which only a junior undergraduate can have for a lecturer. He's an incisive thinker and a good man… though no doubt he'd question my use of words if he ever read this. Together with Anne Maclean and Mike Cohen, Colwyn blew the whistle on a 'degrees for cash' scandal at UWS. They were suspended for a year and won the national Freedom of Speech award.
As Colwyn was only ever cautioned over this hacking claim, I think it's safe to assume that no major crime has been committed. It would make sense for the University to avoid any kind of court case in which the cunning Colwyn would be 'given a platform'. However, a group of students are trying to sue UWS. I'll try and find more info on that over the next few days.
In August last year, I read a Guardian opinion piece by lovable looney George Monbiot about how oil production had peaked. He quoted the unlikely-named Texan oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens as saying "Never again will we pump more than 82 million barrels." well you can read the rest of the story here. Monbiot is great. he writes these opinion pieces from the old school of lefty-green fatalism and makes these wonderfully final statements like 'it's the end of the modern age' and they just come true.
But George has competition. John Vidal writes for the… er… Guardian as well. And today he has written a wonderfully pessimistic article about how oil production is about to peak. Sometime next year, he reckons. So we are actually still in the modern age. Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy reading about the end of the world as much as the next smug pseudo-socialist (I am on the way to becoming an archetypal Champagne socialist, the only issue being that I drink Cava – living as I do in Catalunya). What would prove us all more right than the utter collapse of capitalist society?
John Vidal makes the sensible point that oil is necessary for our way of life. I've asked friends and colleagues many times: what do we do when the oil runs out? It's not merely a fuel. nearly every aspect of our lives is partly reliant on plastics of the multitude of other chemicals we manage to extract from that gorgeous black milk. Gemma's response is usually "they'll find something" – and I suppose she must be right. The truth is that necessity has always bred invention. So there'll be a period of what? years, decades? And then things will be OK again.
But that could be my whole life. Living like Mad Max. I hate Mel Gibson.
On the positive side, T. Boone pickens was saying that we'd never pump 82 million barrels a day again. Well John Vidal says we're now pumping 83 million a day. So none of the predictions are that reliable.
One hint: put a decent fuel tax in place in the USA. The average price per litre of octane 85 unleaded petrol in the UK costs 80.5 pence. In the USA, customers pay an average of 27.05 pence* for the same stuff. It doesn't take a genius to realise that a decent fuel levy in America might help reduce consumption… and also raise the necessary dollars to invest in correcting the $7.7 trillion defecit. I know things aren't quite that simple, but they ain't that complex neither. Radical ideas need to be considered, or it's off to the Thunderdome for the lot of us. ______________________________ * World petrol prices from the AA.
Today's MediaGuradian carries yet another story about how the UK record industry continues to blame P2P filesharing for poor results and falling record sales. A 'research' firm has spent ages working how much money would have been spent by British people if they weren't busy stealing music instead.
What might have been a more suitable topic for research is: How much more money would British people have spent buying records if the UK record industry spent any money at all on a realistic and genuine effort to pursue new music?
What seems to have happened is that the record company execs looked at the unpredictability of 1990s pop music (first it's acid house, then Nirvana, then Oasis then Kylie) and thought they'd like a period of stability. Hence, funding went to Coldplay, U2 and their clones… but these new AOR/MOR bands were marketed as ROCK. Which, of course, ain't the truth. And yeah there was loads of shit around in the 90's (drum & bass; trance; Dodgy et al) but the same culture that gave birth to (and nurtured) the Red Hot Chili Peppers, also gave birth to Royal Trux.
What I'm trying to say is that I can take all the crap music, if there's something else being sold which I believe is genuinely 'independent', 'avant-garde' or just 'good'. At the moment, the UK record industry is promoting almost no really good music. I'm only 24 so this isn't an age thing… and i know that there are loads of tiny indie labels out there… but it's not just independence in terms of money. The UK record industry decided not to gamble on new music… and the UK record buying public has responded in kind. Wake up, BPI: we'll invest in you when you invest in music.
It must be the good weather rolling in, but after a lull of two months where I practically only listened to 'Cats And Dogs', 'Elliott Smith' and 'Let's Dance' oh and 'Bad Behaviour' by the Super Furries, I am suddenly revelling in the dusty contents of my iPod and the CDs that slipped to the back of a pile.
Recently rediscovered albums: Wire: Pink Flag Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen… Stuff by Quasi. Other things including stuff I don't know the name of.
I see a lot of people around wearing this Lance Armstrong yellow bracelet thing (and now numerous other coloured, other cares, other bracelets) and none of them look very strong in life. I wonder what the colour would be for not giving a fuck about any of that shit? Well it wouldn't exist I suppose.
It makes me wonder even more about 'our' times. Cos you know wearing your heart on your sleeve… that used to be something of an insult. And now you've got lots of people with these 'I care about shit' bracelets and it makes me want to scream. On the other hand, blogs and homepages are possibly even worse. Those of us who have them are clearly absorbed in some kind of illusion. But it's still not as bad as walking around with a sign around your hand saying how caring and passionate you are about causes. Worst of all must be the blogger who has several care bracelets. You could drown in the earnest decency.
We had roast lamb on Saturday evening. I cooked it specially because Eva was down about not getting this placement she wanted in Chicago, America. Also, loads of people were out of town so Adam came over and brought Betty, the dog. The lamb was delicious.
And it made a lovely curry yesterday. Gemma and I watched Ocean's 12… not really that good but it was pretty much fine for Sunday evening viewing. I'm a sucker for Catherine Zeta Jones anyway.
I'm just about to finish the amazingly good Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – a truly great spy story. Good spy stories, like good love songs, are about things falling apart, betrayal.
It's interesting to see how quickly the anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities have had an effect on the perceived stability of the east Asian region, causing widespread concern and condemnation – of Japan.
The problem centres (allegedly) on the decision by the Japanese government to authorise publication of a new schools' textbook which glosses over aspects of Japan's recent aggressive behaviour. Specifically, the Chinese are upset by the books' failure to mention the atrocities committed by the Japanese while they occupied parts of China in the 20th century. The fear – clearly – is that Japan feels ready to become a major power again. After 60 years of making amends, it would be surprising if Japan wasn't moving back towards it's more traditional stance: one of the three main powers in east asia, both economically and militarily.
Of course, China doesn't much like the prospect of competition from an old enemy, and so we have seen the explosion of so called 'spontaneous' demonstrations accross the Maoist nation. This is what gets me: China is still practically totalitarian. It is most certainly a one party state of 1.1 billion people, fully infiltrated by political officials and citizen-spies. The versions of history taught in Chinese schools still paint numerous unpleasant aspects of their country's history in an unbelievably positive light. Is it not very likely that the demonstrations have been instigated by political agents? Shouldn't China put its own house in order before complaining about the modern, democratic Japan?
What I find most worrying about the situation is the risk that the old enemies will dig themselves into positions where friendliness becomes impossible. China will undoubtably be the major world power within twenty years… what will happen to Japan then? And all the time, Taiwan sits quietly. Waiting.
Now, the badrash.com is no masterpiece of design or originality. But every now and then, I stumble upon a website so poorly designed, so badly implemented, so unintentionally awful that it deserves attention. Call it snobbery. Because that's what it is.
FVA Management. Hive of design consultants, life coaches and er… site hosting, FVA is a classic of early web design. This is one of those websites clearly run by one man who can do eveything. A bit like my website is. Take a look at FVA – try it on for size… see if you can spot:
Images instead of text, making it impossible for anyone with special accessibility requirements (or mobile browsers/text browsers) to browse the site. cf: badrash.com
Broken links. Easily done? Yes, when you confuse "" with "/". The classic 'slash' mix-up… something easily remedied by testing your site before (or even after) uploading.
Flashing/rotating images (the animated GIF nightmare) which seem custom made to induce epilepsy and/or flashbacks from Glastonbury 1999.
Fake webcounter. This classic feature of the shit website looks like a real counter, but in fact isn't one! A work of pure genius. I sat here for 25 minutes waiting for the numbers to stop spinning.
And much, much more. FVA Management wins this snob's certificate of achievement in the creation of bad and ugly websites. The best thing? He's a web designer! I found out about him because he designed the site for gemma's company. A site which I shall be redesigning. In my own image.
The day I received Neil Michael Hagerty's last album: The Howling Hex, I immediately got on to "my people" at amazon.co.uk (much cheaper/faster than buying from Drag City, at least for me), to order All-Night Fox, the new album from his new band The Howling Hex. OK so his band is called the same as his last album… it must be some kind of trick? Or is it MagicScience?
Yes and now I have the album. It's good. HH is good because it has some great songs on it. ANF is good because it's concept without being unlistenable. I'm not going to wax all lyrical here because frankly I can't get most of the lyrics. But then I've only listened to it about 3 times. I just dig the rock music.
There are some silly/wordy reviews around spouting blabbering-crap as per usual. Don't try and get revisionist on us, Billy Fields, cause you ain't the bee's knees. Any punk who starts a "hey the Trux sucked" sort of piece ought to be careful he isn't getting a little too big for his boots. Billy Boy. In fact, after re-reading his tripe, I must say it's good. Check out his other reviews cos this boy don't know shit, but he can write just like anybody else!
Just got the seemingly ancient Neil Michael Hagerty album The Howling Hex. Oh believe the hype, boys and girls. It's great. Even the wacky violin tracks. EVEN the bit that sounds a tiny amount like Manu Chao. This is an album I can enjoy summer to. So this morning, I only went and placed an order for the apparently even better All-Night Fox.
I feel all the anti-Transmaniacon emotion now. Cos while Jennifer has come up with some passably decent spoof-metal songs, and she has the skulls to prove it, The Howling Hex continues The Royal Trux better than anything Jennifer has come up with. I guess I could put on Transmaniacon and we'd sit round and sort of giggle at the OTT guitar and autotuning… the killer riffs and the ripped-off lyrics (from two great Trux songs, Shockwave rider and Sweet Sixteen no less). Maybe it's got to do with the way I only really listen to Cats and Dogs these days, but the Howling Hex manage to continue the jazzy, rock'n'roll free music feel, the lyrics are good, and sadly I don't even miss Jenn's singing. Maybe her next work will be a bit more honest and less posture. She said all this shit recently in an interview about listening to the Rocky IV soundtrack for two months or something. "I like winners" she said. Well the Howling Hex is a fuck's sight better than RTX.
So summer evenings aren't far away… they get into your blood and lift up your soul. Girls in skirts, warm mornings, sultry evenings, beers on the terrace, tending my roses, late night sessions at PlaÃ§a Reial and the chiringuitos… Here we go……….