It seems that Sky’s WiFi service ‘The Cloud’ is blocking our website, as well as parent org Brook’s website, under the heading ‘sex education’. That means that any young people trying to access these sites for information about their sexual and reproductive health won’t be able to see them, as Sky…
Here’s the text of what I emailed to email@example.com in case anyone wants to steal/tweak. ” Can you explain to me the rationale of blocking Education For Choice’s website (http://www.efc.org.uk/), as well as that of parent org Brook, under the heading ‘sex education’? Both of these are great sources of health and reproductive education for young people, and roaming access to these sites is especially important given potential sensitivity of accessing these at home. As others may have pointed out, this is ironic and/or galling given that you don’t block sites such as the SPUC (www.spuc.org.uk/) which provides sexual health misinformation, including graphic/potentially-upsetting images. It would be useful if you could clarify your position on this issue.
Hi all. A while back I made an album and sold it on Bandcamp to raise money for Macmillan. Well I’m doing it again. A different album. Not the same album. However, I’d like to raise a bit more this time. I’m not very good at the promotion stuff, so if any lovely creative types out there would like to give any tips or pitch in with some part of it, do dive in. (A case in point: last time round the album art was a picture of Renee from Allo Allo that I did in Paint.) Or perhaps musical types would like to do a remix or something. I don’t know guys. Aiming for next month!
Little Stories About Death
I hate the sound of my own voice.
It’s one of the worst things about me. I’ve got a little soft-R lisp that makes me sound like Jonathan Ross doing an impression of Lily Savage, and I’m quiet as a mouse. I have one of those voices that has no middle ground between a whisper and a shout, and if I’m not careful I end up barking like Hitler addressing the Volk. Not a good look.
So this was a very difficult thing to do. The hardest thing I’ve ever recorded I think. It’s a story I wrote around a couple of years ago, and it’s still one of the few that I like to revisit. It’s sad, occasionally unpleasant, and low in tone, which I thought would make it a good start for this series. I wanted one that I could whisper and not feel weird about it.
I also wanted to do it in one take. Which I did, but I stumbled more than a few times. Also couldn’t resist adding a little music towards the end.
I have no idea whether you’ll be able to sit through me speaking for 25 minutes, but it’s here to try if you like. The link below should let you download it, if that’s a thing you want to do.
Clearing out my writings on my ipad I found a ‘review’ I’d been writing of Haruki Murakami’s latest book 1Q84. It’s already long, and I don’t think I was even half done. Consider this part 1.
“I am almost certain that writing this review of 1Q84 will prove more fun than actually reading it. In fact there were points towards the end where I think the prospect of writing this was the only thing keeping me going.
It took me a very long time to get through 1Q84. I don’t claim to be the fastest of readers, though, in sticking up for myself, the two months it took me to reach the end was probably due to the issue that I needed to read other things at the same time in order to keep myself sane. This included a re-read - yes, a re-read - of China Mieville’s sprawling metaphysical pirate yarn The Scar. Which, incidentally, the first time round I found a little cold and directionless; read in concurrence with 1Q84 however, it might have well as been a tightly plotted little novella, and I sped through it in days.
Murakami has described his book - sold in some formats in three separate volumes, though really telling a single unbroken story - as an ‘epic romance.’ We’ll deal with that description in time, but first I’d like you to think about other things you’ve read, seen or heard that have been described as ‘epic.’ I think of stories with grand ambitions, plot lines that span continents, generations; in terms of music, I think of rich, open soundscapes, or perhaps far-reaching themes in terms of lyrics or tonality. Murakami seems to have mistaken ‘epic’ for ‘really fucking long.’
Let’s deal with Murakami’s established style. Often described as falling under the banner of magical realism, it’s really something quite distinct. Many authors who strive for magical realism can stray into whimsy, and while the results are often something quite warm, soothing and comforting - a great tide of ideas and imagination washing over you - you sometimes can’t help but find the results a little insubstantial. If most magical realism is dreamlike, Murakami writes about nightmares; at his best, capturing the divide between the mundane and the horrifying. That’s an important word: mundane. A lot of the time, he writes about the process of characters going about their lives. I’d considered using the words boring or tedious there, but really, when the formula is working, it isn’t either of these things. I suspect part of this might be that Murakami is Japanese; his fascination with writing about food is itself fascinating, and perhaps the long-standing borderline fetishisation of Japanese culture by the west enhances our enjoyment of his style. In any case, this aspect of his writing is, I think, often unfairly maligned; it’s generally nicely done, surprisingly engaging, and most of all, is absolutely essential in terms of providing contrast when nightmare and unreality set in.
What goes wrong in 1Q84? I think it comes back to Murakami wanting to write a very, very long (sorry, epic) book. The problem appears to be that the author actually loses track of that winning strategy; the book is so long and drawn out that his mastery of the mundane entirely falls apart. Sure, we still have whole pages of the protagonists writing about their dinner, or their preparations before bed; however - and, by Christ, someone stop me if I complain about this too much - we also get interminable, protracted, and definitely-definitely-tedious reams of substandard dialogue and internal monologue. Tedious, not mundane.
It hurts for me to remember this too much. Characters analyse minor plot developments over and over in broken, ugly prose. We switch to another narrative, and a different character analyses the same events again. There is endless repetition, and the narrators constantly ask themselves questions about the possible motivations of other characters or the nature of an illogical world. We are told early on that the world is one of broken deductive logic - in fact, we already know so because we are reading a Murakami novel - and indeed the main protagonist herself decides so early on. So it is incredibly frustrating to constantly watch in frustration as the players in the story try to make sense of what is going on around them in terms of conventional analysis. The author would perhaps argue that this is the point - trying to make logic the illogical - but, gosh, it doesn’t make for an interesting or enjoyable read.
Instead, a large portion of the book reads like filler. I suspect readers who have been exposed to second rate Japanese animation (or in fact video games) will know the feeling; entire swathes of round-the-houses conversation or introspection designed to cheaply fill the hours until another expensive action sequence rolls around. Part of the issue may be in translation: there are baffling idiosyncrasies in the text, including curious reliance on stock phrases and not-quite-appropriate cliches. These are jarring once noticed: what’s with one character constantly referring to her unborn child as ‘the little one?’ Why does she also refer to the world as 1Q84 anyway? Why does everyone keep using the turn of phrase “not your usual sort-of person?” Why does the male protagonist constantly repeat what other characters say back to him? Is it indicative of some kind of mental defect, or is it a clumsy attempt at colourful dialog? God, it doesn’t stop.
I’ve read other reviews claiming that the book is a “yellow brick road” of imaginative characters and ideas. What this means is that plot lines, characters, themes and concepts are clumsily grabbed at, fumbled with for a few chapters, and then discarded, never to be heard from again. We start with a dalliance into parallel world theory, skip over into female sexuality and sexual violence, grope around with religious cultism and philosophy, consider the ethics and practices of writing.. None of this is explored in any great depth or with any implications for the outcomes if the characters. And when I say none of it, I mean none of it; there is no journey, no thread that is followed from start to finish, no resolution. In and of itself, this isn’t an issue; abstract writing and storytelling is possible (I’m reminded of the ending to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana; largely considered unsatisfactory as a resolution to the book’s story, but a wonderful abstract study of memory and dementia). Not so in 1Q84 however. The rest of the text is so leaden, so clumsy, so prosaic; so bloody dull. The investment of time required meant that I as a reader really needed to get something from the book, or that I could at least enjoy the process of reading it. I had neither.
I do possibly think that it is an interesting (if insufferable) book for writers however, if only to demonstrate how a piece of work can go so comprehensively off-course. It reminds me of the creative writing my classmates and I used to do in secondary school, where your enthusiasm for an initial topic leads you dive into the actual process of the writing before doing any planning, and then wrestling desperately with the continuation and conclusion of a plot that’s hampered by your original ideas, paper thin and shonky. (While, of course, avoiding actually making any fundamental edits, drafts or anything else that might involve changes to the core of the story. Get on with it! Just hand it in! it’s probably good enough! No-one will realise that you’ve lost course! They’ll think it’s abstract! A veritable yellow-brick road!)”
Gareth wrote very eloquently, for the Bro-Choicers’ first post, on the topic of why we, as owners of penises, might still be interested in the abortion debate. As a man who has sex with men (although not as often as I’d like), I would appear to be even more at a remove from the discussion. I will…
One of the many, many criticisms levelled against me on a daily basis is that I don’t use Tumblr ‘properly (KEVIN), whatever that means. So this is now my spot to do little mini-posts that don’t belong anywhere else. Basically, too long for a tweet, too short for a full article blog post. It’s going to be a wild ride guys, hold on to your butts *taps on keyboard with cigarette clamped between teeth*
I recently wrote a short story about fear in your own home. You can read it here.
I didn’t know why at the time, but I’m fairly sure that I wrote it because of uneasiness I felt in my own flat. The council had lain rodent traps in the drainage wells outside of the house, and something had gotten into the walls where it had died. The downstairs hallway was a horror show; first, a fetid stench, and then later, great clusters of huge, slow-moving flies clustering together in dark corners. The pest control people came back and installed a kind of backlight that drew the flies in and stuck them fast on an internal plate, so add in the fly graveyard and the eerie, low light, and you have a recipe for dread.
Probably no wonder then that I wrote about persistent paranoia and worry, and the presence of something horrible in the space where you live and eat and sleep.
Lately there’s been something else.
A long passageway connects my room and the lounge. We have a power saving bulb in there. It still works, but has developed a quirk where when turned off it flashes and strobes for a few seconds. That’s more than enough time to give the brain ample room for coming up with something nasty.
Initially I simply found it a bit creepy. Nothing much doing. Then I imagined seeing something terrible in those flashes; it’s such a cinematic idea. The first image that came to me wasn’t so bad because I knew where it came from; it was Bob, the nightmarish figure from Twin Peaks who had scared me so badly when I first saw it. Bob was ostensibly nothing too terrifying; how can a man who wears double denim be a problem? But him turning up in the show was always an unsettling experience; his grinning, contorted face, and wide implications for the things that haunted those woods around the town. And of course the strobes; one of the ways that David Lynch made this simple figure more terrible were the flickering, otherworldly lights that signified his presence.
The next thing was worse. That pulsing sspa be has the effect of turning environments you know and are familiar with into alien worlds. Or perhaps a negative world; the feeling of having slipped into some dark, alternative version of your own existence. A place where bad things live. What my brain did - what my brain often does - is not to trick itself into seeing something that is not there, but to imagine the worst thing that it could possibly see. So this is what I half saw; saw in my brain’s eye.
The doorway leading to the lounge, in the fluorescent flickering half-light. A creature too big to pass though it. Far too big. It crouches, and it has marked me. Stooping, knees bent, it is lowering itself under the frame, two great hands gripping it at either side; I perhaps expected it to have claws, but instead it has huge, misshapen hands. Clumsy, groping hands. It is emerging from the door. I cannot see it’s body. It’s head is all eyes and mouth and teeth. Eyes lidless and staring. Jaw hanging open limply and blackly. I see it emerging in the strobing light and then the light is gone, and I think that if this were something real it would be best that I cannot see what happens next.
jesus christ everyone it’s charlie brooker and here he comes to tell you what he thinks about things. if you’re david cameron or someone on the tv you’d better watch out. it’s going to be bad times for you when he starts to do his words. he is good at doing the internet and knows how to give you problems on social networks.
Anyway here’s charlie’s favourite albums of the year, or maybe mine, whatever, don’t be a dick about it
Aiden Moffat and Bill Wells - Everything’s Getting Older
Otherwise known as that one with the Scots chap talking over the piano that was on Radio 6 constantly for a month. Nothing else has touched this for me really. The Copper Top’s warmth and gasping, low-key sadness. The Lynchian narrative and sparse instrumentation of Dinner Time. The stomping, and utterly, utterly filthy Glasgow Jubilee. Yeah, this.
World’s End Girlfriend - Seven Idiots
On one hand I want to pick this apart with precision: the fusion of all the styles he’s dabbled with over the years, the unmistakable little marks of Japan (from the simple chiptunish synths, to note-perfect guitar work, to emotive, sailing strings), the expertly crafted jazz breaks. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that it makes me grin like a twat however, and that there’s a psychadelic funk jam on here that makes me wonder what kind of twisted porn you could soundtrack it with. Let’s talk about that later, yes, just you and me?
Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
What happened here? Last I recall she was doing passable pop; this is still pop, but really impressively touching and surprisingly affecting at times. Thoughtful, uplifting, and surprisingly refined.
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
I’m not even a huge fan. But here, over the course of these tracks, she shivers, glitters and storms. And through the politics and earthen images of the lyrics, there is plenty of stuff here that you can flat-out bellow along to. On Battleship Hill is the true revelation on here for me, running from true, feather-touch delicacy to teeth-clenched, elemental rage.
Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
I sometimes wonder if I can actually class myself as liking ambient stuff; much as I like tracks that are designed to wash over the listener, it needs the right context. All too often that context is me falling asleep with the entire works of Stars of the Lid lined up in a playlist. So I’m particularly lusty whenever something ambienty comes along that holds my attention from start to finish; indeed that reveals more and more of itself over repeated, and intensely concentrated, listens. Also you can fall asleep to it if tipsy, that’s cool too.
Zomby - Dedication
This came out like a series of sketches, not really feeling like full songs but things that are to be remixed, reshaped and reformed. Each one is sweet, though; a little nugget of awesome. You just have to hover your finger over the rewind button.
Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
IT CAN’T BE COMFORTABLE WHEN THE WHOLE THING’S ABOUT TO FALL IT CAN’T BE COMFORTABLE WHEN THE WHOLE THING’S ABOUT TO FALL IT CAN’T BE COMFORTABLE WHEN THE WHOLE THING’S ABOUT TO FALL IT CAN’T BE COMFORTABLE WHEN THE WHOLE THING’S ABOUT TO FALL
Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
It’s running a bit of close one against the World’s End Girlfriend album for the most fun thing on this list, but this is going to edge it because of pure rump-shaking glee.
How To dress Well - Love Remains
I have perhaps soured on this a little as time’s gone on, but I think that’s to do with hearing a lot of other bands that nimbly appropriated this sound. None quite so well, however.
Cold Cave - Cherish The Light Years
Blimey, the production on this! I’m not even sure if I completely like it. But it certainly helps to drive these songs into your brain-hole. It’s hugely aggressive on the ears, but it suits the songs; they’re brasher and more confident than ever before. This is pretty much indie-metal.
Fredrik - Flora
A beautifully-crafted and understated electronic album that holds some wonderful songwriting; I think you could conceivably transmutate most of these songs to other genres if you liked. Don’t try that though, it’s lovely as it is.
Three Trapped Tigers
Makes me feel like my eyes are going to boil out with excitement. There’s something very specific about bands basing songs around these menacing, low, growling synth parts and twisting, shaping them into spazzed-out earbursters.
Olafur Arnaulds - Living Room Songs
I hated that I didn’t get to include And They have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness in my best-of last year (OH BECAUSE IT’S SUCH A MARK OF PRESTIGE) but this more than makes up for it. Shorter, simpler, and with a more straightforward, live-style production, it’s absolutely beautiful; Lag Fyrir Ommu in particular is a wrecking ball, opening with sparse piano notes accompanied only by the sound of the action of the instrument itself. Intense and intimate.
I have no issue with including OSTs on these lists, and that includes for videogames. Nier itself - the game - was a real curio. Baffling design decisions, a borderline incomprehensible plot and overwrought cutscenes, strange mechanics; but occasionally inspired, always ambitious, surprisingly funny, and possessed of an absolutely unique atmosphere (not to mention a story that somehow managed to come very, very good indeed). That atmosphere was due in no small part to the music, much of which was outsourced to a very committed artist who, in line with the game’s plot, devised lyrics for the songs which encompassed a wide range of languages, Seriously, some of this is extraordinary. Much of the best stuff in here is orchestral: melodic, intense choral chants over massive brass sections. It’s startling. And then it’s affecting and delicate, soaring vocal parts over strings and piano. And then it’s incongruous and incredible: those same vocals laid over great, beating rhythms beaten out on seemingly room-sized drums. It’s at it’s worst when mawkish; some of this strays into sentimentality. But what I will say is that there’s a version of one of the character themes that sounds like it could be a bittersweet Girls Aloud number, all bright strummed acoustic guitars, disco beat and harmonies. Cripes.
I dreamt that I was 10 years younger
and that I had the chance to do it all over again
with the knowledge and experience that I’d gained
expertly skipping over those challenges that caused me such strife
seducing and manoeuvring with knowing looks
unmaking decisions badly made and quickly regretted
imagine conversations with friends with brains a decade younger than yours
imagine having your achievements stripped away
imagine knowing where and when deaths lay in wait and not knowing whether to interfere
imagine a world that branches into unfamiliarity at the first decision
imagine all those relationships built up now lost
imagine losing everyone you know
I had a nightmare
These albums were King Hurley’s favourite albums of the space-year 2010:
Have One On Me - Joanna Newsom
Infra - Max Richter
Roots for Ruin - Les Savy Fav
Dark Night of the Soul - Sparklehorse, Dangermouse
Tomorrow, In A Year - The Knife
Does it Look Like I’m Here? - Emeralds
King Night - Salem
Total Life Forever - Foals
Subiza - Delorean
High Violet - The National
Recitation - Envy
Dust - Ellen Allien
We Were Exploding Anyway - 65daysofstatic
Hidden - These New Puritans
Lucky Shiner - Gold Panda
Returnal - Oneohtrix Point Never
Go - Jonsi
Personal Life - The Thermals
By The Throat - Ben Frost
Fang Island - Fang Island
Basic Nature - Calories
Mines - Menomena
I’m New Here - Gil Scott Heron
Treats - Sleigh Bells
Odd Blood - Yeasayer
Crazy For You - Best Coast
The Monitor - Titus Andronicus
Diamond Eyes - Deftones
Body Talk Pt. 1 - Robyn
These were bubbling under:
Swim - Caribou
Forgiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene
TRON: Legacy OST - Daft Punk
Mirror Mirror - The Irrepressibles
The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
Absolute Dissent - Killing Joke
The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae
There Is Love in You - Four Tet
IRM - Charlotte Gainsbourg
No Singles - Japandroids
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game - Anamanaguchi