Thursday, 29 April 2010

In the

Every now and again I engage in some futile exercise to drive up traffic. Usually it's after a week with no visitors or the day after a spike. Thanks to the Groggle entry receiving hits via links on Twitter and another blog, this time it's the latter.

So, here's my latest attempt, a Facebook group .

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Google vs Groggle - Mindboggled.

First things first - I like Google. I like it very much. They've singularly re-shaped the Internet. I've used their search engine almost exclusively for the last 10 years, signed up for Gmail in April 2004 after chasing people all over the Internet so I could butter them up for an invitation, use Youtube and Maps daily and, probably most importantly, they allow me to write my rants on their blog service. I applauded their decision to reverse course on the whole China/censorship thing. In short, I think they are good.

But news today that they have issued a 'cease and desist' letter against an alleged typosquatter has left me puzzled. (Read the rest, lazyhead...)

Monday, 26 April 2010

Not My Cup of Tea (or Teabaggers are a Big Group of Illiterate Droolers Who Don't Have Two Hemispheres of Brain to Rub Together)

Despite initial appearances to the contrary, this is not really a blog about tea. Ah tea, that rich, deep, smoky brew you drink through whispered early morning curses because you forgot to buy coffee.

Being Irish-born, I'm very familiar with the joys of a nice cup of tea. I was brought up with the implicit understanding that an Irishman would forego anything rather than miss out on a drop of 'tay'. Real tea too. Bags were not allowed in our house. I'm pretty sure I was near full-grown before I had a cup of tea made from a teabag.

The first moments of nearly every childhood weekend were spent trying to avoid tea, or rather, my father's need for it to be the first moment of his weekend. Making my way from bedroom to the main part of the house meant a necessary journey past my parents' bedroom. If I moved too slowly, I'd be spotted. Too fast and I'd hit that pesky floorboard in the hall. Any awareness of my conscious presence would be met with my father's standard morning greeting, a half-asleep directive of 'Stick on the auld kettle there, Narm.'

Those days are long gone. My Dad now drinks his tea with the creator of the universe, where I presume he doesn't have to wait to catch someone tiptoeing past his paradisal chamber. As for me, I'm almost exclusively a coffee drinker. On the rare occasions I do drink tea, I (gasp!) take it black, or (horrors!) drink chamomile. The similarity between my namesake above and myself ends there. Except for our noses, maybe.

Right so... (Read on...)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Songs to Ease Your Work Day Journeys

Winston Churchill once apparently said something along the lines of 'If you find a job you love, you'll never work again'. Most people never find a job they love. Even those of us who are striving for that kind of life have to subsist, to go through the motions in order to survive.

Recently, the company I 'subsist' for changed addresses. My daily traipse to work consisted of a five minute train ride. Now it's a quest, not least because one lazy bus makes me late. The round trip used to be about 20 minutes, walking included. Now it's a fingernail under three hours. Despite this, there are a couple of advantages. I get a lot more reading done...and I get to listen to a lot more music.

If you are the kind of person who would rather do most anything than sit for an eternity on a public conveyance with a bunch of other people who also look like they'd rather stab themselves repeatedly in the genitals with a knitting needle than be heading to their day of work, this entry is for you. The songs listed here are designed to make the experience just a little more tolerable, with the sincere hope that you'll walk in the door just a little happier than you were when you left home. I've also included a few 'wind down' songs for the trip home.
(You've come this far...)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

'Obama the Monkey' & Other Stories for the Unevolved.

Okay, long story short. I've been thinking a while on a Tea Party/nutcase blog but haven't been arsed. Then that little Young Liberal kiddie or Westfield Super Junior or whatever they're called these days had his little Twitter spit. Little did I know that a local happening would bleed quite nicely, albeit perversely, into the happenings on the American fringe. (Read more...)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Pixies Live - Brisbane - Tuesday 30.03.2010

Twelve days after the first Brisbane gig, the band was back in town. I don't know if the promoters had underestimated their appeal (not surprising, I guess, in their 87-91 recording career they never scored a Australian hit) but they'd left no gap for a second Brisbane show. So it was that they tacked on a second show, the last of the Australian-NZ tour.

This time I was joined by my dearest friend Renae. We met up outside the Fox at around 8. This time we were on the floor. The pub was a lot quieter before the second show, so I thought that the crowd would be 1) younger and/or 2) more keen to get in and stake a good spot. Surprisingly, the Convention Centre was still pretty empty by the time we got inside. Security was tighter this time around. Instead of ripping tickets they were taking them and issuing wristbands. One of the staff told me that they'd had problems at the first show with people coming out with two tickets and getting friends in for free. There was also a huge sign proscribing cameras and all that stuff. That may have been there the first time, but i didn't see it. In any case, there were literally dozens of people filming bits of the show with no consequence.

When R & I first saw the Pixies in 2007, we were about 10 back from the stage, right in front of Kim. We took the same spot again, but much closer, one spot back from the barrier. Once again The Art were pulling their crappy rock moves and generally making the pre-Pixies time drag. Renae and I spent the set trying to work out the gender of the drummer. It was a guy, but his skintight shirt made his chest look extremely feminine and bouncy.

About ten minutes before the show started, a few latecomers who couldn't be arsed with courtesy started the old 'shove my way to the front' manoeuvre. What had been an almost perfect spot became a fetid nightmare. I ended up beside a 6' Amazon bogan woman who apparently had the uncanny ability to wipe her arse with her armpits. She was ugly, stupid and foul-smelling. Her companion was an equally drunk monstrosity with a torso like a Spanish question mark. They argued for a while until he fucked off towards centrestage, scattering small people with his massive tub of guts. Stinking drunk woman lost her balance a number of times, sending me sideways into Renae. The odour of her salted sewage armpits was overpowering. Every time she whacked into me she gave a lame 'sorry' and went back to being an obnoxious cunt.

I started filming a few songs because she was ruining the show for me and I wanted something to take away from it other than her stench and constant yelping of lyrics that bore no resemblance to any Pixies song I've ever heard. Finally, about halfway through the main set, she grabbed my shirt to stop herself from keeling over completely. She just managed to right herself in time. Just as she opened her mouth to offer another meaningless apology, I turned to her and in utter frustration said, in as clear and unequivocal a voice as I could muster: ''.

Yes yes, I know. I shouldn't have called her a cunt, but she was a cunt.

Other than that, the show was as powerful and tight as the one a week or so earlier. As I mentioned earlier, I did take some footage but the sound is horrible...and a barrier security guard took a dislike to my filming half way through Gouge Away, despite the fact that about six people around me had been filming bits and pieces...and I'd only taken footage of about three songs. Renae said later he kept staring at me, like a guy with an N95 who knows all the words is some kind of bootlegger.

The only difference between the first and second shows was the 2nd encore:

In that regard, the first show left it for dead. Closing with 'Velouria' was never going to be as strong as 'Where is My Mind?'

I've made this experience sound like a downer...and in comparative terms, I suppose it was a bit. But it was still a Pixies gig with a band in blistering form and for that I'll always be grateful. I'm going to get a copy of the 30th March show and lay it over some of the footage I shot...when that's done, you'll have a chance to sample it for yourself.

This band is an acquired taste. A number of my friends just don't understand why I love them so much and I've never had any way of explaining it to them. No way that made sense to 'em anyway. But I've long since given up trying. If you've never heard a Pixies song, go have a listen. If you come away having enjoyed the'll know exactly what I mean.

Here's a threebie from them, one sweet, one screamy and one just flat out rockin'.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Pixies Live - Brisbane - Thursday 18.03.2010

There are few things in life better than seeing a Pixies gig...except seeing two. Over the last couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of their company on two occasions and it was well worth it.

My first brush with the band was in 1988. I heard the song 'Gigantic', either on Brisbane's Triple Zed or Sydney's 2JJJ, I can't remember. I thought it was a good song but didn't immediately froth up in a zealous rock groupie lather and rush out to buy Surfer Rosa.

It was a year later that they hit me. My favourite band at that time was U2. A week after I saw 'em play three sold out shows at the BEC, U2 was on Sydney radio doing a relaxed post-show interview with Triple M's Rob Duckworth. I was at Margate Beach in Redcliffe in my then-girlfriend's car. Ah, young and short-lived love. I knew the band was going to be on, so while we were 'embracing' in the back seat, a tape deck sat in the front.

The band was in good cheer, laughing and joking around while playing some of their favourites. I don't have the tape anymore, but I remember them playing Simple Minds' 'Up On the Catwalk' and 'Tokyo Storm Warning' by Elvis Costello. Then Bono introduced the song which would dethrone U2 as my favourite band. It was 'Monkey Gone to Heaven'. The next day I went out and bought Doolittle and the Pixies have been my favourite band ever since.

So, on to the first gig...

Thursday 18 March

An hour or so before the venue doors opened, many of the first gen Pixies fans could be found across the street at the Fox. In 1989, when Doolittle was released, there was no Convention Centre and the Fox was a gay pub called The Terminus. If Pixies had graced us with their presence back then, they would most likely have played Easts Leagues Club or Metropolis. In the days before Nirvana came along and scruffed us up, we all would have been dressed quite well for a gig like this.

My friend Rob and I wandered over at about 8. The doors were already open and the support act was wailing away inside. Outside there was a graduation ceremony taking place. It looked like it was for one of those English language colleges. We walked past just as 100 mortared graduates were preparing to fight to the death over a sumptuous feast spread of 12 microwaved canapes.

A lot of people don't bother turning up to see the support act at shows and watching The Art, I could understand why. They were not a great choice. They pounded through their songs in a serviceable way, but they were very RAWK!, the lead singer a bastard child of Steven Tyler, Jim Morrison and Michael Hutchence. All 'moves' and no balls. For a group of young'uns who seemed desperate to show off their slithering cock-rock histrionics, they were strangely sexless and unappealing. Maybe the whole pelvic aspect has been done to death. Or maybe I'm just turning into an old bastard.

Rob and I were sat quite close to the front, on the OP side. For those of you who don't know theatre, that means Opposite Prompt. I hope that clears it up for you. Hehe.

I'd chosen seating just to have the experience of seeing the band from a relaxed position where I could just soak it up. I'd seen them from the mess of people in 2007 and would be on the floor again for the second show. With a band like the Pixies you don't know if they'll ever be back, so I wasn't taking anything for granted. At first I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. As the snippets of Un Chien Andalou wound down on the large screen at the back of the stage, the smoke billowed, the four huge light balls lit up and the band sauntered on, I felt as if there was no real intensity of atmosphere. The feeling was made no better by the first few songs, which left the initially welcoming audience a little muted. B-sides always reveal the hardcore fans.

Things warmed up though, as they kicked into one of my favourites, 'Manta Ray'. It's really the perfect Pixies song for the beginner. It has all the elements Pixies are known for: the soft/loud dynamic, Francis singing sweet, Francis screaming, Kim's unassuming yet vital backing, Dave thumping like fuckery and Joe jamming that one note till it near chokes.

As expected there was little interplay between the band and audience...and very little between band members. Kim spoke briefly to the crowd every now and again but it was pretty much all business. In a recent interview Charles (Black Francis) was honest enough to admit he was less interested in the art at this stage of his career. He wanted some money. While Rob was a little put off by the pre-show on-screen shilling of live CDs (available ten minutes after the show's conclusion) I have to say that I'm glad the band is getting what is long overdue. These extremely ordinary-looking, mild-mannered people came along at a time when rock was soft and a bit square, honestly. They didn't change its face and they didn't go alt/wankerama like Sonic Youth. They just made it concise, visceral and they sliced the corners off square. They paved the way for a less bombastic, more edgy breed of rock, kicking off most notably with Nirvana. If those bands could be inspired by the Pixies and make a ton in the early 90s, I say that the Pixies should be allowed to make a bit of scratch 20 years on.

Plus, they still rocked like fuckery. And they made it seem effortless. They didn't prance like tits, they didn't pull any 'stylings', they just stood there like four middle-aged public servants in black, tearing to the core with songs about salary man suicides, surrealist films and King David's adultery.

They powered through Doolittle in order of album track listing, Kim making mention of how short albums were 'back then'. The biggest cheers came for 'Here Comes Your Man' and 'Hey'. After closing the album and the 'show' with 'Gouge Away' they linked up downstage for a bow as the screen behind them showed pre-recorded footage of the band in playful Mexican wave mode.

They came back for two encores, a standard twoser of 'Wave'(UK Surf Mix) and 'Into the White', then Brisbane was treated to a five-song second encore. It must have been because they were breaking our Pixies cherry, because I'm pretty sure all other cities got four. The house lights were up for this last batch and by the time they ended with (arguably) the most-loved song in their catalogue 'Where is My Mind?', 4000 people in the Convention Centre were not so much enjoying a rock show as communing with the great unsung heroes of rock. Rob (who had his Pixies cherry popped that night) later described the experience as almost 'meditative'. I walked away buzzing in their joyous noise. They were crisp and searing, tighter than 2007 when they played the most mania-filled show I've ever witnessed and still ranking as one of the greatest bands in the history of popular music. Of course, that's a general statement. In my personal opinion, they ARE the greatest.