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My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.
On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Bring on the guests.
OK, I'm done.
(Christ, why am I even SITTING HERE? This is CRAZY. There are SHIRTS TO BE FOLDED.)
In my absence, please welcome a crack team of five guest contributors - all of them "local" - whose names you'll find listed above.
I'll let them introduce themselves, shall I?
Actually, given the appalling lateness of the hour, there isn't really any alternative.
See you all again in early August.
For the curious: you can trace our itinerary over the next two and a half weeks by means of this PDF file from Explore Worldwide. (We're also taking the Amazon extension).
For those without Adobe Acrobat, a summary of the tour can also be found here.
That Magic Band/Wreckless Eric gig, then.
Because I said that I'd review it, even if it killed me.
Bollocks. What did I go and say a thing like that for?
OK. Wreckless Eric: started worryingly. Looked terrified, guitar badly out of tune, opening number very bleak and scary and confrontational, crowd more or less totally ignored him, continuing to talk loudly over the top of the music. K and Buni escaped for a drink outside, as I worried even more about K's capacity to last the evening.
Thereafter, a sudden and welcome improvement. Eric finds form, swaps guitar, relaxes, tells great anecdotes, makes us laugh - and plays some bloody marvellous songs, most of which I'd never heard before. I particularly liked a new song called 33s & 45s. (Actually, it brought an unexpected lump to the throat.) So... not the washed-up deadbeat of my worst imaginings, then. Far, far from it.
Leaving the stage to rapturous applause from a newly converted audience, Eric's parting shot: "It's going the be the night of your lives. If only you knew it."
He knew, you see. He knew just how f***ing fantastic The Magic Band were going to be. And just like all the very best gigs, I am at a complete loss as to how to explain to you just how and why they were quite so f***ing fantastic.
Masterful musicianship, authentic feeling, real love for Beefheart's still astonishing and utterly timeless compositions (for this was no cosy nostalgia-fest; the songs still felt as fresh and as vital as ever). Oh, it's no good. There are thousands of ways of slagging something off, but so few ways of gushing about something so special and so perfect.
Tell you what. Take a listen instead: to the encore, Big Eyed Beans From Venus. The absolute highlight of the night, this completely tore the roof off the place.
(The version you have here was recorded live on the John Peel show, on the night after the Nottingham gig. It is therefore as accurate a representation of the gig as you are ever likely to find.)
So, more importantly, how did K cope with the mayhem?
There was only one word to describe his expression, every time I looked over at him.
Totally wrapped up in the performance. Scarcely aware of the hot crush around him. With a level of concentration that I frequently struggle to achieve. All anxieties rendered irrelevant in the face of such uncontestable genius.
Honestly, I was that proud.
He's going back to see Gong in September, at the same venue.
What forces have we unleashed?
Magazine - A Song From Under The Floorboards.
This week on Uborka, we have all been asked to contribute songs to a forthcoming Official Uborka Mix CD. After a surprisingly brief period of consideration, I have chosen this criminally undervalued single from 1980. You can read about it (and listen to it) here.
The exciting new and "improved" Blogger interface.
(MT users: you may choose to smirk and look away at this point. Something at which you are no doubt well practised.)
Blogger has just hit us with another "improved" user interface. Naturally - this being Blogger - it is not without its pitfalls. Here's what we've discovered so far.
As always, you should NEVER write a post directly into Blogger without doing a Select All and Copy before Publishing. This is due to Blogger's charmingly idiosyncratic habit of occasionally "eating" posts. However, if you've used anything other than plain text in your post, then the Select All/Copy process won't necessarily work properly any more.
This is because Blogger now defaults you to something called "Compose" mode - a sort of halfway house between HTML and full Preview, which is supposed to protect the innocent from scary things like HTML tags. "Compose" mode allows you to format your text in WYSIWYG mode using an expanded toolbar, with new functions such as numbered/bulleted lists, blockquotes, font style & size, text colour etc. It then generates your HTML behind the scenes for you. (Delicate souls may care to avert their eyes from some of the more imaginative HTML that is auto-generated. Users of MS Word's "Save as HTML" facility will know of what I speak.)
However. When it comes to Publishing (or even, so Peter has discovered, to Previewing), Select All & Copy will not serve you well in "Compose" mode. For starters, it will not save the actual HTML which you have just constructed - just the WYSIWYG version, which will only be of limited use to you as a backup.
Therefore. Before Publishing (or saving as Draft, or perhaps even Previewing), I recommend first switching to "Edit HTML" mode, using the tab at the top of the editor window, and then using Select All & Copy. Just to be on the safe side.
Secondly... beware of Blogger's new font size selection facility. If you have ever tweaked your template to add a CSS class of "small", then this will come into direct conflict with the new "small" text size option, as Blogger will attempt to create its own div class=small statement. The subsequent cludge that it makes of closing the div tags is not a pretty sight to behold.
And here's me with new guests! Don't worry, my darlings! If in doubt, just keep it simple... but ALWAYS use Select All & Copy before publishing.
Update: Do please forgive me for being such a snarky little madam about what is still a free service. I know they're doing their best, and I'm almost certainly giving short shrift to what is probably, on balance, a significant improvement for many people. It's just that all of this came at rather a bad time, shall we say...
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Es un mundo pequeño.
A former-colleague-turned-good-pal of mine (yes; the one does occasionally convert into the other) has been on a teaching sabbatical in Chile for the past three months. Given our impending holiday, it only seemed polite to drop her an e-mail.
Passing your way (kind of...)What I certainly hadn't expected was this reply:
Well, I guess you'll be coming to the end of your time in Chile by now - and here's me with my first proper e-mail. God, I'm crap...!
Hope it's all been a blast - I imagine you'll be travelling around the place by now, so maybe you'll be picking this up at some tiny Internet cafe in a tin shack in some obscure one-horse town in the depths of the Andes. (If the Andes can be said to have "depths", that is. Geography was never my strong point.)
As the title of this e-mail suggests, K & I will indeed be passing your way very soon. Although I use the term in its most comparative sense: we'll actually be holidaying in Peru from this Saturday (July 17) for two and a half weeks. Well, Peru is almost Chile, innit? Well, same continent at least!
Anyway, we can hardly wait... to stock up on ponchos (they're back!), to immerse ourselves in the beautiful, timeless of sounds of the pan-pipe, to feast on succulent llama burgers, and to get blasted (*) on coca leaf tea ("good for altitude sickness").
Hola !So. Can you guess where we're staying on Sunday and Monday?
Well then, I've just hopped on in an obsure wee place and the keyboard is an absolute mare... [snip]
I am in Peru at the moment and for the next 2 weeks. I am doing the Inca Trail tomorrow for 4 days, and will be in Cusco on Saturday 17th, moving on swiftly to Ariquipe on Sunday I think for some kulture and some canyon exploring, so my god if you are about I'll check my mail on Saturday.
That's right. Ariquipe.
Let me recap. In the entire continent of South America, I know precisely ONE person. (Unless we count that guy from... no, perhaps we won't.) And that same person is going to be in the SAME town as us on the SAME night, in just three days' time.
My life never fails to astonish me.
See you on Sunday, Fi!
(*) Or, um, maybe not. Thanks for the info, Meg.
Those of you who have been clamouring for a sighting of The Tufts should do whatever it takes to get your hands on a copy of tomorrow's Nottingham Evening Post. In its regular "My Favourite Pub" column (or whatever it's called; I'm unsure of the exact title), K will be drooling over the delights of the Cock & Hoop (formerly the County Tavern) on High Pavement. With pictures! In colour, probably!
There is also a fair chance that tomorrow's paper will carry an interview with Dymbel, whose eBay book has hit the Amazon.co.uk Top 50 on several occasions this week.
Hmm. This is all getting very Local, isn't it?
[taps side of nose meaningfully]
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
So, farewell then, Porny Boy Curtis.
It's Funny Because It's Shit, R.I.P. Archives, comments, blogroll, the lot. Gone, all gone.
One of the best blogs I've ever come across. Truly outstanding.
It's hard not to speculate as to why the site has been pulled so suddenly. At times like these, one can't help but suspect an Awful Story Behind The Scenes - but it's probably best not to pry. Instead, I'll just wish PB all the best for the future, and hope that he re-appears one day, in some form or other. Because a talent like his shouldn't be kept from public exposure for too long.
The "can't be arsed to find my own links" competition: the result.
When all is said and done, you have to vote with your heart, don't you?
And so, if I am to make a truly honest choice as to which of the shortlisted links is my particular personal favourite, then the answer has to be...
[steadily getting louder]
[swelling to a deafening crescendo]
ModHaus: modernist furnishings, decorative arts & cultural artifacts of the 1950s-70s.
(submitted by Sue)
Because - and despite not even owning anything remotely similar myself - I'm an absolute sucker for this kind of stuff. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... and so reasonably priced, too!
Sue: your flagrant cheekiness has paid off. (In actual fact, it was neither here nor there. After all, a good site is a good site, regardless of provenance.) A Summer Burn 2004 double CD will be winging its way to you shortly.
Thanks to all who participated - including Courtenay, whose desperation to win the CDs was evidently so great that he actually tried to pass himself off as a non-blogger. (What, as in "I'm not actually blogging at this precise second"?) Cheekeh moonkeh.
(Bloody good set of links, mind you. I very nearly relented.)
Monday, July 12, 2004
Impending sparseness alert.
Oh, great timing.
On Saturday morning, we fly to Peru for two and a half weeks. You can therefore picture the flurry of preparatory activities, as we feverishly draw up To Do lists, and audit our entire wardrobes for suitable all-weather clothing.
I wasn't therefore best pleased to discover, just four days ago, that my presence would be required in Paris this week. Don't they know I've got T-shirts to iron? But needs must, and I am nothing if not 101% committed to maintaining optimal levels of client satisfaction, hem hem.
I'll be flying out to manky old Charles De Gaulle this afternoon, and flying back in to dynamic, thrusting Nottingham East Midlands tomorrow evening. (I guess that's what they call a "flying visit".) We then leave for London on Friday afternoon, in readiness for a Saturday morning flight from Heathrow to Lima, via Miami.
Naturally, this means that blogging will be taking something of a back seat this week. You know how it is.
(Although fear not: I'll be writing up that Magic Band/Wreckless Eric gig before I go, even if it kills me.)
While I'm away, there may be guest blogging; I have a notional team in mind, but still need to get the invites mailed out. As none of these people know that I'm about to invite them, it does all rather depend on the uptake.
Up and away, then. The dizzy glamour of the departure lounge beckons.