Monday, December 27, 2010

Lagging Behind

Being jetlagged is really rather difficult for me (unlike my father, I seem unable to "just ignore it"). Being at home jetlagged while the Ashes is taking place in Australia is really, truly not helping me get over it.

It's been a bit of a tumultuous thing to get here, but snuggled up with the extremely lovely Betty the white & black cat by me, a cow patterned blanked, a glass of shiraz, cricket on and working away gently while absolutely full of turkey and turkey gravy sandwich, it's rather nice. Oh, and England having a 360 run lead while five down at the MCG doesn't hurt either.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010: In Tunes

These are, at least for now, my favourite songs of the year.
  1. Home - LCD Soundsystem. I was already falling more and more in love with this, and then saw it live - performed for the first time - at the Wellmont Theater gig in Montclair, NJ. The Murph felt he couldn't do New York I Love You, but You're Bringing Me Down in his home state of Jersey, so they did this instead - utterly perfect. And that was the point where I fell completely and utterly in love with it. And now it's my favourite song of the year, by miles. I love his ability to express doubt and ambivalence and fear and make it what's great about loving someone. I don't think there's anyone else who writes about friendship in quite the same way, and it's perfect on here:
    'Cause you're afraid of what you need
    Yeah, you're afraid of what you need
    If you weren't, yeah you weren't
    Then I don't know what we'd talk about
  2. Turns Me On - Big Boi. A handful of tunes on Big Boi's album could have made this list, but this is by far my favourite.
  3. Tightrope - Janelle Monae. One of the best videos of the year and, of course, written by Big Boi. But that's not only why I love it - her delivery is delicate and deft, and the result is so delightful - plus, of course, it gets the entire party moving. Brilliant.
  4. Barbra Streisand - Duck Sauce. Bonkers song, bonkers video, bonkers everything and absolute genius.
  5. Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do - Robyn. I wasn't as bats for this album as the rest of the known universe, but I absolutely love this. It's not exactly Che-levels of rebelliousness, but it's just great - a perfect juxtaposition of a catalogue of the (perceived) pressures of modern life with thumping beats, and then just a childish but heartfelt reaction. Perfect pop.
  6. Flash a Hungry Smile - Mystery Jets. I can't help liking them - I don't know quite what it is given that they're quite cheesy, but I do, and the whistling in this just gets completely and utterly stuck in my head.
  7. Why Does the Wind? - Tracey Thorn. I loathed Everything but the Girl for yonks, assuming they were just another twee band (before "twee" meant what it does now in terms of music). It took the glories of Protection, the single and even better, Better Things off Massive Attack's Protection for me to "get" the charms of Tracey Thorn's voice. I then started listening to Walking Wounded, and it became my running companion in the early 2000s - just glorious. Her voice sounds so simple, but has a wonderful ability to convey emotion without being OTT, particularly a soft, gentle yearning. I really liked her album - it was nearly in my top 10 this year - and this is by far my favourite track off it - just lovely.
  8. Saturday Come Slow - Massive Attack. I wasn't entirely convinced by this album, but this is just lovely - yearning, and a wonderful use of Damon's voice - it's incredibly like that on Beetlebum, which also provided that low, huskier part of his range without the mockney stuff - which I love too, but this is a strikingly different sound.
  9. Wile Out - DJ Zinc & Ms. Dynamite. Although I love a bit of Dy-Na-Mi-Tee, my favourite Ms Dynamite is still Booo!, and I just love her toasting - her voice is utterly perfect for it. Always nice to show a little love for DJ Zinc, too, who has managed to move away from drum & bass without much trouble.
  10. Church - The 2 Bears. There's something of the Ian Dury about the strongly accented vocals, and it's just a joyful tune with bells in the background, the organ throughout, and then the uplifting vocals. It's lovely.
And now, of course, for my favourite remixes of the year...
  1. Sincere - MJ Cole, remixed by Nero. This is an amazing dub version of Sincere, and it's also led to my being reacquainted with the original, which is as classic a piece of 90s garage as one could wish for.
  2. Starry Eyed - Ellie Goulding, remixed by Penguin Prison. Everybody (quite naturally, given the dubstep fascination right now) went nuts for the Jakwob remix, which I do like, but I love this - so cheesy, but it pulses forward and cuts through the cloying sweetness of her vocals, as well as making great use of Theophilus London's vocals.
  3. Riot Music - Don'ae - both the version mixed by Skream and also that by Shy FX. Both of these are wicked, frankly. That's all. Expect me to be the only person dancing to this at NYE, but I shan't care a jot, I tell you.
And a special mention for Jazzy Jeff & Mick Boogie's summer mix album which wiled away many summer evenings this year. Fab.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010: The Albums

I was going to be a bit pathetic and not put these in an official order, but I think I have to.
  1. I'm New Here by Gil Scott-Heron. The production is wonderful, his voice is glorious - it's not just spoken word, it's somehow blues and soul and soaked with pain and anguish and years of thought and abuse. And I love it. Absolutely magnetic.
  2. Sir Lucious Left Foot the Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi. This album is absolutely spectacular. Kanye may have got the plaudits and the nods from many, many lists of the albums of the year but this to me leaves it for dust. The production is inventive and playful, he sounds spectacular and it's funny, smart and just genius. Turns Me On and Tangerine are going to be on repeat for our New Year's party. Cracking.
  3. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem. Well, duh. I do love the Murph, we all know that. It's not Sound of Silver but, frankly, how could it be? Instead it's older, wiser, and Home is getting on for my favourite LCD track ever - at least, it's in the top 5. Maybe even top 3. Bliss.
  4. Swim by Caribou. Apparently Mr. Caribou describes this record as sounds as if it were submerged in water and somehow, that just fits it beautifully. It has those slightly muffled qualities, and the warmth has that dazed, filtered sunlight feel to it. I love this - I've listened to it a ridiculous number of times and I find something interesting each time. It's got a really structured feel to it but it's not rigid - it flows, follows some pattern that I don't understand. Which makes sense, as the dude has a PhD in maths.
  5. Dirty South Dance 2 by A Trak. Ok, so this is a mash up album so does it count? I dunno, but it's grand. I love the choices he's made on this, mixing up some seriously big hip hop names (Kanye, Ludacris), showing love for Kid Sister and then jamming them with house/dance tracks of the summer. TOH and I have listened to this a LOT this year.
  6. Crazy for You by Best Coast. This was my album of the summer - just really good power 60s-style girl pop. It somehow sounds modern and fresh with this album, though, sort of like a Winehouse trick. Apparently they're amazing live, much edgier, so I'm going to try to grab tickets for her upcoming show with Wavves.
  7. Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus. More dubby type stuff, with a fun, inventive streak. I wasn't sure about it at all at first then suddenly - bam. I've listened to it a lot at work. One of the ways I can tell I really am liking an album a lot is that it stays on the nano - now that I don't have that much space, I do have to use what I have judiciously. So there are certain things that I remove because I've not listened to them of late, although they may reappear later on. Cosmogramma has been on since I put it there, and it's not going to be removed any time soon.
  8. The Magician's Private Library by Holly Miranda. So this is really, really not my usual type of thing, and TOH loathed it. But I like the breathy, magical and almost woozy feel to this. For reasons other than just the name it reminded me of The Magicians, which I read this year and really liked, and also of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - something about the fuzzying effect of magic in the real world.
  9. Real Life Is No Cool by Lindstrom. Slinky disco house from Norway. It's ace. And, of course, there is a glorious aeroplane remix available of one of the tracks.
  10. Foundation by Breakage. Came late to this, but I really like it - a bit dubby but tons of great breaks, basically - and anyone who collaborates with Roots Manuva is alright by me.

There were also a few albums that I love that are new to me, rather than new to the world in general. Newly discovered gems. And these I'm not going to number, but I do love:
  • 1 2 3 by Pole. Sludgy dubstep from before dubstep was even invented. Mr. Pole made these three albums, now released together as one album, between 1999 and 2002, I think. They are stunning - sparse, cinematic, atmospheric and dark - absolutely remarkable. This might be my find of the year.
  • Remain in Light / Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads. I knew the hits, obviously, but this is the first time I've really listened to Talking Heads albums. And they're brilliant. The influence on bands I love (i.e. LCD) is quite remarkable.
  • 5: Five Years of Hyperdub is a fantastic gathering of the best of the label Hyperdub's output so far. It's another one that hasn't left my pod since I got it - excellent to work to, apart from anything else.
And just to round this off, the artists I've listened to most in the past year, according to, are:
1 Play

2 Play

3 Play

4 Play

5 Play

6 Play

7 Play

7 Play

9 Play

10 Play

11 Play

12 Play

13 Play

14 Play

15 Play


So there you go. Upcoming: gigs of the year and favourite songs. I bet you cannot wait.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Red Light


Our very first Christmas tree. The cats have shown an almost complete lack of interest in it. Which is probably good for the tree but, I can't deny, a little disappointing. They did enjoy the threading of tinsel into the banisters, so that's something.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

False Alarm

I was about to get very, very, very concerned that somehow I had passed the 600 post mark without marking it in some way. Fortunately, it turns out that blogger, for some reason, counts draft posts as actual posts, meaning that I have about 12 to go, as I have a couple of drafts on the way (songs and albums of the year, natch).

Just so you know. I imagine you're as relieved as I am.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dunzo, Finito, Finis

This morning I started writing a relatively measured post - for me, at least - about how I had realised that the increased joie de vivre I've been experiencing of late has coincided with my withdrawal from politics. I decided it was not worth the bother, really - not much of substance and no attempt to analyse causality.

And then I got back from a three-hour meeting to find that the Senate failed to repeal DADT, has put on hold the DREAM Act, and has voted against passing a bill for 9/11 rescue workers (unpaid for, you see, although that's apparently fine for $700bn of tax cuts for those earning over $250k per year - and god forbid that anyone build an Islamic cultural centre 3 blocks away because 9/11 was too important and it would affect those affected by 9/11).

And I realised that I'm done. I'm packing it in. No more podcasting; I can barely even take The Daily Show these days, it's so depressing. I just want out. Out, I tell you.

This while the students at home finally get excited about politics. Sigh.

Monday, December 06, 2010


This weekend proved yet another of culinary delights and no photographic evidence thereof.* Nonetheless, delightful it was. Friday night saw us grabbing late night martinis (Hendrick's of course, sweetie) and "bar menu" snacks at Cafe Noir. We enjoyed truffle fries, a gorgeous pizza with caramelized onions and a lovely fried egg in the middle, and chorizo arancini.

Saturday was TOH's departmental holiday party. We spent a LONG time cooking, and so arrived late and missed the homemade samosas, which greatly disappointed me. The reason for our tardiness was my being inspired by this lovely lady's musings on her successes with Guinness gingerbread and my attempt to recreate it. I used this recipe, but be warned: only half-fill your tin as you may otherwise have some serious spillage. Nonetheless, it was worth it: the cake was moist, extremely gingery and rich and wonderful. We also made a billion devils on horseback and trolled off to the party, where we were greeted by some glorious singing from a Greek choir (the choirmaster is married to someone in the department and she sang vigorously all the while with a very very small infant strapped in a papoose around her chest - it was amazing). The eating at the do wasn't quite so exciting, but that was probably because we'd been overdosing on sugar from the ginger cake (it had to be tested, obviously) and the amazing zimsterne that our friend made. Basically, they're almonds and sugar and are wonderfully chewy and delicious. We then tried to shake off our sugar crashes by trying out duckpin bowling. Verdict: hard. My hands are a bit small for the ball and it took a while to get used to it, but definitely will have another go - I think it could end up more satisfying (and far less stressful on the wrist) than ten-pin bowling.

Sunday saw us hiking in the Myles Standish State Forest, a lovely part of Massachusetts.
(no creator credited - if it's yours, please let me know).

It was certainly a lot more barren than this photo suggests, but the walk took us through woodland and then would suddenly throw us out into meadows where lovely late afternoon sunlight made the ears of grass glint beautifully golden. After seven miles in the more-or-less freezing temperatures, we felt fairly justified in scoffing a truly delicious meal. TOH and I had sampled some fantastic steak in Whole Foods on Saturday morning, and then he watched the demo lady recreate it. Essentially, you season flank steak and then sear it both sides. You remove to let it rest. Then in the same pan, you melt a healthy chunk of (decent) butter, and add chopped shallots (fairly fine but not minced) and roughly chopped trumpet mushrooms. Add a healthy dollop (around 1 tbsp) of dijon mustard. Let them sweat together and then add either some rosemary or, as we did, thyme. Then add, if so desired, a splash of white wine. After cutting it in thinnish strips (perhaps about 1/2 an inch) against the grain of the meat, you put the steak back in for a final round of cooking so the juices all mix together. We served it with sauteed potatoes and a large serving of roquette/arugula and watercress, and were knocking back pouilly-fuisse - a chardonnay-based white that I can cope with, generally, as although it has the roundness of chardonnay it's not overwhelmingly oaky or in your face. For dessert, the remains of the ginger cake along with some creme fraiche. Add to that a viewing of The Holy Grail and you have yourself a very pleasant evening.

* Well, there is this, at least:

In case you're wondering - and I expect you are - the thing that's attacking TOH is a bushukan, or "buddha's hand," which is a relative of the lemon. It's particularly useful because you get a ton of zest off it without all that pesky juicy fruit inside. Very strange but beautiful indeed. The display caused a great deal of fascination in Whole Foods on Saturday morning as TOH and I took photos of us attacking each other with them. They smell glorious - lemon with a floral, almost rose-like scent.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

We Have Ways of Making You Talk

A while ago, a friend posted about how much she loathed the F-word - Facebook, that is. She has not taken to that form of electronic communication. I have read a lot in the last couple of years (mostly on the internets, of course) that bemoans the myriad forms of communication and how splintered we are; how the internet makes you stupid (there's even a whole book about that - that I know about because I listen to a podcast available through the wonders of the internet, of course). It has become a point of pride for some people that they will never tweet.

I end up somewhere in the middle. These things can be abused, can mute some forms of communication. The existence of Perez Hilton is a prime example of internet abuse, frankly.

Nonetheless, somehow the various social media have forged friendships from casual acquaintances as well as reaffirming others that, while deep, were not really based on keeping in regular touch. I have certainly bonded with relatively unknown acquaintances over amusing/political items posted on the F-word, and that has enabled us to go to concerts and dinners together and actually become real friends.

Moreover, I have a dear, dear friend (who I know reads this) with whom I am terrible at keeping in contact while I'm living in the US. Our friendship was formed before either of us had used the internet and, possibly as a consequence, we don't really communicate by email; the phone hasn't been our strong point either. We continue to see each other on visits, but we haven't kept up regular contact otherwise. Until round about now. Thanks to one particular social network, I now keep up with her every day. It opens a door into her world, what she's up to, where she's been, what's annoying her today. The stream of consciousness which has often formed the basis of our time together is now available to the two of us. It has genuinely changed my life for the better.

That I have one or two examples only probably illustrates the shallowness of my argument, but I maintain that for these cases at least, the fluttering shallow networks have enriched my social life in a way that I did not expect.

Sweet Zeus

I'm really trying not to rise to the bait, but I'm pretty sure that people write articles like this just to annoy me.

I'm not going to get angry - really, I'm not wasting bikram's sense of well-being and relaxed muscles from this morning - but I do have one point to make. (drum roll, please). None of these stupid, idiotic articles ever thinks to question whether that concept of "romance" - that women are helpless things without money and the ability to pay for themselves or open doors - isn't, actually, all that romantic. At least not to all of us. Whereas being thoughtful and considerate - an unexpected offer to cook dinner, rub one's feet, or just a keen need for a hug - is just always great.