Archive for July, 2005
I can feel myself slowing down. I’ve been working all day, then trying to make the most of each evening. I’ve developed a cough, sore throat and a bit of a stuffy nose. Last night, Friday night in New York City, I couldn’t face all the people around this part of the city, so I took the subway down to Battery Park, and had a nice walk along the edge of the water. (Quick question: is that where Rosanna Arquette fell over and bumped her head in Desperately Seeking Susan?) Past the war memorials, past a fellow quite opening urinating into a flower bed, past a Latin-ish band (apologies for my ignorance, but they could’ve been from anywhere south of the US for all I know) that were making people dance, past lots of dogs taking people for a tour of the trees, past rather swanky boats, past many many many sweaty joggers.
I was exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel. The only time I moved from the bed after that was to let room service in with my food. I lay there letting my feet calm down, watching the Yankees vs Angels game and a documentary about the Bee Gees on telly.
This morning, the nagging little bastard who lives in my brain woke me up early to remind me it was the weekend: do stuff! do stuff! do stuff!
So I went for another walk. A leisurely walk up 5th Avenue along the east side of Central Park to do the Metropolitan Museum Of Art and the Guggenheim. The Met was going well. I went straight up to the roof to see the Sol LeWitt exhibit, Splotches Whirls and Twirls, on the roof, which was wonderful, especially against the Central Park and Manhattan skyline background.
Some African and South American stuff, some Greek stuff, some lovely Gauguin paintings and other lovely paintings by people who’s names I forget, and what should’ve been exceedingly impressive Egyptian stuff.
But that was the point when I faded quickly: I’ve seen too much this last week. Even something as simple as walking to a deli around the corner is filling my eyes with juicy delights, so as I stood there staring at some hyroglyphics, I couldn’t appreciate it. It was just old stone with pictures on it.
I guess I should’ve just gone straight into the park at that point, but I didn’t. I was close to the Guggenheim, so I still went in, paid my money, checked my bag, walked up the slope to the top, let pictures and sculptures drift past my eyes, then took the elevator back down. There, Guggenheim ticked off list. But not enjoyed.
The park was good, though. I just slipped my headphones into my ears, turned up The Concretes album (an album that I’ve been enjoying more and more since I put it on my iPod Shuffle for this trip) and sat on a rock and watched people doing their thing.
But still the nagging little bastard is telling me stuff (“It’s Saturday afternoon in NYC, you fool! Why are you sat in your underwear in the hotel room watching Jerry Maguire on telly?”). I have a feeling he’ll win the argument. Unless my brain and feet gang up on him by getting a beer or two out of the minibar.
Lovin’ an elevator (sorry, just couldn’t resist working that pun in there)
A self reviewing restaurant
It just got hotter and hotter yesterday, then out of nowhere, the wind picked up, the heavens opened, and it was cool for a while. But that was just as I was on my way up to The Bronx to go and see the New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins. I’m totally a novice when it comes to understanding how baseball works. Over the past week, I’ve seen snatches of it on TV and I’ve slowly worked out the basics.
Outside the stadium, it’s just like going to a football game. Loads of people milling around, drinking beer, folks selling merchandise, ticket touts touting tickets. Inside the stadium, I got a little bronze statuette of some old Yankees player that they were giving away to the first 18,000 spectators (which, after the game, were desperately sought by statuette-less children and parents). And then… the hot dogs and beer.
How different to going to a football match that was. People coming ’round every five minutes or so selling hot dogs, beer, cola, peanuts, candy floss… rather than “excuse me excuse me sorry excuse me sorry excuse me”-ing your way out to an aisle, then having to queue for ages to get a drink like what happens at a football match in Berlin.
So, the game’s about to begin. But first, of course, the national anthem which seems like a pretty popular song. Just like The Macarena or something. And it was sung very very passionately with a bit of vibrato by a finely moustachioed gent behind me.
And they’re off. And good Lord they throw that ball fast! 90-odd mph sometimes. And the batting chap is pretty close, so he doesn’t have much time to react.
The game itself was quite long (nearly four hours). The Twins were 1-0 up in the 3rd innings and it stayed that way for quite a while. Then in the 7th innings, they got three more. Yankees heading for defeat.
Out of nowhere, half way through the 7th innings, just before the Yankees were to bat, the game stopped, everyone got on their feet again and sang God Bless America. Cue quizzical look on my face.
Two more for the Twins in the 8th, but then the Yankees got three, making it a bit more interesting… but to no avail: another run the Twins and the game finished 7-3.
And after stopping to spend more money on merchandise, everyone traipsed back to the subway, but this guy still seemed happy after the defeat.
Considering I knew virtually fuck-all about the game, I really had a lot of fun there.
I wonder if they show baseball on German TV…
Finally, here’s a photo of a pitch invader being carted off by security and the police. He managed to get a good slide into second base before they caught him…
This is the only touristy photo that I’d thought about getting before I came out to New York. Tom’s Restaurant. The one used for exterior shots of Monk’s Cafe in Seinfeld. (Insert slapping bass here.)
Even though it was still hot in the late afternoon, I decided to go for a walk in Central Park last night. I got the subway up to W 110th Street, walked up a couple of blocks to take the Tom’s photo, then doubled back and walked down Broadway for 10 blocks, then cut across to get to the park. There was a sad ill looking dog on the street, just stood there in the middle of the pavement, moving half a step forward, then back. A fellow pedestrian and I both watched the dog, exchanged a sad glance and had a brief chat about him. Aaah! I talked to someone on the street! So happy!
When I got to the park I was pretty glad I’d not explored the other option for the evening, to go shopping downtown. The temperature was far less oppressive in the park and there were squirrels which is always a bonus in any situation.
Everything you see in movies about Central Park seems to be true. It’s full of joggers, people walking dogs, playing frisbee or throwing baseballs. Old folks watching the world go by, students reading books and making notes. Couples snogging, cyclists pedalling, rollerbladers rollerblading, children playing, friendly homeless folks bumming cigarettes of smokers, tourists photographing or, for that matter, making mental notes about what to blog about.
Here’s some photos.
Over to the edge of the park to get a photo of the building where John Lennon lived and died:
By the time I got back to the hotel, I’d walked 65 blocks. Hot and sweaty with aching feet, I sat in front of the air conditioner until I got goosebumps.
Oh, one last thing: I’ve been wanting to do try beef jerky for a long time. I finally did so last night. And Europe, I can report the following: it is horrible. Like trying to eat a slightly-spicy leather wallet.
The project manager rather generously bought me a stack of NY stuff (NY keyring, NY snowglobe, NYPD little teddy bear, one of those green foam Statue of Liberty crown things) to welcome me to the city. All delightfully touristy. Best of all though are these pyjamas. Chic, no?
Oh how happy I was when I had my iTunes on shuffle in my hotel room and I heard the Pet Shop Boys’ “New York City Boy”. Especially as I’m, as the song says, where 7th Avenue meets Broadway. Anyway, that was just an aside..
One of the things I’m enjoying the most so far in New York is the politeness, the friendliness.
Someone bumps into you on the street, they apologise and sound like they mean it. When a waitress serves you she earns her tip with her lovely, attentive service.
Doormen at the office wishing me a good evening as I leave – ping! Craig is smiling.
When I buy cigarettes, I get a book of matches with them – ping! Craig is smiling.
When I buy a sandwich, it’s wrapped perfectly in fresh greased paper, with every filling there to taste, rather than the begrudging smears of, say, mustard you sometimes experience in Europe.
There’s been so many times over the past few days when I’ve smiled at something small that’s happened. And if I think about a similar day in Berlin, there’d have been an equal amount of bad service in the same amount of time.
Of course, it’s not all please and thank yous; turn of Fox News and there’s the most hateful bile being spewed out. If this were an Arabic or North Korean TV station, Bush and his chums would be very quick to condemn the station. As it is, they get away with slating Ken Livingstone, calling him a Communist and London’s “nutty mayor”; they infer that the BBC, with it’s attempts at impartiality, aids terrorism. It’s really horrible. But, I can turn it off. And I did turn it off, and I’ll leave it off.
So, soon, another New York day will be over, and a New York evening will be beginning. Once I’ve got through the revolving doors (they make me anxious), I think I’ll brave the hair-dryer heat and go to Central Park for a while; just as soon as I’ve finished listening to Liverpool’s latest Champions League qualifier match on the internet…
It’s like a New York version of Skegness. Just with more people with scary prison tattoos.
And if you like the beach, there’s a handy US Army recruitment station so you can sign up for some fun in the sand of Iraq…
So we – me, Josh from the agency and his girl – took the subway to Queens. And opposite a anonymous building housing a firm deliciously named International Delights, was P.S.1. It was definitely very very cool indeed. Not only was there interesting current art of all shapes, sizes and styles; it was also one of your big disco dancing social hops too. In a very large concrete courtyard a DJ played records and New York cool children danced in the daylight. They were partying like it was 1999. God knows how they did it, it was hot out there, but it was even hotter inside the galleries with very few of the rooms having air conditioning. Apparently, the stuff on display was mainly New York’s new artists.
There was a beautiful thing that was like a wedding cake constructed out of tracing paper, illuminated from inside, that was so intricate and must’ve taken months to make, which really enchanted me for a while, smiling at every little detail. A small model wood cabin with Ring Of Fire playing and a green laser-ish ring on the inside of the cabin floor and somehow, smoke also coming from inside. Very very intricate pencil drawings in a style like – I don’t know what the technique is called – the drawing on the cover of Coldplay’s second album, like the 3D computer grid mapping stuff. A room filled with yeti and goat-type creatures and subdued disco lights. An oval frame with a very realistic painting of a hand… hold on, that’s not a painting, it’s a REAL hand poking up through a hole! An architectural model of a shopping mall and carpark, with the ground benenath it shapped like a huge military ship called USS Mall. Loads of stuff. Loads.
Oh, and there was a funny moment highlighting the fleeting nature of fame. There was a great photo portrait of John Kerry, and as some people walked in, one of them shouted, “Hey, look! That’s fuckin’ whatsisname!”
I couldn’t take pictures as the security guards were pouncing on anyone who did and standing over them while they deleted the offending snap. But, of course, I used my sneaky poking-out-of-the-pocket trick for the following blurry crap which may give you a taste of what’s happening. And managed to get a semi-decent close up of the wedding cake-y thing:
And near P.S.1, next to the subway, is a very small protected piece of garden-ish ground called Short Triangle which made me giggle.
Back to Manhattan, down to the East Village, to the corner of Avenue C and E 9th Street, to a Brazilian restaurant called Esperanto. Oh Lordy, hand on heart: that was the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You know you’re onto a winner when they bring you a basket of bread and a dish of spicy oil that dances on your tongue. Amazing potato fish cakes, goat’s cheese stuff, and a main course of monkfish in a olive and pepper-y sauce. And to finish it off, a chocolate souffle with the most vanilla-y vanilla ice cream. I don’t know how restaurant critics do their job: it’s way to difficult to describe something so wonderful. This is what you look at when you have a piss in their bathroom:
And this long and wonderful day was all topped off with Howard Stern getting topless Penthouse Pets (with pixellated breasts) to talk dirty on telly as I fell asleep. And before you ask, no I didn’t.
So, what shall I do today…?
It’s an obvious thing, but nonetheless it’s true: New York is like being in a film. Not that I have delusions of being Brad Pitt or something, but the streets, their names, the buildings, the shops, the products; they’re all so familiar from books, TV and films. This morning, I was in Washington Square, and zing! that’s where Meg Ryan dropped off Billy Crystal when they arrived in New York in When Harry Met Sally. Yesterday, I looked at a map, saw Riverside Park, and zing! I’m thinking of Uncle Leo’s son going over “to sort out their operation” in Seinfeld. It could quite possibly never stop. There’s too many book/film/telly references: You’ve Got Mail, American Psycho, The New York Trilogy, Taxi Driver, Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud, Naive. Super, Seinfeld, Wall Street, Friends, Manhattan, The Godfather, Rosemary’s Baby, Sex and The City, Annie Hall, Sleepless In Seattle, Big, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Saturday Night Fever, Cartlito’s Way, Ghostbusters, When Harry Met Sally, The King Of Comedy…
I spent most of yesterday working (not before I’d gone a couple of blocks to just stand in front of the Brill Building and imagine all those great songs being written inside of that building 40-odd years ago). I’ve been set up in a little room so I can do my Minipopping for the client. I’ve got a temporary pass for the building: I’m a New Yorker for a couple of weeks!
In the evening, I went to see some art at the Japan Society. A show called Little Boy with some delicious stuff on display by lots of young Japanese artists. Photogrpahy was not allowed, so I had to take these discreet shots with the camera sneakily poking out of my pocket.
A friend told me which train to take to get there, but even though I know I’ll end up with blisters, I can’t bring myself to use the subway: I’ll miss so much by being underground. So again, this morning I decided to walk walk walk. I got up nice and early, had some delicious eggs Benedict for breakfast in the hotel, then set off. No map, no real plan, I just started walking.
The one thing I wanted to do was get to the Empire State Building fairly early to avoid the queues. Even so, it was pretty busy up there, and on this nice warm clear day, I could see for miles.
Then off down through Madison Square Park, stopped, had a coffee, watched the dogs in the little dog park and missed Billy, down down down, through a lovely market and Union Square, another street market near Washington Square, to Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown.
I’m just chilling for a while now, enjoying the air conditioning in my room before I head off to PS1 this afternoon.
I made a pact with myself to try and note cool things, and be an interesting blogger, but at the moment, I’m too wide-eyed. Sorry about that.
And thanks to everyone who’s left comments and tips of things to see and do.
You gotta love that. As I’m in the taxi on the way to the airport, I’m scarily tense. My neck and shoulders are slowly solidifying into one solid hunk of tough stuff.
After picking up my ticket, I go to check in my bags. I get through all the questions with the right answers. Yes, I packed my bag; no, no-one’s asked me to carry anything for them. And then the best moment of my day: well, sir, it seems I can upgrade you. Thank you, God, thank you. Oh how I loved that moment, How I loved not having to sit in a non-aisle non-window middle seat.
How I loved the idea of sitting in 2F, an aisle seat. An aisle seat, a seat with movement possible in every part. An aisle seat with it’s own little TV screen with 6 different film channels (I watched the new version of Fever Pitch, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Miss Congeniality 2).
Would you like champagne, sir? Yes, please.
Mixed nuts, glass of wine? Hot towel? Salad or chowder as a starter? Delicious pasta with feta cheese, aubergine and chicken? Ice cream? Refill of your coffee, sir?
Yes yes yes yes yes!
Eight hours of pampering later, I’m gagging for a cig. And it’s so close, just gotta get through immigration and customs. All my fears of being bum searched for unfounded. I had a sarcastically friendly dude asking me the questions, who even, when he found out that I was a bit arty, asked about where I’d done exhibitions and wished me good luck.
Finally, I’m sat outside on a trolley cart next to a cab driver, chatting about smoking, the heat in New York and who not to get cabs from.
The journey to Manhattan was Seinfeld. The names of roads for their airport trips. And it was hot. Hot hot hot. Hot like a hairdryer. And there it was, New York. That’s Manhattan, the skyscrapers. Through a tunnel and Lexington, Park Avenue, 35th St, up to Times Square.
Check in. Go to my room. Will it be a good view, or a view of a brick wall. Well…. look at this:
That’s the view out of my window. Fucking brilliant.
Shower, out to meet the agency folk, a few beers watching a Red Sox v White Sox game in a sports bar, and now I’m back at the hotel. Happy as Larry. It’s 11.44 here, but my body’s saying it’s 5.44 tomorrow morning.
Sleep… but maybe a bit of telly first. You gotta love that.
Not necessarily out of the blue, but a bit last minute: tomorrow I’m going to New York.
It’s a business trip, so pinstripe suit is packed, and Financial Times will be my newspaper of choice on the plane. And obnoxious attitude ready to kick in as soon as a steward/ess talks to me. Oh-ho-h-only jokin’! I’ll be the uncomfortable looking chap with a copy of Mojo and an iPod, doing silly drawings in my notebook while my neighbours wonder if they’re sat next to a mentalist.
But oh, the plane… I don’t like flying. There’s nothing I like about it at all. Being up there above the clouds, the seats, the toilets, the food, the no-smoking. Taking off and landing are the bits that freak me the most. But, it’ll all be worth it once I’m at JFK airport.
Well, that’s assuming I’m not strip searched and, err, examined internally at Immigration. I’ve only been to the US once before and that was before 11th September 2001. I imagine it’s a tad more strict these days, and it wasn’t particularly lax back then. Anyone got any tips or tales to tell about getting into the US?
So, yes, it’ll all be worth it once I’m in a cab on the way to the rather fancy hotel I’ll be staying in: The W (Times Square). I’ve gotta quickly learn how much to tip the various people I’ll come into contact with, too. Any advice?
Then, I’ll be doing stuff for an agency out there for the next fortnight (not a modelling agency, you’ll be sad to know: an ad agency. Whisper it: I’m selling my soul to the Devil!). And once each working day is done, I’ll be grabbing a map and looking for nice things to see and do. Again, anything cool to see that you’d recommend?
If there’s no more blogging after today, you’ll know that the plane exploded somewhere over the Atlantic. Otherwise, next blog will be from that New York City.
I like lists. I make lists all the time. There are about 40 pieces of paper next to my keyboard right now with notes scribbled on them. Things to do on FFF, things to write here on the blog, things to get from the shops, records I want to buy, people I need to call.
I am sure I’m not alone in this.
Which leads me to my point. A few months ago I was asked by the lovely folks at Sonic Arts Network to curate an edition of their CD publication. The CD comes with an accompanying book/magazine type thing which also relates to the topic chosen for the CD. For the edition that I will curate, I chose the subject of lists.
And we need YOU!
Are you a bit arty? wordy? musicy? Fancy contributing something? If so, read on, this is the official call-for-submissions blurb:
Sonic Arts Network would like to invite sound/image/text submissions for material to be considered for inclusion in a Sonic Arts Network limited edition CD publication concerning ‘Lists’. The edition will be published in November/December 2005 in a limited run of 1000 editions and will be curated by Craig Robinson, illustrator and creator of www.flipflopflyin.com.
Lists are never far away from us. As humans, we are obsessed with order. We have an obsessional drive to categorise, sort and list everything.
In Art, Literature, Science and Philosophy, lists can be found. Musical examples of listing range from Berio to Billy Joel.
We ask for audio (music/found sound/sound art/spoken word), literature, pictures and suggested reference points.
The idea may be interpreted in the widest possible sense and can be approached from multiple perspectives – acoustical, visual, philosophical and personal.
We encourage a diversity of styles and materials for selection.
The CD and its accompanying print materials will be the sixth in a series of numbered, limited edition audio CDs, produced and distributed three times a year, with guest curators and specially commissioned packaging. The CDs are free to members of the Sonic Arts Network (for more information on membership visit www.sonicartsnetwork.org), reaching practitioners and listeners in all corners of the globe, with a limited number of issues released in selected outlets. Previous artists whose work has featured in the CD series have included: Christian Marclay, Yasunao Tone, Francisco López, Antonin Artaud, Jaap Blonk, Lucia Pamela and a host of others.
No payment can be offered for submissions nor materials returned.
Submissions should be sent to: Lists, c/o Sonic Arts Network, The Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, London SE1 0LN.
Deadline for submissions is 19 September 2005
Further information/clarification concerning the submission of materials is available from firstname.lastname@example.org
So there you go. Still interested? It’d be good to hear/see/read what you do.
Oh, one more thing: please don’t send stuff if it’s the sort of thing you’d see on the McSweeney’s lists page. Not that I don’t like it, just, what’s the point in doing something they’re doing already?
It was a good weekend. Fairly cultural too, all the food groups covered.
First there was the fashion in the zoo thing on Friday. Then we went to a festival called Melt! on Saturday. It was at a place called Ferropolis which is extremely groovy: a big dis-used mining place about an hour and a half south-ish of Berlin. It’s got these huges beautiful machines stood around which look brilliant in the daylight, and look even better at night with coloured lights illuminating them.
We were only really there to see Underworld and Whitey, so it was pretty relaxing, spending most of our time wandering around. It was good. Aside from all the inflatable tents advertising stuff and the big screens behind the stages showing adverts constantly between the bands. It depresses me that even at a disused industrial site in the middle of nowhere, you can’t get away from adverts trying to sell you phones.
And there’s this thing in Germany called a pfand. It’s a deposit you pay on top of the price of the beer or cola etc. so that you return the bottle. All well and good, and something I’m used to in daily life where you just take the bottles back to a supermarket and chuck ’em in a machine which counts them, gives you a ticket, and you get your refund from the checkout. But at some live venues, like this one, they have a con going. A con which nobody in a position of authority had realised is a con. They give you a little plastic token (usually a coin or a ring), so when you return your bottle, you have to also give the token back. No token, no money back. Even if you have done what is needed, environmentally, and returned the bottle. I am convinced this is just a scheme for them to make money, cos it’s impractical to ask your mates for all their tokens if you’re making a bar trip. And why is it needed if not to try and eek out 50 cents here and there from us suckers?
Anyway (breathe, Craig, breathe…), Whitey had a faulty computer meaning they farted around on stage for a while and cut their set because of it (proving, seemingly, that their drummer is just decoration); Underworld were good, but not loud enough (the sound from the other stages was audible during the quieter moments).
Here’s a photo of that moment of Born Slippy:
All in all, though, it was a fine day. Topped off by reclining the passenger seat and sleeping all the way back to Berlin, much to Hanni’s understandable annoyance.
Sunday, I woke up in the afternoon after an extremely frustrating dream: I had to animate episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And it was so much work, so many things to draw over and over with slight movement changes. And the deadline was imminent, and I was working alone, and, and, and…
We then went to see some art. I don’t know what to write about art. I’m totally no good at understanding meaning and stuff. I just look at something and it either looks or, on a slightly more gut-feeling level, feels nice or it doesn’t. Anyway, this exhibition was in another dis-used location; an old cigarette factory, I’m told. And I didn’t pay much attention to the name of the exhibition or the artists, so I can’t give you any real information, other than that yesterday was the last day, so it doesn’t really matter.
As with all group shows, it was hit and miss. A few gems, a lot of chaff and several big steamy turds. The biggest turd of the lot was a “proposal” for a sign on a new building where the World Trade Centre used to stand. The sign was made up of letters taken from corporate logos (F from Ford, C from Coca Cola, etc.), which said something like Fuck Me Up The Ass Daddy. What is the point? Really. What the hell is the point in doing art like that? You think that’s shocking? It’s just rude and un-funny and juvenile. The artist could argue that, “hey, at least you remembered it!”, but, hey, I remember what pumpkin tastes like, it doesn’t mean I ever want to eat it again. Grrr…
Sometimes I just don’t understand why some people want to be artists. And that’s probably the problem: they want to be artists. Surely an artist is something you are; I don’t really see that it’s a profession you choose; it’s, if you will, a calling.
Here’s some photos, though, of some of the better things. Apologies to the artists for not crediting them, but I had no pen to write down their names, and my memory on this particular Sunday afternoon was pretty shoddy.
To finish off the weekend, we rented Ray from the video shop, which was okay. Nowhere near as good as you’d expect from all the prizes and nominations and stuff.
Did you have a good weekend?
Last night I went to the zoo. The zoo at night? Yes, the zoo. At night.
There was some fashion thingy happening in one of the sand-filled play areas, Hanni was modelling her friend’s clothes, so I was obliged to go. Fashion, not really my cup of tea; but zoo, deffo my cup of tea.
After a week of blazing sunshine, it was only fair that there was a thunder storm the evening of the show (a thunder storm that has left many plant pots and window boxes smashed on the pavements of my street). This, of course, brought the what-to-wear dilemma. Not in a going-to-a-fashion-show-gotta-be-cool-as-a-cucumber-in-the-Antarctic way, but in a it’s-pissing-down-but-still-hot way. Drenched with rain or drenched with sweat?
It was good to be at a zoo with so few people around. Billy and I had a nice walk around before the show. Flamingos all flamingoing in the rain, cockatoos (or something) snuggling, foxes going crazy when they saw Billy, Billy going crazy when he saw the hyenas, rhinos wallowing in big puddles, zebras being… stripey.
The rain held off for a while, and the fashion began: people wearing clothes walking ’round with straight backs, music, all that stuff. And it was good.
But not as good as taking photos of goats in the dark with a flash.
I was out with Billy, taking him for his morning business, when I heard whistling behind me. It was loud. It was good. It was some classical thing that I vaguely recognised. I also heard the workings of a bicycle and the tinkle of bottles. These three sounds got closer and closer and then passed me, then stopped outside a shop ten metres in front of me.
The guy on the bike was probably in his late forties, early fifties; he had a shaved head, a flat nose like a boxer, and a huge abdomen funnelled into tiny denim cut-off shorts. He was a big man. The sort of man who’d make you poo your pants if your girlfriend introduced him as her father.
But he was whistling such a beautiful whistle. Then he took the used cereal box full of empty bottles off the back of his bike, and spoke to the alcoholic chaps outside the shop. His voice! Completely the opposite to his whistling. Such a deep, gravelly, scary voice. A voice you only hear in films telling someone that they’ve been a naughty boy; a naughty boy who’s about to get his kneecaps blown off.
Why am I telling you this? Sometimes, it’s the tiniest things that can make your day seem sunny or cloudy.
Once upon a time musical groups had self-explanitory names: The Carter Family, The Mills Brothers, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra; all fine examples of band names that are essentially descriptions. But at some point all that changed. At some point bands started picking a plural word and sticking the definitive article in front of it: The Inkspots, The Beatles, The Tornados, The Shangri-Las. Fast forward to now and we’ve had a gazillion bands with all manner of names: from the ordinary (Radiohead) to the exciting (Roxy Music). What’s my point? Well, there is none really, I’m just wondering which was the first group to ditch the descriptive name and go for something a bit more wild.
I’m guessing the naming process evolved from being stuff like Craig Robinson and The Flyin’ Flip Flops to just being The Flyin’ Flip Flops. Once that step was made, a band could just call themselves The Anythings. And once that step was made, a band could drop the The and the plural and just be some kind of object: Jefferson Flip Flop. After a few years of that, bands can just choose any old grunt and it can be their name: …And You Will Know Us By The Flyin’ Of The Flip Flops.
In general, though, band names aren’t getting better.
Of course there are exceptions, but really, band names are pretty shoddy these days. And it’s not just the The Bands (Killers, Kills, Thrills…), which seem to be in vogue, and I’m sure must’ve been documented to death in various places.
The ones that get me are bands that tell you nothing: Blur. Oasis. Keane. Radiohead. Coldplay. And I know from reading my trivia that Coldplay took their name from another band in their area with that name after they split up. If that’s the level of band name-aspiration that they have, there’s no wonder their lyrics are shit.
And there’s the other extreme: the stupid name bands (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Gaye Bykers On Acid, etc.).
Worst of all, and I think it might be my most hated name ever, is the boy band A1. I assume it’s not named after a road that goes near to my hometown. I assume that the idea was to show how tip top grade A number 1 they were. Open the Yellow Pages, chaps: every campany that offers a taxi service, makes fences, sells washing machines, cuts keys, sells storage space: there’s an A1 EVERYTHING!
Oh why why why am I allowing a minor tinkle in pop music’s history to annoy me?
Maybe it’s because the thing I’m working on at the moment is an animation. I’m not enjoying doing it. I never really enjoy animating. It’s a tedious, dull process that only highlights the limitations of my skills by ending up as a pale facsimilie of the glorious fun-filled plan I saw in my head.
But, really… A1? I ask you…
And while I’m on the subject of names: since when has it been okay to be a banking and insurance company called Egg?
Our washing machine is broken. Another example of the domestication and adult-ification of my life. Not that there’s anything particularly mental about having a washing machine. It’s just, having a repair man in the flat reminds me that I’m no longer a kid. I mean, I know this, but it’s easy to fool yourself sometimes. But I work, pay taxes, buy pictures in frames instead of posters, watch Sopranos DVD box sets: all adult things. Sometimes things come along and remind you that life is going on, you’re not getting younger; like boink! vet bill, blamm! 25th anniversary editions of an album I bought on vinyl. I’m not wallowing, just noticing.
And it’s a reminder that I kinda miss going to the launderette. I don’t miss the schlep down there with heavy bags on a rainy winter’s evening, but I do miss doing something boring. Boring chores often give me time to think. Many a Flip Flop Flyin’ story began as a crumb of an idea as I sat and watched my socks spin ’round.
One thing that’s still the same, though, is this late night working stuff. I’m sat in front of my computer some nights til three or four in the morning; just as ten years ago, I’d have been sat at a desk with pens, pencils, Dymo and Scotch tape, beavering away on another notebook of pre-FFF crap. Maybe one day, I’ll scan some of that stuff and show you.
A man on a groaning bicycle whistling Don’t Worry Be Happy exceedingly loudly; the anarcho-grufty-punky folks in one of the flats across the street screaming at each other; the scary man across the street – our Boo Radley – doing some carpentry topless on his balcony; an Asian woman tripping in her flip flops every few yards as she walked down the street; a happy, bouncing Cocker Spaniel with a short haircut; a man in a wheelchair with a cloth shopping bag on his head; a slow, waddling, lovely-looking Bull Terrier smiling like a dolphin; a man taping an A4 photocopied notice to a lamp post, and the wind blowing other sheets of paper across the road; two woman running into each other on the doorstep of a chemist’s shop, and embracing like long-lost friends; a guy playing air guitar at a table outside a cafe; and a man in a charity shop asking if they had any keys.
All that on top of dreaming about a satellite crashing into a windmill on a beach; it’s been a lovely day.
(Actually, it hasn’t; it’s been a fairly ordinary, hot, stifling, un-creative day. But I’m trying to be a bit more positive.)
Honestly, U2 were the perfect band to be going to see last night. Of course, there were moments during the day when I thought about maybe not being in the mood for a big rock concert. But in the end, what could I do? Sit and watch the same news over and over again all night; my shoulders gradually curling forward, getting more and more stressed. I wasn’t gonna do that.
Last night was going to be special for me, anyway. The first concert I went to, (aside from ones my parents had taken me too when I was a kid), was a U2 concert. That one was at Elland Road football stadium in Leeds, 18 years and 6 days before last night’s concert. That was a concert where I bought t-shirts and a programme, ran to the front and spent the show about 20 feet from the stage (mostly next to hot bloke in a leather coat), not drinking water or beer, not using the toilet, just excited to be at a live concert. Excited specifically to be seeing U2, a band who’s albums had begun to spend all their time at the front of my pile of records over the past couple of years. And it was great.
Last night was different. No running to the front, (I had a ticket for the seated area), nipping out while the band were on to use the loo and buy a beer.
It was a great night, aside from the crappy stadium acoustics.
(Concert improvements pt.4 – isn’t there some way to have some sort of surround sound thing going on in stadiums where they have more smaller speakers rather than just the massive ones at the front? Or would the sound delay just make that a swampy mess?)
It was brilliant to hear some of the earlier songs (I Will Follow, The Electric Co., Sunday Bloody Sunday), the stage set was amazing, and Bono is fantastic at being Bono.
I couldn’t decide which photos to show you, so I decided to show you loads of them. They are, as usual, crappy quality. I was too far away to get good close-ups, and I need a new camera.
When things happen like have happened today, everything gets put in perspective.
There I was, blabbering about idioms; looking forward to tonight’s U2 concert; still thinking about whether I still like Steven Gerrard or not after the last few days; London getting the Olympics; all the G8 stuff: then this comes along.
Thankfully, the few people who I thought might’ve been in that area of London have all returned text messages saying they’re okay.
I hope the people you know are okay too.