Archive for December, 2005
First things first: above is today’s advent picture: a semi-frozen lake in Schöneberg.
Frozen lakes are quite common in Berlin during the winter, which is nice for the kiddies, I guess. I’m so tempted to see what Billy would make of a frozen lake, but fear he’d end up breaking his leg or something daft like that.
Second things second: As the above picture hints at, I finally got around to making an FFF Does thing about my trip to Miami back in August.
Third things third: When I’m doing this blog thing, I write it onto (into?) a text document that lives on my desktop before putting it up here for you to see. I mainly do this just in case my browser flips out and quits taking my, cough, pearls of wisdom with it.
This text document, G-notes.txt, also serves as a dumping ground for any half-formed ideas for stuff to write about. I’ve come to realise, though, that most of those ideas stay half-formed, and I never bother to write about them. And now I have to scroll down about two screens-worth of document to find some empty space before I can begin writing that day’s entry.
As it’s coming up to the end of the year, I figure that I should leave all this stuff behind, but being a stickler for not letting anything just go, I’ve decided to do a short summary of the things that I might’ve written about over the past nine months. Think of it like a record company releasing a b-sides album when a band is taking too long to make a new album.
Topic 1. I’m happy to see Maradona looking healthy again. It was kinda sad seeing him all bloaty for the past few years, but seeing him nice and slender, smiling, whilst wearing an anti-Bush t-shirt: that’s great stuff.
Topic 2. When I’m working, I tend not to get up for breaks as often as I should. Having Billy around, though, means I do get up from my desk to take him out or play with him for a bit (that usually involves chucking a ball around the flat or teasing him with it until he wants to do some play fighting).
But my biggest form of relaxation is air-musicianing. I can just about air-musician to anything that iTunes throws at me, but these are my favourites: air-drumming to Down Down by Status Quo and the whole of Dark Side Of The Moon, air-guitaring to November Rain by Guns N Roses, air-pianoing to anything with a piano on it, and air-Wondering to Stevie Wonder songs. That last one just involves smiling, pretending to be blind, and doing that cool thing he does with his head.
Topic 3. After a migraine, ear pain, eye pain, whatever: it always feels so nice to be normal again. Feeling normal after feeling crappy feels amazing.
Topic 4. I’m happy that Daniel Craig is the new James Bond.
It means that for the third time in my life, the next Bond film will be one that I’ll go to the cinema to watch. Not that I don’t like Bond films: I do, very much. It’s just normally I don’t need to see them in the cinema; and for most of us Brits, James Bond films are a very telly thing. They are a part of Christmas. Presents under the tree; wanting to dash off to your bedroom to listen to that new LP your sister bought you with her “pocket money” (ie. not her pocket money at all, money that Mum gave her to buy her brother a present); wolfing down turkey; wishing that maybe, just maybe, those clouds might have snow in them; having to sit through the Queen’s speech; and then, hurrah!, a Bond film. Nothing was cooler as a teenager than watching a suave fella with a flash car, loads of gadgets, and that fleeting glimpse of the side of a voluptuous lady’s breast. That’s the life I will live, I’d think to myself as I trudged to the kitchen in my slippers to get a glass of milk and a bourbon biscuit during the break.
So, after For Your Eyes Only (seen with my family on holiday in north Devon), and A View To A Kill (on my own at Lincoln’s now-closed ABC), the next one will be one I shell out for at the kino.
(And if you like Daniel Craig too, and have never seen it, you should seek out a DVD of the BBC series, Our Friends In The North: it’s fantastic.)
Topic 5. Recently, I was exploring the horror genre of film. It was something that I’d not really bothered with before, but I ended up seeing films that mainly made me shrug. Maybe I just saw the wrong ones, but I didn’t find any of them particularly scary or horrific. Worst of all was the day when I swallowed hard, cracked my knuckles, and picked up A Nightmare On Elm Street.
And A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
And A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
And A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
It was part of a grand scheme to watch the whole series of eight films over one weekend. But I gave up after The Dream Master. I was bored. The first film was frustrating cos the one thing the girl kept telling her boyfriend (a very young-looking Johnny Depp) was not to fall asleep, which he duly did. Every. Single. Time.
It was hard to take the second one seriously when one of the big scary scenes was taking place in a bedroom with a Limahl poster on the wall. The third one was okay, but the fourth was a return to the crappy form of the first sequel.
Has anyone seen any of the others? Are they all rubbish?
Anyway, more of this random cleaning-up stuff tomorrow, I’d imagine.
Wouldn’t it be horrible if the person who’s voice was used on the Tube/subway/metro/U-bahn announcements was that of your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband?
I only mention this because the voice that does the announcements on the Circle line in London always remind me of Princess Diana. I’m sure he never uses the Tube, but I got to wondering how Prince Charles might feel hearing his dead wife’s voice on his way to the shops every day.
And, of course, if you had a nasty break-up, you’d really have to use different transport to get from A to B.
Anyway, if you’ve not read it before, there is an interview on B3ta with the woman who does the announcements on the Victoria, Bakerloo and Central lines.
I’m pretty sure my money would be safe if I put on a bet that each and everyone one of you will hear someone – a friend, a family member, a stranger on the bus, yourself – over the next couple of weeks say that Christmas has got too commercial. If by some weird freaky chance you’re married to the boss of Universal, Sony, Microsoft, Walmart, or some such corporate giant, you‘ll probably hear your spouse say the exact opposite.
For as long as I can remember I’ve heard people say that Christmas is too commercial. Similarly, for as long as I can remember I’ve noticed those exact same people spend loads of money on gifts, booze and Quality Street. Christmas seems to be as commercial as we allow it to be.
One small part of that, amongst all the bigger concerns of where our society is going, is how advent calendars have changed. Is it actually possible to go to Woolworth’s and buy an advent calendar without chocolate inside it these days? I hope I’m not just romanticising the past, but I seem to remember enjoying simply opening up the windows and finding a new Christmassy scene to look at.
Hey, chill out, Craig, it’s only a tiny bit of chocolate! Well, aside from the dubious qualities of allowing children to eat chocolate at breakfast time, isn’t it just a sign that we’ve given up on Christmas being anything other than an opportunity to stuff ourselves and spend more money than we have on stuff that makes us fleetingly happy?
And anyway, from an aesthetic point of view, a nice little Victorian snowy scene behind a window is far nicer to look at than a chocolate-shaped indent in a sheet of vacuum-formed plastic over a crappy line drawing of a snowman.
So now can we open our hymn books to page 42…. (just kiddin’.)
Oh, and by the way, today’s advent photo is the Christmassy effort from the hairdressers across the street.
I’ve got nothing to write about today, so here’s the advent photo. It’s the window of a bakery on my street. Quite pathetic use of that aerosol snow stuff, I think you’ll agree.
Today’s advent picture isn’t particularly spectacular. It’s a photo of the new Brian Wilson CD, What I Really Want For Christmas. Horrible, horrible artwork, and a fairly uneventful record. It’s nice enough, but, y’know, I’ll listen to it a couple of times and then stick it in the Beach Boys shrine.
I’ve been a bit down on Brian since his Live 8 appearance, when his proper Berlin concert was cancelled, (they say it was due to less-than-spectacular ticket sales – since when did not selling-out a concert straight away mean artists could just cancel the show, huh?), yet he still came to the city and played a handful of songs in front of a bunch of indifferent Green Day and A-ha fans.
And now this album. I’m all in favour of Christmas albums, there’s a couple of handfuls of them in my record collection, but the packaging… fucking hell, it’s so insulting. I’m guessing the only people who buy this album are those, like me, that will dutifully trek to the shops and buy anything with Brian’s name on the front; so, y’know, make a fucking effort with the artwork, would you? Using that silver-y mirror-y type of cardboard isn’t big or clever, it’s cheap and nasty. Slap on a clip-art bow: we got ourselves a CD cover, boys. The on-disc art is just as tossed-off: a red bauble with Brian’s head Photoshopped onto it so it looks like it’s reflected. But done really badly. And to think that record labels wonder why we all ignore their pleas for us to stop illegally downloading mp3s…
While I’m on the subject of music, when I was in the UK, I did the requisite amount of shopping in that most money-sucking of shops in London, Fopp. It’s one of those shops where everything is priced just right. None of this £9.99 rubbish, everthing is nice round amounts: £5.00, £10.00, £12.00, £15.00, etc. And everything is at the price that is the tipping point between leaving something on the racks and opening one’s wallet.
(Plus their name is kinda cool. When I used to work for a record distributor, I used to talk to someone at one of the Fopp shops in Scotland, and was told the reason for the name. Wikipedia says the shop is named after an Ohio Players song, but that’s not what I was told. It’s an acronym, apparently. The last two words represented in the acronym are Poor People. You can guess what the F and the O mean, can’t you?)
Anyway, a couple of the things I bought were the Babyshambles album Down In Albion and the re-issued edition of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run.
As anyone who saw this might’ve worked out, I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s like my wise uncle who tells me good stories and lends me good records, ‘cept I’ve never met him, and he knows not who I am. He’s been a constant joy in my life for over 20 years now, so I don’t really worry about re-buying an album just for the extras.
I also really liked the two Libertines albums. Of all the modern guitar-y groups who’ve got one foot stuck in 1979, they, to me, seemed the most convincing. I love how their records sounded like they were about to fall apart at any moment, and it was just will power that kept things going.
So, in a way, it’s interesting (for me, anyway) to compare both of these albums. Both are third albums by the artists involved. Both are kinda make-or-break albums. Both of the artists were around the same age when these albums were released (Bruce was a month shy of 26, Pete is 26). I guess it’s unfair, though, to compare a record that seems to have come to be regarded as a, and I hate to use this word, classic; while the other has been on sale for about three weeks, but I’ll do it nonetheless.
Down In Albion is rubbish. Okay, that’s a tiny bit harsh, but it’s not good. But it’s such a huge disappointment after the ace-ness of the Libertines records, and the lovely, acoustic demos of the songs Pete Doherty allowed to float around the Internet. Hearing a gorgeous song like Albion have the shit kicked out of it by a crappy band and dull, lifeless production is a real shame. And I think that’s what makes this album different to the two Libertines records: it’s lifeless, there’s no dynamism. The knocked-out-with-a-guitar-and-a-tape-machine-ness of the demos just doesn’t translate when seemingly knocked out with the same attitude in a studio with a band. Is being Kate Moss’ junkie boyfriend really how you wanna be remembered?
Born To Run, on the other hand, still sounds magnificent. If you don’t like Bruce Springsteen, you’ll probably not like it. But, hey, you’re wrong. It begins perfectly (Thunder Road), ends perfectly (Jungleland), and it’s shit-hot inbetween. That’s how to make a third album. That’s how to take the good start you made with two good albums and take that next leap forward.
And anyway, Born To Run is integral to the greatest ever moment in The Sopranos: Tony and Silvio having a meeting. Christopher walks in.
Tony asks, “Where the fuck you been? You’re late.”
Christopher replies, “Highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.”
Cue Springsteen fans the world over nudging the person they’re sat next to, going, “Eh, look, Springsteen lyrics… and Silvio… played by-” [companion falls asleep with boredom].
I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be doing something Christmassy on FFF this year. I hope to, but I can’t be sure. This is why: the story I wanna do requires a fair bit of planning and drawing. I’ll try, but I’m not promising anything.
Anyway, someone commented yesterday, asking why I didn’t have an advent calendar on the site this year. Err, I just don’t. But while I was out and about today doing some chores, I figured that because Berlin is a very Christmassy place, maybe I could take a photo of something every day and present it for you here.
So that’s what I’ll do. I’m gonna try not to cheat and stockpile photos; I will make an effort to make a photo every day. So, it’s the 1st of December, so here’s today’s advent photo: buckets of senf und ketchup at a Bratwurst stand at Alexanderplatz’s Christmas market.