Weekend of musical friends

So, Friday was the last commuter jazz gig (or ‘computer jazz’, if you’re the chief exec. of the South Bank) before the big refurb kicks in at the end of Meltdown at the end of June. Peter King was playing, and was marvellous – very fine saxophonist, even if he does play alto (not a big fan of alto, generally – it’s just a tenor sax for kids) – and the aforementioned malapropism-prone chief exec. did a lovely speech about lady jazzshark who as previously mentioned has been booking bands at the RFH since prehistoric days, and will be much missed.

So, naturally, sharky person had a big party afterwards, at a friend’s GORGEOUS flat overlooking the Thames along by Blackfriars bridge. That’s one hell of a view to wake up to each morning, for sure. Much celebration took place, and by all accounts no small about of debauchery, though I left at 10.30, so thankfully missed all that.

Saturday was a fun day – started by meeting up with the wonderful Todd Reynolds – an outstanding violinist, and truly lovely wonderful person. Todd and I have exchanged emails and been reading eachother’s posts to Loopers Delight for years, but hadn’t met, so it was great to put a face to an email address and spend the day filling in the gaps. We went back down to the RFH Foyer for the last Saturday gig before the closure (and therefore JazzShark’s last saturday gig) – many fragile hung over people there from the party the night before (fools… ;o) ) – and a lovely short film about a couple in their 70s who meet at the free gigs in the foyer to dance together.

After that, gave Todd the shortened tourist trip round central London (interesting that my tourist trips never take in Buckingham Palace – maybe my anti-royalist sentiments are spilling over into my appreciation of what’s valuable to see in town. I always take people past Downing Street and along Whitehall (the seat of our sham-democracy) and Trafalgar Square (site of many a kick-ass protest) and down to the South Bank (home of the arts), but ignore any of the Royal nonsense, unless it’s for a quick walk round St James’ Park.

I digress… A fantastic day spent wandering round with Todd, all in. Top bloke, fun day.

Then home, to pick up TSP to head out to Lizzie’s leaving do, only TSP is behind on writing work (TSP is high powered celeb journo, interviewing the great and good about all things healthy), so I leave cinderella at home and head off to the ball on my own.

Lizzie is one of life’s lovely people – a fantastic photographer/photo journalist, and very funny lady. Party was full of lovely people, naturally, with no repeats of Friday night’s debauchery (totally different group of friends here…) So good send off for Lizzie, but crap that she’s moving (only to Bristol, so we’ll still see lots of her, but still…)

Sunday – head off to church, but it’s an ‘away match’ (meaning that a family from outside the church are having a christening – though it turns out they were from the church, I just didn’t know them – major black mark against my name for not having said hi to them!!) anyway – decide to go for fry-up at nice cafe on the Holloway Road was Gawain instead. Gawain is a marvellous producer/programmer/musician who has got heavily into community music education and is doing amazingly well. Very inspiring to talk to, with lots of plans for collaborative stuff.

Then home, domestic stuff, drop mixing desk off at St Luvvies to be used at Soul Space service before heading to Finsbury Park tube to meet up with BJ and Juliet to go to Joe Jackson/Todd Rungren gig at Hammersmith homebrew Apollo or whatever it’s called this week.

The reason BJ and I are at the gig is that the lovely Todd Reynolds who I met up with on Saturday is playing with his amazing string quartet Ethel as opening act and collaborator with Joe and Todd (BJ played with Todd in John Cale’s band in the 90s). Juliet had a ticket anyway, so Todd got her an aftershow pass and we all piled down to the gig together.

Ethel kicked out – wow. Incredible energy and performance, and great gig. They looked great, played great, the music was magic and the audience were captivated.

Then Joe Jackson came on – now I’m quite a fan of Joe’s singles collection (playing at the moment, in an attempt to rescue my memory of his music), but the gig was poor. Very poor. The sound was very compressed, and solo voice and piano versions of his uptempo stuff didn’t, to my ears, work at all. The new material was particularly bad. Some of his piano playing was lovely, but the overall feeling was one of big disappointment.

So a lot was rest on Todd Rungren’s shoulders. And he didn’t rise to the occasion either. The songs all sounded thrown away, I couldn’t remember one snippet of melody at the end of any of them, his guitar sound was possibly the worst I’ve ever heard at a ‘big’ gig, and again I was left contemplating self harm as a more pleasant sensory experience than the assault my ears were currently being subjected to.

Then, all change once again. Ethel come back on, and we’re back to the gig being amazing – a Gilbert and Sullivan tune, a couple each from Joe and Todd and an encore of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (after Todd’s solo set I wanted to rename it ‘While My Guitar is Gently put through a wood-chipper’) – I’ve never seen a couple of aging rock stars so outrageously upstaged by a string quartet in my life. If the gig had been 40 minutes of Ethel, followed by 80 minutes of all five of them on stage playing a mixture of hits and misses, it could have been a breathtaking gig. As it was, it was two hours of dire self-indulgent horse-shit topped and tailed by two exquisite but far too short sets.

Ethel were a revelation, and are destined for hugeness. Please go and buy their CD, I guarantee you won’t regret it.

After all-too-brief chat with Todd after the gig, with just enough time to introduce him to Juliet and blag a copy of the Ethel album, it was time to hop on the last tube home.

Soundtrack – Joe Jackson, ‘Stepping Out – The Best Of’.

Gawd Bless Morgan Spurlock

I’d seen it before, but last night was the UK TV premier of SuperSize Me – Morgan Spurlock’s documentary that follows his challenge to live for a month on nothing but McDonalds.

He did it in response to the legal cases in america where obese kids were sueing fast-food companies for making them fat. Now, apart from the initial reaction of incredulity that people couldn’t know that a McDiet would mess up your health, the challenge to the psuedo health nonsense put out by the burger giants makes pretty compelling viewing. Spurlock is fantastic on camera, and his range of interviewees is superb and enlightening.

The failure of anyone from McDonalds PR to get back to him speaks volumes, as does this supremely bogus site that comes up tops if you do a google search on Morgan Spurlock a psuedo-debate site, claiming to debunk the film, run, of course, by McDonalds themselves.

Fried, GM, reheated, reconstituted meat products should not constitute any part of a healthy balanced diet. If they don’t make you ill, it’s just a fantastic testimony to the ability of our bodies to recover from invasion. Just don’t do it – that crap is addictive, unhealthy and won’t actually sort out your hunger.

If you must eat fast food, get a salad sandwich from Subway or something!

I’ve also just found that Morgan Spurlock has a blog – yippee! Top man, three cheers for Morgan Spurlock – bring on the closure of every McDonalds in the land.

Soundtrack – the rough mixes from yesterday’s recording session with Cleveland Watkiss – some fantastic stuff, some overly-long sprawling stuff ripe for editing. But over-all, a very promising first session!

Ooh, I hope this comes to the west end!

It’s no secret that one of my favourite comedy films is ‘The Wedding Singer’. Well, it’s now being turned into a stage play in the US, slated for a run on Broadway in April 2006.

I SOOOOOOOOOO hope this comes to London – there are some classic script moments for any 80s nostalgia freak, and it’s got to be worth the ticket price just for the mullets.

‘you want to be fonzie, don’t you?’
‘yes I do’

marvellous stuff.

SoundtrackCathy Burton, ‘Burn Out’; Bruce Hornsby, ‘Harbour Lights’; M83, ‘Before The Dawn Heals Us’.

The Crepe'd Crusader

certainly brings out mixed emotions in most people. Firstly he’s the loveable cheeky cockney chap, naked chef, bringing new life to TV cooking. Then he became the overexposed Sainsbury’s poster boy, in all the ads, doing voice overs and generally overstaying his welcome. So he reinvents himself as the crowned king of worthwhile reality TV.

What did he get right? He picks things he cares about. Unlike, say, Gordon Ramsay, who just came across as a miserable bag of turd, belittling B-list celebs live on TV (all the ones with any backbone walked out – respect to the late great Tommy Vance for that!), Jamie picked subjects that would change the lives of ordinary people for the better. In , he took a bunch of relative no-hopers from rough backgrounds and gave them the chance to train to be top chefs. They’ve still got jobs. Their lives are on a different path. Magic.

His next project was in a whole different league. Jamie took on Britain’s school dinners in . It took months to film, and started in one school, with Jamie trying to get the kids to eat properly. What they were eating was truly shocking. The worst kind of junk food, the same crap every day, zero nutritional content. Just rubbish, rubbish that will eventually kill them. And Jamie cared. Really, not for a moment did even the most cynical of hacks question his motives. Watching the programme, it’s inconceiveable how parents have let it get to this stage. The kids couldn’t recognise vegetables!

So he goes on a crusade, getting 55 schools in Greenwich to move over to his new menu. He works within the insane food budget that he’s set, he convinces dinner ladies to work unpaid overtime, he wrecks his homelife in order to make this happen.

Suddenly pain-in-the-arse Jamie is transformed into we-need-more-people-like-you-on-TV Jamie. A hero, fighting the beaurocrats who will sell the kids of the nation’s health for 15p a day.

It’s riveting viewing, and I really really hope things change. Things already are changing. The teachers report back a total turn-around in the kids’ concentration levels, attentiveness and behaviour patterns, just through the change of diet.

Come on, Ruth Kelly, get it together!! As Education Secretary, she’s responsible for the decisions, the one with the purse strings. Jamie’s done the work, written the handbook, drawn up the recipes. All you need to do is ban the junk, and pay for the training.

It’ll reap HUGE rewards in the future when these kids aren’t all rotting in hospital from preventable diseases.

So, let’s get behind Jamie, sign petitions, campaign, make a fuss. The future of the kids’ health depends on it. Go to the campaign homepage, and start kicking up a fuss.

Soundtrack – David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ (Evil Harv is generally a malicious and sinister presence in the world, but all is forgiven for introducing me to this album a couple of years ago).

Jerry Springer – The Opera

No, that’s not just a clever heading, it’s an actual show. For those of you outside the UK, it’s a stage play that’s been on in London’s West End for about two years, getting rave reviews and packed houses. The basic premise is it’s a satire on the Springer Show, that ends up with Jerry getting shot and going to hell.

The BBC filmed it, and showed in on TV on Saturday night, and what’s noteworthy about that is the volume of complaint from Christians, accusing the show (that 99% of them knew nothing about, and were quoting made-up figures for) of blasphemy and obscenity. One of the marvellously outlandish claims was that the show features ‘8000 swear-words’ – yeah, only if you multiply up each time the chorus sings one by the number of people in the chorus (27)… what bollocks.

So, anyway, the program drew the largest number of complaints ever for a BBC show, and not only did it draw complaints but there were demonstrations outside the BBC buildings around the country, with people burning their TV licences, and waving placards.

…and then people wonder why I’m reticent to talk about matters of faith, when I’m likely to be lumped in with people who do things like that.

What a moronic thing to complain about, what a disgusting waste of campaigning time and effort. What a feeble target. What a huge embarrasment to thinking people of faith the world over.

There are so many huge injustices in the world that christians should be complaining about, from unjust wars to unfair trade laws, third world debt to child prostitution, institutional racism in the police force to potentially rigged elections in so-called democratic countries. And these schmoes pick on a TV show. A marginal TV show, on the BBC’s ‘arts’ channel. A show that none of them had seen. A show about which they felt it neccesary to make up stats to back up their claims of it’s shock-value. Good God.

Why on earth can’t these same self-righteous moralising masses get of their lazy arses and complain about shit that really matters? God, I get so angry at stuff like this. I missed the show – why? cos I was volunteering in a homeless shelter. Does that make me Mr Worthy? Not at all, I do one night every other week for three months of the year, while the people who really deserve us to be supporting their protests are out changing people’s lives with little regard for their own safety and comfort.

I’m not suggesting everyone should like Jerry Springer The Opera, I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing to complain about. But at least watch it first!! And calling for the broadcast to be cancelled is madness. What kind of weird country are we living in?

Once again, the outcry against a marginal bit of art has turned it into a huge hit. The viewing figures for JSTO will almost certainly be over double what they would have been. The BBC news have had a field-day reporting on the complaints, flagging up the broadcast every hour or so on their news reports, making a huge deal out of it. The same thing happened with ‘The Last Temptation Of Christ’, which wasn’t even looking like getting a full cinema release until some overly zealous complainants got their teeth into a campaign and made it a box office smash.

Maybe I need to release an album with really disgusting titles to all my tunes and get organisations like Christian Voice to do my publicity for me? (for some reason this bunch of particularly zealous muppets ended up getting tonnes of airtime over the campaign… even amongst the people who protested, they were particularly odeous. Poor old God – with friends like these, who needs enemies?)

Please, please, please – channel your campaigning energy and righteous anger into things that are going to change the lives of those who have no power to change things for themselves. Support the Make Povery History Campaign, lobby parliment for trade justice, write to your MP about the rights of asylum seekers and the homeless in your borough, push for better recycling, start a soup run, volunteer with a charity overseas, send money to the relief effort in Asia, scream on the street corners about the tragedy of the Tamil communities that have been cut off from the aid that’s going to Sri Lanka. Anything, anything but whinging about TV shows.

So who’s up for joining my new Messianic Taoist group?

As one year ends…

This is a great time of year for me – Christmas, then my Birthday (28th – you missed it) and then New Year – lots of time for reflecting on a year gone by, and looking forward to the year ahead. Time to compile daft lists of favourite things from the last year, and make resolutions about things to do in the coming year. To count my (many) blessings, and resolve to see the good things as they happen in the year ahead.

A couple of books that I find useful for this kind of thinking – Proverbs, attributed to King Solomon in The Bible, here translated by Eugene Peterson – some marvellous advice for living. The link starts you off at Chapter one.

And the Tao Te Ching. taoteching.org is an online version, though not a particularly inspiring translation. (my favourite translation that I’ve looked at so far is This one, by Ralph Alan Dale – definitely worth reading.)

So, anyway, I’m 32 now – not that it really means much; you see all those lists in magazines about ’50 things you should have done before you’re 30′, and I’m usually very relieved not to have done three quarters of them – most seem to involve a high risk of either death (yours or someone else’s), disease or at least a serious loss of dignity… No thanks, my life’s quite exciting enough. You never see ‘do a solo bass gig at the Royal Albert Hall’ on those lists…

One of my ongoing resolutions every year is to practice more, and for 2005, I’ve started early. Been practicing quite a lot in the last few days, hoping to keep it up into the new year. Not writing any new music at the moment, strangely, but I am working on a couple of new technical things that I’m happy with…

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Plumb’; Brian Eno, ‘Music For Films’; Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’.

Christmas TV gets it right for once…

Usually, Christmas TV is all about blockbuster films, climactic soap storylines and the Queen’s Speech.

This year, Channel Four presented what is arguably the best ever bit of Christmas Day TV – a documentary entitled Who Wrote The Bible?, presented by Robert Beckford. A fascinating look at the origins of the Bible, it’s writers, the earliest manuscripts, the relationship between written word and oral history and the various agendas at work in what was kept in and what was left out. Fabulous viewing. Robert Beckford is a speaker I’ve heard a few times before at Greenbelt – engaging, interesting and massively well researched.

Well done Channel Four! For a self-confessed BBC fanatic like myself, it was interesting to see them being totally outclassed in the quality programming for christmas day this year.

Lost on me… Lost in Translation

OK, The Small Person and I just watched Lost In Translation… am I missing something? Did anything happen? Was there some really subtle deep character development and plot magic going on that I’m just too much of a philistine to see?

It was all fairly pleasant visually, nicely lit, etc. but ultimately seemed to be a film in which nothing much happened. There was no sense of a special friendship developing between the two main characters, beyond neither of them really wanting to be there. Bill Murray’s character didn’t seem to go through any epiphanous moment in his clubbing/partying scenes, but neither was he rescued from feeling hideously out of place by Scarlett whatsherface… One of the least developed plot lines I’ve ever seen. And for a film that appears to make so much of the fact that they didn’t end up jumping into bed together, very very little was made of Bill’s character shagging the lounge singer – once again, the female half in a cinematic sexual-encounter is reduced to a footnote in a story serving the rest of a lame non-plot.

He’s still a sack of shit for screwing the singer, so don’t pretend he’s all heroic for not doing the same with Scarlett… What a load of bollocks. Sophia Coppola’s got a lot of work to do to uphold the family name… Still, she did match her dad in the great soundtrack/shoddy film stakes – his deeply forgettable film ‘One From The Heart’ has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, courtesy of Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle.

Soundtrack – Weather Report, ‘The Is Jazz’ (a best of, covering all of it, not just the Jaco years).

Festive Fives Pt 2

Films (again, in no particular order)

School Of Rock
Harry Potter III
Shrek II

Soundtrack – right now, some me-loops. Before that, Duran Duran, ‘Greatest’ (a pressie from me to the small person for Christmas); Kerry Getz, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’; Top Banana radio’s non-stop christmas hits.

A big clearout…

…of old emails.

I got one of those pesky Windows windows that tells you things you generally don’t want to know on my screen yesterday, only this one told me I only had about 100meg of space left on my harddrive… time for a clearout. As I’d just been trialling a new email client, I thought I’d check how many emails were on my harddrive… about two gigabytes worth is how many – somewhere in excess of 30,000!!!!!!! Shit, I’m a worse hoarder than I thought… Anyway, what proceeded was an email cull that resulted in the untimely demise of over 12,000 emails. We’ll see how many more get the chop over the next day or so.

Now I’m just trying to get it into shape so I can make the transfer to the new client smoothly. Been wanting to get rid of Outlook Express for a while, so I downloaded Mozilla Thunderbird – I’ve been using the Mozilla browser, Firefox, for about a year now, and it’s way way better than IE. So thought it was time to switch my email as well…

What else has been going on? Lots of promo related stuff for the gigs next week, as well as some teaching and admin-type things.

The Small Person and I have watched a few films over the last week or so – Zoolander, Shrek II, and School Of Rock were all marvellous, top films.

SoundtrackShow Of Hands, ‘Country Life’, Gin Blossoms, ‘New Miserable Experience’; Chic, ‘C’est Chic’; Steve Lawson, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt I’; Stevie Ray Vaughn, ‘Texas Flood’.

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