The Middle Parts of Fortune

If there's one part of the library I find most interesting, it's the Recently Returned shelves. It's all just a random collection of homeless books. This I consider the best circumstances to come across an unexpected nonpareil. So, the other day I discovered Frederic Manning's The Middle Parts of Fortune (1929). Bourne is a private serving in the trenches, and is in many ways emotionally detached from both his superiors and the men around him. The book begins with Bourne clambering through the remains of a recent shelling, and the writing instantly begins with the gruesome, frank style of portrayal of war that made it initially shocking and successful; "Death, of course, like chastity, admits no degree: a man is dead or not dead, and a man is just as dead by one means as by another; but it is infinitely more horrible and revolting to see a man shattered and eviscerated, than to see him shot." (p.11)

Bourne is known as being a loner within the troops. Each man claims to have woken in the middle of the night to find him already awake, silently smoking a cigarette. But Bourne commands respect also from his superiors and fellows; he can always mysteriously rustle-up extra food rations, or a bottle of whiskey. Bourne is also a genuine gentleman, and although he doesn't wish to, accepts a commission. The tragedy of the book's nightmarish finale are always waiting to be read, with the spectre of death ever present in both the narrator's splenetic portrayal of warfare, but also in the somewhat still shocking to this day use of bad, cynical language between the soldiers. In several scenes of emotional intimacy, Bourne finds himself tenderly conversing with French mademoiselles (details of which are never translated or summed-up, meaning that unless you speak French, Bourne is granted some moments of privacy - a rarity in trench-life) but his fellows coarsely claim he is "cunt-struck" rather than in love.

Manning was encouraged to write the book (based very closely on his own wartime experiences) at a time when few fictional novels on The Great War had been published. The book was initially published anonymously, and also under the original title of Her Privates We; both titles allude to a scene in Hamlet where Guildenstern, Rozencrantz and Hamlet contemplate on which part of Fortune's physique man lays. Her Privates We was also an obvious double-entendre. The Middle Parts of Fortune has been considered by many other authors to be the definitive portrayal of man and war.

I was drawn to the book initially due to the harrowing Frank Hurley photograph on the front cover. Several of his pictures from World War I can be found below, including the original used for the book;

This was the first chance I'd had in ages to read a novel. Aside from ones for the course, I haven't really sat down and read a book for some time.There's just something energetically great about reading a good book. I also think that I've developed an interest in World War I now (which possibly stemmed back some time ago from watching Blackadder Goes Forth, now I come to think about it..)


Rugby-tackling an old person

According to my indisputably canny friend Lizzie, it's perfectly acceptable within the confines of the law to rugby-tackle an old person to the ground; it just depends on the circumstances.

When I go swimming, the way that I walk to the leisure centre goes over a railway crossing, and each time I come to it I find myself hurrying slightly to get across, just in case the barriers should come down whilst I was halfway. The thing is, those barriers come down pretty fast, and I'm not convinced that I could actually dash across in time, which means that essentially I would have to flatten myself along the fence or the barriers until the train had gone past, and I don't know which of these two subsequent eventualities would be worse; the mortally close tendrils of wind whooshing past my face as the train speeds by, giving me a solemn glimpse of what the impact would feel like, or the icy, condescending stare of the train driver as they eye me, thinking is he going to kill himself using the big metal front of my train, or is he just being a daring twat?

One more scenario that is even more worrying is the idea of an old person doddering across and them getting trapped by the swiftly closing barriers, like some form of symbolic, clattering guillotine, portent to the imminent and bloody death of an octogenarian. I brought up my concerns of happening to be around if this were to happen, and Lizzie said that she would rugby-tackle the old person out of the way. I suggested that, if she injured them, they could sue her, but Lizzie said that's not very likely, and also, because of the Good Samaritan Act (1996), it would be thrown out of court. The Good Samaritan Act (as the name suggests) recognises an individual's conscious attempt to save another person's life in extreme circumstances should that attempt fail. Even if the old person dies as a result of Lizzie's massive tackle, chances are she would still walk away - it's a case of accidental death as apposed to certain and abattoir-drainage-system-that's-flooded-over-esque death.

Although Lizzie's sweet-tasting factoid did give me a modicum of hope not only in the legal system but also in the sheer power of reason and common sense, it did also bring forth a few shitnuggets of doubt. For example, supposing a person were to rugby-tackle and old person, then take the Good Samaritan Act, but in actual fact just use it to cover up the fact that they simply wanted to rugby-tackle an old person; a Good Samaritan Act act you might say. Or supposing, out of sheer force of prudery, a person opted for the Good Samaritan Act act to make it look as if they simply wanted to rugby-tackle an old person out of sheer ageist spite, but in actual fact they wanted to save said old person's life (to whit, the Good Samaritan Act act act)? Act infinitum.

How a conversation would go between Charlie Kaufman and I would go should I ever get to speak to him about Synecdoche, New York (2008):

Fox - So.

Kaufman - So.

Fox - I saw Synecdoche, New York the other night.

Kaufman - Yeah?

Fox - Yep. Thought it was good.

Kaufman - Oh, good. Thank you.

Fox - Yeah. Lot going on.

Kaufman - Yeah, I guess so.

Fox - I mean, don't get me wrong. I liked the fact there was a lot going on. Kept my attention. Made me feel..

Kaufman - Intrigued?

Fox - Don't put words into my mouth.

Kaufman - Ok. Sorry.

Fox - Made me feel.. intrigued.

Kaufman - Ok. Good. Well, I guess every film maker wants their audience to be intrigued.

Fox - Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't look anything like you.

Kaufman - What?

Fox - Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't look anything like you.

Kaufman - Who.. said he was supposed to look like me?

Fox - Well, I just assumed you'd pick someone that looked a bit like you.

Kaufman - Why?

Fox - I mean, Nicolas Cage kind of had your hair in Adaptation.

Kaufman - Yes.. but he was playing a character called 'Charlie Kaufman'.

Fox - Oh, hang on.. yeah, I see now. Sorry. I assumed Philip Seymour Hoffman's character was supposed to be you.

Kaufman - Why would you assume that?

Fox - Because.. I don't know, actually. But, hang on, everyone assumes it's meant to be you.

Kaufman - Do they?

Fox - Well, yeah. I think so. It's something people expect from your films. I think people tried to look for you in John Cusack in Being John Malkovich, in Jim Carey in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind..

Kaufman - Well, good luck to them. But only Adaptation. had a character called 'Charlie Kaufman'.

Fox - Yeah, yeah. I know. But, you know, people were looking for something a bit more subtle with the other films. Aspects of you rather than actually you.

Kaufman - Nicolas cage isn't actually me.

Fox - True..

Kaufman - Anything else you want to say about Synecdoche, New York? I mean, it's your dime..

Fox - You know the bit where Hazel's sitting on the bench with Caden? Where they kind of go on the lunch date?

Kaufman - Yes..

Fox - ..and Hazel says she's been reading The Trial?

Kaufman - Yep.

Fox - Well, is that inclusion of a reference to Kafka anything to do with people labelling a certain supposed genre of recent Hollywood films as being Kaufmanesque, and you've reacted to it by highlighting the label Kafkaesque, as if to draw some ironic comparison towards yourself and Kafka - but not in an egotistical manner, instead just as a tongue in cheek nod towards the similarity between the two phrases and the comparisons that certain people will no doubt draw between them?

Kaufman - Got it in one.

Fox - Really?

Kaufman - No.

Fox - If I made a film where the main character bared similarities to me.. with me? With me or to me?

Kaufman - To you. You're still assuming Caden Cotard is based on me.

Fox - Yeah, whatever. If I made a film where the main character bared similarities to me, and he wanted to employ someone to act out himself on stage, I'd chose Brian Cox. Ha!

Kaufman - I see what you did there. Very clever.

Fox - Yeah, and, right, if I needed another actor to play a version of Brian Cox's character who's playing me on stage, I'd choose Anthony Hopkins. Ha ha!!

Kaufman - Mm. Good one.

Fox - I like the fact that Emily Watson got her boobs out, though. They were quite..

Kaufman - Hang on, that's wrong.

Fox - What's wrong?

Kaufman - What you just said. About Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins.

Fox - How's it wrong? They both played Hannibal Lecter.

Kaufman - Yes, I know. But Tom Noonan didn't play Hannibal Lecter. He played Francis Dolarhyde, aka The Tooth Fairy, in Manhunter. As dis Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon. So what you should have said is you would chose Ralph Fiennes to play you, and then get another actor to play the actor playing the actor playing you.

Fox - Like who?

Kaufman - Do you like Frank Zappa?

If there's one thing that initially draws people to Frank Zappa & The Mother of Invention's Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970), it's the cover. This is surely one of the most provocative and strange album covers in rock, if not all music ever created by people who create the magic what is music. The entire album is an astonishing journey into rock, jazz, fusion, and avant garde noise. Most of the album was recorded live (either at shows or in the studio), which is indicated at the end of several tracks with Zappa thanking the audience for seeing the show.

Certain tracks (like opener Didja Get Any Onya and Weasels Ripped My Flesh) are dark, abyssal experiments with feedback, irregular time patterns and atmosphere. It is easy to spot the influence of this kind of noise on John Zorn, and again Mike Patton. Others display the keen blues and rock musicianship of the band (Zappa's guitar work notwithstanding) as well as guest musician "Sugarcane" Harris's incredibly emotive singing voice; Directly From My Heart To You is a stunning bluegrass track, and includes a virtuoso violin performance from the man. Get A Little and Oh No are also great vocal-driven tracks, and perhaps a good place to start to ease yourself into the world of Zappa.

Note: I'm not sure why I'm writing about films and movies on my blog. They're not supposed to be reviews as such, more an indication of how things excite me as I watch, hear, catch or smell them. I'm not sure if what I write is supposed to be going anywhere.

But clearly it is.


.. and the future gilded by bright Raywoods of hope and anticipations of joy.

Did something silly yesterday. Accidentally threw my Aerobie on the roof of the house.

What happened was, right, Max, Elliot and I were walking back from the field after an ace game of Aerobie where we were all really good at Aerobie again, and I said "Watch this, I'm going to throw this through the kitchen door!", but instead I kind of.. sort of.. threw it on the roof.


But it was windy. And the other two will vouch for that.

But all last night, I was worried that it would blow down in the night, and that some swift fingered nutjob would pinch it and have it as their own.

Until Tom Raywood came into the picture.

Once I got Tom on board with my desire to retrieve that rubbery bastard, everything came together:

We got six broom and mop handles (from three different houses), taped them together, and stuck a plastic coat hanger hook on top to drag it down. Sounds like a load of old bollocks, but it only went and worked, didn't it? As you can see, Tom's visibility was zero, so I had to stand back on the grassy knoll and direct him. Within five minutes of our invention being up there, the Aerobie was safe and sound back down to earth.

It was a moment of pride, of bravery, of perfect proportionality betwixt man and machine.

Oh Icarus
, thou wouldst cry, fly not your broom handles so close to Our Dearest Star. Yet fly them we did, so shit off.

Thanks Tom.


I'm sweating spinal fluid, here

Yesterday five of us braved a treble bill of films at the Gulbenkian. No theme between the films or anything, just three films that I fancied seeing and was prepared to see one after the other, and my enthusiasm seemingly infected people around me.

Things kicked off with Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows, 1959) directed by François Truffaut. This film is considered to be one of the first examples of Nouvelle Vague cinema, and like so much French cinema of the next couple of decades it focuses on character rather than plot. The film is about Antoine Doinel; a schoolboy who is seemingly taken to be much more trouble than he actually is by his teachers and parents, culminating in a bleak if not absolute destiny for him. The film is full of remarkably poignant one-off moments, perhaps reflecting that this is often what an adventurous young boy's life is about; a single, shocking glimpse of his mother kissing another man, the epiphany Antoine achieves from reading Balzac before completing his creative writing homework assignment, and indeed the beautiful final shot. All these character-forming moments are countered by the flat repetition of the adult world around him; monotonous teachers and daily chores round the cell-like apartment he shares with his folks.

Truffant once said "I still ask myself the question that has tormented me since I was thirty years old; is cinema more important than life?" If he was thirty when he asked himself that, then it would have been during the key years of Nouvelle Vague. It's clear that this was a time of great public and artistic immersion in cinema, and perhaps one of the most prominent periods since cinema was invented. Truffant (along with several French directors at the time) made such an impact on commercial (or Hollywood) cinema as to alter it dramatically. I think any virtuoso of a particular art believing their art to be "more important than life" is a conceit that it almost respectable. However, as a lowly punter and not a 1950s and 60s French film director, I must say that such cinema is important to life, or, as more as an act of endeavour, is important to reflect life.

Speaking of film reflecting life, we next watched In The Loop, Armando Iannucci's big screen episode of The Thick Of It (which is isn't as such, seeing as how it has the same principle cast, yet only Peter Capaldi and Paul Higgins return as their original and ferocious characters from TV). The film races nauseatingly between Whitehall, Washington DC and the UN on the tails of a US-led secret committee on whether or not to consider war in the Middle East. The acting is so good I wanted to shit, and the swearing is so good I felt like never doing it again in my life because there would just be no need to ever.

The thing is, the film actually does reflect real life as well, or at least, no one with any amount of political savvy would watch this and go now that's a bit far, because modern politics has left us nothing but cynical about it. The reason why satire like this is produced is because there is more than a grain of truth in what the satire is; if politics (or should that be politicians) stopped behaving as they did, perhaps they would come across as something less worthy of such cutting criticism (even though it is very funny).

Incidentally, there is no mention of some 'new' American president who has come to save the world, such as is what is being romantically touted in real life. No great man steps forward to make things better in one idealistic swoop. Nothing. And in all honestly, there is no call for mention of a president in a film like In The Loop - which makes you realise how easy it is to change your mind about politics, even just for 100 minutes, but then you can come out of the cinema and wonder which view is the real fantasy.

Final film in the hat trick, The Dark Knight. Having seen it four times now, I have realised there are two ways of watching this film:

1) Sitting very still and concentrating very hard and taking it all in and attempting to see it philosophically and wondering if it is actually better than Batman Begins and attempting to justify Christian Bale's ridiculous growl and accepting that Two Face as a relatively minor character as in amount of time on screen and trying to ignore Maggie Gyllenhaal's saggy golf ball eyes and denying that you'd rather be watching Momento.

..or 2) JOKER stuff happens stuff happens stuff happens JOKER stuff happens stuff happens JOKER stuff happens stuff happens JOKER JOKER JOKER

I listened to Arise Therefore (1996) by Will Oldham (aka Bonny "Prince" Billy) this morning whilst walking to Ayumi's. Such an minimalist record, yet so moody it leaves a taste in the mouth. Stablemate starts things off and has an accusitive narrative like so much of the album, giving the impression that Oldham has been disappointed by people somewhat. It is also one of the bleakest songs. There is also a tangible contrast between Oldham's beautiful lyrics, his fragile vocal and the song titles; "If god could make you cry, I'd run along the water, she won't come, I'll be gone" resides in the middle of Your Have Cum In Your hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out (which, graphic as it is, still carries a certain personal advice rather than comical imagery). The Sunlight Highlights the Lack In Each is probably the best song on the album; a nostalgic blues glance back at previous times and people burnt out and gone, with an unexpected and great wah-wah guitar lick. Yeah, this is good stuff. Obviously everyone's already heard I See A Darkness (1999) which it's hard to believe is actually ten years old. Oh my god. But Arise Therefore is definitely worth having also.


Thoughts on being a bad student pt.2

Right, so, just to make it clear, I have actually had a very good year in this house, and that incident I spoke of earlier was isolated and will no doubt never be repeated. However, for any of you untrustworthy people out there who are glaring at the screen with stony visages thinking Rich, you kitchen door fascist, here is a selection of visual evidences that fun and young smiling faces can happen around me (and sometimes very nearly with me);

Kitchen table, October '08. A nightly sight - soft cheeses, lens caps, and coffee cups. We seemed to have chance to spend a lot of time together of an evening back then, now it's a bit less often. Then again, none of us are doing the same degree and we discovered we're all allergic to cheese.

Laura and Hannah late one evening. Actually, this may have been something like the second evening after I arrived, so 28th September. Hannah brought with her complete Yoda and Boba Fett outfits, hence the Yoda mask on her head end.

Lewis, Louise, Laura and I dressed up for the Hobgoblin pub Halloween Party. The kitchen and downstairs bathroom was a make-up workshop for a couple of hours before we left. Having donned zombie make-up for a previous party, I supervised the operation. Laura's Gene Simmons make-up was a first ever attempt, and she got a lot of positive comments from people in the pub (not least because that's her actual tongue).

At the beginning of December, we decided to try our hands at the local pub quiz, and we ended up winning the bastard! Our team was called Whoa There Frankenstein, I didn't Program You To Make Out With Boys! (in reference to the beautiful ballad by The Great Redneck Hope from their album Behold The Fuck Thunder (2004)) and we walked away with about £60. That money basically paid for full Christmas dinner for about 22 people (turkey, pork, soft drinks and dessert). It was a brilliant party, and everyone was fed and gone by midnight. Perfect. Above is Louise and Tobias having fun at the party. Don't they look happy?

Becky and Amelia at same said party. Don't they look happy?

Hannah, Tobias and a fat translucent arm using indoor fireworks at the party. Don't they look happy?

Max and Pad jamming at the party. Don't they look happy?

Nick and Charlotte no doubt eating korma, some time in February. Don't they look happy?

Ayumi sat on my bed, no doubt having eaten burgers. Don't she look happy?

..and finally, a picture from this very evening; me (with my messed-up three-chinned hairy chub skull), Max, Charlotte, Nick and Mary after a good Aerobie session where we were all ace at Aerobie. Don't we look happy?

Happy now?

Thoughts on being a bad student pt.1

So, I'll set the scene.

I get back to the house at around midday today, and the kitchen is looking slightly dishevelled - nothing (by any normal person's standards) too messy, as such; bits of food on the floor around the table, two bottles of alcohol being allowed to re-ferment in the midday sun, chess pieces knocked forsaken to the floor and food preparation areas left either crusty or wet. Standard student house situation, really (and it really doesn't happen often in this house) but enough to trigger my disdain anyway.

But when a few seconds later Charlotte appears and points out the vomit stains dribbled down the back door and in the corner of the floor, which someone has made the most insultingly poor effort to clean, then I gain a rage the size and ferocity of Leviathan.

Let me explain this reaction in perspective to how I would treat a communal kitchen; I try to make it look like I don't even live there. I am somewhat obsessive about washing up, using virtually boiling water and liquid, and getting it done as soon as I get chance. This sometimes means actually doing the washing up when I've prepared my meal, and it's sitting there, gradually getting colder, yet I cannot bring myself to eat it because I need to do the washing up first. This poses yet another problem in that if my food, freshly cooked, drops below a certain temperature, I find that I cannot eat it anymore and the luke-warmth it has reached makes me want to retch. So, the fact that I am compelled to do the washing up first means I'm having to do it quickly, getting a bit stressed, therefore I can't really sit down after and enjoy my food.

But anyway, that's the form of self-diagnosed OCD I've seemingly chosen, manifested in bizarre culinary habits. So whenever someone else doesn't treat the communal kitchen the same way I do.. well, you can imagine my reaction. I don't scream and shout, and I ask the person to sort out their mess as politely as I can, which, by my standards, is never quite fast or clean enough. You would be forgiven in thinking Christ, you sound like a right headache to live with and you look so much like the love child of Daniel Bedingfield and Heston Blumenthal I actually hate you, but only the latter estimation would be true; I am actually what can only be described as the perfect housemate. I am courteous, I buy milk and loo roll regularly, I am honest whenever I steal tea bags or Mars Bars (and I replace them) and I'm social.

Thing is, I like communal living, I truly do. It's a bi product of the whole university experience that I never imagined myself enjoying, and I could have had it so much worse than the five people I've shared 17 Purchas Court with this year.

But vomit left pepsinating with the air wafting from an overly full bin bag, and combined with the work surface mess, makes me wish everyone concerned (or should that be unconcerned?) dashed to some pigs blood hell. And this snarling intolerance, I am fully aware, possibly makes me a bad student. Students are supposed to be like one with squalor; shit, piss, vomit, carnal exudations - it's all a student's bread, butter and somewhat lumpy and smelly broth. But not for me it isn't. I'm on average twelve years older than everyone around me, and you know what? I don't remember being that disgusting when I was there age (if that last statement doesn't betray me prematurely becoming an old gimmer nothing will).

And I think a major part of my frustration with situations such as this is simply what good does getting that wasted do? Where is there anything positive in getting so pissed you actually vomit on the floor, less that four meters from a toilet? I cannot reconcile the sheer lack of good in these situations, and it is palpable. I know I'm not the most positive person at times (I regularly use cynic, and sometimes snort misanthropic when I'm in certain company) but I break a sweat trying to not be an imposition, even if people are vomiting on my shoes and then writing I'm an OCD shit knee with their fingers on the leather.

Just thought I'd share this with you. Not all that fun to read, I'm sure. But, you know, I'm keepin' it real. It's the only way to do it. Don't worry, there will be more subjective and exciting philosophical outbursts about music and art soon, all with the enthusiasm of a puppy who is glowingly oblivious to this world of inconsiderate twenty year-olds.


Most people draw the line at shit in a can

What is the best method for revision?

I don't think I have a set method, really. I just envisage re-reading what I've already made notes on, maybe make fresh notes on those notes, and hope that they stick. I've only got one exam this year, three hours divided into two one-hour essays and a terminology test. The terminology is all literature-based and is fairly commonplace stuff (metaphor, bildungsroman, assonance, genre, hyperbole. Those kinds of things). In theory what I need to revise for the essays should be some of the texts that we covered (over twenty texts for this year-long module) including the ones I've already addressed in essays, as long as they cover the main sections of the module.

The module is called The Tale, and covers pretty much the entire history of 'tale-telling', from classic antiquity (The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, Ovid), the middle ages, the Renaissance and Baroque periods (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, The Pentameron), Romanticism (the Brothers Grimm, Ludwig Tieck), 19th century (Hawthorne, Poe, Gogol), and the 20th century, including modernism and post-modernism (Kafka, Borges, Cortázar). We also read a lot of theoretical works; I found Tzvetan Todorov's theory of The Fantastic to be particularly interesting, especially when applied to such great works of supernatural fiction as Henry James' The Turn of the Screw (made in to The Innocents (1961), one of the best British ghost films I have ever seen) or M.R. James' Oh, Whistle and I'll Come To You, My Lad. Being such a varied module, I cannot deny that it was continually stimulating . Other modules (such as Spoken English - a hardcore examination of phonetics and theories of speech analysis) felt intense, yet never all that stimulating.

Whilst attempting to get on with reading, my revision partner Becky and I began discussing art and what exactly art is in these ambiguous times. Yeah, yeah, here we go, I hear you bemoan at the monitor, another bloody post by some blog-tapping titface who reckons he can bang on about art in these cynical, post-modern times and still bring something fresh to the word, when we all know that there is nothing fresh to bring to the word and we're all going to hell. Yes, well, if you'll just give me a second, I will bring something fresh to the word ART. I am, after all, here to save the Internet.

Basically, in its most immediate association, when you say art at someone's ears, they usually envisage a painting, or maybe a statue, right? Okay, so this means that with stuff like paintings, sculptures, statues (ie 'traditional' art forms) you usually have people who either like it or don't, yet all call it art. But with modern art (from, say, Warhol to the Chapman Brothers to Damian Hirst), you have people who either like it or don't, but you also have people who consider it art and people who don't. This actually doesn't necessarily mean that people won't like it however, of even just appreciate it for.. well, just existing, really. Becky said that if an artist literally produced shit in a can for a gallery, she wouldn't call it art, but she would like it. I felt that I agreed with this; it would be amusing definitely to see something like that in an art gallery, but most people probably would not call it art. Most people draw the line at shit in a can.

In the past, there were probably less artists, but more people accepted these artists output to be art. In these times, it seems there is a plethora of artists yet only a choice few who consider their work to be art (as in their work speaks to the viewer or experiencer as being a work of art).

Anyway, back to the revision, we said. The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann devised what he called a "second memory" through the use of index cards (or system notes), which he wrote on almost continuously throughout the day (it ended up being a lifetime's work). Luhmann considered the collection to be his "collaborator" rather than an archive. There were surprising connections made between seemingly random cards placed together, and the results went places where linear thought or chronological memory could not.

That being said, I remembered how lovely it is to write on bananas with a Biro earlier..

I think index cards would be easier to pin to the wall around my desk, however.

Had a traditional Japanese sushi meal round Ayumi's later. ちらし寿司 (Chirashizushi) she made tonight was with rice, mange tout, prawns, mushrooms, dried seaweed and raw salmon. The raw salmon I could do, the prawns are something I am getting used to (can't usually stand the curly pink bastards). The dish is traditionally eaten on March 3rd (known as Girls Day, or Dolls Day). In a similar praxis, it is also Japanese custom to serve up red bean rice ( 赤飯; Sekihan) at the time of a girl's first period.

Red. Bean. Rice. Served to celebrate a girls' first period.
Can't imagine it catching on in the UK.

On the Jukebox today; Pink Flag by Wire (1977). Contains all the sneering energy that made '77 such a monumental year for punk (don't worry, I'm not going to claim I was there to see it, because I wasn't) but still to this day manages to contain elements which transcend any kind of rigid categorisation. Reuters kicks things off with a trudging pace. Just brilliant and loud, then Field Day for The Sundays and Ex Lion Tamer bare their vintage punk teeth, as does pretty much half the album. Whenever bands acknowledge Wire as an influence, you've already seen it coming. Connection by Elastica downright lifted the opening from Three Girl Rhumba (to create a good pop song anyway), and you can hear echoes of this album in more modern indie, like The Veils (especially Nux Vomica (2007) and even early Longpigs. Wire saw about three stages of activity (including a currently productive line-up), but Pink Flag and the subsequent two albums (Chairs Missing (1978) and 154 (1979)) are just outstanding. Many consider Chairs Missing to be perfect, but for me you always look back to the beginning. This is the kind of album that will be liked by anyone who doesn't claim to like 'punk' , it's that good.

Okay, that's it. Keep on boatin'.


Realign your Spine in 2009

.. is what it said on the big banner outside the chiropractors near the Kingsmead leisure centre this morning. I wonder if they were high-fiving after they came up with that slogan; Yeah, go Team Bad Backs! That are a comedy gold!

Saw Chris and Maureen as I was shuffling off campus this morning. They were just waddling round, giving it all Ooh, look at us; we're a pair of mallards representing the notion of love and partnership in an anthropomorphic manner, giving hope to those that want to believe that love will transcend these times of selfishness and emotional starvation.
I just ignored them and walked on.

That was the start of a long day. Got up to go swimming for 07:30, then afterwards Charlotte, Amelia and I went to meet our landlords for next year as they showed us round the property before renovation gets under way. Check this out; we don't have to pay any rent over the summer because in July and August they're creating a fourth bedroom, replacing the boiler, re-fitting the bathroom, and when we do start paying rent they're covering our TV licence and water rates. Hmm. where's the catch..?

When we walked in the house I saw a drum kit in the dining room. An actual, full-size drum kit. I gave the landlady a look that said surely you don't approve of this; a full-size drum kit in the dining room? She countered my look with a look of So what, there's a drum kit in the dining room. What do I care? Get with the program, Rich. I'm not some make-you-eat-washing-up-powder, take-your-money-and-shit kind of landlord, as you should have figured out already, you tenant sod.

Went to Salsa class at Westgate Hall for 20:30. Really good class, proper tiring. Afterwards we had a meeting to discuss who would like to either teach Salsa or be part of the Freshers Fair promoting; I said yes to both. I still can't quite believe I've got involved with Salsa to such an extent.

Been listening to Magma's first album, Koba
a (1970) all day. Such an incredible record. It's considered to be some of the first French prog, and its influence is in so much I listen to (The Cinematic Orchestra, Kerosene 454, and Mike Patton to name some). Also, drummer/songwriter Christian Vander invented an entire language (called Kobaïa) to sing in, decades before Sigur Rós. There is not one wasted moment on this epic album.

Okay, I'm pretty tired now, but there's more to come. Stick around...


An important words

Right, to kick off with, I have a confession to make.

It has taken me years to capitulate towards public blogs or anything of the like. I've energetically avoided social networking sites because I've always seen them as artificial and disturbingly addictive. The look of genuine obsession I've seen on the faces of loved ones has made me fear for not only their sanity, but also their fingertips.

Yet here I am, submitting my first post on my first blog. (actually, this isn't my first; I've had an anonymous poetry blog for several months, and the enjoyment I've had with that has been instrumental towards me starting up this green wazzock). But why have I actually started this blog, I hear you ask (except you would say you instead of I). Why have you, Rich Fox, dashed your principles against the wall like bad water biscuits and created a blog which you must now update on a semi regular basis if only to have made the hours it took you to think of the title and come up with the snazzy header to go with it even remotely worthwhile?

Well, if you give me a chance, I shall tell you.

I'm currently thirty-one years old (I know I don't look it and in fact look about twelve) and I'm coming to the end of my first year of an English Language degree. It's taken me a long time to decide to come to university, and now I'm nearing the end of my first year, I've realised that - aside from some letters I've written to people back home - I haven't got anything down solid for myself. So that's the reason, really; I'm doing this for myself. Obviously not completely for myself, otherwise it wouldn't be public.

Just see it as being a diary (but more like a travesy of a mockery of a sham of one).

I shall talk about things that make me want to talk about them; university life, love, loss, coasters in the shape of hamburger pieces (see pic) music, films, Chris and Maureen (the two mallard ducks who walk round campus all day like they're all that), interesting stuff I've found on the net or in a tramp's trolley - the lot. It's all going down. I'm pulling no punches.

I guess everyone starts a blog with the intentions of their's being different, not just covering the same old whatever as the other five hundred billion bloggers out there, circling the Internet like giant, rotating thought-Wurlitzers.

But mine really will be different, I know it! Kind of like whenever I have my first threesome; there will be no strings attached. It will be different for me, obviously!

So bring the popcorn, sit back, relax, and get ready.

I am here to save the Internet.